Gratianus the Lily-Livered

So I’ve been replaying Total War: Barbarian Invasion again like I said I would, as the Western Empire, and aiming for 100% Christian conversion. Destroying pagan temples makes it so much easier to get the empire running smoothly before the hordes show up. I planned to get rid of all the pagan generals I had, too, but something weird happened.

I had 5 of them in a group with their heavy cavalry personal guard, sitting around in a forest in Germany waiting to get pummelled, and a huge Frankish army attacks the poor bastards at the end of a turn. It was about 2300 Franks vs. 244 pagan Romans. Those who were about to die were led by ‘Gratianus the Lily-Livered’ with +5 command, but about -11 morale for all troops on the battlefield as his traits included being intensely depressed, a craven coward, and tax adjuster for the empire. I figured I’d play it out, just to see him get slaughtered.

He didn’t. Gratianus the Lily-Livered WON. Halfway through the battle I thought I was channelling friggin’ Ender Wiggin.

The Franks came out in a huge line and I threw the 5 generals at the right end of it. They killed a couple hundred archers and spearmen pretty quickly – I thought ‘hey, this is going pretty good’ and then I saw the Frankish general’s cavalry and attacked that. All 5 units swamped and killed him in seconds. About 1200 spearmen were closing in, so I hightailed it out of there to the edge of the battlefield.

My 5 very lucky units were ‘very tired’ – one good charge by a fresh cavalry unit would have broken them – but the Franks didn’t have any cavalry to chase them with – just one unit, which was the new general, apparently. He hung back and took his time forming another big line, and sat on the far left flank. I had plenty of time to wait until the five were rested, and I waited a little more until the Franks got within javelin range. Then I had the five race around the end and run the poor Number 2 general down.

After that it was easy hit and run. They had 400 or so heavy infantry, but their morale couldn’t have been great after seeing the other 2000 guys around them get picked off unit by unit. When I finally charged the last 4 groups, they broke almost immediately.

What’s even crazier is that despite killing 2128 Franks with only 100 losses after being outnumbered 10 to 1, Gratianus didn’t even get +6 Command. I think the game should at least remove the ‘Craven Coward’ trait after a showing like that, especially when him and his personal guard, 44 strong, killed nearly 500 Franks by themselves during at least 8 charges.
Oh well. He’s my craven coward. We’ll see how he does against the Huns and the Vandals.

10 to 1 odds was apparently what Caesar was accustomed to when he fought in Gaul, but this battle was in 370. The Franks should have been much tougher. Then again, the game is not a total stickler to historical accuracy – the ‘Total Realism’ mod, which I’ve been meaning to try, apparently addresses this.

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