I found it mildly amusing back in August when Creative Assembly launched the Daughters of Mars downloadable content for Rome II. The original Rome: Total War featured a few Scythian horsewomen units, screaming Germanic women, and a couple of pointless Amazon units, none of which I messed with extensively and all of which looked kind of stupid. While the Scythian riders and German screamers are back in the vanilla Rome II, the DoM DLC adds in a number of hard-hitting women warriors available as mercenaries and auxiliaries depending on faction and location.
Granted, I’m a bit dubious about the need to… segregate the women units in the game—to me it makes more sense to have the male gladiators fight in the same units as the females and have the Scythian women riders in the same units as the male horse archers. But regardless, Daughters of Mars adds an interesting (if not entirely historically accurate) dimension to the battles in Total War: Rome II.
I apologize in advance for the quality of some of these screen captures. Rome II features spectacular and realistic graphics; unfortunately, my run-of-the-mill graphics card doesn’t handle them all that well. Sorry about that.
Gladiatrices are female gladiators recruited by the Romans as supplementary infantry to the Legions. Though not trained to fight as a unit, gladiators are well-trained in personal combat with a variety of weapons. Though their lack of group cohesion makes them less than ideal for mainline combat, their extensive training and fearsome natures make them effective flankers and line-breakers.
I was surprised to note that Rome II actually equips their gladiatrices better than their male counterparts. Where the male gladiators tend to be bare-chested with armor at the arms and shoulders, the women gladiators get full armor. All of them wear studded leather brigantines for decent arrow protection and fair staying power against other infantry. Each lass wears padded or plated manica to protect her sword arm from severing blows. Some of our ladies are fortunate to have helms to keep their brains intact and padded leggings to prevent disabling blows to the legs.
Additionally, each gladiatrix is equipped with a gladius and medium shield. The gladius is a brutal all-purpose sword, effective for de-limbing, beheading, or disemboweling. The shield works well for deflecting blows, but in the hands of a well-trained gladiatrice it becomes a bludgeoning weapon for shoving foes and breaking faces.
As the name suggests, the spear-gladiatrix is a spear-wielding version of Rome’s lady gladiators. While armored identically to their gladius-toting sisters, these ladies trade a powerful charge for staying power. The spear gives our girls better reach against other infantry and stronger defense against a cavalry charge. Rather than functioning as a durable flanker, these medium infantrywomen likely serve to help reinforce the frontline or discourage cavalry charges against the flanks.
Manpower was at a premium during certain eras of Rome’s history, and gladiators were a logical source to tap when a general needed a cheap but powerful—and potentially expendable—auxiliary soldier. As well as being well-trained, nearly all gladiators were either slaves or criminals, and thus a promise of freedom in exchange for service was all the incentive most gladiators needed.
Scythian “Amazonian” Riders
It’s been proven archeologically that the Scythians and other Black Sea tribes employed horsewomen as light and skirmisher cavalry against their foes. In fact, there are stories that men and women alike had to slay an enemy in battle and present the head as proof before they were allowed to marry. To survive in such a rugged society, these women were raised as fierce warriors and made for some of the most effective cavalry soldiers in the Ancient World.
As skirmishers, our ladies wear padded coats to protect from arrows and light melee, allowing for effective hit-and-run tactics on the plains and steppes around the Black Sea. Their sleeves are long to protect their arms from the sharp bite of their bow strings. Our handsome cavalrywomen wear padded pants and leather boots to keep their legs safe from the weather or infantry weapons, and those colorful caps protect their heads from the harsh Black Sea summers and winters. Their bows are composite recurves with excellent armor penetration against Roman legionaries, Greek phalanxes, or Thracian cavalry. And finally, our heroines all carry broadswords for melee or snatching heads off fallen foes.
For the Scythians, riding in combat wasn’t just for men and headhunting maidens. Women of all ages and social classes participated actively in war. Unlike their peasant sisters, the noblewomen of Scythia could afford armor and heavier weapons, and could thus flank enemy formations and hold their own against melee cavalry.
Much like the heavier Scythian horse units, our noblewomen wear scale-mail shirts for deflection from arrows or spears. Lighter than chain mail, the scales also provide better rotational movement than a plated curiass. Like other Scythian riders, they wear padded shirts and trousers for traveling and combat, as well as the signature hats to protect their noble heads.
Women of the Lusitani and other Iberian tribes from modern-day Spain were known for fighting beside the men in tribal warfare and against Roman and Carthaginian invaders. More than one Roman general reported his shock at both the ferocity and fearlessness with which Iberian women defended their homes and villages.
Fast and athletic, Lusitani swordswomen forgo armor for quickness in combat. As such, they make fairly poor mainline infantry and are particularly vulnerable against archers and cavalry, but can be used to great effect at flanking enemy formations or running down and hacking to pieces skirmishers and archers. Instead of armor they prefer light, airy linen tunics with sandals or light boots for rushing in and out of combat. Though pretty, their hats only serve to protect their heads from the sun and rain.
As light troops, our heroines fight with a sword and shield. The shields are simple wooden round shields with iron rim and boss. Their swords, on the other hand, are some of the best to be found in the ancient world. Though many of them pack gladiuses like the Romans, most of the others pack a falcata like the one in the picture. Made from excellent Spanish steel, the falcata sacrifices stabbing power for removing limbs and spilling innards.
On the whole, I’m fairly impressed with the various details and the amount of thought and research CA put into their Daughters of Mars (or Athena or Sekhmet or Andraste or whichever deity they follow). Most of all, I deeply appreciate that they didn’t see the need to pander to the pocket-miners by making our lady warriors gratuitously sexualized. Far too few game developers show that kind of integrity.
To be continued in part 2. All screen captures taken from game play. Thanks as always for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome.