Game Armor Analysis: The Girls of Total War: Rome II, Part 2

banner3Cimbri (central-Germanic) Bow-Women in Creative Assembly’s
Daughters of Mars DLC for Total War: Rome II

Continued from Part 1.

Part of me feels like Daughters of Mars was designed partly with the modding community in mind. The Total War series has long had a strong modding community, and from a strictly historical standpoint, there’s not much reason to include women units beyond the Scythian horsewomen and maybe one or two of the Germanic units. Certainly women fought in battle during Ancient Roman time—women have always fought, often regardless of cultural norms. But percentage-wise, it’s not all that historically accurate to include so many women warriors the game, and even then it would make more sense to have women fight in the same units as the men.

So why offer the option? Because it’s fun, historical accuracy be damned! These games are supposed to be entertaining, and flanking a column of legionaries with a band of screaming swordswomen is just fun to watch. Plus it allows modders to play with their own ideas of women warriors, and more power to them. Dozens of smart unit mods came out following DoM’s release, opening the playground for creative gamers with the right experience in computer graphics and animation. Rather than gripe about the historical accuracy, I appreciate their willingness to write their own version of the ancient wars with fierce women units fighting beside the men. I haven’t seen one yet, but I honestly think a “rule 63” version of Rome II could be all kinds of fun to tinker with.

slingerGorgo’s Skirmishers
While there’s no evidence that Spartan women ever participated in combat, I found it interesting that CA included an all-woman Greek slinger unit for the DoM DLC. The Spartans valued physical strength and athleticism in their women, based on the belief that robust women were more likely to bear robust children. And as a warrior society, it’s not thematically inappropriate to have these tough, athletic women in combat.

As a skirmishing unit, Gorgo’s girls forgo armor for quickness, dashing in and out of range of enemy projectiles. Their simple tunics protect mainly their modesty, but also don’t hinder their quickness. Their only other garments are simple running sandals. As a ranged unit, our ladies’ primary weapons are their slings. Though long-dismissed as a primitive weapon by later societies, slings provided both excellent range and armor penetration and in the hands of a competent slinger could propel cat’s-eye-sized bullets at speeds that no man-propelled objects would surpass until the invention of the crossbow. Our heroines’ backup weapons are a simple shield and stabbing dagger, should the fighting come down to hand-to-hand.

shieldKushite Shieldwomen
Hailing from the kingdom of Kush, a Nubian nation in southern Egypt, these shield women make for fierce and terrifying combatants in the heaviest of melee. Kush was famous throughout antiquity for its warrior society and determined independence—repelling multiple invasion attempts by the Romans. While Kush is not a playable faction in Rome II, their warrior women are available as mercenaries to players who control southern Egypt.

As armor was rarely worn among the Nubian tribes and kingdoms, our ladies rely instead on sheer ferocity in battle. They wear loose-fitting linen garments to protect from the blistering heat, though not so much from enemy slings and arrows. Their main weapons are spears over seven feet long, with a spike on the butt end to dispatch wounded foes at their feet. Their shields are simple round shields, leather-covered with a bronze or iron boss. Lacking armor, these ladies likely function as a supplementary force, either flanking the enemy or supporting the mainline infantry.

While there is no surviving evidence, archeological or literary, of women from Celtic tribes fighting beside the men in combat, we do hear of fighting women from the Germanic tribes from across the great river Rhine. Stories survive from Roman and Greek chroniclers of the hideous ferocity of Suebi, Cimbri and other Germanic women in the midst of battle.

Hex-bearers are women who participate in battles for many of the German tribes in Rome II. As well as fight, these charming ladies scream and screech like hell’s cheerleaders, raising an eldrich din to terrify and disorient their opponents. Additionally, they’re known to charge into the fray, smacking down Romans or rival barbarians with their shields and hacking them apart with their broadswords. Instead of armor they wear woolen tunics and trousers, more to protect from weather than melee. Their medium shields are wood with iron boss and rim to protect from Celtic swords and Roman pilum. Without armor, however, our ladies are better deployed as flankers or support, rather than front-line infantry.

bowsCimbri Bow-Women
Specializing in guerrilla tactics, Germanic tribes were renown and feared for their archery prowess. One popular tactic was to have a unit of archers or other melee-weak fighters get a foe’s attention with a barrage of arrows from the forest’s edge, having a group of spearmen hidden nearby to ambush any infantry or cavalry the enemy sent to deal with the nuisance. A band of women archers might have made particularly tempting bait for a legionary trap.

As a skirmishing archery unit, our ladies pick speed over protection, abandoning armor for light woolen tunics and pants. Their longbows provide excellent range but their mediocre arrows offer second-rate armor penetration. Lacking protection in melee, bow-women must be constantly on the move to keep out of reach of the enemy’s heavier units. While I like the tunics, one thing I think is missing from the ensemble is either longer sleeves or a left-arm bracer to protect our heroines from the bite of the bows’ sinew strings.

Excavations of Germanic burial sites have turned up solid archeological evidence of women being buried with their weapons and armor—a clear sign of warrior status within their society. Couple this with ancient historians’ tales of fierce women fighters battling legionaries and defending villages, there’s plenty of proof that German tribeswomen were just as tough and brutal as their husbands and brothers.

I like that our spear-girls wear cloaks to protect themselves and their armor from the Germania’s heavy rains and harsh winters. The leather brigantines should provide excellent deflection from projectiles and fair protection in melee, even against legionaries from Rome or berserkers from rival tribes. As well as being a strong deterrent for enemy horse, the spears offer a reach advantage against other infantry and staying power in mainline combat. The shields are wooden with iron rim for stopping axes and iron boss for busting heads.

slingAs I’ve said, I won’t vouch for the historical accuracy in some of these units. We know, for example, that women gladiators fought in the arena during Ancient Roman times. And we know that Roman generals occasionally supplemented their forces with gladiator auxiliaries. Whether or not any of these gladiatrices saw combat in the field, however, is impossible to say given our surviving sources. Similarly, as the Ancient Greeks placed highest value on a woman’s ability to procreate and manage the household, they were appalled by the idea of women in warfare and refused to risk them in combat. While I can imagine feisty bands Spartan women with slings and shields rallying together in the city’s defense, as there’s no literary or physical evidence to suggest they ever fought in field combat (and trust me that it’s something the Athenians, Corinthians, and other Greek cities would have satirized unforgivingly if they did), I think it’s safe to assume that the Gorgo’s Skirmisher units are a fabrication on CA’s part.

banner2To me, the lack of historical accuracy isn’t nearly so important as the fact that Creative Assembly treated these ladies with respect. They’re not a bunch of doll-faced Amazons in boob-plate cuirasses or hyper-sexual warrior chicks in chain bikinis. None of them have gravity-defying boobs or protruding asses. They scream and swear, they kick ass, and they don’t back down any easier than their male counterparts. This kind of portrayal is extremely rare in computer and video games, and I applaud CA’s design team for their efforts.

Once again, all screen captures taken directly from game play. Thanks as always for reading, folks. Take care and stay awesome!

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