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An internet search will reveal several websites that speculate on their use, which many of us will be familiar with, at least in general terms. The best piece that I have come across which actually examines their use in action is an article in Ancient History Magazine , Vol IV, Issue 3. The publishers Karwansaray sell digital back issues. "The Late Roman Army" by Gabriel Esposito also has some interesting information.
At this stage my own initial thoughts are:
- That there is a case for representing the use of plumbatae in the rules as they certainly seem to have had as much impact as say, bows, pilum’s or other heavy throwing weapons.
- Range: the plumbatae exceeded the rang of Javelins and “enabled soldiers to supply the place of archers” – so two squares?
- Frequency of use: Although equipped with 5/6 darts I get the impression that to maximise effect were used en- masse or as a barrage, so they would be a one or two shot weapon?
- Ammunition Supply: I don’t feel that resupply from the camp would be appropriate.
- Activations: I think that the choices here are whether to treat the plumbatae as bow or heavy throwing weapon or is it best thought of as a long range heavy throwing weapon? As bow the unit would activate to shoot (I’m unsure of the Latin for lob) and if appropriate activate again to attack. This would probably be the best choice if the range is two squares. Alternatively, the plumbatae could be treated as a pilum/heavy throwing weapon with it’s use included in attack activations. Not sure at this stage about the long range heavy throwing weapon idea.
- Hits and Saves: To be consistent I feel that the plumbatae should hit on an 8. However, the nature of the weapon and it’s falling fire apparently made in particularly effective against unarmoured men and horses. Is there a case for increasing (worsening) the save necessary for cavalry units and deep infantry such as warriors or shieldwall where rear ranks were likely to lack armour? Not sure, it could be said that the current values already take armour or lack of it into account.
- Who used them? Gabriel Esposito comments that plumbatae were initially introduced to the Legiones Ioviana and Herculiani by Diocletian and later spread to other legions and auxillia. Might be that plumbatae could be an optional extra at 1pt per unit so equipped?