Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Wargame of Thymbra

Garrison Phyrgian Infantry closing on the enemy with malice aforethought. 

Since this battle hinged on the Lydian's attempt to out flank the Medes, I figured I should maximize the width of the table. Unfortunately I came up hard against two bits of reality. First, when playing with hexes the axis of the game matters. With my current configuration, my options are basically along the long axis or on a diagonal. Secondly, when I reassembled my table, I put one side on backwards so there is a fault line of  incomplete/mismatched  hexes in the middle. Must fix that but in the meantime, I went back to playing on basically half the table like I did for Marathon.

The armies as fielded were more than double the size of Basic Impetus armies. The game was big enough, in terms of units, to push my  battle fatigue limits but not breech them and there was just enough room to maneuver so all was well. I think I can mark this as a comfortable maximum for me. I could have  abandoned the hexes but if I stayed with the 15mm unit footprint and ranges it wouldn't have made much difference. If I had gone with standard 25mm unit foot prints and ranges, I would have used a few more figures but about  2/3 the number of units. The game would probably have been shorter with each combat being more critical. I'm not sure that would have been better.    

Columns of Lydian troops push forward on the left and right, planning to turn inwards and attack once in position.

As usual when playing a solo game based on an historical battle, I started by following the historical plans to the best of my ability. Essentially, the Lydians were advancing with columns of infantry and cavalry on the left and right and a phalanx up the middle. The idea was to pin the Medes while the cavalry turned the flanks and crushed them. The Medes, based largely on Xenophon's account,  were deployed with refused flanks, reserves of their best troops and some gimmick troops designed to disrupt the enemy attack or in the case of the tower, to provide additional missile support.

Scythed chariots are tricky things, especially in the defence. I decided that the best plan was to lose the initiative on the 2nd turn or win it on the 3rd. The fall back position was for the enemy javelin fire to miss. Yeah, not the soundest plan and it worked about as expected. Two of the three chariots were destroyed by javelin fire while the third was launched onto a hoplite phalanx and destroyed after causing a bit of disorder. Ok, no surprises there but I soon realized that I had a more serious problem. (Please excuse any apparent bias, but I was sitting behind Cyrus the Great).

The idea of the camels was to rob the Lydian shock cavalry of their charge bonus but the Lydians screened them with peltasts and bypassed them. Camels are only slightly more resistant to a shower of javelins than the chariots were.  Since I had given them an Impetus of 0 meaning that they couldn't charge, their options were limited. The right wing camels were destroyed but the left wing managed to extract their's and eventually redeployed them farther down the line, opposite the cavalry as intended. Watch for the resulkts of this move later on.

The lines close as javelins and arrows darken the sky. The Mede camels can be seen retiring in the upper right hand corner on one side while the ones on the left mill in disorder waiting for the final hit. In the center massed bowfire has panicked one of the phalanx units. 

In the center, the phalanx that had been disordered by the chariot was now hit by massed bowfire which added to the confusion, in short, the rear 1/2 of one big unit panicked and ran. The rest of the phalanx charged forward but must have been a bit rattled as they were repulsed with losses all along the line. The levied hoplites and native spearmen are rated only slightly lower than the "real thing" in this game but it is a game where a little can mean a lot. Croesus rallied his center despite a continuing barrage of arrows, well most of it anyway, and prepared to renew the fight.  

On the Mede right, the cavalry decided that with the camels gone, they might as well seize a moment and charge. The elite cavalry was immediately routed by the Lydians despite the brief advantage but the second unit got lucky, followed up its advantage on the next turn and eventually broke one of the Lydian cavalry squadrons, before being destroyed in turn. By now, Mede reserves were rushing to bolster the flanks.
The Lydian center slowly crumbles under massed bow fire while the Medes are forced to commit their reserves early on the flanks.

For the next few turns there was little scope for maneuver and the only decisions to be made were stand and shoot or charge. The Mede infantry got excited at one point and charged a supposedly inferior unit of Thracians who cut them to pieces. A unit of Immortals suffered much the same fate (OH fickle dice!). The Medes restrained their ardour for the rest of the game and plied their bows and javelins to maximum effect.

On the Mede right, there was desperate fighting and Cyrus and his bodyguard were themselves driven back. Eventually both sides here were virtually exhausted though  the fight never quite ceased. In the center, the rallied phalanx drove forward on the left, driving back 2 units of Medes and breaking a 3rd. Only the bowfire from the tower managed to disorder the phalanx long enough for the line to be restablished.

On the right of the phalanx however, the arrow storm was too much and slowly the units faded away. Farther to the right, not all of the Lydian peltasts had been able to get into the fight and now some were recalled to plug the gap in the center. A fatal move, just as they left, the front line units finally gave way under the arrow storm leaving gaping holes and allowing the Mede archers to turn their bows on the cavalry. The Lydian cavalry who had had to ride farther since the Mede cavalry had not rushed to face them, found themselves with a choice of stand under a barrage of arrows or charge the mixed formation of camels and Mede cavalry. The fight was severe but eventually the Lydian cavalry broke taking the army with them.

Just off the screen above, the battered remnants of the opposing left and right wings still face each other with not a single fresh unit on either side. In the center, the Lydian infantry melts under a hot stream of arrows from a bloodied and dented but intact Mede infantry line. On the near flank, the Lydians have collapsed in rout and are being swept. (The unit show retreating in disordered bring the army to their break point).

It felt awfully close at times, especially when little things would happen like the Immortals charging with 7 dice and getting no hits while the opposing Thracians threw 4 dice and got 3 sixes! In the end it was a solid victory however with the Mede's being barely 1/2 way to their break point though, to be fair, they had only 2 fresh units left so this was no walk over.

By and large, the rules worked well once again. There were a few turns where it was all combat and the turns were clicking over so fast my head was spinning, with very little to show for it on the table but I was tired after all the holiday stuff and still, somehow I found myself repeatedly replying "in a minute" to various requests to do various chores or watch some movie as I started just one more turn, again, and again. (Apparently both chores and movie managed happily without me.)

There were moments where it seemed like the dice and troop quality might be more important than Cyrus's deployment and his gimmick troops but on sober reflection, while the reserves didn't get to ride around the enemy phalanx and charge it in the rear, they were vital for holding the enemy's successes while allowing the counter attack on the winning wing, all without weakening the line anywhere like the Lydians did, and the camels, once properly deployed helped stem the tide on the winning flank while the tower's fire support may have tipped the balance in the center.

The camels didn't do the job initially, but I deployed them too far forward and there was only 1 unit on each flank. I had been unsure that the rule would work right. The usual description is that the Lydian horses wouldn't close so the Lydian cavalry dismounted and attacked. At a low level this isn't shown, the rules don't  force or allow the Lydian cavalry to dismount, they just remove their charge impetus but upon reflection, this is just about the right effect if you considered the Lydian cavalry as having dismounted to attack on foot without the minis being changed. It does mean that only units immediately faced by camels were effected but since units are never aligned in Impact and thus always over lap when 2 lines meet, it is next to impossible for the Lydians to avoid them all together. I would be tempted to deploy 2 units on each flank though.

 Small but stinky!

One other OB decision almost upset the game. I had forgotten how powerful light infantry can be in some situations. Since javelins, spears and bucklers seem to be popular Anatolian infantry weapons over the centuries, and since I had  lots, I threw in a dozen units to make up numbers, I'd have gone with more if there was room. Not only did they shoot up the chariots, they were able to more or less keep up with the cavalry, screen them  from missile fire, drive back the camels and hold the Mede infantry at bay long enough for others to force a decision (or try to). If/when I run this again, I think I would trade in about 1/2 of the peltasts for more spearmen and skirmishers. This would increase the odds of the historical gaps opening between the flanking columns and the center and decrease the offensive missile power of the Lydian army while increasing the staying power of the center.

A good game and a fitting end to my Lydian campaign.  In the new year, the focus will shift to the Eastern frontier of the Persian Empire.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Wargame of Thymbra The Deployment

The Medes deploy for battle, cheesy gimmick troops to the fore.

Having decided to play this out using our Hex version of Basic Impetus, I set out to design the armies by crossing some Persian Beta lists with the accounts of the battle crossed by what I had ready to go. The results are roughly equivalent to double Basic Impetus armies.


Cyrus King of the Medes and Persians

3 Units of Elite Medium Cavalry (with spear and horse armour as per Xenophon)
2 Units of Medium Cavalry  (with spear)
2 Units of Immortals with bow & spear
7 Units of Persian Infantry with bow & spear
1 Unit of Light Infantry with javelins
2 Units of improvised camel riders.
3 Scythed Chariots
1 Mobile Tower full of archers.

Since the camel riders were supposedly a last minute improvisation, I decided to not allow them to charge.

Croesus King of Lydia

6 Units of Heavy Cavalry
2 Units of Light Cavalry
4 Big Units of Subject spearmen and hoplites
12 Units of Light Infantry with javelin
3 Units of skirmishers with bow or sling

I followed the army deployments from the Wargamer's Digest article which gave me something like:

The Medes on the far side are formed in a sort of crescent with camels and chariots to the front. The Lydians are formed with a phalanx in the middle and columns of cavalry and peltasts moving to envelop the enemy wings.

Tomorrow, how the battle went, what worked and what I would do differently.

Gathering for Thymbra

Thymbra is a pivotal battle of Ancient history but one which is rarely written about. Like so many important ancient battles, we have some brief, nearly contemporary, accounts and little else so there is a lot of surmising and supposing that goes into modern accounts. The most complete account is in Xenephon's Cyropaedia, written close to 150 years after the fact. Unfortunately it seems to mix a lot of contemporary Persian tactics and proposed ideals military, political and philosophical, and it is hard sometimes to tell which is which. Luckily, I'm preparing to play a game not write a scholarly work so I can pick and choose. In the end, I have decided to abandon an original plan of collecting troops towards a recreation based on Xenephon's account for a scaled down game based in part of various accounts including an article in the issue of a wargaming magazine that I ever bought, Gene McCoy's Wargamer's Digest, and in part on what troops I have ready to hand. However, the texts of both Herodutus and Xenephon can be found on line for those with an interest.

One of the interesting bits is that in the preceding battle, the Medes & Persians supposedly outnumbered the Lydians significantly but could make no headway while at Thymbra, the Lydians are said to have vastly outnumbered the Medes and Persians but lost. Apart from the question of Cyrus's brilliant battle plans and  character, it seems that the first Lydian army was composed largely of unspecified mercenary forces while Herodotus lists an army of local and allied troops. I am surmising that the infantry may have been of  lower quality than the mercenary forces. Xenophon has the center of the Lydian army being a vast square of Egyptian hoplites with tall wooden shields, very similar to what he described at Cunaxa. I've been meaning to paint up a bunch of these but haven't so Ionian Greek Hoplites and Phrygian Spearmen will have to fill the gap.  The rest of the Lydian infantry will be largely Thracian and other peltasts backed by a few skirmishers. I'm a little short on Lydian Lancers but various Greek and other cavalry will be pressed into service and given a high Impetus value. Xenophon includes chariots in the Lydian line up but I have none with Lydian-ish crews so will probably skip them

There are several choices to be made for the Medes & Persians, Xenophon is the only one to ascribe a major role to Persian chariots and these are of the scythed chariot type which appear for the first time in Greek accounts at Cunaxa. Since I have some, I figure I may as well use them.   I already have my token tower which I will allow to shoot over head without penalty. The next question is that of the Persian infantry organization. Xenophon describes separate bodies of armoured infantry with bucklers, archers, javalinmen and peltasts. Not what we associate with an early Achaemenid army but not that far from the revised one of Xeenphon's day. I'll base it on the figures in my army and field most units as "T" in Impetus, roughly equivalent to Hott's Shooters or DBA's Bows, troops with both missile and hand to hand capability. The Persian cavalry should probably be mostly medium with many bow and/or javelin armed but I'll allow Xenephon some at least of his armoured horses and spears.

The battlefield should be easy enough, a flat featureless plain!



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thundering Hooves....errr Clean up in Aisle Two!

Leaving aside the Greek and Thracian cavalry and the Middle Achaemenid  medium cavalry, this is what I'm left with. Didn't seem as much as it did when it was scattered here or there and over 1/2 the figures need touch up, rearming, etc., but they'll do.  There are about 3 dozen or so more bare castings in the box, a variety of makes and models,  a PA mould for a Sassinid Clibinari and 4 or 5 dozen spare horses. 

On the left are 15 Middle Achaemenid cavalry with javelins and no armour. I was hoping to use these for the Arachosians that appear in the lists. A bit of digging tells me that Arachosians were of Iranian stock, inhabited part of what is now Afghanistan and  at the time that the Persepolis monument was carved, wore tunic, trousers tucked into boots and a sweat band sort of thing. These chaps all have some sort of cloth hat and only a couple wear boots but I'm going to set 6 aside to serve as 2 light cavalry stands for any of my Persian or Bactrian armies and put the rest back into the Achaemenid medium cavalry pool. 

Next to them are 32 armoured lancers, 2 stands of Cataphracts (8 figures) now, with 2 or possibly 4 more  to come once assembled or remounted. The bulk of this lot were Minifig Seleucid extra heavy cavalry that I acquired 2nd hand a longish time ago to convert to Persians. (due to penury not a perverse desire to avoid buying the proper article.) There are, however, enough of the old Valdurian Horse Guards present to reconstitute these and remount 2 stands of them from their old S Range 1/2 armoured horses onto bigger ones. (anyone after 10 S range 1/2 armoured horses please let me know).

In the middle are the bow-armed, armoured cavalry. Some with kontos on 1/2 armoured horses looking very Clibinari-ish, and some Scythians in Greek helmets with shorter spears. More of both in the box, enough for 3 stands of Clibinari to be joined one day by a handful of "real" Sassinid clibs in funny hats, and 4 stands of the other on either 1/2 armoured or unarmoured horses.. Oh and 1 stand of Garrison Sword & Sorcery figures.  

Next comes the horse archers, 33 with 12 more in the box. I'm a little dismayed at how few of these are proper Scythians but some of my favorites are amongst those others. 

What doe this mean so far?  Well, looking at these and then doing some OB's and looking at shelf space, has beminded me that I don't want to paint a whole bunch more 25mm ancients, that my table is kinda small for hordes (sic) of light cavalry, and that I want to use the armies I work on. If I build 10 armies, I won't be able to play with all of them regularly. 

For now, the Scythians/Saka will remain as mercenaries and I won't build a separate Scythian army. I am going to try to sort the figures into tribes based on dress, hat style etc and will parcel the tribes out as mercenaries or levies as appropriate. I am also pondering the usefulness of a reference to a Bactrian-Greek/Saka alliance opposed to the Parthians. 

The second Bactrian army will also be put aside for now. Once the other 2 are up and running and I'm tired of playing with them, then I'll see about another army. In compensation, I'll play very fast and loose with the Persian force to suit not only my ideas of what an Eastern Iranian force from a semi-independent Satrapy might have looked like as the Parthians struggled to wrest a kingdom from the Seleucids, but more importantly what I want the army to look and feel like and what my troop requirements are for the kind of games I want to play. Hyrkania may not have been a good choice as a Satrapy name as it was central to Arsacid power  but I invoke artistic licence.  I'm beginning to think as many Cataphracts and semi-catapracts and as few clibinari as possible. The Persian forces will have the largest heavy cavalry forces.

A review of infantry will probably have to wait until after Christmas but right now its looking like Greek pikemen and Thureophoria backed by Saka on one hand and various unarmoured Persian levy spearmen and archers backed by mountaineer light infantry on the other. 

Right, time to go check on the sun. Its the Solstice today and one can never be quite sure that the darned thing really is coming back! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Syr-Darya and The Romance of Frontiers and Fallen Empires

A fortress city, planted on the outskirts of an Empire, only a river, a brick wall and the courage of its defenders standing between "civilization" and a destructive horde of "Barbarians" (or "Freedom", depending on your POV). This is the stuff of legend.

Frontiers fascinate us. The dividing lines between This and That. From the American West, to the Rhine, the Khyber Pass and so on. This is especially the case when it is a defended frontier, clearly demarcated. The Great Wall of China, Hadrian's Wall, the Tower of Cirith Ungol.  Last stands and hopeless cases also fascinate us. The Lost Eagle of the Ninth Legion, Fort Apache, Rorkes' Drift, The Alamo, Arthur.

Alexandria Eschate, "Alexandria the Farthest", is just such a  place. Not so well known as some more famous frontiers, it was founded by Alexander on what we usually call the Jaxartes River, the boundary between his empire and what the Persians before him called Turan, the semi-desert inhabited by various steppe tribes, usually lumped together as Saka or Skythians. Alexander's Empire fragmented on his death and the pieces were squabbled over, the Iranians established a new Persian Empire, but still the Greek colonists in Alexandria persisted. They didn't found a great empire of their own but accommodated and treated with various Kings, Cities and Tribes, Greek, Persian, or "Barbarian" when they could and fought when they couldn't. They traded East as far as China and West to the Mediterranean, and they remained recognizably Greek at least to the time of Caeser and as far as we know, for some time beyond. Here is a good setting for my fictional campaign.

Breaking down the various elements and mixing and matching elements of the historical Greco-Bactrian, Greco-Indian, Seleucid, Parthian, Sassinid Empires as well as the Turanian Tribes, into a Hollywood or perhaps RE Howard-ian historical/fictional setting suitable for a campaign along what is now known as the Syr Daria River.

Initially I shall aim for 4 Political Entities and 6 social/military elements. These are all local powers, kinglets or Satraps. The intervention of the main armed might of the Selucids, Parthians, or even the Greco-Bactrian/Indian kings would be an over powering storm but one which would pass.

Political Entities.
Alexandria the Farthest, ruled by Antimater II,  a descendant of Antimachus.
Maracanda ruled by King Euthenasia, a descendent of Euthedemus, sometime Satrap of the Greco-Bactrian King.
Hrykania, ruled by Rostam, Satrap of the Persian Empire. According to the time line, these are subject to the Parthian Empire but mine will bear a stronger resemblance to the Sassinids or the late Achaemenids. Whatever armies that were mustered to fight Rome, I'm not convinced that the Parthians ever completely did away with useful infantry, or managed to turn every cavalryman into either a fully armoured super heavy cavalry man or an unarmoured horse archer with no one in between with partial armour or a felt horse bard etc. The similarity of late Achamenind Persian and Seleucid Asiatic/Iranian troops before and Sassinid Persian troops after the Parthian kings is so strong that I find it hard to believe that there wasn't some continuity even if there wasn't much use made of  some elements in the wars between the Parthian dynasty and Rome. Besides its my story and I'll do what I have to to have both variety and balance for table top teasers!  
Turan, a confederacy of Nomadic tribes and their subject towns, sometimes a foe and a threat but other times a potential ally and almost always a source of mercenaries.

Social/Military Elements.
The City Militia. Given that light troops are easily available, these will fight primarily as a pike Phalanx although increasing degradation to Thureophorai is possible. A small number serve as heavy cavalry "Companions". These include more Iranian features than do the infantry.
Iranian nobles and their retainers. Cavalry both heavy and light.
Iranian Militia. Spearmen and archers from the non-Greek cities and farmlands
Hill folk. Light infantry  from the wilder areas whether mercenary or subjects.
Turanians. Skythian and other tribes raiding on their own behalf  or more commonly fighting as mercenaries. Only the light cavalry and archers sign on as mercenaries.  
Elephants. A small number of these are available thanks to ties to India.

I don't intend to do a scaled topograhical map, not yet anyway, but I do intend to draw up an area map. Each of the political entities will have 3 provinces that can provide troops/money, 2 small town/farming areas each worth 250 pts of local troops of appropriate type plus the capital worth 250 pts of troops and 100 of cash cash for hiring mercenaries as well as a 50 pt garrison of generic spearmen, javelinmen, slingers and artillery which may not leave the city walls. (To avoid having tooo many excess troops, these will be the same for both Cities). The Turanians will be an exception, they will only have 1 center worth 400 pts but can move it at any time to any province under their control. 1/2 of those pts will be available to hire out as mercenaries unless needed to defend their homeland.

The next step will be to hold a grand parade and see what I have on hand that can be bent to fit, what will be left on hand and what unpainted castings and molds I have that can be used to fill gaps.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

On the Road to Shangri-La

Ok maybe not Shangri-La, that's a place of peace and serenity, no place for a wargamer. But a mystical city of the East, along the Silk Road. There was a time when I didn't see the point of building an ancient army if I wasn't up (at least a little) on the history and culture of the society that spawned it. Two years ago, I started to think about non-fictional imaginary kingdoms for a series of ancient games and campaigns. Armies that would allow me to use mostly figures that I already had, armies that were enemies for more than 1 brief, well documented war, armies that could be fielded for fictional but plausible campaigns where common historical knowledge wouldn't be constantly interfering, and above all, armies that could provide balanced forces for Table Top Teaser games.

My first kick at the can was based around existing Greek and Persian forces from the days of Xenephon. To escape the narratives of Herodotus and Xenephon, To add some vagueness and some figures that I had wanted back in college days, I pushed things back to the wars between the Lydians and the Medes and started adding a few troops but found myself fighting as many Classical Greek and Persian War battles as fictional ones.   I also recognized an increasingly strong itch for Elephants and Cataphracts.
The newest unit off the painting desk: RAFM Bactrian Cataphracts with Seleucid Cataphract heads with a little animation and a couple of Hinchliffe horses.

More recently, after Ron and I started playing Impetus with his armies, I found myself looking for opponents for Romans, Gauls/Galatians and Parthians. In my Armati days, I used to field a Pontic army so reviving it was my 1st instinct. I was still looking for those elephants though and Ron handed back to me a score of pikemen I had lodged with him a few years back when trying to clean house.  I've never warmed  to the Seleucids, certainly not enough to read deeply and get a feel for what appears to be a prolonged foreign occupation enforced by an army with a bit of everything that you could think of to go on a wargames table, but they were enemies for all those named above and for Ponts, Thracians, and Scythians to boot.

It didn't take long when reading up a little on the Seleucids, to bump up against the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, another wargame "army" that I had always dismissed as ephemeral if not etherial. A sudden closer look though showed me just what I have been looking for all my ancient wargaming life (apart from the bit where I used to want to know all about the real history, social as well as military). I've never seen an historical army which mirrored my old fictional Valdurian one as well. Even the history is reminiscent if you substitute Iranian for Celtic. Now, they didn't fight the Gauls or the Romans but they did fight the Parthians, and their successors, the Kushan who had fielded many of the same troops, fought Ron's other, lonely, army, the Chinese!  and of course, they could sub-in for Seleucids fairly easily.

At last, here is a land of cities and kings, (many of them at times)  at the crossroads of India, Europe and Asia, a land torn by civil war whenever its not being invaded by Seleucids, Skythians, Persians (Parthian and Sassinid) and others, with all the right troop types, in varying proportions, cavalry, heavy and light,  heavy infantry at times as well as light and archers, with just enough elephants to ice the cake. (and they wear trousers!) Its also a land where our knowledge seems to be limited at best. Just the place for fictional campaigns and small battles lost to history. Best of all, I just need to refurbish another 10 pikemen to have enough troops to field a small army.

So, now the idea of just 2 armies is long gone, the Greek and Persian Wars armies will stay as well as these later armies. But there is also no need now to buy hundreds of Romans. My Sassinids in waiting just found their enemy.


Friday, December 9, 2011

I have just posted a battle report of Marathon using the Hexed Basic Impetus..

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hexed Impetus

Skythian Horse Archers, Converted RAFM and 1 Ral Partha figures on various horses.
A unit from the late 80's recently rebased onto 8cm bases.

Hexes? Oh yes, he's back to that. Yesterday I got in another game of modified Basic Impetus, this time, not being interrupted by any veterinary emergencies. After some discussion, Ron and I agreed that we both wanted to pursue a modification of Basic impetus to use hexes and that we preferred units that fit 1 unit to a hex. Given the size of his Hexon hexes, we agreed that an 8cm unit frontage would work. This is the suggested size for 15mm figures with a suggestion that it might be suitable for 20mm, it also fits nicely in the 10cm hexes. 

To adapt to the hexes, we deemed each hex to be 5U and rounded all distances up. This gave movement rates of 1 hex for heavy infantry, 2 for light infantry, skirmishers and medium or heavy cavalry and 3 for light cavalry. Ranges were 1 hex for javelins, 2 for effective archery. After more discussion, we agreed to have units face the angle rather than a hex side. This gives 2 front hexes where ZOC applied and 4 flank/rear ones. A wheel allowed a unit to change facing without leaving the hex. A "straight" advance was into either of the 2 front hexes. We tinkered with trying to force a zigzag advance but it was a hassle so we dropped it. 
The charge bonus and retreat/pursuit moves were problematic.  Ron's solution which is not a perfect translation, offered some of the same tension. Melee contact occurs when a charging unit attempts to enter an enemy occupied hex, that is adjacent enemies are not necessarily in melee. If a unit's move takes it into the enemy hex then contact is automatic, if it just takes them adjacent then both sides roll a die, x 1/2 if infantry and the attacker must roll equal to or higher than to reach, otherwise they halt in disorder as if if they had fallen short in Basic Impetus. The same process was used to see if pursuers catch a retreating enemy.

We also partially adopted the discipline rules from Impetus, just rolling for discipline to wheel and move without disorder or to rally. This had nothing to do with the hexes but did some spice.

The game was the Crossroads  scenario from  CS Grant's Programmed Scenarios book. We have found that on his dining room table, dividing the points list by 5 gives a good size of game using the Impetus lists. In this case it was 300 points of Parthians (disguised as old Ral Partha Mongols but armoured lancers and horse archers by any other name.) facing a 300 point Late Pontic army on its first outing in over a decade. Historically it would probably have been Armenian but a very similar mix of troops anyway. The version of the table that Ron rolled up was one of the more woodsy versions which my Pontic light infantry heavy force appreciated. The terrain might also explain why my columns managed to converge on the crossroads before the 1st Parthian horse archer rode on to the table, or it might have just been the dice.   

I meant to take pictures, but, the game was faced paced and exciting with several swings of fortune and the game was over before I remembered. The game lasted something like 14 turns played over 4 hours and went down to the wire. At the start of the last turn, both armies were 1 unit away from losing. the big difference was that I needed to lose either my last remaining heavy cavalry unit or 3 of my light units while for Ron who had suffered slightly heavier losses, any unit would be enough.
The closest thing to a shot of the battle, light infantry "luring" some Cataphracts into the woods.

Despite doing very well early on, my poor Ponts were taking a kicking from the Cataphracts and some Elite Horse Archers once Ron sorted himself out.  Salvation came from an un-looked for direction. Near the village, Ron had committed  some Cataphracts to eliminate some light infantry (very traditional looking Phyrgian natives supported by some javelinmen). These outdid themselves and despite a battering, managed to retreat back into a patch of woods, drawing the impetuous Cataphracts after them. A prolonged melee resulted (thanks to the penalty for cavalry fighting an enemy in the woods), slowly grinding both units down but eventually the Cataphracts lost a round and retreated.   The skirmishers, 35 year veterans, were too wily to pursue but having the next move, followed up with a shower of javelins, routing the remains of the cataphracts and rescuing the army.  (nothing like a 6 when you need it!)

The Heroes of the Day: Garrison Sassinid javelinmen known locally as "The Hillmen". 

When I revived my 25mm armies, my mind was on what we tend to think of as the Old School approach of large blocks of figures but recognizing various limitations, settled on medium sized units. Even at that, I found that I lacked the drive to paint up the 100's more of figures that my plans called for and lacked the room to deploy the full armies with room to maneuver if I had. I also found that the admirable plan of focusing on just 2 armies was just not sitting well. 
From my perspective, an 8cm x 6cm unit allows just enough room for an attractive grouping of figures without requiring more figures per unit than I am in the mood to paint. It seems like a game with 12 to 20 units is as large as my mental and physical powers are able to enjoy these days regardless of the size of the units so the smaller units mean fewer figures for visual impact but the same game play and the smaller foot print means more room for maneuver. It also means that I can go back to having a selection of Ancient armies without overwhelming my shelf space.

My 2 Hexed Impetus Skythian units turned sideways make a full 120mm x 60mm Impetus unit. Same number of figures, 1/2 the gaming options. Unfortunately this trick won't work for more orderly troops.

The first kick at a plan is to assemble several 500 pt opposing armies as the basis of casual games or campaigns, A typical game will be 250 to 350 points drawn from what is available, 500 representing the maximum forces available. The goal will be to be able to do some seriously scaled down historical battles but to focus on Tabletop Teasers so light troops will be maximized and Elite troops minimized. I'll base the armies on the Beta Lists but with modifications as I see fit. The list is not finalized but makes good use of existing troops and molds.

The Glory That Was Greece. 
The Big Battles of the Greek and Persian Wars translate well as historical games but for day to day teasers I like the Anabasis and Aegisilaus in Asia.
Three armies: Greeks using the Magna  Gracia list,  Early Achamenid with the late options, and a native hill tribes army. It would make sense to use my Thracians (Bythnian and various hill tribes) as I probably have enough but I am tempted to just use the Pontic list to build an Armenian army heavy on hill tribes which can cross over to the next campaign.

Enemies of Rome.
Armenian (probably based on the Pontic list) and Seleucid. This is primarily to face Ron's armies and make use of my existing Elephants. I need a couple more pikemen to flush out 4 units and may substitute a unit of hoplites to flush out the Seleucid Phalanx but the rest of the army exists from other past armies.

Rome vs Persia
This is a Far Future project.

But 1st I need to stage that refight of Thymbra.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rickety but Ready for Action

The Persians practice with the new towers firing overhead in support of the infantry.

Its been a busy weekend, we walked a few dogs in the local Christmas Parade, there have been food and festivities, but I managed to paint up the tower and a token crew of archers. If I had thought about it before I glued it together, I'd had scribed planking onto it. If my micro-pen wasn't dead, I might have drawn planking on  The stuff on the wheels looked cheesy enough that I decided that in real life you wouldn't see the planking from any great distance so I just skipped it.

I was a little dismayed though that the ink on the orange crates that were used for the main body, bled right through 3 coats of paint. Oh well. Maybe one day I'll fix it.

The New Immortals, hastily painted up. 25mm Garrison

Friday, December 2, 2011

saw saw, hammer hammer, Moo, SNAP! Creaakkk

I was trying to decide if I could get away with doing Thymbra without one of Xenephon's, I mean Cyrus's War Wagons. Seems a waste to build a couple and use them once, but what the heck. So I'm going to build 1, out of scraps, minimum work, just a few details and a lick of paint but I think it'll do for 1 game and then a prolonged lounge at the back of the shelf. I've borrowed oxen and have promised to send them back to the baggage train afterwards.

The fighting platform has some how ended up about 5mm lower than intended, that's what happens when you rush construction and used pressed labour rather than well trained engineers.

Now to turn some Basic Impetus army lists into a liberal interpretation of the opposing armies.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Elemental My Dear Shapur

OK so its not the 18 man regiments I was playing about with 3 years ago but on the other hand having a single regiment make up the wing of an army never felt quite right and HEY I got a 4th Clibinari painted today!. 

I've only had this 12 man unit in the queue for a year and a 1/2 so they count as a recent acquisition.  I thought 12 would be an easy go  but I primed 6 of them last summer, painted 3, and stalled. My Lydian Nobles also stalled at 6 last year and have been taking the field mixed with the, 6-out-of-12 painted, Skythian Nobles when I want to field a 12 man unit. Being able to field these 4 as a unit is encouraging, even if its not what I'm used to. .

Instead of comparing the visual impact of the individual unit, I am looking at the larger picture. For heavy cavalry, the individual units will be massed. Each small unit will retain its identity (and hopefully become labelled)  but they will operate en masse much the same as they would have as a single large unit and roughly the same number of figures will appear on the table. For light cavalry, the smaller units will allow much for flexibility to harass the enemy and thus feel more authentic. For my Athenian Phalanx,  10 tribes massed together is actually a better representation than 3 or 4 large units. Still, its a change of mindset from where I was at 2 years ago and I should be surprised if it rubs a bit here and there on occasion as I break it in.

Meanwhile, I was poking about in Shadows in the Desert and found a maddeningly vague but useful answer to a question I have been asking myself. "Are we sure the Parthians didn't use any decent infantry even when fighting in the hills?" The answer being several references on the role played by Mede hill tribes in repelling a Roman invasion. Aha!  So how were these Mede's armed  and dressed? Irrelevant  apparently, but we can surmise typical Mede pants, tunic and cap, some foot archers, some javelin or light spearmen.
Why should I care? Just that it makes an early Sassinid army seem just a little bit closer to a Parthian one, and makes a Parthian army more flexible for Table Top Teasers.

Now, thinking about Sassanids and Parthians brought Romans to mind, so I went to pull up the Garrison on line catalogue and.....ARRGGHHH!!! It seems that if I wasn't in the habit of bypassing the Home page, I'd have known that Rob is taking a well deserved winter break and has shut the catalogue down until March. Oh well, maybe by then I'll have funds in hand, be ready to buy rather than browse and have a proto-Sassinid army ready to greet them. In any case I hope Rob enjoys the break.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Beware of Greeks Bearing Lists

I did some more experimental pushing about of figures and bases today. Two x 40mm sq bases with 4 figures (or very rarely 6) in 2 ranks per base, 80 mm x 40mm with 10 figures in 2 ranks, 80 mm x 60mm with 10 or maybe only 8 and very rarely 12 figures in 2 ranks or 12 in 3 ranks, and for good measure, revisited the 2 x  45mm sq. bases I had pondered last summer. The 80mm x 60mm, single stand looks best, room for spears to hover over the base instead of sticking out, and room for light cavalry and light infantry to loosen both ranks and files and get a little irregular. An exception maybe for troops who can be either skirmishers or light infantry in which case 4 bases each 40mm x 30mm with 2 figures looks handy.

Before I could go any farther, however,  I needed to know what the armies themselves would be like, how many units of what sorts. I especially would like to know what my Pontic/Armenian or other army will look like but I just don't have the information or a picture in my head. Since I have most of the figures for the Greeks and Persians, and have orders of battle, that seemed like the best starting point. I intend to ignore scales and how many men a unit will represent, using the same units for skirmishes over a supply train or a pitched battle. I also intend to more or less ignore the various City-state wars so my existing cavalry will be put aside for later.

At last count I only have something like 140 hoplites painted up. Depending on whether I go with 8, 10 or 12 figures per base in the long run, that's probably going to be around  10 to 12 units. Now oddly enough, the Platea game called for 5 units + 1 on the Persian side or 12 units if I doubled them while the Marathon game  calls for 11 units. (I used 6 iir) So far that  seems to work well. I have way too many Greek light troops and cavalry for the Persian wars but if I do any Anabasis games, I'll need more light troops, especially my favorite, peltasts. If I pick say, a unit of archers, 1 of slingers and 2 of javelinmen as well as 2 units of peltasts,  a unit of medium  cavalry and a unit of light Thessalians then that should about cover it. Maybe a few more since the units will be small, enough for both sides in case I get mad (der) , paint up another 140 hoplites and start fighting the Corinthian War.

Deployed in a single line phalanx, the planned units will cover..( hmm multipy, divide..), a bit less than 4 feet, less if I double up a couple of units. Hmmm. Not quite wide enough.. That would be the impact of tightening the files or going 3 deep.  Well, its workable, and I did say I wanted some Spartans.

Reality Check

Its been 2 years now that the Hosts have been Gathering. Its time to take stock.

If the Glass were 1/2 full it would be because I have painted or fixed up some troops and have played several enjoyable games. If it were 1/2 empty its because I have not only failed to accomplish the stated goals, I have come to realize that I don't really want to.

The main goal, apart from just fixing up broken and disorganized armies, was to end up with two, largish, opposing armies for an extended campaign. I am slowly coming to terms with the reality that it would be more in my nature to plan several smaller matched armies. Actually, since I have reduced my table, my earlier planned armies wouldn't fit anymore anyway.

So, as we enter Year 3 of the Gathering, I need a new plan. I've played some HoTT and some Basic Impetus during the 2 years and thought some about DBA as well as playing non-ancient Portable Wargames and WHAB, and various wildly varying versions of homegrown rules.  I don't want to go down to DBA levels but I was quite happy with Basic Impetus size and density of units when playing Multi-army BI. BI calls for a 12cm frontage with as many or as few figures as you like, ideal for matching old Armati or WRG armies, but Ron and I have been talking about 8cm bases to fit on his 10cm hex grid and I think that the resulting forces are a reasonable compromise as far as numbers of units in the game, number of figures on the table and the amount of space taken up.

For flexibility, sabots with individual or maybe 4cm bases would be good but I like the idea of fixed units with an identity. 12 cm wide units with 24 infantry or 12 cavalry appeal visually but the truth is that I seem to be having trouble "getting into" or rather "back into" painting ancients and on the smaller table, smaller units should fit better anyway.  Luckily, a lot of the existing infantry are based either on individual 20mm sq. bases or 4 to a 40mm square base, so can be used 'as is' or on sabots. New units though, can be the subject of experiments, with based units on a single 80mm x 60mm bases, perhaps 10-12 heavy/medium infantry in 2 or 3 ranks, 8-12 light infantry, 4-8 skirmishers, 4 heavy cavalry, 3 light cavalry. Where appropriate, two of the heavy infantry units can be paired to make a double sized or deep unit.

Naturally, I recently re-based  a number of my medieval Scots onto new 6cm wide bases as fantasy troops, I'll ignore them for now, especially since I don't expect them to need to fight any 8cm based armies, anytime soon. If the need does arise, sabots or a grid can always be used to even things out.

Rules-wise, while Basic Impetus is my current game of choice for away games, I have yet to try them solo. That will come soon. Regardless, once the armies are re-organized, I will have a look at the Gathering of Hosts and finalize its transition to dealing with units and rosters or states vs figures.

Now, the bit where there were two armies. Since I expect smaller armies, I can be open again to multiple periods. Hopefully, if I just paint the last 2 dozen early Achaemenids, I will be able to label 2 armies as Greek and Persian Wars and be done with it. Might need to add a unit or 2 of Spartans but that won't be a hardship.

A Sassinid army is a no brainer since I have various bits and pieces and there are more on my "want' list for when the warchest refills. The question is. "which enemy"? A "proper" Roman army at last would make sense (that is one in lorica segmenta and trousers with rectangular shields and some in cloaks, as opposed to an accurate historical one) but since I also want an historical enemy to fight Ron's Gauls and late Republican Romans, want to make use of my PA molds,  and want to make as much use as possible of existing figures and want an army with a fair number of light infantry, preferably in trousers. Pontus is a natural opponent for Romans and Galatians but not for the Sassinids. I have been eyeing the Sassinid campaigns into the mountains on the northern fringes of their empire, especially into Armenia which also fought Rome but I also need to check out the Kushan as a possible setting for that elusive not quite historical setting.  I suspect the answer is Armenia though. The good news is this would keep my Persians fighting in or near Asia Minor and the Black & Caspian Seas, continuing the original thread, just a few years later!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A bit of driving force

Its been a slow time recently for Gathering Hosts. No painting, no rules fiddling, no solo games. Oddly, it has not been a slow time for 25mm ancients in general. I do try to avoid being swept up in popular trends but finally tried out Basic Impetus and much against my will, had to admit that so far, it seems to give a fun game with good feel.  So far my Persians have borrowed a list and appeared as Medes to fight Assyrians and my Greeks have fought for Syracuse. I've also borrowed back some old Romans from Ron and fought for Pompey vs Caesar and have taken command of an unruly band of Gauls, many of which I painted anyway,  to try out the full meal deal Impetus.  This later has a lot more to it than the basic Game making it slower, more work and less fun. We have however borrowed a few rules like rolling against discipline for disorder or to rally.

To keep things "in period" with the fall of the Republic, its time to resurrect my old Pontic army. Pharnaces not Mithradites, the army most books skip over, which is odd. I mean not only did they give rise to one of the best known latin quips, (veni,vedi, vici),  they are one of the few "native" armies to actually beat some Romans in a pitched battle (obviously not the crucial one against Caesar).  Information isn't exactly plentiful or sure, there seems to be a lot of "probably" but if one mixes Hellenistic with Scythian/Sarmatian and add in the influence of what was once on the outskirts of the Lydian Empire, one gets cavalry, peltast like infantry, probably some in pants, archers and some heavy infantry oin the Roman model-ish, not to mention scythed chariots. As long as I can borrow back those Romans as imitation legionaries, I can find everything else I need amongst the ranks of my Persian, Lydian and Greek armies.

Still, I haven't given up on fighting Thymbra, so sometime between now and Christmas I hope to give it a go using modified Basic Impetus, maybe even a play off with Gathering of Hosts?.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mixing it up

It was too hot and muggy to do much else today, so, more rules tuning.

The Peltast/Psiloi question is now settled. in favour of them being the same general troop classification but with the peltast types being better in melee. At some point I may feel the need for a new classification of fast moving tribal infantry but at the moment I think they can be covered by either light or medium infantry with possibly a special rule for a given medium infantry units moving in difficult terrain or else I may have some units that can be deployed either way.

While I was messing with troop types I dealt with another issue that was looming. My cavalry classifications were basically mirroring DBA but they just didn't seem to fit.   After some more pondering, I decided to divide the missile/shock categories into medium and heavy categories with the latter being cavalry on armoured horses who are less mobile.

I was having trouble trying to find simple ways to cover some of the things around charges, missile fire etc and remembered that I had briefly considered moving the missile fire to the start of the turn but hadn't taken a serious look at it. Today I did and then had a sudden thought about moving charges as well. This brought a few things together and made the result both simpler and closer to what I have had in mind.

Again the rules have been updated. Hopefully tomorrow will be cooler so I can play  a game as I am champing at the see how they feel. It would be nice to play 5 games with no changes!

Scaling Down

When I used the Granicus as the basis for a generic scenario, since I wasn't doing a recreation, I  only  looked at the rough ratio of troop types, (cav, lt infanty, infantry) not the actual numbers.  When laying it out my first thought was, that's not very many troops, I should double that. It would have meant dipping deep into the not-yet-refurbished pile and anyway wouldn't have fit into the 5 foot frontage that I had allocated so I let it be. (There is a roach in the middle of the battlefield that prevents the hardboard river from lying flat if laid the other way. Persian engineers have been tasked with leveling the playing field this fall)

After the game though, I did look though and figured out that the ratio was about 1:200. Doubling would have brought this to 1:100, double the units and probably close to double the playing time. . But would it have doubled my fun? Somehow I doubt it though for a 4 or 6 player game on an 8 foot table if would have been necessary.

But these calculations were swiftly followed by more. At around 1:200, a 1,000 man Persian unit would only be 5 figures, lets say 4 for sake of tidiness. 10 such units would make a standard "division" of 10,000 men. If I were to take battles like Platea as a standard, there is something to be said for that. But assuming somewhere around 1 pace per file, 100 men deployed 10 deep would occupy about 100 paces, or if I squeeze them in, 30 mm. Depending on how generous yoiu are, that gives a reasonable bow range of 60 -75 mm. Let's be generous and say 3". Not really what I had in mind starting out.

Turning back to what I had had in mind, I set out a version of Charles Grant's Apocryphal Well scenario and played out a quick test. (I'll be redoing this as a proper battle report later, I want to work on a few things first.) As I was setting out the troops in their customary 4 ranks, I was startled to be reminded that in the book they were deployed 2 deep like all infantry apart from pikemen were in the "good old days". When did I start assuming that all infantry deployed 4 deep? I must have played too much WHAB over the last decade!  This started  me thinking again about historical formations, depths and frontages, things I had worked hard to put from my mind!  

We don't exactly have a plethora of Persian drill manuals to refer to but if memory serves, the last time I checked, the thought was that each 100 man "company" formed 10 wide and 10 deep with the 1,000 man "regiment" forming 100 wide and 10 deep. Their Greek opponents seem to have usually formed 6 or 8 deep but occasionally 12 until the Thebans got crazy, and of course the Macedonians went with 16 as standard.
The later Hellenistic armies had drills for doubling ranks and so forth but I suspect that the Persians and early Greeks formed they way they were and that was it for the day. All I need to worry about for the moment then are march columns for some scenarios and "formed for battle".  (hmmm I seem to have accidentally deleted  all reference to changing formation, I'd better add something back in).  All of my basing investigation so far, has focused on  a 4 deep infantry formation. I don't really want to go much deeper so this looks like the traditional 3-4 ranks per figure giving a 4 figure deep pike phalanx and 2 figure deep Greek phalanx, possibly with a basing option for 3 deep and either 2 or 3 ranks for the Persians. OK but all else being equal, including table width, 2 ranks instead of 4  means 1/2 as many figures on the table!

1/2 as many figures also means either smaller units or fewer of them. Smaller units is taking me where I was headed in June, a direction I have already rejected but since the plan is to fight a number of CS Grant teasers, I don't want to change the number of units. I don't really want to reduce the number of figures drastically either, so I need to make them fit. I did notice that my 24 man units deployed 2 deep occupied 4/5 of the frontage of one of Grant's 40 man units on the old WRG frontages. That's a good argument for tightening up the files. If I deploy  my 24 strong units 8 wide and 3 deep with a 15mm  frontage per figure, then this nicely stands in for a 1,000 strong "regiment" deployed 10 deep and 100 wide.  The 120mm (~ 5") frontage then represents possibly 100 paces which makes a 12" bow range look reasonable.


Now, the next question is, should I really have separate skirmisher and light infantry categories? or should I base peltasts and psiloi alike, give them the same movement etc capabilities and just give the peltasts better melee capability? It would make both life and  scenarios easier. Hard to separate years of wargame rules from actual evidence and speculation. I'm trying to think, for example, of an occasion in Xenephon, Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy or Caesar where that approach would be wrong.

Possibly I could allow some peltasts to go 2 stands deep to represent them forming in close order, or maybe leave the unit as single figures and choose an appropriate movement tray to allow them to be fielded as either medium or light infantry on any given day.  Needs some thought.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rosin Up The Bow

After a quick test game last night, I have been "fiddling"  with the rules. Nothing serious just some tweaks, a few typos corrected, some name changes and:the following:

  • Orders chart. Having reminded myself that I've been trying to get rid of separate morale tests, I have removed the rout and shaken results from the orders test and tweaked the effect of generals slightly.
  • Movement. I decided that the movement rules didn't need to be so finicky so I have loosened them up. Some gamers might exploit this in unreasonable ways but that's better than cumbersome restrictions that can sometimes end up preventing reasonable moves. 
  • Shooting. When I dropped the 25% shooting casualties shakes a unit, I increased the "to hit" number to 4,5,6. This was too deadly against cavalry so I have rearranged the modifiers and given a  -1 vs cavalry modifier
  • Rout. Instead of having rout as a cumulative melee or an order check result, I have made it a result of accumulated shaken markers. 2 for most troops, 1 for Levy, 3 for Elite. . 

. Time for more testing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Battle of the Halys, sort of.

To test the  current version of the Gathering of Hosts rules, I staged a game loosely based on a scaled down version of the Granicus with Lydians and Medes standing in. This will kick off a truce and let me get on with the Great Rebellion, this time with a little more background imagineering.

The rules themselves under went some fierce scrutiny, primarily aimed at preferences and some very visible changes without changing the core ideas and values. The updated rules as played are available from the google docs. The battle report is on BattleGame of the Month.  The short version is that the Medes are convinced that scythed chariots are the weapon of the future........well, as long as you can get the enemy to present the flank of his phalanx to you......

I want to run the rules again so next up will be a game which sees the Rebels and the Great King's forces clashing over an important watering hole at Apochyrpha on the border of Hyrkania.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Experimental Clibinari

I decided to indulge myself and start in on some Clibinari. These are from the  Garrison 25mm Achaemenid list. What I really wanted were some Sassinid figures, but I had a unit of these in my Valdurian army many years ago. Like my Sassinid elephants, they went missing when I graduated from college and headed west. To be honest, I expected to have followed up with Sassinids by now but maybe this fall. In any event, it felt like time to paint some up. This is where I hit a small hitch, I had no idea how the figure should look. 

This figure, with its baggy pants, cowl, short sleeved over tunic and gallic style hauberk, doesn't resemble any illustrations of Achaemenids that I have seen, thought the short sleeves are typical of Garrison Persians.  I thought I saw something similar in the 2,500 th anniversary parade but on reviewing the video footage I couldn't find them again so perhaps I imagined it.  That was one problem, the other was that I hadn't decided yet who they will represent, Rebels, Persian Nobles, subjects from which province?  It seemed smart to stop and figure that out and work on a test figure.

After trying a dab a colour or 2 to see how it looked, and doing some thinking, I decided that these would be Nobles answering the call to arms, not a regular guard unit. My first thought was to make them Rebels along with my Garrison light cavalry, my "Hyrkanians", but the more I looked at what figures I had available, painted and unpainted,  and thought about scenarios, I decided to put the Garrison Persians on one side, that made these loyal Nobles. One question answered.  

Leather seemed like a reasonable fabric to make a protective hood out of but in addition to not being able to find .any Persian or similar examples, the hood has wrinkles like cloth not leather thick enough to protect. fabric. If you ignore the helmet, the head piece actually resemble one versions of the usual Persian headgear. Since this is often shown as white, I tried painting this one white. That seemed a bit too stark a contrast so I fell back on a dark yellow.

The short sleeved over tunic could probably be almost any colour, my Immortals and light cavalry wear uniform versions but then you can see the whole thing, here only the sleeves show. More than that, I decided that these would be Nobles rather than guardsmen and uniform doesn't sit well with Nobles. A compromise was in order, I went with a dark red that might have been a leather under tunic or might be a tabard of sorts.

Baggy pants and tunics were next. Since they were now nobles answering the call, colourful and non-uniform seemed in order. If the pants had been tight, I'd have thought about embroidery but stiff embroidery doesn't seem to match billowing fabric and I didn't want to go for the cotton print look either so solid colours with embroidery on the tunic, mostly a little brighter colours than this fellow with his dark blue pants perhaps.

Although the armour might be  bronze scale, I have opted for iron since that says "cataphract" to me, but I added polished bronze bits to brighten them. The shields might have been wood or leather or born personal devices but without a reference point, these being nobles in the King's service, and me being lazy, I settled on plain purple shields with a bronze boss.

Now, 11 more to go as the opposing Royal and Rebel armies take shape in my mind.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ready for a Taste Test

I have gone back to the January edition of gathering of Hosts and applied various lessons learned. The results are now ready for a play test, hopefully one by me this weekend. We will be on puppy watch so I can't go far anyway.

Apart from tightening up details and language, the big change is to replace a rally test and a break test with automatic disorder if suffering 25% missile casualties in 1 turn or losing a round of melee by suffering 50% more hits than inflicted. A compulsory rally/break test for all disordered units then closes the turn. This avoids most of the double jeopardy issues with a separate test but gives a small chance to recover in melee while putting levies, under strength units and melee losers at risk of panic.

It also allowed me to simplify the movement rules.

The old figure rally rule was both fun and tiresome and while it sometimes worked, I think this will give me the same general end result with less fuss and more reliability. Poor units will tend to fall apart, good quality heavy units can withstand a tremendous amount of missile fire before being destroyed but are at risk of temporary disorder.

The updated rules are available on Google Docs.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Large, Small or Not at All

That pretty much sums up two key issues that are on the table as I prime some Clibinari and try to figure out where I was at with the rules last June: scale and unit organization.

Scale can mean various things when talking about a miniature wargame, what I am considering is the size of size of battle being represented and its implications for ground scale and the figure to man ratio.  The traditional approach was to design a low level game and then fudge it for use with big battles, an approach that seemed to work well for many despite the inherent contradictions that meant that it probably wasn't  really a good simulation at either end.

I started off last year with an "Old School" approach settling on 24 man "regiments". Each theoretically represented around 1,000 men,  but were used to refight both "bathtubbed" historical battles and scale-less Tabletop Teasers, some approaching battles in feel, others with a skirmish flavour.   In large part this is a reflection of the pleasure that I have had over the years from reading Charles Grant's ancient battle reports. Lately, I have been drawn to the idea of each stand being a unit.   This has confused the issue dreadfully.

Unfortunately, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions, they are a matter of preference.

So perhaps the real question is:
 "Is last year's decision still valid or is there a good reason to change course?".

I decided that a good starting point was to review the games played last year. All these were solo games (except the 40mm Prince Valiant skirmish which at first blush has nothing to do with the Gathering of Hosts). The battles ranged from an ambush of a priestess and her escort to refights of Platea and Marathon. The rules varied once I decided to start writing a set but they were all aimed at the same sort of  game, and I enjoyed them all. One mark for staying the course.

The ambush game was probably as low as the rules can go and really was smaller than what the game was designed to represent just as Platea and Marathon were technically larger than what the rules were designed to represent. The ambush game could have been played as easily, or perhaps better, using the Prince Valiant  Dark Age skirmish rules but oddly, it was a version of the mid-sized battle that was successfully played as a skirmish. Here, perhaps, we find another hidden question at the heart of the matter:

"Do I need 2 different 'ancient' collections?".

If all the skirmish games were played using the individually based 40mm Fall of Rome collection and the 25mm figures were used to recreate large battles, then there would be a clear separation of purpose beyond liking the look of this figure or that or being emotionally attached to various toys. After all, time for painting and playing are limited as is money for acquisition of figures. Wouldn't reduction to a single pre-gunpowder period make sense? Well, yes, but its not always about making sense and anyway, abandoning the Persian Project now after having just invested scarce resources to it doesn't make sense either.

If the Persians are going to stay, does it then make sense to rob them of the capability of fighting many different types of action just so the big battles can be done more realistically? Not to me. If they were redesigned to primarily refight the great battles of history as fought by all the Persian armies from the days of the Mede Kings to the fall of the Sassanians, wouldn't I then be forced to acquire yet more armies for them to fight as well? That doesn't make sense either.

What about altering the 25mm armies so that they can be used to provide a |'Portable Army'? This is the another question that has been lurking. If each stand becomes a 'unit' of a thousand men and a small game can be played with say 12 such units wouldn't that be convenient? At the same time, historical battles could be fought with large armies represented by 50,000 or more men using rules designed to do that. Both these suggestions have merit but only if these are things I really want to do. When and against who would I play these games. I have other portable games that I can play when I feel the need, do I need them in all periods?

I decided to go back to one of my other sources for inspiration, my tatty little Penguin translation of the Xenaphon's Anabasis.  It didn't take long for things to come together. Xenephon describes both small skirmishes and largish battles, but he does so in a way that you feel involved  at various levels. in fact you feel a bit like you do when playing some of those less than accurate simulations that were Old School ancient wargames or reading of of Grant's battle reports. No wonder I enjoyed what I had been doing last year, I was well primed for it.

In other words, it looks like I have allowed my self to be diverted from the path I was on by distractions and false trails. As long as abide by my allocations of shelving space there is not really any advantage to getting rid of existing collections if I take the long term view. For example, I have unpainted figures on hand for both Prince Valiant and my Persian armies and their foes and I may well buy more if I have the resources to spend but I can already stage games with either collection. The addition or refurbishment of  figures is only to add variety/options or to improve the look.  I can't paint or play both at the same time, but there may well be years of gaming ahead yet and even if each collection only gets out a few times a year or only has a few figures painted up or even skips a year, there will be games enough to make each worth having and figures enough to paint.

Given that conclusion, the answers become that my units should remain as they are, 24 figure "regiments" of a 1,000 men  that can be sent to do the work of 100 men or 10,000, without worrying about scale at all. What this also means is  that I need to revisit my rules, especially some of last June's experiments.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Contemplating the Great Divide

For the last 15 years, I have done my best to keep my ancient armies "compatible" with hobby standards, which meant, amongst other things, maintaining the ability to field 60mm wide elements regardless of how I based my troops. It hasn't always worked well for me and during that time, my Greeks and Persians have had, that I can recall, 8 opportunities to face some one else's army across the table, 5 of them against large 25mm figures using WHAB which isn't element based, 2 against large 25mm figures using Warmaster which neither of us were based for, and 1 using WHAB against a 1/72 plastic army based for WRG 3rd). The last opposed game was over 2 years ago. I don't see the opportunities increasing in the near future. Most of the large-25mm armies I might face aren't terribly appropriate enemies for my Persians anyway and the option to borrow an opponent always exists for away games. Hardly seems worth  the effort does it?

In amongst this, I have been looking at the old Grant book and looking over what's on hand with an eye to either refurbishing another old unit or starting a new one. My eye was caught on some of my older troops still based on a 15mm frontage and it brought me back to older days. My new units, in a mad attempt to harmonize 24 man  units with the option to go 2 deep or deeper while maintaining 60mm elements, and while accomodating some poorly disciplined spearmen, slid up to a 20mm frontage. Five mm doesn't sound like much but over the frontage of an army, it can mean an extra unit or 2 in the battle line, and now that I've cut my table down, that matters. It also happens to look more like massed troops.

So I am now contemplating heresy, mounting  6 heavy/medium infantry, 4 light infantry or 2 cavalry on a 45mm square base. Skirmishers will simply have their bases spread out. This will allow me to continue to field an average of 4 bases per unit so that they can go 2 deep or 4 deep but with the troops massed a little tighter with hoplites shield to shield.  I do have some heavy/medium infantry, which will remain unnamed, which cannot be squeezed onto a 15mm frontage but luckily, these can be squeezed comfortable into a 15mm depth so can be deployed 2 wide and 3 deep on the same base, so still 6 figures per element. Everyone is accommodated. That 2 of the new bases will fit inside a 4" hex is almost a coincidence that may or may not become important down the road. What ever the terrain is like, this will facilitate pursuing some Morschauser inspired rules and fitting the planned armies on the smaller table.

Not going to rush out and rebase the troops that have been recently rebased but I will try this out on the next units to be raised or refurbished. These questions of  basing, organization and compatibility have been  sticking points ever since I got frustrated with my experiment with singles and movement trays. Hopefully the way is now open to forge ahead again. My rules, my troops, my basing and organization and my not quite historical setting. Armies that only play at home, but guests welcome.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Migrating of Hosts

One of a series of very influential pictures from The Art of Warfare by David Chandler. The figures are of course Peter Gilder's Sassanid army which I once had the pleasure of seeing in person (from the public side of a barrier). 

Its been about a score of months since I began this Lydian-Mede War. It has lurched along uncertainly and more slowly than hoped for with few figures painted and almost as many Greek-Persian battles as Mede-Lydian ones. There are many external factors but clearly once my initial excitement over finally having a unit of Garrison Phrygians was over, what I needed to paint up were not what I had wanted to be painting and even without the high proportion of  Greeks,  it didn't feel as exotic and fantasy-ish as I hoped. So, once I have fudged a battle of Thymbra this fall, I am going to declare the campaign over.

Luckily, nothing that has been done has been wasted. The Phyrgians, Thracians and the best of the Greeks will be incorporated into the Persian army as subjects and mercenaries. Turning my eyes east in search of a new campaign, my eye has fallen on  Hyrkania. (or Hyrcania) (yes there was an historical Hyrkania as well as the Hyborian one). A fertile outpost on the edge of the vast steppes, fortified with a long frontier wall studded with forts, this province on the shores of the Caspian Sea saw invasions and rebellions enough for any wargamer. The fact that we know so little about it is even more to the good.  I haven't worked out the details but I intend to pit a post Cambyses polyglot, multi-racial Royal Persian army against a Rebel King  with Saka, Drangian and various barbarian allies.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Battle of Tremsos refought

I've been fiddling with the Gathering of Hosts again and while casting about for a scenario to test, the battle of Tremsos from Don Featherstone's Wargames came to mind.  The illustrated report can be found here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Egyptian Allies

25mm Rose Prestige Nubian, Egyptian and Ethiopean figures. 

When I bought the 1st Ethiopians, I was thinking of the Persian army and specifically, the army Xerxes raised to invade Greece. When I decided to back date things to the days of the Mede and Lydian wars, I wasn't quite sure what to do about the Ethiopians. Since Egypt had not yet fallen, Ethiopia wasn't likely to have been under Mede control and I see no reason that they would have gone so far to try to hire such primitively  armed mercenaries, even if they had access by sea.

While rereading Xenephon's Cyropedia, I was reminded of Egypt's alliance with Lydia. Xenephon has a large force of Egyptian "hoplites" fighting at Thymbra. I have things to do right now other than paint up 100 or so Egyptian spearmen but some Nubian/Ethiopian archer  auxiliaries?  Just the ticket, so I finally got around to painting a dozen Nubian archers to fill in the back ranks and make the unit up to 24 figures. Now, technically, the Nubians don't exactly match the Ethiopeans but for some reason I wanted some firing archers and also wanted a taste of more of the Rose figures. Once daubed with chaulk and vermillion, they blend well enough for my purposes.      
Egyptian and Thracian auxiliaries defend the "New Bridge"

Of course, explaining how the Egyptians came to tame, train and ship to Lydia, a selection of war elephants is going to be a bit tougher. Even tougher explaining why this facet of the Egyptian army has never come to light before........ But, how can you refight Trimsos without them?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sorting the Subjects - Thracians

When I hauled my Thracians put last week, I was reminded that the units were looking a little battered. This seemed as good a time as any to sort them. 

First order of business was to remove the figures from their various basing systems. About 1/2 were on 60mm x 60mm 6 man elements, 1/4 individually based on 20mm x 20mm bases and the rest on old WRG 3rd-6th ed bases with a mix of 1, 2 or 3 figures per base, 20mm wide per figure but 30mm deep. 

Once that was done, I stripped out figures with helmets or thureos. That left me with about 72 figures. Subtracting broken figures brought that down to about 60.  I considered a unit of javelin armed skirmishers but the need there is for Greeks not Thracians. Since these are RAFM multi-part figures, I decided to haul out the most suitable figures and re-head them with bare heads or petasos. That left me with 2 24 man units. For the last 25 or so years, my Rospak Thracians have been mixed in with my Ral Partha, RAFM and Corvus figures. I decided that it was time to separate them into two distinct units, 24 figures each. The remaining 24 figures, including a number of broken spear Rospak plastics, have been put aside as spare parts.   

Mixed Corvus, Ral Partha & RAFM Thracians
  Rospak hard plastic Thracians.
While I was at in, I sorted out and based up 2 4 man stands of archers and 1 of slingers. The rest, mostly RAFM multi-part figures have gone into the spares box.

Various RAFM figures with Thracian caps.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seeing the Elephant (so to speak)

My new Lydian/Phyrgian cavalry and axemen have finally seen action during today's test game. The report can be found here.