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?.