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.