Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Reviewing of Hosts

One of the first ancient pictures to appear on my Game of the Month Blog. January 2010, part of the build up to Marathon.

As the third (!!??) anniversary of Gathering of Hosts approaches in a few weeks time and I get closer to being able to start on the Syr Daria, 3 Kingdoms, 2 Rivers or Lost Outpost campaign or series of campaigns (obviously many details remain to be worked out), my mind has turned back to rules and thus organization. Like last year, I have gone back and read some old posts and battle reports to remind me of roads explored

A Warhammer Ancients brawl over a bridge. Again January 2010 

There have been a few detail changes over the three years but my real goal hasn't changed. Get something historically inspired but vague enough to not be historically hidebound going where all or most of my 25mm Ancients will have a role to play. I have upped the initial 2 armies to 3 and bumped it ahead by about 400 years, but the concept remains.

I had a fairly good idea of what I wanted the games to look like and when I decided to slide from obsolete Warhammer Ancients to home made that didn't change. Even when I got tired of pushing trays of single figures about, the basic look and feel was what I wanted. This got a bit warped when I had fun playing Basic Impetus and then a hex based variant of the same using 8cm wide units.  I haven't found the game as much fun when playing solo but more to the point, since the idea was to play Grant style Teasers with 1 unit = 1 unit with each unit developing its own character, reducing the number of figures from 12 or 24 to 4 or 8, it runs contrary to the original point of using as many figures as possible. Don't get me wrong, if I was starting from scratch, it would be great  I could reduce my shelf space by 2/3. Alternately if I wanted a whole bunch of little armies on the shelf, armies that might each get played with every two to three years if lucky, it would also be good and I seriously contemplated that option for a few months.

One option of course would be to just use a larger number of one stand units grouped together and it was in the middle of experimenting with rules for this this earlier today that it occurred to me that while this is probably more accurate historically, it wasn't what I had in mind and still wanted deep down. I don't want a bunch of nameless elements, I want long standing named regiments whose histories can be traced through the battles they fight. By adopting the 4cm bases that I have been itching to do for the last year, I will be able to extract vexillations for remote service under other rules systems while still staging the sorts of games that I had in mind. In deference to the table shrinkage experienced last year, I may compromise on slightly smaller units though; 8 cavalry or light troops, 16 infantry.

An Ambush from October 2010, using the early version of Gathering of Hosts.
Having looked back at the original criteria, I find that most still hold. One difference being that I will now design for elements not individuals. There have been some radical experiments in peripherals but much of the core of the rules have remained and is still about right. I have added some new design challenges for myself which existed but were unwritten. The original rules handled these but the newer versions didn't really try.

  • Commanders. These need to have a command function as well as combat and morale functions. (This is as before) but the rules also need to reflect the limited staff abilities of many armies and thus the difficulty of quickly implementing major changes to the intitial plan as well as the importance of the local leadership, all without making the game tedious and predictable or disallowing historical examples of flexibility. (From an implementation POV, the original mechanism, imperfect as it is,  is a better line of approach than most I have tried since.)
  •  Missile Fire. Missile fire should weaken not destroy. (Initially this was handled by a combination of individual hits on large units and rallying. I'll need a different approach for elements)

  • Melee. Melee, particularly when it comes to opposing bodies of good heavy infantry, should usually be a fairly lengthy process before one side gives way with cavalry vs infantry usually being a series of bounces till one side gives. Where one side initially at an advantage comes back, the result should usually be a pause before a fresh start rather than a reversal. Rout from melee should be more or less irreversible for heavy infantry in particular. (Again, the initial rules handled this reasonably well but needs some form of adaptation for elements.)  

The updated but not fully tested rules are avaible at left.

Platea from 2 years ago tomorrow. Another early Gathering of Hosts game.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

A New Queen Arises

The young Queen Shahrazad, the Flame Queen, liberator and ruler of Marakanda. Her army is composed of the steppe horsemen amongst who she was raised and men from the city and surrounding farms of Marakanda which she freed from the oppressive rule of the Greeks and brought back to riches, and hillmen from the nearby mountains to whom she fled in her times of trouble and who now follow her loyally.

(Oddly, this is around the time that the Marakanda disappears from history for a few centuries, reappearing as Samarkand but that's another story). 

Thanks to Rob from Garrison for the proto-Zenobia from whom she sprang, 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Slik Road Battle

I know, I was going to post ancient battle reports here but this one is over there.

Somewhere over on the Silk Road, a long long time ago, a Persian Satrap clashes with the forces of Marakanda (Samarkand in later times).
 Persian Infantry and elephants
 Persian Cavalry
 Marakanda's horse archers backed by armoured lancers and camel riders.
 Marakanda's infantry, Greek militia, hillmen and native archers backed by an elephant to everyone's surprise. 
 The battle, mid-game

Friday, August 17, 2012

Squaring off

I've been pondering basing again. There are some good points to the 80mm wide bases and some attraction to the idea of 1 base = a unit, buutttt..... its also quite limiting. Of all the 25mm ancient basing systems I've experimented  with over the last 5 years, the one I like the best for itself as opposed to the game that it enables, is the one using 40mm square bases with 2 cavalry or 2,3 or 4 infantry per base. I do have some cavalry who will need to go a bit deeper, 60mm for the galloping Garrison horses, but I like the look and feel and its fairly flexible. For example, apart from adapting to multiple rule sets, you can do road columns which are not convincing when 80mm wide. The plan will be to do 4 base units as a standard organization

This happens to be 15mm standard for many rules which  won't help if playing some using standard 25mm  basing but that won't matter if both armies are mine. It does mean I can make impetus units out of 3 bases or if using 2 bases can match Ron's units for playing on a hex grid. I just tried it today using Comitatus and it worked great, well some units were on 40's from earlier experiments, others were singles on a 20mm frontage and I fudged the rest.  Getting ready for the game got my enthusiasm levels up high enough to finish 4 more Persian Clibinari and rebase them with the existing ones to finish that unit.

I also got a start at refurbishing my old Valdurian Royal Horse Guards to serve as Guards for the Queen of Marakanda.  I picked these Rohirrim lads up at the Minifig stand in the wargames tent at Aldershot the summer of 1974. My first metal cavalry. To keep up their status next to all those RAFM & Garrison horses I need to remount them, they've borrowed some PB horses here.

Anyone need 10 x S range 1/2 armoured horses?

First time in battle in decades and another victory to their credit.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Video footage of the battle of marathon

Amazing what you can find on utube some days.

Why is it that they look more like my old Rospaks than anything else?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Still Slowly Gathering

These lads were born as Garrison Sassinid Standard Bearers. They were destined to join my not really Sassanid Clibinari to give them some of that traditional bubble headed look.    Some how though, even with lances, they just didn't fit in with my other, lance and bow armed,  Clibinari and in any case I've been inching back from the Sassanid angle. If not lance and bow Clibinari on 1/2 armoured horses, then how should I arm them?

Prior to Alexander, Bactria and the surrounding areas seem to have produced bow and spear armed cavalry both unarmoured and armoured with some of the latter being on armoured horses. Alexander and presumably the Achaemenids before him, apparently also raised some Javelin cavalry from the southern areas reaching down into Afghanistan and two heavy javelins were standard Persian armament at the time. Some Greek cavalry would have still been javelin armed while others would have adopted the long Macedonian cavalry spear. Under the Seleucids heavily armoured Cataphracts were introduced and became the standard heavy cavalry of the Parthian Empire. In the turmoil between the fall of the Seleucids and the rise of the Kushan and Parthian empires, what would "native" cavalry raised in the area have been like?

Now its not a co-incidence that the current gathering of armies is set in a time and place where  information is limited, that was the goal from the beginning. My assumption is that cavalry would have been varied, especially in a time of dynastic struggles but that the later lance and bow on 1/2 armoured horse Clibinari are unlikely even though I plan to field some. Some cataphracts are more likely, especially those with felt and leather horse armour, as well as some other lancer cavalry but since the javelin seems to have persisted through out the period, that is also a likely option for some. Lightly armoured and unarmoured cavalry probably predominated but what percentage were "cavalry" vs "light cavalry" (a distinction that I'm not convinced was as clear at the time as it is in our wargames)?.

Another question is about the hats. It seems the latest fad is to dismiss what used to be the archetypal Sassanid Felt Bubble Cap as an error  but since there is evidence of some earlier Medes wearing a similar hat as well as later shepherds and the like, I am happy to assume that some thing similar has been worn by some people over the centuries. Possibly not in the area where this rebel Iranian heritage army is being raised to fight the last of the Greco-Bactrians but the hats give it a distinct flavour so they are in.

The figures just seemed to want to be modified into javelin armed cavalry so I obliged and ended up with javelin armed cavalry with shield and armour, possibly similar to Roman, later Greek or Celtic cavalry. I have been basing my shock cavalry 4 to a base and my horse archers 3 to a base and had planned to base these as four figures. The officer I painted to go with them just didn't fit so he has been relegated to command the next stand of lancers and these ended up 3 to a base.  This seems to put these in the well equipped light cavalry category so that's how I'll use them , leaving the real fighting to the heavily armoured lancers. .Mind you, I think these would serve well as early Mede cavalry as well. They need some friends though.