Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Designer Armies

One of the attractions of "Ancient" wargaming is the variety of armies and troop types that can be fielded. Even if playing strictly historical refight games this can lead to challenging  situations such as perhaps an army of archers and cavalry facing a heavy infantry army but if playing old fashioned competition style games, selecting armies was part of the fun. If playing Grant style Tabletop Teaser scenarios there is another twist, some armies are ill suited to some scenarios which can resulting in some awkward games with armies being given an unlikely task, perhaps an army of horse archers being tasked with holding a mountain pass or making an amphibious landing.

The plan when I started this blog 4 (really?) years ago was to focus on building two largish opposing armies for an extended campaign with a secondary capability of improvising appropriate enemies for games against friends. I managed a start and a couple of games but there are more historical Greek & Persian battles on the blog than Lydian vs Mede campaign battles and along the way my table dropped from 48 sq feet to 30 sq feet and is about to shrink again. I also demonstrated conclusively that by the time I've painted a few figures of one type,  I'm done and want to paint something different.

25mm Garrison Phrygians. Disappointed by the lack of action they have now sailed to the far side of the world.

So, the new plan which has been slowly coming together over the last 2 years is to have a number of smaller armies (5 has been chosen) that can play off each other over the next 20 years (hopefully). The idea was not to be super historical but rather to run a verging on fantasy historical campaign set in a time and place where hard information is scarce and which can provide a selection of armies which tick various boxes and be able to provide some classic clashes as well as being able to handle almost any table top teaser scenario.  The plan was also to base the armies around figures on hand, preferably ones already painted.  The armies will consist of around 20 units each with a unit frontage of 8 cm, say 3-4 cavalry or skirmishers, 6 light infantry,  or 8-12 heavy infantry.  Scenario forces will be chosen from these units with many games seeing less than 12 units on the table.  The hope is that I'll be able to play a  series of 2-4 game mini-campaigns over the next two years.

 The new paradigm.

The setting, very roughly, is along the Silk Road in Central Asia in the 1st century and postulates that Alexandria Eschate is still holding out as a last ember of the Bactrian Greek Kingdom. Control of that section of the Silk Road is being contested by Alexandria, by Marakanda (Samarkand) which has been conquered by a Skythian Queen and now fields a rather Kushan-like force, and by the Persian Governor who ought to be leading a Parthian army but actually has an early Sassinid force. There are various likely contenders for the 4th and 5th spots but they are all too close to the first 3 to be worth building. Instead, I have some troops that I wouldn't mind adding but am having just a little trouble with the back story. I'll get there though.

The 4th place will be taken by a "barbarian" army. I was initially thinking of something Daylamite or Dacian like based on the Prince August "barbarian" molds with unarmoured spearmen with round shields and Phrygian caps but the various historical prototypes are either too far away or were too minor a power and appear only as auxiliaries in other peoples armies. Another possibility, conceived today, is an early proto-Gothic  army which has come east from the Black Sea instead of going west. Still improbable but possible in an historical-fantasy context and allowing the army to be based around a core of 40 year old Celtic minifigs that once formed the core of my Valdurian army supplemented by various other "barbarian" figures such as the Prince August ones. For best effect I might have to replace some of the round PA shields with oblong or hexagonal ones or postulate allied or subordinate   contingents. There may even be some form of magic or wild beasts, maybe.

That would leave the 5th position wide open for future expansion. I'm not keen on starting any new armies from scratch, certainly not until the ones already started are complete and most of the likely historical candidates are too similar to one of the first three armies to entice me.  I might be able to propose a Rus-like infantry army appearing a few centuries early and a little off course. Perhaps the 1/72nd plastic armies fielded a few weeks ago were just a version of the 4&5th kingdom's armies appearing for the first time?

Over the next week I'll take a closer look at each of the armies.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Turanian at the Gate

Since General Saromander's failure at the Battle of the Tower last winter, all had  been quiet, nothing but rumours and old faery tales to suggest that King Antiros had gained anything from his victory in that minor skirmish. Still, King Rossius the Unknown decided that it would be best to use the lull to his advantage, to strengthen the Kingdom of Turan, just in case. Restoring the City of Marakanda to its rightful place as business hub of Turan seemed like a good start.

One would think that a city of merchants wouldn't  be hard to entice with trade opportunities but perhaps his offer had been too generous  and they sensed a weakness to be exploited, or perhaps that vixen Sharazhad had hidden the offer. He had to admit to a certain fascination with the girl ever since their surprise New Year's encounter. Still, it had been a very generous offer to her as "Queen" of the break away city, third wife to the King of Turan for her, free trade for the city, the leaderless peasants to be granted overlords chosen from amongst the younger sons of the great Turanian houses, employment in the Turanian Border Patrols for the warriors. A very generous offer, he had even offered to take on three additional maidens of Sharazhad's choice into his harem despite the discord that might sow at home. And what was her response? The head of his envoy on a silver platter with certain body parts in place of a tongue!  Obviously the girl was looking for a more strenuous wooing. It was time for the Host to Gather again!

In an effort to delay the Turanian advance while the main army mustered, Queen Sharazhad led a small force of archers with some catapults from the city defence to a pass near the border. Once the local levies were mustered she found herself with 1 unit of light cavalry horse archers,  3 units of infantry archers, 2 units of skirmishing archers and the unit of artillery.

The Turanian army, as usual, depended on chance for their order of battle. From the south came a column containing 1 unit of light cavalry, 3 units of skirmishers, and 2 units of spearmen.  From the east came a column composed of 1 unit of light cavalry horse archers, 1 unit of infantry skirmishers, 1 unit of heavy horse archers, 1 of clibinari (armoured lance & bow), 1 of cataphracts and 1 elephant squadron.

With little room to maneuver, King Rossius pushed his light cavalry and skirmishers forward to cover the deployment of the heavy cavalry and elephants. The first unit of horse archers died quickly but while the left wing was unable to evict the enemy skirmishers from their hill, the day was well advanced before the final light cavalry unit broke.

As the losses mounted in the center and no threat to the Maracandan left flank appeared, the Queen began to shuffle troops towards the center but it was a slow business made worse by an apparent lack of messengers to carry orders (lots of 1's.)  A charge uphill by the Clibinari, Rossius at their head, was briefly held by the Marakandan horse archers. Seizing the moment, the Queen led a unit of archers into the flank of the Clibinari. It was a brave but unwise move. The Clibinari ignored the distraction, routed the horse archers and pursued beyond reach of the foot archers. Behind them, the Clibinari and Cataphracts charged in support. After a tough fight with the other 2 archer units, both cavalry units were repulsed.  

 Wheeling around, the Clibinari charged into the Queen and her archers just as the elephants lumbered up the hill from behind. The cataphracts sought to clinch the victory by charging back into the foot archers but had underestimated the effect of flanking fire from Marakandan skirmishers. (6 dice from the 2 units, 5 hits reduced to 3 by armour.) The Marakandan's were jubilant but, caught between lancers and elephants, the archers surrounding the Queen broke for the woods. The young Queen tried to rally them but she was pierced by an arrow. Luckily the woods were not far and her men gathered her up and carried her to safety. The Turanians had been bloodied but the pass was open and the sun still high in the sky. Luckily for Marakanda, King Rossius is not know for his speed or his single minded, aggressive prosecution of campaigns. 

After the last game, I decided to go back to turn sequence and order dice as used for the games last winter. It was the right choice, the whole thing felt just right and gave an interesting game lasting a bit over an hour.

Now to muster the Marakandan heavy cavalry into their proper squadrons and to raise the city militia, and maybe some more Turanians.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Terror of the Turanians! Coming soon

The Turanian hosts of King Rossius the Unknown approach a pass held by Queen Sharazhad of Marakanda with a small force. A short battle report and update on Gathering of Hosts rules to follow in a day or so.