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.


  1. Great minds think alike Ross.
    I've been thinking along similar lines in the last few days.I have been looking at Tony Bath's campaign book and what figures I have around.I have a big (ish) Roman army which will serve as two armies ( civil war scenarios possible) a wee Celtic/Germanic army of Admin Celts and am working on City State ( think Emesa/Edessa) with horse archers,cataphracts etc.
    I want a set up that is easy to set up,play and put away- even more so as winter deepens and the fatigue of work takes hold. Armies of 10-20 units will be the target.As time, energy and finances of the war chest allow I will add another one or two or so.I've always fancied something vaguely Indian for example.
    I look forward to meeting your forces and to follow their exploits...

  2. Great pictures. Thanls for sharing. When I started collecting 25mm Old School figures i was also thinking big. So my preferred way of collecting units was hail caesar. then dropped to DBA and WRG 6th as there is no strickt standart size for units. And on the other hand buying models is easy but finding time to paint them is hard.

  3. I like the 12 year plan. Over the last few months I have been mulling over planning what gaming I would like to do for the next 10-12 years. And it includes some ancient campaigns, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.