Saturday 28 February 2015

Battleships of the Desert

Also known as Parthian cataphract camels, or 'camelphracts':
Figs by Navigator Miniatures. There is only one pose of the armoured camels, but I tried to vary the look by painting two types of metallic armour, and colouring the straps and reins.
The riders are the same ones used for the cavalry. I painted them in a variety of rich tones to reflect their status.
I bought twelve of them for use in our campaign armies.
I hope the view from the back shows the cloaks. I already have four Old Glory camelphracts; adding this lot will give me all I will need, I think.

Art de la Guerre

These rules are making some inroads, and Willy brought them over for a try out here at our place. He ran the Later Macedonians while I had their erstwhile Roman opponents. We did a few things wrong, as always happens with a new set of rules, but by and large I got a feel for them. Willy has played them more than I have, and he likes them. Anyway:
The Macedonian right, as seen from my perspective: some Thracians and a large phalanx.
Their centre: a couple of units of Foot Guards plus some Cretan Archers.
Cavalry on their right.
Cavalry on my left.
Legions in the centre.
Triarii brigaded together at my right.
A side table shot of the whole field, taken from off to my right. You can clearly see that the armies are offset.
Closing at my left...
...and in the centre.
My right. The Triarii are there to protect the flank of the central legionary mass.
The whole field at this point.
I try to get clever on my left to try to slow down the enemy here.
At my centre right, I use numerical advantage to try to swamp the foot guards.
Infantry slog.

Ultimately, Willy won, although only just, because he managed to swing some phalanx around before I could the same to him with legionaries. His foot guards were annihilated, though.

Overall, I quite liked it, but I can see where it is coming from. Willy used a common enough tournament game technique with his offset deployment, while I opted for a more traditional central set up because I didn't know what else to do. It played kind of like a compromise between Field of Glory and Armati. I have only played them once before, and it would be interesting to see how they play out again. I don't see me being wooed away from Tactica, though...

Saturday 14 February 2015

Hi Ken

Just saying hello to Ken, whose blog is here. He has a great looking X-Wing campaign on there just now - do go and have a wee look...

Cavalry and Command for the Romans

Two units of twelve Roman cavalry, with a command stand in the middle. Figs are by Companion Miniatures.
As with the Spanish cavalry I painted from the same manufacturer, these are quite dynamic, so I put them on slightly deeper bases than usual.
The unit with the white shield designs has embossed shields that originally came with the foot command sets. I kept these and used them for some of the cavalry and the command base.
The ones with yellow are some LBMS transfers for Aventine Velites, on a mixture of shields with bosses and some without. It took me six weeks to paint these, much longer than I would normally take. Work has been really heavy since the winter break, so I don't usually have any energy left for painting on midweek evenings. I'm glad to get them finished!

Wednesday 11 February 2015

The Cimbri have arrived

Yesterday evening saw the arrival of the Germans in the High Alps, in the year 113 BC. Due to unforeseen circumstances, though, two of our regulars couldn't arrive, along with most of the German figures, so we made do with half-sized units plus whatever else I had managed to stick in a tub - no photos. The result, though, was historically accurate: the Germans had a good time happily crushing legionaries. The Cimbri, though, don't seem to feel the need to capitalise on their victory by marching in the direction of Rome, and have instead gone off on some more wanderings. This will bring them into contact with the Scordisci, who have also recently been fighting Romans.

All of which means that our next game will be Warbands against Warbands, a proper scrum for the first time. We have seen armies composed of warbands fighting other armies that have some of their own (e.g. Gauls against Carthaginians), but nothing like this. It should be a fun ride...

Monday 9 February 2015

Parthians meet disaster

Parthians against Indians in the campaign. The Indian army deploys:
Their right wing, from the Parthian viewpoint. Malcolm in command here.
Their centre, run by Graham.
Their left - Gordon.
The Parthian left: all light troops, but high quality. I am running this part of the army.
Billy has a large mass of Cataphracts in the centre.
Willy has our right - a mirror image of my command.

Simon constructed the Indian army list and supplied them from his own collection. He also laid out their deployment: a large line of mixed infantry and elephants stretching as far as possible, with cavalry and more elephants on the flanks. I constructed the Parthians and supplied the light troops; Willy brought in most of the Cataphracts. I set up the Parthians so as to make the Cataphracts the anvil - the two wings are to practise finesse and subtlety by degrading the enemy as much as possible. Finally, a grand charge will finish them off. That's the plan, anyway. It fails spectacularly.

A long side shot. I am being cagey in the foreground. The Parthians need to be very careful in how they go about things in order to strip the Indian wings before moving into the centre. As you can make out in the distance, though, the Parthian right wing seems to have other ideas - they are simply advancing en masse.
A closer shot of a developing traffic jam on our right.
The second long side shot shows how much damage I am not doing. The mass at the top is being cut to bits piecemeal by the Indians in a combination of foot archers and elephants.
An atmospheric ground level shot of my missiles missing.
In goes my first wave, with horse archers waiting to see where they might be needed.
In the meantime, the Indian centre advances to within bow range of our heavy cavalry.
Another full table shot. Our far right seems to be thinning out.
A close-up of the combat on my wing. I hit very little.
My wing is positioned to do what Parthians do best - extend the enemy lines, shoot them up, weaken them further and then finish them off with a lethal combination of more archery and judicious attacks. Shame it doesn't work. The Indian centre and left simply keep advancing. My original intention was that both of wings would be like mine above, but my guys can't hurt anything and our right has almost completely been wiped out.
I finally finish my opponents, but it will be too little too late.
Graham supplied the shot above of the Parthian cataphracts...
...and this one of what is about to happen to them.

The cataphracts charged after taking quite a lot of shooting damage, well aware that they would receive no support from their right, and that I have not been able to do my job on the left. They died to a man.

This was one of the most comprehensive defeats we have seen in the campaign so far: the Parthians lost 75% of their army, the Indians 10%, all of them killed by my clan on our left. The deployment seemed fine, but the Parthians require extreme patience, especially when they are not getting the results they need. The Indians on our far wing were able to pick off the attacking Parthians a unit at a time, which is kind of what I was hoping we would do to them...

Not a disaster for the campaign, though - the Parthians have done very well picking up loads of vacant territory, and are busy replacing the losses.

Next up: hosts of Germans have appeared in the High Alps in Rhaetia and Noricum. The Romans send a consular army to deal with a people called the Cimbri in Noricum. It is the autumn of 113 BC.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Hi Matt

Just saying hello to Matt from Nottingham - his blog is here. Do have a look, especially at the re-enactors and Lion Rampant post that is on there at the moment...

Sunday 1 February 2015

Year One: A Campaign Retrospective

It has now been a full year of real time since we finished the Empire campaign, and took up where we left off with our own. I thought it might be interesting to look over the last year...

Overall, the rise of Rome has taken place broadly according to history, although some of the details are different. Basically, we started the campaign with a pseudo-historical year of 150 BC. Rome had three armies on the map at the start: one in Hispania, one in Sicily, and another in Rome itself. They began in a state of war with the Iberian tribes, whose main army was ensconced in Numantia; Carthage; and Macedonia, which had field armies in Pella and Epirus. The fourth main power was Ptolemaic Egypt, which had finished the Empire campaign in a far stronger position than was historically the case, partly due to the early demise of the Seleucids. The fifth and last power was Parthia, rising amidst a chaotic vacuum created by the downfall of the Seleucids, and poised to pick up large areas of territory pretty much unmolested. For details, see the campaign page here.

The idea was that the campaign would pretty much drive itself through the interaction of the various powers. I added some spice by including various other historical events pretty much in tune with when they really did happen. Here is a list of these for the period we have played so far, slightly more than thirty years of campaign time:
  • 146: The Achaean League declares war on Rome
  • 135: The (First!) Servile War erupts in Sicily
  • 133: The Pergamene Bequest. There is a revolt against the impending Roman arrival there, led by the aristocrat Aristonicus.
  • 125: The Ligurian Revolt. Fregellae in Latium also rebels, and is brutally destroyed - the first stirring of unrest amongst the Socii.
  • 121: Large Gallic incursion into Provincia.
  • 116: Ptolemaic succession crisis
  • 114: The Scordisci erupt into northwestern Macedonia
I spent quite a while putting these events together, and I have more as the campaign progresses. Most of our players will have a rough idea of impending events like these, since they are classical period players, amongst other things, but it is nice to have a few extra bits and pieces to add to the overall mix.

A quick potted history of the first 35 years or so of campaign time:
  • Rome continues its inexorable rise to power, albeit with difficulty. The Macedonians are especially difficult to finish off, and Rome also stumbles badly in the initial stages against Carthage and the Iberians. Rome has to exert all its might to defeat all of these enemies.
  • Ptolemaic Egypt starts off well, expanding handily into Mesopotamia before running into the Parthians and being forced back. The period ends with a civil war and most of their former possessions effectively seceding in anarchy.
  • To balance the rising power of Parthia, we ruled that every so often they have to face off against an Indian army - yet another match we don't see very often.
And that's it so far. Without giving too much away in terms of details, the next forty years of the campaign will see the Cimbric War; Jugurtha; the Social War; the civil war between the Marians and Sullans; Sertorius in Spain; more Servile Wars; and of course the rise of Mithridates and his sidekick Tigranes. That little lot should keep us handily occupied on Tuesday evenings for quite a while...


A Scordisci Incursion

No piccies this time, I'm afraid - I forgot everything except the figures for our latest campaign game, so this will be a relatively short report. One of the good things about an ongoing campaign like ours is that we occasionally get some match-ups that we don't usually see on the wargames table, if at all. Also, I am finding out a little about bits of ancient history that have eluded me so far.

One item that fits both of these comments is the continuous incursions of the Illyrian Scordisci into the Roman province of Macedonia. The Scordisci were a powerful tribal confederation in control of much of what we would now term the Balkans, and they gave the later Republican Romans a hard time for many decades, at one point overrunning much of northern Macedonia proper and reaching the Adriatic in Epirus.

On Tuesday we played them against the red tide of hopelessness, but despite their undoubted bravery the tribesmen were trounced. It was a game of four sections. On the Roman left, I was playing the combined Equites. Together with a little handy support from the Latin legionaries, I saw off the enemy's entire mounted contingent rather efficiently. To my right, Gordon ran the Latin legionaries, who bore the brunt of a ferocious warband charge with equanimity. Much hilarity ensued here, with all sorts of dreadful puns about hairy, flabby barbarians charging up and down what came to be known as Testosterone Hill in dire combat against the legions of Gen-Italia (the peoples of Italy). To their right, he also ran the Roman legions, who were up against Thureophoroi types. At our extreme right, Malcolm had the auxiliary contingent, comprising Thracian foot and light horse. He seemed to be having a good time there.

Rome won because the warbands advanced across terrain reminiscent of Cynoscephalae, which opened up a gap between them and the Thureophoroi. Some of the leftmost Roman legion moved into the gap, executed a swift left wheel, and crunched into the flanks of the warbands. Some damage to the Thureophoroi, plus the demise of the cavalry, saw the coalition disintegrate. They did take some of the Latins with them, along with the rightmost Roman legion. They panicked at the last minute and ran off en masse rather ignominiously - if that hadn't happened, it would have been a rather spectacular victory.

Much grumbling was heard from the Socii - always doing all the real work, Romans running away like wimps. Stirrings of discontent among the allies...

On the Painting Tray: February 2015

Work in progress:
24 Companion Miniatures Caesarean Roman cavalry. The command bases are done, but I need to do a little more work to finish the units. The guys at the top of the shot above have embossed round shields for foot standard bearers. I liked these, and I had enough of them to do a cavalry unit, so I kept them for the horsemen. The unit in the foreground has a mix of shields with and without a boss, using LBMS transfers intended for Aventine Velites.
The second photo shows the remainder of the cavalry units, plus a Companion Miniatures Pompey (I think) and another couple of their horsemen to go with him - these will make a nice little command stand. I have also started gluing the Navigator Miniatures Parthian camelphracts I bought in January from Magister Militum.

Work has been unbelievably heavy since the winter break, so I didn't paint anything to completion in January. I am finding the Roman horsemen a bit of a chore after all those legionaries, but to be honest I just needed to do nowt in the evenings after work. I am, though, looking forward to the camels; after that I have a couple of Irregular Miniatures Indian elephants for Hydaspes.