Sunday, 20 January 2019

Luwian javelineers

Having put my standard Minoan army (Mycenaean, army no.30) through it's paces a number of times now, I figured that I should give myself a couple of spare units to allow some variation. To date I have run two Minoan commands and an unreliable 'Islander' command using the Achaean Myrmidon option from the army list. However, if I downgrade my Myrmidons (medium swordsmen impact armoured elite) to Trojan allied Lukka/Lykians (medium swordsmen impact), and drop the elite status of one heavy chariot, then I can field a couple of units of javelineers. 

Although the army list called the javelineers Thracians - more Trojan allies - I am running my army as Minoans, so I am calling them Luwian javelineers from the Taurus mountains of southern Anatolia (which include Lykia, the home of the Bronze Age Lukka). The figures are Rapier, a mix of Sea Peoples and Sumerians (with a few added shields).

Here is the expanded unreliable command using this option:
Heavy chariot elite (embedded competent general), medium cavalry mediocre, 2x medium swordsmen impact, 2x light infantry bow, 2x javelineers.

... and for completeness sake, the full army together - camp and heavy chariot division at the back, heavy infantry division in the middle, and Islander or Luwian division up front. 

Coveting thy neighbour's ass

Across the dusty plains, the rival armies faced off. The Sumerians, clad in their goat skins and led by their nobles in onager-drawn battle cars stared across at the army of Pharaoh who, fresh from the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, was now the Lord of Two lands. The Sumerians were the aggressors, but Pharaoh had it in mind to capture a few of those ass-drawn chariots and see whether the concept would catch on in Egypt.

Of course we can't suggest that Sumer and Old Kingdom Egypt ever fought, but this was the first viably historic clash for Lee's Sumerians. As both armies had buckets of low cost troops - including compulsory mediocre units - this was also the largest game we've played; 27 units each.

The Egyptians deployed in one long line. Their right (upper left of the photo) was made up of levy medium swordsmen supported by javeliners and bowmen. In the centre were a block of heavy swordsmen with some more javelineers and bowmen, while on the left (upper right of the photo) were regular impact swordsmen supported by more bowmen.

The Sumerians were deployed in three distinct divisions with mediocre heavy spearmen and bowmen on the left, regular heavy spearmen and heavy chariots in the centre, and the massed camelry of the Bedouin allies on the right (my command for the evening).

As the two armies closed on each other, the swifter Egyptian foot swarmed forward to secure the fields and gentle hill on the left of the battlefield, as well as the fields over towards the right.

The camelry allies on the Sumerian right sprang forward to commence what was to prove to be rather ineffective archery against the Egyptian regular swordsmen. As the Egyptians attempted to angle their line to defend the flank, the two units of light camelry flew down the outside and found themselves behind the enemy lines with nothing between them and the enemy sphinx camp. 

The Egyptian bowmen and levy swordsmen on the hill continued to taunt (and shoot) the slow Sumerian levies as they plodded across the plain. Pharaoh's javelineers emerged from behind the hill and started making threatening gestures at the Sumerian flanks. In the centre, the Sumerian chariots trundled forward towards the opposing heavy infantry. 

The lines met with the soft thud of thousands of unarmoured chaps with sticks. In the melee on the hill, the Sumerian mediocre heavy spearmen generally got the better of the Egyptian mediocre medium swordsmen. However, the javelineers - encouraged by their divisional commander - swarmed up over the hill to charge the Sumerian bowmen with predictable results (LMI uphill, javelins, overlap, committed general vs LMI in the open...).

As the camels shuffled about trying to soften up the Egyptian infantry, the wee buggers charged at me! Half the camelry line fell back while the rest made the evil eye at the Egyptian bowmen who were looking like tempting targets. Unfortunately, the dice gods were not smiling on the Bedouin command rolls this game and the charge never quite happened.

In the centre, the battle was getting pretty messy. Pharaoh's heavy swordsmen were cleaving through the heavy chariots - if Pharaoh expected any of those onagers to be captured alive, he was to be sorely disappointing. As the Sumerian heavy foot came up in support, more of Pharaoh's javelineers sprang forward to distract and taunt them.

Back on the hill the Sumerians successfully forced the Egyptian levy swordsmen to quit the field of battle, but found their flank under attack from the javelineers which had already driven off the Sumerian bow. 

On what was to be the last turn of the game, the Sumerian levy spearmen were driven back off the hill by the Egyptian javelinmen (definitely the men of the match!); the Sumerian king committed himself to battle in a last ditch attempt to save his last unit of heavy chariots and died as the unit routed (yet another dead king!); and while the light camelry got within a couple of base widths of the Egyptian camp, they could not quite close the gap. With their king joining the great big pile of Sumerian dead, they withdrew leaving Egypt in chariotless peace. For now.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

10mm Illyrians - the result

Following on with my quest for 10mm Illyrians, here is the result. A warband of Illyrians to support - or assault - my Classical Macedonians.

Taking advantage of my birthday present - now I can hobby and be part of the family at the same time (thank you lovely family) - I decided that I would milliput over the belts on the Celtiberian bodies. I do find it a strange look - a chiton or tunic without a belt. But apparently it really was the style of the time.

I decided to stick with bright and bold colours. This is partly rationalised by the thought that, as mercenaries, these likely lads might have liked to show off their wealth with a bit of brightly coloured cloth. Also, it'll help to further distinguish them from the Macedonian peltasts who are principally in brow and grey.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

10mm Illyrians - the search

Thucydides account of the Spartan Brasidas' Macedonian campaign of 424-423 BC provides one of the only narrative descriptions of a Classical Macedonian army in the field. Indeed, it might be the only relatively full account; most references to the Macedonians at war refer to allied contingents - perhaps exclusively cavalry - serving in predominantly Greek campaigns. I've referenced the Thucydides passages previously when preparing my Macedonians (hoplites, other infantry).

The account of the same campaign also provides us with the knowledge that Perdikkas II, the king of lowland Macedonia had arranged to hire a body of Illyrians, a group of non-Greek tribes situated to the north and west of Macedonia, renowned for their aggressive and warlike nature.

"The victors [Brasidas and Perdikkas] now set up a trophy and waited two or three days for the Illyrian mercenaries who were to join Perdiccas. Perdiccas then wished to go on and attack the villages of Arrhabaeus [king of the highland Macedonian kingdom of Lynkos], and to sit still no longer; but Brasidas, afraid that the Athenians might sail up during his absence, and of something happening to Mende, and seeing besides that the Illyrians did not appear, far from seconding this wish was anxious to return.

"While they were thus disputing, the news arrived that the Illyrians had actually betrayed Perdiccas and had joined Arrhabaeus; and the fear inspired by their warlike character made both parties now think it best to retreat. "
Thucydides 4.124

The Illyrians really were a force to be reckoned with. In the following century Illyrian armies would go on to drive the Macedonian king Amyntas III into exile at least once, or possibly twice (393/381 BC), and defeat and kill his son Perdikkas III in battle (360/59 BC). Illyrian attacks on the Macedonian kingdoms, and on the Epirotes were endemic. If ever there was a justification needed for buying more little men to 'value add' to an army, this was the perfect excuse to get some 10mm Illyrians to compliment or oppose my Macedonians.

The problem being, no one does 10mm Illyrians. In truth, I've even struggled to find decent pictorial and textual sources that would allow me to make a well educated version of 10mm Illyrians. Most of what I have seen so far has the distinct whiff of modern nationalism...

After much searching and pondering, I came up with the following solution - Pendraken Celtiberians. Now, hear me out. These warriors are sculpted with little pot helmets, tunics, belts, greaves, spears, swords, and rectangular scutum-like shields. To Hellenise the unit somewhat, I did a few head swaps with some Magister Militum hoplite heads who wear what appears, serendipitously enough - to be an Illyrian style helmet. Above you can see the two Pendraken sculpts in the centre, flanked by the two converted figures. The Magister heads are a bit larger, but I think I can get away with it. Below you can see the mix of figures to go on the base - six originals, and six with new heads.

The main problem with my attempted solution is that Illyrians seem to usually be depicted without belts. I was planning to green-stuff over the belts, but it really does look very fiddly. I'll sleep on it and decide later.

The greaves seem to be appropriate - although not always shown pictorially, there are some from an Illyrian grave on show in the Tirana Museum in Albania. The oblong shield also seems to be fine - especially for northern Illyrian tribes who were influenced by their Celtic neighbours. See the top image which looks to be engraved metalwork perhaps - if anyone can provide references to where it is from, I'd love to know.

The open-faced Illyrian helmet appears throughout the Balkans, from the Greek city-states, up into Macedonia and, of course, Illyria (such as this example from Budva, Montenegro). The head-swapped figures now wear crested versions of this, while the other sculpts either wear something like an Attic helmet (open face with hinged cheek pieces), or a pilos type hat/helmet.