Monday, 28 October 2013

1:72 scale ancient civilians

Although I have used 15mm scale for my SSD playtesting, the rules, as with all Ganesha Games, work at all imaginable scales. 15mm and 28mm scales arguably have the most choice in terms of civilians, but I have just had my attention drawn to these fantastic looking 1/72 scale ancient civilians by produced by Strelets.

There are a number of packs that would prove really useful for an ancient setting for Song of Shadows and Dust. I can only showcase one pack, the so-called 'Ancient Christians' who have been previously shown off over at Paul's Bods. I have to stress that the images of the figures themselves were painted by the obviously splendid example of all things wargamey in Germany, Paul.










I think you'll agree, Paul did a marvelous job with these - his blog also includes witty comments accompanying each of the images. These are a far cry from the 1:72 scale plastic Napoleonic stuff that I owned back in the early 90s. They are actually very nice sculpts in their own right and could hold their own against a well painted metal figure. It is also pretty obvious, that although the pack is called 'Ancient Christians', they would certainly serve as ruffians of all faiths and backgrounds.

Strelets also appear to do three different 'Spartacus' packss, of which the photos of the figures below come from the second uprising pack.








And several other more generic packs which might make a wonderful contribution to an ancient city-scape. From what I can tell, each box has about two dozen figures and retails in the UK for a little over a fiver. What more do you need?




Sunday, 27 October 2013

Samurai Robot Battle Royale - IRN Mech

With the recent release of Samurai Robot Battle Royale, Ganesha Game's stand alone giant robot game to compliment ther Kaiju game Mighty Monsters,  I have been enthused to put together a couple of miniatures to be able to take part in the odd casual game. With a great heap of luck (and not an insignificant amount of generosity from others), I landed most of the stuff I needed for free. I have already showcased my first monster, Mantis. In this post I present IRN Mech.


Head
Q:3
C:3
40 points
Special rules:
¡  ¡  ¡        ¢  ¢  ¢        £  £  £
Body
Q:3
C:3
50 points
Special rules:
¡  ¡  ¡        ¢  ¢  ¢        £  £  £
Arms
Q:3
C:3
50 points
Special rules: Blade (15); Shooter C5M Twin Linked Cannon (60)
¡  ¡  ¡        ¢  ¢  ¢        £  £  £
Legs
Q:3
C:3
50 points
Special rules: Leap (20)
¡  ¡  ¡        ¢  ¢  ¢        £  £  £
Generic Special Rules
Ace Pilot (15)

IRN obviously stands for Independent Reconnaissance Neutraliser and should be understood in no other way. It certainly shouldn't be seen as a thinly veiled homage to a much loved Marvel comic book character who is now part of a major motion picture franchise.

  

Like Mantis, IRN Mech is a plastic Mantic Dreadball player - this time the MVP Firewall. I like the sculpt quite a lot but I do have a few comments. For a plastic figure, Firewall retails for a very high price (in the region of £5 for a single figure). No I know I am not a regular fantasy or sci-fi player, but that sort of price feels like it is hitching a ride with GW. For £5 I want a pretty fancy single metal figure, or eight 15mm figures, or 96 6mm figures. Just saying. My second comment is on the multi-part nature of the figure. It comes with the legs, torso, arms and head as all separate parts. That is great, adds flexibility. However, at least in the case of Firewall, the individual parts are cast in such a way that they only fit to the torso in a fixed way. So it still ends up being a single pose figure. Why cast it in bits in the first place if that is how you're going to sell the figure?

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Great kings come in small packages

This evening will see my first introductory game of Hail Caesar. While I don't have enough painted units to create a viable army of my own at the moment, Brett will be providing an abundance of scurvy Republican Romans to serve as both sides in an ahistorical late third century BC Roman civil war (ah, yes, Roman civil wars; where there are no real winners except for the rest of the ancient world). My borrowed Roman force will have an allied Seleukid flank so I can field some of my own lads.

With that to look forward to, I thought I would provide another update to this little side project. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce Antiochos son of Seleukos, the Great King - better know these days as Antiochos the Great or more simply, Antiochos III.


Born around 243 BC, Antiochos was the second son of the Seleukid king, Seleukos II Kallinikos. He was serving as viceroy in the East, probably based out of Seleukeia on the Tigris, when his brother, the king Seleukos III, fell victim to assassins whilst trying to force the Pergamenes to relinquish former Seleukid territories in Anatolia (223 BC). At the age of 20 Antiochos therefore found himself the ruler of an empire in decline. Once spreading from the Balkans to Central Asia, the Seleukid kingdom on Antiochos III's accession had lost its European possessions to Macedonia, the Thracians and Ptolemaic Egypt, Anatolia mostly to the Pergamenes, northern Iran to the emergent Parthians and Baktriana to a succession of rebellious Greco-Macedonian dynasts.

The maps below provide a general idea of the location of many of these places although the second one dates to the middle of Antiochos' reign when all things Seleukid were on the up.


Through a series of dramatic and brilliant diplomatic and military actions (interspersed with a few upsets - Raphia, I an looking in your direction), Antiochos managed to claw back his full Seleukid inheritance over the next 30 years and even added a few new appendages such as Armenia, much of the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf, Palestine, and a far greater chunk of Anatolia and Thrace than had previously paid homage to a Seleukid king.

In 192 BC, he accepted an invitation from the Aitolian League to cross the Aegean and occupy central Greece. At that point his luck began to turn, crunched into the ground by the hob-nailed boots of Rome's legions. Concerned by his activity in Europe, Rome forced Antiochos first out of Greece and then out of most of Anatolia, establishing the Taurus mountains as the new north western frontier of the Seleukid empire with the Peace of Apameia (188 BC). Faced with massive war indemnities, Antiochos turned once more to the East in an attempt to find a bit of spare cash and was killed while trying to extract money from a temple in Elymais, western Iran in 187 BC.

Antiochos III reigned longer than any other Seleukid king and was rightly considered the second founder of the empire. Although his last years were far from glorious, he left the empire in a far more stable and enlarged state than the way he found it, and produced a whole gaggle of children, most of whom would either reign later in their own right, or marry into other dynasties and became the parents and ancestors of future kings and queens.

And here he is in 6mm:

Giving your commander a white horse may be a little clich├ęd, but I suspect that many generals throughout history may have chosen a grey for just that reason. It makes them stand out and look 'commanding'. Here, Antiochos wears the latest in silvered iron Attic helmets with twin feathers and horse hair central plume, along with re-enforced linen armour, doe-skin boots and a dapper purple long sleeved chiton and cloak. His aide wears a bronze cuirass and Boiotian helmet while his personal standard bearer wears the standard armour of the companion cavalry and carries a purple ensign emblazoned with the Seleukid anchor motif. All figures are from Baccus - Antiochos and aide from the Greek and Macedonian generals pack, the standard is from the Seleukid agema pack.

Two elite Seleukid cavalry units, each 1,000 strong, appear to have served alternatively or together as the king's bodyguard. The Royal Companion cavalry, drawn from the best horsemen of Greco-Macedonian descent in the kingdom, and the Agema cavalry, drawn from the best Iranian horsemen in the kingdom. After the loss of Media in the 140s BC, the Agema seem to have been recruited from the city of Larissa in Syria, a colony settled by Thessalians a century and a half before. I plan on fielding the two squadrons as a single standard sized 'unit' in HC game terms but I suppose they might both serve as individual small units. All models are from the Seleukid Agema pack from Baccus - the chaps with blue trim are my companions with a Macedonian sun burst ensign, the yellow chaps are the agema with a Seleukid anchor ensign..

This wonderful Angus McBride painting (used here without permission) shows his interpretation of the Companions (C). I'm not sure about the shield personally, but a great image none-the-less. Antiochos led an anabasis - a march up-country - to reclaim the eastern satrapies occupied by the Parthians and Greco-Baktrians in the last decade of the third century BC. In the process, he seems to have adopted the Parthian practice of super-heavy cavalry and transformed part, or most, of his cavalry into cataphracts (A? and B in the image). I might do the same at a later date, but for now, my army is intended to be from the pre-reform period.

To support my heavy cavalry, I have painted up some Tarantines. The horsemen of Taras in south eastern Italy are thought to have been the first Greek riders to use shields. It was Pyrrhos' employment of them in the early third century which led to a more general Hellenistic use of shielded cavalry. Throughout the period, armies of all kingdoms employed 'Tarantines', elite shielded horsemen armed with javelins. However, it is often unclear whether the Tarantines were always mercenaries from Taras, or whether the term may have become pseudo-ethnic, denoting the mode of warfare rather than the ethnicity of the warriors. The Baccus Tarantines have ridiculously large shields (like a Greek hoplon), so I have painted up Baccus Numidian horse instead. Ah, the glory of 6mm.

Another McBride, although it doesn't show Tarantines, its still a great painting...

On foot, I have the fierce Kilikian highlanders (more Baccus Numidians). These light infantry were famed in antiquity and represent one of the two main exports of Kilikia - the other being timber for ship building. Descended from indigenous populations that had held much of the Taurus mountains since the Bronze Age, Kilikians were much sought after as mercenaries by all the eastern Hellenistic states.

A third McBride, the central figure (C) represents my boys from the hills. I like his broze faced pelta (buckler), but there was no way I was going to paint 15 tiny little bulls on my figures' shields.

Finally, a shot of my 6mm figures as they stand currently. The elephants and archers have been covered in earlier posts. I have another six units to go (including one pike phalanx) before the initial army is complete and game legal.

The Night Watch

I saw this video this morning and just had to share it. Some might see is as inspiration for Song of Shadows and Dust, some might see it as a reason to build a battle of Hollanders for Irregular Wars - some might just like it because 17th century floppy hats are ridiculously cool. Whatever you take away from it, I hope its positive!


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Song of Shadows and Dust on sale now!

Just a very quick note to announce that SSD is now available as a pdf through Ganesha Games. By next month, it should also be available as a hard copy. My sincere thanks to all who encouraged the game through its development!

Half of all author royalties generated from sales of this book will be donated to the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency who protect and assist individuals and families displaced by war and persecution.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Song of Shadows and Dust - cover illustration

I'm very excited to report that Gabi Bujdos├│, the artist I've been commissioning to illustrate SSD has completed her brief wonderfully with a full colour cover image for the rules. Below I provide the various incarnations and the final product. I think you will agree that she is really very talented.
My rough sketch
Gabi's rough sketch
The final sketch
The front cover

Mighty Monsters - Mantis

At the Wee Gamers day at W5 last month, I was very pleased to pick up a couple of complimentary plastic figures for Mantic's futuristic football game, Dreadball. Now, I'm not a football kind of guy to be honest, but I do like the Dreadball figures and the price was certainly right. The end result, is my first giant monster to wreck cities for Ganesha Games' Mighty Monsters.

I call him (or her - not sure which, I respect it's privacy), Mantis. Originality is not one of its strengths, but s/he, does what it says on the tin... so to speak.

I haven't used it yet as I don't have anything else in the way of monsters/robots/modern cities. But I'm looking forward to having a go. Hopefully I'll be able to organise some opposition in the next few weeks up at Wee Gamers. My current profile for the 300 point insectoid is as follows:

Head
Q:3
C:3
40 points
Special rules: Armour, Light (15); Fangs (10)
¡  ¡  ¡        ¢  ¢  ¢        £  £  £
Body
Q:4
C:3
40 points
Special rules: Armour, Light (15); Body Blade (35)
¡  ¡  ¡        ¢  ¢  ¢        £  £  £
Arms
Q:2
C:4
85 points
Special rules: Armour, Light (10); Grappler (15)
¡  ¡  ¡        ¢  ¢  ¢        £  £  £
Legs
Q:3
C:3
50 points
Special rules: Armour, Light (10)
¡  ¡  ¡        ¢  ¢  ¢        £  £  £
Generic Special Rules
Slow (-25)

And just because I like it, here is a bit more eye-candy - a sketch I found on the web (Apple Cider Mage's blog) which might very well have been concept art for Mantis, ever down to the residual set of limbs. I know nothing about the artist but I like the sketch.


Monday, 7 October 2013

The pride of the Seleukid war machine - tiny nellies!

Well, I'm about to start a new contract which will have me commuting to Dublin for a little while so I thought I'd try and get one good post in to start off October. We'll see how many other posts get done when they get done.

One of the most famous aspects of the Seleukid army, both to their contemporaries and to modern types like us, was their penchant for flashy, expensive, novelty weapons like scythed chariots and, of course, Indian elephants. Indeed, elephants became such a major feature of the Seleukid royal imagery, that they became a shorthand symbol of Seleukid military might, appearing on documents such as coinage and seals, and featuring strongly in the historical documents (and treaties) prepared by the enemies of the king.

Drachm issued in the name of Antiochos III 

The first, and most extravagant, deployment of elephants under a Seleukid banner that we know about was 480 of the beggars fielded by Seleukos I at Ipsos (301 BC) where they were crucial in preventing the Antigonid cavalry from returning to the battlefield.

Thereafter, the Seleukids maintained a herd at Apameia in Syria (modern Afamia), but appear to have needed to consistently drawn fresh beasts from India and Baktria to keep numbers up. They would never have quite as many elephants in one battle again, although they could still prove a battle winner. A small detachment of eight elephants took part in the last battle between Seleukos I and Demetrios Poliorketes in 285 BC, and Antiochos I only had 16 elephants at hand when he one his famous Elephant Victory against the Galatians - probably in the late 270s BC. The terracotta statue from Myrina shown below dates roughly to the third century BC and probably commemorates Antiochos' famous victory after which he was hailed as Soter - the Saviour.

 

Antiochos III used ten elephants against the usurper Molon, and only a few years later deployed 102 against Ptomely IV at Raphia (217 BC). The herd increased further over the next two decades and 150 were used at Panion (200 BC). Six elephants were part of the expeditionary force Antiochos III led to Greece and fought at the second battle of Thermopylai (191 BC). At Magnesia (189 BC), Antiochos could only muster 54 against the Roman-Pergamene alliance. In the Treaty of Apameia, the Romans forbade the keeping of an elephant corp by the Seleukids and it looked like it might be all over.



... But that treaty clause seemed to have escaped the notice of the Seleukids. Antiochos IV used elephants in his Egyptian expeditions and mustered 36 (or 42?) elephants for the great parade at Daphne in 166 BC. The Seleukid commander Lysias probably took 32 elephants to put down the Judaean rebels and their part was crucial in the battle of Beth Zechariah (162 BC). Unfortunately, shortly afterwards, a Roman emissary came and sorted out the little misunderstanding regarding the treaty clause and had the Apameian herd slaughtered in one foul blow.

Sporadic references occur after that to elephants in Seleukid armies, but none of them are particularly enlightening or reliable. Antiochos VII Sidetes (138-129 BC) looks to have inherited a herd of African forest elephants, either left in Syria by the Ptolemies on the death of Ptolemy VI, or else provided by Sidetes' own Ptolemaic sources. Either way, these were not the magnificent Indian beast used by his forebears, but the much smaller (and now extinct) north African variety. Sidetes marched east and on his death, his elephants fall out of the history books. The last 70 years of the kingdom are, I am afraid, relatively elephant free.

Used much like modern tanks, the elephants were shock weapons with especially effective anti-cavalry uses. However,, they were vulnerable to the flanks and the ancient sources carry many references to elephant guards, elephant escorts and 'those who were used to fighting among the elephants'. So, very much like the tankes of the 20th century, they seem to have operated with attached units of light infantry. At Ipsos there may have been as many as 50 men per elephant, while at Raphia, there were about 40 elite Cretan and Neo-Cretan archers around each elephant on the right flank. At Panion there were undefined numbers of both archers and slingers used in the same way. At Magnesia, there may have been around 50 light infantry around each elephant - this would account for the huge internal discrepancy provided by Livy between total numbers and the numbers given per named unit.

And here is my interpretation - 6mm elephants for Hail Caesar with Cretan escorts. The last shot also shows my only other unit to date, my Neo-Cretan archers. All foot figures are Rapier as is the larger of the two elephants (with the raised pike). The other elephant is from Baccus. I think they work quite well together.





As a bit of a post script, questions have been raised among the TMP going wargamers about how one might kill an armoured elephant. If you are a Judaean fanatic, the answer is really quite simple, even if it did have (arguably) unforeseen consequences:

"Now Eleazar, called Avaran, saw that one of the animals was equipped with royal armour. It was taller than all the others, and he supposed that the king was on it. So he gave his life to save his people and to win for himself an everlasting name. He courageously ran into the midst of the phalanx to reach it; he killed men right and left, and they parted before him on both sides. He got under the elephant, stabbed it from beneath, and killed it; but it fell to the ground upon him and he died." I Macc. 6.43-6.