Sunday 21 October 2018

10mm Early Macedonian Hippeis

This week I pushed some 10mm 'Greeks' for my Men of Bronze project up the painting queue (I do hope it's a good game!). The first unit to be painted are the Macedonian heavy cavalry - you can call them hippeis (knights) or hetairoi (companions), take your pick. The miniatures are Magister Militum Thracian light cavalry with green stuff petasoi (as mentioned here).

Thucydides makes a point of saying the Macedonian noble cavalry of the 5th century (429 BC specifically) were about the only capable fighting force in the country - the infantry being unable to stand up to either Greek hoplites of Thracian peltasts. 

"The Macedonians never even thought of meeting him with infantry; but the Thracian host was, as opportunity offered, attacked by handfuls of their horse, which had been reinforced from their allies in the interior. Armed with cuirasses, and excellent horsemen, wherever these charged they overthrew all before them, but ran considerable risk in entangling themselves in the masses of the enemy, and so finally desisted from these efforts, deciding that they were not strong enough to venture against numbers so superior."
Thucydides 2.100.5

My early Macedonian hippeis were loosely based on the obverse types of the coinage of Alexander I Philhellene (c.498-454 BC), Perdikkas II (c.454-413 BC) and Archelaos (c.413-399 BC) which show a heroically nude rider wearing a chlamys (traveling cloak), petasos (sun hat) and carrying one or two long spears. 

The Magister Militum Thracians have long sleeved chitons which is plausible for Macedonians. Certainly the late 4th century Alexander Sarcophagus from Sidon shows Macedonians with long sleeves, as does the much later Alexander Mosaic from Pompeii.

Saturday 20 October 2018

Some impromptu Lord and Lands

I hadn't seem my good friend JB in a while but he managed to come up into the hills this week. We had no fixed idea of what we were going to play, but my wee lad suggested we play Lord and Lands, insisting JB lead his Legion of Super Evil.

JB's Legion set up in a tight cluster with only his spider riders off on his left flank in the woods (top right of the photo). My halflings were much more spread out. Foolishly I had slow halfling militia on my left flank, and slow tree-folk on my right flank. Even more foolishly, I intermixed the slow bowmen, with even slower artillery. 

After the opening couple of turns, it became clear that my maneuverability was going to be questionable (with the exception of my poultry patrol skirmishers), and the Legion of Doom were going to play hard to get, refusing their right flank. The wee dude left us at this point for bed time.

Eventually I got into a position where my halfling skirmishers and poultry patrol could start shooting, and before they could do anything, the night elf ballistae fired off a single volley and eliminated one of the halfling skirmisher units. In response I advanced my halfling yeomanry - who were then charged by the elvish dread knights. Then I sent in the cockatrice against the night elf crossbowmen, and suffered several hits from closing fire.

In the ensuing melees, hits were suffered by all parties, but sadly the halflings took more damage. The cockatrice suffered an enveloping charge from the second unit of night elf crossbowmen, and the spider riders scuttled up beside the elvish knights to support there fight against the halfling mounted yeomen. The remaining halfling skirmishers turn to try to ad their support to the melee, but unfortunately, they would never quite get there thanks to the elvish firepower which poured into their flank the following turn.

Meanwhile, the poultry riders were being "right bastards" on the other side of the battle field. They proved, yet again, that skirmishers are very tricksy in this game - swooping in, throwing sticks and stones, falling back, firing closing shots, evading, and shooting again. 

The goose riders managed to cause one hot on one unit of skeletons, maul another, and completely destroy two more - one of which included the night elf commander. In the centre, the cockatrice and one of its crossbow-armed foes rout each other, allowing the halfling catapults (finally in range) to smash the other crossbow unit. Unfortunately for the stunties, the catapult as then itself targeted by the elvish ballistae and destroyed. The previous turn, the halfling wizard had also been dispatched by a well placed ballista bolt. The halfling yeomen were easily defeated by their elvish foes who then swept on to attack the tree-folk who had finally emerged from the woods on my right. The game at this point was very much in the balance: my halflings were one point away from breaking, JB was two units away from crumbling. 

... and then this happened. Those were JB's attack rolls against my poor tree-folk. With six hit points, they were already teetering on the edge of routing. But that attack from JB, that was just brutal.

So it came to pass that the first time in six games (playing both Lord and Lands, and Kings of War 2), the glorious halfling militia of Hearthshire were driven, defeated from the field of battle. They will return, but what they need right now is a good chowder, a pint of something mildly carbonated, and a wee lie down.

Sunday 14 October 2018

Romano-British martyrs

My noble martyrs Romano-British took to the table again this week for another gripping game of Dux Bellorum. This time, taking on a very similar force of Romano-British. It seems that Andrew Rex and Princeps Lee felt that the Irish raiders who savaged them in the last bloody draw had used my harbours to launch their attack. Foul lies of course, as those same Irish raiders have savaged my Romano-British many times before.

Andrew and Lee's force (top) consisted of mounted companions, three units of noble riders, three shieldwalls and a unit of bows. My force (bottom) consisted of mounted companions, three units of noble riders, two shieldwalls, a unit of bows and a conclave of monks.

In the opening moves, both Andrew's companions (supported by a unit of noble riders) and my own (with two noble rider supports), charged directly forward and crashed into each other with a surprisingly tender and ineffective lack of crunch. 

Elsewhere, Lee's noble riders wheeled towards the centre of the battlefield and the two shieldwalls sort of shuffled around a bit and moved forward very slowly. My noble riders on the flank and my monks failed to do anything as they traded occasional insults (with each other - not with the enemy).

As the combat started to get much more heated around our respective kings on my left, I detached my additional unit of noble riders and pushed them through the woods hoping to swing around and crash into Andrew's rear. Lee's cavalry swept in on my right and engaged my other noble riders and even got stuck in against my shieldwall. Andrew and Lee's shieldwalls tried some sort of overly complicated maneuver in the centre and ended up scattered across the middle of the open ground. My archers poured a couple of volleys in their general direction but achieved nothing beyond reducing my arrow supplies.

With my 'spare' unit of noble riders still finding their way through the woods, Andrew's companions routed my other unit of noble riders and his own riders forced my companions to fall back. The cavalry fight on my right was also getting nasty. My bowmen fired another couple of volleys and eventually hit the shieldwall bearing down on them...

... and then Andrew's companions, having plowed through my riders, swept down the rear of my archers like a ... I don't know, like a really brutal bastard. Suffice to say, the archer didn't see them coming, and none were left alive to see them go away again.

On my right, my noble riders and Lees continued in their brutal melee, both routing simultaneously. My shieldwall through Lee's riders back, but took a hit themselves in the process.

Then, at last, my errant noble riders made their way out of the woods and charged into the rear of Andrew's noble riders who were already engaged with my companions. He, of course, returned the favour by wheeling his companions into the rear of my own. So in the photo above, we have, from left to right, Andrew's companions, my companions, Andrew's noble riders, my noble riders. Through an obvious clever use of leadership points, my companions survived, whilst his riders were finally smitten.

Unfortunately, that minor triumph was not quite enough to save me. Lee's shieldwall and riders crashed back into my own shieldwalls, one of which crumbled under the myriad blows rained down upon them from the riders. This forces a break test on the rest of my force and saw the monks and last unit of noble riders flee the field. Left with just my battered companions and one bruised shield wall, my forces capitulated handing Andrew and Lee one more for the annals.

Saturday 13 October 2018

10mm Magister Militum Greeks

Having decided to delve into Men of Bronze, I needed a new army. Ok, 'need' might be a bit strong as I can already do at least one force (Philip II's Macedonians) in 6mm. But I figured that with such small armies, 10mm would look nicer than 6mm.

Wanting to start this project with early Macedonians, I knew I needed cavalry wearing the broad brimmed petasos, some hoplites, and some peltasts. After a few days nosing about the internet, I settled on Magister Militum and placed an order. All photos below give an idea of the different sculpts in each pack, but don't do them justice. They are all nicer in hand than in the pictures.

I ordered two packs of hoplites. The top row here shows the Early Hoplite pack, the bottom row shows Late Hoplites. Both packs let you order spears upright, spears at 45 degrees, thrusting spears, or a mix of all three. I ordered both packs with upright spears, mostly for ease of painting, and secondly for the diorama style basing I anticipate doing.

Both packs have 30 spearmen and the three command figures shown. We can immediately dismiss the standard bearers as ahistorical. The two commanders have swords which is fine but otherwise unremarkable, and the little aulos (double flute) players are great. 

The early pack has a mix of hoplites (10 each), crested Corinthian helmet, crested Corinthian helmet and apron on the hoplon, and uncrested Chalkidian helmet. The late pack has a single sculpt (x30) with a crested Chalkidian helmet. The would be eminently interchangeable (my initial plan) if it wasn't for the size of the hoplon shields.

The early chaps have a much larger rim on their shields than the early pack. In the above picture I have mixed them up a bit; early, late. early early, late, early, late, early. Not sure yet whether I can bring myself to mix them, or whether to pass on the late pack and buy another early pack.

The peltasts have four sculpts to the pack, The upper row in the photo shows both sides of two figures with crescent shaped peltas (peltai?). The lower two figures have longer spears and small circular peltas. If you wanted to do the innovative heavy peltasts of Iphikrates, I suppose you could do so by just using the chaps with the round shields, but I'm happy to mix them all up as bog-standard Macedonian infantry. There were eight of each sculpt in the pack, so 32 figures in all.

I couldn't resist ordering this when I saw it - a sacrificing priest. He's wearing a chiton and cloak, and holding a knife. In front of him is a rock (or rough altar) with a goose or eagle or something similar on it. I plan on using him as the 'leader' figure on my unit of hoplites, i.e. in the front and centre position, used for measuring and working out line of sight etc.

And where would Macedonians be without their aristocratic pony-riders. Macedonian coins of the period all show cavalry wearing the broad brimmed petasos hat also favoured by Thessalians and Athenians of the better sort. However, Magister Militum don't do any cavalry wearing petasoi. Neither, for that matter, do Newline or Pendraken - although Pendraken is planning a new range scheduled for next year, so... who knows.

In the absence of suitable headwear, I ordered Thracian light cavalry. These boys have two sculpts in the pack, six figures of each sculpt. They wear long-sleeved chitons which also turn up in period a(and slightly later) depictions of Macedonians and are bare-headed which I found rather handy. A little slicing of heads and fiddling with putty later, and I have a range of petasos-wearing Macedonian cavalry.

Next step is painting them, but I need to clear the last of my 6mm painting que first. Coincidentally, the last 6mm stuff to paint? Macedonian Cavalry.

Thursday 11 October 2018

Men of Bronze - what do we know?

Back in September, I heard the first whispers about a new Osprey Wargames title coming out next year - Men of Bronze by Eric Farrington. My fancy was immediately tickled, and I set out to try and find out a bit more about the forthcoming game. It is already available for pre-order (and has been pre-ordered) through Amazon and between there, the author's blog, and a Men of Bronze thread over at the Lead Adventures forum, I've managed to piece together a (still fragmentary) picture of what to expect.

It seems Eric has written a set of rules focused on the age of the hoplite - lets say 7th - late 4th centuries BC. By focusing on the, relatively, narrow time frame, he has hopefully captured the nuances of hoplite warfare which never really feature in more generic ancient rule sets. Furthermore, Eric has noted that he's been inspired by Dan Mersey's stable of rules (including Dux Bellorum, a favourite of mine), so that can't be a bad thing.

From the Amazon description:
Men of Bronze is a wargame that allows you to play out Classical Greek hoplite battles on the tabletop. Players are Strategoi (generals) leading phalanxes of bronze-clad warriors in pursuit of fame, glory, and the honor of their city-states. To win such prizes, however, you must prove your mettle, display your valor, and bring the other Strategoi to their knees!
Designed to recreate small battles or larger skirmishes with 50-80 figures per side, each army will have its own unique mix of rules, advantages, backgrounds, and abilities. Strategoi must understand and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of their forces in order to win glory on the battlefield. Of course, there's no telling what tricks a rival Strategos might have up their tunic sleeves.

Army sizes
Armies seem quite small. The smallest battle report from the playtesting on Eric blog seems to be three units of Greeks verse five units of Persians. More usual games seem to see five to eight units per side. This size of game looks similar to Dux Bellorum, which means you can afford to spend a bit of love painting details on all those hoplite shields!

Unit sizes
The game is scale and basing agnostic - it seems you can use whatever miniatures you've already got, or base new stuff in a way compatible with other rule systems. Eric's blog shows he is using 28mm singly based figures in small groups (10 figures to a phalanx), but when questioned he has confirmed that multi-figure bases will work fine. 

You just need to be able to mark the centre of the unit for measuring and line of sight purposes. He refers to this point as the 'leader', although he's noted that it need not strictly be a commander figure - those chaps, historically, usually stood to the right end of the line. You also need to have a way of marking whether hoplites are in or out of phalanx formation. This could be buy spreading out figures, separating multi-figure bases, or by using a counter.

Units should be roughly the same width, although even this seems flexible. When asked, Eric suggested that lighter troops should take up about the same area as a unit of hoplites.

Unit types
There doesn't appear to be much solid information around on this, but from what I gather, the following is a list of troop types available in the game. Where Eric has mentioned unit points on his blog, I have included these in parentheses.

  • Elite hoplites (12)
  • Drilled hoplites (10)
  • Militia hoplites (8)
  • Peltasts (4)
  • Psiloi with javelins (2)
  • Archers (4)
  • Slingers
  • Drilled foot (8)
  • Heavy cavalry
  • Light cavalry
  • Pike phalanx (10)

So there is quite a range of options there, all specific to the period. Eric has pointed out that: "I will say that I don't spill much ink on siege equipment or Persian chariots though. I considered them out of scope."

Army lists
Eric has mentioned the following poleis/states feature as separate army lists:
  • Athens
  • Spartans
  • Thebes
  • Other City-States (Corinth, Argos, Ionians, etc.) 
  • Macedonians (post-Philippic reforms of c.359-356 BC)
  • Persians
  • Hill Tribes
This looks like a great start, although I do wonder whether the fairly distinct forces of the Greek north  and west will feature with their own lists. If Athens is differentiated from the Ionians, you would hope that the cavalry-heavy Thessalians, of light-heavy (yes, I realise how that reads) Aitolians, Arkananians and their ilk would warrant some individual love. Again, Eric adds: "... it is easy to add/modify to fit the details you uncover in your research about a particular battle, City-State, or your own Imagi-Nation", so there is always that inbuilt flexibility to play with.

I, for one, plan on building a force of Classical Macedonians - i.e. before Philip II's reforms. These armies featured small bodies of elite heavy cavalry, a pile of peltasts, and whatever hoplites could be scraped together from subject and allied Greek poleis. I would imagine that something like this could be built using the Hill Tribes army list, but only time will tell.

**** Edit 24/10/18 - from author on the LAF forum ****

I was re-reading your blog and I realized that there was a key game component that you can find in the battle reports that you did not mention.

Arete Points. (Sorry, I do not know how to give it the right accent mark on forums and blogs) These are a resource that you get from your units that you can then spend to do various actions in the game. Some examples include, forming a phalanx formation, charging, bidding for initiative, interrupting the turn, re-rolls, evading, moving and shooting, etc. They are a limited resource that you have to use through out the game to get the most out of your units. This adds an element of decision making at all parts of the turn for both players as well as resource management. If you are familiar with Dux Bellorum it is an expanded concept of Leadership tokens.

Should you try to bid high to earn the initiative or save the Arete points for key movement through difficult terrain? Should you trigger a charge or keep the point for a re-roll in a key combat? This forces you to think about what you want to accomplish in a turn and bid and use points accordingly. This helps the game be a bit more "tactical" then just the thrusting of spears and the push of shields with a bunch of dice rolls.

**** We are pleased to return you to your regular viewing ****

For now, let's revel a bit in some wonderful Angus McBride illustrations lifted from the web - finishing with some Macedonians out hunting. ­čśĆ