Saturday, 16 November 2019

Palaeo Diet: Pulp - 15mm intrepid adventurers

My first spot of painting in a couple of months has been directed at my 15mm archaeologists/adventurers for use with the Palaeo Diet: Pulp expansion I am working on. The three figures on the right are the Rebel Miniatures that I excited posted about receiving last week. The chap on the right is a WWI Turkish officer from Eureka Miniatures. I have converted him slightly to change his pistol into a tommy gun. I haven't decided yet, but I might use some green stuff to put a tassel on his fez too.

Taken together, the four figures represent each of the four gun options in the game, from left to right: SMG, shotgun, pistol and rifle. As is the way of things, each will have its own strengths and it is up to the player to decide which suites their play style best.

Speaking of green stuff... I also sculpted a wee cat. This kitty sits about 5-6mm tall to the eyes. He's not a total success, but not an unmitigated failure either and not bad for my first 100% sculpt. My assistant author, having researched the topic thoroughly, insisted that mummies are scared of cats and suggested that we needed rules to reflect this. Far be it from me to stamp on his enthusiasm!

Thursday, 14 November 2019

ROMANES EVNT DOMVS IV: The road to Damascus

Imperator Andrew and I clashed recently for the fourth of our L'Art de la Guerre battles over control of late Hellenistic Asia. This time his Triumvirate Romans attacked my Late Seleukids on the road to Damascus.

Each of the Roman flank commands consisted of four legionary units (heavy swordsmen, impact, armoured), a group of gladiators (elite heavy swordsmen) and some medium cavalry. His centre was made up of four elite legion units and a couple of skirmishers. 

The Seleukid left consisted of two units each of mediocre medium Arab camelry, skirmishing archers, Thracian medium swordsmen with two handed rhomphaiai, and mediocre elephants. The centre was made up of four pike phalanxes, two units of reformed legionaries and two scythed chariots. The right was held by four units of cataphracts (two of them elite) and a single unit of horse archers. The command also included two units of elite Cretan archers hiding in an ambush in the field to the far right.

The Romans advanced quickly across the open plain, being slightly hampered by the coastal city which was difficult going for all that heavy infantry.

The Seleukids advanced to meet them, the two flanks moving faster than the heavy infantry centre where only the scythed chariots had any speed about them. The Cretans also gave up their ambush and started wandering over towards the battle.

Once bitten, twice shy, Andrew threw his skirmishers forward and pelted one of the chariots with his javelin-armed skirmishers, destroying one of them.

Hampered by poor CP rolls, the shooting units on the Seleukid flanks both advanced and conducted ineffective missile fire. The remaining scythed chariot smashed into the legionaries facing it and managed to disorder them.

The gladiators on the Roman right decided that they would make their way through the town, while the right-most unit of legionaries made a charge at the camelry, driving them off.

The Seleukids advanced as fast as they could go, the Cretans and horse archers pestering the cavalry on the Roman right - but getting dangerously close in the process.

The Roman cavalry charged. Although the Cretans tried to evade, they could not get away fast enough and one unit was ridden down.

On the Seleukid left, the elephants with their Thracian flank guards charged into melee against the Roman right.
At the same time, a unit of cataphracts and the horse archers on the Seleuid right performed a pincer manoeuvre on the Roman cavalry that have ridden down the Cretans. 

The two centre divisions now advanced to meet... in the centre. The Seleukid cataphracts were distracted by the Roman horsemen who lasted just long enough to stop the Syrian horsemen charging the legions in front of them for a turn. 

The clash on the Seleukid left and in the centre could have gone better in the first couple of melees. The Romans quickly broke a unit of Thracians and even one of the doughty pike phalanxes.

Seeing the centre faltering, the Seleukid cavalry now charged into the legions opposite, starting the slow process of destroying a Roman flank to which my cataphracts have become accustomed. 

The elephants, though visually impressive, were pretty mediocre actually (appropriate really).   

They both broke after only a couple of rounds of combat, causing more damage to the Romans as they rampaged out of control than they had when under orders.

Suddenly, the Seleukid centre felt a bit drafty and the pike phalanxes began to waver.

The Roman gladiators finally peeled themselves away from the taverns and brothels of the town to charge the Arab camels. At that stage it seemed like a good idea to stand and fight, and the skirmishing archers moved up between the camels and the coastal zone to add support. In the centre, a roman unit advanced to plug the gap in the Seleukid line. How polite.

The Seleukid cataphracts were having a much better time of it and drove off the heavy infantry facing them, riding down the local tribune in the process.

But alas, it was all a bit late. Far from riding down the Romans, the Seleukid army was on the very edge of destruction. The towny gladiators defeated the camelry and moved pursued into the gap they left, while another pike phalanx was broken in the centre. At this stage I believe the bruised Romans were sitting at 18/19 break points, the Seleukids at 19/21. 

The break-through Roman legionaries from the centre charged the Thracians in the flank causing them to break. At the same time, the towny gladiators turned and hit the two units of skirmishing archers in the flank. Even if they could have evaded, there was nowhere to go but into the sea.

In the centre, the remaining Seleukid pikemen miraculously held on, but they were hard pressed, and they knew it.

... and on the right, snatching a bloody draw from disastrous defeat, the Seleukid cataphracts destroyed the last unit in the opposite command - the elite gladiators.

The end result: the Roman army broke having suffered 19/19 break points; the Seleukids broke and hastily moved off in the direction of Damascus having been battered to 25/21 break points. A very bloody technical draw, but there can be no doubt that the Romans held the moral victory. If the remaining forces of both armies met again tomorrow, the Seleukids could not stand. Well done Andrew. 👍

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Palaeo Diet: Pulp - starting out with 15mm capers in Cairo

I can quietly acknowledge that a pulp expansion for Palaeo Diet: Eat or Be Eaten is once more on the cards. The game will introduce early 20th century adventurers with new traits and trappings, as well as a number of suitably pulp beasties such as dinosaurs and mummies and a few thematic scenarios. As I already have a 15mm city suitable for a desert setting, I decided to embark on testing in that scale.

To begin with, I have picked up three pulp heroes from Rebel Miniatures. Here we see test pieces wielding three of the four gun options - pistols, a shotgun and a rifle. I have three more adventurers en route. 

For my mummies I've gone with Ral Partha Europe's offering - a pharaoh and a priestess.

And playing around with real 'green stuff' for the first time, I've put together three three little swarms of scarab beetles. It might not be clear in the photo, by the middle base there has a scarab at the back pushing a wee dung ball. Bless.

This is one of five different wargaming/rules writing projects that I'm currently working on, but I imagine it will be one of the first to be finished.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Galleys & Galleons - An-te Hai and his offensive carp

I'm really pleased to be able to present two new fantastic Galleys & Galleons reports from Mark in Thailand:


Hi all

At last I’ve hauled my Ming fantasy fleet into the water, ready for some G&G action. The attentive among you will recall (obviously) the sensational exposé in these pages of the secret report by Don Marco da Pattaya (at that time Acting Viceroy of Malacca) to the Portuguese high command at Sagres, reporting on Chinese moves to rebuild their fleet on novel, fantastic lines. It seems the Fleet is now ready for action ...

An-Te Hai, the Court Eunuch punished by being appointed Inspector-General of the Tribute Bearing Fleet (Captain-General of the Minor Southern Lands) has been ordered to sea to escort a most important convoy past that notorious nest of pirates, the Knights of St Michael of Singapore.

This game will have only about 160 points per side while I re-familiarise myself with the G&G rules and work out how to handle the novel characteristics of the Ming vessels.

The Ming fleet comprises:
Jin Liyu (Golden Carp) & Zuhong Liyu (Vermilion Carp) (Submarine rams)
Q3 C3; Ramming, Sluggish, Submersible, Unarmed, Unorthodox (62 pts each)

Hainan Trader & Ginger Jar (large armed merchant junks)
Q4 C3; Merchantman, Reinforced hull, Square rigged (20 pts each)

The pirates comprise:
San Miguel (Galleass)
Q4 C5; Chaser guns, Drilled soldiers, High Castkes, Master gunner, Square rigged, Sweeps, Veteran NCOs (66 pts)
Cervesa & Corona (Galleys)
Q3 C3; Drilled soldiers, Galley, Swashbucklers, Yare (48pts each)

Here’s the situation: the Ming squadron has to enter at the short table-end at L and exit at R. Any other exits assume the offending vessel runs aground and is lost. The two junks are laden with luxuries for the Imperial court and the loss of either would be a tragedy.

The pirates (Knights if you like) are based in their lair between the two headlands and cannot put to sea until their first activation roll includes a ‘6’. They have been caught by surprise by this bold move by An-te Hai to sail right past their front door.

The wind is blowing diagonally from the far left to the near right corner of the table, and won’t shift (it’s an early monsoon wind). The tabletop is 44x72”.

The photo shows the tabletop with all ships in posed positions prior to the kick-off.

The Ming convoy sailed on in two columns, the merchants in the lee column and the covering force in the weather column. This next photo shows the situation after about four turns. Ginger Jar leads the Hainan Trader in the tricky turn required to get past the Surprize! Rocks (the ! is on the original charts). The two submarine rams have fallen slightly behind due to their inherently erratic propulsion, and the Zuhong Liu has submerged (which won’t affect its speed).

The pirates were able to get out of port on the second move. The two galleys seem to be splitting up to take on one merchant each, no doubt hope of plunder has Trumped tactical wisdom. Sad. The galleass is switching from sails to sweeps and appears to be getting ready to run interference against the submersibles.

Both squadrons were determined to come to grips, and so only a few turns later it was an all-in melee. The next photo below is an update at the end of turn 8 I think, but that includes two zero-move turnovers, one for each side (first activation roll comprised 100% fails).

In the background the galeass San Miguel has been rammed - twice - by the Zuhong Liyu (it reversed and came in again after the first ram attack caused no damage). It has now inflicted 1 damage on the galeass as shown by the red marker. The Zuhong approached submerged and only popped up to ram, giving the San Miguel no opportunity to shoot. Then, when it did shoot, it totally missed at point blank range.

In the foreground the galley Corona has boarded and captured the Ginger Jar. The junk put up a fierce resistance, damaging the galley with its cannon as it came up, and winning a round of the boarding action too, but in the end it succumbed (yellow marker).

The Jin Liyu, staying on the surface the whole time, rammed the galley Cervesa, and with help from the cannon of the Hainan Trader, has sunk it (3 red markers). The Hainan Trader itself slipped past the galley and is now out-of-view to the R and nearly off the table.

Only one more Turn later and it was all over. Jin Liyu turned and rammed the galley Corona, already seriously damaged, and sent it straight to the bottom.

There was no prize crew about the Ginger Jar so the junk crew will be able to recapture their ship and get on with their voyage. And the Zuhong Liyu, having survived a half hearted broadside from the galeass, will be able to submerge and evade further damage.

So An-te Hai has won his first naval action. The Chinese squadron suffered 1 merchant junk temporarily captured (the manpower losses in the boarding action can be made good by the prisoners marooned on her deck when their galley was sunk) plus a single shooting hit on the Zuhong Liyu. The Knights lost two galleys sunk.

The Jianjing Emperor has expressed his satisfaction, and ordered An-te Hai to next extirpate the Southern Barbarians (Portuguese) from their base on the Birds Nest islands.


In accordance with Imperial orders, An-te Hai assembled a force to recapture the islands, the only source of a type of edible birdnest particularly favoured by the Imperial concubines. Four years ago (as I reported) the Portuguese led by Don Marco da Pattaya captured the islands from their traditional overlords, a shadowy cabal of Hakka pirates and Guangzhou merchants, and promptly raised prices sky high. It’s time to restore the correct order of things under Heaven.

The plan has been leaked to the Southern Barbarians however, and a defending force is in the offing, comprising an improbable alliance ... and commanded by Don Marco himself, no less.

The Ming squadron (total 226 pts) comprises:
Jin Liyu (Golden Carp), Zuhong Liyu (Vermilion carp), Fecui Liyu (Emerald carp) (Submarine rams) 62 pts each
Q3 C3; Ramming, Sluggish, Submersible, Unarmed, Unorthodox.
Hainan TraderGinger Jar (large merchant junks) 20 points each
Q4 C3; Merchantman, Reinforced hull, Square rigged.

The merchant junks contain convicts and military conscripts fated to be the garrison of the recaptured islands. It’s understood that if at least one junk can disgorge it’s load at the jetty, the troops, tho unenthusiastic, will overwhelm the few Portuguese defenders.

The Portuguese squadron (total 230 pts) comprises:
Santa Caterina da Goa (Galleon) 76 pts
 Q3 C4; Chaser guns, Galleon rigged, Master gunner, Trained gun crews, Drilled soldiers.
Santa Barbara (Fragata) 60 pts
Q3 C3; Chaser guns, Galleon rigged, Master gunner, Trained gun crews.
Moscato (Merchant brig) 18 pts
Lateen rigged, Merchantman, Master gunner.
And their allies, the dreaded Ngati Porou freebooters ...
Mangonui (Double-hulled canoe) 52 pts
Q3 C3; Flagship* Intimidating, Lateen rigged, Unarmed. * Commands the freebooters only.
AorakiNgaurahoeRuapehu (War canoe x3) 8 pts each
Q2 C2; Boats, Intimidating, Unarmed. [We have since discussed that the points  here are wrong as Boats are already Unarmed - thanks to Alan for pointing that out. Each canoe should be 28 points]

The wind is coming straight along the table from R to L, and (as usual on my tabletops) will not change during the game.

The first photo shows the opening positions of the game. The Portuguese and their allies are already on the table.  At R the Sa Caterina leads the Sa Barbara. In harbour the freebooters and the Moscato get ready for action.

The Ming squadron is shown at the points where they will sail on. All sailing vessels on both sides are under shortened sail as the games starts. An-Te Hai gets to move first.

And the next photo below shows what had happened by the end of a Turn 4. The Sa Caterina, Don Marco strutting on the quarterdeck in his finest armour, has been rammed bow-on by the Jin Liyu, and suffered two hits, tho the chaser guns hit the Jin Liyu as it came in. The crew have partially repaired the damage so the galleon now shows only 1 red hit marker. This has been at the cost of shooting or boarding the Chinese ship. The Sa Barbara, at extreme R, has shot at the Zuhong Liyu as the two sailed past, causing 1 hit.

To the L, the Moscato and the freebooters canoes are slowly come out of the port. The Chinese merchant junks have yet to make an appearance due to turnovers.

Tactically it seems Don Marco’s plan is to use his big Portuguese ships to take down the Ming submersibles, and leave the freebooters the task of dealing with the merchant junks. An-Te Hai seems happy with that. He believes his wonder weapons can cripple the Portuguese and then turn on the Primitives who, it seems to him and his entourage, have put to sea on tree trunks.

Turn 5 was full of action so I’ve inserted another photo. The Sa Caterina galleon was rammed again by the Jin Liyu (it backed off* and came in again) and by the Zuhong Liyu, and it has now sunk from too many holes below the waterline. At time of writing there is no news of the fate on Don Marco da Pattaya.

*I’m using the backing rule for galleys: 1xM straight back for 2 actions (see bottom of p20). Boats cannot do this, pity.

The Portuguese keep doing this in my games (!) - letting the enemy get too close instead of standing off and shooting them. It’s not as if the submersibles were submersed.

Elsewhere the Chinese merchant junks finally got their act together and  passed through the rest of the enemy fleet. They forgot to open fire as they did so.

The Portuguese response was ineffective. Moscato fired a full broadside at one of the junks but somehow caused no damage (won the firefight but the natural die roll was Odd). The freebooters were caught totally flat footed and are out of position, and (out of pic to the R) the Sa Barbara is stranded near the bottom table edge by turnover.

Three Turns later (end of Turn 8) I ended the game, because I had run out of time (need to collect Michael from school and go buy “trick or treat” lollies for school tomorrow). A pity as the end game could have been very intriguing. Here’s the end-of-game photo:
The Ming have recaptured the KhiNok islands as Ginger Jar has been berthed at the jetty for 2 Turns and her troops have debarked to overwhelm the scratch Portuguese garrison. So scenario-wise they have won.

But ... although the Portuguese have also lost their big galleon (a critical dent in their East-of-Goa capability) they have lost no other ships, but the Ming have lost two submersibles, Jin Liyu and Fecui Liyu, to boarding by the freebooters. Fecui Liyu (yellow marker) was captured but Jin Liyu, with An-Te Hai aboard, was sunk. So both commanders have fallen in the water. I’ll have to incorporate this detail into the ongoing G&G campaign. Also this could mean the Chinese technological secrets fall into Portuguese hands - if the freebooters don’t burn the Fecui Liyu after looting it. 

Elsewhere the Sa Barbara and Moscato have had a terrible day for gunnery, usually they do a lot better esp the tiny Moscato. Zuhong Liyu, thé surviving submersible, ought to be able to cover the retreat of the merchant junks. 

Losses and captures amount to 76 pts for the Portuguese and 124 pts for the Ming. The Ngati Porou will most likely head home now, canoes stuffed with Chinese loot, and the surviving two Portuguese ships aren’t strong enough to attempt a counterstroke by themselves.

Let’s call it a strategic win for the Ming Chinese, but a marginal tactical loss. And leave the mysterious fates of An-Te Hai and Don Marco da Pattaya for future episodes.

Cheers from Pattaya

Sunday, 27 October 2019

ROMANES EVNT DOMVS III: Pilums for the poisoner-prince of Pontos

Andrew and I met up again this week for a third game of l'Art de la Guerre between his Triumvirate Romans and my assorted late Hellenistic principalities. After previously being steam-rolled by Tigranes II's Armenians, and then being only just defeated by the Ituraeans of Chalkis, this time the legions of Rome were faced by Mithridates VI of Pontos. If you're not already a fan of his, you should read up on him - a true hero of the Hellenistic world in the face of vile Roman oppression... 😇

This time around, the Triumvirate Romans were on the defensive, choosing to fight on a coastal plain broken only by three fields and treeless plantation (far right). The Romans had a small army consisting of 12 veteran legionary units (heavy swordsmen, armoured, impact, elite) supported by two heavy cavalry (one on each flank), two elite Cretan archer skirmishing units and a regular unit of skirmishing bowmen.

The Pontic left was made up of an infantry division: two javelineers, two pike, two thureophoroi heavy spearmen, two slingers and two scythed chariots. The centre was led by Mithridates himself and consisted of two units of elite Pontic heavy cavalry, two units of light horse with javelins, and two units of elite Galatian heavy swordsmen. On the right was the Pontic secret weapon - an Armenian ally division consisting of four units of cataphracts, three units of horse archers, and compulsory infantry dross (a javelinman and two units of skirmishing archers).

The first turn was a success for Mithridates, in that the Armenian general rolled a 2 for CPs. He might not have been very active in turn one, but at least he wasn't hesitant! In all other ways, the first turn was very messy with few CPs to play with. The Pontic and Armenian mounted units all charged forward while the infantry mostly stood around and picked their noses.

Being obsessed with linearity, and not wanting the legions to be caught in the field, the  Romans plodded forward.

The Pontic light horse made a dashing charge, chasing off the Roman skirmishers and clearing the way for the scythed chariots to crash, unhindered, into the line of legionaries. Amazingly, both chariots survived the clash and caused significant upset among the Latin ranks.

Inland, the Armenians screened their cataphracts with horse archers who fired very ineffectually at the elite armoured Roman heavy infantry opposite them. 

The Roman heavy cavalry (supporting the legions opposite the Armenians) charged forward and drove back the horse archers. 

While the legions on the Roman left and centre advanced, the left-hand corp held back to deal with the scythed chariots. At this point we hadn't remembered about furious charges yet, so only one cohesion point had been applied to the disordered legionaries. Andrew was beyond gentlemanly later on when he applied the extra hit to each unit.  

Having driven off the horse archers, the sole Roman heavy cavalry unit on the inland wing was charged by Armenian cataphracts. The horse archers then wheeled around and started moving up the flank.

On the Pontic left, one of the scythed chariots collapsed in the second round of combat, but the other one hung on, impeding the whole Roman flank. In the centre, the Pontic lancers charged home against their opposing Roman division, while the Galatian swordsmen were not far behind. 

Fed up with the remaining scythed chariot unit, the Roman commander sent his heavy cavalry into its flank, dispersing the last of the vehicles.

With the chariots gone, more Romans plunged on into the fight. The Armenian cataphracts obliterated the sole Roman cavalry unit and crunched into the legions behind. On the Roman left and centre, commanders were thrown into the melee to add their weight to the respective combats.

The cataphracts drove one legionary unit from the field forcing their attached commander to scurry out of the way of thundering hooves, seeking shelter with the  next unit in the line. The Galatians charged into the Roman line like the howling mass of crazy Celts that they were, but unfortunately they found that the Romans were elite, armoured and had the impact ability. Suffice to say, the Galatians did not have the same level of success that their mounted comrades had already enjoyed.

The Armenian allied commander couldn't help himself, and so joined in the fighting personally - just in time to see the Roman commander opposite fall under a cataphract's mail-clad horse. The Armenian horse archers, meanwhile, continued to execute a perfect outflanking manoeuvre.

The jaws of the cataphract trap slamed closed on the end of the Roman line, while the Armenian horse archers skirted the field. It is safe to say that at this point in the battle, Roman morale was pretty low. Several units had already broken and there were disordered legionaries all down the line ... 

... but it was very much a line. The Pontic army was still a mess of different groups, some struggling to get into combat, others struggling to keep out of the way. Both Galatian units had suffered in their first charge, and one of the elite units of Pontic heavy horse were being badly hurt by the solid swordsmen of Rome.

As the Pontic infantry finally reached the fighting, the tide slowly began to turn. Even disordered heavy swordsmen can hold their own in a prolonged fight - at least when they are elite, armoured and have impact. There was even now a Roman cavalry unit threatening the end of the Pontic line where the pikemen were the only units putting on a decent show against the legions.

As Pontic heavy cavalry and thureophoroi units began to flee, Mithridates pulled back his remaining cavalry to form a second line. He also sent forward his highland javelineers to impose their zone of control over the Roman cavalry, thereby preserving the flank of the Pontic pike.

The Roman cavalry charged into the javelineers, but the latter decided to hold their ground. Over at the far end of the battle, the Roman skirmishers in the field turn to exchange arrows with the Armenian horse archers - the only effective shooting all battle. However, at the same time, three more Roman legionary units broke and fled - those facing pikemen and thureophoroi (having been weakened by the chariots), and those in the cataphract vice.

The Armenian commander coordinated the the attack on the next Roman infantry unit vicious efficiency ...

... and Mithridates was not to be out-shone, leading another charge of the Pontic heavy cavalry.

Both commanders were unsympathetically successful, causing more legions to flee and breaking the Roman army. By the end of the turn, the Romans stood at 19 breakpoints against their threshold of 17, while the Pontic army was also at 19 breakpoints - but without nearing the higher threshold of 24. 

There is no doubting that Mithridates' army took a brutal beating and, had the fight continued, the Romans could have held their own against the scrappy Pontic units still on the field. Sadly for Rome, that is not how it works. The Romans were mauled and withdrew from the field leaving Mithridates VI of Pontos sovereign over all Asia Minor.

 And doesn't he look pleased with himself!