Monday 28 January 2019

Trial companies for Rebels and Patriots

With the release of Dan Mersey and Michael Leck's Rebels and Patriots, I've dug out my 15mm 18th and 19th century miniatures to build two trial companies. I'll not go into a full review (there are plenty out there, here is Karawansary's, and ilivewithcats'); these read like another elegant set of rules, building on Dan's 'Rampant' series, and firmly rooted in the black powder period.

First up are the 27th Inniskilling Fusiliers - my local regiment - for the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The 'Skins' had previously fought in the West Indies (1739-1740), against the Jacobites in Scotland (1745-1746), and then were sent to Canada where they fought from 1758-1761, before redeploying back to the West Indies until 1762 when they returned to New York.

Although Rebels and Patriots is framed for games in the American conflicts of the 18th and 19th centuries, all the elements are there for more diverse conflicts in the period. Troop types (all modifiable) range from line and light infantry, to shock infantry, skirmishers, natives, artillery, light cavalry and shock cavalry. Who is to say whether natives are a Huron war party, or Jacobite Highlanders? 

In the same way, if you dropped the natives, these rules would clearly work in a continental Napoleonic theatre. I imagine that the rules are not openly sold for the Napoleonic period as Osprey already have a Napoleonic skirmish game out, and it never pays to compete with your own products... On that note, here are my Prussians! ­čśĆ

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.

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Review of Four Against the Titans

I woke up this morning to read a review  of Four Against the Titans by William C. Pfaff over at the Four Against Darkness Adventurers Guild group on Friendface. Be warned, it contains some hints which might be considered spoilers - but he doesn't really give too much away.

Note that where ever he uses the names of gods, he is referring to children of those gods - not the gods themselves.


I promised a while back a full review/report on my experiences with Four Against the Titans. First off, let me not bury the lede. This book is AWESOME! It’s not without some minor quibbles (you can get “stuck” outside of a town for a LONG time if you can’t manipulate dice) BUT it’s an “A” effort and should be on everyone’s “to buy” list. Nic Wright did himself proud with this one: he captured the actual “feel” of epic adventuring in ancient Greece- the mechanics support the source material and vice versa. [Minor spoilers – depending on how much you want to figure out on your own versus how much you want some guidance to at least one path for success read on or don’t, lol. I don’t believe our path is the only way but once we figured out some things on our fourth attempt we rolled through.]
Let’s leap into actual game play and my tips for defeating the mighty Typhon. It took my group four attempts to beat the Typhon. We started using Poseidon, Zeus, Hades and Asklepios. We got crushed the first two attempts…very little to report except the Maenads are BRUTAL if you happen to roll a couple 1’s on defense early. They can TPK you in a hurry.
We then realized that you NEED to be able to manipulate dice. It’s almost essential. That means Hermes or Apollo are coming into the party. Hermes gets NO attack or defense bonus AND can’t wear armor or carry a large shield…so he was out. Apollo is almost equally brutal. His Prophecy ability ended up being the most valuable ability in our party but he is so tough to keep alive. His specialty is using a bow…great right? But he can’t wear armor. So you can carry a shield BUT you’re using a bow primarily…you can see the dilemma here. Keep him alive to level 3 though and he really pays dividends (that second attack at the start of combat at + level is huge!)
So our revised party became Ares, Apollo, Hades and Asklepios. The key for each? Asklepios provides healing, Hades is the only character with + level to Defense, Apollo manipulates dice, and Ares is the only character with a blanket + level to Offense. We made the mistake of thinking Zeus was the way to go because he gets +1/2 level on both attack and defense…balanced right? But you’re better off to have Hades and Ares for the full level bonus….you can COUNT ON Ares to hit when the chips are down and give Hades a Large Shield and he can step up and save the party so many times (check out the Bull of Marathon---Hades reduces his attack to a triviality).
The other mistake we made in the first few attempts was making a beeline to each of the Temple Quest cities. Don’t do that. We instead realized that you NEED to do some out of the way stuff to get access to the items that will make the win possible. This is again where Nic shows his brilliance…just like in the tales of old you need to do quests to get epic items to achieve epic greatness.
So we started in Lakonia headed for Eleusis in Attika. That allowed us to stop in Argolid and get the Hydra Blood (if you have any experience in Magic the Gathering you are trying to set up a combo of: Apollo’s dice re-roll ability (to make the Typhon breathe fire rather than taking FIVE attacks), Ares armed with Zeus’ Adamantine Harpa and the Hydra Blood (and using Rage to guarantee the hit). That’s the endgame that lets you make the shortest work of the Typhon. If Ares is level 4, he attacks at +6! Rage lets you pick the best of 3 rolls and the Hydra Blood does +2 to 4 wounds….That is LIGHTS OUT.
After you snag the Hydra Blood, swing over to Isthmus and get the Nemean Lionskin and give that to Hades. He’s now next to unhittable. Hades at JUST 2nd level with a large shield and the Nemean Lionskin has +6 to Defense.
In Attika (where Eleusis is) you can snag the Mirror Shield if you like. Then head west to Boiotia (where TWO incredible items await…the Hounds of Aktaion and the Pendant of Semele. The pendant gives a character +2 in life, again- just an enormous advantage. Give it to whoever is squishiest in your party. Next Temple city is Delphi in Phokis, if you have Apollo in your party (as we did) try to snag the Bow of Apollo here (otherwise it’s an item you can do without). After that you can take it from there I’m sure.
We leveled everyone to 2nd level first and then took Apollo to 3rd (when the monster bump up occurs) and faced the Typhon with Ares, Apollo, and Hades at level 4 and Asklepios at level 3. Ares spends first round applying Hydra blood. Apollo makes the Typhon breathe fire rather than attack. Ares uses rage to nearly guarantee exploding dice and (with Hydra blood) knocks the Typhon down to 3 of 8 life (assuming ONE exploding die result that places the total at 16 or above) thus the attack itself deals 2 wounds and the blood deals -on average- 2 to 3 more. Mop up the rest of the big bad end guy after that.
As I said earlier, Nic nailed this: Satyrs that attack better or worse based on how drunk they are, the Bull of Marathon that can rampage through the whole party, gorgons and mirrored shields. It all feels so immersive. It all feels right. And despite all that this review has gone over, there is still a ton more to talk about: more items, spells, the temple quests themselves, the Nekromantieon Journey (just sounds awesome doesn’t it?) and so much more. So leap into this book with your mighty spears and bows, reach for Olympos and slay the mighty Typhon! May all your dice be exploding!

Sunday 6 January 2019

10mm Greco-Macedonian reinforcements

Starting off the new year the way I hope to continue, here are the latest reinforcements to my Early Macedonian army. I may be starting to over do things, but who doesn't like options right? The hoplites on the right in the photo above are the new lads. 

While the first hoplite phalanx were vaguely themed blue with lots of Macedonian suns, these guys are vaguely red, with thunderbolts to work perhaps as hoplites in the service of one of the Upper Macedonian kingdoms (such as the hoplites in Lynkestian service in the 420s BC), or as Epeirotes. The aulos (double flute) player out front is the 'leader' marker, indicating the centre of the unit for line of sight purposes where necessary.

In support we have two units of psiloi slingers. There aren't any direct references to Macedonian slingers from the 5th century that I'm aware of, but the sling was fairly universal around the Mediterranean, and there is loads of archaeological evidence for units of slingers under Philip II (see HERE and HERE for example).