Friday 30 October 2020

A new shield for Lycus


With our part of the world under increasingly stringent lockdown rules once again, I've found myself playing more and more Blood, Sweat and Cheers, both with my nine year old, and also solo. Bouts can take between 5 and 25 minutes each, and there is little prep time, so it is an easy game to wip out, roll dice and put away again.

In honor of his increased use, I decided that Lycus, my left-handed murmillo, needed to have his shield pimped out a bit. As Lycus seems to be the latinised Lykos, Greek for 'the wolf', I went for a wolfish motif based on coin imagery of the wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus (though I left the boys themselves off the shield). I'm not wholly convinced that I captured it with too much skill, but hopefully the aim is clear!­čśü


Roman Didrachm, c.275-255 BC, courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group (CNG)

Tuesday 27 October 2020

6mm Napoleonic Austrians - 7th Cuirassiers

Progress on my 6mm Austrians has been painfully slow, but I am getting there. In the great tradition of 1914, I'm sure I'll be finished by Christmas... Never-the-less, with the completion of my first cuirassier regiment for Bataille Empire, I am just three units away from a 200 point army. Given the blue facings, these gents shall nominally be the 7th (Moravian) Cuirassiers commnaded by Carl Eugen Prinz von Lothringen-Lambesc.

Uniform guide lifted from the interweb.

Saturday 24 October 2020

10mm Early Macedonians for l'Art de la Guerre

Over the last couple of months I have been on a re-basing journey with my 10mm early Macedonians, switching from 60mm base widths (which did look great), to the more common 40mm base widths (with the aim of having more ways to use them - principally for l'Art de la Guerre and Fantastic Battles). Except for the Thessalian cavalry and Illyrians (both from Pendraken), all are Magister Militum figures.

Readers who have passed by this blog in the past might have seen that I have a bit of a love affair with this army. I've some background info on the early Macedonians spread across various earlier posts, but for a good summary, I'd point people to this article in Ancient Warefare Magazine 13.3. The title is a bit of a give away about the reputation of Macedonians before the reforms of Philip II.

The army in all its mediocrity. Combining small amounts of fine cavalry with pretty woeful infantry, I have opted to stiffen it with a Thessalian ally.

Hetairoi/companion heavy cavalry with impact - the two units on the right are elite companions. All figures, including the king, are Magister Militum Thracian cavalry; more than half have been given greenstuff petasoi sun hats or headswaps. The king has a lionskin, emulating his ancestor Herakles.

Macedonian hoplites and commander.

Macedonian tribal/peasant levy - LMI javelinmen. the three bases in front are my highlanders, the more disorganised mobs in the back (with slingers scattered through them) are mediocre lowland javelinmen.

Macedonian archers.

Illyrian merceneries converted from Pendraken Spanish.

The Macedonian camp (using Baggage Train tents). The three figures in white chitons/tunics are from the Magister Militum Greek/Roman slaves pack. The pack has two sculpts holding amphorae, and two sculpts holding dishes of food.

Thessalian elite medium cavalry from Pendraken.

Thessalian hoplites and commander.

Thessalian peltasts.

Thessalian slingers and Cretan archers (Magister Militum archers with head swaps and added shields)


While I was taking photos, I mocked up a small 500 point army for Fantastic Battles. There are enough companies to more or less run the Early Macedonians in the same format as shown above, but obviously a touch of myth changes things up a bit. This wee army is themed around the foes of Odysseus, so with have a cyclops (Excellent Miniatures) and sirens (6mm harpies from Rapier) adding a fun factor.  

Sunday 18 October 2020

More Excellent Miniatures - 3D printed treemen and cyclopes

Here are a few more emergency purchases from Excellent Miniatures. All scaled for 10mm, these 3D printed figures are pretty remarkable. The first two are treemen or tree-shepherds, sold on license from Forest Dragon. They will ultimately join my Wyld Elves when I have more wee pointy-ears to build a larger army.

... and here we have a cracking cyclopes, produced by Excellent Miniatures on license from Artisan Guild Miniatures. I believe he was sculpted for 28mm and resized for 10mm but he's a great figure. He'll be joining my 10mm Greeks should they ever require a mythological element to their army.

Thursday 15 October 2020

Galleys & Galleons - The Siege of Kupang (part 3)

 4. The Portuguese relief force arrives

We’ll draw a veil over the responses of the alliance commanders to news that a Portuguese relief squadron was on the offing. Let’s just say it made the Trump White House seem like a well-oiled machine. But somehow, by the time enemy sails were sighted, there were three galleys of the Knights of St Michael of Singapore, and two more of Songkhla (undermanned) ready to meet them, commanded by Gian Andrea Pecorino in the Corona.

The galleys were deployed to protect the bay anchorage where the other non-operational galleys, and the transport junks, were sheltering. Land troops were deployed to prevent the Portuguese from coming ashore and burning them (a favourite tactic).

In accordance with the contingent dice rolls the Portuguese comprised the Galleon Santa Caterina da Goa and the frigates Sao Jorge and Sao Martinho. The commander, you won’t be surprised to learn, was that popinjay Don Marco de Pattaya (self styled Viceroy of the Indies) himself, on the galleon.

The Portuguese approached in line ahead, broad reaching.

It was apparent they had arrived too late to save Kupang. But inflicting a serious defeat on the invaders might open the possibility of retaking the fortress. Don Marco strode purposefully down to the larger of his staterooms and ordered his various armours and plumes to be paraded for inspection. Wearing the right finery would be integral to success.

The Portuguese squadron turns to starboard to close the galleys, then to port again with the intention of passing them at about 1.8L and serving full broadsides using their superior gunnery (Master gunner + Trained gun crew). The next photo shows the squadron in mid evolution. Luckily every ship rolled enough activations to make the necessary manoeuvres (some sail shortening was needed as well as the changes of course). Now, as Turn 4 begins, the leading frigate (Sao Martinho) prepares to open fire.

All this time the galleys have remained stationary. Pecorino needs to play it cautiously. If the Portuguese can incapacitate his squadron the expeditionary force will be marooned. If he attacks, the Portuguese are more than 2M from his line and will be able to blast his ships from close range as they approach. And his two Songkhla galleys (on the L in the above shot) are critically undermanned and not good for anything ambitious. His best tactic could be to suck up the fire from the Portuguese initial sail-by, and attack from their stern quarters as they manoeuvre to come around again close-hauled.

At the start of Turn 4 the Sao Martinho, the leading frigate, opened fire on the galley Cervesa with a full broadside, followed by Sao Jorge with a similar result.

The galley line returned fire, the Corona scoring a single hit on the Sao Martinho.

As Turn 5 clicked over the Portuguese line continued it’s progress, tho it’s shooting was less effective. But by the end of the turn the Cervesa had taken three hits. However return fire from the galley line was ineffective.

Next Turn the Portuguese got their eye in again, damaging the galley Songkhla and sinking the Cervesa. Return fire from the galleys was ineffective.

Gian Andrea Pecorino now has only four seaworthy galleys left, of which two are severely undermanned and no match for a Portuguese ship In a shooting or boarding fight. As commander of the Knights of St Michael contingent he’s conscious that he is responsible for saving what he can from this situation. Soon the accursed enemy line will have passed his galleys and will have to manoeuvre to return, close hauled, to continue the fight. He convenes a hurried Council of War with his staff and they agree: time to cut and run. The Songkhla galleys will have to chose whether to stay and be destroyed, or flee too. The forces on land must shift for themselves.

In Turn 7 this escape plan was literally blown out of the water. A full broadside from the big Portuguese galleon on the Corona, Pecorino’s flagship, lead to a critical hit roll - and a magazine explosion!

The only remaining intact galley, Stella Artois, immediately turned to flee. The next galley, Songkhla, survived rolling on two coloured dice because it’s sole failure resulted in a “hard to port” result - exactly what the doctor ordered! And the last remsining galley, Borobudur, likewise turned to run.

The final broadside of the engagement was fired by the galleon at the retreating galleys, it caused two more hits to the Borobudur, taking it to three hits.

Don Marco’s squadron will have to do a cumbersome turn now, to pursue the fleeing galleys or bombard the transports and other galleys in the bay, with the wind nearly dead foul. So the fleeing galleys will be able to escape, though whether the damaged ones will ever get home across open waters is uncertain.

The popinjay of the Indies has done it again - up to a point. The enemy alliance has been comprehensively demolished by sea, but remains in control of the fortress of Kupang, with adequate land forces to prevent any immediate prospect of the Portuguese retaking it. So we’ll call it a strategic defeat for the Portuguese. But also for the Songkhla / Knights Alliance as it has suffered serious losses and Kupang has turned into a Dead Sea Fruit.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this game, despite the shortage of dramatic action. I’ve always wanted to do a game based on an expedition to besiege a fortified enemy position, like the great campaigns at sea in the c16 Mediterranean: Rhodes, Malta, Famagusta/Cypress, Tunis ...

Next time I think I’ll have to extend it into a ladder campaign format.. Typically both sides were aware, sometimes years ahead, who would strike the next blow and where it would fall. Guilmartin comments that there was an underlying logic or pattern to galley warfare in the period, readily apparent to contemporaries (and discussed in their correspondence) thoUGH not so much to us.

Cheers from Mark

Galleys & Galleons - The Siege of Kupang (part 2)

With everything in place, the siege started in earnest.

2 The Siege begins
“Our siege battery opened fire, and the Kupang fortress responded. The bombardment continued for four days, by which time the fortress guns facing us had been silenced and a large section of the wall had been reduced to rubble. Regrettably the siege battery also sustained serious casualties. Bombardment by the galleys on the seaward side of the fortress however, had little effect. Tomorrow at dawn we will launch as assault that (God willing) is certain to overwhelm the Portuguese dogs” ... That’s how the progress report from Eunos Abdullah to the Sultan of Songkhla read. 

What happened in G&G terms was a succession of 12 paired dice rolls pitting the Attackers (C5, no modifications) against the Defenders (C4, Master gunner), representing the siege battery shooting, and the fortress responding. At first the Attackers made little headway, but gradually they got the upper hand and the fortress was gradually overwhelmed and ended up in ‘excess damage’ territory: guns silenced and wall breached on the bastion facing the besiegers. No fires or explosions (critical hits) though. Meanwhile the Knights had decided there was no future in staking their galleys against the seaward bastion, so they contented themselves with firing a few shots each day from safely out of range, to keep up appearances.

Here are the photographs. This high angle shot shows the scene as a whole, including the exchange of battery fire, and one of the Knights’ galleys appearing to keep up the pressure from seaward while the rest of them enjoy some R&R in port.

This shot from the landward side shows the siege battery firing some of the last shots. The brown markers along the fortress wall indicate the bastion has been breached / destroyed. The row of dice (read L-R, only the colours count not the spots) shows the shooting results, omitting two drawn salvos that occurred in the L wing of the line. Yellow is a Defender win, Red is an Attacker win. There were no doubled results. You can see how the Attackers started poorly (including the draws) but finished strongly.

Tomorrow the Alliance will assault the breach, with the two companies of elite assault infantry, supported by the auxiliaries. The Portuguese will be able to bring men from the other bastions, and maybe get some guns into place overnight to shoot at the assault formation, all with the (-) factors mentioned. And they won’t be able to claim the High Castles wall defence. Eunos Abdullah’s prediction of how the day will go looks likely to be correct. Unless ... is that a smoke signal from the distant hills that Sir Oliver can see as he scans the horizon anxiously from the battlements?

3 The assault on Kupang
The assault was handled as if it was a slightly more complex boarding action, with each attacking infantry company counting as a vessel, and the garrison able to call up troops from other bastions, at (-) factors, similarly.

The breach is on,y side enough for one company of attackers at a time.

The first wave of attackers (one company of elite infantry) approached the breach just after sunrise. The garrison had managed to move a few artillery pieces into position from other bastions (so -1) and this caused significant casualties. Fierce hand to hand fighting saw the attackers pushed back, and losing so many men they would be unable to mount another assault any time soon, but the defenders had also suffered heavily.

The second wave attacked, quickly carried the breach as the defenders fell back. One more successful round of combat and Kupang would fall.

Just at that moment, when another supreme effort would almost certainly mean success, two companies of auxiliary infantry emerged from the jungle behind the siege lines and charged into the camp. These comprised a Timorese native levies with some Portuguese officials and settlers. 

The photo shows this moment ...

The two Green markers on the fortress wall represent the successful storming of the bastion, although the fortress still has a weak final defence that must be overcome. The single Green marker below the hill is what is left of the first atta I, which was repulsed with heavy losses. The Yellow marker shows the siege battery, which was damaged by counter battery fire. The Blue markers show the two units of Auxiliary infantry of the attackers, and the Brown markers show the ambushing units.

The ambush seems to have caught the besiegers totally by surprise. One company quickly overran the siege battery which was defended only by gun crews and labourers from the Songkhka galleys (who mostly fled). The other got into a fight with one of the enemy infantry companies. 

The key question was - how would this affect the assault company in the breach? At the siege of Malta (1565) there was a moment when Birgu (the main part of the City) seemed about to fall to the Ottomans, but just then a tiny Christian force from the inland town of Mdina (which the Turks has not bothered to capture) raided the Ottoman camp, and terrified  camp followers flooded into the siege lines and panicked the assaulting troops, who fell back. 

Not this time though. My contingent dice rolls determined that the assault was pressed despite the furore back at the camp, and Kupang fell to the Songkhka / Knights alliance.

The Timorese ambush was held by the besiegers troops, and the ambushers broke contact and retreated i to the jungle.

Counting losses on both sides: the Portuguese have lost their fortress, and Sir Oliver Starkey has been captured. But the attackers have also lost heavily. Only a single weakened unit of elite assault infantry remains, evidence of how desperate the defence was. The auxiliary infantry companies are intact. The siege train has lost heavily though all the guns should be recoverable in time. But, the losses incurred during the siege, and when the guns were overrun by the Timorese, have ground down the galley crews landed to assist the siege force. Enough remain to equip only a single galley at full strength, or two with a fighting & shooting factor reduced by -2 because of losses of officiales and ciurma.

And now, just as the alliance is faced with the myriad problems and decisions arising from the capture of Kupang*, a despatch boat brings news that a Portuguese squadron has been sighted off Rakyat Point, less than a days sailing away.

* Including the basis of the alliance which is that Songkhka gets to occupy the fortress, but the Knights get to loot it. How’s that going to work out?

To be continued ...

Galleys & Galleons - The Siege of Kupang (part 1)

I've been a bit remiss over the summer and never quite got around to posting this epic series of Galleys & Galleons AARs from Mark in Thailand.


The Sultan of Songkhla and the Knights of St Michael of Singapore have formed an unholy alliance against their mutual enemies the Portuguese. Their audacious plan is to capture Kupang on the island of Timor: a first class fortified place and key piece on the Portuguese colonial board. If they are successful the Sultan will get to hold this very des res (as a pirate & jihadi lair) and the Knights will get to keep all the loot they can load onto their ships.

Naturally each partner doesn’t fully trust the other and any setback could put the alliance under strain. OTOH, although the fortress of Kupang is adequately garrisoned and provisioned, there are only scanty forces available to mount a relief expedition.

The opposing forces are:

Songkhla / Knights alliance
The alliance naval force is commanded by Gian Andrea Pecorino (Knights), and the land forces by Mustafar Eunos Abdullah (Songkhla).
7 x Galleys (4S, 3K)
Q3 C3: Drilled soldiers, Galley, Swashbucklers, Yare

2 x Large merchant junks
Q4 C3: Merchantman, Reinforced hull, Square rigged

Embarked land forces (carried in the junks)
1 x siege battery Q4 C5 (S) (the Q4 represents slow movement and rate of fire)
2 x elite assault Infantry Q3 C4; Drilled soldiers, Veteran NCOs (K)
4 x auxiliary infantry Q4 C2 (S)

The fortress of Kupang counts as 4 x contiguous bastions (faces) each Q2 C4*
+ the fortress has: Drilled soldiers, High castles, Master gunner, Veteran NCOs. It is commanded by Sir Oliver Starkey, an English renegade in Portuguese service.

* each face of the fortress can shoot/defend but each face after the first that does so in the same turn incurs a cumulative -1. And, the fortress may not shoot, or be shot at, at any range longer than L.

The ships potentially available as a relief force include:
0-1 x Galleon
Q3 C4: Chaser guns, Drilled soldiers, Galleon rigged, Master gunner, Trained gun crews

2-3 x Frigates
Q3 C3: Chaser guns, Galleon rigged, Master gunner, Trained gun crews

There is also the possibility that local Timorese land forces could intervene against the (mostly) infidel aggressors.
0-3 x auxiliary infantry Q4 C2

The strength of the reliefs, and their timing, are contingent mainly on external events (represented by dice rolls), modified (for the land relief) by the course of the siege (setbacks or delays will increase the probability and possible strength of the relief).


1. The Alliance arrives
The two photos below show the tabletop (1800x1200mm) with the coast of Timor and the town and fortress of Kupang. Note the Portuguese town on one side of the bay, and the “native” town on the opposite side. 

Here’s the view looking from above the armada towards the coast ...

And here’s the view looking out to sea. The buildings (towns and fortress) are all from Picoarmor.

There are a couple of small coasting vessels in port. The crews beached them and ran for it as the invaders closed in.

As the invasion force approached across the Savu sea, and neared the shore, some command decisions were required.

(1) Where would the fleet anchor, and where would the land force disembark? Eunos Abdullah, the land forces commander, wanted to land close to the fortress so the effort of dragging the siege guns into position was minimised. He also wanted most or all the galleys to be beached so the crews could supplement his labour force for moving supplies and equipment and setting up the camp. Pecorino preferred a more distant landing point, well out of range of the fortress guns. He also insisted a good part of the galley squadron remain fully operational in case Portuguese ships appeared, and to bombard the fortress from seaward in support of land operations.

The Council of War on board the galley Corona reached the inevitable compromise: the soldiers would come ashore near the town huddling below the fort, and the Songkhla galleys would lend their crews to support the initial stages of the siege while the Knights’ vessels remained fully operational.

(2) Should the land force occupy the town, or ignore it? Although having no walls, the houses are defensible and the population would fight (but only in defence) if prompt action was not taken. Failing to take the town might encourage the rural population to launch an attack on the besiegers. A garrison of 1 infantry unit would be required.

The Council decided the town would be occupied.

The next photos show how all this played out uneventfully, except of course that the whole time dimension has been seriously distorted. In reality getting the land force unloaded and into position, especially the heavy guns, would take several days at least.

The four Songkhla galleys, and the transports, are secured in the bay, barely out of range of the fortress guns. The Knights galleys are at sea, outside gun range for the present.

To landward, Eunos Abdullah has used his enhanced labour force to quickly get the army into position. The units are indicated by pairs of coloured markers: yellow = entrenched siege battery; green = elite infantry; blue = auxiliary infantry. The town has been garrisoned by an auxiliary unit which has lost no time in starting to loot and pillage. The native village across the bay has been ignored.

Don Oliver had his gunners shoot at the enemy siege battery as it moved up and entrenched, but without noticeable effect, so to save ammo against the forthcoming assaults they stopped.

To be continued ...

The Siege of Kupang

Sunday 4 October 2020

Fantastic Battles - sample pages

Things have been pretty quiet here of late thanks to a combination of work pressures, a rebasing project, and no gaming courtesy of renewed lockdown restrictions. However, editing and formatting of Fantastic Battles has continued in the background. Below are a few sample pages - not necessarily the finished product, but hopefully it will give a sense of the final look.