Sunday 27 June 2021

Clash of the ailing titans - L'Art de la Guerre c.120 BC

Ptandrew and I met up again this week for our second bout of the newish 4th edition of L'Art de la Guerre. This battle saw Ptandrew fielding a Hellenistic army for the first time in the shape of a late Ptolemaic force. I dressed to match with a late Seleukid army, c.120 BC. By the late 2nd century, both 'empires' still had a couple of generations of juice in the tank, but both were also very much approaching (if not already mired in) their autumn years.

The armies were rather asymmetrical, with the Seleukids composed of massed pikes and cataphracts with a little bit of support from two units of imitation legionaries, some levy bowmen, two units each of skirmishing Cretan archers and slingers, and a unit of Bedouin medium camelry. Nothing too fancy.

The Ptolemies had a much more diverse army mixing elite Galatian cavalry, pikemen, imitation legionaries, thorakitai, and a tumble of mediocre spearmen and mediocre elephants.

Out-foxed during deployment, The Seleukid cataphracts on the right found themselves facing the Ptolemaic pikemen. Making use of a relative abundance of command points in the opening turn, the Seleukid c-in-c (almost certainly an Antiochos of one sort or another) turned the cataphracts into column and headed to the centre of the table, away from the Egyptian pikes. Meanwhile, the Seleukid pikemen advanced and slid to the right to try to meet the Ptolemaic pike head on. The Seleukid legionaries remained in post protecting the extreme right of the line.

Advancing at pace, Ptandrew soon discovered that the presumed ambush in the settlement was very much real (and packed with slingers!). As the Egyptian light horse went wide, the Seleukid's tame Bedouin shadowed them on the far side of the village. 

In the centre, the pike blocks met, with the Seleukid's not quite getting far enough to the right to prevent an overlap at both ends of the line. In his haste to meet, the very ordinary Seleukid commander of the centre left behind the unit of bowmen to pepper away at the Ptolemaic legions from afar. The Ptolemaic cavalry on their left swung around to face the Seleukid legionaries while a second ambush of Cretan archers materialised to their rear.

Over in the village, the Egyptian light horse swung in and attached the slingers in the flank. I chose not to evade, as they were at a disadvantage in the difficult terrain. However, the slingers were so distracted that they failed to see the frontal charge of mediocre Ptolemaic spearmen which took them by embarrassing surprise.

At about this moment the drachm dropped and I realised a flaw in the Seleukid plan. Although the flanks being refused/stalled, and the centre match ups not too bad, Antiochos couldn't declare a sweeping charge with six units of shiny cataphracts against four juicy legions and two squishy thorakitai, because some lazy bastard had left his bowmen sitting in the way!

On the Seleukid right, the Ptolemaic cavalry and one of the units of Galatians charged the Seleukid legions, while the other unit of Galatians hit the exposed right flank of the Seleukid pike block. Luckily, these were the elite agyraspides and, with the support of their attached commander, they managed to hold on despite the savagery of the new outflanking rules.

Elsewhere along the line, the Seleukid pikes performed marvellously, inflicting brutal defeats in all the other melees.

The Seleukid legionaries routed their Galatian opponents, and the Cretan archers swept in from behind to envelop the remaining Ptolemaic horsemen.

In the centre, the majority of the Seleukid cataphracts advanced...

Although one was waylaid by some mediocre elephants. Meanwhile, the Bedouin camelry had managed to disperse the Ptolemaic light horse with shooting ad now turned and charged the column of Ptolemaic spearmen in the flank.

On the right, the brave agyraspides finally broke and Ptandrew started to roll up the Seleukid pike line. Desperate to stop the disaster, one unit of Seleukid legionaries detached from the fight against the Ptolemaic heavy cavalry and joined the main battle, attacking the remaining unit of Galatians.

Back on the left, the Bedouin routed the mediocre spearmen and moved on to the next unit. The unfortunate cataphracts lost their battle with the elephants and routed, as the second unit of elephants trundled on towards the Seleukid camp.

Despite the best efforts of the Seleukid legionaries to stop the destruction of the Seleukid pikemen, the route continued as Ptolemaic pikemen turned to their right and pushed down the line.

The fight between the Ptolemaic heavy cavalry and the encircling Seleukid infantry had rather stalled as well by this point with both the legion and the cavalry teetering on the brink.

The Seleukids lost the roll off and the legionaries fled. The cavalry then conformed to the skirmishers on their flank who were immediately dispersed.

In the centre, the fight between the cataphracts and the Ptolemaic legionaries was pretty evenly matched until one of the Ptolemaic elephant units came hurtling un from the flank. The other elephant unit marched into the Seleukid camp and turned what had been a hard fought, knife edge Ptolemaic victory into the sort of thing you'd carve on the side of temple...

The final score saw the Seleukids break with 26/19, while the Ptolemies just hung on at 23/24. The Ptolemaic man of the match was undoubtably the Ptolemaic heavy cavalry who survived the entire game despite being attacked on three sides, while for the Seleukids, the Bedouin camelry managed to disperse two units single-handedly, and bought a third to within one cohesion point of breaking. The key takeaway from the battle? If events transpire to allow pikemen of elephants to start rolling up your flanks, it is pretty much all over.

Sunday 20 June 2021

ProjectBACCHAE - adding some character(s)

Following on from his leopards comes Dionysos himself, accompanied by his wee mate Eros. These two will serve as the army mage-lord and rogue respectively. 

Dionysos is, far and away, the single most expensive model I have ever bought. Lets not talk about actual real-world moneys (after all, my wife might read this one day...), but suffice to say he is a custom designed miniature from Heroforge. 

There are only two off-the-shelf Dionysioi that I know of, from Foundry and from Wargods of Olympus. Both (in my opinion) overplay the drunkenness - one is more-or-less naked with bunch of grapes and a patera, and the other is ... very robust - a modern take on the god - holding a goblet. I wanted a much more understated, youthful and lithe figure holding a thyrsos; a god of exstasis (ecstasy, or being out of mind) and fertility.

After several visits to Heroforge, I umm'd and ahhh'd for a couple of weeks before placing the order, but here is the result. The stubby horns serve a couple of purposes - they are a clear divinising attribute, they tie in with Dionysos' bullish nature as a god of fertility, the horned attributes of the Orphic Dionysos, and reflect the stubby bull horns adorning the heads of several Hellenistic kings who may be referencing Dionysos on their coin portraits. As the army mage-lord, he will certainly be casting the confusion spell with gay abandon!

Another god of exstasis, Eros frequently appears in the company of Dionysos in ancient art - sometimes as an individual, and sometimes in plural, as erotes. I figure that Eros is more a rogue than a captain, and will be used to strike down enemy characters. If I have the points, I'll give him the 'winged boots of alacrity' to let him zoom around the battlefield. The figure is from a pack of 6 cherubs from Warmonger Miniatures - the other cherubs will be erotes charioteers if all goes according to plan. The wee amphora is from Castaway Arts.

Saturday 19 June 2021

The Plague: an SSD game in Pattayavium

Another cracking missive from Mark in Thailand:

I’ve been mulling this game almost since the COVID pandemic began, considering various scenarios, but I kept putting it off as over-complicated. But at last, with too much time on my hands (tho it seems never enough) I gave it a go. Here are the results. The rules used are Song of Shadows and Dust: Miniature skirmish rules for urban violence and civil disruption in the Ancient World (Nic Wright, published by Ganesha Games 2013).


Rumours of a terrible contagion have been coming down country for months, with traders and visitors. Now, a mob of refugees is approaching Pattayavium. The municipal authorities have not been idle, but will their preparations be enough? Or will the plague get into the town and wreak havoc? And how will the people of Pattayavium respond to the imminent threat? Many have already fled, to their home villages or - if wealthy - their country villas.

⬇️ Here’s the bit of Pattayavium just inside the Mapyailia Gate. You couldn’t call the town ‘fortified’ but this section is protected by a makeshift palisade to discourage wildlife such as elephants and tigers looking for food. In their different ways.

⬆️ Inside the gate to the left is a poor neighbourhood, mostly housing peasants and labourers. Across the main street are shophouses and better quality accommodation. The red building near the gate is the Dolphin brothel, conveniently positioned for travellers. Outside the gate are fields, and the abandoned tannery.

⬇️ And here is the cast. The largest block is 20 x plague refugee hordes [Q5 C4, Short move, slow]. The movement brakes represent their lack of cohesion, although the leader, known for some reason as MakMak (its what my sister-in-law calls me) has some influence over this. Their high combat factor reflects their desperation, and also the fear of contagion they instil.

⬆️ The two cards behind the plague horde carry the two groups assigned to defend this area of the town boundary (considered low risk by the Prefect and his advisers). A group of 5 x Artisans (emergency levy of armed civilians) [Q4 C2, Armed]. And 2 x Zealots assigned by the Jewish Council [Q3 C3, Armed, Hard, Streetfighter].

⬆️ The three cards at R carry three groups of potential reinforcements. From the rear these are: (1) An officer and two men of the Prefect’s Guard [Q3 C3, Armed, Steadfast, etc]; (2) Brasidas and his gang of enforcers [Q3 C3, Armed, mostly Bellicose, etc]; (3) The perennial nuisance Iunius Cicero [Q3 C2, Demagogue, Plebeian] leading another Artisan group he has rounded-up off-table. Cicero and his followers may pile in on either side according to what the voices in his head currently say.

As the plague horde approaches, all buildings are tightly shut, with the inhabitants (apart from those in arms) having fled, or cowering inside.

The plague hordes must exit at least 3 figures off the further table edge to claim a win. The defenders win by preventing this,


And off we go. Here’s the starting position ⬇️ The defenders include some with army experience, so know how to defend a choke point against superior numbers. MakMak (yellow robe) urges his followers forward.

I’m using my Undead figures as the plague mob, but I ended up not going with ideas about making the plague contagious to Pattayavium people within the game timeframe, as the contingency outcomes quickly get too complicated to be fun.

The horde figures will usually roll only 1 activation dice each, to avoid turnovers and spread them out as the failed activators fall behind. I roll multiple dice (corresponding to each natural subgroup) and always move the hindmost figures in the subgroup first (not MakMak if this would put him in unnecessary danger ;).

⬇️ After 3 turns the horde has attacked the gate guards and is getting much the better of the fight. One defender has been killed, one has fallen (red marker) and one has recoiled.

On turn 4 the plague horde overran the gate guards.

⬇️ Turn 5: With the gate guards below half strength, I rolled for the possible arrival of reinforcements. Yes! But which lot? It was Brasidas and the boys, who came on with a group move. Seeing this, Saul and Matthias (the Zealots) fell back to link up with them. To the L the surviving Artisan is fleeing, but may yet rally (no he didn’t).

⬇️ By the end of Turn 8 the defenders have formed a second line, with one end anchored on a building. The plague horde is almost on them.

On turn 9 the horde closed in, they’ll be in contact next turn for certain. As they advanced the horde crossed the centre line of the table, the next trigger for possible reinforcements. This time no dice, but the odds will improve each turn.

⬇️ On turn 10 the two lines clashed. The defenders repelled the first surge, eventually killing or recoiling all plague horde figures in contact, so that by the end of turn 11 the losses were: Defenders 1 (the zealot Matthias); Hordes 3.

And more reinforcements are on the way! It’s an officer (Victor) and 2 men (Diogenes and Teres) of the Prefect’s guard. Is this all who can be spared? Matters elsewhere in the town must be desperate.

⬇️ On turn 12 the defenders prepared to meet another onslaught, as Brasidas solidified his line. But the plague hordes rolled really bad activation dice - put off by their losses last time? - and only two of them moved into combat. Causing two defender recoils (not shown here). Victor and his men are hurrying up along the inside of the perimeter wall, through the poor neighbourhood.

⬇️ In turn 14, here is the position after the both sides had moved but before the plague horde initiated their combats. You can see 1 defender has fallen (red marker) during his own round of combat. As well as the main defensive line commanded by Brasidas, a second melee has just started as the hordes have rushed the guard troops at bottom of the photo.

⬇️ The outcome of the combat round was much in favour of the defenders. In the main melee, the fallen defender (Luke, of Brasidas’s gang) was killed, but 3 hordes were felled and so should be easy pickings for the defenders next turn. In the other melee one of the guards (Diogenes) was killed but 3 more hordes were knocked down, including 1 by Diogenes before a second horde got him.

⬇️ In turn 15 the defenders took down a total of 7 hordes, including all the fallen, with no losses themselves. The hordes have now lost 10/20 figures, and have a new figure fallen (knocked down in the defenders move, failed to get up in the attackers move). They have now charged into both lines of defenders with pretty much their last reserves …

… and it did not go well ­čöŻ The guardsmen Victor and Teres killed 2 more hordes. Brasidas and Alketas killed 1 each. Solon caused a knock down. The only defenders loss was Saul the zealot, who was knocked down (but will have a chance to stand up).

⬆️ And here at last (just coming on-table in the background) is Iunius Cicero and his rag-tag band of citizens with too much time on their hands. Cicero may be a crank, but he can see writing on the wall as well as anyone. The plague hordes are clearly the losers, in this part of town anyway, so he turns his rhetoric around. “All men are our brothers” can turn on a sesterce into “We will decide who comes to this town”.

So the game ended in a clear win for the defenders, who have managed to hurl back the horde of plague refugees from the Mapyailia gate. We’re waiting to hear what has happened elsewhere in the town.

The hordes lost 15/20 figures. The rest will be rounded up and disposed of shortly. The defenders lost 4/5 artisans from the emergency levy (overrun at the gate), 1/5 members of Brasidas’s gang, 1/3 men of the Prefectoral guards, and 1/2 of the zealots. Could have been worse.

Cheers once again from Pattayavium. 

Achoo! Sniff! Perhaps I’ll go and lie down now.


Friday 18 June 2021

ProjectBACCHAE - Leopards of Dionysos


The association between Dionysos and leopards runs deep in Classical art and literature - likely linked to the god's conquest of India. He is often shown accompanied by, riding on, or driving a chariot pulled by leopards or panthers. For my Fantastic Battles army, I am planning on fielding these as fantastic beasts with the ephemeral, fast, and feast traits.

The above depictions are a famous 4th C. BC Paestan krater, now in the Louvre, and a contemporary mosaic floor from Pella (and still there!). 

These 28mm beasties are from Warmonger Miniatures. They are slightly over-sized for the scale - which is a good thing for divine cats - and the moulds are getting a bit roapy around the eyes of the sculpts, but they are still a decent set.

I found the thought of painting leopard spots a bit daunting. The trick for me was to stare long enough at photos of leopards to realise the spots are all irregular, and most of them are actually tan/light brown surrounded by a darker ring. The solution: paint (inluding shade and highlight) the main fur and then apply black splots first, followed by light brown splots in the centre. It was a slow process but surprisingly easy, and the pattern distracts from the inadiquate paint job underneath! 

Monday 14 June 2021

Introducing ProjectBACCHAE - a Triumph of Dionysos for Fantastic Battles

The next large project that I embark on will be a 28mm, Greek myth-inspired, Dionysiac army for Fantastic Battles. The intention is to base the army around a core of maenads and satyrs, supported by a mixture of centaurs, various animals and erotes.

The simplest way to start the project was by rebasing a few 28mm figures already in my collection - a company of nymphs from Shadowforge, and a Eurkea Miniatures Pan with a wee scratch built set of pipes. Pan will serve as a captain in the army, and I am planning on using the nymphs as a company of magic-using, skirmishing, fantastic beasts.

Sunday 13 June 2021

L'Art de la Guerre 4th edition - Kommagene vs Triumviral Romans


Andrew and I played out first game of L'Art de la Guerre for almost a year this week. To add to the confusion of foggy memories, this was also the first run through of the new 4th edition of the rules.

I ran a quintisentially late Hellenistic army from Kommagene, while he played about with those western savages of the Roamn Triumvirate (well, one of the triumvirs anyway).

We did quite a few things wrong to begin with, but not in a way that disadvataged either side more than the other. After we settled into the rhythm again, it all went swimmingly and and it certainly looked the part. 

The Romans generally made a mess of the Kommagenean left flank, and were badly mauled on their own left flank, while the central melee between legions and pikemen ground on with equal bouts of heroism and cowardice on both sides.

Classic moments to be recorded by non-partisan historians should include when the Kommagenian archers shot down and routed the Numidian cavalry (including their attached Roman commander); the moment the Kommagenian horse archers broke through the Roman lines and rode down the heavy artillery - before being shot in their own rear by some Cretan archers and falling to a man (including their attached commander); and when the Kommagenian slingers boldly shot at, and then closed with and routed the Roman elephants. Above you can see a 1:1 scale statue of the Kommagenian  king's head following the battle which ended when the Romans broke having lost 26 of 23 break points. 

Saturday 12 June 2021

ProjectTROY - quit staring at my ass!


Finishing off phase 2 of ProjectTROY is the Trojan mule train/camp, previewed earlier in the month. Simple, but I reckon it'll be effective enough. And by having the chap with the sword I can even stretch friendships like claiming it is a fortified camp!

I am by-no-means suggesting this is the end of the army, but I now have enough Trojans for a 1200 point army for Fantastic Battles, 200 points in l'Art de la Guerre, and two large (or three small) commands for Hail Caesar, so time to turn my attention to other projects - at least for a while.