Tuesday 31 August 2021

Papposilenos for ProjectBACCHAE

Over the August long weekend I was able to get a couple of bits and pieced finished up for my Fantastic Battles Bacchic army. First up we have the first company of maenads again (but this tile flocked), and the last of the project's planned characters, Papposilenos.

Papposilenos was an aged silenos - (similar too, and in some cases indistinguishable from satyrs) who was something of a tutor to the infant Dionysos. As the god matured, Papposilenos's role transitioned to as Dionysos' majordomo.

4th century BC Apulian bell krater showing the bust of Dionysos beside a wee Papposilenos.

4th century BC Apulian lekythos showing Papposilenos playing the aulos and seated on a wine skin.

Iconographically, Papposilenos appears short, greying, often balding, and always fat. I started with an old 1986 Talisman satyr picked up for far too much on eBay. I sliced him across the stomach, cutting about 4/5 the way through and then bent his back to tilt his head up. I then greenstuffed him a baggy belly and hairy snail trail. The model was supposed to come with an aulos, but I replaced this with an amphora from castaway arts so it looks like he is having a good quaff.

Monday 30 August 2021

"The perfect addition to my wargaming library." Fantastic Battles reviewed at the Hobby Knockout podcast

Matt and Paul from Hobby Knockout have reviewed Fantastic Battles in their latest podcast. And very kind they are about it too! Do pop over and check out their regular show for hobby news, thoughts and other reviews.

Sunday 29 August 2021

l'Art de la Guerre - Roman Triumviral Civil War

This week's l'Art de la Guerre outing saw Andrew (Imperator Lucullus) and I (Legate Onerous) embark on a 6mm Roman Triumviral civil war battle. 

Lucullus's army consisted of six elite legionary units, and six regular units, supported by a single unit of equites, an elephant, some Thracians, two skirmishing archers, and a couple of Numidian horse units.

Onerous commanded a scant four elite Roman legionary units, but his engineers provided two heavy artillery as support. He also personally commanded some Cretan archers and Thracians of his own; his tribune commanded two units of heavy cavalry equites. The smaller Roman army was supported by an Armenian prince, Tirdat, and his entourage of archers, horse archers and elite cataphracts.

Wanting to do something a bit different, we decided to play in a wooded area and Andrew helpfully chose an impassable water feature which was placed on my side of the table. After the re-jigging of terrain, it ended up in the centre of the battlefield resulting in a less than customary deployment. In the top corner, Lucullus' elite legions have formed a straight line across from the coastal zone. The regular legions are in column, effectively forming a box around his camp. The Numidians are sitting out on their own on the far side of the deployment area.

Onerous has deployed his elite legions and Thracians in a matching line in front of his own camp, with artillery in the centre, flanked by Tirdat's archers, cataphracts and lastly the horse archers on the far left. Onerous' tribune and his equites were dispatched on a wide sweeping flank march. Too wide as it turned out as they never appeared on the field of battle.

Lucullus pushed quickly forwards. hoping to minimise the impact of Onerous' artillery fire. Tirdat angled his elite cataphracts to try to threaten the flank of the Roman column.

On the far left of Onerous' line, Lucullus' Numidians were playing silly buggers and drew out Tirdat's horse archers.

The main lines closed quickly. Onerous' artillery fire was screened by Lucullus' skirmishers, but as they lost cohesion and scattered, they passed cohesion losses to the units behind them anyway.

Tirdat led his elite cataphracts personally, charging straight into the front of the column of regular Roman legions.

In the tussle of light horsemen on the left flank, the Numidians charged into melee. Tirdat was fairly happy that he had the numbers to win over on this flank and throughout the game, would focus his attention on his own struggles with the legions. Despite losing one of their two companies early on in the fight, the remaining Numidian company would route every one of those neglected Armenian horse archers.

As the lines of elite legions met, Onerous' ineffective Cretan archers evaded behind the lines (admittedly few skirmishers are much used against armoured elite heavy swordsmen!). By and large, Onerous' veterans got the better of the struggle and Lucullus' men started to lose cohesion. 

After their initial success, the Armenian cataphracts started to feel the wight of numbers as the Roman column slowly unwound, and Lucullus' elephant charged their flank. Amazingly, the out-flanked cataphracts hung on long enough to allow some of Tirdats foot bowmen to charge the flank of the elephant which routed the following turn.

As the big fight between the veterans became a war of attrition, Tirdat's remaining cataphracts and archers managed to destroy Lucullus' regular legions in detail. Despite losing all of the horse archers, and the palpable absence of Onerous' tribune and his equites, it was Lucullus' army which reached its breakpoint first. Lucullus 20/20, Onerous 19/21.

In the aftermath of battle, Lucullus, still alive, went on the run. Imperator Onerous was merciful and offered to enlist all captured Lucullans in 'his' army of the Republic. And he's going to have a word with that bloody tribune whenever he shows up too!

Sunday 22 August 2021

ProjectBACCHAE - 1st test maenads

I've just completed my first company of maenads for my Fantastic Battles Bacchic force; the plan is to field a large unit of four companies as the heart of the army. The figures are 28mm Shadowforge - available through Eureka. They are quite lovely sculpts, even if some of the faces are a little hard. The one thing I would have liked would have been more variation in the build of the different women.

However, my gripe is that they are made for slotta bases. I also have Shadowforge Dryads which had flat bases and work perfectly stuck to whichever type of base you care to use. Sculpts for slotta bases are a real bugger when you don't want to use slottas! This is the reason I started with just a single company - to find the best approach to make my unit.

These were tacked into the plastic slotta with a tiny drop of super glue for painting. Then the slotta base was snapped off and the metal tab trimmed down to only a few mm, before being glued to the mdf. I then used greenstuff to create a much more stable foundation. What a needlessly fussy way to do it! If you know of a better way, please enlighten me!!!!

Sunday 15 August 2021

Spartan incursion into Macedon c.420 BC with Fantastic Battles

This week Lee cross the Foyle to lead a Spartan expeditionary force against my Macedonians for a game of Fantastic Battles. Both armies included priests to read the omens (magic-users with level 3 prophesy). As the sun rose over the plain, a heron was sighted flying east with a frog in its beak. The frog escaped, fell to earth, but then hopped away. Clearly the gods meant the message to be understood as a disastrous omen. But for which side?

After deployment and mishaps, the Spartan invaders looked a lot more... cohesive. From left to right at the top of the photo above, Leeonidas' army consisted of a unit of Thessalian light commanded by a bit of a rogue, a unit of cattle (undoubtably rustled) that were likely to stampede, a large block of allied hoplites commanded by the strategos himself and supported by some skirmishing slingers, a smaller unit of true Spartiate elite hoplites led by the expedition's priest and supported by skirmishing archers, and finally two units of peltasts, each commanded by a captain. One of the Peltast units was afflicted by disease, but otherwise the army was in good shape.

My Macedonian defenders (lower part of the photo, from left to right) consisted of two small units of elite Macedonian hetairoi (one diseased), backed up by a unit of tribal levy/dross, and accompanied by the king and a strategos. To their right was a second unit of tribal dross, but these lads were overly enthusiastic and deployed too far ahead of the main force (and their commanders). In the centre were the Macedonian hoplites led by another strategos and screened by Macedonian archers, an equal number of diseased Thesslian hoplites lead by a priest and screened by mixed slingers and archers, Thessalian heavy cavalry and some (late) Thessalian peltasts, led by a Thessalian strategos. The Macedonians took the 'Master of the Horse' strategy meaning that their mounted units gained an additional attack dice when they charged.

The opening phase of the battle saw the two forces shuffle about and try to establish better command structures. The Spartan peltasts pushed forward to dominate the woods on the Spartan left, threatening the Thessalian cavalry guarding the Macedonian right. While the Macedonian and Thessalian skirmishers darted forward to start peppering the Spartan lines, the Thessalian hoplites recalled with frustration the effects of rough terrain on the movement of formed foot.

The Spartans drove their cattle forward, hoping to disrupt the Macedonian tribal levies. However, before they came close, the Macedonina hetairoi thundered forward and dispersed them with little hesitation. Unfortunately for the flower of Macedonian nobility, the charge brought them within range of the Spartan slingers and their auxiliary light horse who both rained down (pretty devastating) missile fire.

In the next turn, the light cavalry and skirmishers both turned in on the hetairoi and charged into their target's flanks. The Spartan's allied cavalry were, in-turn, charged in their own exposed right flank by the second unit of Macednian cavalry. Over on the Macedonian right, the Thessalian peltasts engaged with the Spartan peltasts in the woods.

With the Macedonian cavalry fully engaged, the Spartan allied hoplites had no room to manoeuvre into combat. However, one of the large tribal units of Macedonian levy threw themselves forward into the exposed flanks of the Spartan skirmishers.

The Spartan archers ran forward to attack their Macedonian counterparts in melee while the Spartan hoplites set off to hunt the Thessalian cavalry who were avoiding the woods in a very studied manner. They promptly turned around, hoping to lure the Spartans in their wake.

The large melee on the Macedonian left, the Macedonian hetairoi finally broke under pressure from the two flanking attacks, but as they scattered, their foes too fell before the attacks from the other Macedonian cavalry unit and the tribal levy. The melee between the opposing forces of peltasts in the woods at the far end of the battlefield was proving mutually destructive, with both units a mere 1 Resolve point away from scattering.

In the centre - with the obstructing melee cleared, Sparta's allied hoplites slammed into the tribal levy.

Seizing the initiative, the Spartiate hoplites also charged forward, straight into the rear of the Thessalian cavalry. The Spartiates needed to roll 5+ to inflict hits on the Thessalians. The cavalry needed to kick back and roll 6s.

The resulting combat was a little one-sided. 

Behind the slaughter of Thessalian horses, the Spartan peltasts finally finished off the Thessalian peltasts in the woods and the second unit of Spartan peltasts charged the flanks of the Macedonian hoplites (before once again being charged in their own flank!).

Sparta's large unit of  allied hoplites ploughed straight through the Macedonian levy with ease, but then found themselves outflanked. The remaining Macedonian tribal levy charged their right flank, the Macedonian hoplites, in column, attacked their left fank, while the last of the Macedonian cavalry had swept around and now bore down on their rear.

The last Thessalians standing - the three-company hoplite unit - squared off against the Spartiates and were able to hold their own.

It Looks like the frog had hopped for Macedon. In the end, the allied hoplites could not stand against the assault from three sides. Although they attempted to turn to face their enemies, it was too late to save them and the unit scattered. The Spartiates and a badly-blooded unit of peltasts still held firm, but as an expeditionary force it was over. The Spartans would need to withdraw and regroup leaving the Macedonians victorious; free to return to their mountains and their goats, and fighting among themselves. 

Thursday 12 August 2021

ProjectBACCHAE - Chariots of Love

I realise that I can be a bit special (sure, aren't we all in a way?), and I like to do things a little bit different, but this time I may have got a little carried away! 

In Hellenistic and Roman art, chariot races between erotes (the pluralised form of Eros) is a relatively common theme. Generally they occur in dining/symposium contexts, and in that way, are associated with Dionysos and other Dionysiac themes. They also appear in burial contexts which can, again, have Dionysiac associations, either overtly, or more subtly. Thrice-born Dionysos was, afterall, a god of death and resurection as well as out-of-body experiences. Anyway, my point is that in the Greco-Roman world, winged children driving chariots pulled by animals was a 'thing'.

Goat-drawn chariots from a fresco in the House of the Chaste Lovers, Pompeii.

Goat-drawn chariots from a fragmentary fresco from Seleukid Jebel Khalid on the Euphrates.

Deer-drawn chariots from a fresco in the House of the Vettii, Pompeii.

Tiger/leopard-drawn chariots from a mosaic in theVilla Romana, Desenzano.

Deer, lion and, goat-drawn chariots from a Roman sarcophagus now in the Berlin, Antikensammlung.

Erote/cupid-drawn chariot from a fresco in Herculaneum.

I took a notion that this was a thing I wanted for ProjectBACCAE and so the quest began. The drivers for my chariots are 28mm cherubs from Warmonger Miniatures. I settled on 15mm Roman racing chariots from Essex Miniatures with yokes and shafts removed and replaced with longer versions made of 28mm spearshafts and greenstuff. The goats are digital models sculpted by Duncan Shadow (kindly printed by Jeff Gatlin of Shieldwall Gaming Club in Willoughby, OH) with greenstuff harnesses. 

I think they turned out pretty well and I have enough cherubs and goats on hand to rig up another two chariots in the future.

These two likely-lads-looking-for-trouble were been built for Fantastic Battles where I've a provisional profile in mind: vehicles with the fast and furious charge traits. I'm yet not convinced about the latter, but those goats stand pretty tall and they have some really impressive horns. Of course, now that I have them, I really want to use them in a game of Faustus Furius, probably as agile chariots...

And now, because I'm happy with them, here are a few too many photos of them from different angles. ­čśü

Monday 2 August 2021

Wyld Elves vs the Byzernia Empire - 10mm Fantastic Battles

Last week's outing saw my Wyld Elves invading Jim's human empire of Byzernia. Jim set up the terrain with three large woods, a couple of fields and a swamp - pretty good for my elves, and not so good for his artillery, shieldwalls and heavy horse.

The battle was documented in full, but my camera was on the wrong setting, and the lighting at Jim's is designed for dancin' and romancin' rather than photography of 10mm toy soldiers, so apologies for the quality!­čśü

The Byzernians heavily outnumbered the elves, but the elves were all elite and pretty tricksy. The Byzernians (top of the shot) deployed irregular units of axe-wielding bonnachts, skirmishing kern and a rogue in the swamp on their right. The centre consisted of the Byzernian emperor himself, leading a unit of heavy horse, flame-throwing artillery and some formed shield-bearers. The Byzernian angel stood in the middle of the central field beside two small units of mixed shielded spearmen and archers and a captain. A unit of light cavalry skirmishers and the Byzernian magic-user deployed within the woods on the Byzernian far-left flank. The Byzernian magic-user came prepared with blink and blessing spells.

The elves deployed with the clear aim of making use of the two woods on their side of the battlefield. Two units of rangers, stag-riders and a captain deployed behind the woods in the centre, forming a left bulwark for the army; a tree-shepherd and a magic-user holding the left flank. The hollow centre of the line was controlled by the warlord and another magic-user, together with a giant eagle and a second treeman.  The right flank consisted of a third unit of rangers led by a captain, as well as the Wyld Hunt led by a rogue. Both elven magic-users had entangle and bless spells.

There was very little wrong on either side of the battlefield when we rolled for mishaps. One elven unit was late, but it was already deployed so far back it made no odds. On the Byzernian side, only the noble heavy cavalry arrived diseased. 

From turn one, the elven battleplan started to play out as intended. The various ranger units secured the woods and the magic-users began entangling key Byzernian units to break up their battle line and keep the human heavy-hitters away from combats with the dainty folk. 

The Byzernians advanced in a bit of a haphazard line, hampered by the terrain on their side of the battlefield. 

Over on the elven right/Byzernian left, the skirmishing light horse were having trouble passing through the woods, requiring the Byzernian magic-user to blink them out. No sooner were they mostly out of the woods, than they were charged and immediately overrun by the Wyld Hunt. The Byzernian magic-user would blink no more this day. Any resolve that had been lost by the Wyld Hunt was immediately restored by the feast trait as the ghostly hunters fed upon the fallen.

In the centre, the elves continued to hold the woods, loosely speaking. The elves kept evading, drawing the Byzernians deeper into the difficult terrain. Only the giant eagle failed to get out of the way in time, being killed by the Byzernian angel before he too was killed by a stampede of hooves and antlers (AKA the elven stag riders).

On the elven left, Byzernian right, the elven magic user continued to entangle the Byzernian heavy horse while rangers and treemen dashed out of the woods to scatter the Byzernian kern.

As the Byzernians sent forward their bonnachts as reinforcements, the elves threw forward a fresh tree shepherd towards their flank. He'd be out of command for the next turn, but could prove handy in the right circumstances.

Meanwhile, the Wyld Hunt rode again, sweeping into the flanks of a unit of spear, shield and bow armed heavy infantry. The Byzernians had been entangled through much of the battle and were eventually abandoned by their commanders who led forward other units. Now, caught in column, they too were scattered after a single round of combat and fed upon the corpses of their foes. The Byzernian left was now gone and the Wyld Elves were starting to sweep up towards the centre.

Although the Byzernians finally pushed one of the elven ranger units out of the woods, it was all a bit late. The Byzernian bonnachts charge the other ranger unit, but then were charged in the rear by a tree shepherd (not the out-of-command one though - he proved useless!). As the bonnachts scattered, the Byzernian army reached critical losses and broke, leaving the field to the elven invaders.

This was the first time that I feel I've used the elves to their full potential, maximising their tricksy-ness: evading, lurking in woods, manoeuvring and shooting. It was a bit of an overwhelming victory in the end. I would suggest that Jim's Byzernians generally got the better of the melee dice rolls, but my elves almost always got the initiative meeples when they needed them, and my two magic-users successfully cast entangle every turn which tied up a good 20% of Jim's entire force.