Wednesday 27 September 2023

ProjectSeleukid - More 28mm phalangites

While I've been dabbling in Seleukid light infnatry, Andrew has gone and completed his second phalanx (see the first one and thoughts about phalangites here). These lads were originally going to be argyraspides - elite silver-shields - for the Magnesia orbat we are working on, but somewhere along the journey recieved bronze-rimmed white shields. Regardless, they look the business and I can't wait to fight beside them - and then against them!

Monday 25 September 2023

The Sebangka fight: a small G&G action

Our man in the East Indies has sent another of his dispatches on the ongong Galleys & Galleons pirate activities in that area:

A pirate flotilla has been terrorising the northern coast of Sumatra for several months. The Sultan of Songkhla, hearing of this, despatched a squadron to hunt down down and destroy them.

The Songkhla squadron soon located the pirates off the island of Sebangka (in the SE approaches to the Strait of Malacca). Unusually the pirates didn’t flee. It turned out they had their base on the island, including most of their accumulated loot.

The pirate flotilla (276 pts), commanded by wako legend Chen Zuyi, comprised -

1 x Large junk “Hakka Merchant” (76). Q3 C3: Derring-do, Intimidating, Flagship, Lateen-rigged, Reinforced hull.

4 x Small junks “Bamboo Shoot” “Bean Sprout” “Bitter Melon” and “Bok Choy” (50). Q2 C2: Derring-do, Intimidating, Lateen-rigged, Reinforced hull, Yare.

The Songkhla squadron (246 pts) commanded by Abdul the Pious, comprised - 

4 x Galleys “Ayhutthaya” “Borobudur” “Songkhka*” and Srivijaya” (54) (84*). Q3 C3: Drilled soldiers, Flagship*, Galley, Shallow draft, Swashbucklers, Yare.

Both commanders were rated Dashing (a dice coincidence, not anything I planned).


Here’s the starting lineup, looking N. The pirates are anchored off the village of Temiah, (upper L corner) which is their base of operations. The galley patrol approaches from the SE (lower R corner). The wind is from the SW, blowing diagonally from bottom L to upper R. Areas of shallow water are shown by brown felt. The low scrubby areas in the water are mangroves.

Abdul and his galley squadron have initiative, so activate first each turn.

After 3 turns both squadrons are in sight of each other and shaping up for a fight. The pirates fluffed their first turn but have recovered well. The leading junks have shortened sail to allow the laggards to catch up. The galleys are more strung out, with Srivijaya leading and Borobudur in the rear. So far the wind is holding steady.

During turn 6 both sides started long range artillery fire, but no shots hit. Also both commanders made tactical decisions based on contingent dice rolls. Chen Zuyi decided on a daring plan to send some of his ships through narrow channels around the Songkhla left flank to attack them from behind. Abdul the Pious lined up his galleys in traditional formation, but has left gaps on both ends of the line. He did not act to correct this, eg by falling back 1-2 ships lengths.

Then on turn 7 Abdul signalled a general attack, as the pirates had strayed within 2M of his ships. Borobudur contacted and grappled Bean Sprout, but lacked the AP to start a boarding action. Ayhutthaya contacted Bitter Melon but couldn't grapple. Songkhka similarly contacted Bok Choy without grappling.

The Bean Sprout crew poured onto the deck of Borobudur, inflicting 2 damage. The Bitter Melon, which was blocked from moving forwards, grappled Ayutthaya, and two rounds of boarding ensued resulting in each side taking a damage as the galley’s drilled soldiers fought back strongly. The Bok Choy didn’t grapple the Songkhla, but fired into the galley at point blank range. It couldn't fire a full broadside as it needed the AP to alter course. The shooting was off and caused no damage. 

Yellow markers are for Grappled. Red markers for Damage. The wind has now shifted 2 points westerly, and is blowing along the length of the table, from L to R in the above photo.

Turn 8 started badly for the galleys as Songkhla was almost overwhelmed by the Bean Sprout boarders, and seems close to striking. Ayutthaya and Bitter Melon are fighting each other to a standstill, each gaining a second damage. The other galleys, Srivijaya and Songkhka, both closed on Hakka Merchant and fired, causing 1 damage.

In the Pirate bound the Bean Sprout, seemingly on the edge of victory, took 3 damages from 3 rounds of the ongoing boarding fight as the crew of Borobudur came back with a vengeance. If anything the Bitter Melon fared even worse. Also launching 3 x boarding fights, it first took Ayutthaya to 3 damage, them lost both the other fights to end up on 4 damage: captured by the galley. The Hakka Merchant fired a full broadside into Srivijaya at point blank range, but its gunnery was truly  awful and all shots missed. The two pirate junks tasked with outflanking the galleys were committed now, as it’s too difficult to turn and sail back out out of the channel they are in. So they keep going. Luckily their point of sailing is Running, so their movement is only 1S per turn, making forward navigation in the narrow channel easy enough.

There is a new marker, Pink for Captured. The wind, from the West, is blowing up the table from bottom to top in this shot.

Turn 9. Borobudur completed one of the great escapes of recent naval history by surviving an All at Sea roll and overcoming Bean Sprout, which was captured. It used its other actions to leave a prize crew and cut grapples. Ayutthaya left a prize crew aboard Bitter Melon, cut the grapples, and turned to port.  The two captured pirate junks drifted 1/2S downwind while the prize crews are getting them back under control. The galleys Srivijaya and Songkhka both fired into the Hakka Merchant, taking it to 3 damage points. The pirate flagship returned fire, but totally missed both shots. The remaining pirates kept moving, but they are now thinking mainly of escape.

The wind has shifted again, to WSW.

The Songkhka took the Hakka Merchant into “excess damage” territory and sank it at the beginning of turn 10. This leaves the Pirates with only the two small junks which are cautiously navigating a narrow waterway back to the main channel. The Songkhla squadron has two intact galleys including the flagship, two other crippled galleys*, and two pirate prizes which are also crippled*. 

* the damage to all these vessels has resulted from boarding actions, not artillery, so is likely to be repairable fairly easily, especially in sheltered waters like this. 

Looking at this balance sheet the surviving pirate ships decided (contingency roll) to stay where they were until dusk then slip away into the night. Abdul isn’t going to go in after them, even though it’s ideal galley work, because of the risk to his own ships. Once the pirates have fled he can begin repairing his damaged galleys, and the prizes, and send a landing party ashore at Temiah to get hold of the pirates’ loot stash.

So the battle ended as a solid win for the Songkhla galley squadron, and a defeat for the pirates. No-one knows if Chen Zuyi the pirate warlord survived, but it’s quite possible as there was plenty of debris to cling to. And land not far away. It’s the bull sharks you have to worry about in these murky waters.


Cheers from Pattaya


Sunday 17 September 2023

Burrows & Badgers campaign - 2.2 Rumbled in the Ruins

This week we returned to our new Burrows & Badgers campaign with a three player rumble in the ruins. The roguish Dirty Paws, (purple deployment), Lord Knawsley's royalist retinue (blue deployment), and the Jackass free company (yellow deployment) went at each other in an open engagement. For secondary objectives, the Dirty Paws were trying to assassinate enemy leaders and bring down the biggest beast in town - Lord Knawsley. In turn, the noble beaver's aim was to assassinate enemy leaders and take down as many of their men as possible in the process. The Jackass aim was to deliver a wee parcel in across the far side of the table - we played the opposite corner - and otherwise to strike unseen from the shadows.

On turn one, one of the Jackass moles emerged from underground with his parcel mere paces from the exit point on the battlefield, far beyond the reach of either of the other bands. At the start of turn two he nipped off, earning experience and delivery fees, but playing no further part in the skirmish.

The Jackass company hunkered down in their corner, lining up crossbows out of ambush while the rogues and royalists advanced more generally - the Dirty Paws seizing the central ruins and sending their rookie squirrel Knut to take up position on what remained of the temple roof.

And that's when the Jackasses began to play silly buggers. Their bat-leader only knew one spell, transpose, but he started to let it rip. First, he switched the places of the wee squirrel Knut (armed only with a bow) on the roof top, for Lord Knawsley's second. The angry if ungainly badger ended up clinging to a roof beam, while Knut appeared in the centre of the royalist retinue! Bloody funny, but bloody awful...

Things ended predictably, but not quite as you might imagine dear reader. Knut took a hammering, suffering 14 wounds, but remained standing. In his own next turn, he threw down his bow and, armed only with his fingers, heroically sacrificed himself, going at it against the glorious beaver.

Noting the rookies' heroic fingery sacrifice, Edwin and Malachy, the the two stoat rogues leapt into action. They were trying to get the the Jackass leader, both for the assassination objective, and the prevent Transpose being cast again. They were intercepted, however, both suffering catastrophic crossbow shots, followed by a savaging from the free company's black rat second.

Next, that pesky bat transposed the rogue's leader, Old Broc (who had just made it into contact with the black rat), for another royalist mouse. Both went down, the mouse to the rat, and Old Broc to Lord Knawsley's massive hammer (supported by a mini mouse swarm). Sgian Dubh, the rogues' pole-cat second ambushed another of the royalist mice.

The rogue's rat, Harry, and bat Seren, were shot by mouse archers and slingers and then the royalist badger - having taken multiple turns to climb down from the ruins, joined the melee and finished off Sgian. Thus endeth the Dirty Paws' day out with a total party kill. 

The Jackass bat then transposed an injured mouse for Ivy the mouse nun who was quickly dispatched.

Having enough of the shenanigans, Lord Knawsley finally pinned the free company bat in some rough terrain and removed the pesky bugger from play.

Fresh from taking out the rogues' second out of action, the angry royalist badger then thundered across the ruins to smite the free company's second, causing the rest of the rats to flee the field.

In the post-game phase, there were a few serious injuries - several of the rogues were hamstrung meaning that next time they'd have to be wary of shooters - but it could have been much worse. Both royalists and free company came out of the match with a lot more loot; none of the rogues were recovered enough to go exploring after all.

There are so many things I enjoy about B&B, but I still feel that three player games are a weakness. Despite having warbands deployed equidistant, and trying to have as much balance in the terrain as possible, there are certain issues that come up that we experienced in the last campaign. This game, being able to transpose animals for two different warbands into situations of certain death was hilarious, but felt very powerful. By doing this, it forced the rogues and royalists to fight each other, allowing the free-company to sit tight and await the outcome. This isn't something that would be possible in a fight between two sides. That wee bat-mage is marked, and every effort will be made next time to not give him the opportunity the control the table.

Thursday 14 September 2023

ProjectSeleukid - Elymaian Archers

Project Seleukid's next unit is a group of archers from Elymais. This region in the west of Iran (centered on modern Khuzestan province) nestled against the Tigris and reached up into the Zagros Mountains with Susa as its capital. Herodotus does not distinguish Elymais from the rest of Persia when discussing the dress or equipment of the Achaemenid army, so Persian style dress can be suggested. The bashlyk (Persian tiara) appears on the early coinage of both Parthia and Kappadokia, as well as neighbouring Persis, so it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that the Elymaians may have continued to wear it under the Seleukids.

Elymais was one of the first satrapies added to Babylon after Seleukos I's return in 312 BC and remained a part of the empire until its secession (under Kamnaskires I) during the Seleukid dynastic troubles of the early 140s BC. Following the Peace of Apameia in 188 BC, Antiochos III, on the hunt for liquid assets to start paying the indemnity enforced by Rome, was killed while looting an Elymaian temple of Bel (in Susa?).  

Livy tells us that the Elymaians at Magnesia were archers, brigaded together with Kyrtian slingers (from further northwest along the Zagros Mountains). The bow in gorytos is an enduring image on the Seleukid bronze coinage from Susa, so that again ties in well with conventional Achaemenid-style archers. Being from a mainly mountainous region, it makes sense for them to be fielded as light infantry rather than massed archers.

These are 28mm Victrix unarmoured Persians, with a Macedonian head on the unit commander. The unit banner is based on the star and crescent iconography that occurs on behind the head of the king on some Elymaian royal coinage following their secession from the Seleukid empire. 

Thursday 7 September 2023

ProjectSeleukid - Seleukid captain: Antipatros, the 'son of the king's brother'

The second Seleukid captain is nominally Antipatros, referred to by Livy as the son of Antiochos III's brother. This is a little problematic as the only recorded brother of Antiochos was his older brother Seleukos III who died after a short reign in 223 BC. If Antipatros was the son of Seleukos III, he would (at this stage in the dynasty) be next in line to succeed him. Six years later, at the Battle of Raphia, Antipatros was old enough to command the Seleukid cavalry, (he was also present at Panion in 201 BC) so there is little reason to think he was passed over for the kinship because of his age.

Perhaps he was the son of an illegitimate brother of Antiochos III or he may have been, in reality, a 'royal nephew', a close associate honoured with a familial title in the same way that the contemporary senior courtier, Zeuxis, was described in official correspondance as the 'father' of Antiochos III.

After Magnesia, Antipatros was sent as one of Antiochos' ambassadors to Rome.

These are the second pair of sculpts from the 28mm Pyrrhic foot command pack from Aventine Miniatures. He is clearly a commanding figure, but I wanted him to have less purple than the king's family members, so stuck with a purple sash and purple border on the chlamys. The banner - which is perhaps not as finely done as I would like, is taken from the scorpion on later Kommagenian coinage of the 1st century AD.

Saturday 2 September 2023

ProjectSeleukid - how do you solve a problem like Magnesia?

Illustration from Ancient Warfare Magazine

I have been mulling over the dispositions of the Seleukid army in the accounts of Livy (37.40) and Appian (Syrian Wars 32-3) to try to establish both the initial army list for Project Seleukid, and also the shopping lists for Andrew and I. 

The table below breaks down the deployments of each named unit according to Appian and Livy into left flank, centre and right flank commands.








Livy 1,000








Livy 1,000


Argyraspid cavalry








Livy 3,000


Livy 3,000


Galatian cavalry


Livy 2,500










Dahai and other mounted archers



Appian 200

Livy 1,200


Arab camelry







Livy 16

Appian 22

Livy 22

Livy 16


Scythed chariots










Livy 6,000


Macedonian phalanx


Appian 16,000

Livy 10,000



Galatian foot


Livy 1,500


Livy 1,500




Livy, 2000








Livy 1,500



Livy 1,000






Livy 1500



Livy 1,500


Karians and Kilikians

Livy 1,500





Pisidians, Lykians and Pamphylians

Livy 4,000




Elymaian archers and Kyrtian slingers

Livy 4,000


Livy 4,000


Thysian archers




Livy 2,500


Unnamed tribes


Livy 2,700




Unnamed skirmishers






Of the two sources, Livy gives the much more precise breakdown, but neither author accounts for the total number of 70,000 given for the Seleukid army as a whole. 

A couple of issues remain:
1) Argyraspid cavalry are never mentioned in any Seleukid army except in this battle, where Appian places them on the right. The elite argyraspid infantry are located in the same place by Livy. Are they the same thing, and is it an error on Appian's part, or on the part of a copyist at some point in history.

If the unit in question is just the silver shield phalangites, their deployment on the right flank, away from the rest of the Macedonian-style phalanx, is unusual. However, Livy's numbers for the two classes of phalangites equals the total given by Appian. 

Moving forward we might follow Livy here, and dismiss the argyraspid cavalry as an error.

2) How were the Trallians armed? Whether assuming a Thraco-Illyrian origin, or seeing them as coming from the city of Tralles, I had presumed they would appear as thureophoroi. However, I am now leaning toward's the alternative theory put forward by Duncan Head that they may be slingers. Sources unclear, but they were brigaded alongside Cretan/necretan archers on both Seleukid flanks, and also with Cretan archers on the Roman side. There is a long tradition of slingers and archers operating together and they would seem to fit within this. 

3) Where are the Thysians from? They are archers, so perhaps they were Iranian, but I can find no other refernce to them.

If anyone can shed further light on these issues, I'd appreciate any suggestions!

Army lists
The current thinking produces the following Hail Caesar army list (coming in at 723 points):

The unit profiles for a Seleukid army using the Fantastic Battles rules might then look like this: