Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Mad Ramblings from the Dark Continent.

A Call of Cthulhu campaign I've been putting together over the last few weeks has reached the point where  clues and documents are being produced as player handouts. Below are a couple of photographs of the core clues in a Victorian botanists field notebook. These will be bulked out with line and colour drawings scanned from old publications and scavenged off the web to add some authenticity.
The body of the notebook above is an old moleskine that I used for scribbling in at work. Three years of riding round in my pocket has given it quite a good patina.
The contents have been written on 50-60 year old paper ( to cut a long story short my parents used to run a shop which previously had been a decorators merchant, the roll of paper was left in the attic and kept in case it came in handy: which it has though perhaps not as originally envisioned.) using an old fountain pen fuelled with a mix of black + sepia inks. The marbled endpaper was downloaded of the web, cut to size and glued in.
I may yet age the edges of the paper further by leaving the notebook outside in a suitably damp shed. This should impart a certain must and mildew to the publication.

Yet more Phalangites.

Ah yes the joys of time of from work. Rather than getting up to mischief I've been spending time this week preparing more phalangites on the paint desk. Here they are below.
This time I've opted to paint the linothorax a slightly grubby colour to evoke the feel of older equipment and chosen a simple Seleucid anchor for the design on the aspis, though I may vary this through the unit to represent katoikoi drawn from different provinces in the empire combined into a single phalanx.
This unit will initially be 24 strong, this being the number of figures in my possession at present, but at some point in the near future another order will be placed with gripping beast including four of these fellows to bring the total up to the standard 28 for a Handgrenadealien phalanx. This will bring the grand total up to a very respectable seven units totalling 196 figures.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Raphia Refight

Another festive season over and the first of our two festive refights out of the way. I hope you enjoy the following tale of woe and despondency that follows, at least for the territorial hopes of one of the great Hellenistic dynasties acted out on the sandy plain of Raphia c. 217BC.

Below the two hosts arrayed for battle.

To the left we have the Lagid army of Ptolemy IV:

Right Wing.
9no Tarentines
8no Hetairoi plus Ptolemy
1no African Elephant
18no Thureophoroi

18no Mercenary Hoplites
2x28no Line Phalangites
28no Machimoi, Levy Phalangites
20no Galatians

Left Wing.
14no Peltasts
8no Slingers
8no Archers
6no Xystophoroi
6no Greek Cavalry
1no African Elephant

Seen below in birds eye view.

To the right is the Seleucid army of Antiochus III.

Right Wing.
9no Dahae Horse Archers
8no Hetairoi and Antiochus III
2no Indian Elephants in full barding.

32no assorted levy
20no Thorakitai
28no Argyraspids
28no Chalkaspids
15no Thureophoroi

Left Wing.
20no Thracians
6no Tarentines
9no Xystophoroi
1no Indian Elephant in full Barding

Below a birds eye view.
The royal house of the Ptolemies (me) won the initiative and chose to move first, tentatively pushing forward with elephants and light infantry on each flank.
The Seleucid host ( Mr. Paul Ireland) responded by advancing on a broad front.
Some ineffective missile fire was exchanged to no avail with no combat yet possible.
On the Seleucid left flank the Thracians and Tarentines moved forward supported by the elephant whilst the xystophoroi hovered menacingly behind waiting for an opportunity. In the centre of the field the Ptolemaic Galatians advanced supported by the peltasts. Away on the right archery from the Dahae horse archers caused the african elephant to stampede whilst the Ptolemaic archers and slingers shot without effect at the Seleucid beasts.
Now things begin to hot up; in the foreground on the Ptolemaic right the two elephants clash whilst the Seleucid Tarentines lose a combat against their Ptolemaic brethren and flee back toward their baseline, but are not pursued in case better opportunities arise.
In the centre the Galatian warband charges the front of the Argyraspids, coming off worse in the ensuing melee.
In the distance Ptolemy's archers take massive casualties in a firefight and flee whilst the slingers vainly take on one of the Indian elephants. See alternative view below.
By now the slingers are a distant memory ( and horrible jammy mess on an elephants feet) and the archers sensibly fled. The Ptolemaic xystophoroi vainly try to close with the Dahae.
The fight in the foreground continues to develop with the African elephant put to flight by his larger cousin watched impassively by Ptolemy who still holds his companions in check. Toward the centre the Seleucid Thureophoroi charge the Greek hoplites.
In the centre the Galatians are in full flight having lost their fight with the Argyraspids.
On the further flank the Seleucid Elephants and levy continue to press forward while Antiochus displays unusual self control and remains in reserve.
Above. A ground level shot showing the clash between Thureophoroi and Hoplites with the Tarentines heading between the Seleucid phalanxes into their rear.
Events in the centre of the field now come to a head, the Argyraspids are charged and broken by one of the Ptolemaic phalanxes. In turn the Seleucid Thorakitai charge the peltasts who fire and flee, in the ensuing pursuit the Thorakitai contact the rear of the Galatians and wipe them out but leave themselves vulnerable to counterattack from the Machimoi.
The Ptolemaic Tarentines are loose in the rear of the Seleucid army but suffer heavy casualties from the archery of the Dahae.
The moment of decision arrives on the near flank as the Greek hoplites charge the Chalkaspides, drawing the combat but fatally weakening them in the process. In turn the greeks are charged in the flank by a Seleucid elephant and broken clearing the front of the Chalkaspides for a charge by the second Ptolemaic phalanx.
By virtue of their deeper formation the Ptolemaic phalanx wins this combat and breaks the Seleucid centre.

Above we see a view from the other end of the battlefield showing the phalanx clash in the centre. beyond that in the distance we can see Ptolemy has joined his Thureophoroi having lost his companions to his own stampeding Elephant, who in turn is about to spook the Seleucid xystophoroi from the field.
In the foreground the Seleucid levy line up for a charge on the Machimoi.
This is where we called it a day. The Seleucid levy were broken and pursued by the Machimoi, The ptolemaic peltasts had an Indian elephant pinned and the Ptolemaic phalanxes stood unbroken in the centre of the field.
In the distance the Seleucid xystophoroi flee the field whilst their lighter brethren continue to skirmish with the Ptolemaic tarentines. A minor Ptolemaic victory was declared.
Above the remnant of the once mighty Seleucid host whilst below are their adversaries.
In all a very enjoyable game, with a result mirroring its historical prototype. I suffered a deal of misfortune with both my elephants, the stampeding beast breaking Ptolemy's companions at the end of the game being a particular humiliation. On the other hand that elephant had really held up Paul's left wing making it difficult for his cavalry to effectively come into play.
The other wing with my light troops and Paul's Elephants & Hetairoi turned into a proper buggers muddle, but again it worked to my advantage by slowing things down for him. The congestion stopped him from using his General and Hetairoi until right at the end of the game.
The upshoot of these delayed flanks was the time it gave me to get my heavy infantry into combat and break their counterparts.
So what did we learn this time:
1. Barded Elephants are worth the extra points. It makes them really tough to stampede by virtue of missile fire.
2. Elephants on flanks really do muck up effective use of cavalry, we may have been better off using an 8' table but space precluded this. Alternatively one less elephant on each side may have been a better option. Having said that the earlier successors used elephants for precisely this reason so at least the game mechanics work in this respect.
3. Making use of light cavalry with parthian shot to harass heavier units works really well, this is one of the best mechanics in WAB.
4. Once again the only characters we used were our generals. In hindsight our respective warband units may have benefitted from the inclusion of characters to toughen them up. However using them to attack phalanxes frontally is not a good idea, those double ranks are just too formidable.
Anyhow we both feel that the games we play should be about the strengths & frailties of the units not to just provide rank bonuses to front ranks of competing champions, at least not in this period. Having just the one character challenges you to decide whether to use him to boost leadership to the maximum number of units by lurking in the rear of the army or to be truly an heir of the great Alexander and deliver the pivotal charge with their Hetairoi.

Enough ramblings for now, I must away and plan for Panion 200BC as our next excursion into Hellenistic warfare.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Onward & Upward.

Well thats Xmas done again, managed to cook the goose to satisfaction of both Mother & Mother in Law, hence not cooking my goose in the process if you catch my drift.
Now looking forward to Mondays Raphia game, the thorny problem of the Seleucid Arab levy has been solved by massing together sixteen persian archers and a dozen maotian light infantry. They don't look absolutely spot on but are suitably disreputable. They'll be fielded with a basic leadership of four ( under WAB Ancients) using warband  rule 1 to give an initial leadership of seven, this should give the desired effect of them buggering off as soon as some one says boo to them. Or alternatively they'll stick around for the entire game and inflict huge casualties. See following battle report and pictures for the result.
I was toying with the idea of buying and painting some figures exclusively for this unit but it seemed a little excessive for a single battle, however having seen the Copplestone Somalis which seem closest to the type I am almost tempted to pair them up with some camel riders and build an early Arab army as a side project.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Tarentines Completed.

Not entirely true, but pictured above are the nine ( out of twelve) Tarentine cavalry from Aventine Miniatures.

I decided to stick to the same shield design as my earlier unit built from Foundry World of the Greeks miniatures as this will allow a single unit of 18 for use in big games such as the planned Xmas refight of Raphia
With the exception of its sheer scale I don't see any particular problems with presenting this one, it really does seem like a good, head on Hellenistic scrap. The Lagids will obviously have an advantage in phalanx numbers but I think the Seleucid Indian elephants will offset this to some degree. As things stand I want to use three barded Indians in the Seleucid line-up vs. two Africans in the Ptolemaic army
It might be interesting to randomly generate the Egyptian phalangites morale at the start of the game just to add an extra challenge but thats not certain yet.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Aventine's Tarentines & Jumbos

After a brief sojourn in sunny Malta, more about this in a future post, I have hit the painting desk again in order to finish off some units for the Christmas Raphia refight. If Mr. Paul Ireland is reading this as he promised to then take this as notice of at least one of our gaming days over the festive season. But I digress, featured below are the genesis of a unit of Tarentines:
To my mind these are the best figures Aventine have produced to date, they feel a little less chunky than previous offerings and fit in well with the Foundry & Polemarch figures that make up the bulk of my successor armies.  The horse flesh is suitably proportioned as well.

I've also been busy finishing up the Seleucid elephant corps for Raphia
These are again Aventine offerings and very good they are too. I was hoping they might get their African beasts out before the festive season but as things stand I will probably use the Foundry and A&A models that I already have to stand in for the Ptolemaic elephants.
The refight itself will likely feature 3-3500 points per side using WAB 1.5 and hopefully result in a win for yours truly. Despite having studied Hellenistic warfare for ten years plus I've rarely converted this knowledge to tabletop success, although it doesn't help when your phalanxes consistently fail panic and break tests ( see apollonia post for further details).

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Prince Robber.

As the roundhead pamphleteers described him after his raid on Birmingham in 1643.
This is an offering from those GW renegades at Warlord Games.
He's nice and dynamic as befits cavalryman and was a joy to paint. However I'm uncertain about the anatomy of the horse, he's a little long in the neck & I think over time he may sag on his back legs due to all the weight being cantilevered forward. Time will tell.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Yew Bow.

A bonus of the day job ( forestry) is that I occasionally come across something useful, in this case some nice straight grown Yew. Most of the yew that grows within the UK is difficult to convert into a useable bow by virtue of having too much side growth leading to too many knots & imperfections . Our medieval ancestors had access to Yew grown in Lombardy which was managed from an early stage to produce very straight grained specimens ideal for producing bows.
By chance I was able to harvest some specimens from within an overgrown yew hedge which by virtue of their environment had grown with very little side growth, the result is shown below,
This is the outcome after a days work with spokeshave & scraper plus another afternoon to fit the buffalo horn nocks. It draws well to 50lbs at 30" which may seem a bit gay when compared to the medieaval counterpart at 100lbs+ but bear in mind that after twenty years of intensive forestry work and with the prospect of having to work into my eighties as a result of the paucity of a private pension I have no intention of converting myself into a hunchbacked arthritic just to indulge in toxophilic dick waving.

Their Lords & Masters and some musings on Elephants.

The seleucid phalanx now have command,
and here with the hoi poloi,
Work has been a little slow on these because well the real job has been a little busier of late.
The argyraspids featured in the "Cast of Thousands" post now have a new member as well.
With the further addition of a musician & standard bearer this will bring the Argyraspids up to twenty eight, my randomly chosen basic phalanx number.
Next up will be the first completed Aventine Tarentines & another Aventine Elephant, this will bring my herd up to nine. However I am seriously considering letting go the Vendel sculpts I have, they aren't bad as they go but the Aventine elephants really are very good & they rather show them up I'm afraid.
It's a tricky business buying elephants; currently I have two Indians by Vendel, three Indians by Aventine, an African by A&A, an African by Foundry & two quite diminuative Indians by Ebob.
Despite their small stature the Ebob sculpts are my favourites, I use them as early successor types because their stature suits an astride mahout and pikeman. The Aventine versions are a close second, they suit the later successor era very well with well represented scale and banded armour & good crew figures.
The A&A and Foundry offerings are good representations of the African forest elephant but requiring some mucking about with the supplied crew to make them useful as Hellenistic pachyderms.
Lastly the resin Vendel elephants. I bought these when there was a dearth of alternatives but was never really happy with them; they are just too generic. Hence considering freeing up the space in the stables.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Abbreviated Library of Celeano.

Or more accurately the study at home.
This is nerve centre where all the serious thinking is done. No telephones or internet or modernity in here , just wood, books and weaponry.

Dead in the Water.

We all start ambitious projects whether it be that long cherished slow burning idea finally coming to fruition  or the shiny new range of miniatures that we snap up magpie fashion only to quickly discard.
Here are the pewter swords of Damocles and venom dripping leaden snakes that hang above me.
A paltry collection of Hussites courtesy of kingmaker miniatures. Lovely figures to be sure but the thought of adding so many more wagons at twenty odd quid a throw plus infantry & cavalry was just too alarming. A definite magpie moment. At least I didn't invest in any expensive literature for this one.
The ruined town of Iach Celduin for an abortive attempt at Middle Earth Roleplaying. Try as I might and mind I have tried very hard over the years, I just cannot get a handle on making Prof Tolkiens world work in a roleplaying context. Despite all the efforts of Iron Crown et al over the years to make this setting accessible my tiny simian brain just can't convey my sense of wonder to my long suffering players. Nevertheless like a latter day Sissiphus I will try again.
Seven Years War. I just don't know what possessed me to start collecting and painting these, for heavens sake there isn't a pike in sight. On reflection it may have been watching Barry Lyndon too often but its more likely to be Mark Sims fault for starting his Crusader range for this period ( I've always rather liked his sculpting style).
Anyhow the whole idea stalled for several reasons:
1. Despite an heroic effort I couldn't bring myself to like Marks hussar horse sculpts. I am a little fussy about horses, working around them makes you a bit odd like that.
2. The intense snowblindness arising from painting so much white. To counter this I moved over to collecting and painting Foundry's Freikorps von Kleist. But...
3. Foundry's release schedule for the above went all to buggery.
4. Trying to wargame the interesting engagements like Leuthen, Rossbach or Minden at this scale is really difficult. The rest of the big battles are just linear slaughterhouses.

In addition to the above I've twice completed Roman armies, a Foundry early imperial number and latterly a Renegade republican effort ( inspired by the WAB Hannibal supplement) both of which were sold on in short order. Why? I just don't like them. I like to paint them but I can't for some reason summon any affection for them, it must be a visceral celtic thing. The Republican incarnation even featured Thureophoroi and Tarentines to add a little Hellenistic goodness but even that didn't work. On theplus side at least they don't either hang or drip above me.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sunday Reinforcements.

Here are the first three completed Seleucid phalangites.
Painted with Vallejo acrylics over a dark brown undercoat. I persist in painting my own shield designs despite the availability of some very nice transfers. Its not because I'm entirely mad, its just that I remain unconvinced of the longevity of decals. Whereas acrylic paint seems to toughen with age, some of the foundry macedonians I painted 10 or so years ago are virtually indestructible despite the lack of a coat of varnish.
A small gripe, the nearest phalangite already has a small chip in the paintwork on his sarissa, this was from a batch I undercoated with Army Painter spray paint last year. The stuff goes on fine and provides a good key but it dries far too hard so any knock or flex in the surface its applied to causes it to spall off.
Never again.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

At & Beyond the Mountains of Madness.

Another ongoing project is to run Chaosium's "Beyond the Mountains of Madness" Call of Cthulhu campaign. So far work and other distractions ( see all previous posts) have interfered with this getting off the ground, but sometime in the next ten years I will see this through. In the meantime here are some prop photographs to fly the flag.
Credit must be given to the inimitable Propnomicon whose blog and sundry goods have helped sustain my interest in all things Cthulhu over the past couple of years.