Monday, January 31, 2011

More Phalangites

My Perry Halberdiers didn't arrive in time (I have them now though), so I did end up deciding to whip out another unit of phalangites.  These are also by Xyston, and are listed as Antigonids.

I wanted to experiment a bit with these using colored helmets.  I've seen other examples of people having Hellenistic pike with brightly painted helmets, and although I thought they were very attractive, up until now I was too timid about it to try for myself.  For these, I finally took the leap, and I think they came out quite nice.  For those interested, for the red helmets, I used Vallejo Flat Red.  My next group of phalangites will probably have helmets of some shade of blue.

The Antigonid pike are my favorite of all the Xyston ranges of Hellenistic phalangites. I think they have a suitably grim and professional look appropriate for a band of hardened mercenaries waging war in the time of the Diadochi.  And being especially a fan of old Antigonos Monophthalmos ("One-Eye") himself, and even a bit of his grandson Gonatas ("Knock-Knees") - I love the epithets of the Macedonian Successor generals and monarchs - I can't help but preferring the Macedonian armies to those of the Ptolemies and Seleucids for my own collection.  Besides, I think pike have become probably my favorite troop type in almost any Ancients game system - so much so that I keep finding myself drawing up test lists of Hellenistic Greek armies where I can max out on the pike and armored thorakitai.

I'll get to those Perry billmen soon, but instead, next up will be some elephants for my Successors.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"The Eagle" - Chariot Attack

Here's the latest clip released for"The Eagle". This one is of a chariot attack by the native Britons on Marcus and his Roman command.

Not bad. Still don't like the leather armor - if only the producers had put the Romans in chain mail. But at least the protagonist is throwing a pilum instead of a spear. The Britons look okay - thankfully there is no woad in sight, and the chariots are cool, even if the scythes are a bit over the top. I also would think that the Roman fallback maneuver would be more of a fighting withdrawal rather than the mass rout that appears to be shown. All-in-all though, even with my wargamer's nitpicking of the details, I still think this movie is going to be a winner for Sword and Sandal film fans.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Successor Psiloi Reinforcements

I'm still waiting for my Perry Miniatures billmen to arrive on my doorstep, so in the meantime, I added a couple of skirmishing units to my growing Successor's army.  One of the things that I really like about choosing a Macedonian Successor army to collect for, is that the troop types for this army are easily morph-able into quite a few other armies.  Phalangites, hoplites, theurophoroi, thorakitai, companions, etc., can all find suitable homes in everything from a Classical Greek list to a Greco-Bactrian one.  So once you are collecting for a Successor army, you are really collecting for more than a dozen more.  If you are an Ancients gamer, it is a very efficient use of hobby time and dollars.

That said, here is a frontal shot of some Thracian light cavalry, by Xyston Miniatures - overall, probably my favorite manufacturer of 15mm Ancients presently on the market.

And a rear shot too, since I decided to attach the shields to the back of the figures (probably a mistake - I think in retrospect, they would look better mounted on the left forearms), and I wanted to show what the nice Little Big Men Studios peltast shield transfers look like.

Also, here is an unit of what Xyston calls Cretan archers.

They look more like ordinary Greek archers to me, probably because I'm used to seeing Cretans represented with a wide-brimmed hat, but maybe that is just a wargaming convention without a lot of actual historical documentation for support.  All-in-all though, the figures are more than good enough for my use.

Hopefully, I get those billmen soon, or I probably will be starting on another unit of Macedonian phalangites next instead.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Swiss Test Run

Last weekend, I had the unexpected opportunity to get my 25mm Medieval Swiss army out for a test run.  My gaming friend Jacob agreed to a Field of Glory game, even though he is usually a Warrior player, and we did an 800 point matchup at the regular, bi-weekly meeting of the Hartford Area Historical Gaming Society (HAHGS), held in the gaming basement of the Time Machine Hobby Shop in Manchester, Connecticut.  We played the game on a 5 foot deep by 8 foot wide table, using a measurement standard of 1 MU equal to 40mm.

Jacob brought an army of Medieval Irish from the Storm of Arrows supplement.  The Irish outnumbered the Swiss in Light Infantry and Light Cavalry, and was otherwise composed of a mass of protected, superior, heavy weapon armed Galloglaigh, with several big blocks of medium foot light spear armed Kerns, suitable for fighting in terrain.  Additionally, the Irish were stiffened by an unit of armored lancer cavalry, and since Jacob played the Edward Bruce Special Campaign option, he also had an unit of offensive spearmen with an unit of heavily armored knights.

The Swiss lost the initiative roll, of course - that's something I will have to anticipate for most games, since they have a pre-battle initiative modifier of zero.  That meant that the Irish were able to mess up the battlefield with terrain that was inconvenient for the Swiss pike, including a large forest right in the middle that the Irish obviously meant to use to split the Swiss deployment.

Above, you can see most of the Swiss deployment to start the game.  I put the majority of the army to the right of the centrally placed forest, with most of my light foot in the woods, and small units of halberdiers in either rear support or as flank protection.  Note that the closest unit of pike in this photo uses the Perry Miniatures plastics, and that I added the flags included with the box set to the front rank bases.

The remainder of the army, including two pike blocks, a supporting unit of halberdiers, and a single unit of light horse crossbows, were placed to the left of the center forest.  This turned out not to be the best tactical move, and I'm sure that I would have be better off concentrating the pike instead, even though it turns out that things actually didn't turn out too badly for me.  Here is a photo of the isolated wing of pikemen at the start of deployment.

Giving equal exposure to the Irish, here is a photo below of the initial deployment of most of their battle line.

And here is the unit of Irish knights, hoping to get into a position to charge into the flanks of the Swiss pike blocks.

Once things got rolling, the battle was really a race, with the Swiss hoping to get into contact with the front of the Irish foot as quickly as possible before all the Irish could get through the terrain onto the flanks of the mass of pikemen.  To do this, I was going to have to delay on both flanks, but most particularly on the left, where my two units of isolated pike were significantly outnumbered.  Here are my mounted crossbow and an unit of handgunners, hoping to be able to hold off the hordes of barefoot Kerns and lance-armed cavalry.

Gotta get the basing finished to polish off the look of this army, I know!

Here is the majority of my pike, double moving to start the game, trying to close up as rapidly as possible on the main Irish battle line.

Of course, as is usual for me, I once again mismanaged my light troops.  I moved my light foot into the woods, thinking that they could shoot out from cover there at my opponents light foot, not realizing that since troops in woods shoot in only one rank, my opponent would be shooting back at me with twice the dice.  And I got my handgunners and mounted crossbow too far forward and into trouble.

But the left did hold long enough for the main pike blocks to do their work.  One pike unit was able to take out two units of Kerns who came out of terrain, and another was sacrificed to fight off the lancers while simultaneously getting shot up by light troops firing into the rear ranks of the pikes composed of bases not contributing dice to the combat.  The single unit of supporting halberdiers performed an about face and was able to contain an unit of Irish light horse that had gotten to the rear of the rest of the Swiss.

Although the Swiss ended up holding their own on the left flank, it was on the right where the battle actually was won.  The pike was able to get into contact all along their front, with the only complication being when a single unit pursued long chasing off the Irish light foot, thereby contacting the whole Irish line on it's own.  But the combination of superior quality with rear support and an attached general allowed that unit to avoid any loss in stands or cohesion until the next Swiss turn when the rest of the pike came up in support.

Here is the initial Swiss contact with the Irish battle line.

In the next Irish turn, their knights almost turned the Swiss pike flank by attempting to charge into the side of the pike block on the outside of the formation.  This would have been devastating for the Swiss since the contacted unit would have been disordered and would have lost all of the pike POA's versus lancers.  Once they had broken, it would have been likely that the knights could have pursued down along the entire length of the Swiss length, taking out each unit in succession.  Fortunately for the Swiss, the Irish knights did not have a single base completely behind the front of the Swiss unit they wanted to charge, so this ended up not being a legal charge at all.  See the photo below of the knights trying to get into the flank of the Swiss pike.

Actually, in order to have made those pike less vulnerable to the attempted flank charge, I should have put them into orb formation, since they were out on the end of the line, hanging there unsupported. I will have to review the orb rules to make sure that I'm prepared to use them the next time I get into this situation.

Anyway, the main Swiss line ended up tearing it's way through the center of the Irish line, and we called the game soon afterward.  The Swiss did end up with heavy skirmisher loses, along with the loss of an unit of halberdiers and the probable loss of a pike unit, but overall it was a good margin win for the Swiss.

Lessons learned:

Try to keep the pike concentrated in one block, or at least positioned so all of the pike units can mutually support one another.  Definitely do not position them on opposite sides of a disordering terrain piece.

Remember that all units, including skirmishers, shoot with one rank in woods.

Consider orb formation when pike blocks get outflanked.

I'll be looking forward to another opportunity to practice with the Swiss soon, especially once I get my halberdiers done and all the bases finished.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Swiss Resurrection...Perry Pike Painted

Continuing my Swiss Resurrection project in 25mm, my last unit of Superior Pike is completed.  These are the plastic Perry Mercenaries.  They didn't take my wash technique as nice as some of the other metal figures that I have used, but not bad for inexpensive plastics and a quickie paint job.

I have a game with these Swiss tomorrow afternoon - yay!!  I still have to paint up my last stands of halberdiers, the camp isn't complete, and the basing isn't finished on most of the stands, but it's still a chance to take the army out for a test run.  Hopefully I'll get enough decent photos to post an AAR sometime next week.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hobby Objectives - 2011

Now that we've turned the calendar on another New Year, (and in a Sword and Sandal acknowledgment of Janus, the Roman god of gates, time, beginnings, and endings) I thought that it would be a good time to take stock of everything that I'm working on hobby-wise and make plans for what I hope to accomplish over the course of 2011.  Like most gamers and hobbyists that I know, I'm the same in that I find myself easily distracted by a multitude of different projects that I want to get started on.  Beautiful new miniature lines get released, intriguing new rulesets hit the market, and one sometimes can't help getting sucked in by the "Oohh! Shiney!!" gamer's affliction.  Of course, this can result in a singular lack of focus, so that even if one is constantly working on individual units, fully painted armies never actually land on the tabletop.  In consideration of that, my intention now is that if I spend a bit of time here putting down in writing what I hope to accomplish over the next year, while loosely assigning priorities to each project, then I might better my chances of feeling satisfied about the course of my hobby involvement come January of 2012.  I hope that readers of this blog will find my organizational efforts helpful in some sense, and not overly self-indulgent.

My first objective is going to be to try and carve out as much time as possible for actual face-to-face gaming with friends.  I know that 2011 is going to be a year with many constraints on my time since my oldest child will be starting the process of selecting a college (visiting schools, taking tests, contacting coaches, etc...), and it looks like trying to dig out of the recession at work with reduced staffing is going to require increased professional hours with lower levels of financial remuneration.  So even though I anticipate having a difficult time participating in many regular gaming events next year, I still plan on at least attending some of my "don't miss" conventions, such as the big HMGS-E shows - Cold Wars, Historicon, and maybe possibly even Fall-In.  In addition, locally, there will be an Ancients tournament that I really enjoy each year at the HAVOC gaming convention up in Massachusetts (watch future postings for an upcoming announcement).  Besides attendance at these events, I also hope to find time to occasionally game with local and regional friends on at least a semi-regular basis.

My projected painting projects will be:

- Finish my 25mm Swiss army.  Almost there, with only a couple of units to finish and then on to completing the work on the bases.  This will easily be available for use at Cold Wars where there will hopefully be a 25mm scale tournament.

- Finish a 15mm Macedonian Successor army.  A good portion of this army is already completed, and I already own all the lead that I need finish it up.  If push comes to shove, I could proxy the rest of the army, but I have a ton of really nice, still unpainted Xyston figures that I would rather be using.  I hope to have this finished in time to use at the HAVOC tournament.

- Finish my 15mm Spanish Thirty Years War army.  The first unit completed has already been documented in my "Mustering the Tercio" series, but I really need to get the rest done because I'm itching to try out the new Field of Glory Renaissance rules.  I have all the lead that I need except for some Dragoons - I think I might eventually try a purchase of Donnington Miniature figures to use for these as a change of pace from the Testudo figures already in hand for the rest of the army.

- When I was rummaging through my old piles of 25mm lead to see what kind of Field of Glory armies I could build, I determined that I have close to a complete Dominate Roman army in addition to the Swiss.  I'm just lacking 12 stands of Auxilia.  I don't have the specific Late Imperial Roman figures for these yet, but I do have two boxes of Warlord Auxilia that would give me enough for the 48 figures I need.  They would represent troops from too early a period though.  I have to decide if I want to spend the money for new, correct period figures (but I am determined to be even more frugal in my gaming expenditures this year than last), or try to use what I have.  If I do that then I either have to use the Warlord figures as is and apologize to my opponents for using figures that are out of period, or figure out how to convert the Early Imperial Auxilia into Late Imperial ones.

Some other secondary painting projects that I would like to get to if I have the time are:

- Make progress on a 25mm Macedonian Successor army.  I have a good portion of the figures I need for this already that were purchased here and there over the last few years, but I would still need to make a significant investment to finish collecting for it.  This may not be the year where I want to spend that kind of money.  I would really like to do it someday though.  I have some local friends who play Warrior in 25mm, and this is an army that I would like to be able to play occasionally under those rules with an Alexandrian Imperial list.  And the Field of Glory Successor list is no slouch either.

- Paint up a bunch of other 15mm Medieval units that I can morph into a variety of armies drawing on supplemental figures from my Catalan and Arab armies.

Realistically, the above is probably more than what I will ever get to over 2011, but it does give me some specific goals to aim for.  And even better, I already own most of everything I need on the list, so I should have no problem limiting any additional purchases while still having plenty of stuff to work on.

Some historical fiction novels that I hope to read over 2011 are:

The "Tyrant" series by Christian Cameron

The "Attila" series by William Napier

The "Oathsworn" series by Robert Low

Continue reading the "First Man in Rome" series by Collen McCullough. I've only finished the first book so far, and I'm still looking forward to reading the second one concentrating on Marius and Sulla in competition rather than when allied.  Each book is over a thousand pages though, so I'll probably need to save it for summer vacation.

If I get the time, I also hope to read "Funeral Games" by Mary Renault - a book that has gotten to be tough to find a copy of, but which I did get a hold of one during a recent visit to the Strand Bookstore on Broadway in the Village in New York City (probably the world's best used bookstore, with over 18 miles of books!).  I might also try "Virtues of War", for what looks to be an interesting take on Alexander by Stephen Pressfield, author of "Gates of Fire".

Rules that I don't presently play that I would like to try over the next year are:

- Field of Glory Renaissance, of course.

- Impetus - the full version of the rules, not Basic Impetus, which in my opinion cuts out too much of importance to really be suitable for a satisfying Ancients game.

- Command and Colors Ancients. Yes, I know it is a boardgame, but it is still something that I really want to try sometime.  Probably won't get the time this year, but it is definitely on my to-do list.

- Any of the WAB successor rules being released by multiple companies now that it looks like the combination of the transfer of Warhammer Historicals to Forgeworld, and the inept release of WAB 2.0 probably will effectively kill off the game.  Of course, myself, I'm all done with individually based troops, and for me to consider looking at any of these soon to be released alternative sets, they will have to easily accommodate WRG standard basing that will also preferably allow players based individually to conveniently game together simultaneously.

Something else that I would like to accomplish in 2011 is building several nice pieces of terrain suitable for use in Ancient gaming.  The tournament this spring at HAVOC is going to have pre-set terrain, with several specific rules determining who plays on which table and who deploys on which side.  I've asked other participants to help in designing the tables, and in bringing terrain that will be more attractive than what is usually used for Ancients tournaments, but I also want to make sure that I bring some terrain of my own that is a bit better than felt cloth.

Well, that all seems to give me a pretty full plate for the upcoming year, and I'm sure that I'll only digest a portion of it, even if something else doesn't distract me in the meantime.  I will make sure that I post progress here, and I hope that I haven't bored to death anyone who has taken the time to read this.

Happy New Years all!