Saturday, February 26, 2011

Phalangites in Blue

Hopefully I'm not completely boring all my readers with this, but I completed my last unit of phalangites for my Successor army.  These made an appearance in my last post showing the kickoff of the New England Ancients League games, but the painting on them was just completed on the night before those games, and the basing hadn't been finished yet.  Now that the basing is done, here are better photos of this unit:


Yes, I know, these are very similar to the last unit of phalangites that I posted, being Antigonids by Xyston also, but I liked so much the way the red helmets and tunics on those came out, that I wanted to do another unit the same way, except in blue this time.  So that's what I did with these, and even though they were the last unit painted for me, they performed well in their first game, fragmenting an unit of Swiss pike in one game, and breaking an unit of armored, offensive spear Anglo-Danes in the other.  And it's refreshingly nice looking at such a splash of color in one of my Ancients armies for a change.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New England Ancients League Kickoff

In order to do something different than just our standard Field of Glory Ancients tournaments, the group of people that I regularly game with wanted to have some Ancient gaming with a format that was a bit more relaxed. And something that didn't require people to play three games in a single day in order to get their fix of Ancient gaming.  We still wanted to allow for pick up games that would still be meaningful (if not as intense as tournament gaming), and that would let people schedule games at their own pace.  In response to these wishes, we have put together the New England Ancients League 2011 Season, and we had our first set of games in a kickoff day at the Hobby Bunker in Malden, Massachusetts last weekend. 

We're just getting started, but it looks like the league is going to be quite a success.  17 players signed up, with 8 hailing from the Greater Boston area, one from Central Massachusetts, one from Western Massachusetts, 6 from Connecticut, and even one from West Point in New York.  Since we have gotten so many players, the league is broken into two divisions with the 8 Boston players in the Eastern Division, and the rest of the players playing in the Western Division.  Each player is to play a minimum of 10 games between now and the Labor Day weekend in September, playing no opponent more than once.  They are supposed to play all the players from their own division, and at least three players from the other one.  In order to encourage people to play as much as possible beyond the minimum, if a player completes more than 10 games, then only their top ten scores will count towards the standings, with each game being scored as per the standard Field of Glory scoring system.  Players can schedule games whenever it is mutually convenient as long as they finish a minimum of 10 games.  Games are to be either 800 or 900 points, using 15mm figures as the default.  25mm games can be played, but both players would have to have the same armies in both 15mm and 25mm scale.  Each player can select any single army they like from any Field of Glory supplement, but they must select a single year that the army is designed for - within that restriction, they can vary their lists as much as they like from game to game.

Anyway, 6 games were played at the Hobby Bunker last Saturday.  For myself, I am using an Early Successor (Macedonian) army, with a year of 277 BC.  I got to play two games at the Bunker, one against a tough Swiss army, where I got a 10-10 tie, and another against an Anglo-Dane army for a 25-0 victory.  Temporarily, at least, this has gotten me into first place in the Western Division.

I wanted to post more detailed AAR's from my games, but most of the photos I took came out unacceptably, and I didn't take enough notes to recollect everything that happened in the games.  What I can state is that on one occasion against the Swiss I had an unit of thoratikai being charged from two directions where I forgot to go into orb formation to prevent a flank attack, and that in both games, none of my elephants died while they also did a great job contributing to combat results (either for getting hits, or reducing my opponents chance to pass cohesion tests because of losing at least partially to elephants).

So, I wish I had better pictures, but here are ones that came out well enough that I don't mind posting them here:

Two games down, and eight to go. That shouldn't be too much of a problem. Hopefully everyone will stay committed to the league, even those players whose first games don't go well for them.  Of course only counting your top 10 scores, dropping games that didn't come out well gives a player a chance to salvage something from a slow start.  And since we are letting multiple teams in the playoffs, you don't have to actually win your division to enter the post-season.  The way it is going to work is that the top three players from each division will make the playoffs.  In the first round, the top finishers will get a bye, while the second and third place players will play a wild-card game with the winners advancing to the semi-final match against the first place player from the opposite division.  Then the semi-final winners meet for the championship with the playoffs targeted to finish before the Thanksgiving Day weekend.  That will wrap up the 2011 season and set us up hopefully to do it again in 2012.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Tyrant" by Christian Cameron

...or "The Adventures of an Armored, Drilled, Superior, Light Spear, Sword, Greek Cavalry Officer".

If ever there was a work of historical fiction written with both Ancient wargamers and history aficionados in mind, then Christian Cameron's "Tyrant" is it.  The novel is the first in a series set in the time of Alexander the Great, and featuring a central character, Kineas, who is an exiled Athenian hippeis (or cavalryman) recently dismissed from the Macedonian army after the Persian conquest was completed.  Forced to start a new life, Kineas, and his band of cavalry brothers enter mercenary service to train the hippeis of the tyrant ruling the Greek city of Olbia on the shores of the Black Sea.  There, after wending his way through the intricacies of the Olbian political system to become commander of the city's military forces, Kineas forges an alliance with the Scythian tribes surrounding the Black Sea Greek city states (also finding time for a romance with a barbarian warrior princess), and faces an invasion from Macedon lead by one of Alexander's generals.

"Tyrant" has it all - it's extremely well researched, is very accurate historically, has fantastic battle scenes, and paints a very vivid portrayal of the interactions of the Greek and steppe-horse people cultures at the furthest edge of the Classical world.  There is a large cast of characters, complex in nature, who are realistically portrayed as people of their own time instead of as characters with modern motivations and sentiments appearing in an Ancient and alien world.  I found the book to be an out-and-out page turner, and the only minor quibbles I had were that I thought that the shamanistic sub-plot in the center portion tended to drag a bit, and that the book ends quite suddenly, almost right in the middle of the climatic battle against the Macedonians, with many plots and sub-plots unresolved.  But of course, there is a sequel that picks up almost right where the first book leaves off, and I'll be picking it up as soon as possible to find out what happens next.

Unfortunately, it seems that American publishers don't feel that American audiences will appreciate these kind of books, and Cameron's novels are not available in American stores - only British and Canadian ones.  I was able to get mine through though, and that is the same place I just ordered the sequel from.

One other thing that Ancient gamers may find interesting is that the author is actually a wargamer himself.  I know that I saw him several years ago playing in a Warrior tournament at Historicon with some other Canadian gamers, and he is credited with painting the miniatures shown in photos contained  in the Warrior rulebook.  In addition, it appears that the author has now taken up playing Field of Glory, as can be seen on this link to his website where he gives an army list for the allied Obian/Scythian army that faces the Macedonians in the climax of the book.  Besides the link above, the author's website is great, with a forum, tons of historical information, and reference material for the characters, locations, and events contained in all of his books. Check his site out at: Hippeis - the Ancient World of Christian Cameron

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Eagle - And How Was It?

I got out to see "The Eagle" on Friday night.  What do I think?  Well, it's difficult to be objective about a movie like this.  There's one way of looking at a historical fiction movie for a general audience, and another way that wargamers and history buffs see things.  For me, anything set in the Ancient world isn't going to be a complete waste of time - hell, I can even have an enjoyable evening sitting through such absurdities as "Jason and the Argonauts", or even "Xena, Warrior Princess".  But even acknowledging this ambivalence, I have to rate "The Eagle" as a minor disappointment - no better than a B rating when I was hoping for an A.

Yes, there are some problems with the Roman kit and equipment (although I thought the Picts were well portrayed, and even the Seal people were plausible enough), but these wargamer nitpicks aren't really what my objection to the movie is.  It's that the film, even though it is predominantly respectful of the source material contained in the novel, seems to have lost most of the magic and mysticism of Sutcliffe's creation.  I can't really put my finger on it, but the book was so involving, such a vivid portrayal of an Ancient society that a reader could get lost in, that the condensed version shown on the screen is more of a simple adventure story instead of the complex, and conflicted, story on the pages of the original novel.  The movie does make an honest effort to get the history right, and the production strives to get the essence of Sutcliffe's vision, but it simplifies the tale of honor restored while only brushing over the theme of the clash of cultures.  One of the things I found most interesting about the book version of "The Eagle of the Ninth", was that there are no simple answers in life and no easy path to moral resolution.  Here, as Hollywood demands, the good guys win in the end, at relatively little cost, and the protagonists all finally go home happy, just like the ending of a Disney film.  In the book, even though the main character finally gets what he was looking for, it doesn't mean really what he thought it would.  The movie misses the whole subtext of the fleetness of joy, the lasting satisfaction of contentment, and the melancholy sense of dreams lost and redirected.  The movie is most definitely a less mature version of the novel.

That all said, what if one had never read the book, and was just looking for a rousing Sword and Sandal film?  I think that "The Eagle" is satisfactory on that score, if not a classic film.  The action is good and the movie does give a sense of a brutal, alien world that our own eventually actually evolved out of.  The actors do a reasonable job, and the characters have more depth than your typical action movie.  So, even though I was disappointed when comparing this film to the book, if you are a fan of Ancient History movies in general, an Ancient wargamer, or an Ancient History buff, then you should still rush out a see this film - it's the closest thing the film industry will give you to satisfy your tastes.  I don't know how the general movie going public is going to feel about this film though - it's too intellectual for your typical teenage action movie aficionado, but probably won't attract a lot of more mature viewers who aren't also history fans.  I will be surprised if "The Eagle" will be in American theaters for an extended run (but I bet it will do better overseas), so if you are looking to see it - and I surmise that readers of this blog will want to do so - then I would get out as soon as possible to do so or you'll be waiting for the DVD release.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Successor Elephants

I promised some Successor elephants next, and here there are:

These are Xyston models also. Elephants have been real glass cannons under the Field of Glory rule system, but there is some talk of a proposed new version of the rules that will make them much more potent.  Regardless, I just love the models, and even if under the present version of the rules they may not be worth the points, I still want to experiment with figuring out how to use them effectively.  And besides, a Successor army just has to have elephants in it somewhere, doesn't it?

I was going to finish my Swiss halberdiers next, but my group of regional Ancients gamers is starting up a league this month, and since I will be playing the Successors in it, I'd like to paint up one more unit of phalangites for it instead of using the Old Glory 15 ones I presently have.