Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hellenistic Thracian Light Cavalry

The last unit I need for my Macedonian Successor army to be used next week at the HAVOC Ancients Tournament in Massachusetts is completed. 

Figures again are by Xyston, 15mm.  These are Hellenistic Light Cavalry from the Thracian line.  I think they are very appropriate for use in the Successor period, showing the significant cultural interaction between the Thracians and Greeks - specifically note the Hellenistic helmets.  My guess is that this is what Thracians serving with Alexander or the Antigonids more probably would have looked like.

All I need to finish now for my full 800 point army is three more general/command stands.  I don't know if I'll get a chance to wrap them up before HAVOC, so I may still be proxying them with my Tin Soldier ones.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tin Soldier Light Infantry

Above are some Tin Soldier light infantry troops that I'm putting into my Successor army.  These are 15mm figures that I painted up about a year ago, but I just added some shield transfers and rebased them to fit in with the rest of the army.

Tin Soldier's figures are unique and not to everyone's taste - a bit squat and cartoonish - but they definitely have character.  The Greeks are probably my favorite of all their ranges.  I don't have any of their hoplites, which I've heard are very nice, but I do have these.  The Macedonian and Greek cavalry I have I don't like so much, but these I do, even if stylistically they don't seamlessly fit in with my Old Glory 15 and Xyston figures that comprise the majority of my army.

These infantry (dare I say peltasts) don't make it into my 800 point list for the New England League games, but they will get on the table for any 900 point games I get to play.  Or if I decide I prefer javelin-armed troops to the Cretan archers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Cackling of the Furies

"Song of Wrath - The Peloponnesian War Begins", by J. E. Lendon (also the author of "Soldiers and Ghosts: A history of Battle in Classical Antiquity") - a new history of the first ten years of the war that tore the Ancient Greek world apart - opens with a relatively minor event from that conflict.  The city of Megara, which up until then had been a Spartan ally, also had a democratic faction that wanted to turn the city over to the Athenians.  Megara's port of Nisaea was connected to the main city by a pair of long wars which had been occupied by the Athenians, while an isolated Spartan garrison was holed up in the port itself.  After the Athenians failed in an attempt in collaboration with the pro-democratic faction to seize Megara, a Spartan force commanded by the talented general Brasidas arrived to relieve the Nisaea garrison.  What happened next had an outcome that was obvious to the Ancient Greeks, requiring no further explanation, but leaves us moderns scratching our heads in bewilderment.  With the Spartan army deployed before the walls of Megara, and the Athenians also there facing them, Lendon describes the scene as follows:

"To us, the climatic encounter between Brasidas and the Athenians on the plains of Megara seems as strange as a confrontation between tribes of hooting apes or a standoff between feathered savages in a faded documentary.  Its logic was not that of a modern war, in all its glistening lethality, but that of drunks in a bar, eyes locked on eyes, shouting 'What you looking at?' and inching closer to each other, knuckles gleaming, until one drops his gaze and yields the victory.  Under rapt observation of the Megarians, watching from the walls of their city, Brasidas led out his army, arraying it for battle facing the port of Megara.  Out came the host of the Athenians, deploying for battle opposite Brasidas. Time passed. Each side stood regarding the other.  Then, finally, the Athenians filed back within the walls of the port.  Brasidas led his army back to camp.  And so it was that the Megarians opened their gates to Brasidas and the Peloponnesians.  For Brasidas had recovered the loyalty of Megara."

Lendon goes on from there, chronicling the origins of the great war and then its convulsive history of sieges, raids, ravishments, ambushes, trireme battles, and even a great description of the climatic hoplite clash at Delium.  The book is rich with military and cultural history, but almost ground-breakingly takes an anthropological approach to the conflict in an attempt to put the reader into the minds of the Ancient Greeks themselves, and into the cultural context of their world.  This approach is particularly enlightening, especially for us moderns who get flabbergasted by Thucydides' narrative at times, making the inscrutable motives of the Ancients much more understandable.  Lendon reveals that the Peloponnesian War wasn't fought over resources or wealth, like modern wars almost always are, but instead was a war over honor, status, and prestige, originally marked by almost ritualistic warfare and by tit-for-tat revenge taking, but that eventually escalated into a form of total, all-out war.  Another especially revealing theme of the book concerns the way the Greeks anthropomorphized their city-states, actually considering them like collective human beings that could feel humiliations, rejoice in triumphs, and to be prideful of their past historical accomplishments.

The book is easy to read, witty, entertaining, and informative.  It includes many illustrations and a lavish number of maps that make it a breeze to follow the geographic course of the fighting.  I especially enjoyed Lendon's account of the Battle of Delium - his description of the hoplite fighting, the push of shields (othismos), makes use of the work of Philip Sabin, Victor Davis Hanson, and even the analysis of film footage of the crowd mechanics evident in Japanese and Korean political riots of the last quarter of the last century.  All-in-all, one hell of a read, and even if one doesn't agree with all of Lendon's premises, the book is fun and informative - a must-have in the library of any Ancient History amateur or professional scholar or hobbyist.

At first I thought the military motivations of the Ancients were completely alien to our more recent and 'sophisticated' culture, but the more I thought about how the Greeks became possessed by revenge taking, and the more I also thought about the history of our own wars over the last 250 years or so, the more I thought we have more in common with our ancestors than is immediately evident.  Lendon describes the closing acts in his war in this manner:

"Characters in tragedy carry out revenge as if they were operating under remote control, wretched and fully aware of the doom they are bringing to themselves and all about them but unable to resist fate, the gods, or the simple, overwhelming logic of vengeance." 

It appears that whenever the dogs of war are unleashed, and the combatants have heard the cackling of the Furies, it is difficult for the fighting to stop until complete victory is achieved or both sides face mutual exhaustion.  Certainly read this book - you will come away with a much deeper understanding of the Ancients than you probably had before.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March

I just had to post a little something acknowledging the date.


The production of "Julius Caesar" may be quite dated, but I still love this film and the play too.

Be careful out there today, now.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Damn Romans!

This new Field of Glory Ancients League that we put together in New England looks like it is going to be a success.  We are now up to 18 players, with 9 each in an Eastern and a Western Division.  Last weekend, we had a gathering of 5 players in the hobby basement of Silver Eagle Wargaming Supplies, with a total of four games played - so up to now, 10 out of the 18 players have gotten in at least one game.  Not bad!

For my own game at Silver Eagle, my Macedonians took on a Late Republican Roman army - something that was close to being an actual historical matchup, and an interesting one for me since I have commonly played this version of a Roman army myself.  My Roman games against pike armies have gone badly since I usually don't win impacts and then can't disrupt the pikes in subsequent rounds, which if it doesn't happen, doesn't allow the Romans to make good use of their Skilled Swordsman capability.  In this game, mid-way through, I thought I had it won - the Roman cavalry was hanging back on one flank, too timid to face my Companion lancers, I had won the light foot skirmisher battle between the main battle lines, and I had drawn the Roman units out of alignment in such a way that I could get overlaps and dice on isolated battlegroups.  Once I closed in for what I thought was going to be the kill, everything then went very badly for the Macedonians.  My main battleline lost most of the combats where they appeared to have the advantage, and then once I got impatient, trying to outflank the Roman foot with my lancers, I got a unit trapped and killed by the Roman cavalry when they finally came out to fight.  I made a couple of other minor mistakes, costing me points on my left flank, but ultimately it was a loss for me. I did kill a couple of Roman units though, so I was able to score enough points to loose by only 13.3 to 6.7.

Damn! Why can't I get the Romans to perform this way when I use them? Grrrr!!!!

It was a good time regardless, and after the round of games were completed last weekend, I still have a very narrow overall lead in the Western Division, with a three-way log-jam at the top.

And of course, here is a selection of photos from the game:

Initial Macedonian Battle Line

Initial Roman Battle Line

The Skirmisher Fight

The Battle Lines Approach

Companions Try to Work a Flank

Romans Lured Out of Alignment

Macedonian Left Flank Crumbles

I'll be missing Cold Wars this year (sigh!), but I'm looking to get in as many league games as possible in the very near future.  Then the HAVOC Ancients tournament is upcoming in April, giving something else to look forward to between now and Historicon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Black Death Trailer

There's a new movie coming out in a week or so that I just heard about called "Black Death".  Here's the trailer.

It looks like more of a dark and gritty, atmospheric horror film, rather than a history-based one.  But since it is set in the Middle Ages, it looks like it might be interesting, or at least fun for a night out.  And for Lord of the Rings fans, Boromir is in it wielding a sword.  Supposedly, although it is set in a different era, it has reminded several reviewers of "The Wicker Man".  Until I hear more, this one seems like a maybe.