Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Phalangite Inflation

Getting back into 28mm Ancients, I whipped out another unit in the week before Christmas. I know that I said that I was going to stay away from Phalangites for awhile, but I guess I really meant those of the 15mm variety since I already have enough in that scale for any of the Macedonian or Successor armies. I am pretty lacking in Greeks and Successors in 28mm though, and since I'm planning on playing some Hail Caesar in 2012 - and I still need a Macedonian army for an occasional Warrior game against a local friend - I pulled a box of Crusader Miniatures Successor pike off my unpainted lead shelf and slapped some paint on these.

This was a very basic paint job using my normal fast paint techniques, with a diluted dip wash at the end of GW Bad-Dab Black mixed with Future floor wax. Shield transfers are by Little Big Men.

Too bad that Crusader Miniatures will no longer be available in the States after the New Year from a USA distributor, but for now I have enough for three units. Hopefully soon after that Warlord Games will be releasing their plastic phalangites that I can more economically supplement the army with. I do like these figures though - they remind me very much of the Xyston 15mm ones that I already have, but just inflated up to 28mm size.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ancients Scenario Hunting

For kicking off our Hail Caesar campaign, our local wargaming group (HAHGS) is going to run a scenario game as an introduction to the rules for players considering participating in the campaign.  The battle we are going to run is the Battle of the River Sambre, where Caesar was ambushed by the Belgic tribes of Gaul, and was lucky to get out with a very narrow victory. In looking for an order of battle and a map for this event, I came across the scenario page for the Commands and Colors - Ancients site.

Commands and Colors is a very well reviewed set of boardgame rules written by the renowned author, Richard Borg. I've always intended to give these rules a try someday, especially considering that they are supposedly very easily adaptable to miniatures play, but I have just never found the time. The scenario page though is a treasure trove for game masters looking to put together a game based on a specific Ancients battle. Work needs to be done of course to adapt the units to any specific rules set other than Commands and Colors, but irregardless of that, one can almost directly port the orders of battle and unit deployments into rules like Hail Caesar, Field of Glory, or Warhammer Ancient Battles. In fact, I intend to use one of the Sambre scenarios from the site for our own battle upcoming in January.

So if you are looking to spice up your Ancients gaming with a few historically based scenarios but are a little lost putting such a game together, check out the scenario page at:

Commands and Colors Ancients Official Website

And if you are curious about how our Hail Caesar version of this scenario plays out, check back sometime in January when I surely will be posting an after action report.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Magnesia Refight

Last week several of our regional gamers got together for a Battle of Magnesia refight.  All of us are members of the New England Ancient Wargaming Network, and some are also involved in our Hartford Area Historical Gaming Society group.  We ended up with 6 players in total, 3 representing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on the Seleucid side, and 3 representing the State of Connecticut on the Roman side.  We used the Field of Glory rules for this battle, and with approximately 2700 points of Seleucids against approximately 2400 points of Romans, it was a good thing that we had that many players. It worked out very nicely with one player from each team playing either one of the wings or the central command of their army. Since all the players had quite of bit of experience at playing Field of Glory, the game moved along quickly, coming to a conclusion in about 5 hours, including all the time spent socializing and consuming pizza.

The game ended in a Seleucid victory, instead of the historical Roman one.  The Roman left wing fought a pretty good delaying action before collapsing under tons of cataphracts and walls of superior pike (close to a historical outcome), while the Roman center had an easy time of it, chopping through a mob a poor quality pikes and hoplites (very much the same as what happened historically).  The Roman right wing was completely demolished though, while in the actual battle, the Pergamene allies of the Romans easily won this action. Given the order of battle we used though, it is difficult to see how this could be replicated, since the Roman wing was completely outmanned. Supposedly, the Seleucid scythed chariots went out of control at the beginning of the actual battle though, routing through and disordering their own forces, while our Seleucid player wisely held his chariots in the rear. It is really amazing to dwell on how often these Ancient battles, even huge affairs like Magnesia, had their outcomes, and the future course of history, decided by such capricious turns of fate.

Here is a layout of the historical deployment for Magnsia:

And a photo of our deployment at the start of the game:

The Roman battleline before the battle commences:

Seleucid Phalangites:

Romans at the start line:

The central Roman advance on the Seleucid Phalanx:

Romans killing phalangites:

Cataphracts killing Romans, and then Romans fleeing from the same:

Roman right wing in a fight with elephants:

And finally, a photo of the entire battlefield at the kickoff:

Playing Field of Glory over the last several years, it seems that the games had fallen into a pattern of constant repetitions of 800 point, tournament style matchups. We all wanted to get back to having a game based on an actual historical battle that allowed for more socializing and camaraderie. Everyone had a great time, it seems, and it confirms that Field of Glory is not just a "tournament" game but is also very appropriate for scenario gaming. It is probably too complex a system to teach newcomers in a convention environment, but with reasonably experienced players, even very large scenarios play out just fine. I think our group will be looking forward to more of these kind of games in the future. And of course, there will be the HAHGS Hail Caesar campaign kicking off right after the New Year, I hope.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lion of Macedon

David Gemmell was a noted fantasy author whose works were best sellers in the 80's, 90's, and early 00's, before suddenly passing away at his computer as a result of a massive heart attack.  Even though I've always been of a mind to read an occasional fantasy novel, I completely missed Gemmell's work during his lifetime's popularity.  Maybe it was the really cheesy covers used by his American publishers, or it could be that I just spent more time reading history or historical fiction and just never got around to picking up one of his works.  Recently though, I noticed that Christian Cameron, the author of the Tyrant series set in Hellenistic times, highly recommended "Lion of Macedon" as one of his favorite works of Ancient historical fiction.  Since I have very much enjoyed those books in the Tyrant series that I have read so far, I decided to give "Lion of Macedon" a try.

So, it turns out I enjoyed the novel very much indeed.  It's not truly a historical fiction novel, but a blend of that and fantasy elements - although the fantasy side is subtle and doesn't dominate the story.  As a fantasy novel, this one is in the vein of dark and gritty, with complex, conflicted protagonists, and villains that are understandable and sometimes sympathetic - all in all, very much in the style of George R. R. Martin's, "A Game of Thrones", although certainly much more concise.  Actually, it is my understanding that Gemmell is considered one of the originators of this style of fantasy, and if that is the case, then "Lion of Macedon" certainly qualifies as such a book.

The novel tells the tale of Parmenion, from his youth as a half-caste Spartan warrior suffering much abuse at the hands of his peers, through his time as a professional runner and general in the Thebes of Epaminondas, and finally into his middle age as a mercenary under Philip of Macedon, the future father of Alexander the Great.  Unknown to Parmenion, his life is being guided by a sorceress who is training him to eventually take on a Dark God seeking to enter the world in the flesh by being born into a human child.  The book is very fast-paced and action-packed, although I did find the scenes of individual one-on-one fights more vivid than the large scale battle ones.  The characters have enough depth to rank above the one-dimensional ones most common in fantasy literature, and readers familiar with this period of Classical Greece will see many of that time's notables make appearances in the pages - Xenophon, the Spartan kings Agesilaus and Cleombrotus, Epaminondas, Aristotle (as a philosopher and a wizard), Philip of Macedon, and even the shades of Leonidas and the 300 who make a brief but important appearance at a battle in the spirit world the Dark God dwells in.  History purists might cringe at some of the material - for instance, Parmenion instead of Epaminondas actually devises the strategy of the extra deep phalanx used by the Thebans to defeat the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra - but within the framework of the story, it all works quite well.

For anyone looking for a relatively light read, that still has meaningful depth in a melancholy atmosphere, and has a very unique and entertaining approach to historical fiction, "Lion of Macedon" is a very worthwhile way to spend a few leisurely afternoons or evenings.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Iberian Punch - Such as it is...

As I already mentioned, it can be tough to find enough punch for an Ancient Iberian army.  I did add some Celtiberians tribesmen, but every army also needs to have some kind of cavalry, right? Unfortunately for the Iberians, using the Hail Caesar rules, they can only get the medium variety, which isn't too bad in period, but the German and Gallic cavalry I expect to face in our upcoming campaign also get the "Tough Fighter" and "Stubborn" special rules, while the Spanish are just plain vanilla horsemen. And that says nothing about what will happen when they come up against lance-armed Macedonian heavy cavalry.  But, be that as it may, I figure that this army still needs something of a mounted arm, so here they are:

I based these WAB style instead of with the WRG basing that I usually use.  The figures are by Crusader, and it was really cramped, especially front-to-back, to fit three figures on a 60mm x 40mm base.  Of course, under the Hail Caesar rules, this won't matter a bit, since the overall unit width matches close enough with the units that are based on WRG bases.  For an example, here is the Spanish cavalry unit facing off against a unit of Wargames Factory Marian Romans:

And an overhead shot of the same:

Note that the Romans are actually based on 60mm x 30mm bases.  Under most WRG basing schemes, these should be on 20mm deep bases, but trying that, I just couldn't get them to comfortably rank up.  The extra 10mm makes the depth just roomy enough to fit all four figures on a base, and under most of the rules that I use with this basing, the base depths don't really matter.  Besides, who could possibly mistake Roman Legionaries for anything but heavy foot troops?