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The Heligoland Crisis 1895

Posted by Adam on July 29, 2017 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (3)

Here is the background notes for the 1895 campaign set on the Heligoland Islands.


The Heligoland Crisis 1895


In February of 1895 a small group of “scrap metal dealers” raised the flag of the German Empire over an abandoned herring canning plant on the uninhabited island of Duene. The significance of this action lay in the ownership of this sandy speck in the North Sea, the British Empire.

Following the collapse of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty in 1890, the small island group generally just known as Heligoland, had become an unwanted diplomatic headache for the British Government who had administered the islands since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Their preference had been to hand them over to the newly united German Empire in return for a few useful concessions in Germany's expanding African colonies. A finely crafted treaty had been scuppered at the last knocking by the young German Emperor Wilhelm II.

The departing Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck arranged for publishing of the minutes from a meeting with the Kaiser, where Bismarck had queried the real value of the islands compared to potential colonial wealth. The Kaiser had responded with a stream of bellicose abuse and bravura openly bragging of his wish to build a German navy that would control the World’s oceans and allow Germany to control any overseas colonies she saw fit. To what extent Bismarck stage managed the meeting is hard to know but his fingerprints are certainly on the route that it took to a journalist in the Washington Post after his resignation.

“As fine a piece of political chicanery as I have ever seen,” commented one Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister. Whatever the real machinations were behind the newspaper story, it effectively killed off any chance of the treaty being ratified by the British.


On hearing the startling news that Kaiser Wilhelm was planning for the Royal Navy to be demolished by his new German fleet, some voices within the British Admiralty were raised in support of keeping a naval base which could observe and if necessary block aggressive naval forces emerging from the Kiel Canal. That wiser heads did point out the difficulties in defending a station only 50 miles from the German coast, only served to cause there to be a political deadlock within the British establishment. National pride was feeling bruised in London and Berlin, but little appetite could be summoned to hash out a face saving compromise. With the Kaiser’s credibility still in tatters it only took the activities of a small nationalist society to bring matters to a head.

The Bremen Fatherland Society had a well organised "Rifle Club" including several off-duty NCOs from the Imperial German Army. On February 20th 22 of their number were transported to Duene on the paddle steamer Ozeanwelle. Reports that this was crewed by Kriegsmarine personell were never substantiated and quite unlikely. Within 48 hours their provocative flag raising had been noted by passing fishing vessels and reported to the British authorities.

The first response was a visit from HM Steam Patrol Boat Fowey, which scouted out the small island on the 23rd February. Seeing the German flag still flying over the old cannery and a ramshackle group of tents erected around the crumbling buildings, a small shore party was landed.

Lieutenant Franz Hoeskstra of HM Coastguard decided on low key approach to the situation taking only one Seaman with him to go and talk to the interlopers. Neither man had a firearm despite the shore party being well equipped with modern Lee Metford rifles and Hoekstra by regulation should have been wearing his holster and Webley revolver. The Coastguard officer's diplomatic approach had no sway with the Bremeners and all he receive in return was nationalist slogans and personal abuse. When the first shot rang out the pair were already halfway back to the boat and the remainder of the shoreparty. Hoekstra was killed instantly by an expert rifle shot to the head and AB Dudley was hit twice as he attempted to carry his stricken officer to safety.

The shore party was thrown into confusion at this turn of events but cooler heads amongst them were able to lay down some covering fire (perhaps causing the only German – non Coastguard German that is, casualty of the encounter.) Whilst retrieving the shore party the HMPB Fowey fired rounds from its 2“ gun into the cannery where the initial shots were supposed to have come from. The Bremeners had already made tracks however, crossing the tiny island to where they had boats hidden and splitting up into several smaller groups. Effectively their task was complete.

The importance of this incident was not initially realised. The newspapers in London and Berlin ranted and complained but none of them openly predicted that this would be the spark to a wider conflict. The British reaction was initially muted. The German Ambassador was not summoned for almost a week to the Foreign Office and then it was for an informal discussion. In the War Office it all barely raised a flicker of interest. On the islands themselves the Heligoland Garrison Regiment stepped up shoreline patrols and the small police force was on the lookout for the Bremeners in its own way.

It was not the Bremeners who the Garrison Regiment members of B company found on the 28th February however. Just before dawn the five man patrol almost walked right into a full company of the German Imperial Army (Lower Rhine Fusilier regiment, No. 39) recently disembarked in a secluded bay under the cover of darkness. Luckily the sergeant was an old India hand and realised that getting word to his superiors was of more importance than any heroics. Embassy staff in both Capitals were about to have a very long day!

(Before I get any grief from nutters and button counters, please let me make it clear most of the above is an alternative history exercise in "what-ifs..." I have  added a sizable companion to the real main island at Heligoland and the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty did take placeand wasn't scvuppered in 1890. Much is based on truth however: the Kaiser's unfortunate penchant for saying the wrong thing to newspapermen, the falling out between him and Bismarck and the wish by some in the British Establishment to keep hold of the island - Queen Victoria for one!)

Medieval Wagon Train Scenario

Posted by Adam on May 20, 2017 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I fished out an old Tabletop Teaser scenario for our most recent game.  Called "Wagon Train" it is a convoy of vital supplies to a fort or town; with one side trying to stop the wagon train and the other side trying to protect the wagons. We hadn't had the medieval figures out of their boxes for many months so I set this scenario in the Italian Wars with a Milanese wagon train being intercepted by a French force.

I had decided to concentrate on the day to day mercenary and utilitarian troop type for this game rather than the battlefield elites (knights and good quality pikeblocks.) The Milanese had a choice of two directions to come onto the table or to split their force. They decided to go for "B".

The Milanese led the convoy with their only unit of Knights (somewhat unenthusiastic Condotta kinights...) Their main issue was starting the game in march column as a formation chage card proved very elusive. The column very quickly ground to a halt whilst the knights desperately tried to chnge into a battle formation. The "Deploy" card was difficult to turn when they kept getting measly amounts of  initiative and being forced to discard useful cards. (This was partly a poorly remembered part of the rules for initiative - my fault there!)

Frustrated by his situation, the Milanese general sent his Condotta knights gallopping down the road with the intention of alerting the town garrison and triggering assistance from that direction. This bold move was however what the French crossbows had been stationed in the woods to counter. Their volley of bolts ripped into the passing column emptying many saddles.

To really make their day, the knights next found themselves being charged by a scabby squadron of segeants, who fancied their chances against the depleted and surprised knights. Predictably the Italians crossed swords for a few moments before breaking and heading for the safety of the town. It was very much a Phyrric victory for the sergeants as their charge and partial pursuit took them well within range of the cannons on the town walls. They quickly found their range and stone shot was soon tearing through the victorious horsemen, prompting them to retire out of range.

Behind the wagon traffic jam some more of the guards had made their tortuous way onto the table. This was more than balanced by the entrance (random timed event) of a unit of Swiss mercenaries from the north edge of the table. The mercenary pikemen were quite keen but unarmoured which could be fatal in the crossbow rich setting they found themselves in.



The depleted Frenchsergeants cantered back along the road to see what more mischeif they could get into. Teh Milanese were pushing marching columns of foot past the wagons to give them some cover but the need for speed was leaving them vulnerablwe in their columns of route formation.

The Milanese militia were not too shabby (or they might have been hangunners, either way they didn't get to use their missile weapons!) In hand to hand they were almost the equal of the Sergeants. However even in their depleted state the French horsemen were able to beat a unit in march column.

More bad news for the Milanese was another unit of good quality mercenary crossbows marching to the sound of the guns. In a fit of enthusiasn the French general also flung forward his Italian levies, which may not have been a realistic threat in a stand up fight but added to the pressure on the stymied relief column. In an attempt to turn the momentum the rallied Condotta knights and some mounted crossbows from the town garrison sallied out to worry the French about their exposed position.

The heroic sergeants finally pushed their luck too far as they sautered past the set up Milanese crossbows. The unit was pincushioned and the sad remnants left the field. This did though open the way for the Swiss to charge into the wagon convoy before any of the covering Milanese units could interpose themselves. The Swiss duly chopped heir way through the wagons, not even bothering to capture any of the contents for their starving French colleagues!  With the convoy destroyed there was no more point to any heroics and the Milanese retired to leave the town garrison to their fate.

The main learning points for me for scenario design  was that it does not take many units present on the tabletop to give the players plenty of challenges and a lot to think about. (Maybe with a full army of 15-20 units the loss of one is a more slight psychological impact than when you have just a handful...) It also showed up that there is no foolproof initiative system (we used a card based one so that the balance between red and blue would even out but I did slightly misinterpret the rule for discarding action cards and it hit the Milanese side at the worst possible time in the game (mea culpa.) Despite being outnumbered the entire game the French side took their chances and used the freedom of movement to maximum effect.

A Gallic Scrap

Posted by Adam on March 29, 2017 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Last weekend we brought together most of the Gallic/ Keltic troops that we all have in 25mm. These amounted to approximately: 320 infantry, 70+ cavalry and 8 chariots.

There was some initial fiddling about with an idea for a four way micro-campaign but we ultimately decided to do a straight forward tabletop encounter with the majority of the foot figures fighting in 2 loose alliances. Each player had 3 units of veteran warriors and 4 of normal tribal soldiers. Althjough this might sound like a predictable force  In the Piquet Archon rules every unit has a Basic Dice Value that their combat skills and Morale value are developed from.

The result of this is that any unit can start the game with an average value, battle weary, enthusiastic or keen as mustard! The variation is on a simple bell curve with only the score of 1 to 4 and 17 to 20 on a twenty sided dice (D20) changing the BDV from an average D6. Pluses and minuses on this dice roll can be quite powerful, but it is a nice simple way to incorporate effects such as good, veteran troops being shorrt of supplies or other reasons to be under-motivated.

Once we had rolled for the BDV values Nick had the most gung-ho enthusiastic command any of us had ever seen, Jim and Adam had average troops and Les was lumbered with a sorry pack of battle weary skivers! Even though we all had identical troop rosters it meant that every one was different with it's own unique character. What strategy we adopted was only partly based on these differences. Adam attempted (with some success) to draw away a part of Nick's command so that Jim could crush the remainder. Despite Nick feeding his heroes into the fray piecemeal Jim's progress was positive quite slow.





Last unit of naked Gaesati about to be engulfed...

On the other flank, Adam's gambit to draw the enemy his way reaped it's rewards as every unit of his Kelts managed to lose the close combats the got into.  So, a victory to Les and Nick and a nice occasion to see a lot of our various collections of Gauls/ Kelts on the table.

Bactrian Evidence

Posted by Adam on February 25, 2017 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

As an interesting aside, I only just last week read the foreword for the reprint or the seminal "Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars". This invaluable tome was published by Wargames Research Group back in 1982 and has been a main source for wargames figures producers ever since. Getting a little long in the tooth after 35 years, the new foreword added has been used by the author, Duncan Head, as an opportunity to provide some updates based on more recent evidence

You can read it on line on Google Books.

One of these updates is the diagram that I was only just moaning about in relation to my Bactrian Greek project. CLICK here if you really want to read it again...

The bare headed Graeco-Persian cavalryman illustrated has now been shown to be taken from a bowl of a much later period. (He might be a Chionite Hun, whatever one of those is.)  Vindication! Although this does now leave us with very little in the way of clues as to what this cavalry looked like. There are some coins with lancers shown on them but these are mostly both vague and supposedly portray the mythological Dioscuri, so their relevance to real warriors may be incidental.

So where does this leave wargamers? Well, as is often the case, taking what evidence is available from neighbours both geographical and historical to get a best guess that works for our purposes. Bow and spear armed cavalry were the norm during the Achaemenid period for Bactria. This, added to the coin of a late Indo Greek king showing his bodygueard cavalry similarly armed, gives me confidence that this is a reasonable weapon set.

Eastern Persian / Bactrian cavalryman under the preceding Achaemenid Empire.

Archaeological finds that might be remnants of horse armour give weight to the idea that Bactrian Greek cavalry copied the neighbouring Saka, Parthians and Selucids in having heavily armoured or cataphract cavalry. The archaeology is from late in the Bactrian Greek period so may not have been used for long or by many of their horsemen. An arguable possibility though. I am not feeling like I have to change my plans for my cavalry units. Where I have used figures of the bare-headed now-Huns(?), I have swapped the heads for something more Hellenistic.They are mixed in with other figures or used on command stands.

Essex cavalry with replacement head (Victrix Theban hoplite) the flowing locks blended in using white Milliput.

The bulk of my cavalry figures will remain the 1st Corps figures, which do tread the path between Persian and Greek styles. A little too close to the Persian for my liking but this is balanced by my other units from Essex Miniatures and converted plastics. I will have to ponder if I want to add a unit of heavily armoured cataphracts (or borrow them from the Selucids when required.) Maybe I will just give some generals armoured horses.

Latest Bactrians

Posted by Adam on February 9, 2017 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (2)

The latest bunch of figures for the Bactrian Greeks included some older sculpts from Essex Miniatures and much newer Victrix figures. The Essex range of specifically Bactrian Greek Successors must be over 20 years old but the style and size fits in fine with newer mid-sized figures such as Foundry, Warlordor Gripping Beast. I am not a big fan of the Essex horses but I had a stash of old mounts from Corvus/Sussex Miniatures that suit the figures fine despite the saddle cloth being moulded onto the rider and the horse.

The solitary Guard cavalry figure in the range would be the basis of my Agema unit. To give the unit a little variety, (Guards are allowed to be a bit on the uniform side,)  I mixed in a couple of the Persian horseman with head swaps. The Persian cavalry figure is similarly armoured but without a helmet, and wearing trousers. The head swaps (Victrix hoplite head and Carthaginian officer head) dealt with the lack of appropriate headgear and I added trousers to a couple of  the Guard figures to further "easternise" them. I knocked together a standard from a steel pin and some plastic spear parts. the banner came from a set of LBMS shield transfers. A plastic trumpet gave another cavalryman a slightly different look.

I am quite pleased with these, they look purposeful if not as dangerous as my three-to-a-base, Companion type, lance only cavalry. I expect them to be leading devastating cavalry attacks or biding their time as the quality reserve of the army.

The next unit was also from the Essex 25mm range. This was the solitary pikeman and I bought a unit of 16 based prety much just on the figure's excellent late Hellenistic headgear, a very elegant pointed Boeotian variant. These figures look like they will complement my exisiting Corvus / Sussex Minaitures pikeblock and brings them up to a handy 64 figures (4 units or 2 small taxeis of pikes.) Although the pike phalanx is very formidable, I am not going to field more than these 4 units for one main reason. There just doesn't seem to be  much in the way of evidence for them being the main element of the army (compared to other Successors.) This could be due to the huge distance away from the traditional breeding grounds of the Greek and Macedonian heavy infantry and also due to rebellions by early settlers that must have thinned out the available manpower.

There are some representations of soldiers carrying large oval shields, so probably Theurophoroi (after the oval theuros) or Thorakites (the armoured version of these troops.) It would make perfect sense if this type were more common than usual if pikemen were hard to come by. The theurophoroi were the standard Hellenistic mercenary type and there has been much debate about how they were equipped and how they fought in the battle line. My own theory is that  full time mercenaries would be trained to fight in a variety of situations and equipped appropriately.  Whilst the majority of Theurophoroi representations show no armour, this does not necessarily mean they were confined to fighting as part of the skirmish line. With a large heavy shield the expensive provision of armour could be avoided even for soldiers expected to fight against the enemy in the main line of battle.

These mercenaries would be expected to take on roles such as garrisons, supply escorts, raids and border guards where cumbersome armour might not be much advantage anyway. The armoured Thorakites seem to have been much the minority of this type and perhaps a response to encountering Roman heavy infantry. Where funds allowed armouring the mercenary element of an army would seem to offer a tactical advantage and Bactria does seem to have been a very wealthy region underthe rule of itsGreco-Macedonian kings.

Almost half of my heavy infantry will be theurophoroi (3 units initially) and the first 2 units completed are armoured in linen/leather spolas body armour. Whilst there are Thorakites available from several manufacturers in mail armour, mine are converted from Victrix Theban hoplites (great castings) with the addition of shields from Crusader Miniatures. Agema Miniatures now also do a nice pack of theuros which is a little smaller. For this second unit of theurophoroi I used about 50/50 heads from the Victrix hoplite box and heads from a Carthaginian pack by Agema. The Agema heads look very close to a style seen on a Parthian statue, so a near neighbour of the Bactrians and a not unlikely to be used by them.

Next up: some generals, a unit of light cavalry and the inevitable elephants. Should be ready then to take on the Indian hordes or (more tentatively) a Selucid  army.

Chariots on the Move

Posted by Adam on January 28, 2017 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Our game last weekend saw the welcome return of our Bronze Age armies to the table and the debut of a new army. As we were getting the 28mm figures out of their boxes we wondered aloud why we had left it so long between games with these appealing looking armies. Lots of different reasons combined I suspect but I was a bit nervous of the reason being that the rules we favour for ancient games (Piquet: Archon) not really working for this sub-period.

The Allied army deployed.

The newbies appearing for their first game were Les's Hebrew army; an Ebay purchase that had been waiting patiently for some time to be rebased. As most of the figures we own are solidly of the golden age of chariot warfare (New Kingdom Egypt, the Hittites and Canaanite city states) these residents of the Levant would be of a slightly later period. Although we are not too prissy about strict historicity of our wargames, I decided that Les's new boys would on this occasion represent their probable ancestors, the semi-nomadic hill tribes that eventually coalesced into the Israelite nation. These are probably what the Egyptians termed "Apiru" or "Habiru" so that was good enough for me.

The Habiru army deployed with skirmishing Edomite mercenaries leading the way.

The slight issue this left was the decent sized chariot force in the army. Strictly speaking the Habiru would not have fielded them, being unsuitable for very hilly terrain and very much associated with the ruling class of the city resident Canaanites. My way around this was to label the chariot part of the army as semi-willing allies from Canaanite towns that the Habiru had already conquered. (Probably using unorthodox tactics involving trumpets!) The game scenario was thus fleshing itself out nicely. We would have a Habiru host with a lot of good quality spear wielding infantry some mercenary bowmen and allied chariots on one side. On the other would be a scratch coalition from the Canaanites and Syrian city states and some reinforcements sent by their Hittite and Egyptian overlords to try to nip the chaos in the bud.

Allied right wing chariots; Egyptians, Philistines and Syrians.

I thought it would be interesting to see how well the elite chariots of the Allies would be able to handle large quantities of good quality infantry, usually a rarity in this period. (That is a generalisation of course, the Egyptians can field a core of well trained infantry in this period but most armies rely on the chariot as the main, and sometimes only, strikeforce.) With an advantage in numbers and quality of chariots the Allies would however be balanced by having a small infantry force, with a preponderance of levied spearmen. It being assumed that the Hittites and Egyptians have sent only chariots due to the speed required in responding  to the crisis.

Allied foot, mainly levied Syrian spearment.

The Habiru Army

5 units of trained militia spearmen with shields

2 units of Gibborim (Regular Guardsmen) with body armour and shields

3 units of Edomite bowmen (skirmishers)

6 units of Allied Canaanite chariots, all 2nd rate Militia (being unwilling allies and their best cadre already dead or exiled.)

Unenthusiastic allied chariots of the Habiru army.

The Allied Army

2 units of Hittite chariots, both well armoured, one of them elite

2 units of NK Egyptian chariots, both well armoured, one of them elite

4 units of vassal chariots, a mix of Canaanites, Mittanians and Anatolians, all competent.

3 units of Syrian levy spearmen, 2nd rate militia

1 unit of Canaanite palace guard, armoured regulars with bows

1 unit of Levy Syrian bowmen, 2nd rate militia

1 unit of mercenary Shosu skirmishers, javelins, no armour

Apart from driving the enemy from the field the two armies also had secret objectives: The Habiru needed to capture and destroy an old pagan altar beneath a ruined royal pillar and the Allies needed to occupy and hold the central pass through the hills. As always with scenario construction it is tricky to get the balance perfect, With hindsight the quality difference between the chariot forces may have been too great but then I was concerned that the Allied chariots were going to have to do the bulk of the work in stopping the enemy infantry. The chariots do have an Achilles heel in that they only take 2 hits per base from shooting or melee, so can quickly evaporate if things do not go their way.

The ruined Royal Pillar and altar.

The game was staged at our usual venue in Coggeshall which, although mid-renovation, was warmer and brighter than previously at this time of year. The armies (new and old) looked suitably impressive deployed on the table and my new piece of resin scenery, the Royal Pillar, looked fab! In Piquet games we have tried a variety of initiative systems, mainly to try to mitigate against some legendary poor dicing performances. For this game we used a deck of playing cards to ENSURE a balance of black and red initiative. Naturally the Habiru got about the first 25 point of initiative!

The Allied chariotry await their Habiru opposite numbers.

The Habiru generals used their initiative windfall to push forward their chariot force to engage the right wing of the Allied army. Here they had superior numbers having concentrated all their chariots on one wing (6 units) against half of the Allies (4 units.) The hills across the centre of the table did cause some problems with manoeuvring the chariots but they were still swift enough to be the first part of the army to engage. Although the Habiru chariots were outclassed in quality some lucky dice did intervene as they rolled for their basic battle readiness. Three rolls of 18 on a 20-sided dice gave them some chariot warriors who were well up for a fight. The leading Egyptian unit also rolled a 20, so there could be no complaints except from me. My dice have NEVER performed like that when I am rolling them!

The Habiru army heads for their secret objective.

The first fight went the way of the Habiru. Deadly bowfire was followed up by a move into contact and the Syrian charioteers were soon streaming away in rout. The Egyptian chariots struck back but early in the game the Allies on their right wing found themselves with one unit in rout and two disordered versus a wave of yet uncommitted enemy chariots. The odds were on quality winning however unless the better troops rolled a 1 on the dice. They rolled a 1 (one of Jim's few poor rolls of the day to be fair...) The Habiru unit needed anything but a 1 to rout them and leave the Allies flank in ruins. A massacre of levied foot was sure to follow. The Habiru chariots also rolled a 1! By the skin of their teeth the Allied chariots had held the line.

Chariots tangle amidst the hills.

The rest of the Habiru army steadily advanced towards the hills and their target at the Royal Pillar. The Alied response was to keep the levy foot skulking at the baseline whilst just the Shosu and Palace Guard advanced towards the central pass. On the Allied left the other half on their chariots headed forward to tackle the Habiru foot.

The Habiru horde occupy the pass through the hills.

My initial concern about the Archon 2 rules facility with representing the chariots was misplaced. The rules deal with the interaction of more or less mobile troop types with the Melee Qualification Table. This dictates which troops may melee opposing formation types. The light chariots when contacted by formed foot have the choice of evading away or staying to fight. This makes the chariots very powerful in this period as they can choose to fight when they have the advantage (such as when they have first disordered the enemy with bowfire.) Seems fair enough for the late Bronze Age when the chariot was the king of the battlefield.

The left wing Allied chariots employed just these tactics. One squadron charging in after disordering the enemy foot with their bows. Another backing off when their shooting was less effective. Although the Habiru foot could keep chasing after the evading chariots they would risk being isolated and charged from all sides.

Anatolian and Hittite chariots deal with the Habiru foot who have no chariot support on this flank.

Both flnks were now looking dicey for the Habiru. When they next turned their "Appeal to Jehovah" card the Habiru generals decided now was the time to try it. They did successfully roll the dice score needed (less than their number of routing units) to gain a bonus on all future melee and morale dice, but was it too little too late? The Habiru's Canaanite allies flung their last reserves at the enemy chariots but were beated back. They had however held the flank long enough for the Habiru bowmen to occupy the Royal Pillar.

Edomite bowmen capture the hilltop with the Royal Pillar and temple.

On every movement card the Habiru players were now able to try an engineering test to destry the altar. Unfortunately even with the Jehovah bonus it was a struggle to beat a D8 with a D6. The Habiru flanks were imminently about to crumble, and now the Allied players knew that something was up. A "Heroic Moment " card was turned for the Habiru and I offered that an unusually strong and hirsuite Habiru soldier would have the chance on this card to bring down the temple on himself, destroying the altar and his own unit of bowmen. With the Heroic Moment bonus a D8 vs a D8. They rolled and succeeded!

The temple comes crashing down wiping out the Edomite skirmishers, I wonder if their heroic captain will be remembered?

As the Habiru would not be able to defend the pass for much longer I ruled that there would be nothing to stop the Allied army completing their objective of taking the pass post game. Thus the game was a draw, maybe a winning draw to the Allied army having had much the better of the combats on the battlefield.

It was good to get the chariots on the table after a long absence.  Although the Habiru generals felt hard done by that their chariotry was so outclassed, they almost won the game for them. It cam edown to a couple of crucial dice rolls that could have gone either way. The rules seem to give the chariots a distinct flavour, making them very effective but not unkillable tanks. I am sure we will have these boys back in action very soon.

Bactrian Cavalry Agema

Posted by Adam on October 16, 2016 at 12:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Most of the Macedonian Successor states had a senior regiment of cavalry in the army which acted as bodyguard to the king and the elite strike force of the mounted arm. Duncan Head includes an illustration of this very type in his Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars (AMPW) so and I can see no reason not to include a unit if these in my army. The AMPW illustration shows a very Hellenistic looking cavalryman but with the typical Graeco-Bactrian bowcase and Essex Miniatures doo have a faithful recreation of this figure in 25mm scale. I decided to mix in a few of the other Essex offering in this range which follows the other AMPW Graeco-Bactrian cavalryman, an Iranian noble.

Essex don't have photos of this range on their site so I have borrowed this painted example from ancientbatles.com which is full of inspiring photos.

The problem with this second figure is that it is armoured with a metal corselet but bare-headed. Duncan Head explains that this is how the figure is represented on the source material (a contemporary silver dish showing a hunting scene) but I am very dubious that anyone who could afford it would not wear a helmet. This Iranian noble has all the other expensive kit (armour, weapons, horse)so I doubt that cost would be the issue. More likely it is the custom to be shown all heroic with hair blowing in the wind when hunting lions whereas common sense would prevail when getting down to the serious business of war.

The unit will look quite uniform and guardish in their matching cloaks, maybe in purple?

The two Iranian noble figures had their heads snipped off  (they'll get used to that the way I throw away cavalry on the tabletop!) and replacements pinned in place (the grey ones in the photo.) One of the new heads is from the Victrix Theban hoplites box and the other is from their Carthaginian officer sprue (the nice Thracian style helmet with the vertical feathers.)  To add a bit of additional eastern identity to the unit I added baggy Iranian trousers to 2 of the hellenistic looking guard cavalry.  The paucity of solid information means that you can make up your own mind and decide how "native" you want your Successor soldiers to look in this army.

The Victrix Carthaginian sprues have some lovely Hellenistic pieces that can find  uses in a variety of armies. The chap with the feather might become this unit's commander.

If it weren't for the 1st Corps Iranian noble cavalry figures I would  be faced with convereting a lot more of these to make up the main cavalry strikeforce of the army. Enjoyable as it is for a few figures I know I wouldn't have the patience to do dozens! I might have a go with a couple more for some command stands however.

Knuckling Down to It

Posted by Adam on August 12, 2016 at 12:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Painting the little metal fellows who are going to have my tabletop generalship inflicted on them has always been an integral part of wargaming to me. I suppose a part of the satisfaction is fielding a miniature army that shows off all my own hard work. Even at my limited level of skill I am not the quickest painter in the land and I have the not unusual habit of painting up new figures for an upcoming game but losing focus and moving on to the next thing straight after. This isn't necessarily a terrible crime, it is a hobby after all and a relentless painting slog through one army or period can make it more like a job than something enjoyable. You can have too much of a good thing though. I do try to focus on one or two main projects at a time but that does take a certain amount of discipline. As an illustration, currently on my painting table are: Thureophoroi, Cretans, Indian bowmen and Persian lancers for my Bactrian Greeks, Mahdists for the Sudan, Romans for my Punic Wars army and a stand of Great Northern War Russians. If that weren't bad enough there are individual skirmish or test figures for English Civil War, Nine Years War, 18th C. Ottomans, Napoleonics and 15mm WW2 (all the rest being 25/28mm figures.) Pretty much the definition of a butterfly brain I would say! The flip side to this pleasing variety is that no one project feels like it is progressing.

My antidote to this is to focus (for a time) on just the Bactrian Greeks with secondary project of whatever we are going to be playing next (yeah, yeah I know.) For a viable Piquet army I will need a minimum of around 12 units. I already have some pikemen, a couple of elephants, a unit of Thuerophoroi foot and a unit of Persian lancers (http://wargamewarrior.webs.com/apps/blog/show/42199601-bactrian-greek-project-part-5-painted-cavalry). So 5 more units and a couple of elephants will give me something to get on the table. Already mentioned as underway is a second unit of Thureophoroi and some Cretan archers, so that just leaves 3 more. The most distinctive troop type for this army is the bow armed Persian/ Successor lancers. I have the figures for 4 units of these including one that is earmarked to be the Agema guard unit. So, three units of cavalry it is then.

A horse painting session is thus required and as Piquet units are 8 strong that is just 24 cavalrymen.  I use oil paints for my horses to give them a glossy sheen, so I decided to get a few more done than I need for my immediate target. I am pretty messy with oil paints and the brushes (and me!) need cleaning with turps, which I prefer to not do too often. Thus the horses for all four units of Bactrian lancers were to be completed as well as those for a unit of Bactrian or Saka light horse. The 18th Century Ottomans would get horses for a unit of Tartars and the future Napoleonic project a small troop of British hussars. This totted up to 54 horses which I figured was probably close to my attention span and just about able to be crammed into the space where I paint. All the horses were cleaned up, or in the case of the excellent Perry plastic hussars; snipped off sprues, glued together and then cleaned up. All received a temporary base using PVA glue and then a light spray of Halfords primer spray primer.

(This is one of the lovely but sadly no longer available 28mm Alban Miniatures horses.)


Back from the shed all nicely primed, every horse got a swift brush over with white acrylic paint, to highlight the high points and upper surfaces of the horsey flesh. This step is to facilitate my horse painting technique, first learned from an early copy of Miniature Wargames magazine. I paint on to each horse a coat of oil paint of various browns, straight from the tube and sometimes blended together. To this I add a splash of Windsor and Newton Liquin medium, which gives the paints a pleasing gloss finish and greatly speeds up the drying time (I am a bit of an impatient person.) Straight after splodging the paint all over a figure with a large brush I wipe the paint back off the horse with a soft tissue. This leaves dark shadows in the recesses and lighter areas on the highpoints. It takes a bit of practise to get the wiping just right. Some people prefer to use a sponge or a clean brush instead of a tissue.

The trick is not to take off too much paint or too little, luckily oils stay wet longer than acrylics or enamels so you have a chance to have a few tries with a single figure. In the end it is down to your own taste how much contrast you want between the light and the dark hues. Once the oil paint has dries (a couple of days if you have used Liquin, a fair bit longer if not) then I add the blazes and white socks as well as the horse furniture and saddle cloths in my usual acrylic paints.

I am not for a moment claiming to produce masterworks with this methods but it is pretty quick once you get the hang of it (57 horses took about 3 hours.) Personally I find it quite effective and I do like the contast between the glossy horseflesh and the riders painted with acrylics.

A whole buch of horses for Bactrian Greeks, 18th C. Ottomans and Napoleonics.

Mahratta Mini Campaign

Posted by Adam on July 30, 2016 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Our game at the weekend was a test drive of a mini campaign system devised by Mr. Langford (if Nick "borrowed" it from elsewhere he didn't let on to me!) We had an invasion by a Mahratta Indian army across difficult terrain (jungle infested mountain passes?) with the intention of arriving at an enemy town with a large siege gun and knocking the gates down. The invaders would have to find their way to the enemy town and disperse the forces sent to slow / stop them. The way to the town was via a 3 x 3 grid of small tables representing possible route. (The original scheme was for a 4 x 4 grid but with fewer than the 4 players originally expected the grid was reduced.)

I chose to spread my 3 army commands across tables G, H and I, with the cavalry commands scouting either side of my main force in H. What I discovered was that G and H only had lateral exits from the tables and no enemy presence. Table I also had an exit into table F. So that is where I sent (what was now) my vanguard.

The Vanguard discovered an enemy force of matchlockmen and cavalry holding the pass ahead of them. This looked like causing some difficulty to my light Pindari cavalry despite their (or probably because of) support from a battery of camel borne rocket artillery. Despite the overwhelming firepower disparity, my brave Pindari cavalry pressed forward and peppered arrows at the enemy cavalry. The enemy shrugged off the hits and charged the skirmishing Pindaris but initially the combat was tied (only the impetus of the charge giving them some advantage.) A second round of melee was fought and the Pindaris were thrown back in disorder. Luckily for them the enemy cavalry commander was quite nervous of the remaining Mahratta Pindari regiment (which had, to be fair, formed up into a solid clump and wheeled to try to catch them in the flank) and he slowly retired the victorious cavalry to reorder their ranks.

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Now the main force of my Mahratta army entered the battle – the enemy didn’t look so clever now! Behind the screen of Pindaris and Pathan mercenaries the Mahratta Matclockmen and new-fangled, European-trained Sepoys advanced rapidly in march columns. The Pathan jezzaillichis soaked up the first volley of the enemy matchlocks and then nimbly moved aside to allow the Sepoys to attack.

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The controlled(ish) volleys of the Mahratta Sepoys reduced the enemy matchlocks to ruins and the remnants didn’t hang around to receive a bayonet charge. The next enemy infantry units now looked in imminent danger of being flanked and similarly dealt with, but their commander had seen the way the wind was blowing and retreated his survivors off the table so they could fight again another day.

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There turned out to be only one route off table, F, so the battered retreating command was immediately followed up by my Mahrattas when they chose to stand and fight again.


They were down a unit from the previous fight and I should have been up one unit of sepoys but forgot to deploy them… Keen to cause more losses to the enemy units I acted more aggressively with my Pindari cavalry than previously. This had two unfortunate repercussions: the first was that by attacking the enemy infantry with my Pindari cavalry I left the Camel mounted rocketmen unsupported (where those extra sepoys would have been handy!) The rocketmen were chased off the table by enemy cavalry before they had even got off their camels or lit one blue touchpaper. I blame "newly painted unit syndrome" for this poor showing. Oh well they looked quite pretty which is the most you can hope for with a lot of Indian units!

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The second repercussion was my Pindari cavalry getting shot to pieces by the infantry they were trying to pick on.

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The enemy Sepoys blasted my skirmishing screen out of their saddles and then just by the skin of their teeth managed to form square before the second unit of Pindaris could fall on their flank and avenge their colleagues. Thwarted, the Pindaris carried on into the rear of the enemy line to find an easier target. They did spook the enemy cavalry into running away but once again a charge into the rear of matchlock armed infantry was scuppered when the infantry pulled out a manoeuvre card just before the cavalry could attack. To add insult to injury the matcklockmen also delivered a withering fire that soon had the Pindari unit much reduced.

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The enemy holding force did not wait around for the main body of my army this time and slipped away, leaving two possible exits from the table.

Lessons learned there (or re-learned for the umpteenth time more likely); use the right soldiers for the right job. The Pindari cavalry is fine for scouting and getting into the rear of enemy horsemen but should steer well clear of infantry, even the modestly dangerous matchlockmen. Mobile close fire support is not the forte of rocketeers they should be dismounting and getting their missiles ready as soon as they arrive on table.

The strategic choice for me was to either press on after the retreating enemy force or head into table B on the chance it was my objective location (enemy town.) With my vanguard all but destroyed I had to decide if I would pursue with my main infantry command or ignore the enemy force and gamble that my rearguard, of mostly cavalry, could handle them if they came back into the rear as I advanced. Obviously, it being me, I took the dicey option and pushed the army into table B. This was indeed where the enemy town was located and would be the showdown of remaining armies (and more importantly the remaining Morale Chips that either side still had.)


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Unfortunately we did not have time to fight this final game, as I had a prior appointment with my wife’s choir recital. The concept had been shown to be a good one anyway and should be improved with the addition of more players, so less control over the decision making when it comes to supporting a command that is in combat or sacrificing a screen to stop reinforcements getting to a battle. The small table encounters still had all the Piquet edge of the seat character and plenty of difficult decisions about where to spend initiative and when to husband resources for the future.

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Indian 18th C. Army - The Cavalry

Posted by Adam on July 9, 2016 at 5:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm not sure when my facination with all things Indian began but it was certainly the excellent articles in the first dozen issues of Minaiture Wargames in the 1980s (by Paul Stevenson) that focussed my attention on the wars of the 18th Century. In terms of converting this interest to the tabletop I had done nothing much more than search lists of 25mm figures for a suitable range and tinkered with converting Spencer Smith plastic grenadiers into matchlockmen. Then during a Seven Years War game with my friend  Nick, I mentioned my ambitions to extend the  conflict to the Indian subcontinent. Nick was full of enthusiasm for this idea, having been contemplating similar,  and so a joint project was born!

Mysorean cavalry Silhadar from Miniature Wargames issue 11

The issue of figure availability was still the main stumbling block. Nick being a fanatical adherent to 25mm miniatures, the opportunity to use easily converted smaller scale figures was not an option. The few ranges with usable examples were tracked down and then we moved on to looking at anything similar that could be drafted in with minimal conversion. Saracens and anyone else in a turban was considered.  The cavalry were the key part of 18th Century Indian armies, so many were required and a nice variety of poses and armours would be authentic for the irregular feel of the army. My first unit was mainly made up of figures from Essex Miniatures Sudan range, which had a nice selection of Arab cavalry with open hands for ease of weapon choice.

Our wishes were soon to be answered however as Wargames Foundry  issued their lovely Sikh Wars range of figures, sculpted by the Perry twins. Amongst all the 19th Century sepoys and uniformed regiments were the irregular cavalry of the Khalsa. These were not just great figures with multiple variations in their pose and equipment, but were perfect for the 18th Century Persian inspired armour prevalent across India. Result. Naturally we both bought scads of these little beauties, despite Foundry being the pricier end of the figures market. Mixed in with or previous scratchings and lighter cavalry from the Foundry ranges our units of  cavalry would have a mercenary and disreputable look that summed up the period perfectly to my eyes.

Of course, buying the figures and actually getting them on the table are two very different things and I have to shame-facedly admit I let Nick do the heavy lifting of churning out the cavalry, whilst I got distracted after the first few units. I allowed myself  to be distracted to the fun parts of the Indian armies: the war elephants, Pathan Jezzailichis, huge siege guns and elephants with guns on. Once we had 18 Piquet style units of cavalry between us there was less impetus to paint more as we had plenty for many a fun game over the years that have followed.

The approach of another of these games after a few years' hiatus led me to pull out the unpainted lead to see if the urge was there to get something new on the table. A few easy subjects leaped out at me (not literally, although those boxes were pretty tightly packed!) A command stand and some camel mounted rocket chuckers were crowbarred ont the edge of the painting table for immediate attention. I also totted up my remaining cavalry castings. Crivens!  My only mitigation is that I can not resist adding Ebay bargains and "just a few" samples from any likely looking ranges that come along. I will have to put a bit of a dent in that total before I commit myself to another cavalry heavy army with the prospect of the Ottoman Turks.

Before I produce some more undercoated / half painted and forgotten units I thought it might be useful to do a comparison photo of what is easily available for the aspiring Maharrata leader in terms of cavalry figures. SInce I started this project ranges from Bears Den and The London War Room for the period have sadly come and gone, and the tiny range from Falcon Figures UK have crossed the pond to US ownership.

Foundry: Still available, still a little bit pricey, but lovely nonetheless. The Sikh Wars Indians now reside under the name of "Noble Warriors".

Old Glory: Produced their own version of a Sikh Wars range with similarly useful cavalry but less choice (pretty good value though.)

Redoubt: Their "Wellington inIndia" range should be perfect for this but the figures are in fact 35mm tall and a bit lacking in choice and character amongst the cavalry.

Indus Miniatures: A boutique range so growing slowly. Great little models all sculpted and cast excellently.

Eureka Minaitures: Don't have any of these as they come from waaaaaay the wrong side of the planet making them very expensive.  If  the Pound remains valued in  beads and shells into the future, then I never shall.

(Click on the photo for a larger version of the image)

As can be seen(?) the Foundry figures sit between the dinky Old Glory cavalry and the Redoubt figure. The Indus cavalryman is a little slimmer  than the Foundry models but match up pretty well overall. The only figure that might work well with the Redoubt rider is the (now defunct) London War Room example. The lower half of the figure is moulded to the, quite large, horse. A shame, as the Redoubt figures have a lot going for them: quite cheap, paint up nicely and look authentic. For me however variety is the spice of life so I have mainly confined Redoubt figures to command stands and artillerists.