Wargame Warrior

Tabletop games with model soldiers.

Blog


view:  full / summary

The First to Fight

Posted by Adam on September 17, 2017 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The initial armed encounters of the Heligoland Crisis in 1895 were between units of the invading Imperial German Army and the islands' sole defenders., the Heligoland Garrison Regiment. The Heligoland Garrison Regiment (HGR) was an unusual and neglected offshoot of the British Army. The first garrison of the newly captured islands in 1810 was a handful of men from the Invalids Company Royal Artillery and a battalion of  the Royal Veteran Regiment. After Waterloo and peace in Europe the islands' defence was taken over by a ragbag of auxilliary formations, which had fought for the British in the Peninsula and elsewhere. Gradually these units were disbanded and the soldiers returned to their homelands, more or less enthusiastically.  


The need for a permanent garrison was recognised but under ancient  and renewed rights, the population of the islands could not be compelled to provide any military service to the islands' ruler. The inception of the Heligoland Garrison Regiment was only possible in 1818 by the recruitment of a core of French Exiles, who could not return to Royalist France. In the main these Frenchmen were officered by "volunteers" from British line regiments and, unsurprisingly, these officers were not high calibre men that a Regiment's Colonel was going to miss. Fortunately the rank and file had mostly seen service through the long years of war on the Continent, so a passable imitation of a military formation was acheived. In later decades a compromise was concluded, that allowed Helgolanders to serve in the HGR on a "permanant loan" from the islands' volunteer militia. However foreign recruitment was still practised and  French surnames continued to feature strongly amongst the officers and men of the unit.


The inexperienced soldiers of the Heligoland Garrison Regiment bravely confronted the elite German forces that landed in 1895, only grudgingly giving up their native farms and villages as the invader's numbers told.


The HGR had settled to a constant size and organisation by the middle of the century. Not conforming to any typical pattern the unit was formed of four companies, three of "fusiliers" and the fourth all gunners. A static defence role was seen as the regiment's only real option manning the battery positions and coastal forts its natural home. Some of the unit's commanders had other ideas training their infantry element as everything from light infantry to ship-board marines, but the reality mostly remained a coastguard/customs role. The gunners of the HGR tended to have a higher status (at least in their own eyes!) Their drill was up to the highest standards even if much of the ordnance was of an older or inferior stock.


The uniforms of the Regiment followed the general scheme of other British Regiments. The War Office beurocrats rigorously supplied the latest equipment and uniforms to the Islands even if not with the highest priority. The unusual status of the HGR did lead to their most distinctive item of uniform. In 1879 the regiment received a supply delivery including tropical service, white pith helmets. As a foreign stationed unit they had been mistakenly sent on the assumption that Heligoland was in warmer climes! As the unit had not yet received their new spiked Home Service Helmets they enthusiastically adopted the pith helmet into their parade order of dress. Despite occasional demands to relinquish them, the HGR  steadfastly kept them and they were worn almost without exception in preference to the Home Service headgear.


Shown here the typical dress of the HGR circa 1889. The tricolor flash

on the left upper arm the most obvious regimental distinction.


The status of the HGR was in doubt for a time when the negotiation for the handover of the islands was under way. The decision had been made to disband the unit and distribute any personel who wished to remain in the Army to other regiments. When the treaty fell through the HGR found itself in a bit of a limbo state with all War Office plans for the future already regarding them as no longer in existence. The Regiment continued its normal duties but it was some years before it regained official acknowledgement as being still operational. This did nothing to improve the already disgruntled morale of the unit. They entered the conflict in 1895 with out of date uniform jackets and black powder rifles but with the burning indignation of a disregarded servant to the British state.

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 for a start added a sizable companion to the real main island at Heligoland and the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty did take placeand wasn't scuppered 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!)

Final Units

Posted by Adam on July 25, 2017 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the problems with assembling a Bactrian Greek army is the vagueness and lack of detail in the information available. Don't get me wrong a scarcity of information means there is more latitude to make your own decisions on what the army looked like, which can be more interesting. If we can be sure about anything though, it must be safe to say the army contained war elephants.


As the Satrapy and then later Kingdom of Bactria was a neighbour to parts of India, well known for its war elephants, that would seem enough to validate their inclusion.  However we also have the histories of Polybius which tells us that the Selucid king Antiochus III took possession of the Bactrian elephant herd as part of a peace treaty, after he campaignedin the country for two years to try to reassert Selucid control. And if this weren't enough we have a surviving image of what the Bactrian war elephants looked like.




In the Hermitage Museum in Moscow, there are several metal discs or shallow bowls (phalera) with the war elephant engravings complete with fighting towers and warriors in them.  The inclusion of the tower eliminates any doubts that the elephants took an active role in battle, rather than just being a general's viewing platform or a parade mount for the king. Neither elephant image is wearing any armour so this could mean that  the climate would cause elephants to overheat if they were covered over or the artist had never seen it in action?.


Mine are armoured. (Well half of them.) I decided to add a second pair of elephant models to my original veteran pair that started life in a Phyrric army. Piquet's Archon ruleset has 4 bases as the "standard" size of a unit but elephants get a special dispensation and can field 2 of the bases showing  light infantry to represent escorts I suppose. I decided to go for the more costly option of fielding 4 elephant models for the unit  as this undoubtedly looks more impressive!


My original pair of models were from Essex Miniatures. Superb represetations of the beasts but requiring a lot of filling and sanding to ge the two halves of the body to match up. Les reminded me of this, having had the pleasure of assembling 8 of them for his Indian army. Despite this one of my reinforcements was an Essex model (how hard can it be...) The other is a Newline Miniatures figure. This is another nicely sculpted model and importantly very close in size to the others.Also it had been sitting around in the leadpile for many years. The only  drawback with the model is the trunk is very thick with little detail sculpted on the end. I added a more elephanty end with greenstuff but the girth is not an easy one to fix.



I can now start to understand the preference for resin elephant models where the whole body can be cast as one piece (and they're a fair bit lighter.) The Hermitage plates show something of the decoration on the saddlecloth (if that's what it is called.) I had a crack at painting the greek key pattern on one of the cloths and soon gave it up as a bad idea. Plan B was to use some "print your own" decals to help with the trickier details. I plundered the internet for images containing various Greek Key patterns that would print out at a small enough scale to apply to the elephants' housings. As I had half a page of decals to use up, I found as many Macedonian stars and Greek myth pictures that I thought might work as he centre of shield patterns. Plus a lot of spares, as I can be a bit cack-handed with decals.


A comparison between the Essex and Newline Indian elephants and an Aventine African elephant. Similarly good detail but the African example should be a fair bit smaller than his Indian cousins. He will maybe do as a big bull elephant for a general. Anyway that's a different project, for this army I am sticking with smaller representations of the elephants and war mammoths can wait for another day.


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.


Rss_feed