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Last Game Pre-Covid

Posted by Adam on September 24, 2020 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

This was the last game we played before the current Covid madness crashed down on us. The first dozen units of my Bactrian Greek army had been staring at me accusingly from their shelf. Really needed to get them onto a table for that tricky first run out and Les agreed to try them out versus his contemporary Mauryan Indians (brave man!) I was volunteered to do the rosters for the armies and having see the Indians poor performance at the Battle Day game of The Hydaspes I knew it was going to be tricky to balance the encounter.



Bactrian Greek pike phalanx with Agema cavalry in support.


First of all the Indians would need numbers on their side. In Piquet a single fresh unit of reserves can turn a battle but they would need more than one. I opted for 16 units for the Indians, 12 for the Greeks, a 33% advantage. The details of the Indian force was based on the figures available. There were three elephant units so I pencilled those in straight away (I actually miscounted and we could have double that up to 6 units using elements of elephant escorts; but who needs more than three?!) The Indian cavalry are no great shakes so I opted to use them all - 4 units. Also a unit of chariots, light or heavy, they are equally useless. For the infantry the choice was confined to close order bowmen. I added in 8 units, 4 as mercenaries and 4 as militia.


 

Right wing of the Indian army.


The Indian foot are generally taken to be armed with substantial swords perhaps used two-handed. This would appear to make them a very dangerous close combat opponent but historically they don’t really live up to this, being specifically described as rarely used, by Megasthenes (A Selucid Greek ambassador to Indian courts of the time.) “Indians do not readily fight so amongst themselves” being his assessment. It is curious that soldiers would carry a large and presumably expensive piece of kit if they are not keen on getting stuck in with it. I wonder if it had a more symbolic function; the identifier of its owner as a warrior perhaps?


 

Left wing and centre of the Indian army (just look at all those elephants!)


The Bactrian Greeks would have 12 units (which matched up neatly with my specifically Bactrian figures.) The available cavalry included 2 units of Iranian / Greek colonist lancers also armed with bows. A unit of guard cavalry or Agema, also lance and bow armed. The fourth unit was a mercenary Skythian horse archer contingent. A solitary unit of elephants was included, pretty much compulsory for this army. The foot was composed of the phalanx; trained militia so competent but not amazing. I classed their armour as only light assuming it was all fabric or leather based with bronze helmets but only small pelta type shields. The two units of mercenary Thorakites were similar but with medium armour classification due to their much more substantial shields. This just left a sole unit of Cretan mercenaries, who are classed as Regular missile specialists. They are armed with bows as well as sword and shield.

 

 Right wing of the Bactrian Greek army.


The battle itself saw the Indians line up in a fairly conventional manner with the elephants masking the infantry centre and the right of the line. On their left they massed ¾ of their cavalry on the more open flank with heavy chariots to the fore. Across the field from them the Greeks likewise massed their cavalry and then lined up their phalanx with a unit of Thorakites on each end, the whole line echeloned to the right. On the Greek left was the Cretan archer unit supported by the rather smaller contingent of elephants. The guard Agema were stationed to the rear.


 

 


Mercenary thorakites and Cretans protect the Bactrian Greek left.


 

The Greek first move was to throw forward their Skythian light cavalry to harass the Indian chariots. The bowfire was ineffective but it did prevent the chariots closing with the rest of the Greek cavalry. Following up behind were the Bactrian-Greek lancers (who would have been mostly local Iranians.) These were shot at and thrown into disorder by the Indian chariots as they closed but still pressed home their charge. The lancers own bowfire was also desultory and due to their fighting a disordered formation, the Indians were able to initiate melee immediately. Under Piquet rules however chariots are good shooting platforms and can cause morale checks but are at a disadvantage against cavalry in melee. This offset the disorder of their opponents and the chariots were narrowly beaten and attempted to flee. Not being able to outrun cavalry they took a lot of damage before scattering (off table.) The pursuing lancers now careered into a unit of steady light Indian cavalry. The Indians charged home but against heavier horses and well armoured riders they were again at a disadvantage and immediately broke and fled.



Elephants confront the pike phalanx in the centre.


In the centre the Indian Elephants rolled forward in a stately manner, carefully maintaining their unbroken line but slowed by the low hills they had to navigate. The front unit of the Greek echelon moved up to challenge for the ground and the pike phalanx edged forward so that its flanks rested on low hills. On the left Cretan archers (well-trained mercenaries) skirmished forwards through the woods to dispute that flank with yet more Indian elephants. The Cretans advanced and let fly but were soon running for the cover of the woods as the elephants trundled forwards.

 

Cretans skulking in the woods.


With the elephants in the centre slowing down their ponderous advance on the pike phalanx and showing no appetite to tackle the mass of spearpoints, the action swung back to the main cavalry flank. The victorious Greek cavalry had reined in from their pursuit but were now charged again by yet another unit of Indian cavalry. With the intervention of their general they just managed to reorder their ranks before the enemy made contact. The result was again the same massacre of the lighter unarmoured Indians. They fled but this time the Greeks did not pursue. (Luckily as they would have gone straight off the table. Instead the opportunity was there ahead of them, the rear of the Indian battle line!

 

The Bactrian lancers reformed themselves into a fast-moving road column and galloped around the flank of the Indian army. Just in time the Indians had the chance to about turn their back rank of units and avoid a bloody disaster. However one element of the army was not safe(?) behind the row of infantry, their King. Despite being on an elephant he was much too vulnerable against roving cavalry and almost certainly about to be captured or slain. We gave up the game at this point. Mainly in disgust at the ineptitude of the Indian army overall. The discussion was started however as to how to use them to any effect and some ideas were proposed for serious thought. The very clear lesson from the battle was the utter uselessness of Indian cavalry! They have light horses and no armour but do not skirmish or even have a missile weapon!

 

We will try some tweaks to make the Indians at least playable but trying to stay the right side of history. I still believe that the army is more about causing the enemy to run away, with the Piquet mechanism that allows elephants and chariots to initiate morale challenges and doing that early and often. In addition, our house rule making the infantry swordsmen Fearsome when within a move of the enemy, gives another possibility to damage the enemy morale (automatic morale check if the “Courage!” card is turned.) A few units that are a bit more capable in melee is the missing part of this army and not beyond the bounds of possibility considering they had previously encountered Alexander the Great and seen how it was done properly. Veteran mercenaries or hired foreigners might be a rationalisation for these more capable units. The other route to take is that we use the Indians mainly as allies of the Indo-Greek army and our battles will be the all too typical Indo-Greeks against their countrymen from Bactria.



 Indian cavalry about to charge rallying Bactrian lancers in the flank.

Bactrian Greek Foot Agema

Posted by Adam on August 31, 2020 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (0)

An interesting chat over on Lead Adventure Forum about the wild and woolly components of a Bactrian Greek army (click here) reminded me that I didn't quite manage to finish off my foot guard / foot Agema/ Hypaspist unit for my own Bactrian Greek project. The uncertainty about the name is due to the almost total absense of evidence for their existence... Almost. There is a gold clasp from the grave complex at Tillya Tepe in Afghanistan that appears to show two soldiers that have a very hellenistic look to them.This is my sketch of what I see of the gold clasp.


To me it looks like they are both wearing muscle cuirass body armour and a variation of the Boeotion helmet that is so ubiquitous on Bactrian Greek coins. They are definitely spearmen and their shields look quite dished or bowl shaped and perhaps with a rim. The closest Macedonian or Diadochi troop type that they remind me of is Alexander's Hypaspists.  Considering the way that the rulers of Bactria had broken away from the Selucid Empire, I dont think it is too unlikely they would have recruited a bodyguard loyal just to them. Basing it on a version of Alexander's elite formation would be one logical way to go.

The Victrix box of Theban hoplites that I had been plundering for the distinctive Boeotian, helmets was able to provide me with a dozen bodies in muscle cuirass, with spears and even a few of them with cloaks.  As I discussed previously I decided to add a few heads with the eastern version of the Persian Bashlyk or Tiara to give the unit a more exotic look to it. (click here)

The other way to give them an eastern feel was by their shield design. I had some quite dished round shields in the bits box so I decided they would do the job admirably. A symbol that I saw recurring through history in this part of the world was a winged griffen. So I found an image (possibly Achaemenid) and adjusted it to suit the size and shape I needed. Once I was happy I did few test prints before adding them to a sheet of transfers. I am quite happy with the results. They look suitably exotic as well as ornate enough to show the eite status of the unit. I gave the officer a spare LMBS decal for his shield which is a more standard Successor design.



The unit standard is another home-made decal, this time a basic Macedonian star design. They dont want anyone doubting their Macedonian pedigree. I made the cloth part of the standard from greenstuff for reasons that escape me now...

The Armies of the Ottoman Empire 1645-1718

Posted by Adam on June 19, 2020 at 6:55 AM Comments comments (0)

My copy of the The Armies of the Ottoman Empire 1645-1718 by Bruno Mugnai arrived today and on first look through it looks excellent!



It is a hefty 370  pages including the "standard" 16 colour plates (4 of standards) and well illutrated throughout with photgraphs, copies of period paintings and black and white line drawings. From what I have seen so far the contents strike a good balance between information about organisation, equipment, clothing and performance in the field; pretty much perfect from a wargamer's perspective!

I look forward to immersing myself in this book and I suspect it will become a fixture very close to my painting desk.

Bloody Xebecs!

Posted by Adam on May 23, 2020 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (0)

It has been good to see people making the most of their extra hobby time caused by the Covid lockdown. Premier amongst those are the new series of 17th Century scenario "booklets" produced by Barry Hilton (Wordtwister Publishing.) Have a look at the webshop here:

https://www.leagueofaugsburg.com/shop/products-cat-35.html




Each of the packs contains a selection of vaguely lineked scenarios along with the background and uniform detail where appropriate. In Barry's own words,

 

"The 4 Play concept is designed to achieve multiple objectives for the wargamer First and foremost, it aims to be entertaining In a series of small, quick games, players can grab an hour and complete a single missionor, spend a session completing two or three making for an enjoyable afternoon or evening.)"




This sounded ideal to me, I already have a disparate bunch of 17th Century figures with odds and ends from the ECW, Three Musketeers and War of the Grand Alliance and it is nice to get even a small selectioon of them on a tabletop. After a good giggle about the name of the project (I'm still very unsure about the idea of paying for 4play...) I had a close look at the sample copy that I had been sent. Small tables and a not too many figures seem to tick all the boxes for quick fun games that can be done over Zoom or Jitsi whilst social distancing is still in place.


As my current detour from the project that is itself currently distracting me from my planned hobby painting, is 17th Century naval games, I flicked first to the naval scenario. A fight in the Gulf of Hormuz, ideal for the smaller vessels and limited numbers that suit my nascent fleets. But then, wait a minute, what the hell are those? Bloody Xebecs!



The Xebec was the descendant of the pirate galleys that plagued the Mediterranean Seas.  They were elegant and fast, lateen sailed ships with a decent broadside and the capacity for a large crew for boarding actions. An easy addition to fleets in dinky little 1/2400 models but not easy to find in 1/450 scale that I favour...




Aftyer some fruitless scrabbling around on the Interwebs, all I had discovered that might be suitable was the Pirateology models that must be made of solid gold to command the prices that they do, or print your own 3D models (I don't yet have a 3D printer...) I did  read througha lot of modelling articles in all sorts of materials and that did twig me to a posible donor model that might allow me to kitbash a couple for my own cheapskate requirements. I dug out the freebie Black Seas sloops that had been taped to the front of one of the Wargames magazines.


 

Quite a small tubby looking boat but suitably heavily armed and no shenanigans cutting it down to the waterline needed. The masts would be no good but are easily replaced. The trickier part would be adding the distinctive pointy prow and overhanging stern that give the type its distinctive looks. I liked the whole notion of pirates and Middle Eastern raiders anyway so I thought I'd give it a go. So far I have added some plasticard pieces to give me the overall outline. Next step will be building on that skeleton with a few bits of putty work to make it look like all one boat. Then new spars and sails. If the process is not too painful I may end up with a small flotilla of Xebecs.


(Of course if you have any sense just get the scenario packs and play them with whatever figures/models you have to hand...)



Galleys & Galleons

Posted by Adam on March 3, 2020 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (1)

I thought I'd get some boats on the table this weekend and try out a set of rules. I had bought an electronic copy of Galleys and Galleons by Ganesha Games and liked the way it looked on the page. The proof is, as ever, in the pudding however... I decided to try the rules solo, as written to see how the gameplay felt. Obviously I had already started tweaking the rules to do things they way I wanted (Why am I like this!?! I started wargaming at the height of WRG and Barkerism; I should be accepting the words as written on the holy page!) I decided to use the three ship models that I have based and ready to go (I have a few others painted but not based.)



 

The two sides were an English Merchant Galleon and a pair of Dutch privateers; a sloop and a Brigantine. The rules come with multiple scales so that it can be used with smaller playing areas and different sizes of model ships. I used a card table, which worked fine for this size of encounter. The ships are characterised by just two statistics: their Quality and their Combat value. The Combat score for a ship cannot be more than 1 point higher than the Quality score, so this means that the larger ships with higher Combat scores are at a disadvantage when rolling for initiative. So really Quality is a slight misnomer, it is more like a combination of agility and crew quality, whatever the naval word for that should be. The upshot is that smaller vessels can be easier to activate giving them a balancing advantage against gun-laden behemoths.

 



In my small playtest the English galleon outgunned either of its Dutch opponents individually but I was interested to see if the quality advantage swung things back their way. I decided the best tactic for the Dutch was to try to get on both sides of the enemy ship to try for a raking shot and the threat of boarding from two directions. The English weren’t too keen on this outcome so used the wind advantage to try to pick on the sloop before the combined attack could develop. This was when I realised that, as a merchant ship, the English galleon had a minus on all shooting so was hard pressed to cause damage to the enemy. Luckily for the English my aggressive tactics caused the Dutch sloop to miscalculate its course and collide with the stern of the English ship. Now the Dutch (and me) discovered that this was a bad idea against a ship with a reinforced hull and took 2 damage. The decision to grapple and board was equally poor against a high sided galleon and the sloop took another point of damage as their boarding party was repelled.




The sloop’s heroics/idiocy did pin the English ship in place long enough for the Dutch brigantine to fire a close range broadside into her. This caused major rigging damage and a permanent loss of speed for the galleon. The sloop took the first opportunity to cut grapples and put some distance between them. With three hits it counted as “crippled”. The sloops three white initiative dice had now all changed to red and each time a 1 is rolled on activation something bad will happen including the chance they will surrender to a nearby enemy. Any further damage once crippled causes a critical hit which includes the chance of sinking or catching fire.




The remaining Dutch privateer was finding out the hard way that it had perhaps bitten off more than it could chew. Although it damaged the St George (the English galleon) even a raking shot was not fatal against the galleon’s reinforced hull. The English ship was quite prepared to battle it out but a slight change in the wind direction meant that it woul;d have to turn into the wind to get closer to the brigantine. With the damaged rigging this was going to be a slow affair. I decided to stop there as a decisive outcome was looking unlikely.




I did enjoy the short playtest of Galleys and Galleons. I do like the activation mechanism where there is an inbuilt risk in trying to do too much with any one ship and worse outcomes possible once damaged. The rules are at the simple end of the scale but with interesting tailoring possible for individual ships by applying different characteristics (for example the sloop had “Razée” which allows additional move distance and the Galleon had “Reinforced Hull”, as previously mentioned.) There is little in the way of book-keeping required, although I will probably make up ship sheets as a reminder of which characteristics a vessel has and the effect during the game. Definitely worth trying some more and I can already see possibilities of house rules that I might try. (I know, I know…;) )

 


Bigger Smaller Boats

Posted by Adam on December 30, 2019 at 6:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Barry Hilton's current enthusiasm with the naval aspects of the late 17th Century is very infectious and I have been following with interest.

http://leagueofaugsburg.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-big-one-part-1-getting-organized.html


Altough eminently practical, I quickly realised I could muster no interest in the microscopic ship models that Barry has been using to such great effect.  Instead I dug into the pile of  abandoned projects to find an alternative. Amongst my on again off again Armada project I found a stash of 1/450 Peter Pig ship models and some plastic kits that  looked good for conversion fodder. The first few efforts are now ready for the table top.


A small Engilish galleon investigates a Dutch sloop in company with a brigantine.


I found a half converted Airfix Mayflower that looked about right as a 17th Century galleon (at the small end for this type of ship.) Some further examples of this kit look like a possible basis for early frigate models from the period. A Peter Pig pirate sloop with a bit of milliput clay was an easy conversion. The models are bang on scale and just about perfect for the period. The third model up was a  Janapanese plastic toy which with some hacking around and changes to the rigging makes a passable impression of a two masted brigantine.


Left to right: Airfix, Japanese toy and Peter Pig.


Enlarging the scale to 1/450 does mean that fleets of ships of the line become impractical in space and financial  terms. However the lower level fights, convoys  and skirmishes that are the day to day reality of naval warfare, look like an interesting arena (and pirates become a viable combatant!)  The smaller warships of this period still seem to have the ridiculous baroque decoration that makes the navies of the period so picturesque.  Painting these models should be fun then; a 100 ft long frigate will be a model of around 3" long, so big enough to see some detail but not so large it is more of a modelling challenge than I want to take on. Finding a set of rules that suits this level of warfare will be the next challenge...

Caeasar vs. Germans

Posted by Adam on July 26, 2019 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

We had the little used 15mm armies for a run out last weekend. The later Republican Romans masquerading as Caeser's army on an expedition across the Rhine. Les had amalgamated the allied contingents of several armies to produce a veritable horde of ferocious Germans. The Germans outnumbered the Roman army by about 2 to 1 in units. They were however outclassed in quality and armour, also the Romana had a more efficient Sequence Deck (3 Leader Check cards and no Milling Around for example.)



With just two command groups and no cavalry, the German options were tpo be a bit limited (and rightly so.) My plan (such as it was) consisted of a right hook with all my veteran units and the sole Hearth Guard unit attacking the Roman left. They had a line of standard Warriors to their front to absorb the Roman pila, allowing the second line to charge in and win the day! The standard Warriors would suffer badly from missile fire having only a feeble shield for protection (very light armour class.) The Veterans have only a marginal upgrade (light armour) indicating a slightly sturdier shield or maybe a helmet.



My only other strategem was to line one of my skirmisher units along the forest edge on the Roman right flank. This was to suggest that ambushing units were lurking therein. I'm not sure that they fell for it however.


The battle went about as well as was possible for the German side. The Battle Lust card came up at a very opportune moment. This card acts as an extra Melee Resolution card and gives the Germans a bonus in melee as well. The flip side is that victorious units have no choice but to pursue. Also every unit under Battle Lust that is within a move of the enemy must move into contact using up impetus to do so. The unfortunate timing for the  Romans was that they had not had a chance to react to the overlapping German units on their left. This meant that the Battle Lusted Germans were forced to turn and fling themselves at this open flank. A combination of frontal attacks, this flanking charge and rotten dice rolls caused  this Roman flank to crumple and several units to rout to the rear.


The third line of Romans (near the corner of the rulebook) watch as their colleagues ahead of them are roughly handled.


With the sucess of the left of the German army (even before the decent veteran units had got involved) the left hand command of the army was also ordered forward. The skirmish line of bowmen was successful in diaordering some of the leading Roman units and the Romans sensibly refused to waste their pila on these light infantry.  When they did  brush aside the skirmish line the disorganised attack was less effective that the Romans needed to swing the battle back their way. To add to their woes the bowmen along the edge of the forest moved up to pepper the unshielded flank of the advancing Romans.



Fleeing Romans in the centre being pursued  between their own lines.


The hard fighting and requirement to rally disordered units had quickly depleted the Roman supply of Morale Chips (these represent the overall staying power of an army, they are redusced by casualties and routs and spent on rallying or forcing enemy morale checks.) The final straw for the Romans was when the victorious German units that had pursued routers through the intervals in the Roman army finally had a chance to halt their pursuit (their enemy had routed off table). They both managed to halt and turn around. This now resulted in the Roman left being both depleted and surrounded. They were also (although not aware of it) about to face the better elements of the Geerman army (my cunning right hook plan.) Theis was a sensible place to finidsh our game with effectively no hope for a Roamn victory.



This decisive victory was acheived in effectively one turn of the game of Archon. The Romans really needed to hold on and be viable into a second turn when the Battle Lust card would no longer be in effect. It really did highlight that it is not enough in this rule set to have all the advantages in quality and equipment; the smaller better army needs to win the initiative and choose where the action will take place. Good dice rolls is also useful.


Caesar contemplates a rare reverse in his glittering carreer (obviously an off-day!)

A Sad Loss

Posted by Adam on May 14, 2019 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (1)

A very sad day on April 13th when we heard that our good friend Nick Langford had finally lost his fight with Parkinsons disease. My sympathies are of course with his family who have the loss of a lovely man as well as a great Dad and Grandad to come to terms with. For me a good friend is gone as well as my opponent across the wargames table and collaborator in many a history or gaming enthusiasm, for nearly forty years.



Nick commented to me several times, over the years what a lot of enjoyment he had received from our hobby of wargaming. He was certainly the prime mover  in the evolution of our wargames from being all about the game to being as much about a few drinks and an excellent meal with friends. That's not to say Nick's competitive streak had waned. He still liked to mash an opponents army, by brilliant tactics or unlikely dice throws, and rub it in with gleeful laughter! 



Nick was in no small part the cause of my own interest in history. Great long discussions and debates about all manner of  subjects and our thoughts about what we had been reading last are one of the things I shall miss the most. I'm really not sure how I am going to feel about the projects that we tackled together (Macedonian Successors, Seven Years War, Moghuls and Maharattas...) It will be weird that Nick's not there when the toys are out on the table. On the other hand I reckon that any time the lowly Pindaris charge to an unlikely victory or the French fusiliers stand and fight against the odds, I will be able to hear Nick cheering them on.

Goodbye mate, thanks for everything.





Ottoman Progress

Posted by Adam on May 6, 2019 at 12:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Whilst the T's are crossed and I's dotted on my upcoming house move I decided to get at least a few Ottoman infantry finished. The post Salute enthusiasm period would not be wasted before I have to pack way my painting desk. First up was the completed unit of 18th C. Janissaries converted from Perry Zouaves with my own sculpted and cast up arms included.




My first time moulded items have worked okay ("good enough for Government work" I think is the saying echoing round my head.) I enjoyed converting one of the Perry figures by adding a Mahdist drum to create a a musician for the unit. The Mahdist figure has bare arms so I added some loose unbuttoned sleeves to the figure. The aggressive look of the unit and slightly irregular feel was exactly what I was aiming for. They are slightly more varied than I was thinking; with not only yataghan swords but firing muskets, pistols and wielding musket butts.




The Bosniak / Albanian figures from Warfare Miniatures were also crying out to be painted. I wanted these to be a little less brightly coloured than the regular troops of the Ottoman force so I chose a limited pallet for these. Apart from equipment and occasional decoration I went with dark blue, black, brick red, cream and white. Taking a cue from Barry Hilton's technique for these figures I didn't worry about doing highlights after painting and shading. I think the detail is all there in the sculpts.



I am not sure yet if I will give them a command stand made up from the generic officers or I might convert some of the musketeers into an officer and standard bearer.



Some Nice Danish Gunboats

Posted by Adam on January 26, 2019 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Made good use of a spare hour in Copenhagen this week and visited the Military Museum. They have a lot of excellent ship models so I took a few snaps. Some very cute gunboats from our period of interest:






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