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Taking Stock of Projects: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Posted by Adam on January 16, 2018 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I have previously avoided looking too closely at my wargames hobby in terms of how many projects I have active or stored away for future revival or just hopelessly stalled. Inspired by Ross Mac's no-nonsense look at his own resources and interests on his enthralling blog  and where to commit his hobby time, I have decided to have a crack at something similar. I am writing as I review things, so excuse me if the mood swings violently!


My oldest collection of 25/28mm figures (not including Dungeons and Dragon RPG miniatures) is the Macedonian Successors. Started a little over 35 years ago when I first discovered playing with toy soldiers was a “real” hobby! My first purchases were towards a Pyrrhic army. This appealed to me from the pages of WRG’s 6th Edition army lists due to the diverse range of auxiliary type that could be added to the core of competent Macedonian pikemen and Companion cavalry. Elephants, Italian types, Keltic mercenaries, Cretan archers - basically all the fun of the fayre! Early recruits were able to get into action quickly thanks to my friend Nick starting a Hellenistic army at the same time. We were able to coordinate our buying and painting of figures and combine them into a joint army. (Often Antigonid Macedonian if memory serves.) A good starter army with no one “super-troop” unit that you have to pin your hopes on. There were a variety of dangers presented by this sort of army. I even had the Kelts pull the fat out of the fire one time, beating a unit of Varangian Guards when everyone else had given way.


Macedonian Successors

(Includes some Persians and Indians, who were allies and enemies)

Figures painted: 644 (plus 8 elephants)

Figures unpainted: Around 600 about a third are Achaemenid Persians.

Active status: Very active!





Even after all these years this period of history still enthuses me. The Macedonians are being reinforced on two fronts currently: The Bactrian Greeks are mostly painted and ready for their first game in 2018. Also the Society of Ancients Battle Day is Paraitekene this year so I am adding a small number of units to my phalanx numbers for that game.



So hopefully at least 3 games using these figures this year. This gives quite an “ancients” slant to the year already… My next largest collection I suspect will be Horse and Musket, particularly the 18th Century and Seven Years War. Although these were originally bought as a side project when I acquired a large number of Spencer Smith plastic figures just before they went out of production. It has become my other main period of interest, expanding into the latter part of the 17th Century with the recent Nine Years War focus.


18th Century / Seven Years War

Figures painted: 533 (plus several dozen guns and 8 elephants)

Figures unpainted: 120 or so Indian cavalry and sepoys. Less than a hundred(?) Austrian and French SYW

Active status: Active.





An ongoing interest almost as long as the Ancients armies. These have taken a bit of a back seat to the League of Augsburg / Nine Years War in recent years. However I am determined to get my Ottoman Turk project properly under way this year. Some figures have been bought for this already from Brigade Games, Old Glory and Dixon Miniatures. Some will be home caste and modified plastics and then there is the tantalising prospect of Warfare Miniatures starting their range. Not sure if they will hit the table in 2018 but a round dozen units painted and ready by the end of the year is a reachable target. Hopefully we will get the SYW boys out to play at least once as well.



My other “tricorn based” army, that I mentioned above, has muscled in on the SYW figures’ territory. These are the late 17th Century Nine Years War units, which have benefitted from usage once or twice a year at the League of Augsburg weekends in Derby and Dumfries, keeping them on the agenda. I have no ambitious plans for painting units this year. I am lucky to have a friend (Les) who has collected enough figures for us to play manageable games with our combined collections. If events in the Battle for Britain campaign call for it I may be tempted to paint up a unit or two…


Nine Years War

Figures painted: 336

Figures unpainted: 472 plus artillery? (just a side project  )

Active status: Active.




I will hopefully be able to attend at least one of the games up at Dumfries. I am likely to take along some or all of my painted units if they are needed. A fair chance we will get these chaps on a table closer to home at least once this year too.


My other main focus this year is related to the League of Augsburg via their skirmish rule set “Donnybrook”. I have a mainly Scottish themed 17th Century / ECW Donnybrook collection (~ 60 figures) which will in the course of time be expanded with more figures including Three Musketeers period heroes and villains. I think the rules should work fine for this kind of setting. More of a stretch is adapting the rules set for the new period that I started last year; the 1895 Heligoland Crisis.


This is a Victorian alternative history setting that I am greatly enjoying writing. The main opponents are the British Empire and the German Empire and the initial theatre of operations the British governed Heligoland Islands in the North Sea. I am taking liberties with history (but feasible ones) that have led to an Anglo-German conflict 19 years before the Great War. I am planning on expanding the conflict to include torpedo boat duels in the shoal infested waters around the islands and civilian / irregular forces for the 28mm skirmish games.



1895 Heligoland Crisis

Figures painted: 58 (plus 7x 1/600 ships)

Figures unpainted: 200ish

Active status: Active.





I have to accept that the effort for this project will be split equally between figures and terrain / rules tinkering. Getting to a usable version of the rules that gives the period a distinct flavour will be key to keeping up enthusiasm for painting new figures and organising scenarios for games.

 

The second ancients period that I have a big interest in is the Punic Wars and more generally the Western Mediterranean. This overlaps with the Macedonian Successors in the form of the army of Pyrrhos which included Italian contingents and of course the Republican Romans who clashed with him and, eventually, the other Successors. This project started for me with my buying and painting an Etruscan army with Gallic allies. There were no Etruscan figures available back then, so I used the multipart QT/Amazon range of figures to cobble together something that worked for me. For the Gallic warriors I used a bunch of the QT figures and a couple of examples from every range I could find. This gave me a fine irregular looking warband in the days before ranges had a lot of variants of any one troop type. This “project” has expanded in fits and starts over the years and now includes small forces for each of the Romans, Carthaginians and Samnites, to go with the Etruscans.



Punic Wars

Figures painted: 432 plus elephants and chariots

Figures unpainted: 300 - 400

Active status: semi-active.





One of our Roman army owners left our small band of brothers, so we were somewhat reduced in the number of Legions we could deploy on the tabletop. I have been bulking up my Romans to fill the gap but I have less empathy for them than other armies so it is less of a priority. Instead of classic Punic wars clashes we have turned to games featuring Kelts and mercenary forces instead. There is always a chance we will gwt these old favourites out for a game particularly if I restart my Truceless War campaign...


These projects I would happily call the "Good". Well developed, with enough figures to have a game. Still plenty of enthusiasm and new figures joining the veterans. I will come onto the "Bad" and Ugly" next time.

Lions Led By Donkeys?

Posted by Adam on January 3, 2018 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (2)


After our first try out of the modified Donnybrook rules for a game set in 1895 Heligoland, I had a think about the "feel" of the game as experienced. We had discussed right after what had worked and what had not and it was a generally positive impression. But... What niggled at me was the thought that I had, "How was this different from a WW2 or VBCW or Back of Beyond game?" Similar weaponry by the infantryman and an understandable tendency by players to use their anachronistic knowledge of later tactics. Some pondering required, that had to be postponed as work got busy and Christmas landed on me like a tonne of bricks.


A small party from the Suffolk Regiment. Unfeasibly Miniatures, which should be generally available soon.



"Helpfully", Les also sent me some chunks of information about the two Boer Wars (which bracket our 1895 conflict. First Boer War 1880-81, Second Boer War 1899-1902.) Essentially reading up a bit more on the reality of the British performance it became clear my tailoring of the British for Donnybrook 1895 was bollocks. The British seemed to learn nothing from the first war and it took the Second Boer War for them to start the process of sorting out tactics that suited the age of breech loading repeating rifles and modern artillery. My letting them fight as skirmishing marksmen with mad-minute drills was definitely not realistic in 1895.


Some Sikh veterans from an Indian regiment. Foundry figures from their Darkest Africa range.



This brings up the problem that was concerning me. How do you inflict on the players the requirement that they make the same mistakes as their historical counterparts? In larger scale games there can be compulsory formations for battalions or companies that reflect the thinking of the current battlefield tactics. For a skirmish scale game however it would be dispiriting to have to march the figures in close formation into the teeth of annihilating rifle fire, however correct that might be historically.


Seaforth Highlanders. Irregular Miniatures.



Additionally there did not seem to be a simple consensus as to which battle tactics should be used within the same armies in this period. The Prussians had the lessons of the Franco-Prussian war to draw on as well as frequent large scale manoeuvres. The British had almost continuous combat experience around the world on a generally smaller level than European army scale. Both nations (and others) quite naturally observed the ideas and methods of other armies as well. However, not only was there disagreement about what these ideas and lessons meant but there was patchy uptake amongst the generals and officers in translating new ideas into actions on the ground.


A German Navy shore party. Figures from North Star but not sure what they are meant to be...


The reasons for this were complex but from what I have read there was a strong body of opinion drawn from theoreticians such as Clausewitz and the experiences of battle going back to the Napoleonic Wars that offensive tactics were the key to victory. The morale and initiative advantages of attacking outweighed the benefits of being a defender even in prepared positions. Then there were voices that pointed to the more recent examples of the American Civil War and the Franco Prussian war where these certainties had been roughly tested upon the advent of universal usage of breech loading rifles by the common infantryman. One of the interpretation of these examples was that the frontal attack on infantry so armed was no longer a valid tactic due to the very high casualties that would be sustained by an attacking force.


But in the end it did not necessarily matter what was taught at Aldershot or the Prussian staff college. Tactical methods became enmeshed with politics in the German army and the preferences of the Kaiser became as important as those of experienced military planners. The British, who had seen committed attacking armies such as the Zulus and Ansars beaten by their own rifle fire from carefully crafted defensive positions, haughtily disdained these “natives” and many senior officers believed that a professional soldier would be able to press home such a frontal attack.


German Infantry from the 49th Regiment. More Unfeasibly Miniatures from the 2016 Kickstarter Campaign.


My approach to build in this disparity of tactical methods within the game rules is in 2 parts. Firstly I have decided that the officers and characters in the 1895 games need to have some assigned characteristics. Rather than the officer figure being the player’s representative it will be a professional military man with his own ideas on the way his men should be used in a battle. The officer’s understanding of tactics would confer upon troops acting in his command radius benefits and disadvantages. I have tried to distil the complex theorising down to two factors: The preferred formation / control system (close order, loose order or skirmish order) and Tactical school (frontal assault with the bayonet, frontal assault using firepower and standing on the defensive.) I have also tried to give all the characteristics a balance of good and bad effects, whatever history and my personal bias says the correct approach should have been for the period.


A German Officer. But will he be an advocate for the tactics of defence or attack?


The second strand of these rule changes is that units may only act upon their activation card if in the command radius of an officer or character (there is no let off by parking the officer well to the rear where he cannot interfere…;) This I think reflects well the more rigid hierarchy of command compared to the 17th Century. I have written up a draft of the rule additions here for anyone to have a look at and comment on (please!) We’ll try these out in the next opportunity we have to get some figures on a table.


Heligoland First Game

Posted by Adam on November 30, 2017 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Our first run out with new toy soldiers and the draft amendments for the Donnybrook rules was arranged for the weekend. Based around the figures that I had already painted and suitable ones from our collections, the scenario was a scouting mission by a small British force. This comprised of a squad of Heligoland Garrison Regiment (Inexperienced, 12 figures + a sergeant, D6) and three volunteer detachments of veteran British reinforcements. These were from the Grenadier Guards, Suffolk Regiment and Seaforth Highlanders. All regiments with experienced hands who had seen a lot of action recently in India. These were all Veteran, 4 figures, D10. The party was under the command of Lieutenant Delacroix of the Garrison Regiment but with instructions to listen to the advice of the Colour Sergeant of the Highlanders. The Grenadiers, being an advance party without any officers were accompanied by Major Rumbol-Smythe, as theirs was a regiment he had once been seconded to for a mission in the Congo.





The briefing was to investigate a report that a German ship had been seen docked at a secluded landing stage on the estuary of the Jagstavon. Discovering what they were up to and stopping it, if possible, was to be attempted if the reports were true.




 

The German force which was instructed to protect the cargo whilst being unloaded and then until transport arrived to take it inland. To carry out this task the lucky German officer Hauptman Schultz had a squad of the 49th Regiment of Infantry (8 figures, Drilled + a sergeant, D8) Arriving with the cargo steamer was a Seebattalion squad (8 figures, Drilled + a sergeant, D8) and enough spare sailors to provide another squad (8 figures, Drilled + a coxwain, D8). They also had a machine gun…





The landing stage had a small clump of industrial buildings and stockades clustered around it. IT was around these that Hauptman Schultz deployed his troops but close to the gangplanks in case a large enemy force turned up. This allowed the British to infiltrate the buildings without coming under too much fire. The Garrison Regiment occupied a large building that overlooked the landing stage with the intention of punning down the Germans whilst smaller parties worked their way around the left flank to catch them in a crossfire.





The plan worked well. The Garrison squad took a casualty as they milled around trying to get through a door and the Seaforths had one unlucky Highlander hit by a German bullet but the were soon able to start a close range fire on the enemy infantry huddled behind crates and bales. The Germans found themselves being whittled away and when Schultz sent his group of sailors in to shore up the position they took a terrific hail of bullets trying to cross a wall. The remnants of the Reichmarine party hunkered down but were eventually sent retreating back on board the steamer.





On the left the Seebattalion were making very slow progress and their machine gun seemed to take an age to get into the action. When it opened fire the machine gun was able to kill several of the Garrison Regiment in the top floor of their building but not enough to drive them back. The Seebattalion riflemen worked their way into the rear of the British in the meantime and opened fire on the flank of the Suffolks, killing one private before they knew where the attack was coming from. This was potentially bad news for the British. All their soldiers were engaged in the firefight with nobody left to respond to the flank attack.





The crumbling position of the rest of the German force, particularly after one of their sergeants was hit (50% casualties and morale check time) now prevented the Seebattalion pressing their advantage. Hauptman Schultz was forced to order a retreat. Under covering fire from the machinegun, the Germans dragged their wounded onto the steamer and slipped the hawsers to rapidly move away from the shore.





The Heligoland Garrison Regiment had soundly beaten the invaders (with a little help.) The delivery of supplies had been stopped but still it was not known. What was this mysterious cargo?




The Heroes of Heligoland

Posted by Adam on November 20, 2017 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Steadily painting up the combatants for the two sides but I snuck in a couple of command characters (who might bear a resemblance to friends I game with*.)

 

First is Sir Leslie A. Rumbol-Smythe, Archie to his friends.

 

 

And his old sparring partner, Baron Nikolaus von Langenfordt

 

 

These two will have some backstory including previous encounters in other parts of the world. Archie is rumoured to be a handy chap in the sort of situations where Her Majesty's Government cannot get directly involved. The Baron is a fanatical patriot and has used his family fortune to support various schemes (dastardly ones natuarally) that he sees as advancing the cause of Greater Germany.

 

No images exist at the moment for the notorious Anarchist leader known as Adamos de la Hay...

 

I cannot for the life of me remember where the British office figure came from, maybe London War Room's old range of figures for battles on Mars. The Baron is a Westwind Miniatures chap from a pack called German Archaologists (I'm not sure how you use a sabre in a dig but there you go.)


(*Mainly the names to be honest...)

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.

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.


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.

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.

Indian 18th C. Army - The Cavalry

Posted by Adam on July 9, 2016 at 5:40 AM Comments comments (1)

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.