Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Storm of Steel

I read my first military history book when I was 12 and have not stopped reading in this genre since. Over the years, I've gone through many phases - Roman, Napoleonics, American Civil War, World War II/East Front and Vietnam, just to name a few.  I generally avoid the World War I era based on the mayhem, stupidity and scope of slaughter that dwarfs everything before and after it. So it was with some hesitation that I picked up "Storm of Steel" by Ernst Junger.

Junger was a German soldier who saw action mostly against the British from 1914-18. First published in 1920, "Storm of Steel" is a personal narrative based on the diaries Junger kept during the war. He relates the day-to-day life of a German soldier without lecture, philosophy or musing. His experience could be described as war of two halves. From 1914-16, his unit was engaged off and on, sometimes in reserve and rotated to the rear frequently. In August of 1916, he's posted to the battle of Somme where the slaughter reaches a monstrous efficiency that continues unabated until Germany surrenders.

Junger describes his experiences matter-of-factly: "The earth shook, the sky seemed like a boiling cauldron. Hundreds of heavy batteries were crashing away at and around Combles, innumerable shells crisscrossed hissing and howling over our heads. Because of wracking pain in our heads and ears, communication was possible only by shouted words. The ability to think logically and the feeling of gravity, both seem to have been removed."

At the front, he discovers the trench his company is posted to reduced to a series of enormous craters full of uniforms, weapons and dead bodies. "When we dug foxholes, we realized that they were stacked in layers. One company after another, pressed together in the drumfire, had been mown down, then the bodies had been buried under showers of dirt sent up by shells and then the relief company had taken the predecessor's place. And now it was our turn."

At one point, Junger's company of 150 men is mustering to the front when an artillery shell lands in their midst. The 63 stunned survivors are given mere hours to recuperate before going over the top to attack. By war's end, the author had been wounded 6 times and it's safe to say that these wounds may have saved his life by taking him out of the meat grinder.

I find the stories of ordinary men operating in extraordinary circumstances very compelling and that was true here.  When I got to the the Battle of Somme, I put aside my chores for the day so I could finish the book in a single sitting.  It was an afternoon well spent as this book a fascinating read on a subject I generally avoid.

Friday, June 22, 2012

3 Legions ranked up

Every project should start with a good deal of planning. Upstream planning prevents downstream headaches, like discovering your army is too small or the troop mix is not quite what you need.  In case you haven't noticed, I'm lecturing myself.

When I painted up my Mid Republican Romans in January, I went small. I was eager to move on and paint my  Pontics so I quit the Romans early. As my Pontic army grew, I realized I needed to circle back and buff up my Romans so that they could be the equal of the Pontics on the field of battle.  Smack in the middle of my other projects, I stopped to order up and paint Triarii, more Hastati, Pricipes and Velites so I could field 3 large legions in Impetus. The upside is, they do look sharp all massed up!  Corinth, bar the gates.  The boys are back in town!

Firemonkeyboy posted photos of his excellent command stands for his Impetus army.  The rules don't require them but I liked the look enough that I did the same. Like the Romans used to say, in for a Solidus, in for a Denarius!

Roman camp, 3 legions and now command stands...I declare the Roman project finito. And we'll exit to the exquisite harmonies of Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson singing "Roam." Seriously, there isn't a lot of Roman themed pop music that I could think of so this will have to do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pontic Heavy Cavalry

Last unit up are Persian Xystophoroi cavalry, representing the elite Pontic heavy cavalry.  The Impetus Pontic list allows a "Heavy Cavalry" option so you have leeway in choosing figures to represent this unit.  I chose Xyston's Xystophoroi to emphasize Mithridates' Hellenistic bend.

These scupts are phenomenal, packed with so much detail that they tested my painting abilities. I believe they are the best 15mm figures I've painted to date.  I generally find triads in 15mm a time consuming technique that doesn't pay proper dividends but the capes on these fellows are the exception to the rule. Just like new parents can't wait to show off their baby, I can't wait to show off mine!
The Pontics are the Swiss army knife of 88 BC with loads and loads of options!  At the finish line, my Pontic army is:

2 units of Heavy Cavalry
2 units of Rhoxolani Cavalry
2 units of Skythian Light Cavalry
1 unit of Arachosian Light Cavalry
1 Scythed Chariot
3 units of Thureophoroi foot
1 unit of Paphlagonian Javelinmen
2 unit of Bastarnae
4 units of Phalangite Pike
4 units of Galatians
2 Slinger skirmishers
2 Archer skirmishers

I like to close my projects with a musical number.  Mithridates went to war with Rome 3 times in his life so  I leave you with War "Why Can't We Be Friends?"

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hey Now, Scythians Coming!

The Scythians were yet another nomadic tribe that served in the Pontic army. Known for their prowess on horseback and with the bow, they frequently raided the Greek city states on the Black Sea. The Kingdom of Bosphorus requested Pontic intervention to deal with their Scythian neighbors.  Not one to let an opportunity to expand slip by, Mithridates sent his navy, army, and general Diaophantus to subdue them.  The Scythians eventually agreed to become allies of Pontus as did Bosphorus.  With this pacification campaign complete, Mithridates enjoyed "almost inexhaustible supplies of men, grain, gold and raw materials."  Adrienne Mayor, "The Poison King." And  Mithridates would need every bit of it to go toe to toe with Rome.  

Figures by Xyston.  I was liberal with color selection but truthfully, if the Scythians of 88 BC were still dressing like it was 400 BC, I didn't do them justice.  I was working under the assumption that by 88 BC, they'd progressed past their "Liberace" phase.
Last of the Scythians.  Good with a piano, better with a compound bow!

Friday, June 1, 2012


The Rhoxolani were a Sarmatian people that migrated toward what is now the Baragan steppes in Romania.  The historian Strabo described them as nomads.  The Rhoxolani were defeated by general Diophantus in Mithradates' Crimean campaign and subsequently came over to fight with the Pontics against Rome.  There is a small mention of 100 Sarmation cavalry distinguishing themselves in the First Mithridatic campaign.      

These horsemen wore scale armor made of metal or horn and fought with a long two-handed lance.  It's worth mentioning that they must have been great horsemen to ride a galloping horse with (a) no hands  leaning over to one side with a two handed lance (b) no stirrups (c) you and the horse each with armor.    They were fierce in combat and impact.  Thus, in Impetus, they're rated as Impetuous and throw 9 dice on impact.  That fistful is almost what you'd throw as later period Knights. 

Figures by Khurasan Miniatures.  I'd gladly buy Khurasan minis again but I've been spoiled by Essex and Old Glory when it comes to horse figures.  These are very lively poses and the scale armor is well done.  After all, scale armor is what it's about when it comes to painting the Rhoxolani!  

Let's wrap up with some artwork for inspiration.  Now, which way do I point the sharp end?