Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On the workbench-Serbian Knights

Monday was a great day for me.  I came home from work and found 2 Field of Glory related packages in the mail...kind of like Christmas in September!  The first package was my Essex Hungarian army. I got an email on Saturday confirming the Hungarians were shipping and Monday, they were in! That's amazing since Tennessee and Minnesota are more than 1,000 miles apart.  I'm thrilled with the fast shipping and great price of  Wargames.  I'm going to go back to their website and scour for more medieval troops.  If I'm lucky, maybe I can find enough figures to pull together another Medieval army.

I've never painted anything but Old Glory so I was fretting over whether Essex would be of equal quality.  It turns out that these figures are very well molded and loaded with detail.   The horses have a very nice size and shape compared to Old Glory.  Side by side, the Old Glory horse looks very thin.  I haven't even painted a single figure and already, I'm a fan of Essex!    
Last week, to prep for painting 40+ Hungarian knights, I dug out the last of my unpainted Old Glory Knights that I used for my Serbian Nobles battlegroup.  When I painted the Serbs last spring, I primed them with white primer, drybrushed sliver, washed with Badab Black and then over that with a bright silver.  I don't routinely drybrush 15mm figures but with chainmail and some barding, the technique works. 
I don't know but I've been told, Knights primed white shine like gold. 
This time around, I decided to change things up.  I primed the remaining Knights black, drybrushed them with a dark silver, then a black wash and then a bright sliver.  Comparing the two, the difference is very subtle. Priming white will give you a slightly brighter silver and shinier knight.   I think I'll stick with black primer for my Hungarian Knights for a slightly darker result. That's fitting since they will be a part of the Black Army.  
Stained and then painted a bright silver. 
Serbia scores 6 more Knights.

These 6 Serbians were a nice warmup for the Hungarian project.  On a critical note, I'd like to get better at painting shields.  I confess I see shields as a chore and it shows through in my work.  I'm going to have to fix that because there are an awful lot of shields in this army! I probably could use some Medieval reference books before I really dig in, so,  its time to go to Amazon and see what I can scrounge up.

And in case you were wondering what the 2nd Field of Glory package was on Monday?  More hills, trees and stone walls for enclosed fields. In for a penny, in for a pound.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Off the Workbench-Heavy Chariots

I finished up 4 more bases of Carthaginian Heavy Chariots...just in time to be temporarily retired with the rest of my Carthaginian army.  The Old Glory chariots are good with a few caveats: 

1.  You'll need a pin drill to drill out the hole where the axle goes into the wheel. Try to force a wheel on and  you'll bend the tiny axle back and maybe even let out a swear or two.
2.  Don't glue the wheels on until AFTER you've painted and detailed the chariot. Obvious to most people but I overlooked it with the first batch I painted.
3.  These chariots come with a grooved diamond pattern in them.  You'll want to create a paint scheme based on this pattern or risk poor results. I tried putting a stripe across one but the paint bled under the tape due to the grooves.  D'oh!
With the difficulties I had in coming up with a snazzy scheme for the chariot frames, I spent extra time on the wheels.  The trick that worked for me was to paint them black and then add contrasting colors that popped against the black.  I like the way the wheels turned out but I'm less happy with the chariots themselves. 

Now that summer is over, it's time to start a new army.  I've been eyeing Xyston Miniatures but almost anything I paint of theirs would duplicate an army that someone in our club already has.  A number of players run Medieval armies and with my ancient armies, I rarely get to play them.  I decided to focus on the Medieval era. After reading about Matthias Corvinus and his Black Army of Hungary, I settled on a Later Hungarian army.  Later Hungarians have an interesting and colorful mix of units.  Plus the Hungarians make a great tabletop opponent for my Ottoman Turks.

The last hurdle was to find miniatures.  Unfortunately, Old Glory doesn't have an Eastern European Medieval line.  I tried to scratch up units that could stand in for Later Hungarian but it was difficult.  Then I stumbled across a US distributor of Essex clearing their figures out at 50% off.  While their Medieval lineup has been well looted at this price, I did find enough Hungarians to build a Later Hungarian army.  Figures shipped today...I can't wait to get started!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Onward Carthaginian Soldier

Saturday's game featured a Carthaginian versus Roman showdown with each of the 4 players fielding a 650 point army. Battle was fought on a 9' x 4' field.  The terrain set up turned out poorly for the Romans, with their center attracting a gully, open field, village and a plantation. The upside was the Roman village did look awfully nice!

I ran a Later Carthaginian army, loaded with elephants.  My teammate Klay ran Early Carthaginian, loaded with heavy chariots and the Sacred Band. We concentrated our African Spear in the center of the table with orders to hold in place. On our right flank, I planned to push forward and meet the Romans head on. On our left, Klay aimed to swing wide around the Roman flank and bend their line back, hoping to create gaps and opportunities for flank attacks.  The battle was shaping up to be another demonstration of Roman quality versus Carthaginian quantity. 
The early game progressed well for Carthage, with our right and left flanks advancing sharply.   In the center, Mark struggled to move his legions and medium archers up due to the village and gully.  The wall of Carthaginian chariots and cavalry presented the Romans with a challenge. What would they do in the face of Klay's flanking movement?
Two units of my Numidian light horse caught and ran down Roman slingers.  During the pursuit, my Numidians Light Horse discovered Lanciarii in ambush in a plantation.  The Lanciarii charged and succeeded in running down one of my light horse from behind.  In pursuing the broken horse, they  forced my 2nd battlegroup of light horse to evade through my elephants, disrupting them! 
Luck was with me on this day because my Elephants managed to fight the Lanciarii to a draw and then subsequently rally out of disorder.  The Elephants proceeded to win in subsequent turns and broke the Lanciarii, sending them back to join the routed Roman slingers.  While the Lanciarii and Elephants battled it out, two legions advanced into what would turn out to be a trap.  
The Scutarii trap is sprung.  Elephants moving up on the right, Scutarii in the center and just out of sight, another unit of Scutarii coming up on the left.  With only 2 legions to face down enemies on three sides, this did not end well for the Romans.  
Meanwhile, Mark's Romans advanced relentlessly on our wall of African Spear in the center, disregarding our superior numbers.  And for good reason, apparently, as one unit of Spear broke from bowfire alone!  In melee, a legion broke a second unit of Spear and just like that, our center was crumbling and now in doubt. 
On the Carthaginian left flank, nothing went quite like it should have.  Brandt skillfully deployed his legions and countered Klay's every threat. By game's end, my partner had failed to eliminate a single Roman base or break any units. His chariot charges failed as did a charge and melee by the Sacred Band!
At the finish, we scored the Carthaginians as up on the right flank, Romans up in the center and Carthaginians neutralized on the left flank.  The 6 bases of elephants were key on my front.  They are faster than heavy foot and in melee, they neutralized the Roman advantage in armor and superior sword skill.  Then again, its easy to shine when you have the rare fortune of catching your opponent in the flank.  

This is as good a point as any to rest my Carthaginian army. I have 3 other armies to play, one of which has never seen the tabletop. I'm planning to fast forward 1700 years and run my Later Ottoman Turks at our next meet.  After getting slapped around by Roman Medium bowmen, I'm looking forward to running my Janissary Medium bowmen. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Spotlight on the Carthaginian Army

The story of Hannibal and his 15 year campaign in Italy against Rome is one of the great stories of history.  After reading “Hannibal” by Theodore Dodge, I decided to paint up an Old Glory Carthaginian army as my first army in Field of Glory.  The great thing about painting up Carthaginians is that they have a very diverse list and many of the battlegroups can be ported to other Army lists. The Carthaginians also present you with a two-for-one.  Paint up a Later Carthaginian army, add 8 bases of heavy chariots and the Sacred Band and voila!!! You have an Early Carthaginian army!  In addition, they are a natural foil for the many Roman armies lurking in the closets of your ancient gaming brethren.  

African Spear:  This is your bedrock unit. You only need 18 bases for the Later Carthaginian list but I recommend painting 24-28 bases. The extra bases come into play if you run the "Hannibal in Italy" special campaign list or if you want to run an Early Carthaginian list.  Early Carthaginians are fun to run because you get Heavy Chariots and the Sacred Band.  On the other hand, Early Carthaginians doesn't have elephants.  African Spear are decent Heavy Foot but you'll have trouble against Armored Superior Roman legions and horse based armies.  If you are bumping up against Romans regularly, consider a "Hannibal in Italy" list so you can upgrade these fellows to Armored Superior. 

Unless you are a Master Painter, you'll want to consider shield transfers. I used Little Big Man Studios but I hear the Veni Vidi Vici transfers are excellent as well.

Elephants:  If you're going to run Later Carthaginians, you have to have elephants and if you are going to have elephants, double down on crazy and max them out. That means 6 bases of thundering madness and if that doesn't sate your elephantine obsessions, you can bring in 2 more with a Numidian ally! Elephants are fun but dicey to run.  I've had them break from missile fire alone when I failed to keep skirmishers in front of them. I've also seen them stomp through an armored elite Soldurii unit. Just remember to keep them away from your cavalry. 

When asked to explain his obsession for fielding elephants in battle, Hannibal reportedly responded “Go big or go home."

Gallic Foot:   Gallic foot can be run as medium or heavy foot. These impact foot swordsmen gives you a different tool in your Carthaginian army toolbox. Think of them as a down payment on a future Gallic army. Once you've painted up your first Gallic Foot and Cavalry battlegroup for your Carthaginian list, you are on your way to your next army!                                          
Spanish Scutarii: Medium Impact foot swordsman.  I love the look of these guys and even though I have a Gallic army, I think about painting up a Spanish army from time to time.  Because the Gallic army and Spanish army are really mirror images of each other, it doesn't really make sense to do this so I'll probably settle for painting up more bases this fall or winter.
Balearic Slingers: They are one of the few superior skirmishers in the game and I count them as a must-have.  I've had them put away their slings and go mano-a-mano in melee. Being superior, they stomped their skirmish opponent but good. You'll thank me every time you get to reroll 1s in the shooting phase.
Numidian and Libyan Javelinmen: Javelinmen are the first to the front and first to the rear. Mundane but necessary. The Libyans sport the mohawk and apparently, when they shaved their heads, some of them also shaved off their ears.  Not the best sculptures...
Numidian Light Cavalry:  I recommend maxing out your light cavalry to 12 bases and if that's not enough for you, bring in more with a Numidian ally.  I really like these figures and by the 3rd battlegroup, I learned that basing them at angles and farther apart made them look more wild and skirmishy.
Spanish, Libyphoenician and Gallic Cavalry: This is the cavalry arm of the Carthaginian army.  Carthaginian cavalry is good but may run into trouble when matched up with lancer-armed cavalry.
Camp:  Every army needs a camp and this one is fairly docile.  I should have made up a "No looting" sign for it.  Then again, its not like barbarians can read.
After Romans, Carthaginians are probably the second most popular army in ancient miniature gaming.  They are colorful, rich in history and their battles well documented.   You'll find many Roman accounts (fair and balanced!) and resources for creating battles and campaigns.  
If you're thinking of painting up a Carthaginian army, I'd recommend Old Glory.  Their figures are affordable and nicely sculpted for the most part.  If you have the $, you might also look at Xyston Miniature's as their figures are perhaps the best in this field.  I've been eyeing their website for some time.  First though, I have to decide what army I want to paint next.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Battle of Chevellu Pass

Last night, we tested a scenario Clay designed based on Hannibal's descent from the Alps and the Allobroges Tribe's ambush. The scenario was built for fun and to that end, it was a smashing success! The battle featured 3 commands-Carthaginian 650 pt. army with Hannibal + 2 sub generals and his Spanish Ally 650 pts. + 2 generals.  Against them was a 1,100 Gallic army + 3 generals and a Spanish contingent.  To simulate the difficulty of an Alps descent, all hills were Steep Hills except where the Gauls had their camp.  The center of the board was dominated by 2 impassible mountains, edged with steep hills and forest. The Carthaginians and their Spanish ally each had a Mob that represented baggage trains with a movement rate of 3".  If the baggage train was touched by the Gauls, it was sacked and points given to the Gauls.  The challenge for Hannibal was to get the 2 baggage trains through the difficult terrain loaded with ambushes and off the board for points.  The challenge for the Gauls was to slow down/stop a larger Carthaginian army and sack the baggage trains.  The table was 9' by 4'.  Clay will present the Gallic point of view and I'll report for Carthage. This was my first time photographing a match after dark and the photos are not great.  I hope that doesn't detract too much from the overall narrative. I'll order a tripod, read some tutorials and employ the steps necessary to achieve better results in  the future.   

Carthage:  My partner and I split the board.  The terrain left of center made the large board feel claustrophobic and the map was littered with ambush markers.  I took Hannibal and the Carthaginians.  I estimated I had little chance of forcing the center so I only posted 2 battlegroups of African Spear and a group of skirmishers for the task.  I deployed my baggage train so it could follow the Spanish advance to my right or up the road if I were fortunate enough to force the gap.  I posted most of my troops on the left flank, which had a gap between the forest and the steep hill that anchored the Gallic flank. I hoped to knock down the Gallic line and swing around his flank.  Deployment is key  and my deployment on the left flank sowed the seeds of my difficulties.  My Spanish partner deployed his Scutarii Heavy Foot in a double battle line.  Since Spanish foot is all average, he was counting on rear support to win him the day.

Gaul: Late yesterday we could see the clouds of dust on the horizon signaling the arrival of the Carthage-Celtiberian invaders.  Before dawn, I ordered our Iberian Spanish ally to the forests along the mountain passes setting up numerous ambushes-in all 4 Scutarii battlegroups and one Catraetti battlegroup hunkered down in the steep hills and woodlands in the expected path of the enemy.  Our camp was behind a large gentle hill that looked out over the open valley on one side and the mountain pass road on the other. The hill would be the perfect location from which to fend off the Celties or the Hannibalites that make it thru the pass. All roads to Rome pass right by my Hillcamp!  The hill defense will include 3 battlegoups of warriors, 2 BGs of light troops, some chariots and my heavy cav...and of course the women and children will guard the camp itself!  To my right, I have 3 BGs of warriors including the Elite Soldurii, plus the 4 BG of ambushers guarding the pass itself plus the woodlands along the Carthaginian approach.  Finally, to seal the deal, I will send my eldest son, Vignor, to outlflank the Celties with cavalry and chariots...ohh it will be such a joy to watch as Vignor rolls into the flank of the invaders, while i enjoy a glass of mead on the hilltop!
Ambush Alley
How do Elephants and Cavalry mix? Right, they don't
Spanish advance reveals...more Spanish!
Carthage: The early going saw us move up cautiously and uncovering ambushes.   I only had one unit of Medium Foot and my Heavy Foot Offensive Spear turned out to be useless in difficult terrain. The Gauls had a flank march under way that kept us on our toes as we advanced.

Gaul:  The Carthaginians are stumbling into the Scutarii at every turn!  And they are marching the Carthage spearmen right into the mountain pass!  Meanwhile Hannibal is in the Carthage rear, harrying women and children to get the baggage and rush to the mountain pass.  All is going according to plan, except our Iberian light troops got too cute and were caught in the rear by a Carthage light, leading to a quick demise.  On my left, the Celtiberians continue a slow plod up the meadow passes, and have sprung yet another ambush-this time his light troops revealed a Scutarii, who will stand steady in the forest awaiting the real enemy-the Celtiberian heavies. Fortunately son Vignor is wise enough to hold off on his outflanking move...the trap is yet to be sprung. Ahhh, the mead is strong and the view is spectacular!
Peek a boo!
My only Mediums rout in 1 turn and disrupt 3 units in the process. Ugh!
The Spanish make it look easy.  Nice lines, nice advance. 
Carthage:  Against long odds, my advance up the pass in the mountains succeeds.  I charged a line of skirmishers and caught them!  When the skirmishers routed, we pursued and caught them again, getting us through the gap.  My 2nd unit of African Spearmen would not prove so lucky. They deployed, tried to catch the ambushing Scutarii in the flank and failed.  In face to face melee in the difficult terrain, my Spearmen broke.  Meanwhile, Hannibal was overseeing the baggage train and its double moves.  I should have had him out on my left flank and not fooling around with mules and wagons.  On my left, disaster strikes when my only Medium Foot is charged and routed in one turn! This disrupt 3 nearby units and forces my Elephants to pivot in place and out of line.  My commanders had to bolster my disrupted units while the Gallic commanders led charge after charge from the front.

Gaul:  Reports from my right flank, where the Soldurii fend off Numidian horse and the Scutarii are crashing out of the woods onto the flanks of the enemy, couldn't be better.  I send back a message to move the warriors forward to aid the Scutarii, and trap the elephants.  But I also hear disturbing news that a battlegroup of Carthage spear has made it thru the can this be?  Offensive spear, fighting in a state of disorder, uphill, is no match for our nimble and fearsome Scutarii-they will certainly win the day!  Now on our left, I must say that Vignor is taking his sweet time. I would have crashed into the side of the light cavalry trying to flank us up here on the hill...that opportunity is long past but certainly he will come to battle now, as the main army exposes its flank. Oh that Eldest son of mine is wise, but perhaps a might bit slow, I'll send out my own cavalry and chariots just to pin the Celties long enough for Vignor to get involved. I shouldn't have to do this but it is Vignor's first time on an outflank move, so I can help make his first time a success.
The Spanish tide rolls forward

Carthage:  At this point of the game, I had to pass a Complex Movement Test to not consume more beer.  Beer dulls the pain of failure but it also dulls the mind. The left flank came undone after I lost a leader in melee and that morale checks undid what was left of my front.

Gaul: WHERE IS VIGNOR?!!  My chariots are battling on and on, my heavy cavalry fall back in anticipation of the flank move, the Scutarii ambushers have calmly waited in the mountain forest under a constant barrage of missiles, and now falter, the Mead is warming, the women are starting to smell in the hot sun...WHERE IS THAT HALFWIT KID OF MINE!  The messenger from the right flank indicates the Carthaginian invaders are all but routed...Two BGs of elephants, a BG of Celtiberian warriors, and a cavalry unit are all in full rout, and we haven't even brought the Soldurii to bare yet!  But wait, what's this?  The Scutarii guarding the mountain pass, uphill, in the woods, have fallen to a BG of African Spearmen?  IMPOSSIBLE!
Spanish success!
Carthage:  With the pizza gone and the beer supply looted, we call it a night.  Taking stock, the Carthaginian left is in ruins.  The Gallic center is cleared, allowing a baggage train to exit the board.  The Spanish have cut a path to the road to exit their baggage train as well.  Clay commented that with our Friday night game, beer and pizza, it felt like we were back in college.  That is the mark of a great night!

Gaul: VIGNOR YOU IDIOT!  NOW you arrive!  The battle has been decided you FOOL!  Darkness is here and Hannibal is marching his baggage train thru the pass.  I gave the Kid EVERY opportunity...I  put up flagging to lead him to the field; I gave him fast reliable troops and yet he couldn't find his backside with two hands!  Blahh!  Well we sent much of the Carthaginians packing and should do some serious damage to the Celtiberians as they attempt to take this hill...but in the end it appears the baggage will get thru, and I will have to retire from the field; we have dealt a serious blow to Hannibal, but he will make it thru our lands with some of his army intact....alright, where is the Halfwit son of mine?!

In hindsight, I overpowered my right flank. My Soldurii never saw combat, and one Scutarii didn't either. I dearly needed these troops in the center; or closer to my camp.  While I defeated the Carthaginian left, it wasn't tied to the primary objectives, so this was a big mistake.  I was too weak in my center and left. Even if Vignor the halfwit showed up with his +2 bonus flank move, he might not have had enough power to carry the day, not without me stepping forward OFF my wonderful hill.  A couple of troops stripped off my right might have really made the day.  Goes to show, the setup is often the most important part of the game. As it was we have great battles, and everyone had some success.  Fun fun!