Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Black Army Stumbles

I'd planned to do loads of yardwork Saturday but rain and cold weather gave me an excuse to put off until tomorrow what I could have done today!  Then Brandt asked if I was up for a game of Field of Glory. Perfect! I was a bit down about missing Little Wars in Chicago this weekend due to family commitments. In the alternate, we did a Littlest Little Wars convention in my basement featuring Later Ottoman Turk vs. Later Hungarians.  My Turks and Hungarians haven't seen a tabletop in 2012 and this was a historical mash-up I've wanted to try for some time.

At the start of the game, I got initiative and Brandt got almost no helpful terrain to go with the Turks. Undaunted, he came out swinging.

Early action saw Brandt jamming me with his light horse and skirmishers.  Everything in the Turkish army can shoot and I was shedding bases to his bow fire.  My 2 units of Serbian Hussars each lost a base and went disrupted, limiting their effectiveness the rest of the game. The upside was that 3 battlegroups of his Akinjis  light horse got way out in front of his army with no clear retreat path.  If I could charge them quickly, they'd be forced to either stand in place and melee or evade through his supporting line and disrupt units. I was salivating at both prospects.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Paphlagonian Foot and Arachosian Horse

Paphlagonian Foot:  The kingdom of Paphlagonia was situated on the Black Sea coast between Bithynia to the west and Pontus to the east.  The weakness of the kingdom drew the attention of her two neighbors.  Mithridates of Pontus allied with Nicomedes of Bithynia and the two agreed to invade their mutual neighbor.  This drew the attention of Rome, who ordered a withdraw and planted the seeds of the Mithradic War.   Mithradates occupied Paphlagonia until the end of the first First Mithradatic War, when he was force to give up his claim to the territory.

In Impetus, these Light Foot are part of the many javelinmen units that make up the Pontic army.  I took the liberty of replacing their wicker shields with Hellenistic ones.  I don't think this was much of a stretch as it was reported that Mithridates used his enormous wealth to kit his army out very, very well.  The stories of his wealth trickled back to Rome and helped incite a rush to be the first to invade and sack Pontus.

I'm quite pleased with the vertical basing!   The process of creating these hills is incredibly messy due to the DAS air drying modelling material I used. It stains your hands and any surface it touches terra cotta.  And I have to soak it a bit to get it malleable.  At the art supply store, I found racks and racks of oven curing clay but almost no air drying clay.  Desperate, I picked DAS, which turned out to be a dog.  If you're going to try  vertical basing, find a good quality air drying clay and then let me know the brand so I can throw my DAS away!

For the tufts and white flowers,  I used Silfor Prairie Tufts 4/6mm Summer and Late Summer blossum tufts from Scenery  Express.  It was a bit pricey initially as I bought 8 packs of various colors and heights but these tufts go pretty far in 15mm.  

Arachosian Horse:  I needed javelin-armed Light Cavalry for the Pontic army and given the wide mix of troops employed, I grabbed these figures from Xyston.  You could just as well use Thracian or Greek javelin armed Light Cavalry.  Being an ancients gamer and painter is quite liberating and I played it to full effect here!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spanish Scutarii

Slight diversion!  After packing up the Gallic army for an Australian buyer, I realized I'd sold off my last unit of Medium Foot from my Field of Glory Carthaginian army. D'Oh!!!  I dug through my pile of unpainted Xyston and discovered I had enough Scutarii figures to paint up 10 stands at 3 figures a stand. With the size of these shields, I'm not sure how well they'd fit 4 to a stand anyway.  If I paint another unit of Scutarii, I might settle on a single pattern for the shields to give the unit a more unified look.  Its tricky because you want these fellows to look a bit irregular and wild looking but you also want them to be easy on the eyes.  In any case, my Early Carthaginian list now has Medium Foot again and I'll bring these down to the club Saturday for our 600 point double match.

I've always loved the look of Scutarii units.  From time to time, I've considered painting up an ancient Spanish army but truth be told, they'd be roadkill in the Field of Glory system, just like Gauls.  Plus, I'm not certain I have the stamina to repeat this drill 6 more times to get 200+ figures for the army!  Speaking of stamina, how about a tip of the hat to Mr. Roach, who finished painting 341 28mm Scutarii in spectacular fashion.  The rest of us can only dream!

UPDATE:  Sebasto asked how long these took to paint and the funny thing is, I intended this to be a  "speed painting" feature since I rushed them for Saturday's match. Then I forgot to time the last steps so I discarded the idea!  Here is the speed version of a speed painting article.  To save time, the shields and figs were primed black and I didn't paint the back of the shields.  I  used black in the color schemes for the shields.  I picked 4 or 5 styles for shields and painted each style in a batch.  Shields were painted before gluing them on the figures. I picked 2 schemes for Scutarii, block painted them, heavy Devlon Mud wash, highlights on cloth but not on straps. Kept the basing very simple, which is in keeping with my Carthaginians.  Ballpark 5-6 hours start to finish.  There's room to trim further on this as I painted the faces.  Clearly that doesn't help! 

I have 150+ Xyston Gauls to paint up for an Impetus Gallic army once I finish the Pontics.  I have some ideas for balancing quality and quantity.  For example, batching the shields is a good idea with so many "custom" Gallic shields.  And I'll do a better job of keeping track of time!

Monday, April 16, 2012


I put my Mid Republican Roman project on the back burner when I got my Pontic figures.  It's been  gnawing at  me that I have a MRR army without Triarii so when I put in another order of Xyston figs from Brookhurst Hobbies, I added these and got them painted in short order.

I've belatedly concluded that while I can run my MRR army without Triarii, their A discipline makes them essential by allowing them good odds for  double and triple moves. Like their historical counterparts, I plan to hold these boys in reserve until a crucial moment in the battle. With a little bit of luck, they'll move out in double or triple time to smash their opponent in the mouth or better yet, the flank.  At least that's the way I imagine it in my head. Reality is often different on the tabletop.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cretan Archers & Balearic Slingers

Cretan Archers:  Cretan archers were held in high esteem in the ancient world as mercenaries and many Cretans made a good living by serving away from home.  Alexander the Great employed Cretan archers on account of their excellence with the bow.  Cretans carried a distinctive small bronze pelte or shield.  Purportedly, Cretans boys began training with the bow at seven although they wouldn't have the upper body strength to draw a composite bow at that age!    

These units will pull double duty in my Impetus armies.  The Pontic list does not include Cretan archers. In that army, the figures will represent ordinary archers who happen to have found and armed themselves with  small bronze shields.  The Middle Republican Roman list and many other armies of the period allow Cretan Archers so they'll appear as intended when I field those armies.  

Balearic Slingers:  These mercenaries from the Balearic Island were expert slingers.  They employed slings of three different lengths, depending on the range needed. Purportedly, they trained from infancy in order to earn their livelihood as mercenary slingers.  The Greek geographer Strabo wrote "And their training in the use of slings used to be such, from childhood up, that they would not so much as give bread to their children unless they first hit it with the sling."  While the story is likely fiction, the idea that Balearic parents pushed their sons to train so that they might earn a living abroad is probably factual.   Lack of resources and lack of opportunities at home likely motivated the men of Rhodes, Crete, Balearic  islands to train in the art of war and serve abroad.  

These Xyston figures will pull double duty as the Pontic list doesn't have Balearic Slingers but does call for slingers.  Also, these are my first troops to be based in verticle.  Up, up and away!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pontic Scythed Chariots

For those of you who've been following this blog for awhile, you'll recall that I once had a habit of eating my dessert before dinner.  While my wife has broken me of this particular bad habit, I do still have a tendency to pick out my favorite figure(s) and paint them up at the start of a project rather than at the end as logic dictates.  And that's why the Scythed Chariot is up first!

Despite the fact that chariots had not dominated a battlefield since the 4th BC, Mithridates set about building and training a force of 130 scythed chariots in anticipation of his upcoming war with Rome.  These chariots were used in 3 battles during the first Mithradatic war against Rome.

Battle of Amnias: Scythed chariots were first put to use against the Roman ally King Nicomedes and his Bithynian army during the Roman Bithynian invasion of Pontus in 89 BC.   Nicomedes met the Pontics at  Amnias, where Appian relates that the Pontic scythed chariots were "driven at high speed into the the Bithynian ranks. Some men were sliced into two within an eyeblink, others were practically shredded. The army of Nicomedes saw men in two halves, yet still alive and breathing, others sliced to pieces, their mangled organs still hanging from the scythes.  They had by no means lost the battle, yet the sight was so hideous that they were overcome with confusion and fear disordered their ranks."  The Bithynian army broke and the subsequent rout and slaughter continued unabated until nightfall.  By then, half of their forces were dead and the survivors had surrendered.

Battle of Chaeronea:  Here the Pontic army faced the crack Roman commander Cornelius Sulla and his 5 veteran legions.  Sulla maneuvered the Pontics into crowded and uneven ground in a mountainous region.  Pro-Roman Greeks showed the Romans a hidden path that led to a position high above the Pontic  encampment. From there, Romans rained down stones on the encampment, forcing the Pontics out into the plains in disorder.  In the ensuing chaos, the Pontic commander launched 60 scythed chariots at the approaching legions, hoping to replay the shock charge that routed Nicomedes. The chariots trickled out in  disorder and failed to get up to speed in the confined, rocky spaces.  Plutarch reported that the Romans burst out  laughing and simply stepped aside, allowing the chariots to pass between them to no effect. After passing through the legions, the chariots were cut down by javelinmen that Sulla had placed in the rear. The legionaries howled with derision and mocked their enemy by demanding that the next set of chariot racers come out to the race.

Battle of Orchomenos: The Pontic commander gamely put his scythed  chariots on the field of battle one last time.  Frontius recorded that the Pontic attack was drawn up in three lines. The first consisted of the scythed chariots with the goal of disordering the legions.  Close behind them were the Phalangite phalanxes.  Behind them followed the freed Italian slaves armed as auxiliaries.

As the chariots hurled towards the Roman line, the legionaries stepped sideways and backwards to reveal rows and rows of stakes driven into the ground at sharp angles to impale horses and drivers. After the lead chariots crashed to their doom, Roman javelinmen rushed up to harry the chariots which had avoided the stakes by turning around. In panic and disorder, these chariots crashed into the Pontic  phalanx in the 2nd line and further disaster ensued.  It must have been a hellish scene.

In Impetus, the Scythed Chariot is an Impetuous unit, meaning that once it's activated near the enemy, it goes out of control and starts moving towards the nearest enemy unit.  That rule plays history just right.  Also, it gets +5 Impetus dice in melee.  If the Scythed Chariot fails to eliminate the enemy after its first turn of melee, the Chariot is eliminated.

I considered putting 2 chariots on this base but as you can see, between the wicked scythed blades and the 4 horse team, there wasn't room for 2 chariots.  Great model by Xyston.