Friday, December 27, 2013

Of Javelins and heather - a Scots warband

After the departure of the Romans, the Dal-Riada Scots fought and then formed a kingdom with the Picts in 846. Kingship at that time was multilayered, with kings using their war bands for raiding and the occasional campaign. With a patchwork of clans and lordships, the Scots stood fast against the Normans during the conquest of England. Their armies were mostly unarmored spearmen fighting in closed ranks.  The body of spearmen would generally be flanked or preceded by bow or javelin skirmishers. Warriors were barelegged and poorly clad.  By the 10th century, they were fighting in shield wall like the Vikings. Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery!

I find that levy figures are a great warm up for painting a warband.  These Scots levies were likely slaves and thus, a simple palette with no flourishes.  In SAGA, these Dark Age Expendables are used to shield the rest of the warband from missile fire and to hurl javelins at the enemy. All Gripping Beast and once again, really nice scuplts.

Speaking of really nice, it's great to be back painting 28mm after a long run of 15mm.  I hope you fared well over the Holiday, with plenty of laughter and love from the people who mean the most to you.  My son is back from college and it's great to all be together again! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Close Run Thing - Maurice AAR

Under a setting sun, the infidel invaders withdraw from the battlefield.  The carnage and cries of the wounded are terrible to behold.  Black tempered, the Sultan has retired to his tent and few are of a mind to recount the Battle of Alt Hahnfeld.

Lord Abercrombie of Brittanica is a great commander, of that, there is no doubt.  He caught our Anatolian army as it was making its way inland.  The Sultan was eager to give battle and send the infidels fleeing but Abercrombie chose the battlefield well. Our left flank was crowded by a swollen stream. Our center was dominated by forest to the left and right. Plowed fields choked our right. Because of the disrupting terrain, the Sultan was limited to attacking through narrow channels in the center, right or left. The Sultan chose to deploy most the army in march column and wait for his irregulars to seize the woods and drive the enemy back.
It seemed like a good plan on the drawing board. 
The morning hours were dominated by the sound of sporadic gunfire as the Anatolian irregulars harassed and pressed the enemy irregulars.  Despite a 2 to 1 advantage, we had great difficulty driving the enemy back or opening up the center.  They would give no ground and soon, Nazim's sharpshooters came streaming to the rear.  Neither shouts nor swords could stem their shameful rout.  Seeing an opportunity, the enemy cavalry put their stirrups in and rushed our stalled columns.  In confusion, our Mad Head irregular cavalry prematurely charged out of the woods into the path of the enemy. To protect the Sultan's columns of foot, they chose to stand their ground rather than flee.
Dead men walking!

It took the enemy two charges to run them down and slay them to the man.  In that time, the Sultan moved his infantry columns out of the path of the enemy charge.  Well, most of his infantry.  The Sultan was shocked to see the 24th Blues stuck in column formation in the path of the enemy charge. They'd gotten into a bit of terrain and were no longer a part of the main force.  As a result they never received the order to advance. The redcoats made short work of them as well. Finally, our cavalry mustered into a battle line and countercharged. They sent the winded enemy flying.  But not before losses were inflicted and the Sultan's battle plans upset.  
Columns just before changing formation to lines.
It fell to the Sultan's Red Guards to save the day. After moving up in column, they fell into a battle line and went straight at the enemy.  At the point of attack, they swept all before them. With both armies nearing the breaking point, an enemy officer cried "All in boys, all in!" and bravely charged our Red Guards. The Sultan's best were able to stand firm against two consecutive charges.  Failing to break our lines, the enemy lost heart and began to flee. Lord Abercrombie asked for terms and the Sultan quickly granted them.
The redcoats charge the Sultan's Red Guards
After two charges, only the Red Guards remain standing.
As the Sultan, I did a poor job of maintaining force integrity and had units tripping over one another trying to advance through a narrow clearing in the center of the board.  One of my favorite things about Maurice is how you're generally limited to activating a single force in a turn.  If you split up your forces, you'll find you can't worry about the single unit of infantry or cavalry left behind.  Fortunately, this was a problem for my opponent Mark as well since we're both rusty at Maurice. Maison du Roi was a key National Advantage as my 2 Guard units did the heavy lifting in the game.

Mark did a great job with terrain deployment.  Dropping terrain in the middle to jam me out the gate was a trick I've not seen before. Sending cavalry in is always a risk in this game but with my foot strung out in march column, it was a great call.  The heroics of my irregular cavalry slowed him down for 2 turns and also nicked him up a bit so it was as they say, a close run thing.

Too late for Sofie's Paint Blog and her Saturday Paint Table post, I've got a shot at what's on my table.  It's a SAGA/Dux Brit commish with the always wonderful Gripping Beast figures. After a long run of 15mm, it's good to be back to 28s.  
Here's hoping Santa puts a few new warbands in my stocking for Christmas, and yours too if that's what you want.  If I paint 10 SAGA factions, I believe the 11th is free!  Perhaps I should go back and read the fine print at the Gripping Beast website. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Everything's coming up Galatian

Back at it with 15mm.  I've managed to get in some Field of Glory with my Galatians and they've performed well above expectations.  After a loss against the Romans, they broke a Spartan army after a grueling, see-saw struggle and crushed Klay's Pontic army, pike and all. Mind you, it's only the 2nd time I've beat Klay so that alone was cause for celebration.  They also beat a Thrasian army this weekend as well.  Following the military maxim of "reinforce your successes," I've been buffing out my Galatians so I'll have more options when I run them.

Cavalry.  The Galatians and Gauls can each run cavalry-heavy armies. With this batch, I've doubled my cavalry from 6 to 12 bases .

Javelinmen.  The Galatians don't get many skirmishers so I need to make these 8 bases count.  

Soldurii.  Soldurii only appear in the Gallic list and among the Gauls, these fellows are tops. They represent troops sworn to die for their chief in battle. They are elite, armored  heavy foot.  That's as good as it gets in FoG.  Soldurii are the Hammer of the Gods in a Gallic army. Use your hammer wisely!

Thracian Bowmen.  The very worst thing about the Old Glory15 website is a lack of pictures.  I wanted Paionian javelinmen so I clicked on and ordered javelinmen (with no picture).  I got Thracian bowmen instead. Gauls can field bow so I painted these up and won't look back. Dammit, I accidentally looked back and now I'm angry all over again!  How hard is it to post pictures of the products you sell on the web? 

My last bit of Galatian reporting is that "The Dying Gaul" is going to appear in Washington DC at the National Gallery of Art through March 16.  This is a big deal as the statue has not left its home in almost 200 years.  The Wall Street Journal posted an excellent article on the statue including these two delicious tidbits:

  • Experts think his hair was a foot longer before being cropped in the 17th Century. 
  • The original was painted.

To top off my 15mm painting run, I've got a workmanlike Union army for Longstreet to post up. Longstreet popped up quickly and I decided to throw in with a pending campaign.  I had 2 weeks to turn a pile of mediocre lead  into a slightly less mediocre army.  I finished just in time for our test run but  that's a story for another day.  After Longstreet, it'll be a steady diet of 28mm warbands for SAGA. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tools of the Year

Being thrifty, I'm slow to upgrade my hobby tools. When I do open my wallet to make an upgrade, I rely on the reviews and recommendations of my fellow bloggers to help me find the good stuff.  To that noble cause, I've compiled  a list of my favorite tools and upgrades in 2013. The envelope please!  
Daylight Triple Bright Lamp:  This was my top upgrade of the year. The Triple Bright lamp puts out 250W of high-powered wide-area lighting. For painters over 40, you'd be surprised by how quality lighting can improve your painting! The lamp is very adjustable and I angle mine so my minis are top and front lit.  The first time I used it for miniature photography, the quality of my pictures improved. Literally, this lamp is brilliant!
Pro Arte Series 107 Spotter Brush 2/0 and 3/0:  The Pro Arte series is made for miniature painters and it shows.  The point is very short and the effect is like using a micron pen for applying small, precise detail.  I can't find a US distributor at the small sizes but I did find a UK eBay store that ships to the US. I use these for 15mm and 28mm detail work. Since they're not Sable brushes, the tip does curl under heavy use.

Raphael 8404 Kolinsky Sable Brush 0:  In my collection of Kolinsky Sables, the Raphael beats all others by keeping a perfect tip month after month.  It's my go-to brush.

Dremel drill + the 225-01 Flex Shaft:  I've been using a pin drill for years.  Drilling out hundreds of 15mm Xyston hands is grueling and painful work.  This combo lets me drill out a hand in seconds and the flex shaft gives me a smaller, lighter and more precise tool.  I can't believe I took so long to come around to this solution.  It's so good, I could use it for dental work. The Dr. of Brushes will see you now!
Tamjima Grass Tufts:  I used to be a Silflor tuft guy but I like Tamjima's better.  No gluing required. Peel a clump from the backing paper with tweezers and place it directly onto the base.  I keep a variety of heights and colors on hand for all of my basing needs.

Paint Stand: This is actually a nail polish stand but for $22, who cares? It goes together in minutes and holds 78 Vallejo paints comfortably.  Foundry paint pots fit comfortably as well. I have one up and I'm going to get a 2nd for Christmas.  The obsessive compulsive part of me highly approves of this upgrade!
Vallejo Paints: My paint collection needed a refresh and I was looking to make a big paint buy in something other than Vallejos I use. I like Vallejo but with so many choices, I wanted to shake things up by buying a set in a different line.  I did try other paints this year but each came up lacking. After much thought, the hunt ended with me back where I started.  I picked 70 new Model Color Vallejo paints from The War Store and set them up in my new paint stand. 
Robart Hobby Paint Shaker:  At 5000 shakes per minute, even John Henry couldn't beat this machine. Don't forget to buy replacement straps as they do wear out.

Alibris Books: Yes, Amazon is THE online book seller.  For out of print, hard to find and expensive military history books, give Alibris a spin.  They're an online network of independent booksellers. With such a deep inventory, I've locating hard to find titles and occasionally, they come up cheaper than Amazon.

Core Sec Omni-Ruler: Cor Sec is a US company that makes (among other things) measuring stick in 1" segments. Each segment is threaded and colored so you can quickly custom build to any distance you like. I mixed and matched colors to build 2", 4", 6" and 12" sticks. Now that I've been using them, I'd never go back to a plastic ruler!
I'm sure there are many great tools I haven't heard of or thought of yet. I'd love to hear about the ones I missed.  What were your favorite tools this year?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Dailami army

With my 28mm lead pile depleted, I've been working on 15mm projects. First up is a Dailami army for Field of Glory. The Dailami were highly prized mercenaries who served the Sassanids, Samanids, Buyids, Fatimids, Saftarids and Ghaznavids and later the Seljuks until the end of the 12th century.  That means these fellows can be ported into many other lists. The Dalaimi were the premier Islamic infantry of their time, earning praise from their enemies. Their standard arms were a sword, a brightly painted shield and a javelin. They also used axes and bows as well. While they usually were equipped with round shields, teardrop shields came into use when they were employed by the Fatimids. 

I used the Old Glory Syrian warrior line because the figures come with chainmail, a good mix of weapons and shields.  You can see from behind I kept the tunics to blues, greens and reds. A poem from 1048 described the Dailami shields as "similar to a wall and painted in 100 colours."  I didn't hit 100 but I did use a lot of colors here.

I'm taking elephants in my Dailami army, of course!  I used Old Glory Sassanid ellies, filing down the bulbous helmets and using greenstuff to create turbans. 

Bedouin Light Horse and foot in black.  Black is tricky to pull off in 15mm so I used 2 rounds of gray highlights.  

4 command stands rounds out the lot.  

I still need to paint up Ghilman, Kurdish lancers and a camp. I've got lots of Arab cavalry I can substitute in until I get back to this project.  This gets me just enough to be able to bring the Dailami to the tabletop.

This post has run quite long but I'd like to share a account of what made the Dailami special.  They were described as "all foot-soldiers, each man carrying a sword and a shield and three javelins in his hand" and as exceptionally nimble in mountain country. Agathias described the Dailami in the context of a night attack and ambush: "The Dailami are among the largest of the nations on the far side of the Tigris whose territory borders on Persia. They are warlike in the extreme and, unlike most of the Persians, do not fight principally with the bow and the sling. The carry spears and pikes and wear a sword slung across one shoulder. To the left arm they tie a very small dirk and they hold out shields and bucklers to protect themselves with. One could hardly describe them simply as light armed troops, nor for that matter as the type of heavy infantry that fight exclusively at close quarters. For they both discharge missiles at a distance when the occasion arises and engage in hand to hand fighting, and are expert at charging an enemy phalanx and breaking its close-knit ranks with the weight of their charge. They can reform their own ranks with ease and adapt themselves to any contingency. Even steep hills they run up without difficulty thus seizing in advance all points of vantage, and when they are put to flight they escape with lightning rapidity whereas when they are the attackers they press the pursuit with perfect timing and co-ordination. Well-versed as they are in practically every type of warfare they inflict considerable harm to their enemies. They are accustomed for the most part to fight alongside the Persians, though not as the conscript contingents of a subject people since they are in fact free and independent and it is not in their nature to submit to any form of compulsion."

It sounds like they were, after all, THE premier Islamic infantry of their time! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Whiskey in the morning -a SAGA AAR

I met up with my buddies Brent and Jack for a game of SAGA over breakfast. They ran the Irish against my new Anglo Danish warband in the Clash of the Warlords scenario.  This is a straightforward match where killing the enemy warlord wins you the game. Barring that, the game ends after 6 turns and the two sides count casualties to determine a winner.  Fast and furious, just the way we like it.

Brent won the setup and made sure the Irish had loads of terrain to hide in & shoot out of. To avoid the Irish ability "Sons of Daina," where rough terrain come alive with missile fire, I squeezed my troops into the open ground.  It almost looks like they're forming square.  There was hardly room enough to swing a Danish axe!
The Irish opened with a double move into the woods with the wolfhounds, hearthguard, 2 Irish heroes and the warlord. Two flavors of breakfast whiskey appeared and soon, everything seemed a bit funnier. One of the great things about SAGA is you can tip a bit and still play.  I don't normally drink whiskey, or this early, but it was the weekend and I was playing a new warband.  Reason enough to celebrate!
The first 4 turns of the game were slow played by both sides. The Irish wouldn't come out of the woods or move into charge range.  I wouldn't move within 4" of the woods. I used the Danish ability Trapped to stack fatigue on 3 Irish units a turn every time I could.  With no obvious target, I waited for an opportunity.
Then Brent and Jack had a stroke of luck. Rolling well, they turned 6 SAGA dice into 8 on their battleboard and maxed out their 3 shooting abilities.  They stacked all 3 of the abilities on a unit of Irish hearthguard, who wiped out my hearthguard in single volley despite my Shieldwall defensive ability.  This was stunning blow and one I calculated would cost me the game.  I hit back in my turn but I was way behind with only 2 turns to pull a rabbit out of an Irish hat. Smelling blood, the Irish went all in on their next turn, destroying a unit of warriors and shredding my levy slingers. The loss of units reduced my SAGA dice from 6 to 4.

Insult to injury, they unleashed the Irish wolfhounds as well!  The dogs were the only combat I won in the turn.  Look closely at the shot  below to spot a narrow path to victory for the Danes. Deep in the woods stands the Irish warlord and his champion.
I can see your warlord from here! 
Barring my way were wolfhounds and a champion.  To have a chance, I needed to throw the equivalent of consecutive 6s to turn my 4 SAGA dice into more dice for activation and abilities.  My rolling was red hot and I turned 4 dice into 8. I went from "I don't have a prayer" to "I can do this!"  After loading up my battleboard, I sent my warriors in. They made it through the wolfhounds, through the hero and to the warlord.  They lost and bounced back exhausted. My hearth guard followed in their wake and took the Irish warlord down, earning my very first win against the Irish.  And to think, I almost conceded the game!
Never did get a shot of me from the front, you idiot!
My gaming opportunities increased greatly after my son went off to college.  SAGA, Maurice, Dux Britanniarum, Field of Glory and even Lord of the Rings have all been on the menu of late. As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US, I have many things to be thankful for.  One is that I get to see and participate in the Golden Age of Gaming.   These are the days, my friend!