Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Tides of War

Tonight we had a real barn-burner of a game. The Consul and I got together for the third in our series of "learning games" for Warmaster Ancients. Once again, I fielded the same 1000 point Gallic army of 9 Warrior units, 2 Heavy cavalry, 2 light cavalry, 3 skirmishers, and 2 armored warrior units, along with 2 Warlords and Vercingetorix as General. The Gauls had a break point of 7. The Consul fielded 4 trained legions, 4 raw legions, 2 units of Gallic cavalry, and 1 unit of skirmishers. He dropped one unit of skirmishers and one of mounted skirmishers for an extra leader. The Romans had a break point of 5. We rolled for duration and got 8 turns.

Here's the Consul's setup:

The cat attacked and ate my setup picture:

On turn one, the Gauls advanced. The whole army moved, and the center Gallic brigade moved 3 times to take the hill!

The Romans advanced but their Raw Legions shuffled their feet just like the last battle! Maybe Rome would be better off without them?

Final Turn 1 dispositions:

Turn 2: the Gauls launched a reckless charge down the hill into bad odds. They hoped their friends would follow to help, but in fact only the rearmost Gallic brigade moved, all other units failing their command rolls!

A close up of the Gallic charge:

The battle raged, with the Gauls predictably getting manhandled by the Romans in the first round of combat. In the second round it was a tie and the two groups retired. Each side lost a full unit, with the Gauls losing two other stands and the Romans one.

Post-scrum positions:

Inspired by Gallic foolhardiness, the Romans charged up the hill. They expect to be supported by the Raw Legions. Surprise! The Raw legions move once but not twice and therefore cannot assist.

The Legions destroy a single unit of Gauls, as the other Gallic units were not contacted nor supporting.

Turn 3: The remaining Gauls on the hill charged the legions nearby. The skirmishers on the Gallic right and left advanced, but the rear brigade of Gauls failed to move, leaving the charges on the hill unsupported! The Gallic skirmishers on the right drive back and confuse a unit of Roman-allied Gallic horse with missile fire.

Before the charge:

And the Legions all but annihilated them, killing one Gallic warlord along with two units! The Romans fell back to prepare for their next turn.

The result:

The Romans on the hill charged the remaining hapless Gallic unit there, while the Raw Legions advanced to the hill to for a line. A lone Roman legion brought up the rear with two moves, and the Roman-allied cavalry charged the Gallic light horse on the right, who shoot and evade to no effect.

The Roman line of doom:

A one-sided combat ensues with a predictable result: another Gallic unit destroyed. The Gauls have lost 4 units now, and the Romans 2.

Little lost Gauls:

Turn 4: The Gauls on the lower part of the hill charged the Roman line with initiative. It looked like a desperation move andprobably was! Vercingetorix, with a Gallic sense of drama, joins an armored warrior unit to try to tip the balance with his +2 attacks. The Gauls further behind and to the left, who could have also engaged with a couple of good rolls, failed to move at all! Gallic skirmishers on the left advanced to flank the Roman line.

The charge and other Gallic moves:

The charge through Roman eyes:

In a shocking twist that the Gallic commander never dared to expect, the Gauls blasted a hole in the Roman lines, annihilating the last of the trained legions and securing a firm position atop the hill! The Romans were now down to 4 units, just 1 shy of their break point. In other events, the Gallic skirmishers came up big by shooting and driving back a raw legion on the far left and forcing the legion behind to make way, resulting in both becoming confused and unable to move next turn! The Consul was heard to weep and curse in Latin at this point!

Give me back my legions!:

But lo, just when the tides of war were at their height for the long-haired Gauls, and visions of golden torques danced in their heads, the Romans showed why their military prowess was feared. Only two of the Raw Legions were available to fight, but they charged headlong up the hill and into the Gallic armored warriors with Vercingetorix. Simultaneously, the Roman legate successfully gave both Roman-allied Gallic cavalry units two orders each to hit the lone Gauls on the top right of the hill, and the main Gallic rear, respectively. On both of his second rolls, the legate needed to roll a 6 or less on two dice. Nicely done, Bigus Horseshoeus!

The Romans squeeze the Gallic troops in a vice grip:

The Roman-allied Gallic cavalry on the right destroyed the hapless Gallic unit it had charged. That brought Gallic losses to 6, one shy of their break point! In the center, the Raw Legions and the Roman-allied Gallic cavalry delivered 7 hits to the surrounded Gauls. The Gauls, led by their chief, fought back ferociously, and score 6 hits. The Romans won by 1 hit! As a result, 4 Gallic stands had nowhere to retreat (they are blocked by other friendly stands engaged in the opposite direction) and were wiped out, along with the Gallic general himself. The Romans polished off two more units, breaking the Gauls by killing their General and bringing them over their break point simultaneously! Victory points were tallied and the Romans won 505-400.

No nasty Gauls here, Consul, sir!

The rest of the Gallic army flees as their best and brightest are destroyed on Mons Alba:

A large pile of Gallic casualties:

A not inconsiderable number of Roman casualties. No doubt the consul will report the loss of "46 centurions and just less than 800 missing."

Well, this was a very exciting game. The Gallic strategy of seizing the high ground was going well, until the rest of the army failed to show up in a timely fashion! Conversely, the Romans were on the move this time and the Raw Legions stepped up to win the battle after all their trained compatriots had been destroyed. The Gallic counterattack that destroyed two trained legions at one blow seriously shook the Roman commander's morale. The Gauls were a hair away from victory, but the Romans managed to completely envelop the troops on the hill with cavalry and won a close battle that put them over the top. 2 hits going differently in the last combat would have given the opposite result!

Surely the Gauls will return, perhaps with a larger army next time?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Two games you should buy and play

If you love miniatures, wargaming, and the ancient period, you need to play Tin Soldiers: Alexander and Tin Soldiers: Caesar. These are turn-based games which allow you to re-fight the campaigns of these great generals with beautifully rendered images of painted miniatures as the gaming pieces. When casualties happen, a little hand even appears to remove figures from the units! The games are very well done, challenging, and a lot of fun. I'm not sure if Koios Works, the original designers, are still in business, but the games are available over at Matrix Games and I highly recommend you get one or both of these great games. They really hit the spot when you just can't get a friend over to play a game on the table! It's a shame they weren't greater commercial successes when they were orignally released, because I would love to see more of them.

Matrix Games

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dilemmas of Historical Miniatures Painting

Historical miniatures painters know that it is often very difficult to be sure of historical authenticity in our paint jobs. this is especially true in the ancient period, and doubly so when the subjects of painting are not your run of the mill Greeks and Romans. The fact of the matter is that good source material on the ancient Persians, Indians, and other non-European armies is scarce and conflicting.

My current project is 10mm Persians. I am attempting to "double-dip" and make them playable as either early or late Achaemenids. This is possible primarily due to the fact that I cannot obtain 10mm Persian infantry with spara, or large wicker shields. The crescent shield and round shields were used by some Persian infantry from the time just after Xerxes through the fall of the empire due to Alexander. Maybe I can scratch build some spara walls to stick in front of my troops? That would be a lot of work, though.

However, my main concern is how to paint the outfits on these guys. The Sekunda Osprey on the Achaemenid Persians is not bad, but something like 9/10ths of the plates are of the Immortal (amyrtaka) regiments of the Persian Empire. This means they all wear purple and saffron in varying degrees in the Osprey. It's true, manly fighting men wore purple and saffron. It was the bling of the day, you see.

The Purple People Eaters of Osprey:

However, I also managed to nab the famous Montvert on the Achaeminds off of ebay for a song a while back. Don't hate me. In that volume they show a few more versions of Persian dress. Supposedly (according to Sekunda) the ubiquitous yellow or saffron hood was a sign of Persian ethnicity or Persian citizen status, and the white hoods might have been indicative of non-Persian troops outfitted in the Persian style. The true coloration and significance of Persian outfits at this time, however, remains unknown and probably will for the foreseeable future.

All mine:

So I ran with that and made my 4 base units of "Persian" infantry as satrapals (warriors serving a Persian administrator who were probably not ethnic Persians) with white hoods, sleeves, and trousers, and a light green tunic/linothorax armor. I gave them red shields, and although they look gaudy, they do so in a reasonably Persian fashion. I'll post some pics soon. In my mind, these come from Anatolia or thereabouts in modern Turkey and would serve an Anatolian satrap like the ones who tried to slay Alexander at the Granicus. I will, however, reserve the saffron and purple for more elite units such as Immortals (early) or apple-bearers (later) and other ethnically Persian troops in the army.

My buddy the Consul is facing a simliar dilemma: what color were Ancient Indian turbans? The sources simply do not say. We know that most line infantry wore plain white garments, but there were multiple dyes available, so turbans could have been different colors. It is not hard to imagine different tribes or other groups wearing the same color for easy identifcation on the battlefield. For the purposes of a wargamer painting units of 10mm figures, such differentiation between units greatly adds to the ease of play by helping us to avoid mixing up stands from different units. However, historically accurate dress might be compromised by such a practice.

In conclusion, I think you've got to be flexible when painting ancients who aren't Roman or Greek, as the source materials just aren't comprehensive. Make the best of your sources but don't be afraid to improvise a bit on the more obscure ancient peoples. Make compromises for ease of identification where possible. We are playing games, after all.

Finally, the truth was probably less narrow than we often imagine. One only needs to study the myriad shades of "German Grey" used in WWII uniforms to see that the exception is the rule in uniform colors throughout much of history.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A small Arausio

So the Consul and I got together for another game last night. We used the same army lists, as we are just getting used to the rules for Warmaster Ancients (WMA). I took a lot more pictures than last time, so here's an honest-to goodness batrep. For simplicity's sake, I refer to positions from the Gallic perspective. We rolled a 6 turn game length and rolled for setup. The Consul deployed first and got the first turn as compensation.

Roman Deployment:

Gallic Deployment:

Turn 1 was was uneventful, with both sides advancing for the most part, but the rear Gallic warbands and skirmishers on the Gallic left did not move.

Turn 1 Final Dispositions:

Turn 2 saw more maneuvering. The legions on the Gallic right do not move, nor do the Roman cavalry (treacherous sell-out Gauls!). The central legions take up a strong position on the hill. The Gauls advance en masse, except for the heavy cavalry (all cavalry is called cav) on the far left and the skirmishers near them.

Turn 2 Final Dispositions:

Turn 3 the Roman cav advance, the legion on the Gallic right again fails to advance, and the General fails his roll to move the Roman lines at all! The Gallic skirmishers blunder, but roll a 5, resulting in a full advance anyway! All other units fail to move as the Gauls fail every command roll! Gallic skirmish fire removes a stand from the Roman skirmish cavalry, but fails to confuse them and they evade, avoiding a problematic drive back.

Turn 3 Final Dispositions:

Romans look down from the hill on the barbarian horde:

Turn 4-Fighting! The Roman cavalry engage the Gallic skirmishers on the Gallic right. The Roman general again fails his roll to move the rearward Roman Legions! The Roman-allied heavy cavalry destroy Gallic skirmish cav. The Gauls launch a large cavalry charge on the Roman legions in the center, making 2 movies to hit them. The Gallic foot move up to support, but fail their second move roll to join the huge scrum. A small Gallic detachment attacks the Roman cav on the right flank. They overwhelm the heavy cav, which was probably another case of us forgetting that infantry cannot pursue cav for a second round of combat! In the center, the Gallic Heavy cav smash into the side of the legions on the hill, flanking one stand. The Gallic general joins his stranded men to help resist the inevitable Roman onslaught next turn. They destroy one raw legion unit and push back the regular Legion after a tie in the second combat. MVP-My dice which gave me 2 hits on 16 dice...thanks, dice!

Turn 4 pics:

Dice (note the general lack of 4+, the numbers needed to hit!):

Turn 5: The Roman Legion on the Hill charge down at the Gauls. Their general joins them in the hopes of blasting a hole in the Gallic line. The raw legion on the hill attacks the Gallic cavalry in the center which just bounced off in the previous turn. Once again, the Roman general cannot move his reluctant rear legions, probably sealing the Roman fate for this game. The Roman legions in the center kill two stands of Gallic veterans, but lose two of their own in return. In a simulated personal challenge, the Roman general and Gallic general roll their 2 bonus attack dice separately: each scores one hit, so the duel is a tie! (Note this was just a flourish recommended by the Consul, there are no rules for leader duels) The combat is drawn and both sides retreat. The Roman raw legion fails to remove a Gallic cavalry stand and the cavalry hoofs it away.
In the Gallic turn, two units of Gallic cav smash the raw legion, and the Gallic lines advance against the remaining legions on the hill in the center. Then Gauls overwhelm the Roman general's unit, killing the Roman general in the process. At the end of the phase, the Roman army withdraws due to the general's death. In WMA the game ends at the end of the current phase if an army reaches its break point or the general is killed.

Turn 5 Pics:

Romans assault:


Gallic attack:

The end:


This game was a lot of fun and could easily gone the other way if the Romans had been able to win a combat in the center. The Gauls' attack bonus is hard to beat when they are winning, but if they lose it gets ugly. The Consul has decided never again to mix his raw legions and his regular legions, as the result is a -1 command modifier throughout his infantry. This hurt him when the general failed to move his rear legions 3 turns in a row! This reminded me of a description of Arausio I read recently: one half of the Roman army refused to meet up with the other half, resulting in the destruction of the Roman force. Next time I expect the Romans to field all regular legions, as the raw legions are not making the Consul happy. I am pretty happy with my current army composition, so I think I will leave it as is for the time being.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gauls vs. Rome

So my pal Consul Scipio and I do alot of co-dependent gaming. This means we pick a system and each get an army for it, hopefully painting the figures and playing a few games before the next project takes our attention.

Recently we got back into Warmaster Ancients (WMA). At Historicon, we both fleshed out our armies and proceeded to rush home to paint them. Here are some shots of the first 1000 point battle.

Here's the Roman center, complete with general on a white horse:

Next up the Gallic battle line. Aren't they colorful?

The Roman line using terrain to anchor a flank against the Barbarian hordes:

The two pristine armies maneuvering into position:

After much slaughter, the Roman center is in jeopardy and the Gallic army has been mauled on the right flank:

The Roman center collapses beneath the weight of hairy barbarians:

Gallic casualties:

Roman casualties:

In our fist match, my Gauls in the center unexpectedly stood up to a charge of the Raw Roman Legions (who are not as good as normal Legions) and there was much slaughter. Gauls are warbands, which get better in victory and worse in defeat. So in the center the warbands continued to win after the initial clash of lines, while elsewhere Bill's regular legions ate my warbands for breakfast after winning the initial clash.

Between the casualties in the center and a few other losses, the Romans took 50% casualties and broke. In WMA you determine an army's break point by the number of non-skirmishing units/2 rounding up. Bill's break point was 5 (10 core units) and mine was 7 (14 core units). This means Bill had fewer units than me, but they were generally of better quality. This represents the fact that the Roman legions were better trained and equipped, although historically it's debatable how often the Romans were outnumbered to the extent they claimed!

Next time out, I have a feeling that the Roman general will put his best troops in the center and see just what the Gauls are made of!

A New Outlet

Okay, so I am way behind on his blogging thing. This blog is about miniatures and other wargames I play, mostly here in Northern VA. I will post battle reports, pics painted figures, and anything else that comes to mind. Welcome to my wasted time space!