Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Amazon horse archers

Just painted up these Casting Room mounted archers. I wasn't thrilled with them when they arrived because there was substantial breakage in the bows and horses' tails. But some glue, some paint, some love and I've got some Amazon horse archers I'm really happy with.

If the Amazons were real, they were probably culturally related to the Scythians, and mounted archery was their military strategy. And as I think about it, if I were going to raise an army with women warriors, this is probably their best combat role. She's going to be lighter than her male counterpart, which will be less taxing on the mounts -- these aren't huge medieval warhorses; they're basically ponies in the Bronze Age. I think a woman's low center of gravity and thigh muscles are going to help her stay in the saddle and control the horse when her hands are occupied with shooting. A Bronze Age bow would not have required tremendous upper body strength like a Welsh longbow or Mongol recurve bow. I'd think a trained woman would be able to shoot one until she ran out of arrows. 
 Greeks suggested that Amazons cut one breast off to use the bow more effectively. This sounds like nonsense to me. I think it's a metaphor, the Greeks' way of saying "they have forsaken their womanhood by taking on the masculine role of a warrior". I conversed with a woman who has substantial boobs and shoots a bow, and she told me that they do not get in the way. And if they did, wouldn't strapping them down be easier than slicing one off?
I didn't give them nipples! Nancy says I should. I didn't paint nipples on them because a) I don't paint nipples on my male minis and b) I don't want to make them seem sexualized. But then, why should nudity, especially female nudity, automatically mean sex? Maybe I should start a sociology blog. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Dice win games

Here are some pics of my recent SAGA battle with Mike A. He played the Vikings and I played the Welsh (if my figures look Romano-British to you, they mostly are. I'm playing them as Welsh for the moment, at least until Gripping Beast releases rules for Arthurians.) We played the River Crossing scenario. It may be that we chose unequal armies. The Welsh have more shooting power than the Vikings and the capability to field mounted hearthguard, and the ability to move quickly across the river and shoot across the river or at foes bottlenecked in the ford were more valuable than either of us anticipated. 

I love this fat Viking. He's one of the few survivors of a unit of hearthguard or warriors that my cavalry chewed up early in the game. After Round 2, having played conservatively and allowed Mike to cross the western ford, I was feeling pretty good about my odds of winning. Those Viking units crossing one by one were easy targets fr my javelins. Then, in round 3, the dice decided to betray me: in a massive attack that I initiated and should have gone in my favor, I got close to zero hits and the Vikings got tons of hits. Then my armor saves were no better than my attack rolls. Mike had wiped out all my cavalry!

 It seemed as though all was lost -- but then in Round 4, the dice decided that they had punished me enough and started to mock the Vikings' efforts instead. The picture above is my warriors crossing the eastern ford, where Mike had only archer levies.

 In the end, like a good Welsh warlord, I won this game by running away. I gave up on holding the Western ford and rushed every single unit across the Eastern one. The Rising Out ability was often useful to get my warriors and levies more moves than they should have gotten. The scenario is won by who gets more points' worth of models across the river, and by Round 6 my army was slightly less battered than Mike's, and I had enough move to get everybody across. That was the right decision -- trying to wipe out the Vikings who had crossed the river might have cost me far more men than him. I did have a quarter-strength unit of warriors that crossed the Western ford after Mike had gotten all his guys through. He could have left some units at ford to block it, a minor tactical error on his part perhaps but I think this game was decided by the maneuverability of the Welsh ... and of course by the whims of the almighty dice. Final score was something like 14 - 11.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Amazon hoplites, a bit late for Women's History Month

Were there women warriors in the Greek world like the mythology claims? At this point a number of women have been found buried with arms and armor from north of the Black Sea, which would put them in the cultural region the Greeks knew as Scythia. 
These miniatures are from Casting Room, which is Foundry. They're armored like Greek hoplites which seems pretty ahistorical, but they appealed to me. I already have a Trojan army (to which these warriors could serve as allies) so I'm happy to wargame some pseudo-history. 

I gave them pelte rather than hoplon or aspis shield because it helps them seem more distinct from the Greek hoplites. Also those hoplon shields are big and bulky; these Amazons have slimmer bodies than a lot of male figures and can get away with a smaller, lighter shield. Shield designs are based on actual Scythian jewelry. 

Hey, as long as we're talking about powerful women, I also just finished painting this Hellenistic queen. Artemisia? Merope? Zenobia? Cleopatra? Helen? I'm not sure when/how I'm going to use her -- as if using miniatures were the point of painting miniatures.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Battle of Kalinga vs Big Dave Stud

This weekend was Madicon and Big Dave Stud and I had been planing a clash of our Indian armies for weeks prior. BDS is relatively new to both Hail Caesar and army painting. but his minis looked good and his generalship was solid. What was to ensue would be a grueling match under the broiling East India sun (imaginary).

Fought in 261 BC, the historical battle was fought when Asoka, who had recently inherited the impressive Mauryan empire, fought Ananta Padmanabha to subjugate the smaller, but potent, kingdom of Kalinga. Asoka won, but the casualties on both sides were terrible. This caused Asoka to renounce violence, embrace Buddhism, and declare sweeping progressive political reforms throughout his empire.

We never exactly counted points for this match. Our armies were pretty similar in terms of melee fighters and foot archers. I, as the Mauryans, had three elephants to Dave's two and two small units of light cav with bows in place of Dave's regular sized unit of light chariots. Dave also added a last minute small unit of javelin throwing skirmishers. I think that means that I fielded a few more points than Dave. To compensate for that, I gave the Kalingans a home field advantage -- a hill and a dangerous river on his side of the board.
In this picture you can see the Kalinga army on the hill (gray tiles, not actually elevated) which they have deployed upon and, in the upper right corner, the blue of the river. I offered Dave the choice of playing to stop my army from crossing the board (I would have to run the gauntlet between his hill and his river -- instant death if he pushed my guys in) or simply fighting until somebody's army broke. Dave had already played a "you shall not pass" game earlier that day and he opted for the pure bloodshed option -- which goes better with this battle's historical outcome anyway.

In this picture, my Mauryans head into battle, with elephants on the strong wing and light cavalry on the swift wing.

My newest, best looking Mauryans -- and that's Asoka with the green base. OK, technically it is a Reaper Fantasy figure, but not a lot of companies sell an Iron Age Indian king so I improvised. I'm happy with him. Yes, some of the spearmen have swastikas on their shields. No, they are not Nazis. A number of ancient cultures including Indians used this symbol -- a very basic and lovely geometric design until Hitler ruined it for everybody.

I approach Dave's army.
As we draw near, I manage to put a few casualty markers on Dave with my archery.

view from the battle over the shoulders of my men
Ananda's warriors come charging off the hill to smash into my line and break a unit of swordsmen -- first blood to Dave, but he gives up his elevation advantage (except the archers who stayed up there)
Brave Mauryans have charged the Kalingan elephantry. 
The gap BDS created in my front line. From this point on in the battle, I would not have one cohesive front.


A white ring means disorder -- my swordsmen and two units of light cavalry have been flung back, probably by those damned red elephant shields.

Those red shield Kalinga spearmen -- you can't really see the cute elephants that adorn them in this picture -- were Dave's MVPs. Several times they clashed with my troops and forced them to withdraw even when the odds of the die rolls were against Kalinga.
My round shield swordsmen try --and fail-- to break the red elephant shields (in blue loincloths). Finally, though, I did manage to break them. I brought my elephants, who up until that point had merely been archery platforms, up to strike those yellow-clad swordsmen in the flank so that they could no longer provide support while simultaneously engaging the elephant shields to their front with my swords.

Overall: I'm a more experienced Hail Caesar player than Dave, and I had an army worth slightly more points and one that contained a larger number of units (which makes it more difficult to break). His terrain advantage would have been more significant had he selected the run the gauntlet scenario rather than fighting to the death, and once he moved his infantry off the hill, he had abandoned his terrain advantage altogether (although his archers did benefit from shooting over friendly troops' heads because they retained their elevation). Given those tough odds, Dave gave me a fierce fight. For several rounds it seemed that the end of Dave's infantry was drawing near but I just couldn't get the dice rolls I needed to usher them into their next incarnations. But the end was inevitable. Each little red heart in the photos represents casualties -- it was a bloody day, just like the real Kalinga.

Hail Caesar continues to be my go-to system for large battles. The only rules issue we couldn't quite resolve dealt with lining up troops who are charged, and whether an infantry unit can charge at a quarter of the frontage (unable to line up frontage-to-frontage) of another infantry unit that is already engaged with an elephant in the middle. This was a bit more than 3 hours' entertainment.

"Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Priyadarsi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dharma, a love for the Dharma and for instruction in Dharma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas"
-- the Edicts of Asoka

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Guns of August, in Williamsburg, VA. My game had no guns, but those of you who know me know how tedious I find the pops of powder compared to the ring of iron on bronze. This year, I would run a Trojan War scenario. In this scenario, as in the Iliad, Patroclus has donned the armor of the sulking Achilles, and been killed by Hector. Now the Greeks and Trojans scramble to recover the body of Patroclus and Achilles' armor. I used the Hail Caesar rules... sorta. 

The main difference here was that there were no Commander figures. Normally in HC, commanders aren't units and can't be targeted (they can add dice to other units in combat). In this scenario, each chariot (5 to a side) would combine the abilities of a commander (in command of 1 unit of infantry and 1 small unit of light infantry peltasts or skirmishers) and a unit of light chariot.

Another thing that was odd about this game was that there were no battle lines. Instead, at the game's start there were mini-conflicts all across the terrain: a Greek division facing a Trojan division in the NE, another in the NW, another in the SE, and in the SW, with Hector in the center and an unoccupied Greek band not far off. Hector was the closest to the marker for Patroclus' corpse, which would serve as the flag in this game of "capture the flag". You can see the H-shapes all across the starting board, each of which is one of these mini-conflicts.

 A Mycenean standoff!

Here at the end we see a Greek chariot trying desperately to contact or at least shoot at the rear of Hector's chariot just before he makes it off the table. The attempt was not successful and the Trojans brought the body back inside the walls of Troy. Achilles is going to be pissed! 

This was the best HC game I have run, even with the funny rules. I had both HC newbies and HC veterans at the table and all said they enjoyed it. I realize now that I gave nothing to the Greeks to offset the advantageous position of the Trojans (Hector started right on top of the body) so I probably should have granted the Greeks the first move. I may run the scenario again.

Monday, August 3, 2015

These pics chronicle the playtest of a Hail Caesar scenario I intend to run at the Guns of August con at the end of this month. The game is set in the Trojan War, just after Hector kills Patroclus. Greeks and Trojans battle to recover Patroclus' corpse and the armor of Achilles, which he died wearing.

I tested some rules that were a departure from Hail Caesar. In addition to rules for carrying off Patroclus' body, I merged commanders with units of light chariots to create Homeric heroes. These were represented as a single chariot model, and therefore had some pretty massive clash values on a  narrow frontage. This did not turn out to be a major problem and it did convey the feel of a few heroes wreaking havoc among swarms of lesser men.

A problem I'm glad we ironed out in my living room rather than at the con was the mechanic of picking up and running with the dead body. Making a unit that gives ground drop Patroclus did not work well (it allowed one team to keep hold of the body). It will work better if any unit that forces the unit holding the body to give ground seizes the body itself.

You might notice that the Greeks in this scenario are hoplites, although that's very anachronistic to the Trojan War. I prefer to make them very distinct from the Trojans and those crested helmets are an easy identifier.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Converting Freforge Mongols to Saracen mounted archers

Hey, friends, super long time no post. I just thought you'd like to see my conversion of Fireforge Mongols into Saracen mounted archers.

I wish I had a great artistic breakthrough here, but it's really straightforward. I just popped some extra heads I had from my Gripping Beast Arab spearmen and archers on the Mongol bodies and I was pretty much there. While I'm sure a cultural anthropologist would disagree, from a historical mini gaming perspective there don't seem to be any major costume features that separate Saracens from Mongols from the neck down. At least, as I painted these dudes, I completely forgot they were ever supposed to be Mongols,

 Yes, I realize that Gripping Beast does plastic Arab cavalry at about the same price point. Fireforge's Mongols appealed to me more. You get more scimitars with them. 

I dig these guys with their full head wraps.  Note that I made one of these dudes leaning as far back as possible to take a Parthian shot to the rear.

 I decided, since I ran out of fully-wrapped heads, that I'd do some more colorful riders wearing small turbans. I think the full-face wrap guys are Bedouins and the turbans are more urbanized Arabs or Seljuks.
 I didn't realize while I was assembling them that most modelers place a horse archer's quiver at his hip rather than on his back. That's too bad, because I like to model the pose of reaching back over one's shoulder to draw the next arrow. Can anybody speak to the historicality of quiver on back vs quiver on hip?

 Had to let this adorable figure get in on this post. He's a stray Castaway Arts infantryman. If you are an ancients/medieval 28mm wargamer and you don't know Castaway Arts you should really give them a look. They're Australian, but it's cheaper and faster to order stuff from down undah than you'd think... no worse than ordering from England (I'm located in Virginia).