Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A plethora of Persians

My Achaemenid Persian army is pretty big. That's kind of the shtick of the Achaemenids, isn't it? They don't necessarily have the best trained, best armed, or best motivated soldiers, but they have plenty of them. Greek historians number the Persian armed forces in the millions... but that may well have been propaganda to make the defeat of their armies all the more glorious for the Greeks. Anyway, it's always time to paint more Persian troops. My army is not actually growing all that fast, since many of these soldiers are coming in to displace some models that are part of my Achaemenid horde, but aren't really period-appropriate, like my attractive Sherden Guard (not pictured) and a handful of assorted Midle Easterners who would really work better in my Saracen army. So without further ado, more Persians.
Seen here, a unit of takabara. These guys are not the best troops, although they are possessed of that beautiful and endemic Persian trait, the ability to switch seamlessly from archery to hand-to-hand combat. Once I lamented that cheap troops take just as long to paint as elite troops (and even longer when they're wearing patterned pajamas like many of my Persians), but now I've realized that everybody deserves a pretty paint job, even if they're going to die or flee when they first make contact with the enemy. They're armed with a sweet light battle axe called a sagaris, a forward sweeping short sword the Greeks called kopis, I'm not sure of the Persian word for it, and that timeless classic, the spear.

Some light cavalry. The griffin was a traditional Persian motif; the star and the eagle's head were my own ideas. Hoplites should not be the only troops to get individualized shield designs.

Two of these riders have thick black and white stripes on their PJs. I don't think the effect worked out all that well. Shields: another griffin, a two-faced head based loosely on some old Persian designs I googled, and a man's head that I took from an Achaemenid coin, but ended up looking pretty Greek. Still looks good IMO.
Behold a Pesian commander! I'd like to call him the god-king of the Empire based on his hat and elaborate beard, but that noble personage would really be riding a chariot. Still he weilds a staff of authority topped with something resembling the Zoroastrian Faravahar. It was tempting to put designs on his clothes in addition to their decorative fringe, but I didn't want to risk messing up a good looking figure, so he's a little less gaudy than some Persians.

Persian cavalry commander. Look, I realize that a bronze scale armored camel (camelphract?) is about as historically accurate as Disney's Prince of Persia, but you know how I love camels. I had to find a place for this guy. If you read this blog and are aware of any time in history that any nation has actually fielded barded camel cavalry, please leave a comment.

Finally, a new unit of sparabara. I already have a couple of these units, which I consider the go-to troops in the Achaemenid army, not quite as flimsy as takabara (but they're still going to get their asses kicked in hand-to-hand combat against a like formation of hoplites or (as I learned recently) legionaries. Like most Persians, they can shoot or fight hand to hand. Their distinctive spara shields are good against projectiles and light arms. I agonized about a color scheme for these soldiers, trying not to repeat any colors from my red and yellow sparabara or from my blue and purple sparabara, or my green and white immortals. Black robes and orange shields got shot down as the black robes would be too close to the Persians' black beards and hair and might give them a blobby look. So I settled on salmon and teal. Nobody said I had to stick to primary colors. These sparabara, along with most of the minis in this post, are from Sergeant Major Miniatures. their Persians are the best looking Persians I know of -- but make sure you have a good knife when you order, because I had to spend two or three days carving the flash out of these guys' hands so that they could grip their spears. Worth it.
Go forth, my minions, and slay -- for god-king and country!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Romans vs Persians -- My first Hail Caesar loss

Recently I clashed with GG of the Richmond Leisure Society. I have been expanding and prettying up my Persian army, and GG has been doing the same for his Romans, who saw some action against my Greeks in months past. So we get the (unhistorical, but who cares?) match up between Early Imperial Rome and Achaemenid Persia.

My Persians


GG's Romans


This overhead shot shows you a beautiful sight -- look how much bigger a 420ish point Persian army is compared to 420ish points of Romans. That's because my troops are cheaper, carrying flimsy wicker shields, wearing their pajamas for Pete's sake. But almost all of them have bows.

Neither GG nor I suffered from the phenomenonof bad command rolls. My line all moves in the first round. I don't want to close with the Romans, who are superior in hand-to-hand combat. But I don't want to hug the table edge either, lest they force me off.

Here, I get some early good news. GG's medium cavalry charged my medium cavalry before the real clash ever got started. But on their way in, I got off a closing shot (my cav have bows). The dice liked me and frowned on GG, so his cavalry was routed before it even got to melee. I was actually feeling sort of bad for that improbable roll and the significant early advantage it gave me.

Here you can even see my line starting to envelop the Romans.

This is me maintaining a nice 12" distance from most of GG's line. My plan was to do the standard Persian thing: shoot so many arrows that they blot out the sun. Here's the problem: Romans can take a testudo formation which makes them pretty much immune to casualties from missile weapons. A few lucky rolls with bows held GG at bay, forcing him to retreat six inches here or there. My arrows could have wiped out his archers and remaining cavalry if my rolls had been luckier.

The other cavalry engagement: On the north wing, GG's medium cavalry ignores the Nubian levies and faces off against my light cavalry and camels.

GG destroys my camels. Hail Caesar doesn't give camels any special rules (some games give them the ability to frighten horses), so this was just a small, light unit of cavalry (mine) versus a medium unit (his).

Here are some of my chariots not quite managing to flank GG's legionnaires.

And now for what I failed to photograph: Eventually I impatiently charged GG's line, without waiting for my cavalry to round the wings and get in the Romans' back field. I had designated my elephants and chariots as reserves and they never even touched the Romans. My infantry hit his with superior numbers and, in one case, a flanking bonus... and it was for naught. The unarmored Persians just got outfought by the better armed, better trained Romans. A unit of sparabara routed. The game was not unwinnable but it was past eleven on a school night and GG clearly had both the points and the momentum. So I flipped the table. Just kidding.

This loss was OK, useful even. It's my first Hail Caesar defeat, which is good, because if you win all the time, nobody wants to play with you. Useful tips for me next time I play Persians: Don't hold back with elephants and chariots. Crush his flanks before you engage the main body of infantry. And for the love of Ahura Mazda, paint up some more sparabara and light cavalry so that I don't have my (gorgeous but ahistorical) Sherden guard or Saracens mucking up my Achaemenid ranks. Always something to paint!