Projects Update – August 2020

August was a busy month in real life so hobby progress has been slow. Been clearing the house and packing things away in preparation for putting the house on the market, as well as having a number of family events and a pleasant break with a few days away. Managed to get a few pieces done though.

Qin cavalry, fairly quick paint job on them.

No matter how often I brush them off there always manages to be a stray bit of static grass somewhere on the models when I photo!

Took another pass at the 15mm Tanuki archers to brighten them up a bit. Much happier with them now.

Over to the Valley of Mexico, these guys are the bodyguard of the Tlatoani (the king) and the mightiest warriors with the most captives under their belts:

Yes the basing was still wet when I took these pictures. I’ll be taking better ones when the whole army is finished, which shouldn’t be too long now.

2 Trojan War units next. This is a bit of a cheat, while I painted most of them in August, one or two figures were held up in the post before I could properly finish them so they were completed in September.

From the hollow lands and valleys of Lacedaemon:

And from the island of Salamis:

As with my other Trojan War ones, I’ll finish basing at the end so please ignore the bits of bluetac on the spearmen base as they would not stand up straight no matter how much I filed the bases!

That’s it for August. I have a few units done already for Septembers batch, but they’ll have to await the next update as depending how house clearing goes they may be all I have to show for this month!

Until next time, thanks for reading,

Matthew

Battle Report – The Battle of Dorylaeum (1097)

A relief bringing cool breeze* swept lazily over the hot, dusty plains of Dorylaeum in the summer of 1097. To the east stood the forces of Kilij Arslan upon their innumerable steeds. To the west stood the glittering battle line of Bohemond’s vanguard of crusaders, protecting the camp that lay directly behind them by the marshy banks of the Thymbris river. Many miles behind them camped the main force of the Crusaders with Godfrey. Seeing the mounted hordes of Turks on the horizon, Bohemond sent messengers to Godfrey requesting aid, and prayed to God that they could hold off the Turks long enough for him to arrive. It would be a long day.

*i.e. a standing fan.


The field of battle
The view from the Turkish lines
The Crusaders look on defiantly

The battle opened with the Turks surging forward on their right flanks, the swarms of horse archers supported by the small contingent of heavy cavalry led by Kilij himself. Their left flank proved slower off the mark, somehow missing the order to advance and lingering by the river overlong.

The Turks surge forward

The knights, seeing the advancing enemy, charge forward recklessly to meet them. Brave as they are, the storm of arrows that come their way from the Turkish archers catches them off guard and drives them back. It is all Bohemond can do to rally them and get them back in the fight.

The knights run away

The horse archers continue to unleash their arrows into the charging knights, causing confusion and disorder among them. As the knights close with the light horsemen they throw their spears and skewer a few of the screaming pagans with their unholy demonic cry of “Allah Akbarghhhhhh…”, while those with lances lower them into couch positions and prepare to drive through them when they seem to just melt away. The cries of “Deus Vult!” die in their throats as their disordered ranks find themselves facing the well formed ranks of Kilij Arsalan’s elite heavy cavalry, who unleash a hail of arrows themselves before charging to meet the intruding Europeans. The horse archers charge up the slopes and attempt to sweep round the flanks of the Crusaders, though are slowed by a few lucky shots from the defending crossbowmen.

“Now you see us, now you do..oh no they have shooty things too!”

The Turkish horse archers on the left finally rouse themselves and begin to move forwards, not liking the look of the heavy cavalry melee nor the solid line of shields and spears that was the infantry, they plunged into the marshy river grounds, attempting to use the terrain to flank around the enemy. They gain some success, with the two sides exchanging potshots at each other as they moved past.

Nothing to see here…

The melee between the two heavy cavalry forces continues, with the battle ebbing back and forth throughout the morning. The Crusaders seem to be getting the better of the fight to the North, but to the South the Turks are pushing the knights back towards the lines of infantry. Both sides are in rough shape, but the Turks take courage from the sight of the horse archers flowing around the enemy infantry and towards the camp at their rear.

“If we move really quickly maybe they won’t catch us.”

The melee continues with both sides taking heavy losses, but a group of knights manage to reform and charge deep into Kilij’s Guard Cavalry, and with a roar of triumph drive them from the field. Kilij moves to take control of another group of his heavy cavalry, these fresh from fertilising the valley floor with the blood of the infidels and attempts to turn back and attack the knights in the flank, but as he turns another group barge into him at a charge, disrupting his troops and engaging in a frantic combat. The knights prevail and from their midst the one known as Tancred, nephew of Bohemond, launches himself at Kilij in mortal combat. The two fight valiently, but the Norman proves the stronger fighter and slays the great Sultan, raising his bloodied spear in victory to God Almighty and screaming his victory cries. Urged on by his glorious combat, the knights drive the remaining Turkish heavy cavalry from the field.

There were troops here a second ago.
Kilij Wuz Here

Meanwhile, Bohemond, aware now of the Turkish flanking action, sent word to the infantry to fall back to defend the camp.  They turn about and start a march back towards the camp, exchanging fire with the swarming horse archers as they do. The Turkish horse fall upon the camp, but the Crusader infantry aren’t too far behind and attempt to drive them off. Bohemond turns his knights around and rushes to join the infantry in the defense of the camps.

“About face!”

The horse archers run rampant through the camp and attack the infantry from a distance, but just as they feel their victory is assured a dust cloud on the horizon materialises into a contingent of knights charging down the valley at them. More worryingly still, the dust cloud behind them seems considerably larger. Where did these knights come from? There surely can’t be another Crusader army coming?!

“Behold, The Godfrey”

Godfrey arrives at the head of the army, having charged well ahead of the rest of the troops. As his knights join him in drips and drabs the Turkish horse archers gather to try and drive back this new threat and give themselves space to flee, while the Crusader infantry closes in behind them and the original knights, tired though ebullient, begin moving around their flanks.

Chaos ensues

More knights continue to arrive down the valley as the noose closes tighter around the now panicking horsemen. With the full forces of the Crusaders bearing down on them, slaughtering them in their hundreds, and no sign of their great Sultan anywhere, the horse archers break and flee into the hills and marshes. The pursuit lasts long into the evening as the rest of the army arrive, eager for blood, while the weary victors plunder the camp of the great Sultan.

A ring of horse archers greets the new Crusaders.
The battle at the camp
One last Deus Vult for old times sake

God clearly smiled down upon this mighty crusading endeavour.


All in all a good fun game. I used Hail Caesar as the rule set as I’d not had a game of it in around a year and a half. The scenario I designed worked out well, though I may make a few tweaks if I play it again. It gave a good fun game and I think had the Turks not been so sluggish on their left for the first few turns it could have gone a different way. For the scenario I decided the Turks could have a minor victory if they managed to plunder the Crusader camp for a few turns without being driven off, and a major one if they were able to break and drive off the Crusaders. The Crusaders would have a minor victory by just holding on until Godfrey’s full army arrived on Turn 10, though I had units of knights charging ahead of the main force start arriving from Turn 6 on a dice roll (6+ Turn 6, 5+ Turn 7, 4+ Turn 8, etc). If I play again, which I hope to some day, I’d probably make a few tweaks. I would perhaps add another unit of heavy cavalry to the Turks, or, possibly more likely, reduce the number and strength of the Crusader infantry. I had the infantry causing a -1 to-hit on ranged attacks which made them very difficult to damage. I had a special rule (that I didn’t use) that the knights could be ordered to dismount and join the infantry, which would convert them from medium to heavy infantry units, on reflection I should probably have kept the -1 to-hit for then too, though perhaps a faster acting Turkish action could have collapsed the Crusader flanks as at least one unit was on the verge of being Shaken. I will have to play again sometime to see.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did playing it and as ever, thanks for reading!

Matthew

P.S. if you want to read about the real history that inspired this battle you can do so here.

A Flippant History of the Crusades – The First Crusade – Dorylaeum down to rest.

When last we left our intrepid Crusaders they had just marched out from Nicaea after driving off an initial attack by the Turks. Numerous as they were, to march all down the same route would have been impossible so the army split into two parts. The vanguard, led by Bohemond of Taranto, his nephew Tancred, Robert Curthose, Robert of Flanders, and the Byzantine Tatikios, whose troops had been least involved in the battle in front of Nicaea, moved south eastwards through the valley of the Thymbres river, eventually finding themselves around a week later camped on a meadow by some marshy ground down the valley, not too distant from the ruins of the settlement of Dorylaeum. Many miles behind them, with the remaining three fifths of the Crusader army was Godfrey of Bullion, who had set up camp further up the valley and had his soup pots on a steady simmer as the aromas of gently cooking vegetables wafted through the tents.

Meanwhile, Kilij Arslan, Sultan of Rum, was preparing an ambush near Dorylaeum. His scouts had been shadowing Bohemond’s army for some time, believing it to be the entire Crusader force, and didn’t realise that Bohemond had twigged onto his shadows and was well aware that Kilij was in the area. Flanked by the hills and mountains to the north and the marshy floodplain of the river to the south, this seemed the best place to camp and await the rest of the Crusader army.

The Sultan was insulted by this lack of decorum. How dare these foreign invaders stop there and not walk neatly into his well laid ambush. Infuriated he ordered his troops to muster up and started marching up the valley. Estimates vary on the size of the forces involved here. Scholars generally agree that Bohemond’s forces numbered around 20,000, while Godfrey’s were around 30,000. The Turks are far harder to number as the Crusader accounts tend to overestimate their numbers considerably. Most modern estimates put them at around 8,000 – 9,000, up to a theoretical maximum of around 20,000, though it’s clear that they were much less numerous than the entire Crusader force, and likely still smaller than Bohemond’s vanguard even.

As the Turkish dust cloud appeared on the horizon on a bright clear day at the start of July 1097, Bohemond ordered his men to muster down the valley from the camp in a solid battle line to face the enemy advance. He sent messengers back to Godfrey asking for aid, but new that help would be half a day away at best. Resigned to a long and grueling battle, he bolstered the men with prayers and rousing words.

The Crusader army lined up with a solid line of infantry behind and a line of knights in front. Bohemond was on the left flank, Robert of Normandy in the centre and Tancred and the other minor princes made up the right. The Turkish army consisted of a core of heavy cavalry, the Askar and Ghulam, under Kilij himself, as well as two large wings of light horse archers made up of Danishmendids from north eastern Anatolia, under Gazi Gümüshtigin. Gazi’s father, also gassy, had founded the Danishmendid dynasty after giving the Byzantines a bloody nose and Manzikert, and had no desire to see Christian marching boots on what was now Turkish soil again.

Turks were expert horse archers, able to run away and shoot at the same time!

The Turks rushed forward unleashing an endless hail of arrows at the solid lines of the Crusaders. Enraged, the Christian knights charged them yelling their battle cries in the face of the devilish shouts of the enemy and this “Allah Ahkbar!” they seemed so fond of. Well Mr Ahkbar would be getting his taste of Christian steel, ally or no. Yet as the boisterous boyos in the glittering mail charged ragtag into the cloud of Turks, the cloud seemed to dissipate. A knight would no sooner skewer a pagan with a well aimed spear throw or lance thrust than find himself surrounded by nothing but dust and air. This continued a while, throwing the knights into greater disarray only for the dust to clear and the sun to glint off the well ordered line of heavily armoured Turkish cavalry that were now charging down at them.

Vicious melee ensued as the disordered knights fought to regain some momentum, only to break and run back towards friendly lines. The formed up infantry, seeing the noble and valiant knights hurtling towards them with their tails between their legs formed up in close order with a firm “Nope” and refused to let them through. The knights now milling about in disarray in front of their own lines finally found a scrap of nobility and formed up again. This was aided in no small part by Robert of Normandy removing his helmet and shouting “Deus Vult” and “Normandy” while wildly waving his golden banner about. Perhaps the gold of the banner reminded the knights about all the gold awaiting them in the Turkish camp just beyond that line of fearsome cavalry.

The Turks, no doubt laughing at the silly Europeans, held back and kept pinging them with arrows while the bulk of the army, on their fast, light horses, swept wide around the flanks of the Crusader line, unperturbed by the rough terrain, and started descending on the Christian camp.

As the sounds of devastation from the camp behind them reached the army, Bohemond took a contingent of knights back to see what all the fuss was about. He found to his horror, the Turks in the camp, looting, pillaging, and generally making a nuisance of themselves killing helpless old men, washer women, children and, heaven forbid it, even priests!

Furious he charged into the camp driving off the pagans and sent word to the rest of his army to fall back and defend the camp. The Crusader likes fell back in good order under a constant rain of arrows and formed a rough square of defensive lines around the beleaguered camp. Seeing the futility of any further charges, Bohemond ordered the knights to dismount and leave their horses in camp, then join the front lines of infantry to bolster them.

This served two purposes. Firstly, the heavy armour and fighting ability of the knights would make the infantry near impervious to an enemy charge and second, being unhorsed showed the rest of the infantry that the knights were here to stay and wouldn’t flee the field (again) when the going got tough.

Not all the knights agreed with this action. Tancred, which to be fair sounds like the name of a cage fighter, decided to take his mate Billy and a bunch of their louts on a little sortee against the Turkish forces, only to lose their banner and, in William’s case, his life. Bohemond was less than amused and told his wounded nephew to go to his tent and think about what a bad boy he is.

The Turks did what they’d always done and hung back turning the Crusaders into pincushions. Under cover of the shield wall, the Christians built what defenses they could, stakes and ditches, hasty palisades and barricades with wagons. Bohemond eyed the horizon anxiously, hoping not to be the one to join the Anatolian graveyards with the previous failed attempts at Christian invasion.

As the sun moved westwards a haze on the horizon seemed to coalesce into a dust cloud. Could it be? At last, after holding strong from dawn, through the searing heat of midday, exhausted, battered, pierced, help had arrived. Tearing down the valley like Ate hot from hell came Godfrey Almighty, with a heavenly host of sweaty men in tin cans with lances shining and pennants flapping behind them. The fresh knights tore into the Turkish lines, reaping destruction wherever they went. Though there were only fifty of them in that first assault, they were enough to break through and reinforce Bohemond, while the rest of Godfrey’s army arrived in successive waves as they caught up with Godfrey’s impetuous race to the battle.

Still the Turks proved resilient, and while surprised by the renewed ferocity of the Norman knights and their pious warcries of “Today, if it pleases God, you will all become rich!” they did not break immediately. Indeed it wasn’t until the Papal Legume (eh Legate), Adhemar de le Puy (lentil), who had been approaching the battlefield through the hills on the opposite side of the river was able to get past the Turkish forces and launch his own assault on their camp that the Turks finally threw in the towel and ran for the hills.

Kilij and his elite cavalry took refuge on a steep hill, driving back with arrows the knights who tried to dislodge him, unable to charge in the steep, rugged terrain. It wasn’t until the bulk of Godfrey’s army, the infantry who would have less difficulty assaulting the hill than the knights that turned Kilij away from the battlefield to flee to the hills. He would later extract petty revenge by making a point of selling any Greek boys he found into slavery, still under the impression these Franks were the same as the Greeks he was so used to dealing with.

Victorious, the Christians unleashed their holy fury on the camp of the Turks, pillaging it and, for a time, becoming rich off the loot from Kilij’s treasury and the Turkish dead, which contained much gold, silver, wine, weapons, houses, clothing and were particularly taken by the fine silk tents the Turks resided in. They also rounded up a large number of captives to sell to the Byzantine slavers following the army. By this time the Christians had started to look more like Greeks and Turks than Western Europeans as they adopted their dress and equipment, such as robes and turbans over armour to protect from the sun. Often times the only way the living could tell a Christian corpse from a Muslim one was from the crosses sewn into their garments, so similar were they in dress and arms.

Learning from their mistakes they traveled together in one large mass to avoid being defeated in detail again and reformed some of the practices of an army on the march to work better together, sharing food and loot in common to be distributed fairly rather than every man looting for himself.

With victory secured, the path through Anatolia was clear for the Crusaders. It would take them several months of hard marching through unforgiving terrain and climates, but they were able to do so without major engagement by the Turks beyond some harassment and resource denial actions. The Turks were now very wary of facing these “men of iron” and the Christians had a new healthy respect for these brave and determined pagans who “where they but Christians, would be the best of men”.

The Byzantines did well out if this too as a weakened Sultanate was easy pickings for the army of John Doukas, who moved down the coast of Western Anatolia, recovering formerly Greek cities into the Empire. The Turks were less concerned with cities than with available pasture land. The Turks lived and died with their nomadic herds and while cities were useful for tribute and storage, the herd was paramount, and it would be years until the Sultan’s herds grew again to a point that he’d be willing to face Christians in open battle.

Eventually, the Crusaders reached Antioch. But that’s a story for another time. Before I sign off I’ll finish with an anecdote from the battle. During the final attack the Christians claimed there was some divine intervention on their side. Two heavenly knights, clad in shining gold, were seen to be killing many Turks, impervious to any human weapons. It’s said these knights pursued the fleeing Turks to kill them far from the battlefield. Indeed after a few days rest when the Crusaders marched onwards, they would find dead Turks several days march beyond. A skeptic may suggest these simply died from their wounds, but the Crusaders felt emboldened by the aid of these angelic warriors.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

P.S. if you want to see a refight of the battle with miniatures you can do so here.

Projects Update – July 2020

Been able to keep things reasonably productive this month. Even got in a couple of games, some thinking around various projects and plenty of ideas for more projects in future. I’ve still been mostly using a dice roll to determine what my next piece of painting will be, though upped from a d6 to a d8 to include some bits that had been languishing unloved for a little too long. The two new additions came up during the month so that worked out well.


AVNICW Project

Ulster Protestant League Machine Gunner:

UPL infantry:

Civilian Militia – these will work as infantry for the socialist/communist factions as well as general militia defending their homes and maybe some guerilla fighters:

Figures all Pendraken.

Zombies

I think these are 35mm. The zombies from the original Zombicide game were some of the first figures I painted as was easy to cover up all the mistakes with bloodstains! Don’t think I’ve ever photographed them, but definitely having an easier time with these now after a few years experience. One day I’ll get photos of the original ones done.

Not sure what to do with the bases, just gone with a sandy brown for now then will maybe do something with them once I’ve them all painted so it’s consistent.

Nine down, sixty two to go…  

Japanese Folklore

15mm Tanuki (Japanese Racoon Dog) Archers for a HotT army based around Japanese Folklore. Not entirely happy with these, they’re a little too dark still, and the colours aren’t quite popping like I want. Think I’ll maybe redo them with dark browns rather than the dark grey and add some patterns to the clothes. Figures from Alternative Armies.

Aztecs

Some more of Pendraken’s lovely Aztec range, this colourful unit is led by the warrior priests who had a whole different military and rank structure from the secular military forces. I already had some of these painted up previously but finished off the rest of the units and based them all.

The poor slinger at the front has a bit of grass in his face, but like a true warrior he’s still slinging away.

Trojan War

As this is a somewhat finite project (naivety I’m sure) being based around the combatants in the Trojan War I’ve gone with bigger bases with the aim of doing more diorama style, especially for some of the more famous characters and units. At 80×40 they’ll still fit comfortably on a dining table sized game but give a bit more space for laying out, especially when it comes to chariots, amazons and great heroes. Using them with TtS! to start with though may try with other rules too.

First up is a reasonably simple unit of bronze age axemen I’m using as Halizonian troops on the Trojan side, led by Odius and Epistrophus. They are from Alybe far away, where is the birth-place of silver thought to be somewhere on the Black Sea. Not much else is known of them but quite liked the idea of some axemen in the mix so seemed as good a fit as any.

The leader has an axe made of that strange metal that falls from the stars, or iron as we now know it. They did have iron in the bronze age, just didn’t know how to smelt it from ore so pure sources were rare and precious, usually from meteorites.

I’ll likely add some grass tufts and scene dressing to the base down the line, but want to do them all together for the project so it’s consistent. So just a basic sandy brown for now.

Also did up a unit of archers. Both sets of figures are from MM, though have some figures from Newline on order for a lot of the units.

Pyraechmes led the Paeonians with their curved bows, from distant Amydon and the banks of the Axius, its waters the loveliest that flow on earth.

Crimean War

These 2mm beauties have been in my procrastination pile for a while, mostly as I needed to get out the airbrush to prime them all. Glad I did. Russians all done for the Crimea, French next.

2mm really does look good for massed battles, and can paint up a load in one sitting.

Also made use of a few of them for a super mini game of Black Powder (about 20cm a side for the game mat):

This was start of turn 2, the reds hold the village and repulsed a cavalry charge by the browns at the hill.

The battle for the village intensifies.

End of game, remaining Browns circled as they break and retreat.

Terrain

In my continued quest to pretty up my tables a bit with some terrain, I’ve put together a couple of hills, as well as painted up all of my 2mm terrain and building pieces.

And some 2mm terrain and building bits:

I have a pack of 2mm river sections (that should work okay as streams elsewhere) primed blue but not yet painted. I’ve also picked up a few 2mm pike and shot units which the above will work well with also.

Chinese Ancients

Just in under the wire this month, got these two bases of Qin infantry done:

Plans for Next Month

Keep rolling the dice and see what comes up! I’ll continue painting through my collection mostly guided by the dice roll against 8 different projects. There are quite a few other projects I’d like to start but trying to resist the temptation until I can get a few of these ones done to a playable phase 1.

I also need to get varnishing, the weather has been pretty changeable so I’m about two months behind on varnishing.

I hope to get a game or two in as well. Some more mini games with the 2mm might be fun, though would be good to get a bigger game out as well and use the hills.

As ever, thanks for reading,

Matthew

Battle Report – Crusaders and Saracens with TtS!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve played a game and even longer since I played a game of TtS so since I have recently finished a slew of crusades forces it seemed a good time to get a game on the table.

This game fit nicely on the kitchen table with a 12×8 grid of 100mm squares and I was able to utilise some of my newly made terrain pieces and newly acquired chits.

To the Strongest uses an activation system whereby each unit under command attempts to activate until it fails, at which point activation switches to the next command. The game is intended to use a deck of cards for this and while I do like this variety from using dice, it requires a fair bit of space to place the cards down with the units. The author suggests chits or d10 can be used for smaller scale games and I’ve opted to use the chits here for activations while retaining the deck for combat. This worked reasonably well, though I will probably attempt to use a d10 for combat in future too for comparison.

The forces today are two evenly matched armies at 130 points each. The Crusaders have a smaller, tougher force of heavy infantry and knights, while the Saracens have swarms of cavalry backed up with a mob of poor quality infantry. It’s an age old match up of quality vs quantity.


The battlefield at the start of the battle. Crusaders at the bottom, Saracens at the top. A dense wood to the right and a patch of rough ground on the left make up the terrain, with stones and clumps marking out the grid.

The cavalry heavy armies of the Saracens edge out the slower moving Crusaders in the scouting department and take the first move. Hoping to deny the enemy the centre and unleash a flurry of arrows before pulling away the Saracens surge forwards towards the Christian lines.

“You infidels will soon feel Allah’s wrath!”
“We laugh at your excuse for a flank!”

The advance goes well, but before they can get into bow range horses and men start screaming and falling. A wall of steel tipped death roars towards them as the crusader infantry unleash their deadly crossbows into the face of the advancing cavalry. The light cavalry are no match for such an onslaught and are cut down in droves before fleeing in panic.

“Offendi, where’s my horses?”

The Crusaders feel victory in their grasp and while their original plan of securing their flanks with the terrain in the centre is stalled, their flanks take advantage of the panic to sweep forward, the Holy Orders keen to wet their blades with the blood of the heathens.

“Forward for God and Glory!”
“For Jerusalem!”

The advance on the flanks puts the Saracens on the backfoot as they struggle to reform their lines and prepare a counter attack. However, Crusader arrogance pushes the Christian knights into overextending themselves, pushing too far forward and separating themselves from their support. The Templars find themselves cut off and surrounded multiple flanks with horse archers swirling away from them unleashing their arrows. The Knights of Jerusalem and Turcopoles find themselves being potshot on the flank and the Hospitaliers grind against the Islamic infantry on the far side. The Crusader infantry attempts to move up to support the Knights, taking a few shots at swirling horsemen ahead of them but soon running dry on ammunition after their initial bombardment. With the solid line behind them the cavalry push forward against the enemy, wounding the enemy captain but not breaking their resolve.

“Typical Knights, always charging off ahead and getting themselves into trouble!”
“We got your backs, now get to it!”

Despite the forward momentum of the Christians, the Saracen forces are able to seize the initiative again and the infantry hordes run forward to swamp the tired knights while the cavalry forces on the Saracen right break through the Crusader cavalry, wounding then eventually killing their captain, wiping out the Crusader left and threatening to roll up the line if infantry that is starting to look a little more shakey.

“Allah wills it!”

The Hospitaliers, worn out from their long fight, pull back to let fresh reserves of knights take their place against the masses of Ghazi warriors and Islamic levies, though to little effect.

“Those guys are crazy!”

On the Saracen right, the cavalry line up for a charge while the horse archers disrupt the infantry with well placed archery. The cavalry charge again and again, and while the Christian infantry prove resilient they are pushed back and eventually, worn down by the onslaught of lance and bow, broken.

“Here we come, ready or not.”

With one flank destroyed and the other ground to a halt, and with the infantry shaken and breaking, the General calls for the retreat. God was not with the Crusaders this day and they flee the field in the shame of defeat.

The view from the Saracen right at the end of the battle with the location of the lost Crusader infantry marked.

All in all it was a good game with a close fought matchup. At first I thought the Crusaders were in for a sweeping victory after a successful first few turns and a series of poor activations for the Saracens but fortunes soon changed and with Crusader ammo reserves running dry the Saracens were able to use their superior numbers to surround and destroy the Christians. The quality vs quantity played out well with the Saracens able to absorb greater losses while every destroyed Crusader unit bit deeply into their remaining victory points.

The chit and card combo worked well, the chits fit well into the small grid without looking too intrusive and the cards gave a rapid play drama to the combat and saves.

I probably got a few things wrong, I suspect I made an illegal move or two and I’m not sure I used generals entirely correctly. I forgot all about the strategems for much of the game, or rather I kept thinking I must use them only after they would have been useful! Awh well.

I’m looking forward to getting these rules on the table more with a couple of in progress projects aimed at making use of them, and it was nice to be able to fit the game on the kitchen table without having to set up large tables. Making the grid is still a bit of a faff so think I’ll start marking out permanent grids in future and make my own boards and mats for some of the smaller projects.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

AVNICW Faction: The Loyal Democratic State of Northern Ireland

As I’m being kept awake by Eleventh Night celebrations nearby it seems like as good a time as any to start on the factions for my alt history 1938 Northern Ireland. This post will talk about the “official” government, or at least what’s left of it, as the nation begins to fracture. If you’re interested in the broader background you can find it in my previous post.


The main defining feature of the LDSNI is their loyalty. They are the loyalest of the loyal loyalists. It doesn’t quite matter who or what it is they are loyal to, just that there is an overwhelming sense of loyalty. It’s in their very DNA. For many in the troubling times of the AVBCW universe knowing who or what to be loyal to has become a difficult question, but for the LDSNI government they know they are Loyal, Protestant and British and that’s all that matters. Once the silly English with their disloyal civil war work out just what being British means, they’ll be happy to give their loyalty to them again. For now though, they are loyal to God and Ulster and Tradition*.

Formed from the Ulster Unionist government, “a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State”, that ruled the province from Stormont, this is certainly the most powerful faction at the start of the period. Led by Prime Minister James Craig, the Viscount Craigavon, the government is made up entirely of wealthy Protestant Orangemen and very much reflects the views and outlook of the Unionist Protestant Ascendancy. The Orange Order, a quasi-masonic Irish Protestant organisation named in tribute to a Dutch king, plays a large role in the political makeup of the government, with all MPs being Orangemen and key advisors hailing from the Grand Lodge Council.

Moving quickly to reform the local military regiments left behind by the British withdrawn, namely the Royal Ulster Rifles, the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, into a new military force, the Loyal Ulster Defenders (LUD), they seize as much abandoned military hardware as they can and direct the two former Fusilier regiments to set up a military headquarters in their barracks in Omagh with the aim of securing the border, while the former Rifles secure a base around their newly built barracks in the loyalist heartland of Ballymena. This means their military is the best armed, trained and equipped in the province.

With chaos erupting in Belfast with the socialist uprising, and the West becoming a hotbed of Irish Republican revolution, the LDSNI are shocked to find the South East, a good solid Protestant region, declaring against them with the formation of the UPL.

With Belfast proving to be less than salubrious, they are forced to consider withdrawing northwards to set up a new capital at Ballymena until they can muster their forces to secure their position and push back against the rebels. Confident that the socialists will soon tire themselves out with riot and revolution and soon turn to internal bickering, their focus is primarily directed towards the Republican threat in the West, with Donegal in revolt, Londonderry at war with Derry across the banks of the Foyle and the new LUD forces at Omagh in a precarious position as IDRA militants pop up all around them. Securing those positions and reinforcing the border of the T-Line spitting Ireland in three is crucial lest the two Southern behemoths arise from their cold war slumber and strike northwards.

The LDSNI and LUD don’t stand alone. Loyalists and Orangemen across the province have risen up to support their government and formed their own paramilitary organisations. The most prominent is that of the Loyal Ulster Volunteers, or ‘Luvvies’ as they’ve come to be known (out of earshot). They are led by the eccentric (self styled) Grand Marshal William King, a man with a penchant for dressing up in 17th century garb and riding his horse everywhere, behaviour which would have led to ridicule were he not also the sort of man whose head seemed to merge with his shoulders without the need for an intervening neck and who posessed a glare that would be banned by the Geneva Convention. The heady combination of fear and awe that he inspires encourages many in the community to join the Luvvies and swear loyalty to, rather worryingly, Billy, God and Ulster.

Regardless, these paramilitaries could support the thinly spread LDSNI wherever they are able, provided their goals, beliefs and Traditions continue to align. There are rumblings, however, within the government that “The King” may have grander ambitions than mere support of the status quo. Not only that, others within the government question just where their loyalties lie. To the ill favoured King Edward? Or the newly declared Prince Bertie? Or to a higher power like Calvinists of old? Crisis has brought the government together to face a threat but whether the enemy without also raises enemies within remains to be seen.



There’ll be more posts on the other major factions in future, and I’ve started planning out the first few games of the campaign. It’ll be a good while before in ready to play them out but that’ll give me plenty of time to flesh out the world a bit more. It seems the racket outside has died down so that’ll do me for tonight!

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

A Very British Civil War in Ireland

The aim of this post is to provide some background to my AVBCW project in Ireland, primarily Northern Ireland/Ulster. This is still a bit of a work in progress, but think I’ve got the general background worked out now.


For those unfamiliar with the world of “A Very British Civil War” it is an alternative history scenario, wherein King Edward VIII does not abdicate in 1936 causing Parliament and the CoE to take a huff with him, so he installs Oswald Mosley, of the British Union of Fascists, as Prime Minister. Many people consider this an affront to tea and crumpets and good British sense so England fractures into a staggering array of squabbling factions, Scotland declares independence, then fractures into a few squabbling factions itself, Wales implodes, the Cornish secede, Communists pop up everywhere, Prince Bertie invades at the head of a Canadian army, and Ireland annexes Ulster.

People's Front of Judea (PFJ) - Home | Facebook

Essentially it’s like if P.G. Wodehouse wrote the Spanish Civil War and peopled it with Dad’s Army and the People’s Front of Judea…

The Irish aspect of this always struck me as a bit dull. Given the zany antics of the rest of the British isles, it seemed a shame that Ireland was given such short shrift. Now to be fair Ireland has had its fair share of bloody internecine conflict through the real 20th Century, something I well know having grown up during the tail end of the euphemistically named “Troubles”, and still see the legacy of it all around, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be poked at lampooning stereotypes. I have no intention to cause anyone offence and the factions will be mostly fictional or heavily fictionalised versions of the history, and certainly not intended to be taken in any way seriously.

To that end, I’ve come up with a slightly altered version of the timeline. The events on the mainland proceed much as the standard narrative suggests, but there’s a few key divergences in Ireland. The primary one is a very different outcome to the Irish Civil War.

Real Irish History 1922 – 1937

In our timeline, after the Irish War of Independence, the British and Irish put together the Anglo-Irish Treaty that would make Ireland (excluding the 6 North Eastern counties) a Free State, though still nominally part of the British Commonwealth and still swearing allegiance to the monarchy. Those favouring the treaty saw it as a sensible stepping stone to full independence in future given how close they were to surrendering to the British at the end of the war, while those opposed felt it was giving into British demands and would accept nothing less than an all-island independent republic as declared during the Easter Rising.

When the treaty was ratified by a majority of just 7 votes in the Irish parliament, the Anti-Treaty members who had lost the vote walked out. Tensions continued to rise between the Anti and Pro treaty sides in the run up to the 1922 elections. Any attempts at reconciliation were scuppered by British insistence that the treaty terms must be followed to the letter and no republican constitution could be made. When the Pro-Treaty party won the elections, those tensions came to a head and violence broke out.

The Anti-Treaty forces consisted of around 12,000 men, mostly IRA veterans, while the Pro-Treaty forces numbered around 8000 former IRA and WW1 veterans. The AT forces held much of the south and west of the country, but despite the higher numbers and more land held, they were poorly equipped and uncoordinated. The PT forces, with arms, vehicles and equipment shipped over by the British, were able to grow the newly formed National Army into a much more effective fighting force and eventually overwhelm and defeat the AT forces, ending the conflict a year after it started. The Free State was formed and many of the Anti-Treaty politicians returned to parliament as a new political party, Fianna Fáil.

The conflict was bloody, as is often the case with a civil war, with many comrades from the War of Independence just a few years prior now bitter enemies. Atrocities were committed on both sides and indeed the legacy of the conflict still shapes much of the politics of Ireland to this day. Even the nominally independent Catholic Church took sides, supporting the treaty and refusing the sacraments to known Anti-Treaty IRA members.

All in all the conflict proved somewhat futile when in 1937 the Irish Parliament, now led by a resurgent Fianna Fáil, ratified a new republican constitution, with no mention of allegiance to the British monarchy and Irish independence was gained without British objection, much as the Pro-Treaty advocates had always claimed would be the case.

In my alternative timeline, things turn out a little differently…

Alternative Irish History 1922 – 1937

The British take umbrage at the attempts by the Pro-Treaty politicians to amend the treaty with a republican constitution to appease the Anti-Treaty side and when war breaks out are much less willing to provide supplies to the nascent National Army, though still do offer some begrudging support. As such, the Anti-Treaty forces are able to hold onto much of their territory and the war drags on for many years leading to deeply divided and embittered Ireland. The Pro-Treaty forces push south as far as Waterford and north around the borders of Ulster. Wary of the threat of the war spilling over, the British fortify the borders of Northern Ireland, absorbing Donegal into the state and creating a line of defence across the entire North. The Anti Treaty forces manage to seize the Pro-Treaty Co. Galway, connecting their south western territory to their north western territory. Exhausted by the conflict and lacking the resources to push into the enemy territories, both sides settle into an uneasy stalemate, fortifying the “T Line” that has divided them across the top and down the middle of Ireland.

Throughout the conflict, Communism International had come to see the Anti-Treaty side as allies in their movement. In our timeline they provided mostly moral support to “the struggling Irish national revolutionaries” and offered to “assist all efforts to organise the struggle to combat this terror and to help the Irish workers and peasants to victory”. In this alternative timeline, given the war dragged on for longer that a year, this support moved from the moral to the material, with equipment and vehicles flowing into the West to aid their fight. This, combined with the rejection by the Church and a longstanding hatred towards the Anglo-Irish landholding elite, leads the Anti-Treaty Irish to declare themselves the Citizens’ Republic of Ireland, a socialist republic with strong ties to Soviet Russia and Communism International. Dissenters and elites are suitably purged and the military is reformed among Soviet lines as the “Green Army of the CRI”. The Starry Plough, gold on a field of green, is officially adopted as the flag of the new Republic.

The flag of the Citizens’ Republic of Ireland

On the Pro-Treaty side, bitterness towards the British grows and though paying lip service to the treaty, division between them increases. Eoin O’Duffy and his proto-fascist Blueshirts are able to grow from strength to strength and become even more fascist in outlook. In our timeline they petered out in the early thirties, being subsumed into the Fine Gael political party. Here they come to be the dominant party in the Irish Free State (what was left of it) and their corporatist and militaristic rhetoric resonates with a people still at war and feeling surrounded and under threat. In 1932 Eoin O’Duffy becomes Taoiseach and declares that henceforth the Irish Free State would now be the fully independent Irish Social Republic. Having been in close contact with the Italian fascists for some time, the army is reorganised with Italian supplies as the National Guard and the new Republic takes as it’s flag the red St. Patrick cross on a field of blue.

The flag of the Irish Social Republic

When the Spanish Civil War breaks out, both sides are well positioned to assist the rival factions. In real history, Eoin O’Duffy raises an Irish Brigade to go off and fight for Franco, but in this timeline, given his position as head of state, he’s able to provide much assistance to the Spanish Nationalists throughout the war. Balancing this, and seeing an opportunity for a proxy war with their bitter rivals, the CRI send support to the Republicans. During the war, any time the two Irish sides met across the battlefield the fighting would become particularly intense, akin to the “Bad War” of the German Landsknechte and Swiss Pikemen of the 16th century. This pushed the war to its conclusion faster than in our timeline, finishing in the autumn of 1938.

The Nationalists are triumphant and, grateful for the Irish Social Republic’s support, agree to an alliance with O’Duffy, meaning Spanish Nationalist support flows into the nation, adding to the Italian support and bringing along with the grudging acknowledgement of Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, the defeated Republicans flock to the west of Ireland to take refuge with their socialist brothers in the Citizens’ Republic of Ireland, bolstering their ranks considerably and shifting the Soviet focus more directly to the British Isles.

In the meantime, the abdication crisis has kicked off in England and the British have pulled out of Northern Ireland to deal with the situation on the mainland. The Ulster Unionist government initially maintains control but without the full force of Britain behind them, other forces start to arise and new factions seize control.

A Verry N’orn Ayrush Civul Warr – Ulster 1937

The British withdrawal from Northern Ireland is pretty hasty given the state of affairs on the mainland. The Ulster Unionist government moves quickly to requisition whatever military hardware the British don’t carry off with them and immediately drafts the now disbanded provincial regiments of the Royal Ulster Rifles, the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers into a new military force, the Loyal Ulster Defenders and declares themselves the Loyal Democratic State of Northern Ireland. They are not yet clear just what it is they are loyal to, just that they are loyal in general. The former Rifles are deployed from their base in Ballymena to secure Belfast and the Parliament building at Stormont, while the former Fusiliers, operating out of their base in Omagh, attempt to re-secure the defensive lines along the North-South border.

Taking advantage of the dramatic reduction in military forces in the region, and the chaos that it is causing, the regional IRA forces, re-branded as the Irish Democratic Republic Army in opposition to the abandonment of the Republican ideals by the South, move from their low level guerrilla campaign to an all out uprising, seizing large swathes of territory in the western counties as well as instigating risings in the sympathetic Antrim Glens and West Belfast. In Omagh, they besiege the token force left at the St Lucia Barracks, leaving the government the difficult decision of whether or not to order the troops away from the border defences.

With socialist uprisings across England taking root and the socialist state of the CRI in the south, socialist and communist groups in the North had been growing from strength to strength in recent years. Many of the working class of Belfast, as well as areas of south-central N. Ireland had developed a strong socialist tradition, and while having many divergent viewpoints, a loose grouping of many different organisations, calling themselves the Socialist Workers of Ulster United, rise up in revolution, tacitly supported by the Soviets and the CRI influence. Riots and uprisings break out across Belfast as revolutionaries flood in from the surrounding regions to the southwest. The revolution coalesces on Stormont, besieging the government there and forcing them to begin a retreat out of the city with the aid of the former Royal Ulster Rifles to set up a government in exile at the newly built St Patrick’s Barracks in Ballymena.

In Co. Down a growing movement of radical protestants with fascist leanings had grown with close links to international fascist movements, especially in Germany. The popular Ulster Youth organisation, having run “educational” events and meetings for children and young people over the past decade had raised a generation of young men and women who were militant in their faith and outlook and well drilled and disciplined in military maneuvers and armaments. The parent organisation, the Ulster Protestant League, had been formed by a former army chaplain turned firebrand preacher, known as “The Big Man” Commander John Campbell, whose particular brand of populist preaching had seen many churches align with the UPL. Seeing the opportunity the chaos presented, the UPL quickly mobilised, with sympathetic factions in the Palace Barracks in Holywood opening the gates to the Commander, the UPL sets up their base of operations there. While appearing to be aligned with the fascist government in England and claiming “loyalty” to them, there are whispers that The Big Man has much different plans in mind.

The powerful southern states look at the fragmentation of the North as a key opportunity to gain an advantage over their rival, though for now, neither side is prepared to make the first move. The military buildup of recent years resulted in some very tempting targets in the northwest, especially the military airfields, and control of the region would give the owning side a clear means to encircle their enemy and move to unify the entire island.

And so it begins.


In a future post I’ll go into more details of the various factions, as well as some of the setup for the narrative campaign I’m planning. I’ve still a bit of thinking to do around that, as well as more details on the individual factions (e.g. who leads the CRI? A moderate de Valera trying to control a cadre of spittle mouthed communist die-hards? Or maybe a Citizens’ Council?). Also need to work out a mechanic for the ticking time bomb of southern involvement in the north, as that’ll kick things up a notch. I want the campaign mechanics to act as a narrative guide rather than be a hard set of rules to follow, just to keep a bit of randomness and interest. I plan to have a few variables within the wider campaign to trigger different outcomes, for instance having levels of resource, morale, and factionalism. These will likely be scales of 1-10 with different affects on point values, experience levels, and trigger new special events such as new factions spawning.

At this point I’ve only a few units made up for it, I plan to use Blitzkrieg Commander IV as the primary ruleset, though may look into others for variety in time. I know Bolt Action is very popular for squad-based combat so may suit some scenarios. The plan will be to start with a few small actions to get a feel for the rules, then start looking at dealing with the currently disputed areas, the Seige of Stormont and the Battles of Omagh and Armagh for a start, maybe some guerrilla conflicts in the Antrim Glens, and work out what the hell is going on around the Foyle!

I still don’t quite know what to call this project, I’d initially gone with A Very Northern Irish Civil War, but it’s gotten a bit more widespread, AVBCW in Ireland is too much of a mouthful, and A Very Irish Civil War doesn’t quite sound right. Given the main theatre initially is in and around N. Ireland, AVNICW will likely do for the time being.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

Projects Update – June 2020

I’ve made some good progress on a few things this month. Switching to doing smaller units has kept up a better momentum and I’ve finally been getting a bit more time to do hobby stuff this month. I also did some sorting and reorganising of my hobby space, partly to make a bit of space for working from home that was a bit of a change from the kitchen table, partly because I was running out of space to put things!


First up, got the basing on my Crusader infantry all done, figures are mostly Pendraken/TB Line but I also repainted and rebased some of my MM bill men, which were some of the first 10mm figures I ever painted! These were over 200 figures that I’ve been painting over the past while and as the bases I needed arrived this month it was good to get them all based up and finished.

Some crossbowmen. These can be fielded as their own unit or attached to infantry. I probably need to do another couple of packs if these at some point.

Attached

Knights of Jerusalem (TB Line). So much lovely turquoise.

Yes I’m a mad fool who paints his flags. Easy enough when they’re crosses though. Adds a certain homeliness to it.

Also in the mix are some some rebased MM knights as Men-At-Arms. I painted these a year or two back, but part of my gradual rebasing of my old Crusader cavalry from the 50mm to 40mm squares.

Finally a few bits for camps and bases:

Think the tents are Irregular Miniatures. The buildings were resins off eBay I got ages ago.

In the rest of my crusades queue I’ve a pack of foot knights to paint up, some Eastern infantry as Armenians, more tents and civilians, a bunch more mounted knights and a handful of marker pieces. For now. I’m not too far off being able to do Arsuf either, my original plan for this project, though will likely do Dorylaeum first and write the accompanying Flippant History. I’ve also a TtS! game prepared with them and will be starting a Soldiers of God campaign in the near future too, so keep an eye out for battle reports.


A new project next, moving to ancient China for the late Warring States/Early Imperial period. These are based on a 40mm frontage initially, though long term hope to upgrade to 80mm frontage. Initially doing some Qin and Chu forces, though will be also doing a Han army and probably some rebel factions in the future. Figures are mostly from Newline, though a few (like the spearmen) are from MM’s range. The MM figures are a little more squat and cartoonish than the Newline ones but fit okay on separate bases.

First up Qin mixed infantry (Ji halberd and crossbow) needing a bit of static grass brushed off their shoulders:

And some more:

Qin Heavy Cavalry:

Qin chariots:

Qin General:

Then onto some Chu infantry (Ji halberd and swordsmen):

And from a different division of the army:

Some (un)impressed spearmen:

Some Chu crossbowmen:

The Chu will be organised into two large army divisions with a small detached overall command, hence the white and grey and white and purple colour schemes.

The Qin will have four smaller army divisions plus a command division.

This is to represent the difference between the more militaristic Qin who gave greater autonomy to their well trained troops and the largely poorly trained conscript armies of the Chu under often competing noble commanders.

My Han army lists are different still, to give each it’s own distinct flavour and play style. More on those in a future post.


I have been having a go at filling the biggest hole in my wargaming collection…terrain! The trees I got on eBay a while ago so they’ve been mounted on thick card and flocked.

This is thick cardboard cut to shape then flocked and scatter added. Took ages to dry!
This scatter piece has a card base then the shape was carved from polystyrene then covered in wall filler. Then painted, flocked, etc.

I’ve also got two hills made of card and polystyrene to paint and flock but will hit them next time I’ve the airbrush out. Finally I’ll have terrain that isn’t just bits of card with colouring pencil terrain drawn on! I’ve also done some more experiments with the gridded battle board idea. Magnetic grid points make it pretty reusable for other things, but is a bit more fiddly to do. The tile spacers, doubled up for height then painted or flocked to fit in with the board are actually looking pretty decent and may be the way I go. Also need to think about the terrain style for the board, I’m thinking fairly lush and use for my Aztecs since I intend to keep them at a 40mm frontage and not double up to the 80mm like I do with some other projects. The 70mm grid that my foam board will allow will also suit them well, whereas it would be too small for many of my other projects which will need an 80-100mm grid.


I’ve also started working on a Trojan War project, though as it’ll be a reasonably “fixed size” project in terms of number of units I’m tempted to go for bigger bases for a more diorama look. I’ve a handful of figures painted but not based yet. I could go with my current basing style and use it as the seed of a broader bronze age project, but think it might be nice to do something a little more special for this epic conflict. I may make a battle board for this some point in the future too with fixed terrain, though that’ll be a while off yet.

Experiments and test figures

Finally, I started working a project I got some samples for last year but haven’t done anything with yet. This is moving things into the 20th Century for a bit of alternative history based around the “A Very British Civil War” scenario, though in my own region of Northern Ireland/Ulster. I’ll have some more posts in the future about the back story and factions I’ve been thinking about but started with a unit of infantry for the Ulster Protestant League, a faction of extreme Protestant fascists. Black and purple have a strong link to Protestantism in the region along with the better known orange. As orange tends to be a bit more political associated and purple a bit more religious associated I’m saving the orange for a faction of government loyalists and using purple and black as the UPL faction.

The figures are Carlist Requetes from Pendraken’s Spanish Civil War range. I understand the historical troops were ultra-Catholic nationalists, so there’s a bit of delicious irony in them being used as ultra-Protestant nationalists. I didn’t realise this when I picked them, I had just envisioned these guys in berets and the figures seemed appropriate. The sashes were blankets for the original troops, but I felt the sash more thematically appropriate than a blanket.

I’ve a few more bases in progress from this project, but that’ll just have to wait until the July update.

I confess to being a complete novice when it comes to 20th-century warfare and equipment, having been more interested in history than hardware. I’ve a decent knowledge of the broad historical strokes but when people start talking about gillies vs boots and what helmet that division wore in that region and whether Mark III or Mark IV of the J-33 “Doddler” Tank was in use in a particular battle (yes I made that up…) I’m completely lost. So the alternative history mishmash of WW1, SCW and WW2 that AVBCW (or AVNICW – A Verry No’rn Ayrush Civul Warr*) offers is a nice gateway to the period without getting bogged down in the details. Though in truth it may evolve into an Ireland wide conflict given some of the alt-history I’ve been putting together! More on that in another post to come soon.

Hopefully, next month will be as much of a varied mix. I’ve taken to deciding what unit to paint next based on a dice roll against a table of potential projects, which is quite a nice way to keep the momentum going on different things. I doubt I’d have started the AVBCW project any time soon if it hadn’t come up on the dice and there are a few more unstarted or untouched projects on the list that may come up at the whim of the dice roll!

It’s also been some time since I played a game, so I’m hoping this month to get the Crusades forces out again for a game of To The Strongest! and possibly kick off a Soldiers of God campaign.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Matthew


* For those unfamiliar with N. Irish regional accents, this should be said quickly, somewhere between the back of the throat and the nasal passage, with proper emphasis put on the Rs at the end of words. I’m looking at you non-rhotic English speakers – excepting the Yanks, the Scottish, West Country folk, and pirates who all have a proper appreciation of the arr!

Projects Update – May 2020

It’s been a while since I posted any progress updates so this is a bit of a summary of what I’ve been up to the past 6-8 months. There’s a fair bit more not pictured as they’ve still to be based, but those should be done in the near future.

First up some new command elements for my Crusaders and Saracen forces. I have an idea on using these guys for a campaign so you’ll be seeing them again in future complete with names and backgrounds when the Barony of Nusquam and the Emirate of Lamakan come to blows in the far reaches of the Middle East.

Figures are a mix of Pendraken and Irregular I believe.

The Crusaders:

The Saracens:

And as a bonus a few marker units to represent spears/lances/heroes:

Next up filling the major gap in the forces of Islam is a whole lot of light cavalry and hordes of horse archers.

Around Christmas last year I went on a bit of a rare fantasy binge after watching too much Critical Role and playing a few fantasy games like 4 Against Darkness. I plan to use these for Sellwords and Spellslingers if the fantasy urge comes round again.

I had a lot of fun with the Pendraken fantasy range and used it to experiment with different techniques for painting and basing, for instance airbrushing, different use of dry brushing and highlights as well lighting and metallics. Was a nice change of pace from batch painting large armies.

Shambling slowly up to the plate, some undead:

The necromancer I spent a fair bit of time experimenting with, especially the glowing eyes on his staff and the light and shadow effects from that.

And now the good guys:

This guy was a character my wife created for D&D when I almost convinced her to give it a go….
If only I had a thunderstorm backdrop!

And given the time of year I was painting these added a bit of festive cheer:

Next up we’re taking a bit of a diversion into another scale and looking at my 2mm forces for the British and some Turkish allies in the Crimean War. I’m fairly sure I’ve another 10 or 15 bases of these in a box with the start of the French army but there’s enough here to get the gist. I also have around 50 bases of Russians to prime and paint at some point and the French to assemble. All in all, should have enough to cover most of the BBB Crimean War scenarios.

Infantry commanders:

Light infantry/skirmishers:

The single line is for veterans, the double line standard infantry:

The Turks in the back:

Artillery, cavalry and general:

And finally we travel to Mexico for some of the glorious Aztec range. These models are beautifully sculpted and a joy to paint given the detail and opportunity for colour. I fear I don’t do them justice.

In the one’s below I’ve picked a colour theme for each group but I have some more awaiting finishing touches that are a riot of colour and will be adding even more units soon.

Skirmishers:

Eagle and Jaguar Warriors:

The atlatl thrower on the small base is a shock missile marker.

City infantry with attached hero marker:

Some “wargamers eye view” shots:

Close-ups of the markers, some of these came out a little darker than I’d hoped but the heroes have face paint and tattoos:

And these poor sods who were mangled in the name of casualty markers:

One thing I’m planning to work on over the next little while is some additional terrain and a battle board for the Aztecs (and others). As I plan to use To the Strongest! for this a grid is required, so experimenting with some options on gridding before committing to putting it on my actual board (which is a repurposed wedding table plan).

I asked on a couple of forums for ideas and some good ones popped up like using tile spacers or magnets.

I initially used single spacers then added filler around them but they got hidden after painting. At the top left I’ve tried with doubled spacers and waiting some bits to dry. May need another layer of flock on it. At the bottom I’ve just stuck some new spacers on top of the hidden old ones and flocked around.

To the right of that I’ve hidden a magnet under the flock and have a small clump on ferrous paper drying at the bottom to see how it works. I used a fairly small thin (10 x 2 mm I think) magnet as I don’t want to interfere heavily with any of my magnetically based units. Some of those thicker rare earth magnets would have units sailing across the table as if my magic!

Since taking these pictures I’ve also painted up a small unit of Early Imperial Chinese halberd men, and primed a unit of Mycenaean spear men so will showcase them when based up. My master plan of basing to a 40 x 20 mm standard is somewhat scuppered by the forward pointing weapon, which would cause issues with base to base contact, so will have to do these on a 40 x 30 mm base and hope it still looks distinct enough from a 40 x 40 “deep” base.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

The Great Basing Debate

One of the most difficult and daunting aspects to any new wargaming project for me is the question of how to base the armies. I spend a considerable amount of time with bases and figures and blu-tac trying out endless combinations then once I settle on one end up changing it or rethinking it soon after. Having been overthinking it again the past few nights as it’s causing a holdup on a number of projects I think I’ve come to some conclusions. What follows is mostly a bit of a ramble to sort out my thinking on it, but perhaps others may find it interesting, or have gone through similar issues themselves. I can recommend a couple of other blogs looking at “downsizing” that provide some inspiration, namely https://inredcoatragsattired.com/2020/03/13/making-alterations/ and http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/.

The 120mm frontage does require a largish play area, but it is nice for the look and feel of the period. I could potentially shave this down to a 90mm or even 60mm frontage though if my ancient minimisation works out, but the visual impact will be severely reduced.

When I first got into wargaming a few years back my first rule set was Hail Caesar. In it, it recommended 40mm squares for infantry and 50mm squares for cavalry, using a few to make up a unit. After plenty of Googling I didn’t find any issues with this so started to use it for my crusades armies. Typically an infantry unit would be a 120mm frontage and a cavalry 100mm. Over time I was exposed to different rule sets with different basing requirements ranging from the complete agnostics (e.g. To The Strongest!) to the very strict (e.g. DBx). With my second project, the English Civil War, I agonised a long time over basing. I ended up maintaining the 120mm frontage, but as a combined unit of pike and shot. For the horse, I kept the 100mm frontage, but with a 40mm depth and did end up with something I’m happy with.

I had some concerns on the basing choices for the crusades, however, namely:

  1. 50mm squared cavalry for 10mm is a bit silly. The frontage difference is negligible for gameplay, the depth is unnecessary, and rules that do require multiple bases and matching frontage (e.g Soldiers of God) mean some things need fudged.
  2. Most 10mm packs come as 30 infantry. With 3 40mm bases per unit, that’s 10 infantry on each, which can look a bit loose on the base. Okay for irregulars but not for close order or formed infantry.
  3. Bigger bases are more awkward to apply basing material to. Maybe I’ve a poor basing technique but trying to get PVA into the nooks between figures in the centre usually results in flock and sand attached to figures rather than bases.
  4. It takes a long time to make an army. As I’m generally making both sides myself the time from starting a project to having something to put on the table is considerable. While I’m not necessarily a slow painter, I’m usually only able to get a few hours painting in a week, which means I’m maybe averaging one unit a week.
  5. Larger bases means larger table. While I do have the means to set up and play a large game, it usually requires the guts of a day to do it, as need to rearrange furniture, get fold up tables from the roof space, then set it all up, play the game and then pack and return everything to normal. At such I’m only getting a game in every few months at best.
Horse archers on 40mm squares

So with these in mind, for future projects I want to explore a different basing style and standard that will allow me to get armies on the table quicker and allow me to play on a smaller space, while still looking visually appealing and be scaleable if I ever want to go larger in future. I’ve already start implementing some changes to new units in my crusades forces, switching to 40mm squares for new cavalry and will likely rebase the existing cavalry at some point in the future. For the moment I will keep to the 40mm squares for the crusades, given how heavily invested in it I am and future expansions will likely be only a few units here and there. I’ll have some updates on this in a future blog post once I get the varnishing can out!

For the moment I’m mostly thinking about ancients, as gunpowder armies and beyond will have different considerations. The primarily drivers for this are twofold:

Not quite what I’d hoped for

The first is my Aztec project. I planned and purchased a large collection of figures for this based around a new basing style of 25mm squares, making units 3 or 4 bases wide and two deep. On getting the first unit painted up and test based I dislike it. Too fiddly and just didn’t look right. As formations aren’t of much importance to the period I tried a few larger single base options, which looked okay but would have the awkward flocking issue mentioned previously and the game size issues.

The second is my desire to do the ancient world. All of it. My love of history started at a young age with the classical Greeks and that never went away, though it’s spread much further and wider since then. I want to fight battles with armies across the breadth of the ancient world, all on the same basing system, and to try and do so at my current rate is just unrealistic in any reasonable timeframe.

So… where does that leave me? I recently picked up a copy of Horde of the Things and DBA 3.0, which use a basing style commonly referred to as DBx basing. This is mostly aimed at 15mm figures and generally has units on a single base 40mm frontage, with varying depth and figure counts to indicate different unit types. E.g infantry are typically 15-20mm deep while cavalry, chariots, etc tend to be 30-40mm deep. I had encountered this before and been unimpressed as 3 figures on a 40x15mm base doesn’t look like a unit of troops to me. In DBx this isn’t a concern as a base is not quite the same as a unit, but for use in other rules it doesn’t pass the “looks right” test. However, having seen some people using the basing in 10mm at a higher number of figures the look does get a lot closer to what I’d expect a unit to look like at minimum size. It also satisfies several of my requirements in that it would be quick to get an army put together and need less space to play so I wanted to experiment a bit and see how well I could represent everything I wanted using similar basing sizes.

I started with some of the most complicated units in the ancient world, the Republican Roman maniples. How do I represent them in a way that is historically and visually accurate but in a small space. A Roman maniple was 120 men strong, arranged ten men deep as best we can tell. It was made up of two 60 man centuries, but always fought together so the maniple is the smallest tactical unit required. I’m sure I’ll go into more details on the different types of maniple and method of fighting another time but essentially the were 20 maniples arranged in two lines in a chequerboard pattern with a screening force of light infantry in front and a line of veteran spearmen known as the Triarii behind. The spearmen were half the size of a standard maniple at 60 strong. So a basing system that represents those differences is important. It would be reasonable feasible to a roughly 1:10 ratio here, 12 figures to a unit definitely satisfies some requirements and arranged in two or three ranks will generally “look right”. But these are small units, tiny in the case of the 60 spear. What happens when we move to a Macedonian phalanx? It’s a 256 strong 16×16 man square, so would probably need 25 figures per unit in a 5×5. Not unfeasible by any means but getting into larger territory. What about a Greek hoplite phalanx? It would vary frontage and go for 4 to 50 men deep in extreme cases, though as standard it would be 8 men deep up to 12 men deep for larger units. So roughly half the depth of the Macedonian, but often a much wider frontage, with probably a lot more men still.

Attempting an accurate 1:10 ratio would prove a step too far, especially given unit sizes outside the Greco-Roman sphere are patchy at best. That way madness lies. A better approach would be a method that gives the appearance of this without being tied to strict numbers. Can I represent each of these and more on the same frontage and similar depth? What are the key visuals for these? A Macedonian phalanx should be a square and around twice the size of a maniple. A hoplite phalanx should be similar depth to a maniple but wider and more densely packed. Looking at other unit types, a warband should be big and irregular, while skirmishers should be loosely formed. Javilinmen, medium infantry and formed bowmen should be more regular than skirmishers but not as dense as heavy formed units.

To that end I’ve mostly settled on the following approach for infantry:

  • Maniples will be 4 figures wide by 2 deep on a standard base.
  • Triarii will be 3 figures wide by 2 deep or 4 wide and 1 deep on a small base.
  • Macedonian phalanx will be 4×4 on a deep base.
  • Hoplite phalanx will be 5×2 on a standard base.
  • Warband a loose formation of 12-15 figures on deep.
  • Skirmishers a very loose 5 figures on standard.
  • Medium infantry a loose formation of 8-10 figures on a standard.

What size for a standard, small and deep base? 40×20 or 50×25 are the best options for standard and 40×40 or 50×50 for deep. 40mm is more standardised across the industry while 50mm gives more space without figure squeeze. Small bases cause some issues as in some games they’re expected to be narrower frontage, while in others narrower depth. At the small scale there are being constructed at any such differences will be negligible though, so again it will be more about getting the look right.

Buckle in, things are going to get numerical. Most gaming systems using tape measures can be easily modified to allow large battle fields in small areas. For instance, converting inches to cm can give you the equivalent of a 10ft x 6ft gaming table on a standard 120cm x 70cm dining table with small frontage units. The main issue comes from grid based systems. For the purposes of this, I’ll be using To the Strongest! as a basis. In TtS it recommends a 50mm grid box for a 40mm frontage. This works, but is a bit tight, and wouldn’t quite fit the three lines of the maniples, plus the various counters and tokens required for the game. On the aforementioned 120x70cm table I could go all the way up to 100mm grid squares and still fit a 12×8 grid as required by the rules. I find the best choice is to go with grids about 20-30mm bigger than the frontage. With a 120mm frontage I’d tend to use 150mm squares. Extrapolating this down, for a 40mm frontage I’d probably want a 60mm grid square, and for 50mm frontage a 70-75mm grid square. With a 60mm square the 12×8 grid would feasibly fit on a large coffee table or pin board. While you can of course use smaller bases in bigger squares, it starts to look a bit strange. If I was to use a 40x20mm unit in a 100mm grid square there’d be around 60mm between each unit and it’s nearest neighbor in the line of battle. That just doesn’t quite sit right.

For a 100mm grid square my maximum base size would probably be 80mm frontage. This fits well with a 40mm frontage original basing as doubling a 40×20 up as armies grow can lead to a 80×40 quite nicely, which will still fit well on a dining table size play area.

I still have some testing to do, but it is looking more and more likely that a 40x20mm standard will be the route I take from a speed, ease of use, visual appeal, and scaleablity perspective. I do have a few more questions to ponder though. What of cavalry? 10mm cav will fit happily enough in a line on a 40×20, but a 40×30 would give a nicer visual appeal. This would however make a 60mm grid box a squeeze for two units to occupy. I could push up to a 65 or even 75 grid box, but then the 40×20 infantry may start to look a little lost. I need to think some more on small units too, whether it’s better to drop them to 30x20mm, or keep 40mm frontage but drop the depth to 15mm or even 10mm.

Well done if you got through this far! I’d like to say you get a gold star, but really you probably just get a pile of regrets from the time you just spent reading this. As you can see I spend far too much time over thinking these things. If you did read all the way to the end and have any thoughts or comments please do share them as I’ll be keen to hear from those with more experience in the hobby than I have and those who’ve gone through similar thought patterns themselves.

I hope my next post will be much more colourful and interesting, with lots of pictures of what all I’ve been working on these past 6 months or so once I get everything photographed. There’ll be the next installment in the Crusades history series coming at some point, I’ve just to base up some infantry to fight out the battle of Dorylaeum to inspire the accompanying historical post.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew