Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Hi Luke

Welcoming the redoubtable Luke Ueda-Sarson, whose website is here.  Luke is well known amongst ancients gamer types, especially because he made the shield designs of the notitia dignitatum easily available.  Amongst other goodies, he also has some lovely Greek shield designs on there.

I really should have said hello a couple of days ago - work life has been a bit full on!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Massacre at Saguntum

Romans in a bad mood.  Loads of dead Celtiberians.  That's all there is to say, really!  Billy from Ayrshire and I played the doomed tribesmen, while Simon from Ayrshire and Gordon ran the rampant legions.  A few photos:
The centre of a Republican Roman proconsular army as seen from the perspective of their soon to be victims.  Their left was anchored on a marsh, and their right was festooned with loads of cavalry.  They didn't even bother with any Triarii...
The first moves, as seen from off the Roman right and Celtiberian left.  Romans on the left of the picture as you look at it.  The Romans have some Spanish auxiliaries in this battle, light horse and caetrati.
The same moment from the other side of the field.  The large numbers of tribesmen here are going to be struggling to get into the action, so we are going to have to hope that the centre warbands can make some inroads against the legionaries.
First blood goes to my Spanish cavalry at the left of the Celtiberian army.  My light horse easily destroy their turncoat opponents.
However, being rather excitable chaps themselves, some of them pursue a bit too far and meet a large unit of Roman Equites coming the other way.  You can probably make out a large traffic jam developing in the distance, towards the top left of the photo.
After destroying one of my light cavalry units, the Equites lose control themselves and advance without orders.  This will give me more time, but all it will really do is postpone the inevitable.  The Romans have superiority here.
A gratuitous ground level shot of the legions.  From the look of it, the Spanish cameraman is about to be on the receiving end of a volley of javelins from the Velites...
Romans continuing their remorseless advance.  The tribes at the very top of the photo are well out of the battle.
Hastati versus a warband.  An action close-up for a change.
Massive dust clouds raised by a thundering warband charge.  Shame they couldn't hit anything once they got there...
The entire Roman army has pressed forward from their right.  Masses of Celtiberians impatiently wait their turn in the far distance.
This is the traffic jam at the far side of the field.  The fizzled charge of the central warbands has left everything here waiting.  And waiting...
Yet another cloud of dust, and again all for little true result.
The lack of any inroads being made by the central warbands has kept the rest of the army out of the fight, and the Romans efficiently munch their way through.  None of the Celtiberians at this end of the battle saw any action, so they'll just have to wait until the next time...

Half of the tribal army was destroyed, which translates to 52% of the army's value.  The Romans lost the Velites as usual plus some measly Hastati and Spanish Light Cavalry: 14% of the army's value.  The Celtiberians retire to their hills, secure in the knowledge that the Romans aren't strong enough to follow them and invest Numantia.  This means a stalemate in Hispania until one side or the other gains enough reinforcements to make a push.

We then rolled for the next campaign events.  This Roman army recovers a bit (well, takes a holiday, really) which brings the first campaign season to an end.  Summer 149 opens immediately with a Roman attack on the Macedonian army in Epirus.  Originally I was going to run this one at the club in a couple of weeks' time, but my 50th is coming up, on the Ides of March, funnily enough, and I have some socialising to do, including hosting a large game here.  I can't invite everyone I know, so I'll stick to about a dozen of my longest standing gaming mates and ancients players.  A double-size helping of Republican Romans against Later Macedonians: the Fourth Macedonian War is well and truly under way.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

A couple of hellos

Thanks for joining:

1/72 Figures collect and paint.  Blog: Do have a look; currently there are some HAT Persian cavalry on show.

The Lord of Excess: welcome, your lordship!  No fewer than five blogs - one of which is  Click there for the others...

Monday, 17 February 2014

Welcome to Tom Winkelspecht

Thanks for looking, Tom - if you have a blog yourself, please do send me the link.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Tuesday's other game

I have been promising to take Thomas to the club for a while now, but only when he is on holiday from school, because he then doesn't have to worry about a late night.  However, since he is eleven years old, he has the attention span of an eleven-year old, so when he was there on Tuesday I gave him the task of photographing the other game:
This was a game of Maurice using Billy Ramsay's 10mm figs (I think) on Billy Woods' carpet tile terrain.
I promised Thomas that I would put his best photos on the blog, so here they are.  I think the use of single contours works really well with this figure scale.  Billy has made them geomorphic, with textured and painted rivers and roads.  Pretty!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Battle of Ancyra, Spring 149 BCE

Tuesday saw the first battle in the new phase of the ancients campaign, as the Macedonians moved against an invading Ptolemaic army in Galatia.  Deployment map:
Terrain consisted of a long ridge on which the Ptolemaics (in blue) could happily park their infantry, while the Macedonians had the luxury of a couple of woods to cramp the style of their enemies.  Gordon chose and deployed the Macedonians as C-in-C, with me as his helpful subordinate.  After seeing the terrain, Gordon decided that an attack was in order, angled towards the left of the long ridge, as seen from our point of view.  Behind the usual skirmish screen, he had a dozen Thracian light cavalry and the same number of peltasts plus a unit of twelve Thessalian heavy cavalry.  He commanded six of the ten taxeis of the main phalanx, each 24 figures strong, and deployed four of them in front of the wood to our left, with another two behind the wood facing left.  I had the other four taxeis, deployed en echelon.  I also had twelve Thracian light cavalry and twelve peltasts of my own, along with the twelve Companions in reserve.  Simon chose and deployed the Ptolemaics, taking full advantage of the ridge.  Graham ran their right, facing Gordon:
From the outside left as you look at the photo above: eight Light Cavalry; twelve Cleruchs medium cavalry; twelve peltasts; two units of two elephants; and another twelve peltasts.  Various skirmishers.
Moving towards the right as we would see it, Willie was in command of their centre: two units of 24 of Simon's newly painted thureophoroi; 24 Agema; 36 Phalangites; 24 Phalangites; and another 36 Phalangites.  Skirmishers aplenty.
Simon ran the strike force on their left wing: a unit of 16 camels, a large unit of 18 Companions, and a unit of eight light horse.
Above is a photo of how our deployment looked to Simon.  Gordon's newly painted Navigator Miniatures pikemen are in the centre left of the photo as you look at it, under my command.
Above is a long table shot from the other side of the field.  The mat is Willie's; he has dyed it terracotta as the first stage of making a semi-arid basecloth, and he wanted to see how his basic colour would look with figures on it before deciding what to do  next.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out - I have one of these myself now for travelling games, and if the end result is good, I might follow suit.
This is how the initial dispositions look to me from my post at the right rear of our army.  I am going to have to angle my troops to face off against simon's expected wide sweep, and hope that I can at the same time hold off his infantry long enough for Gordon to win on our left and then sweep into the centre to win the battle.  Easy, eh?
Above is the first stage of Gordon's advance as his leftmost troops move quickly forward and his extra two phalanxes round the wood.  In the far distance you might be able to make out Simon's own grand advance, as my guys angle to face him.
How it looks to me at the same time.  The enemy infantry centre has advanced to the ridge line and then halted.
A close-up of Simon's new thureophoroi on their nice safe hill.
How my command looks from the front - I wanted a closer photo of Gordon's new pikemen too.
The imposing mass of enemy infantry on that ridge.  It turns out that they are going to stay there until Simon's mounted force has moved across most of the field in my direction.
Gordon's attack.  At the left rear of his force you can  just see the reserve phalanxes beginning to angle in towards the centre, behind his main attack.  As I wait nervously, I have to hope he will be in time...
...because here comes Simon.  Willie's centre is still stationary on the hill.
Map number two shows the relative dispositions around this point in the battle, with handy movement arrows to show the various moves.  I've taken off the skirmishers, because mostly they cancelled one another.  Apart from the photo below, however:
Things are starting to go badly for the Ptolemaics as the action hots up on the other side of the field from me. This photo shows Gordon's skirmishers and Thracians inflicting seven hits on one of Graham's elephant units - it can only take eight...
 One of Gordon's dice rolls - it sums up the way things are starting to go for him.  He has gone into some thureophoroi with a three-rank phalanx.  He has ten dice, needing a 4-6 to score a hit.  I think the numbers speak for themselves.  His attack is by now rather merry.
Simon is now really starting to work his way round my flank, so the infantry come off their hill.
Map three.  Gordon is attacking everything he can find.  His cavalry are mince, as we say in Glasgow, but his infantry are sweeping all before them.  His two reserve phalanxes have started their move in towards the centre properly now, but I am about to come under extreme pressure.
Willie's Agema crashes into my phalanx, so I throw in my Thracians at an angle to hold him up.  The guys at the left are Gordon's...
Map four shows the whole battle at this point.
The rest of my command is almost completely engaged.  Things are getting hairy for me.
Clash of the Guard Cavalry - my smaller unit outscored Simon's, adding insult to injury.  It's beginning to look as though I will be able to hold long enough for Gordon's phalangites to deliver their coup de grace,
And this is indeed what happens, as they crunch into the Agema from behind.
The final map.  I lose two of my phalanxes, but I also hang on long enough to destroy Simon's camels, which ends the game.  I also lose all of my cavalry.  The Ptolemaics retire from the field, with most of their phalanx intact.  Historians will tell great tales about how the Egyptian Companions were able to cover the retreat, mainly because almost all of the Macedonian horse were dead.

I did some campaign calculations, and it turns out that while the armies were pretty evenly matched, they definitely aren't now.  The Macedonian force comprised 22,400 men and its total losses in terms of army value were 29%, because of the destroyed cavalry and phalanxes.  The Ptolemaics had 60 elephants and 20,640 men, but their loss was 45% of army value, including all of the elephants.  They retire, badly mauled, back into Cilicia.  The Macedonians are still a large enough force to be counted as field army, so it will be interesting to see what they do next.  Now that the Ptolemaic threat has been ended for the time being, will they return home to help face the Romans, or will they take the opportunity to conquer some Asian provinces?

Afterwards, we rolled for the next events in the campaign.  The Carthaginians take advantage of the storms that dispersed the Roman fleet and recruit some more troops.  The Parthian host moves westwards into Hyrcania, and is now poised to take advantage of the power vacuum left by the demise of the Seleucid Empire.  The Ptolemaic home army decides to do something similar, and moves into Marmarica; the alternative would have been to move northwards to bolster the remnants of the army in Asia Minor, but they choose not to do so.  The Macedonian home army moves into Epirus to await the inevitable challenge from Rome.  And the Celtiberians decide that hanging around in Numantia is boring, and hit the Roman army in Beribracia.  So next week will see the Battle of Saguntum.  Some names just keep cropping up in the annals of history...

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Welcoming Jonathan Freitag

...who has many blogs.  Just click on his icon under members, and you're away!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Saying hello to Eric Schmitz

Thanks for joining - if you have a blog yourself, please let me know and I'll do the honourable thing.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

First Moves

This post is just a bit of a catch-up.  After the sweeping Roman victory on Tuesday, we rolled various events to begin the new campaign:

  • Rome starts the Third Punic War by trying to land an army from Sicily in North Africa, but the invasion fleet is scattered by severe storms.  The forces regroup for another try later.
  • The Roman army in Tarentum moves to Sicily to help support the Punic campaign.
  • The Ptolemaics advance into Galatia, which is owned by the Macedonians.
  • The Roman reserve army marches from Rome to Tarentum, to keep up the threat on the Macedonians - might as well take advantage of the fact that they are fighting on two fronts.
  • The Macedonians attack the Ptolemies in Galatia.
All of which means a lot of empty threats from Rome, with the Successor states getting stuck in as usual.  I am looking forward to a pike battle this time.  It has been a while, plus Simon has been busy painting thureophoroi and Gordon will be able to use his new Navigator Miniatures Macedonians.

Friday, 7 February 2014

End of an Era

We have finally completed the Empire Campaign.  Final positions and Victory Point totals:

And in last place we have the Persians with twelve points.  We ruled that a conquered power would wait until it accrued the maximum points it could over five turns before rolling for a resurgence, and guess what, the Persians failed anyway.

Next comes Carthage with 14 points, along with Rome (that counter fell off the map before I could scan it - a sign of things to come?).

And the winners are the Macedonians, on 16 points (basically, the value of the combined Successor states).  The result is even tighter than it looks, because if the Roman attack on Macedon had worked, the red tide would be on 16 points and the Macedonians on 14 - that's how close it was.

As a battle generator for tabletop games, this one is a winner.  It produced something like 100 games for us over a period of more than four years.  It would have taken less time except for me becoming more and more erratic on club nights, due to life and work reasons, but we still ground our way through to the end.

I think the main reason it worked is that there were no players.  To be precise, nobody ran any particular power, instead, whoever happened to be present after a battle would roll for the next one.  Since the game is pretty much set up for events in this way, it worked beautifully.  Sure, some players had pet loves (Gordon for the Persians, Simon for Carthage, or Willie for the Successors) while others had pet hates (me for Rome, and Willie too), but the way we ran it meant that it could keep stuttering along regardless of who was actually present.  As it turned out, this was a good idea, because it meant that we could keep it going even when I became a bit less reliable.  It also worked well for multi-player games on club evenings; in a sense, it didn't really matter who turned up, so long as the figures were there, and so was the map.

So what next?  Well, Gordon made a comment in the car travelling back one evening about just going on through ancient history, so that is what we are going to do.  I have a cunning plan on how to do this, but I'll leave the details for another day once I have them straight in my head - I'll maybe make them into a separate blog page for the sake of clarity.  Empire worked really well on the grand strategic scale with one turn being ten years, but I for one am missing some of the detail that a less exalted style produces.  I'm hoping to marry the lessons in organisation and playability learned from Empire with a more granular approach  - see, I do know some gaming terminology.

So I suppose it's a case of 'Watch this space'...

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Roma Victrix

..and in a big way, too.  I finally made it to our new premises for the second time on Tuesday, to play out the final battle in our Empire campaign: Rome looking for vengeance against the uppity Celtiberians.  Deployment map:
It's not quite a perfect representation, but it'll do.  As sort of campaign umpire by default person, I constructed and supplied the armies and rolled for the terrain using my trusty old Tabletop Games booklet.  I ruled that terrain should be relatively constrained, because it is Iberia.  As it turned out, most of Glasgow has  a bad case of the lurgi, so only three of us made it - myself, Gordon and Billy.  I ended up running the Romans, facing off against two opponents.  This seemed somehow appropriate, because of the terrain.

The Romans are at the bottom of the map. There are some rolling hills to their left and a large wood to their centre right.  Favouring the Celtiberians are an angled gully and a large swamp.  This is not the kind of terrain that favours Romans, so I decided that since I had no idea what to do I would go for a reasonably straighforward consular deployment with Latins to the left and Romans to the right.  I infested the wood with mercenary slingers, and had some extra useful Cretan archers.  The Romans are in red, Latins in white and mercenaries in yellow.

The opposition set up as if in two tribes.  Billy ran the guys facing my Latins: two large units of medium horse and two small groups of Caetrati with two loose formation warbands and a lot of skirmish support.  Gordon had the larger tribe on the other side of the field, facing the Romans proper:  four large close formation warbands, another couple of Caetrati and two small units of light horse.  A few javelinmen were strung out in front.  The reason two of his warbands are angled behind the others is that the deployment zone constrains most massed infantry types.  It seems to me that he is hoping to send them wide to line up into one gigantic warband line and rumble forward.  I am also concerned about those Caetrati ready to enter the woods - Romans don't like trees.

Here are some photos of their deployment from my point of view:
Billy's tribe faces off against the Latins (above).
The centre.  As with my Romans, there's not much here.  Unlike Romans, though, Celtiberians like trees.
Gordon's powers, ready to fling themselves against the might of Rome.
Above is a full length table shot, taken from off to the Roman right.  Boring, orderly Romans are on the left of the photo as you look at it - enthusiastic Celts to the right.
Taken from the same position, another full table shot showing the opening moves.  In the foreground, the Romans are leading with their right - I am a bit leery of what might come charging out of that large wood.  As anticipated, Gordon advances with his two foremost warbands to give the others space to swing out into line.  Seeing this, I decide to throw caution to the winds and take the fight to him, hoping to catch the warbands before all four of them get into position.  It's going to be close, so I'll just have to rely on good old fashioned Roman grumpiness to see me through.  Off into the distance, the battle against Billy's tribe is developing differently.  The Latins are facing looser formation warbands and cavalry, with some Caetrati, so I reckon that I can afford to spread the line and then advance.  You can't really see it in this photo, though.
So I switched sides to show the same moment from the opposite perspective.  I deliberately don't advance the Latin Equites here - I want to see how it pans out before committing them for sure.  At the left of this particular photo, you can see Billy's cavalry starting to swing wide - hence my caution.
A moment of glory for Billy's slingers as many Cretans die swiftly under a hail of slingshot.  Ah well, at least the salary bill will be a little less than usual.  They do look a bit forlorn, though.
Moving along into the centre, Gordon's Caetrati do the expected thing and head for the woods they love so much.  Just at the left of this shot you can make out the rightmost Latin unit, moving up as quickly as possible so as to get past that wood.  My slingers try to do as much damage to the Caetrati as possible, but progress is slow.
Over on the right, one warband is facing each legion, and a third has gone wide as expected - if I'm lucky, the fourth one will be stuck.  I send the brigaded Triarii of both legions forward with the Equites to pin warband number three in position.  The Cretans here fare better than their counterparts on the left, inflicting a few hits and then pulling behind the lines as the weight prepares to go in.
A close-up of the action here on this wing as the Hastati of one of the two Roman legions meets a Warband in a mood (the sponge represents the dust raised by a successful ferocious charge).  Not an auspicious start for Rome...
Meanwhile, over on the other side of the field I retire the Latin cavalry and commit the legions.  I want to hold the Equites here for as long as possible so that the foot soldiers can do their bit with pilum and gladius.  The helmet is a bit of Greek tourist tat that Willie gave me - I use it as an initiative marker.
Right in the middle of the field, Gordon has to make a choice with his two units of Caetrati: split them, or send them both in the same direction?  He decides to rely on the weight of his warbands to deal with Rome, and sends them off to help Billy's guys.
The Romans are now in combat all along the line against Gordon's close-based warbands.
On the left, the Latins go in against the looser warband that isn't directly behind the gully.  It also succeeds in a wild charge, which then fizzles.
Unfortunately for Gordon, his larger massed warbands don't do so well either - one measly hit on Romans isn't going to be enough...
The same moment from the Celtic viewpoint, as another warband has a bad time.  Gordon uses pipecleaners to represent hits, and it's way too far into the unit for comfort.
Even the cavalry are getting involved here.  Gordon needs his light horse to help out against the Equites, but it doesn't happen.  The Roman light horse, on the other hand, are rubbish.
On the far flank, the Latins continue to grind down Billy's wild tribesmen.
At the gully, I send the Principes of the other legion wide and into line with their Hastati before going forward against the other of Billy's warbands.  I figure that the Latins will be more effective if the entire legion goes in together, rather than in waves.  This also helps them move quickly out of the way of the Caetrati who are about to emerge from the woods.
And here they are, well behind the rear of my Latin Hastati, who are just in shot at the top left of the photo above as you look at it.  I'm hoping to overwhelm the warband before the Caetrati can hit the legion from behind.
Gordon's guys do have some success, breaking the Hastati of the rightmost legion.  However, it is at great cost, and its Principes are now ready go in...
Gordon's light horse are having similarly mixed fortunes - one has been destroyed by the Equites, but the other has easily seen off the Roman light cavalry.
The situation at the same time on the other end of the field.  The Latins are now surging forward right across the line.
The Latin legions are all now in contact.

At this point my camera ran out of batteries, but it didn't matter, because the Celtiberians suddenly crumbled along the entire field.  Pila and gladii came out with a real vengeance and the legions made short work of their opponents - the death toll was impressive.

And that finishes the Empire campaign proper, with the Romans retaking Iberia.  A rather glorious finish....