Saturday, December 29, 2012

What's on Tap for 2013

With 2012 slowly slipping through our fingers, I thought I would take a moment to look forward to 2013 and  detail in writing what I hope to accomplish in this exciting hobby during the new year.

1. Continue Building the Carthaginian Army
I have had an absolute blast planning, painting and gaming the Carthaginian army of the Second Punic War during 2012 and this will certainly continue in 2013. This project has some great momentum and I have big plans for the Carthaginians - some of the units I will be trying to paint in the upcoming year for this army includes Spanish infantry, Spanish cavalry, Gallic infantry, Numidian cavalry, Libyan infantry and certainly more elephants!

2. Get Back to the English Civil War Project, Slowly
This is not the most important project on my table currently, but it is one that I enjoy very much. I have a good number of Scottish miniatures waiting to be painted and I need to get a few units completed and then try to find somebody that will game with me in this historical period. For 2013 I will continue to focus on the Highlanders and if I have time I'd like to do some of the Irish units as well. One of my biggest challenges (and learning experiences) for 2012 was the painting of all those tartans. You can also count on me designing and making available several new ECW Scottish Royalist flags during 2013.

3. New Project: Republican Romans
I have decided to begin an army of Republican Romans sometime in 2013 for several reasons. First, I want to game more frequently and if I can provide both sides of the battle then that becomes much easier, allowing me to play at home with my wife, my brother or my son. Second, there are a lot of very sexy looking Roman miniatures out there that I would just love to paint. Third, having been doing so much research, studying and reading for this period of history recently, I think it would be nice to complete the circle and discover the other side of the conflict. Now, a big benefit of doing all of this in combination with my Carthaginian army will be the flexibility that the allied units will provide me - peoples such as the Spanish, the Gauls, and the Numidians can be used as either enemies or allies for both the Carthaginians or the Romans. That is going to get fun.

4. New Project: The Fictional Land of Stalfeney
This is the big one and it is something that I have been contemplating and wanting to do for quite awhile. In 2013 my brother and I will be designing, creating and gaming the fictional Dark Age land of Stalfeney. This will be a very organic process as we develop and create the geography, history, maps, folklore, religions, iconography and conflicts of the people of this land. We will be using the fantastic Dark Age miniatures that are currently available from many companies to represent the peoples of Stalfeney and our current plan is to use the Dux Bellorum rules for the games. After some early and high-level creation of the lore and back-story and the painting of some initial figures, we will begin a long campaign game to play out the world. This is a long-term project that will require a lot of work and creativity, so we are not going to rush it, but you will certainly see updates on this project from time to time here on the blog.

5. New Project: The Livonian War
This is a project I am very keen to get started as I have a very strong background and interest in Russian history. This project will be the lowest priority of those listed above for now, but I will certainly do some planning and research and possibly picking up some suitable miniatures in 2013.

I am looking forward to 2013. New Year everybody!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spanish Scutarii: WIP No.1

Whenever I begin a new unit I like to paint two or three figures slowly and one at a time to get a good sense for the colors, the models and the process for getting them to look they way I see them in my head. Once I get them to a place I am happy with I can then start painting several at a time (usually six) to speed up the process.

These are the first three models of Spanish Scutarii that I painted for the upcoming units. I want to give the Spanish units of the army quite a bit of  variety in their individual appearances, so I will use several different colors of green for the tunics and trim, a few different shades of tan for the head cloths and a mix of orange and black for the plumes. All the shields will be hand painted using a wide selection of patterns in black, orange and white.

As you can see in the background of this photo, I have many more of these to paint - but they are rather fun and paint up nicely and quickly.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Visit From a Secret Santa!

I was excited to open the gift from my Secret Santa today... it has been sitting under my Christmas tree for several weeks tempting me to take an early peek. All I can say is wow! My Secret Santa was very generous! I am thrilled to have received several command figures for my Carthaginian army including Gallic and Iberian chieftains and some Carthaginian veteran leadership. These are all from Relic Miniatures and I can hardly wait to get some of these painted and onto the game table. Whoever my Secret Santa is out there, I thank you very, very much - these are perfect!

Even more than receiving a gift, I was thrilled to be a Secret Santa. I am pretty sure I found some things to give that the person on the receiving end will be pretty happy with - I'm going to pop over to their blog and see if there is an update. :)

Also a big thank you to Ian and his wife Cath for organizing the Secret Santa exchange for us bloggers. It was a fantastic idea and I look forward to doing it again next year!

Secret Santa Gifts!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas!

A quick post to wish everybody a very happy and joyous Christmas. This has been a fantastic year for me personally, and for this I am extremely grateful. Best wishes to everybody that reads this little blog - I hope your holiday season is filled with laughter and love and that you are able to spend it with those that are most dear to you. I also hope Santa brings you some wonderful toys to play with. :)

Merry Christmas everybody and thanks for visiting.

~ Jonathan

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hannibal & His Horse

Hannibal, supreme commander of the mighty Carthaginian army, enjoys a rare moment of solitude and comfort beneath a large shade tree. Perhaps he is surveying the readiness of the army as it marches toward the day's destination. Perhaps he is awaiting the coming of a Gallic chieftain or other envoy to discuss alliance and terms. Perhaps he is watching the construction of mighty siege works that will bring down the walls of yet another city that was foolish enough to turn him away. But for now it is quiet, and he finds himself thinking of both the past and the future....


Originally, I had planned to populate Hannibal's command stand with other interesting characters - a Greek historian, a standard bearer and even other decorated army commanders. A scene of war and preparation, perhaps a council. But after painting the models I thought the scene you see here more appropriate. Hannibal is alone beneath a tree, his shield propped up against the tree trunk while his horse waits patiently nearby . A scene of temporary peace and introspection amidst war and chaos.

The painting and construction of command stands has become my favorite part of this hobby. It offers a chance to construct a scene and to tell a story. I hope you like this one of Hannibal and his horse.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Iberian Scutarii Have Arrived!

I have just received 50+ Iberian Scutarii, including a Chieftain, commanders, musicians and standard bearers, to be used as allies in my Carthaginian army. All figures are from Relic Miniatures and look to be extremely well sculpted with very interesting poses. My plan is to paint two full units of Spanish Scutarii with these figures and then in the future circle back and do more of these as I increase the number of units in the army.

My only issue now is finding a window of opportunity to get these primed and ready for painting at the end of December!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"The Masters" Brush Cleaner

As hobbyists, we absolutely punish our brushes. Show them some love and respect by keeping them clean and conditioned the proper way. I highly recommend using The Masters brush cleaner. I have been using this product for nearly a year now and have seen incredible results. My sable bushes have maintained their original shape and point, the bristles remain soft and supple without splitting and the brushes are lasting a very, very long time. This is a great way to extend the life of your brushes with very little expense.

It is simple to use. After a full painting session simply wet your brushes in warm water and then lather them in the cream and rinse. Easy enough to do after every painting session. I have tried many products, but this is the most respected and recommended brush cleaner available and I have loved it.

The brushes we use make a critical difference in the quality and enjoyment of our painting - don't neglect them.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The General Hannibal Barca

This is Hannibal Barca, general and supreme commander of the Carthaginian army during the Second Punic War against the Romans. His name, Hanba'al in his Punic language, means Mercy of Ba'al. He is widely considered the greatest strategist and military commander of all time - although when asked by his rival Scipio to list the greatest military commanders, Hannibal is said to have responded by naming Alexander the Great, Pyrrhus and then himself.

This is a Relic miniature that was an absolute joy to paint. The amazing detail, the fabulous pose and the quality of the sculpt made this figure an instant favorite of mine. I hope I did it justice. I had originally thought to use a white and purple color palette, but in the end I decided to go with a more dramatic black and red palette which I think worked very well.

Hannibal will be placed on a command stand with some other figures and will be the general of my Carthaginian army for Hail Caesar.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Review: The Warrior of Rome Series

Marcus Clodius Ballista. The name alone is enough to get the blood flowing and the heart racing. A Germanic barbarian, now Roman citizen, soldier and commander in the Imperial Army. He is a  bad-ass, make no mistake about it.

The Warrior of Rome series is written by Harry Sidebottom, an Oxford lecturer on Ancient history. The series (now four books) tells the remarkable story of Ballista rising through the ranks of the third century Roman army while fighting the Sassanid Persians, other Romans, Barbarian hordes and his own ghosts from the past. The books are a perfect balance between the fictional details surrounding Ballista and the real history of the time. I could not put these books down and they are a true inspiration (and motivation) for anybody wargaming in this era.

If you enjoy intrigue, togas, gladiators, treachery, midnight raids, barbarians, siege warfare, civil war, assassinations, horse chases, strategic debacles, Roman politics, betrayal, loyalty, bloody combat, narrow escapes, sacrifices, frenzied battle-lines, daring rescues, religious zealots or Roman military life then these books are a must read.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Mugs From Which I Drink

This is a silly post really. Inspiration from Simon at BigRedBatCave - his post made me smile.

While I am working on my painting I can usually be found drinking from one of these two mugs - depending on the time of day and my general mood at the time. The Raven mug is for my coffee and was purchased from a very talented artist at the local Renaissance Fair. The Stag tankard holds my harder drinks - my preference being delicious ciders.

Coffee goes here.

Cider goes here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ligurian Slingers Completed

After a couple weeks of hectic travel, I was finally able to get all eight of the Ligurian slingers painted and fully based. I decided to base them two figures on a 60mm x 40mm base rather than placing single model on a much smaller base. This is much more pleasing to me aesthetically and they still look and feel like skirmishers in my opinion.

It is interesting (and timely)  that I picked up the most recent copy of Ancient Warfare magazine at the newsstand yesterday and it contains a fantastic article on slingers that I recommend. Some of the key points:
  1. These ancient slingers were not stooping down and picking up rocks to use as ammunition. They had custom made lead or clay bullets that were shaped like an American football to aid in distance and accuracy.
  2. Bullets from a sling can be so deadly, even to men wearing armor and helmets, that Julius Caesar in his Civil Wars describes how some Pompeian soldiers wore wicker "baskets" over their helmets to cushion the blow of a slingshot.
  3. The sling is barely mentioned in Homer's Iliad, due to the lowly character of the sling and the perceived dishonor and disgrace of killing an enemy from a distance at the time.
I hope you enjoy these. Models are 28mm by Relic Miniatures.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Hail Caesar Tokens

Playing Hail Caesar requires certain record keeping be done for each unit on the table. This can be accomplished in many creative ways or by simply using the handy pencil and paper. I like to keep my gaming tables fairly neat and tidy, and so piles of loose and sloppy bits scattered about to count or indicate states of units is generally unwelcome. I don't have the time right now (hey, I'm painting an army here!) to create markers using wounded or dead soldier figures, and so I have simply created a set of my own small tokens to be used in games. The larger tokens are only 20mm in diameter and the smaller tokens just 15mm - all made using the bases from Warbases.

The red tokens are the sum of casualties on the unit, the grey token indicates that a unit has been disordered and the yellow token indicates that the unit has been shaken.

Monday, December 3, 2012

What is Next for the Army of Carthage?

Since I am travelling all this week I have zero time to paint, however I do have plenty of time to think about painting and specifically what I want to be painting next for my Carthaginian army.

I am a bit of an anomaly when it comes to wargamers - I do not have a big pile of miniatures stored away in bins or on shelves, purchased at shows for bargain or collected over the years to haul out and paint on a whim. Sure, I have the spare figure or unit here and there, but I purchase figures for my projects in small batches - a unit here or there. I paint what I have and then I evaluate the state of the project and where it is according to the loose "map" I have in my head of how the army should look, function and perform.

I should get the Ligurian slingers painted up and based fairly quickly this weekend, leaving the army with the following composition:

  • 2 standard units Carthaginian heavy infantry
  • 1 standard unit of Carthaginian heavy cavalry
  • 1 small unit of Ligurian slingers (skirmish)
  • 1 elephant
  • 1 command stand

I need to decide what to purchase and paint next for this wonderful army. Some of what I am thinking about:

1. Libyan Infantry
As an exception to what I said above, I actually own 24 Libyan spearmen that came as part of my original Gripping Beast army bundle. So, on the plus side, these models are in my possession and are just waiting for some nice painting. On the negative, these are not all that different in appearance (they wear linen armor rather than chain shirts) or in their poses from the Carthaginian veterans that I have already painted, so it might get a little boring. They do carry the nice big round shields though.

2. Spanish Infantry
The Spanish infantry played a critical role in the formations and strategies of Hannibal, and so I am eager to add several of these important Spanish Scutarii units to the army. Relic miniatures has some fantastic figures that I look forward to painting - I only wish that they carried the sword (gladius hispaniensis) rather than a spear, at least in some numbers.

3. Gallic Infantry
Some units of these colorful characters would be an absolute joy to paint, but it would also be slow since I would most likely paint each and every model in a unique way, and I am a slowish painter already. All of those colorful trousers, stripes, patterns and decorations would be slow going. Right now, I think these can wait as I am trying to build up the number of units completed - but I am looking forward to them. Like a delicious desert.

4. Skirmishers
More light infantry skirmishers, perhaps Numidian. These are quick and fun to paint and would add some good character and flexibility to the army.

As you can see, I have several directions I could go. I have left out cavalry simply because I need to get more infantry units painted and on the table before I can start thinking about additional mounted units.

I know which direction I am currently leaning. Do you have any thoughts on what the next unit should be?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Punic War Elephant

Hannibal deployed his Baleric and light-armed troops, some 8,000 men, before the standards, and behind them he placed his heavier infantry, which represented the real strength and kernel of his forces. On the wings he set 10,000 cavalry and, dividing his elephants in two groups, added these to the wings as well.
~ Livy XXI, 55

The Carthaginians were first introduced to the war elephant while fighting Pyrrhus in Sicily during their short visit there in 278. By 262, the Carthaginians had acquired their own war elephants, and in a sense, were addicted to incorporating these unreliable and unpredictable beasts into their military arsenal from that time forward. Instead of of the grand Indian elephants used by their Hellenistic forerunners, the Carthaginians were forced to use the smaller, and now extinct, African forest elephant. African elephants were particularly unreliable in battle, often turning on their own side with devastating results when panicked or wounded. In an attempt to prevent this, their drivers carried a metal spike which they were expected to plunge into the soft nape of the elephant's neck with a mallet when they had lost control of their charges.

The war elephant was used by the Carthaginian army with some success during the First Punic War and in later campaigns in Spain and Northern Africa. For the Barcids the elephant became an emblem of their power on the Iberian peninsula:  its image appears on many high-value coins minted under the authority of Hansdrubal and Hannibal. The war elephant was also seen as a bridge between the military aspirations of the Barcid clan and the great Hellenistic tradition of which these beasts and long been a symbol. The war elephant brought some traditional validity to their military and their great campaigns

The elephants employed by the Carthaginians were smaller than the Indian elephants used by the Hellenistic kings (African forest elephants measured about 8 feet high at the shoulders while the Asian species often exceeded 10 feet) and so had to be used in a different manner. There is much debate on exactly how Hannibal used his elephants while on military campaign, other than as a way to simply intimidate the enemy. Recent research does show, in contradiction to previously held views, that Hannibal's smaller African forest elephants may have carried a howdah with soldiers, just as their larger Indian cousins had done.

Below is my recently completed Carthaginian war elephant. The figures are by Gripping Beast and are excellent as always. The soldier standing with the spear was originally intended to ride inside the howdah, but for this scene I preferred to have him standing on the ground next to the elephant. I also added a supply of extra spears to the howdah, which I thought to be reasonable. I am very pleased with the results.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Day in Pompeii

I had the great pleasure of visiting the A Day in Pompeii exhibit currently being shown at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I had been looking forward to seeing this exhibit since it opened and I was not disappointed.

The first half of this beautiful exhibit focuses on the everyday life of Romans living in Pompeii at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius (AD 79). Furniture, cooking, commerce, clothing, luxuries, fishing and family life were all examined and in some detail. I already have a very healthy respect for the Romans and what they accomplished, and this exhibit only reinforced that and displayed some items (like portable barbecues for example) that reminded me that they were not all that different from us today.

The second half of the exhibit focused on the catastrophic eruption of the volcano Vesuvius and what that must have been like for the inhabitants of the city. A very well done video reproduction showed the events as they may have transpired during that fateful day that began with a beautiful sunrise but ended with the city demolished and buried in ash. A very emotional display of body casts of some of the victims were on display that captured their last moments: husbands holding wives, young girls clinging to one another, men covering their mouths to avoid suffocation. I took photos of many artifacts in the exhibit, but I could not, out of respect, take photos of these casts although many people were doing so.

I was really captivated by the design motifs and colors used in Roman decoration.

A outdoor garden fresco.

The decoration on a table.

a garden fresco.

Roman dice. The set on the right are loaded.

Galdiator helm.

Gladiator greaves.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Skirmishers on the Work Table

The Carthaginian army was a mass of humanity that was extremely diverse in language, dress, custom and nationality. With the core of my Carthaginian Liby-Phoenician units completed, I wanted to bring some of this diversity, national flavor, and character to my army. I was able to get a good start on a unit of Ligurian slingers this weekend, and since I will be travelling all of next week, I wanted to post up a couple quick work-in-progress photos. These figures are by Relic Miniatures.

No more bronze armor or spears. No more drilled formations or oval shields. These men walked on to the fierce and bloody battlefields wearing nothing more than simple linen tunics and carrying a bag of stones. But, from what I have read, they were extremely accurate and extremely deadly. The stones would have been nearly impossible for an enemy to see coming and they traveled with such force they would shatter limbs, shields and armor. They were a devastating piece of the ancient armies, especially in the early stages of a battle.

I am painting these skirmishers to be beleaguered, dirty and worn - as I imagine they must have been.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Paying it Forward

A thousand thanks to The Monkey that Walks for nominating this blog for a Liebster award! It is a nice thing to know that people appreciate the site, the painting and even some of the words that go along with it all. I hope there is much more quality to come.

The Liebster awards are making their rounds in the blog circles as a creative way to showcase high-quality blogs with a following of less than two-hundred. Once nominated, you must then nominate five blogs to receive the award themselves.

I am nominating the following five blogs based on the sheer quality and volume of inspiration they provide. These are the sites that showcase such superb work that it simply makes me want to improve and become a better painter or to get bigger and better armies on the table. In no particular order:

Army Royal
The modelling, conversions and painting that Stuart puts up on his blog are absolutely gorgeous. He works primarily with 28mm renaissance figures and I fall in love with each and every one he posts.

Project Auldearn 1645
When I began my own English Civil War project, this is the site that had me drooling and dreaming of what my own Scottish army could look like one day. The hand-crafted flags are amazing and the tartans are unequaled by anything I have seen.

Dulce et Decorum Est
Aaron has been my foe on the gaming table on many occasions. His blog is eclectic and covers everything from Romans to Science Fiction, Lord of the Rings to World War II. His painting is always an inspiration as is his passion for the hobby and the fun he brings to our group.

Italian Wars Flags
This is just pure, undiluted eye candy. This site covers the Italian Wars with the emphasis on the flags and heraldry associated with that conflict. These are absolutely stunning and the painting is top-notch as well. I always look forward to a new post by Pete.

Watch That Flank!
Craig over at Watch That Flank! paints some stunning ancients that never fail to inspire me to do better. I admire his subtle use of color and the color palettes he chooses for his units are always amazing and well thought out. Don't miss this site!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

African Forest Elephant

This is the recently painted African Forest Elephant carrying a howdah for my Carthaginian army. It is a two-part model from Gripping Beast that includes a resin body and a metal trunk. As you can see, I didn't do the best job with the Green Stuff at the join where the trunk meets the head - I have never been very good at using that stuff and should really work at improving. The kit also contains a crew (to be painted next) of two Liby-Phoenician infantry with spears and an African with a mallet and spike to ride on the elephant's neck.

The inspiration for the blanket is taken from a painting of Hannibal on an elephant with his army that currently hangs on the walls of the Palazzo dei Conservatori at the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nifty Paint Organizer

I have been searching for a smart way to organize my numerous paint pots and finally get them off my painting table where they eventually become scattered all over the place. Many blogs have suggested a few solutions and I have seen some advertised on places like eBay, but for whatever reason, I just didn't like any of them.

And then my smart wife suggested looking at the little kitchen drawer organizers for coffee pods used in home brewing systems. Brilliant! I recommend the Nifty Solutions 54 Coffee Pod Drawer. This is a perfect for holding the paint pods made by by Games Workshop (Citadel) and will store 90 of these per unit. I bought two at the local Bed Bath & Beyond while shopping for a potato ricer and a shower caddy. Win on all accounts.

The drawer is made of black metal, it looks sharp, and it is easy to organize and find the paints. My table has never looked better.

The Nifty coffee pod organizer is perfect for paints.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Battle Report: Rome Stands for Now

I played a very, very enjoyable game with Aaron yesterday against his fantastic Roman army. Aaron is always a ton of fun to play against and always plays a very, very good strategic game. As this was the very first time either of us had played using the Hail Caesar rules, we kept it both small and simple. Each of us brought three standard sized units to the battle: Carthage with two heavy infantry units and one heavy cavalry unit and Rome with three heavy infantry units and two pieces of artillery (wait a minute!!). To keep it simple we played with zero terrain and on a table size that would see us engaged in hand-to-hand fighting on the first turn. Even though each of us had read the rules a couple of times, we spent a lot of time discussing rules and flipping through the rule book during the game.

We deployed directly across from each other, off-set by a small amount. The Roman cohorts advanced on the first turn, each ordered to march toward a single opposing Carthaginian unit. The Carthaginian cavalry, eager as ever, was able to move a very large distance on the first turn and smashed into a unit of Roman veterans. The Roman's dignitas held however (which would be a theme for the rest of the day) and the charge was repelled and followed-up by a vicious Romans pursuit of the horse. Eventually, with the help of an infantry unit, the Carthaginian cavalry was able to respond and destroy the Roman veterans.

The game proceeded from there with some fairly standard hand-to-hand combat, some flanking and some orders sent by commanders that were not obeyed. The battle turned when the Carthaginian infantry and cavalry were in a position to charge the Romans and pin them, however the messenger sent by the commander must have been captured or killed as neither unit moved. That failure resulted in the cavalry being nearly surrounded and eventually destroyed. There was no recovering.

A single unit of Carthaginians held out but was eventually destroyed. Victory for the Romans on this day.

Thought on the Rules
I really enjoyed Hail Caesar rules. We stumbled through them as best we could, and looking back there are several things we played in error (like initiative moves and counter-charges for example), but it was a learning experience and we had fun. Next time we will do better now that we have a game under our belts. I really like the command structure of the game and the giving of verbal orders to units (there could be some fun had here!). And while commands not being received played a fairly large role in our small game, I think it works well. I also really like the follow-on by the winners of the fight. The ability to press the matter home and pursue foes really made for a dynamic experience. One thing about Hail Caesar, you roll a lot of dice in some of these fights - which isn't always a bad thing, but make sure you have a bag full! It was also fairly evident that the game would thrive on a very large table (it is possible for infantry to move 18" in a single turn) and with a lot of units deployed.

I took a lot of photos during the battle since this was the first time either army had seen action and they looked great together in battle. Enjoy!

The Carthaginians advance.

The commander conducts the operations for a safe distance.

The Roman cohorts are in a frenzy and ready for battle.

The clash of shield and spear.

The Veterans of the Azure Shield press the Romans.

The Romans certainly had the larger horns on this day.

The Carthaginian cavalry stuck in it after not receiving proper orders.

Romans were able to gain the flank and press the advantage.

The veterans of Carthage attempt to hold.

The fighting was vicious and bloody for both sides.

The last stand of the Carthaginians. A Roman victory!