Friday, September 13, 2013

The Muscovite Army of Tsar Ivan IV

And so my new project begins. I have been dropping hints about this for months, but I finally pulled the trigger on a new project that I am very much looking forward to - The Muscovite army of Ivan the Terrible. Russian history is and has always been a very important part of my life - I have a Master's degree in Russian history, I have published articles on Russian history, I once held a position teaching Russian history at a University and I speak and read the Russian language (although at a much more rudimentary level than I once did). I am actually surprised it has taken me this long to dive into a project like this from a wargaming perspective. I suppose I wanted to make sure I did it right.

Russian history is as immense and vast as its landscape, and I have chosen this particular period of time for a couple of reasons. First, it is during a period of transition in Russia in terms of politics, foreign policy, technology and military organization. Transitional periods of history are always interesting. Second, there is a very distinct Russian flavor to what is happening during this period prior to the grand westernization of the court and the military under Peter the Great.

The Muscovite army of Ivan IV was a reflection of the society that produced it. The Muscovite army did not develop along "Western lines", but this was not necessarily due to backwardness (as many casual observers suggest) or an inability to absorb new ideas and methods. The Muscovite army was created to fight in Russia's wooded steppes and plains, criss-crossed by huge rivers. Muscovy was the hostage of its location; there were no natural borders to keep out invaders. Muscovy was surrounded by series of states each jockeying for domination; Muscovy's ultimate victory, even her ultimate survival, was never inevitable. What made her successful was the creation of a large military force capable of absorbing organizational and technological change.

What rules will I be using? I'm not sure yet. I'd love to be able to use Warlord's Pike & Shotte, but that might require some rule modifications to capture some of the flavor, style and tactics of this army. Luckily, that would be pretty easy. I have also purchased the PDF version of the Maximilian! rules for evaluation. But rules and games are a long way off yet, so for the time being I will simply enjoy the research and painting of this grand army.

The Assault Group (TAG) has an excellent range of figures for this army that I plan on using with perhaps some supplemental pieces coming from other manufacturers as needed. The image below shows my first unit that I'll be painting: the strel'tsy. I will be providing more in-depth historical information about the strel'tsy in future posts, but for know it will be enough to know that they were the first standing, permanent infantry force. The conventional date of its founding is 1550.

This should be a an exciting project.

The upcoming strel'tsy unit. Figures by The Assault Group.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Second Ancient Building Completed

On a whim, I decided to paint the second (of three) ancient buildings that have been sitting on my table for a few months before getting started on the Roman principes. I forgot how much work these buildings really are to paint and how much time they take to complete, but once finished they are worth it and will look great on our gaming table. This building has a fantastic stone front porch and stone steps and I decided to paint each stone individually which really added to the time it took to finish but I'm glad I did it.

This is the medium single story house produced by Grand Manner. It is a fantastically detailed model. My only real (small) complaint is the impression one gets that the house is decaying, perhaps abandoned and certainly not well maintained due to the cracks and number of areas of exposed breaks on the walls. When I am gaming, this house is meant to be current and vibrant -- it is lived in, maintained and even loved by its occupants.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Maps of Rome, Carthage and the Punic Wars

I have a great love for maps and so over the past year I have enjoyed gathering and saving various maps related to my current Punic Wars project. Some of these maps give a fantastic overview of the region at the time, some show the expanse and retreat of the Roman and Carthaginian empires, while others map the specific troop movements and battles of the wars. These maps will be extremely useful for planning and playing a campaign with my Roman and Carthaginian armies once they are completed.

I thought I would gather these maps all up into one post for others who may be interested in these as a resource.

General Maps of the Region at the Time of the Punic Wars

Map of the Mediterranean from the Punic Wars to Mithridates

Map of North Africa in Ancient Times

Map of Italy

Roman Expansion from 264 to 180 BC

Maps of the Hannibal's Invasion

Hannibals' March with Battle Locations

Hannibal's Invasion Route

Josheph Minard's Classic Graphic of Hannibal's Invasion

Battle Maps of the Punic Wars

Battle of Cannae Initial Phase
Battle of Cannae Middle Phases

Battle of Cannae Final Phase

Battle of Trasimene

Battle of Trebia

Battle of Zama

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Principes Preparation

Next up for the Republican Roman army is two small units of principes. Like the other figures in this army, these are all by Aventine Miniatures. I decided to represent the entire unit wielding their gladii rather than having any pila in the mix. Aventine provides all of these figures with the sword arm detached, which allows for a wide range of attack poses which is a very nice touch.

Prepping models isn't one of my favorite aspects of the hobby, and so I choose to do it it small bunches -- usually just enough to complete a single full unit. This is very likely a much slower process in the long run than preparing a full eighty figures at once, but it breaks up the un-fun into manageable chunks.

The Aventine figures are great when it comes to getting them ready for priming and painting. There are very few seams or cast lines - and those that do exist are very faint, easy to remove and are never on the face or other vital pieces. Most of the work seems to be getting their bases flat and even.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Command: A Roman Tribune Directs the Primus Pilus

The first command stand for my Republican Roman is complete. Seen here is one of the legion's military tribunes directing the primus pilus. Six tribunes command the legion, each taking turns for two months at a time to be in the overall command. The tribunes received their orders directly from the consuls. The primus pilus, or senior centurion, was the very first of the legion's thirty elected centurions. With them is a signifer carrying a standard with an image of a laurel wreath. Affixed atop the standard is the a scene containing the Capitoline Wolf and Romulus and Remus.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wenceslaus Hollar: Etches of Roman Soldiers

While doing some research, I came across these amazing etches of Roman soldiers by Wenceslaus Hollar. Hollar was a bohemian artist that was born in Prague in 1607 and died in London in 1677. I found these to be quite remarkable and thought I would share.

Roman Soldiers

Seven Roman Standards

A Testudo

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Second Unit of Hastati

This second unit of Roman hastati has joined the Legion today, ready to march out against the Carthaginians or other enemies of the Republic.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Small Teaching Game of Hail Caesar

Last night I had my brother over to introduce him to the world of historical wargaming and the Hail Caesar rules with the secret agenda of getting him hooked and thereby gaining a new playing partner. I am happy to report that it was a smashing success! My brother and I have enjoyed gaming together all of our lives and so it wasn't too difficult to lure him to my house with the promise of war elephants.

To make things simple we divided my Carthaginian army in half, with me getting one extra unit of Libyan heavy infantry and my brother receiving both units of Ligurian slingers as well as the Numidian cavalry. The scenery on the table was simple with several trees and ancient buildings on the edges to add depth to the game while leaving the center open for easy maneuvering of the forces while he leaned the rules.

I deployed my forces with the heavy infantry at the center and the Spanish Scutarii supporting them to their immediate right. My left flank was occupied by my lone elephant while the right flank was secured by my Carthaginian cavalry. Seeing my deployment, my brother took the field in a similar manner with his slingers screening his infantry. After some maneuvering and some feints through the middle with the cavalry, a few units were lost on cavalry charges or through skirmishing. Chris was able, in some bold moves to quickly regroup his army into a formed line with his elephant anchoring the center while his Numidian light horse quickly abandoned the left for run to the hold his right flank. My veterans had been so heavily damaged by the times the lines clashed that they were forced to retire behind the Libyans and offer only support to their comrades, which eroded my advantage of being able to bring additional frontage to the conflict.

The heavy clash of lines was immense. There was some giving and some taking, but my loyal infantry had been weakened through a very effective use of his slingers to soften them prior to the lines meetings. Curses and prayers were said, shields were bashed and in the end my army fell in a very close fight.

My brother enjoyed the evening immensely. He loved the game mechanics, the models, and our imaginative travel back through time. He left my house with a smile on his face, my copy of the Hail Caesar rule book tucked under his arm and a resolve to research an army that could oppose the Republican Romans that I am building. I have given him a few ideas, but does anybody have some suggestions for him?

Order of battle and some photographs from the game:

The deployment and ending positions of our armies. I was on the left.

My battle line awaits the enemy and offers a prayer to Tanit.

Libyan infantry falls behind the veterans, exposing their flank.

Enemy cavalry presses the advantage.

The veterans manage to run off the enemy horse but with a heavy toll.

My brother is able to reform his line, centered  by his elephant.

Badly wounded, the veterans are resigned to being a support unit.

My cavalry tried a bold move to break through but were repelled.

After much skirmishing, the battle lines finally converge.

The elephant successfully supports allies on either side.

The chaos of the battle.

The end is nearing.