Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Manipular Thinking: Republican Romans

I have begun the process of preparing for my much anticipated Republican Roman project by doing some research, asking many questions and sketching some ideas on paper. The first thing I needed to do was understand the organization and deployment of the Republican army during the Second Punic War. Once that was understood, I could apply those principles to the gaming table and tweak for the nuances of the Hail Caesar rules. Sounds simple enough, but like everything Roman, it turned out to be fairly complex.

The Romans of this time had moved away from the traditional and popular large phalanx formations to one that used much smaller groups of soldiers called Maniples (literally "handfuls"). The Romans also deployed in much shallower lines with the Velites (skirmishers) at the front followed by the Hastati, the Prinicipes and finally the Triarii. For gaming, the actual number of men in each of these groups is less important than the prescribed ratio of: 2 Velites : 2 Hastati : 2 Prinicpes : 1 Triarii.

What does that mean for a game of Hail Caesar? I will be fielding all of the units in a Republican Roman legion as small units to capture the manipular system (at least aesthetically). I typically use the middle of the size range specified for unit sizes, which means that these small units will have a frontage of 100mm (my standard units have a frontage of 180mm). As you can see in the diagram below, a full legion (infantry only) will have a total of fourteen units with two command stands to help with smooth game-play. This will also allow me to easily "cut the legion in half" if I need to play with fewer units.  At the advice of others, I have reduced the footprint of the skirmishing Velites to below their normal numbers for smoother game-play.

I created the diagram below to capture these plans for the upcoming project. It illustrates the makeup, layout, base sizes and model numbers of a legion. The next step is to place an order for enough models for a full Republican legion. I will most likely be using Aventine figures for this army almost exclusively.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mago Barca, God Sent

Having finished the last of the three figures from the Carthaginian Veteran Command kit from Relic, I was able to get them completely based together and photographed this morning. In the Relic kit, this last figure is simply a generic commander, one of the many forgotten men that made up the command structure of ancient armies. However, in my own Carthaginian army, this character will be playing the role of Mago Barca, the youngest son of Hamilcar Barca and brother to Hannibal. Here on his command stand, Mago is accompanied by a musician and his standard bearer.

Mago was born in 239-240 BC and arrived in Spain, the center of Barcid power, at the age of thirteen. It is likely that he accompanied Hannibal in his early Spanish campaigns between 221-219 BC, before setting off with his brother for the invasion of Italy in 218 BC. Mago took part in Hannibal's early victories at the Ticinus, Victumulae, Trebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae.

Mago was given an important task by his brother at Trebia, and during the night before the battle, he set out with 1,000 handpicked infantry and 1,000 cavalry with the task to conceal himself within a watercourse between the two camps which had steep banks overgrown with brambles. Polybius tells us it was a perfect place for an ambush: the place was admirably adapted for putting them off their guard; because the Romans were always suspicious of woods, from the fact of the Celts invariably choosing such places for their ambuscades, but felt no fear at all of places that were level and without trees...(3.71)

Mago successfully concealed his force during the night and awaited the time to strike. The next day Hannibal successfully lured the Roman army from it's camp with his Numidian cavalry, who feigned a retreat drawing out the Romans across a cold river (and without breakfast) to the ground of Hannibal's choosing. The Roman army, led by T. Sempronius Longus, consisted of 16-18,000 Roman infantry, 20,000 allied Latin infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and a contingent of Celts from the Cenomani. As the armies lined up and the infantry lines closed and locked in combat, Mago attacked. His timing was perfect, and the charge into the rear of the Roman lines threw the whole Roman army into confusion (Polybius, 3.74). By the end of the battle, most of the Roman army had been destroyed, save some 10,000 Romans who had managed to cut through Hannibal's lines and fled towards Placentia.

At the famed battle of Cannae, Mago stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Hannibal near the front lines of the Carthaginian center while commanding the Celtic and Spanish infantry, drawing them back in an organized and planned retreat thus encouraging the Romans into a trap.

After the victory over the Romans at Cannae, Hannibal sent Mago to Carthage, where he made quite an impression when he poured out hundreds of golden rings at the entrance of the Carthaginian Senate building that had been taken from the bodies of the Romans killed in action.

Mago later commanded all Carthaginian forces in Spain and lead a third invasion of Italy (this time by sea) in 205 BC. Wounded in a battle in Cisalpine Gaul, he was recalled back to Carthage along with Hannibal to aid in its defense. Before arriving, however, he died at sea.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Standard Bearer of Carthage

This is a standard bearer of Carthage. On the battlefield he will serve Mago Barca, the youngest brother of the great Hannibal. He carries the crescent moon and sun symbol of Tanit, the Great Goddess of Carthage, worshiped as the city's chief Deity.

Tanit is a Sky Goddess who ruled over the Sun, Stars, and Moon; and as a Mother Goddess She was invoked for fertility. The palm tree is Hers, as the desert version of the Tree of Life; and as symbolic of the life-force of the Earth the serpent is Hers as well—in fact Her name means Serpent Lady.

Tanit was the highest Deity of that city, called the Lady of Carthage. With Her consort Ba'al-Hammon, the God of the Sky, She watched over and protected Carthage. As a protective Deity She had some martial aspects and is sometimes depicted riding a lion holding a spear or long scepter.  In Carthage She was said to have an Oracle; perhaps this is connected to Her role as Star-Goddess.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Musician of the Carthaginian Army

Before jumping in and painting up a second full unit of Spanish scutarii, I am going to take a few days to paint  and base the three figures that make up the Carthaginian Veteran Command set from Relic Miniatures. I received these models for Christmas from a very generous Secret Santa and I have really been looking forward to painting them. These figures will all be used together on a command stand for the Carthaginian army, but I want to showcase them all individually here as I paint them.

First up is the wonderful musician. Musicians played an important role in the command and control structure of ancient armies. This can be illustrated by Aesop's fable The Trumpeter Taken Prisoner:
A Trumpeter, bravely leading on the soldiers, was captured by the enemy. He cried out to his captors, "Pray spare me, and do not take my life without cause or without inquiry. I have not slain a single man of your troop. I have no arms, and carry nothing but this one brass trumpet." "That is the very reason for which you should be put to death," they said; "for, while you do not fight yourself, your trumpet stirs all the others to battle."
In its most simplistic application, the instrument (typically a flute or horn) was used to coordinate and regulate the cadence (and thus speed) of the various army units to ensure that everybody arrived at the battle at more-or-less the same time while remaining in formation. By the time of Alexander there is documented reference to very specific trumpet signals used by commanders to give orders to their army. By the fourth century AD, the calls played by musicians on their instruments had become considerably more sophisticated with different sets of instruments used to signal the movement of standards, the other the troops and the third non-combat details. I imagine the musicians also supplied entertainment around the nightly fires of an ancient army on the march.

Up to now, the rules that I have played have not contained any special rules that govern musicians and their influence on the troops, and so for now they are added to the units and command stands as mere historical flavor.

I am going to start posting the color palette for the models I paint. This will be a great way for me to keep track of what I do with colors and perhaps this will be useful to you as well. Let me know what you think.

  Citadel: Space Wolves Grey
  Citadel: White Scar
  Vallejo: Burnt Umber
  Vallejo: Tan-Earth
  Citadel: Mechrite Red
  Citadel: Shining Gold
  Citadel: Dwarf Bronze
  Citadel: Cadian Fleshtone

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Battle Report: Another Defeat for Carthage

I got together with Aaron yesterday to play another very enjoyable game of Hail Caesar. This game was much improved from our first game for several reasons - we each had more units, we had a better (but not perfect) understanding of the rules, and we added some of the special troop rules to add some flavor to the various units on the table. The game lasted close to three hours, but we were still flipping through the rules quite often.

I won't go into a write-up of the battle in great detail here today, but I thought I would simply post some observations and thoughts about the game.
  1. The special troop rules are fantastic and add a lot of spice to the game, but they are very powerful and should be used carefully and smartly. The ability to negate an enemy charge bonus (Long Spears) or to reduce enemy Morale saves by one (Pilum) are very strong and played a big part in the game. I really did like the variety of troops on the table and the strategic decisions that had to be made based on these special rules.
  2. I really need to figure out how to play cavalry smartly and successfully in this game. My medium Liby-Phoenician cavalry made a devastating counter-charge against some over zealous Auxiliaries but two turns later my cavalry was routed from the table. Perhaps I need to charge and then fall-back for a later charge rather than getting "stuck-in" with my mounted units.
  3. Skirmishers are a ton of fun and add some real dynamics to the game that I rather enjoy. I was shielding my flank with skirmishers, harassing the enemy and then falling back behind my infantry lines by evading an enemy charge to lend support when the lines met. I need to get more of these troops as they are very versatile.
  4. The battle can turn in a hurry. The first few rounds of battle saw the Carthaginians dominating the Romans across the board, but it was only a turn or two later that saw several of my units destroyed and my army in disarray. Part of the problem was rolling a double-1 on a break test for a unit that had not suffered any casualties and part of the problem may have been my lack of aggressiveness. A few times I chose not to follow a Roman unit falling back that I had defeated so that I could preserve my battle line. At the time it seemed prudent, especially since things were going so well, but looking back perhaps I would have been rewarded by pushing the matter.
  5. There is a great joy in seeing the models that took months and months of careful painting on the table being pushed around and enjoyed by everybody.
Aaron played a great game and rallied from some pretty bad positions to win the day. My middle collapsed and a single unit of Libyan veterans were  left to hold while Hannibal rallied those remaining to flee and fight another day. We have plans to play another game in March.

I do not have many photos from the game - many were taken by my son and perhaps he played with some camera settings which caused them to be unusable, so this single photo will have to capture the essence of the battle.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Spanish Scutarii Complete

Ah, the first unit of Spanish Scutarii is complete. This unit took a little extra time to finish, especially with all of the large shields that I hand painted, but it was well worth it in my opinion. Despite them taking a fair amount of time, the painting never became tedious or boring due to the wide variety of poses (many thanks to Relic Miniatures) and to the fairly diverse color palette that I used.

I knew that I did not want the unit to look as uniform or martial as some of the Libyan veteran units, but I still wanted them to appear to be a cohesive unit. I tied them all together with a subtle color palette of greens and tans for the tunics and other such things, but with a very striking black and orange theme that was used on both the shields and for the distinctive plumes. I also used about four different shield patterns, but I would reverse the colors on several shields to add to the chaotic look of the unit while still maintaining its visual "integrity".

These are ready for battle just in time for another meeting with the Romans this weekend! I hope you enjoy the photos.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Scenery: Ancient Statues

More Lord of the Rings. These are some plastic statues that I painted and based today for a fun game tonight with my brother. These are from the Games Workshop Ruins of Osgiliath set. These are fantastic statues carved ages ago, that could possibly portray Isildur and Anárion who founded the mighty city of Osgiliath at the end of the Second Age. Osgiliath served as the ancient capital of Gondor until it was abandoned during the Third Age and fell into ruin.

The great thing about these figures is that they can (and will) be used as scenery for many types of games. I wanted to give them a very ancient, abandoned and ruined feel. These proud statues stand hidden in the growth of a forest, weathered and forgotten.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Arathorn, Chieftain of the Dúnedain

There is some building excitement and energy within our local club to get back to playing Lord of the Rings regularly. To get myself back into the game (and for a break from painting the ancient Iberians) I decided to paint an old metal figure of Arathorn, father of Aragorn, that I have had for awhile. I will be using Arathorn in a themed army with Rangers or Arnor and Treebeard. Setting aside other opinions of Games Workshop for the moment, their models are often very, very fabulous and this one was a real treat to paint.

Arathorn is the son of Chieftain Arador of the Dúnedain and a descendant through many generations of Isildur himself. He first appears in annals at the age of fifty-six, seeking the hand of Gilraen as his wife. Gilraen at that time was just twenty-two years old.

The following year, Arathorn's father Arador was slain by trolls, and Arathorn took on the title of Chieftain of the Dúnedain. Gilraen bore him a son, who was given the name Aragorn. Arathorn died at the age of sixty when he was shot through the eye by an arrow while hunting orcs. After the death of Arathorn, Gilraen took their son to Aragorn Rivendell, where he was fostered by Lord Elrond.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Renaissance Armor

I have not done much painting this week as we were on vacation, but I did wander into a small independent bookstore and found a great little book containing twenty-four full color postcards of historical renaissance armor. The book is by John Batchelor and was published by Dover Publications in 1998. I've photographed the cards and have posted them below for reference.

Now that I am back in town, it is time to finish painting those ancient Spanish on my table!

Italian 1530, German 1420, French 1560, Italian 1625
Italian 1540, Italian 1500, Italian 1520, German 1530

German 1550, German 1520, Italian 1560, English 1550
Austrian 1570, German 1590, Italian 1580, German 1540

Italian 1570, German 1532, English 1540, Italian 1560
French 1600, German 1540, Italian 1500, Italian 1550

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Stalfeney: Initial Cartography

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a new project that I am going to be working on throughout the coming year is the fictional Dark Age land of Stalfeney. To get the new year off with a bang, I have designed several initial maps of this land that I wanted to share. These maps show the basic shape and physical geography of the land, the Ostlands (or regions), and the general area of settlement of the five peoples that inhabitant Stalfeney: the Thagards, the Fens, The Plyt, the Brigdhe and the Tolbhan. Details will be added to these maps as the project progresses.