Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Red or Blue...?

The opening battle of the late Barry Taylor's 'Wartenburg'
This posting is somewhat inspired by recent discussions in David Crook's blog spot, A War gaming Odyssey.  This article has lain in draft form for overlong, but I'll publish it here anyhow, with odd pictures added.  Many of those long-time readers might recognise.  Mr Crook observed that the 18th Century lends itself so well to Imagi-Nations, and the creation of fictitious armies, with perhaps an exercise in developing one's own uniform (not to mention flag) designs.  Why not other periods?  My own view is that the 19th and 20th are both susceptible to such treatment.
Ulrichstein Campaign: Electoral forces attacking
Ulrichstein rebels at Zaltpig.
I will admit at the outset, though, that my 18th century armies, though fictitious, are very much based upon historical prototypes.  The Empire, its capital at Schnitzel, is a rather more coherent form of the Hapsburg Empire, The Emperor Violoncello modelled a little on Charles V, and the Empress Harmonica is a thinly disguised Maria Theresa. The characters of the originals have been modified for my own narrative.  The great and good Archduke Piccolo, the Emperor's nephew (and hence the Empress's cousin) though not what you'd call a rash commander, is no Leopold von Daun.  Altmark-Uberheim is a rather more piratical "Prussia", The Grand Duchy of M'yasma a kind of Russia en petit, and Ursaminor (whose army uniforms I did design) a very vague form of Sweden - the bit on the south Baltic coast.
Ulrichstein Campaign:  Imperial Army, under the Archduke
Piccolo himself, advancing into battle against the main
Ulrichstein rebel army.
For some reason, I've never been able to face the prospect of creating an Imagi-Nations form of the Napoleonic wars, though fictitious campaigns and wars do hold an attraction.  My method there is to tweak history a bit.  For instance, in the 1809 war, the Battle of Znaym may have been fought to an indecisive conclusion.  With Austria still in the fight, suddenly the British found the means to drop a considerable force under General Sir Arthur Whitbread onto southern Italy, where it was to be joined by a cobbled together force of two Austrian Army Corps under Count Eusebius von Carlsberg.  The local French Commander, General Dubonnet (in line for the Marshalate)  had, however, a considerable force in the region with which to try and hold the Mainland portion of the Neapolitan Kingdom.
Ulrichstein Campaign: closing stages of the battle
that broke the rebellion.
Or one might simply redesign the other campaigns according to what troops one has available.  I will probably be returning to this topic in future blog postings.

The renaissance period suggests a small war between the Austerian Empire and the Severian Kingdom.  Of course, one might easily discern behind the names, Austria and Sweden (Sverige). and the similarity of meaning between 'austere' and 'severe' lends a certain ... wit, shall we suggest? ... to the proceeding.
30YW - fought between the armies of  Imperial Austeria and
Royal Severia.  
The mediaeval period has suggested to me the Wars of the Clover (White Clover  vs  Pink), for which I already have the figures, but they are wanting their paint; and perhaps 4-5 centuries earlier, the beleaguered Ionian Empire holding out against surrounding Barbaric pressure.

My own Imagi-Nations 19th century project was originally inspired by H.G. Wells's 'Little Wars' but was intended for a Colonial setting rather like Joe Morchauser's Hausserian Wars.  The respective RED (Ruberian) and BLUE (Azurian) forces represented a Brigade group: 3 battalions, with a squadron of cavalry and a gun battery attached.  Some vague notion that a GREY (Grauheim) or GREEN (Gruenheim) might join them in disputatious claims to a sizable and lush territory of Mweusiland.  The Mweusi (BLACK) are a warrior people who take rather a dim view of being colonised.

I even had a map of the region drawn up, based upon the back yard of the house I was then living in. But this project was largely modified into a straightforward one-on-one struggle over chronic border disputes and violations between the RED and BLUE nations.  GREY (Grauheim) and PURPLE (Porphyria) are hidden Allies whose navies are likely to be involved, but whose land forces tend to be directed away from intervening in the Ruberian-Azurian conflict.
Kiivar 'Armoured' Infantry
It was a visitor the Woolston Club 4 years ago who alerted me to the possibilities presented by Twentieth Century style conflicts and Army Men.  Actually, it has been a bit more complicated than that.  An article in Model Soldier 30-odd years ago suggested the idea of small wars in Latin America (or Africa, or the Middle East, whence comes to that) using a hotch-potch of surplus WW2 equipments, picked up for a song by belligerent but somewhat impecunious small states.  The ambitious and acquisitive state of Orotina, under its dictator President Adolfo Ximinez, has acquired by mysterious means, a large inventory of German WW2 equipment, even unto a company of Tiger II and JagdTigers.  Vastly outnumbering the neighbouring states, Pan-Andean People's Republic and Gran Bolivaria, Orotina plans to expand its territories at the expense of both.  But the sources of replacements are running out for Orotina, whereas its opponents can count on replenishment from their respective sponsors, The Soviet Union, and Great Britain...
Raesharn equipment in their distinctive camo livery.

Brian O'Sullivan, of A Fistful of Plastic fame (?), notoriety (?) Began years ago his Harad project - a vaguely 1980s Middle East conflict in which the Harad Empire, beset by external and internal political strife, is rapidly declining.  A couple of years back, I was persuaded complicate Harad's situation in the form of the Nabob of Tchagai, lurking on Harad's eastern border awaiting the chance to grab for himself a slice of Imperial territory.  Less well endowed with exploitable natural resources than the Haradian Empire, Tchagai can less afford to spend money on the latest generation of equipments, and with a small core of Leopard I and Vickers MBT Vs, has to bulk out its armour with WW2 vintage Sherman tanks.

But the Army Men project, though Jono decided the War Gaming aspect was less agreeable to him that creating imaginary worlds (for which he has a remarkably far-seeing talent), still continues as a solo project.  Over the last couple of years I have acquired or been given or scratch built enough equipments to work on, and just need to organise and paint up a whole lot of troops.  The savage battles between Kiivar and Raesharn I hope to revive later this year.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Forgotten Army Party 4: DBA Romans.

While I'm on the topic - more or less - we might as well have a bit of a look at my Airfix Romans.  Thes have been modified and organised for DBA and/or HoTT.  First of all - dust off the box lid...
...and open.  As you can see: quite a bit of modification led to this array.
Below, Legio I.  Four heavy infantry with red shields.
Legio II, White shields.  The bases have been 'flocked' with coarse sand from the beach, with baling twine scrub grass.

Below: the legions in line.  These units from the core of this Roman army.

After that, the troops got modified quite a but.  The four elements following received pin javelins and round thumb-tack slields, and so became Auxilia.  You will see that the pins have been thrust through the hands of the figures.  Then the ends were flattened into spear-points.  The shields are unpainted except for the 'bosses'

Below: blue shield velites - javelin-armed light infantry.

The velites got the same tratment as the Auxilia - pin javelins and thumbtack shield pushed through their left armes.
Roman light horseI'm not sure about the horses - they look like Atlantic horses to me, possibly from the American Civil War set.  The lower half of the riders were ACW Airfix '7th cavalry' painted as though bare-legges, with high sandals.
Roman heavy horse.

Below is my 'first attempt' as a Roman ballista.  It is rather too large for a field piece really...
... and the frame for the horse-hair torsion 'springs' for the arms of the weapon I'm considering redoing instead of the casings shown.  But overall, I wasn't too unhappy with this early attempt to scratchbuild artillery.  The handles of the windlass or winch were made from a wheel with the rim and most of the spokes removed.
The bolt is simply a short mail, or brad, with the jolt end cut off, and paper stabilising fletches added at the blunt end.  I think the guy standing at the back
Overall this army comprises:
8 elements Heavy Foot (Blades)
4 elements of Light-heavies (Auxilia)
2 elements of Velites (Psiloi)
1 element of Light Horse (Light Horse)
2 elements of Heavy horse (Cavalry)
1 element of Artillery (Artillery).
If playing HoTT, I can add a huge Roman soldier figure as Mithras, or Mars, as a 'God' figure.

Forgotten Army: Part 3

Enemies of Byzantium: irregular spearmen.
Apart from the more or less complete units requiring a bit of repair work,  I have a more-or-less historical opponent that has at various times been used as  Georgians (Abasgians) or Bulgars.  It is probably fortunate that military fashions tended to blend and mix throughout a region.  The horsed figures bought as Bulgars were fairly ideal for Georgians, even though those peoples lived at the opposite ends of the Black Sea.
Enemies of Byzantium: more irregular spearmen. Sixteen
elements (stands) in total.
What follows is a series of pictures of works in progress in various states of completeness - or incompleteness.

The below picture depicts some shields with which I had been experimenting - this some 15 years ago, you understand.  The oval shield were moulded flat,  like the starred trio in the picture.  Using two pairs of pliers, I tried bending them in a horizontal plane to give them more of the rounded ;semi-cylindrical look, as descendants of the Roman skuta.
Byzantine shields for a fourth 'Regiment'.  Admittedly the design
is anachronistic, dating more from the 6th century than the 10th,
but it has a dramatic appeal of its own...
There were meant to be 12 of them, to be wielded by the front rank of the skutatoi in the following picture.  That the shield design dates from about 400 years before, I'll treat as 'artistic licence'.
The 'Fourth Regiment'.  These guys are more heavily armoured
than the others, so dating more from the time of Nikephoros
Phocas and John Tzimiskes, than, say, Constantine IX..
In the following picture are;
1. 'Barbarian' bowmen.  These are various manufactures.  Some Tin Soldier Byzantine toxotai got in amongst them to eke out the numbers, as did some skutatoi to serve as standard bearers.  A very few figures of ancient manufacture against bulked out the whole thing to about a dozen elements.
2. Four surplus Varangian Guardsmen with axes, and shields slung over their backs.
3. Eight orphaned 'red' skutatoi who may simply remain as they are.
4. 'Red' light  bowmen (psiloi, toxotai).   I tended to use light - almost pastel - colours for regular light troops.
Byzantine detached toxotai (psilos bowmen), 'spare' skutatoi from
pre-DBM days, and the four remaining Varangian Guardsmen
figures who didn't lose their axes in favour of spears.  Edging the
picture to the left are some 'enemy' bowmen.

Rear view of the 'Axe-bearing' Guard, showing the slung shields.  One chappy has lost his...
One of the Varangians has lost his shield...
A box more than half full of 'spare' horsemen: barded and unbarded lancers, and horse archers, with a few light horse as well.  Those pennon ornamented lances are those that have come adrift from other figures.  As there are quite a few more horse archer figures than lancers, they might be given a lance and become Georgian heavy horse.  The uniforms are quite near enough in design.
Heaps of unemployed Byzantine horse.  As there will be a surplus
of 'heavy' horse archers, they may be given a lance and
become Georgian cavalry.

Shields, dislodged lances, and my preferred brand of razor blade.
The shields come flat, but I experimented with round them
using pliers.  Regiment Number Four may be getting such
semi-cylindrical shields.
A closer look at the spare shields.  You can see how I've worked on several to round them.  Pity I didn't think of it back in the early 1980s.

The previous two articles gave no particularly clear view of the light horse.  I used to go for the maximum: 1 Trapezetoi element (LH(S)) 2 Prokoursatores (LH(O) - they are the ones in the second line - and 2 Hyperkerastai (LH(F)).  You'd imagine they would get overwhelmed by the light horse of other Asiatic armies, eh, but they performed well, on the whole.  In later versions of the army, they would be assisted by Pecheneg horse archers, though it was just as likely these 'barbarians' substituted for the hyperkarastai...
Another view of the Byzantine light horse: lance-armed trapezetoi
and bow-armed hyperkerastai in the front line; lance and bow
armed prokoursatores in the second.

Some 9 lance armed extra-heavy horse, 15 lance armed heavies
and a heck of a lot of bow-armed guys.  More light horse and
'super-heavy' kataphraktoi as well.

Closer view of the 'spares'.

I also have several 'spare' skutatoi whose future remains undecided.  I am considering building out my foot units to four (not counting the Varangian Guard and the akritoi), each comprising 3 Spear and bow double elements (Bw(X)/Bw(O)), and one element of menavlatoi (Bd(X)).  Each should include two elements each of slingers (Ps(O)) and of javelinmen (Ps(S)).  That is quite feasible with my figure inventory!
The unmodified skutatoi in this picture will probably become semi-heavy
menavlatoi armed with very heavy throwing spears.

Bulgarian light horse archers from Essex, I think.  I've had them near 20 years and still haven't painted them...

Enemies of Byzantium.  These are Essex
Bulgar horse archers - quite 'gracile' figures.  They
could equally well be Georgian...
More horse archers of unknown provenance.
These, and the picture below, do have more of the 'Hunnic' look one would expect of
Bulgar light horse.
Asiatic armies need lots of light horse archers...
... but they require something with a bit of heft as well: Cv(S) (Bulgar) or Kn(S) (Early Georgian).
Not sure what these are - a bit of a mixed bag.  The centre
element looks like the personal retinue of Tsar Tervel himself...
Below, some Bulgar light horse archers that did actually get painted.
Bulgar light horse who have been with brush distance of
a paint pot...
The next two pictures are of quite nice Byzantines of indeterminate origin that have eked out my Georgians over the years.  Quite what their future is, is uncertain.
Byzantine horse figures who stood in for Georgians for many years.
They may revert to type and become thematic cavalry supporting
Nikephoros Phobos, pretender to the Imperial Purple of Ionium.
Meanwhile, I am of course leaning towards something imaginary, but leaning close to history, at least from the point of view of geography and the political situation.  The central Empire is that of Ionium, sometimes called by their enemies the Empire of Rum, from its Latin origins.

Some of these figures look vaguely Roman or sub-Roman.  But
if they can look anything like Bulgars or Georgians, that will
be what they will become.

The Emperor - a.k.a. the Czar - is one Dementius I Krazius, known as the Porphyrogenitus.  His chief commanders - Strategoi - are:
1. Ghiorghios Maniakes
2. Dmitrios Psychopathes
3. Michael Phrenetikos
4.Roussel de Bolluxe - a Norman mercenary in Ionian service.

The revolting Nikephoros Phobos has carved out an enclave of the Empire for himself - the so-called Empire of Pharbeyond - and at the head of which he has proclaimed himself Emperor, Caesar, and every other Imperial title he can think of.  Very conscious of his rights, the Porphyrogenitus, intends to deprive his rival of throne, lands and life - when he can find the time from battling Vulgarian and Abasgian barbarians...

Other enemies are:
Khan (sometimes called Czar) Tervel (Vulgarians);
King Bagrat of Abasgia (Subordinate generals Gurgen and Sumbat).

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Forgotten Army: Part 2.

My last posting featured mainly my Byzantine foot.  Here's more of the horse.
These first pictures are of my kataphraktoi (klibanophoroi according to WRG army lists for 6th Edition Rule set).  The right hand pair (from their perspective) was my original, single, double-based elements.  I gave them all lancers, partly because I had given all my SHC (super-heavy cavalry) lances when building up my armies for earlier rule sets - well mainly that, actually.  I already knew that the lance-armed outer ranks protected the bow-armed inner ranks.  
Mace, lance and bow armed kataphraktoi.
But the left hand element (nearer the camera in the above picture) I built up according to the description received from the Praecepta Militaria of Nikephoros Phokas, with maces in the front rank, archers in the middle of the rear rank, flanked by lancers.  The maces came from the Revell Hundred Years' War plastics, the ones with the smaller heads looking ideal for this scale.
The maces came from Revell plastic
100YW figures.

The Emperor leading his army into battle, painted according to  Angus McBride's portrait of Basil II in the Osprey book in the 10-11th Century Byzantine army.  In my own Empire of Ionium (Capital City, Ionople - it's great having a vaguely Greek name!) the Emperor Dementios commands overall, but can rely on Ghiorghios Maniakes, Dmitrios Psychopathes and Michael Paraphroneus with independent commands.  Just as well, with an empire beset by enemies all around... and within... (Nikephoros Phobos is slated to be the villain, or maybe it will be Sklerus the Skeletal... )(...or both).

The Emperor and his icon bearer.
I painted the icon, which was supposed to be of 'Our Lady of Blachernai', with no idea nor information what the original looked like.  So it became a kind of 'Madonna and child' style of thing.  If I were to do it again, I think I would make it the facial portrait only of Mary ('Our Lady').  As the thing is now done I have left it as it is.   

Tagmatic kavallarioi.

Now for the kavallarioi (kataphraktoi in WRG 6th Ed Army lists).  The above barded types I designated Tagmatic, although by the turn of the millenium I believe the bards were being phased out.  I tended to identify my regular Tagmata by giving them kite shields.  Some of these follows have lost their lances, or else had the spear heads knocked off them.
More Tagmatic kavallarioi.
The lance construction is robust enough for most occasions, but aren't very resistant to a knock.  They are made from modelling wire and about half the pointy end of a pin, held together by the paper or tinfoil pennon.  Paper pennons, if not self-coloured, are coloured with some sort of marker pen. Regarding them as self-shading and self highlighting, I never add shading or highlights to flags, guidons or pennons.
Kavallarioi en masse.
Even badly in need of a morale boosting period of TLC, Byzantine horse make an impressive sight en masse.  To the right of the above pic, a body of Bulgar spear men apprehensively await the onset.
Kavallarioi en masse, showing shield designs.
My Thematic horse I characterised by their lighter weight (no bards) and the round shields.  They were classed as Cv(O) [Ordinary cavalry] under the Konstantinian List (#75), but Cv(S) [Superior] under the Nikephorian (#64).  My preference lay with the Nikephorian list, but I often played with the Konstantinian in order to get some 'home' games!  The high aggression factor accorded the armies of Nikephoros Phokas, John Tzimiskes, and Basil II Porphyrogenitus made me often the 'invader'. Maybe that was why I never did get the hang of using the terrain set-up to my advantage... 

Thematic or provincial kavallarioi.

All my cavalry arrived with very short lances. As I like pennons on my lances, they needed to be longer to accommodate them.  Having carved out the moulded on lances, I bored a hole through which the shaft could be thrust. Generally speaking this method is very successful.  I could have made them more robust by wrapping the pennons around the wire, leaving enough of the end exposed for the head.  But I can be over fussy occasionally.

Thematic or provincial kavallarioi.
I also have a thing about shield designs.  I like colourful and spectacular if I can achieve them.

Below,  a small contingent of Normans, led by Roussel de Bolluxe, in the service of the Emperor.  Apart from the flag, these guys kept their original lances.
Below, masses of Ionian (Byzantine) horse, led by Dementios himself, bears down upon a line of Vulgarian spearmen.  The spearmen form a project barely half finished, and that was where they have been left for over ten years already.  The Byzantines were for the most part painted between 15 and 30 years ago.  Considered in that light, they have stood up to their neglect quite well.
Byzantine horse attacking.

Below, some trapezetoi that never made it into the DBM army.  From a unit of perhaps a dozen figures, only two could be recruited.    I had begun on a second unit, and all.
Surplus light horse...

I know I posted this picture (below) last time, but I want to explain something further.  The leading pair of light horse elements were my hyperkerastai - fast moving light horse archers and flank guards. They were classed as LH(F).  All four figures were bow armed.  The trapezetoi (LH(S) were all given lances and javelins.  But what of the light horse, at the time classed as LH(O)?  I split the difference, one horseman getting a lance, the other a bow.  Of course, I now discover that these procoursatores are classed as LH(S) as well.  Go figure...
Hyperkerastai and procoursatores.

Finally (for this posting) some pictures of Byzantine psiloi - light foot: toxotai (bowmen), and akontistai (javelinmen), and to close, my simple and long-serving Byzantine baggage camp.

These javelinmen began their career as slingers...

Byzantine  baggage camp and logistic support...
(To be continued: more on the Bulgars and Georgians - oh, and more bally Byzantines...).