Monday, March 14, 2016
I'm well past due for a post, time to have at it ! Several years ago when I worked on 54mm Ancients, I customized some Italeri Carthaginians as a Macedonian style phalanx formation. Thinking this was a lot of work, I always had the thought in the back of my mind, "Sure wish somebody would come out with Macedonians in 54mm plastic". Now years later have my wishes have been answered ? Well, not exactly.
Enter Expeditionary Force. Splendid sculpts and a fine range of both horse and foot. Just the ticket ? Damn it, no ! 60mm. Why this scale I have no idea. With that in mind, I stoutly resisted the Greeks and Persians. But when the Macedonians released in late 2015, the figures looked so good that I succumbed to the temptation and got a few boxes for Christmas. I'm not altogether satisfied with the quality of these images taken on the iPad Mini but they're at least adequate, so let's have a look.
The foot come 9 to a box, horses & riders 5. The boxes are generic, not even so much as a label on the side to identify the contents. They average about $4 a figure, pricey for plastic but not totally unreasonable for what you get.
The figures are multi-part. The plastic is on the harder end of the spectrum, with the parts fitting well and easy to glue together. The pikes of the phalangites are two part, rather short but to my eyes that's a perfectly acceptable compromise. The 9 figures in the phalanx box consist of an officer and 8 soldiers. They phalangites come in two main styles of armor, linen in the classical Greek style and bronze cuirass, with two styles of shields as well which are either plain or adorned with a typical Hellenistic pattern. The heads can be swapped at will coming with various helmet plumes and crests in each pack, thus a good variety can be achieved. As can be seen from the top photo, the rank and file are posed 4 each with the pike level and pike raised.
Quite a splendid officer, isn't he ?
And as painted. The Peter Conolly school, not the Angus McBride. But really you could paint these in any fashion and who is to say you're wrong ? So the operative question is, how do they match up with 54mm figures ?
Eh, not so good.
For toy gaming, I suppose one can say - who cares ? But I have to say, the size variance is something that grates on my sensibilities. So, I think it's probably off to eBay for these chaps although I'll have to paint a few more eventually to make a reasonable auction out of it. As I didn't assemble the other boxes they can go as is.
What's next ? I owe another back post on the Chibi Maru battleship model, long since completed. I've been quite engrossed of late in my Daisenryaku video games, much enjoyment to be had in downloading the various classic games like Super Daisenryaku and seeing what works on an emulator and what doesn't. Plus the sometimes maddening but often gratifying puzzle of playing in Japanese. I'm thinking strongly of starting a Daisenryaku blog but haven't completely abandoned the painting, and at the moment have resumed working on the 40/45mm flat & home cast Napoleonics.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
This post will encompass the final three battle turns with a final recap.With a lot to cover, let's get started.
TURN 4: Aquilonia wins the toss, Moves first.
Aquilonia: Heavy infantry double move.
Argos: Stand pat.
Argos: The Fort Panion Slingers fire effectively against the Eruk infantry as they approach melee range, killing Prince Tiglath in the process. And the 1st Peltasts add to the mayhem striking down another 4, the Shemites ranks already shrinking before they can come to grips with the peltasts. The 3rd Peltasts somehow stand firm but miss Achilles.
Aquilonia: The Tanasul Archers focus their fire on the 2nd Messentian, killing just one. The Elephant archers aboard Jumbo fire into the backs of the retreating Messentians killing another as do Achilles and Ajax against the Argive Guards.
On the Aquilonian right, it finally dawns on dim bulb Prince Alkestis that he's led the Young Companions on a death ride in rashly taking on the full power of the Turanian cavalry. Reduced to a few bloody and exhausted troopers, they're wiped out by the Shahpur Light Horse.
Meanwhile the 2nd Royal Guards close against the Samaran Horse, wasting the advantages of impetus and superior armor with a mere 2 Turanians killed vs.2 of their own. They've squandered their slim window of opportunity.
|"The Guard dies, it does not surrender !"|
The elephants continue their rampage against the Argive foot. Jumbo squashes another 5 of the routed 1st Messentian. Fighting stoutly, the Foot Guards lose 2 men but succeed in hamstringing Achilles and Ajax who collapse to the dusty earth trumpeting their agony.
And what of our commanders ? Bardikkas, observing that things go badly for his cavalry on the right flank, rides to the Tanasul Archers:
Bardikkas: Philocrates, it goes hard for us on the right. Hasten your archers there, at the double. Should the Turanians break out and attempt to flank our foot, shoot them down !
Memnon, his horse frantic from the alien smell and trumpeting of the elephants, barely controls his skittish mount with a firm hand and removes himself to Fort Panion Hill.
The situation at the end of Turn 4.
TURN 5: Aquilonia retains the hot hand, again moving first.
Aquilonia: Seeing the 1st Messentian are finished, Jumbo's mahout swings him right to attack the 3rd Peltasts. In the center, all heavy infantry moves into melee. The Tanasul Archers forgo firing and as ordered, make their double move towards the right.
Argos: Throwing away their shields to make better speed, the survivors of the 1st Messentian flee the battlefield, carrying Iollas along with the tide.
Argos: The 3rd Peltasts continue their record of futility against the elephants, Ajax making a saving throw on the hit. But their counterparts on the hill fare much better, the 1st Peltasts killing another 5 Shemites just before they close to hand-to-hand combat.
Aquilonia: Jumbo's missile crew fail to score against the 3rd Peltasts.
The Argive Guard cavalry go down fighting to the last man against the Daramish Light Horse.
On the opposite flank, facing two units of Turanians, the Royal Guards suffer another 3 casualties against only one inflicted.
In the shadow of Jumbo's looming bulk, the 3rd Peltasts fail morale check and rout from the battlefield.
With a mighty clash of iron and bronze, the elite phalanxes collide. As the rules are silent about how sarissa-armed phalangites might fare against troops armed with swords or spears, I make a house rule: first round of melee only, pike armed troops do not take damage. Thus the Foot Companions inflict 5 total kills on the Guards who repay them in the 2nd melee round with 2 kills, one being the phalanx commander Phillip. But deputy commander Pallantides stands ready to attach himself to the Foot Companions.
Already unnerved by their losses in repulsing of the elephants and with the Foot Companions pushing them hard, the Guards fail morale check and retreat one move in good order.
In the center, the Aquilonian Mercenary Phalanx assaults uphill against the hoplites of the 2nd Messentian. They inflict casualties 4:2.
In front of the fort, the decimated Eruk Infantry attack with berserk fury, revenging themselves on the light-armed 1st Peltasts with 9 kills to 3 in return. Amazingly, the Shemites have nearly evened the odds, But the peltasts pass morale test and gamely fight on, in the heat of battle forgetting the pre-battle orders to retire behind the Turanian cavalry and let the Shemites bite granite against the walls of the fort.
TURN 6: Argos wins the toss.
Argos: With the Foot Campanions relentlessly coming on and Jumbo looming up on their right flank, in order to preserver the core of Milo's army, the Argive Guards retreat from the battlefield in good order.
Aquilonia: With no hesitation, Pallantides orders the Foot Companions to wheel right and prepare to ascend the hill, with the intention of rolling up the Argive line. Jumbo secures their left in case of a change of heart by the Argive Guards. Having finished the Horse Guards, the Daramish Light Horse gallop back towards the Aquilonian right with a double move.
In the center, the Mercenary Phalanx continues to press the 2nd Messentian hard, inflicting 6 casualties to 3.
The yoeman performance of the mercenary Turanians being about the only bright spot for Argos this day, the 2nd Royal Guards are further whittled down to just Dion and a few troopers, who fly in the face of insurmountable odds.
The heavier armed Eruk Infantry continue to heavily punish the 1st Peltasts with another 5 kills for just two of their own. Yet with the odds finally evened and the prospect at hand of being able to slay their tormentors to a man, the Shemites fail morale check and inexplicably break with victory at hand. In the foreground, Dion lives to fight another day.
Thus a hard-fought victory for the forces of Aquilonia, King Epeus' punitive expedition has succeeded. Upon hearing from Pallantides that the garrison of Fort Panion has offered to surrender with the honors of war, Bardikkas snorts with derision: "Honors of war ? The knaves can die when I starve them of food or drink or they can die when our siege engines open a breach and we put them to the sword. Tell them to surrender now unconditionally and I'll spare their lives".
Bardikkas remained true to his word. The garrison was spared but stripped of everything and enslaved, brought back to Aquilonia in chains to serve out the rest of their shortened lives in misery working the silver mines at Pasentium. Fort Panion itself is annexed by Aquilonia, the king opting to install a garrison of his own instead of pulling it down.
Although I found the melee conduct a bit fiddly, the rules in general seemed straightforward and well suited to the action. I did commit one blunder which had some impact on the battle. For Turns 1-4, I somehow overlooked dicing for "contact morale" at the conclusion of each two melee rounds. Awakening fresh for the second day's conclusion, I discovered my oversight before resuming with Turn 5. And although I diced for the rest of the contingencies such as overwhelming strength, it did play out in some heavily bloody cavalry fights with the right of the stronger prevailing without the wild card element of surprise, that is - the weaker side lifted up by an unlikely reversal of fortune.
I have to wonder, was the deck stacked against Argos ? Perhaps I instinctively realized this in adding the mad charge of the Young Companions, but even so the power of the elephants in wrecking a large and small Argive unit as well as weakening another weighed heavily in the event. Funny thing too, because I have several old painted Egyptian chariots, considered adding them to the army of Argos as a counterweight but did not. I suppose I felt they were lacking that menacing Persian/Seleucid scythed chariot ambiance, but in a Hyborian battle, who cares really ?
To sum up, I enjoyed everything about this battle, organizing the armies, creating a back story, fighting it out, doing the photography. What I liked most is that the thing kind of took on a life of its own once I started the troops in action.
Eventually I'll do this again and am looking forward to painting some new units to make the next battle a fresh spectacle for myself and blog readers. I also have several terrific command figure castings in the Carl "Battle of Issos" set who will make suitably impressive generals. In any case, I hope you enjoyed this one.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Now comes the fun part. I'll break the fighting down into two posts, this one covering Turns 1-3 and in the next, Turns 4-6 and with a final recap and lessons learned.
With the engagement about to commence, let's look in on the leaders.
Alkestis: Bardikkas ! Why do you dally, sir ? There lies the enemy, the insolent despoilers of my father's kingdom ! Give me command of the right and I'll whip these dogs back down the road to Messantia by high noon !
Bardikkas: Prince, need I remind you that the King hath given me command of this army ? I commend your zeal, but we'll attack when all is in readiness and not before. Now return to your unit, sir ! Await the signal to advance, and do not charge their horse until I order it.
Iollas: Strategos, you know I'll do my duty but I must confess I like this not. The phalanx threatens to overpower our center. The men are already shaken by the appearance of these elephants and our horse unused to them.
Memnon: Aye, but think on this. In the center we anchor our line on high ground, we can contain their horse on the left. On the right, the Guards can be counted on to fight no matter what. And mayhap the 3rd Peltasts can turn or even kill one or two of the beasts.
The plans are simple enough. Aquilonian commander Black Bardikkas will steadily advance on both wings with the right anchored on the Trimsos River. On the left, the missile troops should be able to shrink the Argive ranks on the way in. Once the elephants charge home, the center phalanx units will overwhelm the hoplites. The right wing cavalry will jointly attack and although somewhat outnumbered by the Turanians, they're better armored and should fare well when to comes down to the melee.
For Argos, without a ready reserve, strategos Memnon will stay on the defensive and await developments. The peltasts posted in front of the fort should be able to target the Aquilonian cavalry as they sweep by, augmented by the slingers in the fort. The enemy Foot Companions and elephants create a gnawing sense of unease, but from what he knows they are by nature peaceable beasts and perhaps their imposing appearance is but a sham to overawe his troops. And the Guards both horse and foot are redoubtable troops, the Messentian citizen hoplites more in question.
Due to the size of the table, I tore a page out of Featherstone's book and halved the movement allowances.
TURN 1: Argos wins the toss. They choose Aquilonia to move first, retaining the right of first fire.
Bardikkas sounds the trumpets signalling the advance, standard move ordered for all units.
But the impetuous Prince has other ideas, initiating a double move:
Alkestis: Companions, before us lies nothing but Turanian rabble ! Let us sweep them from the field. Then we shall round the fort hill and fall upon the enemy's right flank from the rear. Undying glory shall be ours ! Charge !!
Dion: Sir, the Young Companions have begun the assault ! Shall we also charge ?
Galenos: Nay, hold ! The young fool has more courage than brains. Let us stand for the nonce. If they look to be succeeding, we shall reinforce. If they fail, we cannot be faulted for remaining obedient to orders.
Argos: 3rd Peltasts hit an elephant with no damage. The Fort Panion Slingers score two hits and kill an Young Companion who fails his saving throw.
Aquilonia: Elephant mounted archers kill one 3rd Peltast. The Tanasul Archers draw and loose against the 1st Messentian hoplites, visiting mayhem upon the close ordered Argives. Luck seems to be with Aquilonia this day, the archers getting uniformly high dice with no saving rolls for the hoplites. The Daramish Light Horse achieve 3 hits on the Horse Guards who are all saved by their armor.
And on their left. The 1st Messentian Infantry hoplites already in a spot of difficulty.
TURN 2: Argos wins the toss. Elects to move.
Argos: The 3rd Peltasts move to their right, both to get a better shot at the elephants and in preparation to retreat through the gap between the Guards and 1st Messentian.
Aquilonia: Double move, all heavy infantry. Standard move for the rest of the line.
Aquilonia: From the swaying backs of their mounts, the elephant crewmen all miss. The deadly Tanasul Archers do not, scoring heavily on the lightly equipped 3rd Peltasts. The Daramish Light Horse score one kill against the Horse Guards who make most of their saving throws.
Argos: On their part, the 3rd Peltasts pass morale check for proximity to elephants. But evidently shaken by the casualties inflicted by the archers, they get off only one hit against the Elephants with no damage. Over on the left, the Fort Panion Slingers all miss the Young Companions. Part of the 1st Peltasts are within range and also fire as the Companions surge past, 4 hits but all saved. Will the Prince's luck hold ?
The overall situation at the end of Turn 2.
On the Aquilonian right, having burned a double move the previous turn, the Young Companions are unable to make contact.
And on the left, the 3rd undermanned 3rd Peltasts have suffered heavily.
TURN 3: Aquilonia wins the toss, moves first.
Aquilonia. Standard move all along the line. The Elephants and Young Companions close to melee.
Argos: The survivors of the 3rd Peltasts retreat behind the shelter of the heavy infantry. Galled by the fire of the Duramesh Light Horse, the outnumbered Horse Guards gamely charge home against them. Meanwhile, seeing the 1st Messentian under duress and their commander struck down with an arrow, deputy strategos Iolllas attaches himself to the unit to stiffen their morale.
Argos: The 1st Peltasts get off a deadly volley of javelins against the Young Companions as they charge to contact, 5 hits, 4 kills. Meanwhile, the Fort Panion slingers turn their attention towards the 2nd Royal Horse Guards, 2 hits but both saved.
Aquilonia: The Tanasul Archers loose a volley against the 1st Messentian, killing another 3.
The Daramish Light Horse put away their bows and ready their spears for close combat. The vaunted Argive Horse Guards suffer a terribly disappointing result, actually losing 2 men to 1. With the stand-mounted units, I recorded the casualties on paper, removing a stand when that number of troops were lost.
The Elephants test for contact and none swerve !
From left to right, the elephants are Jumbo, Achilles and Ajax. Jumbo and Achilles crash into the hapless 1st Messentian, who having suffered a disastrous day, lose their morale test and break. Rendered helpless by their panic, they're unable to fight back. Urged on by their mahouts, Jumbo and Achilles rampage through the hoplites, killing 9. Ajax charges home against the Foot Guards. Made of sterner stuff they stand and fight, losing 3 men but unable to wound Ajax in return.
On the Aquilonian right, the Young Companions close with the Samaran Horse and Shahpur Light Horse.(also photo at the top of the pose). Despite the odds, the 1st round impetus bonus combined with their better training and armor come into play, inflicting a 2:1 kill ratio on the Turanians.
Iollas exhorts the fleeing 1st Messentian to stand and fight back.
Thus at the halfway point, the forces of Argos appear in difficulty. But with his left holding and the center as yet untouched, strategos Memnon believes his army still has a fighting chance.
The conclusion will follow in a few days. And a Merry Christmas to all !
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Argive strategos Memnon watched the enemy phalanx finish deploying into line, sweat already trickling beneath his armor in the morning heat. Things would get even hotter soon he thought, as he cursed that detestable knave Timaios yet again for bringing affairs to such as pass. Inviting conflict with Aquilonia through gross dereliction of duty, unforgivable. Memnon almost wished that he'd plunged his sword into the man's guts instead of sending him packing to Messantia in disgrace.
Milo, tyrant of Argos, had always shown more interest in his merchant empire and fleet, content to leave control of the army and affairs on land to his advisors. After all, the strong walls of Messantia would still be the ultimate arbiter if things went badly wrong. But still, in turbulent times for Hyboria, one had to at least keep up militarily and the coffers were full enough to maintain a respectable army. And at the urging of his counselor Damianos, to build several frontier forts along the northern border where Aquilonia had made the rich pasture land formerly belonging to Ophir their own.
Thus things stood with an uneasy peace between neighbors, and with the Aquilonian king Epeus busy fending off Cimmerian incursions to the north and campaigning against Nemedia to the east, Fort Panion represented no real threat to Aquilonia. That is until Timaios was sent to command the garrison. Brother to Milo's new wife Artemesia, she set about badgering the tyrant to give the wastrel something to do. A small command far from the temptations of Messantia would be harmless enough, it seemed. Certainly better than dealing with the aftermath of his debaucheries in the capital.
But upon taking up his new command, Timaios sulked at being consigned to such a backwater posting, spending his days and nights consuming many a kylix of unwatered wine. And rather than seeing to the mundane duties of a garrison commander, the dull routine of laying in supplies, digging a well, drilling the men - all these paled in comparison to the thrill of cross-border raids on wealthy Aquilonian land barons. Indeed, more than allowing his troops license to steal cattle, Timaios soon took to leading these raids himself, extracting contributions, insulting their women, kidnapping slave girls, and when sated with this, looting and burning estates.
From his campaign tent on the Nemedian border, King Epeus read the dispatches from court with dismay and rage. Summoning his lieutenant Bardikkas to his tent, Epeus dispatched him forthwith to ride hard for Tarantia, collect the rest of the royal garrison and take the high road to Argos. Tyrant Milo, informed by his spies in the Aquilonian capital of what was afoot, mobilized the hoplites and ordered his strategos Memnon to make haste for Fort Panion.
If you survived the backstory long enough to read on, we're now closer to battle. There's a lot of pictures, so I'll break it down into three parts. Part 1 will introduce all the troops. Parts 2 & 3 will cover the fighting.
Forces of Aquilonia
Here is the line of battle, from right to left. Please excuse the somewhat jarring insertion of flash photography here and there. I started the battle fairly early yesterday morning, on what began as gloomy and rainy day. The ambient light wasn't sufficient, although things brightened up as the morning progressed. And a mixture of un-based and based figures. Didn't have time to base them all, nor does the cardboard show to advantage. It did cut down on the falling dominoes effect though. Eventually I'll re-base all these.
Young Companions (AQ):
Commanded by the king's youthful and hot tempered son Alkestis. The figures are from Carl, very nice castings from the classic Battle of Issos set.
2nd Royal Horse Guards (AQ):
Commanded by Gallanos. Factory painted Romans, don't know the editor. A recent eBay acquisition and quite appealing castings, don't know the editor.
Eruk Infantry (Merc):
Kieler's bizarre take on Carthaginians come to life as warriors of Shem. The haughty noble Tiglath couldn't bear to part with his horse. At 20 men, I teased out the formation a bit with my painted Assyrians. I actually have enough unpainted castings in this grouping to finish the unit at some point.
Mercenary Phalanx (Merc):
A real hash of phalangites of all sorts, but mostly Wagner and Golberg. I've got enough unpainted castings to eventually tame the unruly pikes but they're over-sized relative to the Heinrichsens.
4th Foot Companions (AQ):
Anchoring the Aquilonian battle line. Good old Heinrichsen.
Tanasul Archers (AQ):
Figures by Lampert. Nice fellow, no English but willing to deal outside of Germany and really has a lot of newer model ancients. I have more castings and this will be a easy unit to complete. Also have a proper officer figure for them but had to draft a Heinrichsen slinger for the battle.
Daramish Light Horse (Merc):
Numidians pulling duty here as soldiers from Koth. Berliner Zinnfiguren sells these castings, I don't know the editor.
War Elephants (AQ):
Few citizens of Argos have seen an elephant. Soon more may wish they hadn't. A mix of editors.
Forces of Argos
And the Argive battle formation, from the left flank to the right.
Samaran Horse (Merc):
Argos lacks cavalry. Turan has plenty, and posted to the right wing in force. Kieler Persians.
Shahpur Light Horse (Merc):
More Turanians, also Kieler.
1st Peltasts (ARG):
Missile troops, defending the hilltop and backstopped by the fort. Heinrichsen judging by the bases and very pleasing designs they are. Factory paint and a prime candidate for repainting down the road.
2nd Messantian Infantry (AQ)
Milo's citizen hoplites help the peltasts defend Fort Panion Hill. Kielers, not sure on the paint jobs, but probably done by a collector.
3rd Peltasts (ARG):
Posted out front as a forlorn hope. Vibrantly painted by someone, not me. I like what he did with these, too bad I don't have more. Kieler castings. Not a great shot but you'll see them again soon.
Argos Guards Infantry (ARG)
The best Argos can field. Can they stop the Foot Companions ? Kieler, factory painted but not half bad.
1st Messantian Infantry (ARG):
More citizen hoplites. Again, Kielers. Same painter as the 2nd, colorful.
1st Horse Guards (ARG):
Optimistically titled, there is no 2nd, 3rd or 4th. Kieler Etruscans. Nice vigorous designs.
And within the fort itself, a small detachment of slingers man the ramparts.
And let the games begin !
Back to work tomorrow. I'll start work on Part 2, will post later this week but it may take a few days.