More on Allan Massie

3 September, 2016

I’ve now finished the Robert Harris trilogy on Cicero. It was very good, but it pales in comparison to Allan Massie’s books. I read his Augustus next, and loved it. Augustus is the narrator, and it is in two halves. The first he narrates to his grandsons Gaius and Lucius. It is optimistic; the second is narrated towards the end of his life and is much more gloomy. Massie paints a picture of somebody who is keen to present his legacy as a service to Rome; he has Augustus’ Res Gestae for this. He presents somebody who is perhaps not so self-aware as he thinks, as comes out when his dynastic plans go awry. Comments from Maecenas and Livia are particularly revealing.

I’d have to read Robert Graves’ I Claudius again (I read it as a teenager), but I think Massie’s portrayal of Livia is probably more believable. She’s a proud Claudian, not shy of reminding Augustus that she deigned to marry down to him!

One of the strengths of Massie’s books is that you very much get the perspective of the narrator, and it is biased. The scene he describes of the forging of the second triumvirate is similar in Augustus to in Mark Antony, which I’m reading now, but the differences are revealing. Augustus justifies himself, while Antony won’t talk of it, and it’s described by his secretary, Critias. I’ve not put the two scenes alongside each other, but the description of discussion of the proscription is modified.

Massie describes Mark Antony very favourably. His biggest failing is his sense of honour (something Ronald Syme suggests too). He would have been best to have crushed Octavian while he had the upper hand, but is described as having given his word, and therefore was not willing to do this. Massie’s description of Antony’s relationship with Marcus Brutus is fascinating; he gives a context for why Antony described Brutus as the noblest Roman at his funeral.

The varied takes on Brutus in the three books I’ve read by Massie so far are a nice illustration of how well he gets into the persona of his narrators. Mark Antony’s sympathy for Brutus contrasts with the antipathy, for different reasons, of Augustus and Decimus Brutus in the two earlier books.

Meanwhile, I have all the figures for the Thapsus BBDBA army. They are all primed and waiting to be painted. The Numidians are close to being done, and the Xyston Gauls and Spanish will mix nicely with the CB ones. It helps that I’m using CB shields. Plans to go to Conquest are also advancing. I had a couple of games of DBA with Nick a couple of weeks ago. We had a Marian Roman civil war, where his Romans with an elephant were undone by my use of Armenian cataphracts (and some good dice). My Seleucids against his Ptolemaics was the reverse, where my PIP dice were cripplingly low; the elephant and the scythed chariot are not forgiving of such dice. It was only that Nick had average combat dice that allowed me to hang around for as long as I did.

Recent Gaming

23 March, 2014

I’ve not kept up with reporting games I’ve played. Part of the reason for this is because I’ve only got a camera that is not all that satisfactory. I’ve taken better photos with my phone than with the small camera I’ve tried to use. The tripod is broken and can’t support the large camera I’d used for my gallery shots.
The other reason I’ve not been active on the blog is that I’ve been too busy painting (more in the next post). Anyway, I’ve played quite a lot recently, and had some very good luck. Here are some photos that aren’t too blurry.

  • Battlecry, 16 Feb 2014

Last month I got along to Battlecry for a day of demo DBA games. We got a bit of interest and should be running a competition next year as a result of this. We played DBA 2.2, as noted earlier on MEDBAG.
My first game was against Joel, a historical matchup of my Early Seleucids against his Classical Indians.

Early Seleucids face Classical Indians.

Early Seleucids face Classical Indians.

The Indians up close (some are hidden behind the trees.

The Indians up close (some are hidden behind the trees.

The Seleucids.

The Seleucids.

I should have been in serious trouble as the Indians came around my left flank in large numbers. However, they were obviously unfamiliar with scythed chariots, as mine proceeded to tear them to pieces. I came away with a lucky victory.

Chaos on the left flank.

Chaos on the left flank.

Next I faced John, who’d just finished his Celtiberians. I used my Gauls.

Gauls v. Celtiberians.

Gauls v. Celtiberians.

View from the Celtiberian camp.

View from the Celtiberian camp.

I managed to meet his warband with my cavalry and used this to my advantage in a battle on a narrow frontage.

Gallic cavalry triumphant.

Gallic cavalry triumphant.

I then faced Mike, who used my Carthaginians. I took my Syracusans. As we are both littoral, this involved a waterway, which ended up to my back. Mike went for a littoral landing.

Syracusan v. Carthaginians.

Syracusan v. Carthaginians.

I hurried to advance to reduce the potential for the littoral landing party to make trouble. I was able to sack his camp (the crucified Syracusan was a provocation!) and used my longer line to outflank his elephants. Another victory.

The Tarantines return from sacking the camp.

The Tarantines return from sacking the camp.

I think we played some more games that I didn’t take pictures of. The last on my camera was my Syracusans against John’s Celtiberians. I don’t remember for sure if I won, but I think my luck was pretty strong, and I used my advantage in cavalry to compensate for the vulnerability of my spear to his warband.

 Syracusans v. Celtiberians.

Syracusans v. Celtiberians.

Unrecorded is our final BBDBA game of Carthaginians and Celtiberians against Romans and Spanish. This was officially a draw, but I’m sure the Romans had the edge when we stopped.

  • Auckland City Guard

Since then, I’ve mostly played DBA 3.0. Joel’s visited after work a few times, and I’ve got to the City Guard again. We’ve had a lot of fun trying out his Aztec hordes of doom, and we tried out a number of permutations of knights against spear.
From memory the time before last we played: Normans v. Anglo-Danish, Early Crusaders v. Comnenan Byzantines, Aztecs v. Prefeudal Scots and Vikings v. Anglo-Danish. I think there was an Aztec v. Early Crusaders too.
Last weekend I took some photos:
Our first game was his Aztecs against my North Welsh.

The Aztecs meet the Welsh.

The Aztecs meet the Welsh.

The Welsh with their South Welsh ally.

The Welsh with their South Welsh ally.

The South Welsh cavalry got in the way of his archers and the spearmen got flanked; however, the Welsh had been making progress against the important Aztec elements.
Next we played Ptolemy against Lysymachus. The Ptolemaic army was quite different from what I expected. I tried a littoral landing of three auxilia in a line with side edge contact with the waterway. It seemed legal and threw Lysimachus’ plans to meet this treat. I got a narrow victory in this battle.
We then tried Carthaginians against Gauls.

Carthaginians drawn up against Gauls.

Carthaginians drawn up against Gauls.

Carthaginians with a random stack of skulls next to their camp.

Carthaginians with a random stack of skulls next to their camp.

The Carthaginians won in a battle stacked in their favour (though elephants don’t quick kill warband any more). Our final battle was the Carthaginians against Aztecs. I didn’t take any pictures of this. The Carthaginians took only one elephant, I think. They were lucky in a battle between their two 2LH and the Aztecs two 2Ps. I killed both of them, but had I not, my back was to a wood, and I’d have been very much at a disadvantage.

More Imitation Legionaries

31 December, 2012

Late Hellenistic imitation legionaries. Two have red shields and could be Ptolemaic; the one with green shields would be Seleucid.

Late Hellenistic imitation legionaries. Two have red shields and could be Ptolemaic; the one with green shields would be Seleucid.

  • Imitation legionaries

With a brief flurry of painting I go my Mithridatics ready for CANCON 2013. All my paints are in storage, so it took a bit of effort to get them out to do three 4Bd elements. I’d already prepped them, so they didn’t take long once I started. These elements allow me to field the late Ptolemaic and Seleucid armies. which have two and one element respectively. I’ll also use them to fill out my Mithridatic army.

From behind.

From behind.

The figures are Freikorp Thureophoroi and Thorakitai; I’ve given them pila from old-style Freikorp Romans. They may not have used them, but it helps make them clearly imitation legionaries.

From the other side.

From the other side.

The Mithridatic army has five elements of imitation legionaries. I’ve decided to use one element of Romans, as Mithridates had some Marian exiles fighting for him; then there are two elements of Marian figures mixed with Thorakitai, but with Marian shields. And finally two of the new legionaries. It is a nicely hodge-podge collection of legionaries, in keeping with the rest of the army.

Mithridates' legionaries: the two blue-shielded elements have a mixture of Marian Roman figures and modified Thorakitai. The middle one are straight Romans, exiled supporters of the Marian faction. The last two have more obviously Hellenistic equipment.

Mithridates’ legionaries: the two blue-shielded elements have a mixture of Marian Roman figures and modified Thorakitai. The middle one are straight Romans, exiled supporters of the Marian faction. The last two have more obviously Hellenistic equipment.

  • CANCON

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m attending CANCON next year. I’m looking forward to it. I didn’t play that much DBA last year, though I started to get a few games in November. I’ll be taking a few armies to Oz when I return; I reckon I can get all my Classical armies (though I’m leaving behind the Ancient British chariots, LH and extra Ps to make room. As it is, I’ll have a stack of armies for the period of around 300 BC to the start of the principate. One army that doesn’t fit is the Komnenan Byzantines, who I need for the second day of CANCON. I’ve used it before and like it, not that I’m terribly successful with it. My other armies from Books 3 and 4 are either not finished, needing to have their bases upgraded, and/or not very competitive. I was tempted to try the Pre-feudal Scots; they’re not terrible, but are a bit of a challenge. If I wanted to keep with a similar army for the first day, I could have gone with the Syracusans. However, I’m keen to use the SCh before it is emasculated, so Mithridatics it is; I can make a fairly spurious link with the Komnenans by pointing out they’re from the same region!

Another shot of the Mithridatic legionaries.

Another shot of the Mithridatic legionaries.

  • Mithridatics completed

The Mithridatics are a somewhat cheesy army for competitions in Australasia, as down here you are generally allowed to choose what elements you’ll use before each battle. The option to substitute five 4Bd for a SCh and four 4Pk allows you to transform the army’s capabilities. Against most foot the blade are very powerful, but against armies with a lot of knights the combination of pikes and a scythed chariot should be pretty potent. That said, I’m unsure what to field against armies with pikes and knights, though I suspect the blades are a better bet.

The Mithridatics arrayed with the legionary option.

The Mithridatics arrayed with the legionary option.

The army has a strong selection of BGo troops; it’s able to vary the combination of Auxilia and Psiloi to give more rear support for the blade, or to create a block of three Auxilia with one Psiloi for support. The army also has a choice between a 3Kn, a 3Cv and a 2LH. The 3Kn is probably the most useful, but I really like the figures for the 3Cv and I don’t get to use them enough.

The same army from another angle.

The same army from another angle.

I’ve updated the Mithridatics army page too.

Pontic Imitation Legionaries and the first of the Marians.

The Mithridatics are a bit closer now with the first of their imitation legionaries done. The blue shields are imitation legionaries, the red shields are Marians. These are Freikorp figures; For the imitation legionaries two on each element are Marians, one of an older vintage, and one each of the newer ones. The other two are Hellenistic thorakitai with scuta instead of thurioi and pila from the old vintage Marians. As mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve used VVV transfers, which I think look pretty effective.

The Marians have a centurion, two of the new vintage figures, and one of the old ones. I plan to have a centurion on each element, for colour, but also as they were so significant to the functioning of the legions. I’ll probably do pairs of shield designs for them, so that there will be some four ‘legions’ in the DBA army.

I think the figures look pretty neat, though I missed some major flash on some of the new figures; it’s very prominent on one of their faces!

From the side.

Now I’ve got these figures done, I just need to do the three elements of Ptolemaic and Seleucid imitation legionaries, who have thurioi. Then I can field later versions of these armies, as well as the Mithridatic option of five 4Bd.

The other side.

The Marians should be pretty quick to do now that I’ve established that these transfers work, though whether they’re next on the to do is another question.

From the rear.

After the Ptolemaic and Seleucid imitation legionaries, I could do some more pike; they’re all prepped; it’s just I’ve scuttled off onto other projects. And I could still be tempted to do Bruttians, again prepped, or Numidians instead of these pike. There are also some camps to be done when the mood takes me!

All the elephants arrayed. Not quite enough yet for a whole army, but getting there!

Well, I’ve got some Gauls and some pikemen on my painting desk and the Gauls are all but done now (I think I started them this time last year!), but three elements of elephants jumped the queue. They are quicker to do and allow me to field a number of successor armies straight away. This made them more inviting as I got back into painting after a couple of months’ break. In the process of doing them I got the Gauls nearly done too.

The Seleucid elephant, now with skirmisher support, faces off against the Ptolemaic one.

Along with the three elephants (two early successor and one Ptolemaic), I did four archers as skirmisher support. I added one onto the base of the Seleucid elephant I’d done earlier, as particularly in the later period they deployed the elephants with a lot of surrounding skirmishers.

The Ptolemaic elephant; it is an African one and smaller than the Asian ones. Note the goad that I made for the mahout.

The figures are all Freikorp and I think their elephants are excellent. They are easy to assemble, well animated and their seems to be (to my inexpert eye) a distinction between the African and Asian ones. The Ptolemaic elephant is smaller and has different ears. As these figures don’t come with goads for the mahouts I made them using the ends of lead spears that I’d cut down for javelins. I flatten the end, cut a split in it and bent one side into a hook and gently filed the two end to points. The hooks are perhaps bigger than they should be, but they look the part and were quick and easy to make.

From the other side with its skirmisher support.

The Ptolemaic elephant will also be used as a Pyrrhic one, meaning that with the xystophoroi that I did a while back I can now field the early Ptolemaic and the Pyrrhic armies.

Early Successor elephants ready to go against each other (when I get more pike painted!

The pair of early successor elephants, without towers, allow me to field a number of the armies starting with Alexander, though I need to get some unshielded cavalry to be fully accurate. They allow fights between successor armies (when I get more pikemen painted) and me to field the earliest Seleucid army with two elephants.

The two elephants ready to serve in the early Seleucid army.

From another angle.

And yet another.

Getting these guys to sit on the elephants provided a bit of drama. When my first attempt failed I tried araldite, which is too slow to set, then pinning, which was a travesty. Finally I tried again with super glue and it was quite straight forward, but if you look at the mahout on the blue elephant you’ll see his slightly grey beard and a mark on his chest reveal the scars of this exercise!

Next up, when I get time, will be the Gauls, who allow me to field the Gauls, the Carthaginians and the Syracusans all at the same time. Then I’ll either buckle down to doing seven stands of pike, or I’ll do some smaller projects, such as a 4Bd for the later Seleucids, and some of the cavalry for that ‘d’ list (who can be used for the Mithridatic one too).

Xystophoroi

17 July, 2011

Ptolemaic Xystophoroi.

I’ve completed two elements of Xystophoroi. They are Freikorp figures with spears from Xyston. They are for a Ptolemaic army; however, they can be used for quite a number of other armies. I’m close to being able to field a whole swathe of successor and Hellenistic armies, though not in opposition to each other. The biggest hold-up is two more elements of elephant. One is an Early Successor one with a pikeman sitting on its back. The other is an unarmoured one with a tower. The first of these would allow me to do a whole range of early successor armies, the other would be for the Ptolemaic army and for a Pyrrhic one. Otherwise, there’s a lack of pikes. My next project may be about seven elements of pikes to allow opposing pike blocks (one of these would be a command element for Antigonus Monophthalmus).

From another angle.

I have two elements of 3Cv ready to go too, but they are waiting for decals on their shields (which are in the post). These are for the Syracusans, but can be used by a number of other armies, though I’m not sure when shields started to be used, making them less useful for some of the earlier armies.

I’ve updated my armies page with a list of all the new armies I should soon be able to field!

From the rear.

Otherwise, I darkened my Seleucid elephant a while ago; it was much lighter than the two Carthaginian ones, so I gave it a drybrush with a darker grey, which I think improves it.

A more tanned Seleucid elephant.

For the first day of the IWC I used my Later Carthaginians, generally with both elephants and all the warbands.

  • Luke’s Ptolemaic

The opening game saw me with a waterway to my rear and Luke attempting a littoral landing with a Kn and a Ax. I destroyed this with an elephant and some Wb, but I eventually lost 4-3 as I advanced my spear too far in the centre while this was happening. Before my victorious flank could do anything, the centre was defeated in detail by pike.

The tendency to be in too much of a hurry was a feature in this game and in most of my games; not surprisingly, they usually came to a result well within time!

  • Greg’s Polybians

Next up I faced my own Polybians, loaned to Greg, as his armies were trapped in a Christchurch hotel. I deployed my spear in a column on a road. These were able to road march up to his Triarii on his left flank. However, in the centre my elephant was not able to make things happen and I lost my general for a 3G-1 defeat.

  • Keiran’s Polybians

Then there were more Polybians. Keiran was new to the game and up from Christchurch for a break. I gave him a fair bit of advice. I had some early success when I destroyed his Triarii in the centre with double-ranked spear (who doubled the one opposite, setting up 4-3 odds with double-ranked Wb next to them. However, I was unable to exploit this success. My elephants on the right flank did little, and I moved my LH too far in a flanking move (I didn’t calculate where he’d be after his advance!). Meanwhile on my other flank his cavalry savaged my psiloi-supported auxilia, who could really only hope to buy time. This was a 4-2 defeat.

The Triarii in the centre may have been a distraction; they stretched my line further than I want it to. As I see it, against Polybians Carthaginians have to try to win on one flank and attempt to delay or avoid contact on the other.

  • Stephen’s Early Imperial Romans

After lunch I faced Stephen Malone’s Early Imperial Romans. Last year these armies had met and I had to confess at the time I had no plan. This time I was more confident. However, Stephen proved as wily as before, and I showed I’d not learned too much. He advanced his cavalry, encouraging me to go after them with my elephants, only to retire the cavalry to allow his artillery to have a shot at the exposed pachyderms. One was soon a casualty. Against the other he had a lot of fun attacking it with his cavalry general and seeking to get it to back over some warband that had advanced in its support. He soon had the two warband destroyed, one bouncing into the elephant, the other being trod on. However, my general,supported by the Numidians, advanced across the field and attacked some psiloi-supported auxilia, which they destroyed. The elephant attacked a cavalry and it was now 3-3. Unfortunately that brought it into range of the artillery, if I remember correctly, and it was all over with a well-deserved victory to Stephen.

I picked up the tip that retreating was often a valid tactic, and promised not to be suckered by it again!

  • Stephen’s Lydians

Next up was a battle with Stephen’s Lydians, described here. Just as Stephen was frustrated by my warband’s refusal to die when it pursued into double overlap, and my Numidians scorn of his light horse, I was delighted by their display. It allowed my spear to shine. I thought they’d got his general, only to remember they’d only fled him; despite this, the combination of cavalry and spear proved too much for his auxilia and I got my first win.

  • Connor’s Polybians

My last game of the day was Polybians again; this time I got their measure. I got Connor’s general and three others for a 4G-0 victory. I think Connor, the youngest competitor, was getting a little tired, and he missed a few opportunities to get back at me, but after losing to Polybians twice already that day, I wasn’t feeling inclined to point these out to him.

All in all, despite the poor results, I had an enjoyable day, and felt I was in with a chance in each battle, particularly if I hadn’t been in such a hurry!