23 October, 2016
I’ve finished the last of the figures I needed to get done for my trip to Conquest in two weeks time. These are a command element for my Marian Romans, and four elements of Gallic cavalry.
The Roman command is to replace the one I have of Julius Caesar. I’ve called the commander Quintus Labienus, the only one of Caesar’s legates who did not follow him over the Rubicon. Labienus was not only a brilliant commander, but also probably a man of principle; his decision to fight for the republic rather than his commander in Gaul is likely to have been taken out of a sense of loyalty to the concept of the republic; the idea he was a client of Pompey is reductive.
I’m not sure I’m entirely happy with this element. They are all Freikorp figures, but the standard bearer is a giant next to the earlier figures. Nevertheless, I look forward to using Labienus rather than Caesar!
The four new elements of Gallic cavalry took quite a while to get done. At the last minute I found another figure to allow me to do four elements, rather than have a HotT hero. It involved using a figure from my Ancient British LH that are orphans until I get some more 3Wb; the horse was left over from an element of Carthaginian cavalry, which was fortuitous.
These were hard to fit on the bases. Both the CB and the Xyston figures are a bit animated. Keeping ‘hands inside the bus’ hasn’t entirely worked, especially on the sides of the elements. However, I’m pleased with the way the Xyston figures look amongst the Corvus Belli ones (and with the news that CB will be back in production again.
These elements will allow me to field Gauls as mercenaries and auxiliaries in other armies, and to use them for BBDBA.
Finally, I’ve added a corpse for Androgeus, one that he got the head he’s standing on for.
Next up may be a Campanian army, or I may start on some 1:1200 Langton ancient galleys. I’m keen to start doing some naval warfare. Then again, Nennius wants a corpse for his head too!
10 October, 2016
Sunday a week ago there was a very successful DBA day at the Auckland Wargames Club. As it led to other projects being planned, I’ve not got around to writing up any report until now. The format was friendly games; no set armies or points. I had five very enjoyable games.
- 1 – Marian Romans v. Alexandrian Imperial
My first game was against John, whose army is still being painted, so he borrowed figures from me. I’m pleased to say that they knew who their paymaster was, and fought accordingly!
I was the defender and laid down some Marsh and ploughed fields (I’d just made some new terrain; I realised later that Marsh is not valid for Arable armies). Appropriate to the weather that day the fields were boggy.Alexander, or his subordinate, took an elephant as well. He swung his knights out on his left flank. Things looked good when one squared off against some auxilia, who promptly 6-1ed him! It went from bad to worse from there with the general encountering elephants and this time the encounter went to script. The Kappadocian hillmen notched up their second kill, supporting some legionaries against hapless thureophoroi, and it was all over.
The surprising resilience of the Kappadocians secured a quick victory.
- 2 – Prefeudal Scots v. Vikings
The second combat was against Kieran’s Vikings. Again I was the defender and went for a marsh and a wood, which ended up being in the same corner.
The battle was a close one, where the Scots won first blood, when the Galwegians broke an element of Vikings. However, the centre was somewhat of a stalemate, with a lot of toing and froing. On the Scots’ right their Viking allies did good execution and contributed to a close-fought 4-2 victory. Terrain and the greater mobility of the Scots were significant factors.
- 4 – Later Macedonians v. Polybian Romans
After lunch I faced Joel’s freshly painted Polybian Romans. I decided I really should get my Later Macedonians out to meet them. Naturally in the face of unprovoked Roman aggression I was the defender again. I took two large terrain pieces to anchor my flanks and restrict the battlefield to the advantage of the phalanx.
The battle was close fought, with the battle going in the Romans’ favour on their left flank, while the Macedonians secured the advantage on their own left flank, destroying both elements of Roman velites. However, it was the steadfastness of the Macedonian blueshields that secured victory; despite being flanked by Roman cavalry they repeatedly refused to break. In the centre the Galatians made noble execution of Roman legionaries and the whiteshields (leukaspides) broke their opposing legionaries.
- 3 – Later Macedonians v. Polybian Romans
Actually, there is a report that prior to this battle the Macedonian general was troubled by a nasty dream in which his thureophoroi proved his undoing. Romans report that this was an actual battle, but the more reliable Greek chronicler disagree (the battle just described was actually our second, as the first was over so fast!). The Macedonians defended again. Their terrain was too small to constrain the battlefield.
The Macedonian thureophoroi attempted to defeat the Roman velites and were disgracefully defeated (they are prone to this; witness their routing by Spartan artillery). Philip V tried to stabilise things, but was defeated himself; the battle was over without the main lines having contacted.
- 5 – Prefeudal Scots v. Carolingian Franks
The last battle was against Mike’s Carolingian Franks. The Scots had got on their boats and visited France. It didn’t go well for them.
How the Galwegians got to be in the centre facing knights I don’t remember (I think I deployed and then moved the line along a bit to fit it in the legal area and didn’t check who was facing who. Unlike the bold Kappadocians at the start of the day, the Galwegians didn’t produce an upset against the Carolingian commander. The schiltons were under pressure and collapsed, but not before a few knights had fled in the face of the Scots cavalry.
All in all, it was a great day; there is another account of it here, and there are plans for more DBA action there soon.
10 October, 2016
I got a few more elements completed this weekend. I completed four elements of 4Ax, which will be used for Spanish Scutati serving in Carthaginian, Syracusan and Roman armies. This project also saw three elements of 3Ax being rebased for the Spanish army and around six caetrae being substituted for scuta to make them proper scutati.
I also have rebased some of my Viking 3Bw and Ps to 4Bw to comply with DBA 3.0; the 4Bw get a combat bonus when in side combat with their 4Bd, so this seemed worth the effort. Once the Gauls are done, only the Norse Irish of my armies will need any rebasing for DBA 3.0.
The mercenary 4Ax are a combination of figures from Corvus Belli, which are no longer manufactured, and Xyston. I am really pleased with how they mix and I’m looking forward to getting the Gallic Xyston figures done to see how they look similarly mixed.
These figures have rocks added, along with small bushes. I’ve done the same for the Numidians I finished earlier, so they are now properly finished. I needed to refresh my supply of kitty litter, as the remaining ‘stones’ were all too small.
I’ve been using a wet palette when I paint, and I find it very effective, though it does expose those paints that I should really bin and get new ones; in particular, my black has turned and should be replaced. Next up should be nine elements of Gallic 4Wb; and then three elements of Gallic Cv. But I’m pretty good at getting sidetracked!
19 September, 2016
Last Friday Nick and I tried a game of BBDBA. I’d got my Numidians finished and could field a Marian army, albeit with a few of the elements not as I’d want them. Nick put together another Marian army, not with any prior preparation. I was the defender and set up all my commands, followed by Nick. I then rolled 7 total for my PIPs, so made the ploughed rough; not what I’d expected!
My plan was to win in the centre and hold on the flanks. I gave my high dice to the centre. The Numidian flank was hampered by the ploughed fields.
My initial PIPs were very low, and I was anxious about trying to get my light troops across on my left to intercept the elephants. Nick had his high PIP dice there. I seemed to forget about holding on the flanks, and although I got one of the elephants, that command broke. There was a stalemate across the ploughed field on the right and I actually did win in the centre, where Nick was using some of his legionaries to break my left flank. However, I’d lost patience, and forgotten the plan, and attacked on the right flank. It didn’t go well.
The game took some time and was very close, in that I was close to breaking, but could have won if I’d hadn’t been so rash with the Numidians. In the end Nick broke the Numidians and won the battle. It was a fun game and I learnt a good deal about BBDBA.
We’ll have another game soon; I may have to rethink my commands; the centre could have used a more mobile reserve, but then the left flank would be less effective, possibly. Food for thought!
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.
7 August, 2016
What got me thinking of fielding a Marian Roman army for BBDBA was reading Allan Massie’s novel Caesar. It’s narrated by Decimus Brutus, one of Caesar’s lieutenants and one of the conspirators. It examines the motives of the aristocracy in that period sensitively and intelligently. I particularly liked the way Massie described Decimus Brutus’ changing opinion of the choices Labienus made. Initially he’s derided as an overprincipalled clown, but later as the necessity for assassination grows in Brutus’ mind he is sympathetic to Labienus; there is also a fictional letter to Brutus from Labienus explaining why he supported Pompey, recognising him as the lesser of two evils and one that he thought he might be able to control better.
I’d like to read the rest of Massie’s novels on the figures of this period — Mark Antony, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero’s Heirs, but I can’t get the books from Google Play to my Nook; until I can I won’t buy more. Instead I’ve been finishing Robert Harris’ series narrated by Cicero’s slave then freedman, Tiro. I’ve finished the first two books, Imperium and Lustrum (or Conspirata) and am just starting on the last Dictator. The portrayal of Cicero is believable, and his take on Caesar is one that I agree with.
Anyway, it was while reading Massie that I thought that I could happily field an army led by either the Republican resistance to Caesar, or the Liberators who delivered extrajudicial justice to the tyrant. The Thapsus army has the advantage of allowing a Numidian ally and lots of elephants to bolster the Roman blade against opponents with knights. I’ve had the Numidians waiting to be painted for a while, and I had a Freikorps Carthaginian elephant that has a Numidian mahout; I’ll get two more for the maximum pachydermal goodness. I was pleased to read in the continuation of Caesar’s Civil War commentaries that Labienus had Gallic cavalry with him at Thapsus, so that’s an incentive to get more of my Gallic cavalry painted to enable Labienus to restore the Republic to its former virtue, guided by the moral vision of Cato the Younger.
6 August, 2016
It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on this blog. Recently I was reminded that Conquest was coming up at the end of this year; Keith’s planning a new format with some BBDBA for the last day. It’s got me motivated to see what I could field if I were to attend. I don’t have enough figures for any army to be made up of 36 elements from one list. I’d need to field 24 elements from one list and take an ally. This precludes taking a successor army, which is a pity, as pike are better with solid wings, something they struggle to get in normal DBA. At this stage I’ve got a few armies I’m looking at:
The Republican army at Thapsus led by Scipio and Labienus and aided by their ally the Numidian Juba. I’m painting the Numidians now, and I’m looking at rebasing Spanish to make enough 4Ax. Otherwise, I’m pretty much able to field this army. I would look to get a few more elephants, though. I’m not normally a big fan of Roman armies, but the any that resisted the tyrant Caesar is OK, especially with honourable leaders such as Labienus and Cato the Younger.
Another army is a Mithridatic one with an Armenian ally. I’d need to paint a bit more to get this one ready. It’d have two solid wings of light horse and auxilia, a centre of blade or pike and enough knights to be a threat.
I could also put together a Syracusan army with a Carthaginian ally.
Anyway, along with getting these armies ready, I’m reluctantly planning to rebase my Gauls as 4Wb; I’m hoping I can get some rather nice looking Xyston Gallic foot nobles to mix in with the Corvus Belli ones to add some further presence to each element. I also have plenty of Gallic cavalry to look at painting. Perhaps they could be another BBDBA army!