Last night I got to try my Celts out. They were an Ancient British army facing Marian Romans, so the obvious setting was one of Caesar’s visits to their island. My army consisted of 4xLCh (1=cmd), 2x2LH and 6x3Wb. As one of the chariots had a queen on board, she was clearly the leader. To find a name I dipped into one of the most reliable, and certainly most entertaining reports of Caesar’s invasion, one recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth, but reliant, we are assured, on a very ancient book written in Welsh, a book sadly not known to us now. Anyway, taking some licence with Geoffrey’s report (in keeping, surely with Geoffrey’s approach!), I decided that Cassivellaunus’ daughter, Tangustel (the name, actually, of one of king Ebraucus’ 30 daughters; he also had 20 sons to his 20 wives!), led a small scouting force against the Romans and was met by Caesar’s most capable lieutenant, Labienus (who according to Geoffrey was killed by Cassivellaunus’ brother Nennius with Julius Caesar’s sword, but that must have happened later! By the way, we are reliably informed that this sword was called Yellow Death). Anyway, Labienus commanded 8x4Bd (1=cmd), 2x3Cv, 1x3Ax and 1x2Ps. He was scouting too, and was the aggressor in this encounter.

The spot that the two sides met had a small wood, a road and two gentle hills. Tangustel drew up her warbands on one of these hills and positioned herself next to it. On her left flank she had two of her chariots and on her right flank her light horse and another chariot. Labienus drew up between the other hill and the edge. He kept his cavalry in reserve and had his auxilia on the hill (it emerged soon that he’d not heard it was a gentle hill! Some poor scouting there!). Tangustel swapped her light horse with her chariots on seeing this.

Initial Deployment: Tangustel on the left, Labienus on the right.

Both sides started with plenty of energy (5 and 6 PIPs respectively). Labienus advances his cohorts to anchor his flank on the woods. Tangustel advances her light horse at the lone auxilia and tries to get her chariots across to the open flank; it would have been much better not to have done that swap, as the light horse could have got to the left flank in one turn).

Turn 1: Everyone in motion.

Unaware of the true nature of the hill, the auxilia turns to face the light horse. The German cavalry also begin to move to face the light horse, while the legionaries reach the woods. Tangustel’s light horse flank and kill the auxilia (Joel was very good about the confusion over the status of this hill). This uses all the PIPs that the Britons have.

Turn 2: Auxilia outnumbered, flanked and downhill to light horse don't stand a chance.

Undaunted Labienus continues to advance his cohorts, peeling off two to support the cavalry against the British light horse. The British chariots now start to move in front of the legionaries (making rude gestures at them as they do so). One stays behind to guard the right flank.

Turn 3: PIPs galore for the Britons, who use them to align the light horse against the Roman blades.

Labienus now attacks the light horse, supported by cavalry (out of the photo). This results in one recoil and one flee result.

Turn 4 (Labienus): The British light horse scarper.

Tangustel, deciding that her chariots won’t get past the legionaries before they ZOC them decides to advance off the hill and hope to catch the Romans while their line is disordered by the light horse.

Turn 4 (Tangustel): The British warband advance.

Labienus starts to straighten up his line, moving his cavalry around to keep the light horse at a distance. He also moves his psiloi to behind his general. Tangustel uses her 3 PIPs to do a double warband move and a single move by her chariots. She hopes that the overlap on the legion will result in a break in the line. After all, the match up faces off her coolest warband, naked fanatics with one carrying a severed head; surely the head will have a talismanic quality that will cause the enemy to quail before it! Sadly not, and her hopes are disappointed, with one of the worst outcomes she could hope for: in her combat against the Labienus gets a ‘stick’!

Turn 5: Eek, Tangustel's left in contact with her support on both flanks recoiled.

Labienus continues to straighten up his line as fast as he can. In the only combat the roll is 1-6 against him; Tangustel gets a lucky reprieve and the psiloi support is removed from the Roman line.

Turn 6 (Labienus): Tangustel has a lucky escape, recoiling Labienus.

Now Tangustel is full of hope that her warbands can sweep all before them. Her über-cool warband has an overlap against a blade with no psiloi support; if it wins there will be a ‘ripple of death’ carrying along to the other two warbands, and the Romans will be routed! Sadly, on this crucial encounter the Romans hold fast and the warbands, naked and severed head and all, are forced back. The ‘ripple of death’ doesn’t eventuate and Tangustel is left horribly exposed again! What’s more there’s another damn ‘stick’!

Turn 6 (Tangustel): Run damn you! That's a severed head you're looking at!.

Labienus gets only one PIP, but it’s enough. He attacks Tangustel again and this time she’s not so lucky and is routed. Likewise the warbands that had the stick come unstuck and with their leader gone the Britons stream from the field (presumably abandoning their grisly souvenirs!).

Turn 7 (Labienus): No luck for the warbands and it's all over.

  • Aftermath

Tangustel gets away, with her pride somewhat dented. The Britons’ losses are relatively light, as their superiority in mounted troops protects their retreat. Cassivellaunus is properly annoyed by all this and promises to sort these Romans out. He sends Nennius with a larger army to rectify this loss of honour. Nennius, of course, is keen to meet Caesar and wrest his fabled sword form him!

  • Review

Well, I may have been a little unlucky, but with my superiority in mounted I had no need to rely on luck. Significant mistakes were shifting the LH to the other wing, advancing the warband before the Romans had left the woods and putting my general in a high-risk position. I can take a little satisfaction that my impetuosity was at least in character for a warband army! Next time I may go for a Wb general who’ll be safely flanked by two other warbands. I’m also thinking about taking some psiloi instead of chariots: 6x3Wb (1=cmd), 2x2LH, 2xLCh and 2x2Ps. However, psiloi aren’t as obviously useful with warbands as they are with some other foot.

This is my fourth consecutive loss to Joel; I can’t blame his figures for disloyalty this time. I’ll have to try to be more patient next time and allow the Britons’ superior mobility break up the Roman line before launching the warbands.


Ancient Britons finished

14 February, 2010

Last night I finished the flocking of the last unites needed to field all the options of an Ancient British (II/53) army (OK, so I need one more 3Wb if I want to go with 2x2LH and 10x3Wb, but otherwise!). Therefore, I’ve created a page for them on My Armies here:


The new figures included two more chariots. I glued these together before I painted them. I don’t think I’ll do that again. It wasn’t impossible, but it’s easier painting them in bits and then scraping off a little paint to get a metal-on-metal join for the glue.

Two more chariots; the thunderbolts were from VVV's Imperial Roman range.

I also did the two elements of slingers so I can field an army heavy on psiloi if I choose.

British slingers; note the 'Rupert the Bear' pants on the far right—not intentional!

Then there were a lot of warband. These were divided into those who kept their clothes on and those who didn’t. Of the clothed ones, there is a command element, with splendid carnyx and a chap standing on a severed head (I added a shield strapped to his back).

The (mostly) clothed warbands; the figure on the far left reminds me of one of the Roman legionaries in civvies in 'Asterix in Britain', who kept his helmet on (and dammit I got the colours pretty much the same without intentionally trying!

The Roman I remembered from 'Asterix in Britain'.

Of those with no clothes on, my favourite is one holding a severed head. He provides a good tableau for two of the naked fanatics who are curiously standing around. I added a rock to prop his shield against. In the other elements I mixed in some with pants on, partly to make them go further, but also to provide more poses, and figures with swords.

Naked (and semi-naked) fanatics. I'll need to work on the eyes of the severed head; they're too large at the moment, even if they might roll up when the head is severed (I believe that when Maori roll their eyes in the haka, it reflects a threat of what the enemy's eyes will do once decapitated!).

Headhunters from behind, showing how I added their shields.

Some of these figures were painted with the shields glued on and some with the shield separately. On balance, I think I prefer to do them separately. I’ve already started on the Gallic cavalry (and Numidians for the Carthaginians), so I hope to be able to field an army of Gauls soon.

A swarm of skirmishers

8 February, 2010

I completed the next batch of figures for my ancients armies this weekend. I still don’t have a complete Ancient British army, but I’m getting closer. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly I had a few small mishaps that slowed me down. I had the figures necessary for the minimum number of warbands ready to go and I’d finished a number of the naked fanatics (not hard!) when I put some matt varnish on them that I should have thrown away. It turned them white! More annoying was losing the shield transfers. Then I took the finished Britons out to show somebody and the box they were in got inverted in the car knocking the crew off the chariots.

These setbacks may have contributed to my painting other figures, but there were sound reasons for doing them. Firstly, I wanted to place an order for more VVV transfers, so I needed to check that they worked on the various figures I’ve got waiting to paint. This led me to do an element of OG15s Bruttian auxilia, some Chariot Polybian Romans and some CB Spanish. I also did some CB Numidian and Libyan skirmishers to see what their shields would look like and to experiment with using washes on white.

The Ancient Britons are a little closer. I’ve repaired damaged chariots and I’ve rebased all the figures I’d finished on MDF; I was really impressed with how Joel’s Marians lined up on my wheeling stick, while my figures were always a few mm out! Getting the MDF also provided an excuse to get the CB ‘Victory and Defeat’ pack. I also decided to give the adolescent skirmishers some small shields. And I’ve finished the second of the light horse elements.

Celtic adolescent skirmishers: the shields were Outpost round shields cut smaller in a hole punch and with their bosses removed. The patterns are VVV ones for peltas.

Ancient British light horse: the rebasing on MDF provided a good opportunity to improve the placing of the figures.

On the painting sticks are enough warband figures to field a Gallic army (including the headhunters, of course), and two more chariots. This time I decided to glue the shields on the unpainted figures. I’ll see how that goes, but certainly the gluing is a fiddly job that I only want to do once. Whether it’s better at the start or not I’m yet to see. I went all out and gluded the crew into the chariots unpainted. I may yet regret this! These figures are at various stages of completion; about half have finished shields; about two elements are finished, but can’t be based as they’ll be mixed with figures that are not finished. the rest are just needing their clothes painted, which takes me the longest, as I decide on colours and try to get enough variety (I’m really looking forward to doing some armies that have uniforms!).

The Polybian Romans have been given shield transfers, even though evidence for shield patterns is slim. The VVV patterns seem to follow Warry’s Warfare in the Classical World, p. 110. They’re intended to flank the spine, but one of the patterns in Warry is along the top as I’ve done, and I think it looks better like that. I’m doing the Hastati and Principes mixed on bases, and doing two uniforms (one for each legion). This one has white tunics and red shields with a boar on them. The others will have red tunics and green shields with wolves on them. The Triarii will match the colours, but have a different shield pattern.

Polybian Romans (right) and Oscan Infantry (left): the Romans are hiding behind their shields; their crests serve to mask the difference is size with the Oscans. You can see the same Roman patterns on the Oscan shields (left over when I decided not to put them parallel to the spines).

I also painted a few OG15s Oscan infantry. I got them from Mike Sanderson for a Bruttian army. They come from the pack IC08 (Samnite Infantry), but over a third of them are in the same pose (the two round shield ones on here), so I’m planning to get some more OG15s figures to allow me to allow these to morph into a Campanian or an Apulian army and to break up the monotony of poses). With these figures, and the next ones, I was experimenting with using washes on white. I find the wash makes the colour turn light brown. Advice from Fanaticus that I tried was to coat the white with Klear before using the wash and this got the results I wanted. I’m going for a fair bit of variation in whites, mixing in ‘Bleached Bone’ or ‘Kommando Khaki’ to give an undyed linen or wool effect.

The backs of the Romans and the Spanish Scutarii (the only way to see what the Romans are doing behind those shields!). The Spaniard on the right and the Roman on the left had stright white tunics, the others had various off-white ones. a prior wash of Klear kept the wash only in the folds.

I did an element each of Numidian and Libyan skirmishers. This was to try out a slightly darker flesh colour. I added some ‘Dark Flesh’ to my ‘Mediterranean Flesh’, which is a mixture of ‘Dwarf Flesh’ and ‘Vomit Brown’. This was also an experiment with their shields. I’m reasonably pleased with how they came out. However, just after I realized that the had should be near the rim not the centre! With these two and the Celts and Spanish that I’ve done, I’ve now got five of the 12 elements of a Later Carthaginian army, and now that I’m happy with the way I’ve done my Numidians, the two elements of 2LH won’t take long at all!

Carthaginian skirmishers: Numidian (left) and Libyan (right) psiloi.

Lastly, I did some CB Spanish. I’d painted their shields a little before to see if VVV transfers would work on them, and then I did a stand each of Scutarii and Caetrati along with one of Balearic slingers to see how the tunics would look. I used Peter Connolly’s illustration in Hannibal and the Enemies of Rome, p. 43,  as a model, though the figures on the CB website are useful guides too.

Spanish warriors: (from the left) Caetrati, Scutarii and Balearic slingers

I was up until 3.30 Saturday night working on some of these (not entirely intentionally)! I wanted to get them finished before the week started. Although I’ve not finished the Celts (and I really want to wait for the next lot of VVV transfer before I do that), I’ve now done figures for four other armies and satisfied myself with how they might turn out. In fact, I’m really keen to get onto those Romans and Carthaginians. I’ll try to do the Gallic cavalry before that, though—provided Xyston send some nice cavalry shields with spines before long!

Ancient Celts

28 January, 2010

The first batch of Ancient Celts: two chariots, some adolescent skirmishers, some British light horse and a warband. The photos were taken in bright sunshine, so the contrast is a little too high.

I’ve finally finished the Celts that I started some six weeks ago. If I hadn’t played a game of DBA against Joel’s Marians the other day they’d still be partially finished, with my attention focused on other armies. I’ve based the two chariots, an element of light horse and the two elements of adolescent skirmishers. I’ve also based one of the two warband elements, but I’ll do the other one when I’ve finished painting the rest of the army. One of the figures in it is bare-chested, and I need him to mix with my naked fanatics, which I’m mixing in with some more demure chaps that have gone topless, but kept their strides on!

Note the lefty light horseman on the right!

I got one pack of naked fanatics and by using one of the figures from the foot command I can get three 3Wb elements from it. That means I’m basing the command as 3Wb, as I can’t see the advantage of making it 4Wb (it offends against my sense of order when the rest of the foot are 3Wb).

The first warband. I like the way the VVV transfers came out.

These are the first figures I’ve done using the head-mounted magnifying glass, and it certainly makes a difference. I found putting stripes on their clothes quite easy, something I’m sure I couldn’t manage without the magnification. I painted the chariots in pieces before assembling them, something I won’t do again. I also glued the shields on after everything was painted, which I will do again, as I reckon it’s easier. I used a lighter wash this time, one made with the GW chestnut ink. I got a bit fancy and used a black wash on the steel armour and and a darker brown on the reds. I think it was worth the effort. The CB figures certainly paint up well.

Another angle on the mounted elements. The chariots have been painted in pretty subdued colours (these Celts aren't into paint, apparently!)

Next to be painted are four elements of 3Wb (including a foot command element), one more 2LH and two 2Ps (not really necessary, but quick). Then I’ll be ready to face Joel’s Marians with an Ancient British army.

Gone Ancient

13 December, 2009

Well, in the end I put the Komnenans away, half painted. I couldn’t get motivated to finish them, and I was impatient to get going on the ancient figures. I’ve made a start on the Celts. I’ve done the horses for some Ancient British 2LH and two chariots. I’ve also got the figures done, but for their clothes: two 3Wb and two 2Ps (the adolescents).

I thought for a while I wouldn’t be able to use VVV transfers for the shields, but tonight I tried a few and I reckon they’ll pass. They’re not ideal, because the boss is large and goes nearly to the edges of the shields, but the patterns I’ve used, while they will lose the decoration that will be covered by the boss, will still look pretty good, I think.

I’ve also spent time prepping some Carthaginians: Numidian light cavalry and javelinmen and Libyan javelinmen. They should be a cinch to paint, only a few colours. I’m also putting together an elephant; more work than I’d expected, but I’ll use some of the Libyans as support troops around the base (I don’t really need four Libyan 2Ps!). While getting these figures prepped, I also did the rest of the Celts (Gallic cavalry and some naked fanatics).

I’ve now catalogued the armies I got from Mike Sanderson. Using Fanaticus, I was able to sort out what manufacturer some of them were. It’s funny how knowing the figures’ pedigree has made me better disposed to some of them! I’ll need to get a few figures to round them out, but I’m resisting until I’ve made a dent in the Corvus Belli figures. Still waiting for the Magister Militum order to arrive (damn).

No pictures yet, but some soon, when the Celts are done.

Serious Flash

15 November, 2009

Yesterday I cleaned up all my new Corvus Belli Ancient Britons. I found out what serious flash is, as they had heaps of it and it was very thick in places. I’ve read figure reviews where the reviewer comments that the figure had little flash and I hadn’t paid much attention to it. Until now most flash that I’ve encountered is a thin crest that can be scrapped away with a blade. Not this stuff. It needed to be hacked off. Fortunately the metal was very inflexible and didn’t bend or break as I cut large chunks of lead off the bases. The experience left me with a new appreciation for flash!

I then cleaned up the figures I need to finish the Komnenan Byzantines and a stack of Black Raven figures that my son decided he wanted to paint. I’m not sure if this sudden interest wasn’t a ruse to avoid going to bed, but they’re now ready if he decides he wants to paint them. They a pack of orcs and a pack of dwarves. The dwarves are taller than my humans so I’ve not used them, though they look nice.

This morning I undercoated them all, and was surprised at how much of the detail this brought out. I’d noticed that the Old Glory figures on their website were a curious grey colour as though they were plastic, but I think they’ve been undercoated for just this reason. It’s much easier to see the detail than when you’re looking at shiny metal. I’m now really keen to make a start on those Britons.


The arrayed figures that were undercoated this morning. I've found putting the riders on nails with Blutak is a convenient way to paint them. I use flat-headed nails for the foot and round-headed ones for the riders. I find poking them into polystyrene a handy way to stand the nails up.