Monday, 5 April 2021

Ottoman Massed Timarli Sipahi

Finished and based a unit (2 BLB squadrons) of Timarli Sipahi, figures by Warfare Miniature.

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Excellent miniatures, very dynamic and easy to paint (no really!) The riders all have long firearms to attach to their backs which locate nicely with a lug to a small - in the cavalryman. I had read that there was resistance by Ottoman cavalry to firearms but this may be a Western misapprehension.

These join my other 4 squadrons which are my own castings on Warlord plastic horses.

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There is no real information about uniforms for this period; not in the regular/guard Kapikulu units and certainly not for the provincial Sipahi cavalry. This allows me to choose a mix of schemes, some units in similar colours some in a complete mix. This will work okay for the successor cavalry to the Sipahi once they pretty much disappear in the mid 1700s.

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For the Vienna to Great Northern War period I am going to rate Sipahi as relatively competent. Maybe not as dangerous as previous times (and described as "useless against regular European troops".) However they are still great individual horsemen and relatively keen. No armour at this time and probably no use for the mundane tasks such as picquet duty and scouting but there are lots of other cavalry who can carry these out in an Ottoman force.

This makes 14 BLB squadrons (7 Piquet units) now painted. The infantry need to catch up a bit, next up Azabs, Albanians and some more Janissaries. 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

A New Painting Station

 I finally had a chance to reorganise my study and replace the huge clunky computer desk with a separate desk and painting station.



I went for a pair of Hilver Ikea desktops with a bamboo finish. They are  hardwearing, reasonably sustainable and look quite smart. The most useful part is that they can be matched to adjustable legs (for the desk not me) so that I can have one set at a height that suits me for painting.  For the computer / writing desk I have re-used the base units from the old computer desk that give me a comfortable height for typing and writing, which is about 10cm lower than the painting station.



I adjusted my rolling drawer unit  a draw lower so that it will fit under the surface. The top drawer has all my small pots and dropper bottles of paint, so it is quite easy to look down onto them and pick out whiche ones I need. The first deep drawer has a bunch of craft paints in 60ml bottles as well as   glues, varnishes and spare 20ml pots. Another draw has all my tools, extra brushed and all the bits and pieces that we seem to accumulate "because it will come in handy one day." 


There is a nice big window facing east, so pretty good light during the day. I might in the future add additional light to augment the three adjustable spots in the ceiling and the lamps. No excuse now but to crack on with getting some toy soldiers painted...



First Outing of the Bactrian Greek Army

This was the last game we played before the current Covid madness crashed down on us. The first dozen units of my Bactrian Greek army had been staring at me accusingly from their shelf. Really needed to get them onto a table for that tricky first run-out and Les agreed to take them on with his contemporary Mauryan Indians (brave man!) I was volunteered to do the rosters for the armies and having see the Indians poor performance at the Battle Day game of The Hydaspes I knew it was going to be tricky to balance the encounter.



Bactrian Greek pike phalanx with Agema cavalry in support.


First of all the Indians would need numbers on their side. In Piquet a single fresh unit of reserves can turn a battle but they would need more than one. I opted for 16 units for the Indians, 12 for the Greeks, a 33% advantage. The details of the Indian force was based on the figures available. There were three elephant units so I pencilled those in straight away (I actually mis-counted and we could have double that up to 6 units using elements of elephant escorts; but who needs more than three?!) The Indian cavalry are no great shakes so they would need them all - 4 units. Also a unit of chariots, light or heavy, they are equally useless. For the infantry the choice was confined to close order bowmen. I added in 8 units, 4 as mercenaries and 4 as militia.


 

Right wing of the Indian army.


The Indian foot are generally taken to be armed with substantial swords perhaps used two-handed. This would appear to make them a very dangerous close combat opponent but historically they don’t really live up to this, being specifically described as rarely used, by Megasthenes (A Selucid Greek ambassador to Indian courts of the time.) “Indians do not readily fight so amongst themselves” being his assessment. It is curious that soldiers would carry a large and presumably expensive piece of kit if they are not keen on getting stuck in with it. I wonder if it had a more symbolic function; the identifier of its owner as a warrior perhaps?


 

Left wing and centre of the Indian army (just look at all those elephants!)


The Bactrian Greeks would have 12 units (which matched up neatly with my specifically Bactrian figures.) The available cavalry included 2 units of Iranian / Greek colonist lancers also armed with bows. A unit of guard cavalry or Agema, also lance and bow armed. The fourth unit was a mercenary Skythian horse archer contingent. A solitary unit of elephants was included, pretty much compulsory for this army. The foot was composed of the phalanx; rated as trained militia, so competent but not amazing. I classed their armour as only light, assuming it was all fabric or leather based with bronze helmets but only small pelta type shields. The two units of mercenary Thorakites were similar but with medium armour classification due to their much more substantial shields. This just left a sole unit of Cretan mercenaries, who are classed as Regular missile specialists. They are armed with bows as well as sword and shield.

 

 Right wing of the Bactrian Greek army.


The battle itself saw the Indians line up in a fairly conventional manner with the elephants masking the infantry centre and the right of the line. On their left they massed ¾ of their cavalry on the more open flank with heavy chariots to the fore. Across the field from them the Greeks likewise massed their cavalry and then lined up their phalanx with a unit of Thorakites on each end, the whole line echeloned to the right. On the Greek left was the Cretan archer unit supported by the rather smaller contingent of elephants. The guard Agema were stationed to the rear.


 

 


Mercenary thorakites and Cretans protect the Bactrian Greek left.


 

The Greek first move was to throw forward their Skythian light cavalry to harass the Indian chariots. The bowfire was ineffective but it did prevent the chariots closing with the rest of the Greek cavalry. Following up behind were the Bactrian-Greek lancers (who would have been mostly local Iranians.) These were shot at and thrown into disorder by the Indian chariots as they closed but still pressed home their charge. The lancers own archery was desultory and due to their fighting a disordered formation, the Indians were able to initiate melee immediately. Under Piquet rules however chariots are good shooting platforms and can cause morale checks but are at a disadvantage against cavalry in melee. This offset the disorder of their opponents and the chariots were narrowly beaten and attempted to flee. Not being able to outrun cavalry they took a lot of damage before scattering (off table.) The pursuing lancers now careered into a unit of steady light Indian cavalry. The Indians charged home but against heavier horses and well armoured riders they were again at a disadvantage and immediately broke and fled.



Elephants confront the pike phalanx in the centre.


In the centre the Indian Elephants rolled forward in a stately manner, carefully maintaining their unbroken line but slowed by the low hills they had to navigate. The front unit of the Greek echelon moved up to challenge for the ground and the pike phalanx edged forward so that its flanks rested on low hills. On the left Cretan archers (well-trained mercenaries) skirmished forwards through the woods to dispute that flank with yet more Indian elephants. The Cretans advanced and let fly but were soon running for the cover of the woods as the elephants trundled forwards.

 

Cretans skulking in the woods.


With the elephants in the centre slowing down their ponderous advance on the pike phalanx and showing no appetite to tackle the mass of spearpoints, the action swung back to the main cavalry fight. The victorious Greek cavalry had reined in from their pursuit but were now charged again by yet another unit of Indian cavalry. With the intervention of their general they just managed to reorder their ranks before the enemy made contact. The result was again the same massacre of the lighter unarmoured Indians. They fled but this time the Greeks did not pursue. (Luckily as they would have gone straight off the table. Instead the opportunity was there ahead of them, the rear of the Indian battle line!

 

The Bactrian lancers reformed themselves into a fast-moving road column and galloped around the flank of the Indian army. Just in time the Indians had the chance to about turn their back rank of units and avoid a bloody disaster. However one element of the army was not safe(?) behind the row of infantry, their King. Despite being on an elephant he was much too vulnerable against roving cavalry and almost certainly about to be captured or slain. We gave up the game at this point. Mainly in disgust at the ineptitude of the Indian army overall. The discussion was started however as to how to use them to any effect and some ideas were proposed for serious thought. The very clear lesson from the battle was the utter uselessness of Indian cavalry! They have light horses and no armour but do not skirmish or even have a missile weapon!

 

We will try some tweaks to make the Indians at least playable but trying to stay the right side of history. I still believe that the army is more about causing the enemy to run away, with the Piquet mechanism that allows elephants and chariots to initiate morale challenges and doing that early and often. In addition, our house rule making the infantry swordsmen Fearsome when within a move of the enemy, gives another possibility to damage the enemy morale (automatic morale check if the “Courage!” card is turned.) A few units that are a bit more capable in melee is the missing part of this army and not beyond the bounds of possibility considering they had previously encountered Alexander the Great and seen how it was done properly. Veteran mercenaries or hired foreigners might be a rationalisation for these more capable units. The other route to take is that we use the Indians mainly as allies of the Indo-Greek army and our battles will be the all too typical Indo-Greeks against their countrymen from Bactria.



 Indian cavalry about to charge rallying Bactrian lancers in the flank.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Bactrian Greek Foot Agema

An interesting chat over on Lead Adventure Forum about the wild and woolly components of a Bactrian Greek army (click here) reminded me that I didn't quite manage to finish off my foot guard / foot Agema/ Hypaspist unit for my own Bactrian Greek project. The uncertainty about the name is due to the almost total absense of evidence for their existence... Almost. There is a gold clasp from the grave complex at Tillya Tepe in Afghanistan that appears to show two soldiers that have a very Hellenistic look to them. This is my sketch of what I see of the gold clasp.




To me it looks like they are both wearing muscle cuirass body armour and a variation of the Boeotian helmet that is so ubiquitous on Bactrian Greek coins. They are definitely spearmen and their shields look quite dished or bowl shaped and perhaps with a rim. The closest Macedonian or Diadochi troop type that they remind me of is Alexander's Hypaspists.  Considering the way that the rulers of Bactria had broken away from the Selucid Empire, I don't think it is too unlikely they would have recruited a bodyguard loyal just to them. Basing it on a version of Alexander's elite formation would be one logical way to go.


The Victrix box of Theban hoplites that I had been plundering for the distinctive Boeotian, helmets was able to provide me with a dozen bodies in muscle cuirass, with spears and even a few of them with cloaks.  As I discussed previously I decided to add a few heads with the eastern version of the Persian Bashlyk or Tiara to give the unit a more exotic look to it. (click here)


The other way to give them an eastern feel was by their shield design. I had some quite dished round shields in the bits box so I decided they would do the job admirably. A symbol that I saw recurring through history in this part of the world was a winged griffin. So I found an image (possibly Achaemenid) and adjusted it to suit the size and shape I needed. Once I was happy I did few test prints before adding them to a sheet of transfers. I am quite happy with the results. They look suitably exotic as well as ornate enough to show the elite status of the unit. I gave the officer a spare LMBS decal for his shield which is a more standard Successor design.



The unit standard is another home-made decal, this time a basic Macedonian star design. They don't want anyone doubting their Macedonian pedigree. I made the cloth part of the standard from greenstuff for reasons that escape me now... 

Bloody Xebecs!

It has been good to see how people are making the most of their extra hobby time caused by the Covid lockdown. Premier amongst those are the new series of 17th Century scenario "booklets" produced by Barry Hilton (Wordtwister Publishing.) Have a look at the webshop here: shop





Each of the packs contains a selection of vaguely linked scenarios along with the background and uniform detail where appropriate. In Barry's own words,

 

"The 4 Play concept is designed to achieve multiple objectives for the wargamer First and foremost, it aims to be entertaining In a series of small, quick games, players can grab an hour and complete a single mission or, spend a session completing two or three making for an enjoyable afternoon or evening.)"




This sounded ideal to me, I already have a disparate bunch of 17th Century figures with odds and ends from the ECW, Three Musketeers and War of the Grand Alliance and it is nice to get even a small selection of them on a tabletop. After a good giggle about the name of the project (I'm still very unsure about the idea of paying for 4play...) I had a close look at the sample copy that I had been sent. Small tables and a not too many figures seem to tick all the boxes for quick fun games that can be done over Zoom or Jitsi whilst social distancing is still in place.


As my current detour from the project that is itself currently distracting me from my planned hobby painting, is 17th Century naval games, I flicked first to the naval scenario. A fight in the Gulf of Hormuz, ideal for the smaller vessels and limited numbers that suit my nascent fleets. But then, wait a minute, what the hell are those? Bloody Xebecs!



The Xebec was the descendant of the pirate galleys that plagued the Mediterranean Seas.  They were elegant and fast, lateen sailed ships with a decent broadside and the capacity for a large crew for boarding actions. An easy addition to fleets in dinky little 1/2400 models but not easy to find in 1/450 scale that I favour...




After some fruitless scrabbling around on the Interwebs, all I had discovered that might be suitable was the Pirateology models that must be made of solid gold to command the prices that they do, or print your own 3D models (I don't yet have a 3D printer...) I did  read througha lot of modelling articles in all sorts of materials and that did twig me to a posible donor model, that might allow me to kitbash a couple for my own cheapskate requirements. I dug out the freebie Black Seas sloops that had been taped to the front of one of the Wargames magazines.


  


Quite a small tubby looking boat but suitably heavily armed and no shenanigans cutting it down to the waterline needed. The masts would be no good but are easily replaced. The trickier part would be adding the distinctive pointy prow and overhanging stern that give the type its distinctive looks. I liked the whole notion of pirates and Middle Eastern raiders anyway so I thought I'd give it a go. So far I have added some plasticard pieces to give me the overall outline. Next step will be building on that skeleton with a few bits of putty work to make it look like all one boat. Then new spars and sails. If the process is not too painful I may end up with a small flotilla of Xebecs.



(Of course if you have any sense just get the scenario packs and play them with whatever figures/models you have to hand...)


If you want to see how these ended up have a look on my Workbench blog here...


Galleys and Galleons

I thought I'd get some boats on the table this weekend and try out a set of rules. I had bought an electronic copy of Galleys and Galleons by Ganesha Games and liked the way it looked on the page. The proof is, as ever, in the pudding however... I decided to try the rules solo, as written to see how the gameplay felt. Obviously I had already started tweaking the rules to do things they way I wanted (Why am I like this!?! I started wargaming at the height of WRG and Barkerism; I should be accepting the words as written on the holy page!) I decided to use the three ship models that I have based and ready to go (I have a few others painted but not based.)



 

The two sides were an English Merchant Galleon and a pair of Dutch privateers; a sloop and a Brigantine. The rules come with multiple scales so that it can be used with smaller playing areas and different sizes of model ships. I used a card table, which worked fine for this size of encounter. The ships are characterised by just two statistics: their Quality and their Combat value. The Combat score for a ship cannot be more than 1 point higher than the Quality score, so this means that the larger ships with higher Combat scores are at a disadvantage when rolling for initiative. So really Quality is a slight misnomer, it is more like a combination of agility and crew quality, whatever the naval word for that should be. The upshot is that smaller vessels can be easier to activate giving them a balancing advantage against gun-laden behemoths.

 



In my small playtest the English galleon outgunned either of its Dutch opponents individually but I was interested to see if the quality advantage swung things back their way. I decided the best tactic for the Dutch was to try to get on both sides of the enemy ship to try for a raking shot and the threat of boarding from two directions. The English weren’t too keen on this outcome so used the wind advantage to try to pick on the sloop before the combined attack could develop. This was when I realised that, as a merchant ship, the English galleon had a minus on all shooting so was hard pressed to cause damage to the enemy. Luckily for the English my aggressive tactics caused the Dutch sloop to miscalculate its course and collide with the stern of the English ship. Now the Dutch (and me) discovered that this was a bad idea against a ship with a reinforced hull and took 2 damage. The decision to grapple and board was equally poor against a high sided galleon and the sloop took another point of damage as their boarding party was repelled.




The sloop’s heroics/idiocy did pin the English ship in place long enough for the Dutch brigantine to fire a close range broadside into her. This caused major rigging damage and a permanent loss of speed for the galleon. The sloop took the first opportunity to cut grapples and put some distance between them. With three hits it counted as “crippled”. The sloops three white initiative dice had now all changed to red and each time a 1 is rolled on activation something bad will happen including the chance they will surrender to a nearby enemy. Any further damage once crippled causes a critical hit which includes the chance of sinking or catching fire.




The remaining Dutch privateer was finding out the hard way that it had perhaps bitten off more than it could chew. Although it damaged the St George (the English galleon) even a raking shot was not fatal against the galleon’s reinforced hull. The English ship was quite prepared to battle it out but a slight change in the wind direction meant that it woul;d have to turn into the wind to get closer to the brigantine. With the damaged rigging this was going to be a slow affair. I decided to stop there as a decisive outcome was looking unlikely.




I did enjoy the short playtest of Galleys and Galleons. I do like the activation mechanism where there is an inbuilt risk in trying to do too much with any one ship and worse outcomes possible once damaged. The rules are at the simple end of the scale but with interesting tailoring possible for individual ships by applying different characteristics (for example the sloop had “RazĂ©e” which allows additional move distance and the Galleon had “Reinforced Hull”, as previously mentioned.) There is little in the way of book-keeping required, although I will probably make up ship sheets as a reminder of which characteristics a vessel has and the effect during the game. Definitely worth trying some more and I can already see possibilities of house rules that I might try. (I know, I know…;) ) 

Caesar vs. Germans

We had the little used 15mm armies for a run out last weekend. The later Republican Romans masquerading as Caesar's army on an expedition across the Rhine. Les had amalgamated the allied contingents of several armies to produce a veritable horde of ferocious Germans. The Germans outnumbered the Roman army by about 2 to 1 in units. They were however outclassed in quality and armour, also the Romans had a more efficient Sequence Deck (3 Leader Check cards and no Milling Around for example.)



With just two command groups and no cavalry, the German options were to be a bit limited (and rightly so.) My plan (such as it was) consisted of a right hook with all my veteran units and the sole, decent quality, Hearth Guard unit attacking the Roman left. With a line of the plentiful standard Warriors to their front to absorb the Roman pila, this would allow the second line to charge in and win the day! The standard Warriors would suffer badly from missile fire having only a feeble shield for protection (very light armour class.) The Veterans have only a marginal upgrade (light armour) indicating a slightly sturdier shield or maybe a helmet.



My only other stratagem was to line one of my skirmisher units along the forest edge on the Roman right flank. This was to suggest that ambushing units were lurking therein. I'm not sure that they fell for it however.


The battle went about as well as was possible for the German side. The Battle Lust card came up at a very opportune moment. [This card acts as an extra Melee Resolution card and gives the Germans a bonus in melee as well.] The flip side is that victorious units have no choice but to pursue. Also every unit under Battle Lust that is within a move of the enemy must move into contact using up available impetus to do so. The unfortunate timing for the  Romans was that they had not had a chance to react to the overlapping German units on their left. This meant that the Battle Lusted Germans were forced to turn and fling themselves at this open flank. A combination of frontal attacks, this flanking charge and rotten dice rolls caused  this Roman flank to crumple and several units to rout to the rear.


The third line of Romans (near the corner of the rulebook) watch as their colleagues ahead of them are roughly handled.


With the success of the right half of the German army (even before the decent veteran units had got involved) the left hand command of the army was also ordered forward. The skirmish line of bowmen was successful in disordering some of the leading Roman units and the Romans sensibly refused to waste their pila on these light infantry.  When they did  brush aside the skirmish line, the disorganised attack was less effective that the Romans needed to swing the battle back their way. To add to their woes the bowmen along the edge of the forest moved up to pepper the unshielded flank of the advancing Romans.



Fleeing Romans in the centre being pursued  between their own lines.


The hard fighting and requirement to rally disordered units had quickly depleted the Roman supply of Morale Chips (these represent the overall staying power of an army, they are reduced by casualties and routs and spent on rallying or forcing enemy morale checks.) The final straw for the Romans was when the victorious German units that had pursued routers through the intervals in the Roman army finally had a chance to halt their pursuit (their enemy had routed off table). They both managed to halt and turn around. This now resulted in the Roman left being both damaged and surrounded. They were also (although not aware of it) about to face the better elements of the German army (my cunning right hook plan.) This was a sensible place to finish our game with effectively no hope for a Roman victory.



This decisive victory was achieved in effectively one turn of the game of Archon (Piquet rules.) The Romans really needed to hold on and be viable into a second turn when the Battle Lust card would no longer be in effect. It really did highlight that it is not enough in this rule set to have all the advantages in quality and equipment; the smaller better army needs to win the initiative and choose where the action will take place. Good dice rolls is also useful.


Caesar contemplates a rare reverse in his glittering career (obviously an off-day!) 

Ottoman Massed Timarli Sipahi

Finished and based a unit (2 BLB squadrons) of Timarli Sipahi, figures by Warfare Miniature. Excellent miniatures, very dynamic and easy to ...