Monday, 19 July 2021

Back to Napoleonics

 Every couple of years I find myself propelled from my shelf of books of Napoleonic history and uniforms towards the section of the lead mountain devoted to that period. The current cause for this enthusiasm is the book "A Waste of Blood and Treasure" by Philip Ball.


This describes the Anglo-Russian invasion of the Netherlands in 1799, a campaign I knew very little about. In the latest mining into the unpainted figure storage I found the tiny part that is made of 6mm figures including a test stand of French artillery. 



These did remind me of my lack of satisfaction in painting figures of this size. I like that they do look much more realistic in the way they represent the unit and the ground that it would take up. I think the problem is that the basing become much more of the focus and my skills in that area would need some major improvement.

The other figures that I took another look at, are the excellent sculpts of the sadly departed Richard Ansell, that he did for the period. These were initially a range of Austrians  that  The Assault Group (TAG) released, which is where I first saw them and where the original denizens of my lead pile came from. Later this range was sold to Alban Miniatures who had started a range of Peninsula War French and British, again using Richard as the sculptor.  When Alban closed they had moved on to a sculptor with a different style, so the opportunity to refight the entire conflict in these excellent miniatures had gone for good.


Setting aside the problem about the availability of figures for another time, I decided to paint some of the French Leger (or light infantry.)  Despite the Alban offerings being more suitable for skirmish type games I reckoned I could get a small formed unit from the available figures. The uniforms depicted are a mix of campaign and full dress for a pleasingly irregular look to the unit. 



I am currently straying towards such heresies as "imagi-nation" style games in my plans for Napoleonics, so the precise regiment and year of the uniform chosen counted for very little to me. I was attracted to the earlier incarnations of the Leger regiments with natty white waistcoats and that was a good enough basis for my choice.



 

I did include voltiguer and grenadier variations on some of the figures, as my current thinking is to have units representing battalions on the tabletop. Despite their slim stature all the detail was there on the figures to pick out and any failures to do so lay purely at my door.






Wednesday, 26 May 2021

One From the Archives... and a Goodbye

This game was in 2013 (I think.)  We were in the old gaming room at Wayland Games, so that dates it. I think we had not had the 18th Century Indians out for a few years, so we decided to have a big bash with pretty much all the native figures that we owned between us and just a few of the European troops.

The British General (Jim)looks on, stoically ignoring the heat, the flies and the thousands of screaming locals who want him dead...


Each force had a minority of European soldiers, British on one side, French on the other. These were supported by natives raised and trained in the European manner. The majority part of each army is composed however,  of Indian allies and their more or less reliable mercenaries and feudal subjects.



On the French right were many Native Allied cavalry. These, and their British counterparts, started the game out of command and with poorly rated generals, to simulate the lack of aggression shown by Indian armies of the period. The cavalry figures are drawn from as many sources as possible to give the Indian cavalry a suitably ragtag look.



Anchoring the centre of the French line; a motley collection of artillery, including: elephant and camel carried light guns, erratic rockets, giant Zam Zama ("Thunderers") and French 12lbers.


Serried ranks of French Foot companies with sepoys in close support. They have locally raised horse on their flank and the dubious assistance of elephant borne artillery on their right. This is the best led and most competent part of the army and would face the main British assault.



With superior numbers of European infantry present and all of them seemingly invincible (graded Elite) the British unsurprisingly lined them up to be their main attack force. Their locally raised sepoys were placed in the front rank to absorb the enemy's initial volleys and artillery fire.



The British copied their adversary's deployment, placing all their guns in the centre of the line but pressing forward aggressively with the European guns.



Under the gaze of their devious native prince (Nick), the British Allied cavalry took their time to get organised before heading towards the enemy horse. This delay was a two-edged sword; they were able to manoeuvre together but the time taken caused them to bear the brunt of the "friendly" rocket fire stationed in their rear.

The two armies are deployed and ready for the off...

General M. de Rumble

With Gallic imperturbability the French general (Les) spares a glance towards the flank where his unreliable Indian ally is situated.


Only to see that he (me) has snuck away! The French could place little confidence in the wily Maharaja who declares for them one day and against them the next.


The British too were supported by a fair-weather Indian ally, who had brought all manner of troops including elephants, camels, mercenary matchlockmen, peasant levy and armoured lancers.




Massed behind their Sepoys (natives trained in the European way of fighting) the British companies of Foot prepare to take the fight to the enemy.


The British Brigade is stung into attacking alone after being raked by French and native guns.


The professional French artillery, with some assistance from their Indian colleagues, continue to chip away at the advancing lines. Eventually the British guns are brought forward to silence them.




Like an immovable wall. The thin French line (a scarlet coated Irish regiment to the left) hold their fire until the first companies of British are at point blank range.


The British Sepoys and French foot traded destructive volleys and the French, along with their general, were eventually driven from the field. However helped by an Indian cavalry charge, they did enough damage to the British attack that the survivors were unable to push on against the unbroken line of French Sepoys that were revealed behind them. The British attack had failed and having no trust in their Indian allies to win the day for them, wisely chose to quit the field.

When I started transferring this game report from the old website onto this blog I had no idea it was going to turn in an in memoriam post. This just happened to be one of the few games where I got half decent pictures of the other three players not just the toys on the table. It came as a terrific shock on Saturday to hear that Les Rumble had died suddenly and very prematurely. Les has been my good friend and fellow wargamer for over 40 years, so this game described above was just one of hundreds during that timespan. Like many of them my main memories from this day are not the action on the tabletop but instead the banter, chatting about sports, mocking each others' newly painted units and planning what games we could run on the venues terrain boards. I shouldn't be surprised I supposed but it brings home how lucky I have been in the company I have shared this hobby with.

RIP Les. Grab a good place near the bar, get some terrain organised on a table and at some point we will carry on with all the planned campaigns and scenarios we never got round to...





Sunday, 9 May 2021

Ottoman "Irregular" Infantry

Balancing up my Ottoman force required some infantry units be painted. The recent arrival of command figures from Warfare (thanks Barry) allowed me to complete a command stand for the Bosniaks I already had. These types of soldiers, raised for a short term period during a campaign, usually had Ottoman Turk officers. I chose a figure with a swanky fur-trimmed coat worn over his shoulders and a circular breast plate. The officer figure was done with richer colours but the others on the command stand kept to the duller limited palette used on the rest of the unit.




The flag was a nice example found for 17th Century Bosnia on the net. 


These types of forces occasionally gave the Hapsburg Imperial forces a bloody nose, particularly on their home terrain. In "With Talon and Claw" these are tribal infantry who deploy in a swarm or mob which probably fair enough. This means they are a bit more brittle than regular infantry but can move faster and through rough terrain more easily. Tribal infantry may also charge steady infantry and cavalry.




The new unit is an Orta of Azabs. These are the militia that was maintained in all the border regions of the Ottoman Empire. The quality of Azabs varied greatly depending on where they were. The better quality end of the spectrum were expected to go on campaign with the main field army although ideally they would free up regular troops from garrison duties.



The figures for this unit are almost all conversions. I took my inspiration from the Bruno Mugnai book on the Ottoman army which has an illustration of a European Azab on one of the colour plates. Most of the figures are Warfare Miniatures Tufeckci musketeers. Always hated these (they were a freebie too, I am SO ungrateful!) Everyone seems to produce Tufeckci based on early 17th Century Azabs. My conversions are to remove all the stupid feathers from their hats and add a simple wrap or turban to most of them. All of the figures also got a longer kaftan and/or baggy trousers. 



The officer is a conversion of a Brigade Games artillerist and the musician based on a Brigade Nizam-i-Cedit figure. The flag bearer is a Caliver/Minifigs model. He is a mountain of a man 6'2" to scale but then that is the sort of chap I would choose to look after the standard! The flag was another found online based on one for an Ottoman province on the Danube.



The Azabs in BLB would also be tribal infantry but I will also try them as regular infantry as they could be considered as capable of basic battlefield formations and manoeuvring. They wont have the special characteristics of Janissary units but could be useful in support of other regulars or in field fortifications.



These two units epitomise the colour and variety possible in an Ottoman army of this period. I plan on completing another unit of Bosniaks and then doing some Albanians and Arnauts. The aim is to field about 50% of the infantry as non-Kapikulu types.


 

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Sassanid Reinforcements

 A part of my slow-burning 3rd Century project has grown organically from an unplanned purchase. (Yes, some of them are planned!) I spotted that Hinds Figures had multiple lots available of Sassanid Clibanarii. These were older style figures and painted to an okay but not winning any prizes standard. This meant that the price was very reasonable  and with a little negotiation I made a deal for all 4 lots. 



Recently I added a painted unit of Cataphracts to the project. These looked like Newline figures and were very nicely painted. When I won the auction the seller kindly threw in some spare horses that arrived as a surprise with the figures.




These would handily make up the number of figures to 2 Piquet units, so I went in search of suitable riders. I had by chance bought some of the insanely cheap Warrior Miniatures El Cid figures (link) recently which included some knights in full mail armour. The idea had been to find some figures that could be converted to fit in with the smaller/25mm Clibanarii that I already had. The requirements were that the figures had to be small enough to sit comfortably with my existing figures and have generic enough armour and clothing that I could add just a new head and shield to create a reasonable approximation of an armoured Sassanid.



Replacement heads would be either from the Westwind Arthurian range or cast up from my own sculpts. As the Westwind heads are quite chunky 28s the latter was looking like an unfortunate necessity... As it happens the Warrior El Cid range is one of their heftier ranges, more like 1980s 28mm than old school 25s. This works well with the Newline figures so I grabbed a couple of the mailed cavalry and decide to try out some sculpts of Sassanid headgear.



The drawback with creating Sassanid heads is that the actual information on what they looked like is veeeeeery vague. The old wargame standby of a sort of balloon shaped dome on the heads of all the infantry and a good percentage of the cavalry figure, has fallen out of favour. (It did make Sassanids really easy to identify from 10 feet away...) The handful of existing helmets that are confidently identified as Sassanian cover 400 years and many cultural influences. The most consistent style seems to be a tallish segmented helmet with a domed profile from the side and a pointier one from the front.


There are variants of this found that are dated between the 4th and 7th C. AD and rock carvings that might be showing the same sort of thing. The only definitively 3rd C. Sassanian helmet found is the one from Dura Europos lost in the siege tunnel when it was collapsed. This has some shape similarity but is a two piece ridge helmet.  The Late Roman "Intercisa" helmets are also ridge helmets so there is even a chance that this is an early Roman example of the type. (The balance of evidence is that it is Persian however.)

 


I decided to have a crack at one of each. The low, bowl-shaped helmets of these figures were increased in height and then one had the central ridge added and the other, the strips that signify it is a segmented helmet. The  less well armoured rider also got some of the banded armour on his arms that seems quite common for cataphracts.


I am satisfied with these as a first go at producing my own faux-Sassanids. They did highlight the issue with separate heads if there are coifs/aventails involved... With more practise I think I will be able to produce something to go into a mould so I can do more conversions by head swaps.


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.

Back to Napoleonics

 Every couple of years I find myself propelled from my shelf of books of Napoleonic history and uniforms towards the section of the lead mou...