Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Saturday, March 30, 2013

1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry on parade

The ground troops for the 1st Brigade for 1977-82 are now finished.  I have the helicopters to do, but everything else is sorted.  I think this may be the only army I can say that I have actually fully completed (I could pretend to say that about my Romans, but we all know you can never have too many Romans...).

One of the M60A1 battalions (actually A3s, but who's checking?).

Two battalions of combat teams in M113s.

Overviews showing an air cav, three tank and two motorised battalions.

These pictures don't include AA or engineers, all the optional models for different years, or the dismounted combat teams.

Am quietly proud of how these guys have turned out, but the major credits must go to Heroics and Ros for producing wonderful models and figures, Luke Ueda-Sarson for making up the army list and ordering the packs for me (you don't find people who'll go out of their way to do that for you every day!), Luke's mate Rhys Batchelor for invaluable painting and organisational advice and Keith McNelly for his Spearhead / Modern Spearhead scenario generation system and general helpfulness.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Leven 6mm buildings giveaway (not mine)

Lee Hadley Ian over at the Blog with no Name is running a Leven 6mm buildings giveaway.  If you're interested in taking a look, head to this post here.

Thanks to Ray for the correction, and apologies to Ian, if he should read this!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

6mm progress

I'm mixing up my painting batches to keep things interesting.  Here are a couple of WIP shots of the last of my 1970s-80s Americans.

Before the sand (actually off white)...

After the sand...

Close up.

These now need a touch of black to finish of the MERDC pattern, a wash, a drybrush and an encounter with the weathering stick.  After that it will be time to base them up.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Gauls in progress

With the Spanish now out of the way I've decided to get started on my 15mm Gauls.  First up I'm doing the Gallic cavalry, since they were already prepped and ready to go.

I'd undercoated in light gray last year, and have over the last week blocked in the horses, tack and saddles in various shades of brown or black, stained the swords, spearheads, shield bosses and helmets with a black/Future wash, painted the backs of the shields, greened the bases and blocked in hair, beards and flesh with Turner's Grayish Brown.

Next up will be to stain the armour with a Tamiya smoke and black wash.  Then it will be flesh highlights, swords and spears, and time to start on the serious business, the fancy trousers.  I want to do that part right so have been soliciting photos and advice on TMP and will be going though the archives of fellow bloggers for colour and pattern ideas.  If anyone reading this has painted Gauls, I'd love you to comment with a link to some photos of your work so that I can steal from and admire it in equal measure!

I'm going to put together a spreadsheet to post here when I've worked out which colour combinations to use.

So here they are then, the wild Xyston horse (with some QRS cataphracts in the background) in their current state:

And who'd have thought they would so kindly include a 15mm Iggy Pop?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Introducing pre-battle stratagems.

A chap called ToneW at the miniatures page recently posed this series of questions:

Are people interested in gaming pre battle strategies in order to influence the set up of the miniature battle?

If so what do you find are the best methods to achieve this? or are there any rule sets that cover this well?

This is a topic which I have thought about a bit in the past.

I've often wondered if playing a mini matrix game beforehand would not be an easy, low-rules-overhead way to introduce stratagems into an umpired game (if you are lucky enough to have an umpire, that is!).  Each player would be allowed to make one argument for a stratagem and one counter-argument against potential enemy ruses.

The umpire would consider these arguments, rate them on their merits, dice to see which, if any, of the arguments succeeded, and then decide on appropriate in-game effects.

For example, before a typical ancients equal-points field battle, Player 1 might approach the umpire and proffer a "for" argument, which could go something like this:

"I give my troops an early breakfast and deploy them at sunrise.  The enemy has no time to eat and therefore his troops will begin to suffer the effects of hunger as the battle goes on."

At the same time, and without knowing the enemy's "for" argument, he would present a "counter" argument.  Let's say this one:

"To prevent the enemy getting the jump on me, I've had scouts out during the night who will immediately report back to me any suspicious movements, such as marches towards prepared or ambush positions."

The umpire might then decide that although Player 1's "for" argument is reasonable, the enemy has a slight advantage in light troops, so this reduces the probability of such a ruse working.  He gives the argument a 33% chance of succeeding.

Player 2 then approaches him with his own"for" and "counter" arguments.  Perhaps presenting something like this:

"As we are in home territory and know the terrain well, we infiltrate light troops into the wood in the centre of the board.  The troops are able to conceal themselves there until I give the signal for them to show themselves and attack."

His "counter" argument might go something like this:

"The enemy has been relying on local guides, and they will surely get a message to our camp if the enemy has a scheme that they are working on."

The umpire might consider that Player 2's argument is sound, given the situation, and gives it a 50% chance of success.

He now dices for each argument, but let's say for example's sake that both succeed.  In such an event, the umpire would compare each "counter" argument with the successful "for" argument and see how effective it might be in hindering the stratagem.

For example, Player 1's 'early deployment causes hungry enemy' argument is quite well countered by 'the local guide reports enemy intentions', so he gives the counter-argument a 50% chance of succeeding.

Player 2's 'ambush' argument is conceivably countered by the 'scouts out' argument, but feels that local knowledge is against them, so gives the counter-argument a 16.5% chance of cancelling the stratagem.

If we assume that both counter-arguments fail, the umpire will decide the effects of the stratagems and tell the players as appropriate.

He might tell Player 2 that his infiltration plan has succeeded, and he can order those troops from turn 3 onwards, but that the rest of his army is hungry because of the enemy's early start.  He would then note down the appropriate effect in his little notebook, perhaps something like this: "from turn 4 onward, Player 2's army must dice for hunger during the morale phase.  A score of 6 means that the army attacks from then on at a -1, the troops of the ambuscade excepted."

He might tell Player 1 that the enemy is indeed hungry, but instead of mentioning the success of the enemy stratagem he will secretly note that Player 2 has two units of skirmish infantry concealed in the wood in the centre, but their cover will be blown if Player 1 moves any of his units into said wood.

It would be the umpire's job to ensure that the arguments are kept reasonable.  Rating unreasonable arguments 'impossible' would probably help to keep commanders from getting over-ambitious.  It could even be done remotely if the umpire is familiar with the scenario and the rules.  An email exchange before the battle, after which the umpire dices for results and send instructions to the players could do the trick.  Of course, some of the fog of war would be lost doing it this way, but necessity being the mother of invention, no doubt means could be found to retain it as long as possible.

Ilipa with Lost Battles

When looked at from a tactical point of view, the battle of Ilipa was arguably Scipio Africanus' most brilliant field victory, for in it he outwitted and comprehensively defeated a larger force under the wily and experienced Hasdrubal Gisgo.  The embroidery on the saddle cloth was that the victory and its aftermath dealt the decisive blow to Carthage's Iberian aspirations, and with it her access to the kind of manpower needed to win the war.

In the days before the battle the two armies camped near each other.  With Hasdrubal's camp on an eminence, each day Scipio would watch the Carthaginian deploy his army for battle, seeing that the formidable African infantry - 24,000 strong - would form up in the centre and the Iberian allies rank up to the left and right of them.  In front of the Iberians went the elephants and the supporting light infantry while to the wings were sent the cavalry: Numidians on one side; Iberians on the other.

Each day Scipio would deploy his army in a mirrored fashion.  In the centre he would place his own best foot: 16,000 legionaries; Romans and Italians.  To the left and right of the legions he put his 16,000 allied heavy infantry from the Spanish tribes.  On the flanks he would deploy his cavalry, some 3000 all told, and in front of the main line his skirmishers.

Polybius tells us that there were 70,000 foot, 4000 horse and 32 elephants in Hasdrubal's army.  Scipio is supposed to have had 45,000 foot and 3000 horse.

Things continued like this for several days, and it seemed both sides were content to allow the other to make the first move.

But appearances were deceiving; for - unsurprisingly - Scipio had hatched a plan.

One morning he put it into practice.  After giving his troops an early breakfast, he deployed the army at sun up, sending out his cavalry and light infantry to harass the enemy.  Hasdrubal hurriedly gave his own order to deploy, and his troops did so smartly enough, in their usual fashion, but without time for food.  The skirmish actions were intentionally elongated, and the empty stomachs on the Punic side of the field began to tell.

At some point it must have became apparent to Hasdrubal that Scipio had not done things quite as expected.  He had in fact reversed the deployment of his infantry, putting his weaker troops - the Spanish allies - into the centre, and moving his veteran legionaries out to the wings.  Both sides now pitted strength against weakness, so Hasdrubal was perhaps not too concerned, but he had reckoned without the other ace that Scipio had up his sleeve.

When he felt the time was right, Scipio recalled the skirmishers and sent his legions forward in column to execute a series of what must have seemed baffling manoeuvres.  Eventually, and perhaps too late, Hasdrubal saw the legions form into their lines of battle against each end of his line.  Scipio's cavalry and light infantry, having presumably chased off the enemy cavalry, fell upon the flanks of the Spanish foot and the line began to tighten under the pressure.  In the centre, the Carthaginian veterans were fixed in place by Scipio's Spanish, whose advance had been outpaced by that of the legions.  The Spanish did not close quickly enough to expose themselves to prolonged danger, but nor did they allow room for the Africans to move to the support of the men on their wings.

The Carthaginian line fell back towards the hill at their rear, eventually breaking for the camp as the pressure told.  Although Hasdrubal's army was spared total annihilation by a sudden downpour, Scipio knew how to follow up a victory, and a few days later the 6000 remaining troops surrendered, exhausted, waterless and leaderless.

Carthage had lost Iberia and with it the war.


In Lost Battles, the action takes place on a featureless plain, as the hill which contained Hasdrubal's camp is considered to be off-board (it was not this way in the Strategos II precursor scenario, however).

Hasdrubal's men are divided into 8 units of Spanish heavy infantry (32,000 men), 6 units of African infantry (24,000 men), a unit of elephants, 3 units of skirmishers (40 elephants and 14,000 men), and 2 units of cavalry, 1 heavy and 1 light (4,000 horse).  Hasdrubal is rated an uninspired commander, giving the army a total fighting value of 63.

Scipio's army is made up of 4 units of Spanish heavy infantry (16,000 men), 6 units of legionaries, of which 4 are veteran (16,000 men), 3 units of light infantry (12,000 men) and 2 units of horse, 1 of which is veteran (3000).  Scipio is rated a brilliant commander and Silanus average, giving an army fighting value of 76.

*I actually made a mistake here - while juggling fatherly responsibilities during set up I missed a unit of light infantry on the Carthaginian side.  But by my own lights I mistakenly rated Hasdrubal an average commander, so it made no difference to the fighting value of the two sides, nor indeed to the outcome at all.  Still, I thought I should mention it in case there were some eagle-eyed observers wondering where the Balearic slingers are!

Hasdrubal deploys first, but because Scipio is a brilliant general he gets to move twice in a row, which allows him to replicate the manoeuvre made against the ends of the Carthaginian line.

Here we have the situation at deployment, looking from behind the Roman left (the blue lines indicate the Lost Battles zones).

Turn 2.

Scipio begins by advancing the cavalry on both flanks, attacking with his infantry, and bringing the Spanish forward in the centre.  He has mixed success: he hits the Numidians on the Roman right, but misses on the left.  Silanus has no luck against the light infantry in the Carthaginian right centre, but his commander on the other wing shatters the elephant unit and advances into the space vacated, ensuring that the Spanish enemy there are confronted early.

The Carthaginians attack on both flanks with their cavalry, scoring a single hit on one side and a double hit on the other.  As a double hit would shatter the veteran cavalry receiving it, Rome plays the "Favour of the Gods" chit and forces a re-roll.  The second roll is also successful, but only a single hit is scored, keeping the veterans on the field and able to strike again next turn.  The velites shielding Silanus' zone are also hit.

The Carthaginian infantry advances in the centre and on the right to secure the key zone (which is important for morale reasons).

Turn 3

The allied cavalry on the right shatters the Numidians and claims the now vacant zone.  On the left the veteran cavalry score one hit, but cannot dispatch the tenacious Spanish.  They will be vulnerable to being shattered next turn.

In the central zones Scipio's men score four hits, which push the light infantry screen back behind the main line.  Importantly, Hasdrubal has been forced to give up the "Favour of the Gods" chit to prevent a double hit in the centre.  It is now Scipio's to use.

Hasdrubal's men score four hits of their own, but two of them are all-out-attacks (meaning that both attacker and defender take a hit and become spent).  The cavalry cannot take advantage of the equites' momentary weakness, which may become a factor in the outcome.

Turn 4

Rome pushes strongly this turn, scoring hits five hits and shattering the last unit of cavalry.  The Punic line is now outflanked on both ends, and it will not be long before this tells.

Hasdrubal's Africans in the centre score a number of hits, but momentum elsewhere has been halted.

Turn 5

In an important turn for Rome the results are good.  Scipio's wing attacks...

shattering an enemy unit and routing another.

Silanus' wing scores two shatters, and the cavalry advances into position behind Hasdrubal in the centre.

The Africans inflict a double hit on the Spanish, but play of "Favour of the Gods" requires a re-roll which negates it.  In a desperate attempt to land a telling blow Hasdrubal plays "Favour of the Gods" in an attack, but Ba'al is looking elsewhere.

Turn 6

In turn 6 the killing blow is struck: the equites of the right score a shatter and the morale test sees the rest of the wing and Hasdrubal's centre rout (the centre has Romans to front and rear, giving it a negative morale modifier.  If not for this it would have stood longer), no doubt heading for the camp behind them.

Scipio turns against the remaining Spanish.  They resist, but are too exhausted to do anything more than hold on.

Turn 7

The last attack is made, and the last remnant defeated.


The Carthaginians started the battle with a handicap of 48 points in their favour for being fatigued (manifested in a minus to a unit's attacks once it is spent) and for having an inferior army fighting value.

The Romans scored 97 victory points in shattering eight enemy units and routing the rest, bar one withdrawn heavy infantry unit in the centre.

Carthage scored 31 points for spending the cavalry, the light infantry, the Spanish centre, and one allied legionary unit.  When this is added to the handicap, their total score becomes 79, giving Scipio a clear victory.

The outcome was not too dissimilar to the historical battle, but with the Roman centre a little closer to breaking than it perhaps was historically.

Key points

* The influence of the Roman commanders was very important.  The extra commands Rome could put towards combat bonuses influenced the outcome significantly.

* The "Favour of the Gods" chit probably  saved Rome from a game defeat in averting two sets of double hits.  Without these, two Roman units would have shattered and the game result (but probably not the battle) could well have gone the other way.  I think FotG is a great addition to the game.

* My oversight in omitting a third unit of Carthaginian light infantry would not have made any difference in the long run, but a different deployment might have.  There is some room for experimentation.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Almost there

Finally have something to report - my Celtiberians are almost done.  They just need a coat of matt varnish and the bases flocked.

This means that my Iberians are pretty much finished.  Just a few command stands to go, though I willl have to bring the shields of the medium cavalry into line with the infantry at some point in the future.

These guys are a mixture of Old Glory and Chariot/Magister Militum and are, of course, 15mm.  I'm very glad to have these out of the way.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Allan B. Calhamer

Sad to see that Allan B. Calhamer, the inventor of the classic board game Diplomacy, has recently passed away.

Diplomacy was the first board game I bought, and it left quite an impression.

My first playing memory of it is a two-player affair in the back of a station wagon with my cousin on a road trip.  We were about thirteen; it was all very seedy.  Some years later the cousin got arrested for stealing assault rifles (or so the rumour goes).  I'm sure it was more than just coincidence.

I also remember that at high school a group of schoolmates got together for a game.  I was Turkey, and I remember being publicly vituperative to my Russian ally when he stabbed me.  Of course, I could afford to be high-and-mighty: a Turkey allied with Russia doesn't need to do any stabbing!  But I must've laid it on a bit thick, because next turn we found a couple of players had jumped out a window during a 'secret meeting' and run off!

I'm sure that everyone who has played the game has got similar tales to tell.

So here's to Mr Calhammer: thank you for a magnificent game and some great memories.
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