Thursday, 15 June 2017

Expanding to 20th-Century Wargaming: Bolt Action

My first World War II miniature, a Warlord Games Imperial Japanese Army NCO, assembled whilst watching The Bridge Over the River Kwai for inspiration.

This blog began as an effort to chart progress in my ancient warfare projects, of which there are two main thrusts:

1. The Punic Wars (which is really an excuse for armies from the whole Western Mediterranean)
2. Greeks (which dovetails with the first - I kid myself that somehow that's efficient!)

As if that weren't enough, a friend has lured me into World War II wargaming by offering to help paint some of my figures if I agree to field an Imperial Japanese Army force so he can fight the Pacific War.

Everyone else in our area seems interested in the war in Europe despite the fact that we're based in Malaysia (I know, who am I to talk? Look at my Ancients project).

Damon's invite was timely, since to tell the truth of late I've started to look at figure ranges for the Malayan Emergency and Warlord inter-regnum China, Mark Copplestone's wacky Back of Beyond range in particular, with its 'Dare to Die' units; what's not to love about half-naked brutes swinging big swords and blasting with a Mauser?

No rule set has caught my eye but local players are using Bolt Action. It's not the most historical approach given the emphasis on equal point games, but it's a gateway to period gaming that other rulesets can serve better at a later date.

I ordered one of Warlord's Starter Deals that comes with a free tank. With two boxes of 30 Imperial Japanese Army infantry, a command HQ, scout car, medium machine gun section and a 97 Chi-Ha Tank, that's well over 1,000 points and will serve me for a good long while.

In retrospect, I should have ordered the Special Navy Landing Force boxes as they are the same sprues but with extra metal heads and two metal command figures for the same price under the deal. I could have then mixed and matched. No big loss though.

Though I don't care for the politics the Japanese Army is an apt choice for me since in my martial arts practice I have studied or tried three weapons associated with their armed forces of the period. I study the Toyama school of swordsmanship used by the officers, the short staff art of jodo (though it wasn't used in the field), as well as an exposure class to jukendo, the bayonet form derived from French methods.

Naturally, the first figure I assembled was of an NCO charging with his shin gunto. I've had a go at cutting target mats with one of these. It was much shorter than I expected, but kept a good edge despite much written about their substandard quality.

The NCO plus my experiment with coloured wood filler on the base. Looks good despite some tendency to crack when drying.

I'm assembling my force for the Malaya and Singapore campaign of 1941-42, with an eye towards Guadalcanal for Damon's US Marines to pepper.

Two Fat Lardies have a doorstopper of a campaign book on the Japanese invasion of 1941-42. Their Fall of the Lion Gate has 21 scenarios for their I Ain't Been Shot Mum company-level rules. It should be easy enough to shave off some platoon-level action from these guidelines.

There are some Perry Brothers' Desert Rats on their way to serve as Indian Army and 1st Malayan Regiment troops for Malaya and Singapore. A check with a local WWII enthusiast suggests that their helmets and gear can be used as is for the Indian and Malay troops. If I pitched the flesh tone right I may be able to paint them up for dual use.

At one point I was worrying about whether I would need to order some separate metal heads from Woodbine wearing the khulla and turban. I may do so at a later date but for now, let's go the cheap and cheerful route.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Iberian Painting Experiments

I've just realised that I've not updated this blog in nearly six months. How time flies with parenthood and a hectic job. All has not been quiet on the hobby front, however.

After settling the baby for the night I forced myself to start painting my Victrix Iberians. I needed to settle upon a painting method that was visually pleasing but fuss free and fast. As a working wargaming parent time is now a highly precious commodity. Time when my eyes are rested enough to squint at a 28mm mini is even more scarce!

Below are the initial results of three different approaches. From left to right: (left) white base coat, shade with wash, then highlight in white blended with the wash to produce a softer off-white; (centre) block paint, washed all over with Army Painter soft tone, no highlights; (right) grey base coat working up to white highlights, the Kevin Dallimore approach.

 Whilst the Dallimore approach gives the sharpest contrast between recesses and raised detail the brightness of the white on both the right and left is probably unrealistic. I have some doubt whether the ancients could achieve shiny bleached whites. That said, historical considerations aside, the bright white does make the figures stand out. I will try some quick highlights on the tunic of the middle figure to see if a sharper impression results.

That said, this pseudo-Army Painter approach (I can't bring myself to use the nasty floor wax dip) produces acceptable results fast.

Armas De La Antigua Iberia

Also aiding the Iberian endeavour is my recent acquisition of Fernando Quesada-Sanz's Armas De La Antigua Iberia (Arms of Ancient Iberia) which is one of the best illustrated resources in print of ancient Iberian weaponry, armour and way of war. It is the Peter Connolly of ancient Iberia.

The English translation from Pen and Sword keeps getting pushed back, and I needed an excuse to practise my Spanish, so I asked my parents to lug back the weighty tome from their recent Spanish holiday.

There are still a few nagging questions about Celtiberian arms and armour that I've not been able to resolve from the book. Archaeological evidence indicates that - contrary to wagaming conventions - the Celtiberians used the round caetra shield rather than the oblong scutum. The latter was likely a Carthaginian import following the First Punic War and it took off mainly in the Iberian levant that was subject to heavy Phoenician influence.

Grave contents in Celtiberia also seem to show a lack of armour, with the exception of a single round-disc pectoral from the c. 5th-century BCE. (See this extremely enlightening paper by Quesada-Sanz that illustrates arms and armour by period).

It may be that rather than the mishmash of typical Celtic and typical Iberian armour styles one finds in say, the Crusader range, the Celtiberians may have been unarmoured for the most part (no mail or pectoral plate).

Alas, I have 20 of these mis-clad buggers from Crusader, though I can handwave their dress away as the accumulated arms of veteran Celtiberian mercenaries.

Helmets also appear to be conical rather than the reversed jockey cap Montefortino, which only really takes off after the conclusion of Hannibal's War.

This is a fantastic example of an actual Celtiberian helmet unearthed near Zaragoza.

Similar helms with a peaked brow. The only 28mm figure I've seen which features these is from Relic, but only one. The other Celtiberians come with Montefortinos.

Through careful selection of straight-edged swords and indigenous helmets it may be possible to construct a more accurate Celtiberian out of the Victrix kit. The options therein are mainly representative of Iberians under Phoenician influence (many Montefortino helms and scuta), but they come with an equal amount of caetra. It is probably Victrix's most customisable ancient set thus far. More on that once I get the chance to put some together.

Warhammer Ancients Battles supplements are great resources for any system

I lost my eBay virginity last month with a haul of out-of-print Warhammer Ancient Battles supplements.

WAB was the first ancients ruleset I ever encountered. I picked it up in my heyday of playing Warhammer Fantasy Battles (5th edition, if I recall correctly) in the late 1990s. I never played it and can't remember exactly why I bought it. I wasn't much into history at that time, perhaps it was mere curiosity and the Warhammer brand. I bought Rogue Trader for pretty similar reasons. Fortunately, now that I've become far more interested in ancient history than the fantasy derived from it, I was rather glad I had picked up the rules.

I don't plan on playing WAB anytime soon. Whilst the broad Warhammer rules approach is very familiar to me I can't warm to figure removal and unsightly movement trays, nor, as a parent and busy bee, do I have time for games that take many hours.

Where WAB might see some use for me is as a warband ruleset. It is granular enough to give small games a sense of depth, whilst a lower number of models will speed playtime up. Really, WFB, the parent ruleset, with its implicit 1:1 representation ratio always felt more like a warband system rather than a big battles ruleset.

So why drop some cash on WAB now, years after Warhammer Historicals folded up?

Their period supplements are superb. Despite using other rulesets the wargaming material and potted histories in the WAB supplements far exceed much of what is available on the market today. Today's Hail Caesar scenario books from Warlord are rather thin on both details and text by comparison. In addition to the historical backgrounds, the WAB supplements were chock full of army lists, scenarios, modelling and collecting tips. They were community-produced sourcebooks, written by veteran hobbyists and, for the most part, that translated into a quality that went beyond the ruleset.

Some were a little thinner on detail than others, such as the Spartacus supplement, but they are still full of useful gaming details that can be readily adapted. I couldn't resist getting it after re-watching Kubrick's Spartacus recently, as well as my recent acquisition of some Marian Romans for a Sertorius campaign. Surely I could expand them into a Servile War campaign? Really, it's just another case of wargamers magpie disorder. Shiny shiny buy buy.

I am particularly fond of the Hannibal & the Punic Wars supplement by the late Allen Curtis who was a fountain of knowledge on TMP on all things Punic. That book really reads like a labour of love and includes details I've not seen elsewhere, such as an in-depth Ligurian list and a number of lesser scenarios from Hannibal's War.

Jeff Jonas' Alexander the Great is, like the Hannibal supplement, an excellent compilation of a veteran wargamer's knowledge on playing and collecting the army of a great general. Jeff's website is a great resource for wargamers interested in Hellenistic armies.

I picked up supplements covering other periods and armies that I have enormous ambition but no time for. Byzantium: Beyond the Golden Gate fed my appetite for a Sassanian army and helped fill in my ignorance of their Byzantine opponents. Thematic Byzantine, Tagmatic Byzantine... oh I'm so lost.

The Art of War offered a convenient way to wrap my head around ancient Chinese armies, though my wife knows plenty about this period. I find myself rather more sympathetic to the nomadic Xiong Nu than the sedentary Chinese. This is probably due to the fact that I've been listening to a long audio series on steppe empires throughout the ages. A nomadic horde sounds great, and I've been eyeing Foundry's Skythians, but no no no. There's no time, and I'm not convinced that the typical wargame can adequately simulate the drawn out manner in which nomads wore down and evaded their opponents over days and weeks of skirmishes.

The Siege & Conquest supplement offers a detailed look into the opposite pole of warfare, namely sieges. It's a thick solid rules expansion that could readily be adapted to other systems. It also boasts a number of scenarios in the Conquest section of the book that are also good fodder. Given my lack of experience building terrain it's likely that this will sit on the shelf for a time.

Fall of the West was an impulse buy. I presently have zero interest in this period, but I might warm up to the downfall of Rome in its dotage some day.

I also picked up the revised version of the first WAB, version 1.5 as it's known. I discovered that I could have gotten by without it as it is exactly the same text and pagination (down to uncorrected errors) with a 32-page colour rules clarification and errata tacked on the end. The latter is publicly available as a download and in many of the supplements. The WAB 1.5 Facebook Group is pretty active and has the necessary files on its page.

Though it wasn't really necessary, I indulged my inner completist and picked up a copy of Armies of Antiquity. It actually is a good example of economical army list drafting. Based on the model of the core rulebook a particular list - Romans, Barbarians, Nomads - stands in for several similar nations or a single nation over time (with appropriate options included or excluded).

I had ordered a copy of Chariot Wars as the period remains rather mysterious to me, but a packing error led to me being mailed another copy of Armies of Antiquity. Luckily I was refunded, but I'm still on the hunt for a copy of Chariot Wars. It would be nice to explore the warfare of the Iliad.

So there we have it, plenty to read. I love reading rules supplements. Call it a D&D holdover. I must say that the paper quality is very good and the books still look fresh after years out of print. It is a shame Warhammer Historicals got shut down, but ancients gaming lives on. They gave a tremendous boost to 28mm wargaming, my chosen scale, and helped me make a shift from fantasy to history gaming that has been without regrets.

The Warhammer mythos owed so much to ancient and medieval armies and I find it more fascinating to play the actual sources of inspiration, though I do hanker for my High Elves and Empire army now and again.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Lake Trasimene - Order of Battle

The battle of Lake Trasimene 217 B.C. was Hannibal's second major battle in Italy but took the form of an ambush rather than a pitched battle. The army of Flaminius was ambushed on the shores of Lake Trasimene. The Romans were caught in march order and slaughter ensued with many thousands being driven to their doom in the lake. Following this, Hannibal's African troops were able to upgrade their arms to the best of the Roman ones.


Hannibal's army strength is unknown but it would not be much less than the 40,000 he had at Trebia where he had few casualties and those mostly from the Celts. I assume he was able to resupply from the Celts after such a handsome victory against their Roman oppressors.

We can re-use the Carthaginian order of battle from Trebia minus the elephants. What attrition amongst the men that may have occurred during the winter can be considered inconsequential for our units which are only approximations.

The troop ratio here is 150. While a ratio of 1:75 would work for the Romans and provide an army big enough for an 8 foot-wide table, this would be far too large for the Carthaginian forces to scale up to a 16 foot deployment.

Heavy Infantry - 9 units
4 standard African units (64)
2 standard Celt warbands (40)
3 standard Iberian units (48)

Light Infantry - 6 units
1 standard Ligurian unit (16)
2 African small units, skirmishers (16)
1 Moorish small unit, skirmishers (8)
1 Iberian small unit (8)
1 Balearic small unit, skirmishers (8)

Cavalry - 9 units
3 standard Celt units (36)
4 small Numidian units (24)
2 standard Iberian units (24)

24 units - 565 points


Lazenby argues that Flaminius would have found it hard to fit more than 25,000 men in the confines of the terrain at Trasimene. He assumes that there was a normal consular army of two legions plus allies.

The paper strength of a Republican legion was 4,200.

Total army strength was around 25,000 (Fabius Pictor):

Roman Legion I    4,200
Roman Legion III 4,200
Cavalry                 not fewer than 4,000 (Polybius)
Allies                    ~ 6,300 per wing

Employing a ratio of 1:150 to get us to one small unit of 8 models as the minimum infantry unit size means that :

Roman Legion I & III - 7 units
2 velites (16)
2 hastati (16)
2 principes (16)
1 triarii (8)

Ala Dextra & Ala Sinistra - 11 units
2 velites
6 hastati
2 principes
1 triarii

Cavalry - 4 units
1 Roman equites
3 Allied equites

22 units - 442 points

Since most of the Roman units are small this makes for a tough fight where they are vastly outnumbered, but due to the non-linear scaling of points to unit size in Hail Caesar the Roman force is only 78% of the points of the Carthaginians, provided the units are fielded with the typical stats rather than with the reduced stats suggested for Trebia on account of army fatigue and lack of brekkie.

This may make for a more competitive game rather than a simple exercise in sweeping Roman units into a watery end in Trasimene's waters.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Antiquity's Next Top Hannibal: Who's gonna lead my army?

Welcome to the pilot episode of 'Antiquity's Next Top Hannibal' where we scour the 28mm landscape to find a general worthy of crushing Rome, or at least make a good show of it.


We are looking for an iconic presence on the battlefield and one with a passable resemblance to the original general from Carthage.

For a younger Hannibal a clean-shaven look is preferable, unless recently down from the Alps or after a long time living rough in Magna Graecia.

He must be at ease with his staff and capable of banishing any doubt that this is the commander-in-chief.

Sartorial leanings must be Hellenistic, though some nod to the Old Land further East is most welcome.

Our contestants hail from Armorum & Aquila, Crusader, Relic, Foundry and are joined by a surprise entry from Aventine.

The first event is the infantry lineup, followed by a joint cavalry and foot lineup, then the contestants must mingle with the men and win their respect.


Aaaaand.... here they are!

From left to right: Hannibal (Crusader); Hannibal/General (A&A); Hannibal/General (A&A); Hannibal (Relic); Hannibal's lieutenant (Relic - get him off stage!); Greek Mercenary General (Foundry); Carthaginian Officer in Samnite cuirass (A&A - what's he doing there? This stage is Hannibals only); Spartan Command (Foundry - Hey, the auditions from Sosylus are next week).


Now we have the staff out of the way let's have a look at the real contenders.

From left to right: Hannibal (Crusader); Hannibal/General (A&A); Hannibal/General (A&A); Hannibal (Relic); >gasp< a Roman Officer (Aventine); Greek Mercenary General (Foundry).

The last contestant from Foundry doesn't have a matching mounted figure and we were unable to find one. If any of the audience has a good suggestion to match this Steve Saleh sculpt the producers would be pleased to hear it.

Using the Roman from Aventine as Hannibal is a little scandalous, but I love their sculpts and they match very well with the look of Victrix. This one is fairly Hellenistic, but has a crested Montefortino helmet with scalloped cheekpieces.

We don't normally see this on Carthaginians in the wargaming world, but the archaeological evidence from the wrecked ships at the Battle of Egadi suggests that Carthaginians did use Montefortino helmets, and we also know from archaeological studies by Fernando Quesada-Sanz and others that the popularisation of the Montefortino amongst Iberians matches the Barcid conquest of Iberia.

All those actually named Hannibal were gathered for a special equestrian selection from the judges:

From left to right: Crusader, A&A, A&A, Relic

I've commented on the first three on the left from Crusader and A&A in the previous post, but they are all by the same sculptor. The Relic sculpt stands out from the others because it is sculpted in what Relic calls "True 28mm". This means the eyeline is the same as the other models, but its proportions are more naturalistic, eschewing the thick limbs and wide bodies and heads that Games Workshop helped popularise.

This makes the Relic figure an uneasy match with the rest of my troops (drawn from chunky 28mm), though it is a very detailed sculpt, easily the closest in resemblance to the historical evidence and comes with a personalised mount. He just looks rather slight compared to the competition.

Now, skinny models tend to win on the life-size catwalk, but not necessarily here in 28mm land.

The standing Relic Hannibal does look rather leaner since the mounted version has the bulk of his horse to make him more imposing. There really is some fine detail on Hannibal's horse. Some review spoke of the need for jeweller's glasses. I can see why.

Since we're talking about standing, let's move to the last trial: mingling with the men.


The staff officers that our Hannibal's need to pass muster with include the A&A Carthaginian in the Ksour Essef cuirass, he's perhaps a veteran officer who will fight all the way from the Alps to Magna Graecia and back to Africa. A recent Osprey renders someone like him as a shield-bearer.

The second officer in the back represents the Spartan Sosylus, Hannibal's tutor in Greek and his historian. A civilian would probably do better, but I don't have one and nothing says Spartan like this getup.

The third chap is a Relic senior officer from their Hannibal on an Elephant (that will be considered in a separate post on elephants). His animal skin gives him a rather Roman look, which could make him another veteran of the Italian Campaign. Like the Relic Hannibal he is rather slender of build though we must allow thin people their moment on the field of glory.

They will be mounted on a circular command base at least 60mm wide.

1) Crusader's Hannibal

This Hannibal looks fairly grizzled and hunched (though this is the typical Crusader pose adapted from a Macedonian pikeman maquette). The beard sets him apart from the younger Hannibal of 218 B.C. I've thought about using him as Hamilcar Barca for the First Punic and Truceless Wars.

2) A&A Hannibal 1

This one from A&A looks fairly young, round-faced, perhaps too young and fresh for a Hannibal. He may be a good candidate for one of his brothers, Mago or Hasdrubal since he comes mounted.

3) A&A Hannibal 2

A&A's other offering as a possible Hannibal. Good detail on the cuirass, a nice crested helmet, not much can be seen of his face. His pose makes him to mind more of a sub-commander, delivering the general's orders rather than the great man himself. Once again, a good candidate for one of the Barca brothers.

4) Foundry Greek Mercenary General

This is a nice figure, but I'll admit I'm partial to Steve Saleh's work. This is substantively similar to the Philip II offered by Foundry except this one has a sword instead of a pike. He's imposing, Hellenistic, sharply attired and carries himself like a battle boss. But he does look a bit old for Hannibal during the Italian Campaign. He may make a good general for Zama. He also lacks a mounted counterpart unlike the other contestants.

5) Aventine Roman Hannibal

Like almost anything Aventine this chap looks good. He also comes with a mounted analogue, with different armour and leg gear but with the same helmet. His main drawback is that he's facing 100ยบ from where he's pointing and his weapon hand is optimised for a spear (or is he crushing Roman will?).

6) Relic Hannibal

He doesn't look too skinny and definitely looks like a cerebral general. He brandishes no weapon because it's his double envelopment tactics that will slaughter Romans by the thousands. He's just watching it all unfold.

Placing Sosylus to his rear helps offset the relatively huge size of the Spartan. One could argue that he is a lean, parsimonious man driven by the iron will to break Rome. Thus he stands out from his well fed troops. Putting the Relic officer next to him also helps soften the scale clash.

7) Relic Hannibal Mounted

Here's the other approach I took to blend Relic's True 28mm with chunky 28mm. I put Hannibal on his horse so that he would loom over his attendants on foot. I have to say that this does look alright.


I really do want the Relic Hannibal to work. Besides the fact that I coughed up for both the general set and the Hannibal on elephant, it really is nice to have a figure modelled on the historical representations of Hannibal (however accurate they may or may not be).

At the same time, some of the other contenders are strong and most will definitely serve as sub-commanders, perhaps with small retinues of their own.

What do you think? Who should win 'Antiquity's Next Top Hannibal?'

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Carthaginians Compared - A&A, Crusader, Victrix

I posted a review of Victrix's Warriors of Carthage plastic set a while back and shared it on TMP. User McWong73 from TMP expressed interest in seeing some comparison shots with Carthaginian models from Crusader Miniatures and Armorum & Aquila (A&A).

I purchased these 28mm metal figures to act as command units, generals and cavalry for plastic Libyans from Victrix.

Here they are.

Infantry Command

The Carthaginian ranges from A&A and Crusader are both by the same sculptor, Marc Sims, so the similarities aren't surprising. However, there are a number of differences.

Let's cover the similarities first. The overall look of the models are similar, crisp and well-sculpted, and the equipment follows a Hellenistic theme. The latter influence also seems to stem from the sculptor's reuse of the maquette developed for A&A's Macedonian phalangite range.

The models all have a forward lean that only seems to make sense with the posture of advancing pike (Crusader's Macedonians stand upright).

A&A's advancing pike Macedonians
My suspicions appear to be confirmed by the presence of a telamon (shield strap) on all the Carthaginian infantry despite them being equipped with a hoplite shield. The telamon was used on the smaller Macedonian phalangite's pelte shield to leave the left hand free to support the weight of the long pike. This wasn't needed in the hoplite's armament because the combination of the bowl-shaped shield resting on the shoulder and the counter-weighted long spear allowed single-handed thrusts.

In any case, the presence of a telamon on infantry carrying a big hoplite aspis isn't a deal breaker. The shield will cover most of the torso. Plus, we have no exact idea of how Carthaginian infantry looked in full battle dress, though I think it most likely that the telamon wouldn't be present as evidence such as the Chemtou memorial points towards the use of aspides or scuta.


Similarities aside, the A&A figures are 1-2mm shorter than the Crusader ones. Their forward leaning posture also makes them shorter than the Victrix figures, though they are close in length when compared heel to crown. The first picture above shows a Victrix Iberian standard bearer for comparison on the far right since he has a similar gradient of forward lean as the Sims models. He's still a touch taller.

The A&A and Crusader command do look a little short next to the Victrix Libyan spearmen, but the Carthaginians - who formed the officer class in the army - were reputedly short of stature, though I don't know if this was true in relation to their Libyan subjects.

In any case, a different look for the officers and spearmen is fine, especially if one wants to play up ethnic differences in the Carthaginian army.

There are also differences in the casting quality and metal of A&A compared to Crusader. Crusader has fairly sturdy metal, enough to withstand casual pressure but softer than that used by Aventine or Foundry.

The metal used for A&A is pretty soft. The weapons and helmet feathers (on their Samnite range, for example) tend to bend easily, if not break off altogether. This is exacerbated by A&A's choice to ship their miniatures with as many product codes as possible mixed and stuffed into a ziplock bag and mailed in a soft envelope or lumpy card parcel. Crusader figures come packed by product code in foam and clamshells.

Compared to what I've read from other customers I've been fairly fortunate, but I still received my A&A Carthaginian cavalry command with the fragile left feet missing from three models and hanging by a thread on a fourth.

I know the Carthaginians practiced cruxifixction, but amputation?

More careful packaging would help resolve this, as would better quality control on the metal which was quite porous and brittle for my first batch from A&A, with some holes in some models and a fair bit of rough venting, suggesting a torn mould.

That said, A&A are friendly and are more than willing to send replacements if there's a complaint. It's just that they would save themselves some money and their customers some grief by getting it right in the first place.

I received replacements from A&A for the damaged cavalry as well as for a leader figure that had its nose blunted off. They also forgot to put in the transfers I ordered. However, when the replacements arrived in the second order there were further mess ups in the shields and corresponding transfers. Following another complaint this was redressed but that left A&A more out of pocket and myself less enthusiastic about a repeat purchase.

Perhaps I've been spoiled by the excellent, meticulous and thoughtful service from A&A's Belfast neighbour Aventine Miniatures, but when we place an order we should expect to receive the goods as specified and in good condition.

Carthaginian Liby-Phoenecian Cavalry

I mentioned above the fragility of the A&A horsemen's feet. The replacements I received seemed somewhat studier, perhaps a better mix of metal was used, but I'm not chancing a test. One peculiarity of the A&A Carthaginian horsemen sculpts is that the right leg is longer than the left, as can be seen in the photo above. It's not just that the right foot is angled down while the left foot is level, the bottom of the leg greave is uneven.

This asymmetry has been fixed in the Crusader sculpts on the right. But as you can see from the unit shot below it isn't really noticeable once the figures are mounted up. As with the infantry, the Crusader cavalry are a shade taller. The Crusader horse is also larger and leaner bodied. I believe both are ebob sculpts.

I'm not a fan of the A&A horses. At least two of the sculpts either have a problem with the mould or the metal is not settling properly. The shot above shows the problem.

The rear left leg is hollowed out and the nether regions look like they've been kissed by Nurgle. There's a fair bit of awkward filing and greenstuffing to be done here.

The regular A&A horsemen are uncloaked whilst the commands of both lines and the regular horsemen of the Crusader range all have cloaks. This can be helpful if you want to designate one unit as guard cavalry.

The Crusader command has all the usual accoutrements we've come to expect in wargaming: leader with sword, musician and standard bearer. The A&A command has an Officer with his hand raised like the English Queen (front left), a leader with a brandished sword, and another command with a hand positioned to hold a vertical standard (left of centre). So, if you want a banner for the A&A cavalry you'll have to supply your own. The Victrix Numidian Cavalry set comes with a streaming Punic-style banner on every sprue, so I expect I will cannibalise one of those should I need it.


Here the tables are turned somewhat. A&A offers a mounted and standing 'Hannibal and General' set. It's not clear which one is Hannibal but both are very nicely sculpted with good armour details. Their horses are no different to the Liby-Phoenician cavalry.

I did have some of the aforementioned problems with porous metal, rough mould tears and a damaged nose on the central general, but A&A kindly sent a replacement. The standing centre general is resting a hand on his shield. This hoplite shield is slightly oval rather than round and you will probably need to freehand any decoration on it.

Crusader's Hannibal is rather plain by comparison. He's in an unadorned linen corselet, bearded and unhelmeted. The helmet is a combed Attic helmet that is fairly ubiquitous for model Carthaginians.

The plainness of his supplied mount was too much for me (it's the same as the regular cavalry above) so I asked Aventine to sell me one of the mounts from their 'Pyrrhus and General' set. Reminiscent of Alexander's Bucephalous, it's set to rear with a Hellenistic-style animal pelt for its rider. Keith from Aventine was very happy to oblige.

Given the bullion wealth of the Barcids I rather thought Hannibal would be better kitted out despite his reputation for sleeping rough along with his men. So I may well end up using this model for an earlier Hamilcar Barca should I do the First Punic War or the Truceless War. The beard is a better match to numismatic representations of Hamilcar than Hannibal (who appeared unshaven on Iberian coins, but who knows what a winter trip through the Alps will do to one's grooming?).

My thoughts for the youthful looking A&A generals is to use them as Hasdrubal and Mago Barca. As for Hannibal himself, to my eye the handsomest model on the 28mm market is Relic's and that should be on its way to me.

There's a fancier Mercenary General model from Foundry that could fit with the A&A sculpts. Bearded with plenty of bling, he looks more like a Philip II of Macedon, but he could easily be a later Hamilcar or a later Hannibal at Zama. Foundry and the A&A sculpts appear very compatible.

On the far right of the photo I've thrown in a figure from A&A's Samnite Command set. This is a really lovely figure that would look great on a command stand with Hannibal. With his pteruges, beard and crested Attic helm he's clearly not meant to be a Samnite. Instead, his triple disc cuirass is a pretty good match for the owner of the Ksour Essef cuirass, an Oscan armour found buried near Carthage.

It's a handsome handsome artifact, so tied into the history that connects Southern Italy to North Africa via Hannibal, and it's lovely to see it represented for the tabletop.


There are pluses and minuses to both A&A and Crusader, though Crusader wins out in terms of figure packaging and metal quality. A&A's post arrived pretty quick and they were open to address specific complaints, although I found myself having to file a complaint with every order. Not fun. I didn't deal with Crusader directly. I got their figures via Caliver Books, which was a tortuous and disheartening process where they forgot to mail the order after a month and it arrived incomplete, and remains so. Next time, I'm going via Northstar.

Aventine and Foundry offer hassle-free service, with Aventine really taking the prize for going the extra mile, no mistakes and being a friendly face. The other companies I've dealt with have a fair way to go. Aventine's horses fit the A&A and Crusader range very well if you care to get replacements or upgrades for leaders.

A&A has some really stand out sculpts, especially the generals and the Ksour Essef warrior. Their other figures blend well with Crusader and offer a wide variety for Carthaginian collectors. You effectively get a double-sized range with more varied sculpts than one normally finds in metal.

While their line infantry are unlikely to mix well in the same unit with Victrix plastics due to height, using their command figures - which is what I've done - works well due to comparable chunkiness. A&A and Crusader also supply one of the few options for Carthaginian cavalry that match Victrix.

Besides the Carthaginians, I also acquired the Celts from A&A and the Celtiberians from Crusader, but I'll compare them in separate posts with other Celt and Iberian ranges.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Collecting an Army: how many units is enough? - Part 2

It's not strictly necessary to calculate troop to figure ratios in order to have a good game. But, for a scenario to broadly conform to historical conditions, for opposing armies to be appropriately scaled to each other, and for that scale to fit to your playing area, it helps to work out troop ratios based on historical accounts.

Working troop ratios and dimensions is also helpful for planning your purchases. In my case, a lack of clear planning of unit dimensions led me to collect too many figures. Luckily with a Carthaginian army the component nationalities are readily used for other army projects.

Below is an example based from the Second Punic War.


The battle of the Trebia, 218 B.C. offers a good starting point for building a Hannibalic Army for the Second Punic War. It also offers roughly equal sizes for the Carthaginian and Roman forces, around 40,000 troops each.

Following the all cavalry clash of the Ticinus, the engagement at Trebia was the first pitched battle between the Carthaginians and Romans after Hannibal crossed the Alps.

After the arduous Alps crossing, Polybius (III.56) says that Hannibal's army contained 12,000 African and 8,000 Iberian infantry, with not more than 6,000 cavalry. After the victory at the Ticinus, the Celts joined in large numbers.

By the time of Trebia Hannibal's troops numbered 20,000 heavy infantry (Africans, Iberians, and Celts), 8,000 light infantry (mostly African and Iberian, including Balearic slingers) and over 10,000 cavalry. In addition, his brother Mago commanded an ambush force of 1,000 Numidian cavalry and 1,000 picked infantry.

The additional 9,000 infantry at Trebia beyond the 20,000 combined heavy and lights just after the Alps must be credited to the Celts, as must 5,000 horse. It is likely that the Celts had few skirmishers.

This gives a total at Trebia of 29,000 foot and over 11,000 horse.

Borrowing from the analysis of Trebia in Lost Battles, with some modifications to reconcile the totals listed after the Alps and at Trebia, this breaks down into:

21,000 Heavy Infantry
9,000 African
6,000 Celts
6,000 Iberian

8,000 Light Infantry
3,000 Celts (including Ligurians)
2,000 African (Libyan)
1,000 Moors
1,250 Iberian
750 Balearic

11,000 Cavalry
5,000 Celt
3,000 Numidian (light)
3,000 Iberian

~30 Elephants

In order to translate this to the tabletop for practical play we apply a scaling factor to the above numbers to get a reasonable headcount for the number of figures needed for an eight foot-wide game.

Following Hail Caesar's recommended unit sizes I am using 16 man standard units, 8 man small units (typically skirmishers and lights) and 12 man standard cavalry and 6 man small cavalry. Celt warbands and the like are 20 men strong.

Employing a ratio of 1 figure to 150 historical troops, with some rounding off involved, breaks the above numbers down into (number of models in brackets):

Heavy Infantry - 9 units
4 standard African units (64)
2 standard Celt warbands (40)
3 standard Iberian units (48)

Light Infantry - 6 units
1 standard Ligurian unit (16)
2 African small units, skirmishers (16)
1 Moorish small unit, skirmishers (8)
1 Iberian small unit (8)
1 Balearic small unit, skirmishers (8)

Cavalry - 9 units
3 standard Celt units (36)
4 small Numidian units (24)
2 standard Iberian units (24)

2 Elephants

26 units = 42.3% infantry, 15.4% skirmishers, 34.6% cavalry, 7.7% elephants

611 points (with a Ld 9 General)

Elephant numbers were determined by allowing one for every ten units in the army.

This produces a battle line of 9 heavy infantry with 3 cavalry wide on each flank. (Skirmishers and lights are arrayed in front of the heavy infantry line). A total of 15 base widths (160mm each), or 2400mm, just short of 8 feet.

A 6 foot-wide game could be accommodated by trimming the cavalry down to 1 base width per flank, to fit within 11 base widths.

I initially planned for a ratio of 1:80 but this produced a battle line that was too big, around 10' 6" wide, which would be okay for a very wide game, but would require a special gaming venue.

This actually makes my initial project much more manageable. I bought too many figures!

A quick comparison between the list derived above from a single historical battle and the generic Carthaginian 3rd Century B.C. list in Hail Caesar Army Lists: Biblical & Classical shows quite different troop ratios.

The HC army list recommends that 66+% of an army's units should be infantry, excluding skirmishers (which can be up to 50% of the units), up to 25% cavalry, and up to 10% elephants.

Hannibal's actual army at Trebia was more cavalry-heavy, which is what allowed them to sweep away the Roman cavalry from the flanks in this and future battles. Even from the raw troop numbers cavalry amounted to 27.5% of the army, meaning that the Carthaginian army list in HC needs some revision for more historical play. I have one in the works and I'll get round to posting it later.

While an army list can be helpful for a generic game or figuring what types of units are in an army, as well as their game abilities, the army list cannot adequately replace an order of battle (ORBAT) derived from an actual historical encounter.


Polybius (III.72) claimed Sempronius's forces comprised:

16,000 Romans
20,000 Allies
4,000 Cavalry

Using a 1:150 ratio, the standard proportions of the manipular legion's components (a 1,200:1,200:1,200:600 ratio for velites:hastati:principes:triarii), and assigning the surplus numbers amongst the Allies to the hastati and principes, we get:

Roman Legions - 14 units
4 small velites (32)
4 small hastati (32)
4 small principes (32)
2 small triarii (16)

Italian Allies - 16 units
4 small velites (32)
5 small hastati (40)
5 small principes (40)
2 small triarii (16)

Cavalry - 4 units
3 small Allied cavalry (18)
1 small Roman cavalry (6)

34 units = 88.2% infantry, 11.8% cavalry

707 points (Ld 8 general)

If deployed in a checkerboard triplex acies this works out to an infantry battle line of 9 standard base widths plus cavalry wings 2 base widths wide. A total of 11 base widths.

Sabin has voiced some skepticism about Livy's claim that the Cenomani Gauls served as Roman allies, but they can be accommodated by broadening the battle line to 12 base widths, still shorter than the Carthaginian one.

A note for Hail Caesar: there's been lots of debate about whether small unit Republican Romans are overpowered compared to standard units. This is apparent from the points value (HC assigns one point per stat value; higher points, higher stats). The ORBAT above can always be modified to feature standard infantry units.

Roman Legions - 9 units
4 small velites (32)
2 standard hastati (32)
2 standard principes (32)
1 standard triarii (16)

Italian Allies - 10 units
4 small velites (32)
3 standard hastati (48)
2 standard principes (32)
1 standard triarii (16)

Cavalry - 4 units
3 small Allied cavalry (18)
1 small Roman cavalry (6)

23 units

552 points (Ld 8 general)
(versus 611 points for the Carthaginian list above)

If you want to retain small unit manoeuvrability then a more elegant solution that Rick Priestley once recommended to me is to tweak the stats. The points difference between the small unit and standard unit Romans above are due to the fact that while unit frontage halves the unit stats decrease by only 18% (including the scaled cost for pila and Drilled).

In that case, downgrading the stats of the Republican Roman small units from heavy to medium infantry, from light infantry velites to skirmishers, as per the manipular legion under the Camillan Roman list from the Army book, produces an army of 637 points to the Carthaginian's 611.

For Trebia and most of the Italian Campaign the Roman troops arguably should not be more powerful than the Carthaginians. They could on occasion be penalised with a Ld 7 Consul. For a Trebia scenario one could consider further downgrades or penalties - such as a 1 point reduction to stamina - to represent the weaker morale of the Romans who failed to eat the most important meal of the day: breakfast.

Roman Legions - 14 units
4 small velites skirmishers (32)
4 small hastati medium infantry (32)
4 small principes medium infantry (32)
2 small triarii heavy infantry (16)

Italian Allies - 16 units
4 small velites skirmishers (32)
5 small hastati medium infantry (40)
5 small principes medium infantry (40)
2 small triarii heavy infantry (16)

Cavalry - 4 units
3 small Allied cavalry (18)
1 small Roman cavalry (6)

Stats based on the Camillan Roman list in the Biblical & Classical Armies book. All units have a -1 to stamina to reflect their fatigue from crossing the icy Trebia river and skipping breakfast.

603 points