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 100º 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

Monday, 21 November 2016

Collecting an Army: how many units is enough? - Part 1

The wargamer needs something more detailed than long rectangles
though units are but rectangles from a plan view.

A challenge peculiar to historical wargaming is deciding on what units and how many one needs in order to play a particular army, battle or campaign.

Reconciling financial constraints with often vague historical details, as well as a practical size for a collection that can be painted and based in a reasonable amount of time, is quite a logistical and research challenge.

Perhaps this is why orders of battle appear so rarely in ancients wargaming, both in print and online, despite the fact that one can't run away from having some 'ORBAT' when one sits down for a game.

The kinds of rulesets one plays with and their representational conceits will also have a practical effects on how figures one needs to acquire and prep. In my case, I have to wrestle with the desire to proportionately represent the look and structure of the armies I collect versus pragmatics of getting a rules-conforming unit on the board.

For example, if each of 10 maniples of hastati was arrayed in a formation 20 files wide and 6 ranks deep, is it practical to use a 28mm scale battle line two models deep by 66 models wide to represent one of the acies of a legion (a 1:3 ratio)? For a typical four legion consular army with each model occupying a width of 20mm, this leads to a gaming table at least 17 feet wide, without factoring in space for the cavalry wings!

Clearly, we need a more practical scaling method for the ordinary game table that is at least six, and at most, eight feet wide.

Systems with a hard limit, such as points-based systems that cap at a certain number of points or have a 'sweet spot' point total, in some ways make things easier by forcing a limit to what you can fit into your budget. Examples would be Warhammer Ancient Battles and similar systems. You assemble your collection within a points total, perhaps allowing for some unit or option swaps.

This comes at a cost of presenting a 'balanced' game that may bear little resemblance to the asymmetries of historical battles.

Unless one is playing scenarios, the diktats of a 'balanced' game or the need to facilitate 'pick up and play' between acquaintances, makes building an army to a points budget a practical endeavour.

De Bellis Antiquitatis removes all this back and forth by removing the research process and capping the number of units at twelve. The army lists are set for you by the designer. They give a flavour of the troop types found in a given historical army, but they demand that one accepts that the tactical performance of all armies can be adequately represented by twelve units and that particular troop types have a scissors-paper-stone dynamic. Collecting DBA armies is, however, a doddle. Given the fixed parameters established by the designer it is a simple matter selecting the figures one likes the best.

I've never been able to warm to the system but I can see the appeal for those on a budget as well as those gadflies who have little attachment to any particular period and treat variety as the spice of life. I have a narrower interest in the historical battles of the Greek, Hellenistic and Punic Wars, with a remote dream of a Sassanian army some day (but with zero interest in the Byzantines that is some ways off), so DBA is far too diffuse to scratch my itch.

However, one can't dismiss the innovations DBA has delivered to historical wargaming. The army lists have proven very useful for giving a snapshot of what an historical army may have been comprised of. The decision taken by the Wargames Research Group to produce system agnostic reference works such as Duncan Head's Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars really makes the derived material useful for any system.

Lost Battles on the surface has some similarities to DBA in that it aims for around 20 units per side. It is avowedly more simulationist and puts a lot of effort into representing actual troop numbers and quality based on the historical record or educated guesswork where the former is missing or lacking. It reconciles its rough unit cap with the representation of actual numbers by making each unit of whatever class - heavy/light veteran/levy infantry/cavalry/etc. - equal in fighting power but each unit type represents a different number of troops of a given morale level.

So in a particular battle a single levy light infantry unit may represent 6,000 troops whilst a single veteran heavy infantry unit may only represent 1,500 troops. This is another way of saying that the fighting power of 6,000 levy light infantry is equal to that of 1,500 veteran heavy infantry, with a number of modifiers weighing in to jazz up combat results.

This has the advantage of paring down components to a reasonable number (20) whilst allowing for greater tactical manoeuvre than DBA's twelve pieces. It does make light infantry much more visually thin than they would otherwise appear on the battlefield, but Lost Battles aims to simulate broadly historical battle outcomes rather than aesthetics.

While Lost Battles 'bakes in' troop numbers and quality into a fairly set number of pieces other systems employ some sort of ratio between the number of units and actual troop numbers and pair this with differential fighting power. This is a fairly intuitive approach but it is one which leaves the gamer-collector the challenge of establishing the appropriate ratio for a given battle (it is more challenging to establish one that works across a campaign), and to set out appropriate statistics and abilities for troops of different types and qualities.

Commands & Colors: Ancients takes a scenario approach. Like DBA, the research process is done for you. The number of units one needs to acquire in order to replicate a given army can be simply derived from the block lists in the rulebooks. All you have to do is decide how you want to represent the blocks that make up a unit.

Use removable stands or hit counters, or some other unique basing solution. You could even just use a figure per block (as is done in Samurai Battles). This was the route I initially took. One doesn't even need to get all the units listed as the block maximums factor in outlier scenarios such as the all cavalry battle between Carthaginians and the Romans at Ticinus. Cutting out such outliers pares the project of conversion from blocks to miniatures to a more reasonable level of hubris; one doesn't really need that many cavalry units.

C&C:A handles troop quality a number of ways. The main approach is to assign different numbers of battle dice to each troop type depending on whether they are light, medium, heavy or something in between. The next level is to open or close certain dice results for certain troops with light infantry having the fewest consequential results. Morale is decided by the dice throwing up a Flag result but modified by the presence of leaders or a supporting battle line. Overall army morale is governed by the Banner system. A most subtle system does it build around dice rolls.

Another subtlety is the use of the apparently amorphous 'Auxilia' troop type that hovers between light and medium infantry. It has some of the combat power of medium infantry (e.g. Republican Roman hastati/principes) but with mobility, morale and missile power of light units. This would seem to model something like a peltast or theurophoroi.

However, it appears puzzling when used on a Republican Roman consular army that only had three infantry types (velites (light infantry),  hastati/principes (medium), and triarii (heavy)). It is generally accepted that Italian allies in the consular armies were equipped and fought in a similar way to the Roman legions. So why have an Auxilia class in the game?

Auxilia in C&C:A becomes a useful way of varying troop quality between scenarios. In some scenarios the allies or even the Roman hastati may be of poorer quality or morale, so the Auxilia classification allows for some finer simulation of historical factors. Until one figures that out it does present a puzzle for a miniatures conversion project for C&C:A.

To the Strongest! caters for both scenario play as well as points so it is a mix of C&C:A and WAB from that perspective. It's grid movement owes a lot to the author's long engagement with C&C:A. Rick Priestley and John Lambshead have recently criticised such systems as being more boardgame than wargame, but I don't see grid movement as such a deal-breaker. What it sacrifices in terms of 'free form' movement it makes up for in terms of time saved, reduced ambiguity, and less fussing over geometry. As for figuring out an army for a scenario one is left to do one's research on the ORBAT. Arguably, research is one of the joys of the historical wargaming hobby. It's a thinkers game on multiple levels.

Hail Caesar is geared for big battle, multi-player scenario play. If you're not using one of the published campaigns you're pretty left with option of doing your research or playing to a points total for pick up games.

Hail Caesar is geared towards the fairly experienced ancient wargamer that knows their period and offers a broad toolbox for recreating historical scenarios. Both HC and TtS! lend themselves to some ratio of representation between historical troop numbers and what one can field on the tabletop. TtS! makes this quite explicit in its discussion of scale.

So if one is collecting an historical army using HC or TtS! there is the task of figuring out actual, or close to actual, troop numbers and breaking that down into units and figures. One can play around with the footprint of particular troop types. Light infantry are often discounted in terms of model numbers in order to reduce the area they cover, especially with figures spaced in open order, though this may come with a possible diminution of their already limited battlefield impact.

Perhaps the best approach to take is to look at the gaming space one has available and plump for a scale ratio that fills the tabletop battlefield nicely - allowing for cavalry manoeuvre on the wings - and match the combined frontage of one's battle line against that.

Two practical table sizes to consider are the six foot wide table and the eight foot wide one. Both HC and TtS! are 'big game' rules pitched at spectacle and multi-player participation, so eight feet wide seems a reasonable place to start. Depth shouldn't be more than six feet since an adult can usually only comfortably reach three feet from the table edge.

In the next post I will consider an ORBAT for Hannibal's army at the Battle of Trebbia, which represents the first pitched battle of his Italian campaign. This should give a nucleus of units around which to firm up a Hannibalic War project.

Friday, 14 October 2016

To the Strongest! Arrives

Yesterday's post brought with it a print copy of Simon Miller's To the Strongest! fast-play ancient and medieval wargaming rules. Beautifully wrapped in purple crepe no less.

I had taken advantage of a flash sale a fortnight ago in conjunction with Simon's birthday. I purchased the digital PDF and the print copy. Simon also threw in a pack of MDF counters for the game.

I've been a long-time follower of his blog, the BigRedBatCave (which features scads of beautifully painted miniatures) and have been eyeing his new ruleset for a while. It also didn't hurt that Simon's based in Muswell Hill and I went to primary school there. Muswellian wargamers unite!

To the Strongest! (TtS!) heartily reflects what I now look for in gaming in general and wargaming in particular.

The rules need to be fast and intuitive, accommodate multiple players, be flexible in basing, whilst carrying enough flavour to reflect the tactics and quirks of the historical armies.

This last point requires scope for toolbox tinkering to reflect emerging or contested historical research. The actual performance of the manipular Republican legion or the regularity of actual Iberian warfare in C3rd-2nd B.C., come to mind as areas of ongoing debate and experimentation. Some rulesets are intentionally open-ended and customisable, others - given the expectations of tournament play - have a particular interpretation locked in which may be hard to modify before an official update comes along.

The more I learn about ancient military history the more it is clear that the best companion to the foundations built on educated guesswork and harder archaeological and literary evidence is an openness to testing and experimentation, such as can be seen in Sabin's Lost Battles.

This leads to another attractive feature of TsS! Simon has primarily been using it to stage re-fights of historical battles and scenario play is of particular interest to me.

Given that I already enjoy Hail Caesar and Commands & Colors: Ancients (CC:A), TtS! is appealing because it has elements similar to both. It shares Hail Caesar's multi-player, casual play approach along with representing troop particularities through succinct special rules that are readily open for tweaking. It echoes the card play, grid movement, and victory tokens of CC:A, which combine unpredictability, excitement, and speed.

Cutting out the measuring tape in favour of grid movement has raised accusations of being more boardgame than wargame (as in Rick Priestley and John Lambhead's new book on Tabletop Wargaming), but it does make for speed and eliminates the harpy of geometry.

The above are from the most recent restaging of Raphia that Simon has done with To the Strongest!
More on his blog.
The most exciting aspect of the rules (based on my quick flip through) is the inclusion of card-based Strategems that allow wily generals to play out tactical schemes above and beyond lining up their troops and mashing in the table centre, much like the actual accounts we read about in history. The ploy of Pyrrhus at Heraclea to switch armour with his bodyguard could be represented by the Patroclus scheme which allows a general to survive a failed save.

Deployment and initiative advantages for Scouting are another nice recognition of the grand tactical role of light cavalry and light infantry, along with cunning generalship.

Since my 28mm army is still very much in the process of delivery and construction, I'm hoping to test drive the rules with my CC:A blocks and some gridded paper. A fuller review will have to wait until then.

I will close by saying that Simon's service was outstanding and prompt. The digital rules were emailed to me within hours of payment, and the print edition popped into the post on the next business day and arrived in less than two weeks in Malaysia. Turns out that I'm the first customer in Malaysia. Let's see if that changes once my Punic project rolls out.

Simon was also kind enough to mail me a copy of an 'experimental' army list for the Polybian legion that reflects some recent debates in the Society of Ancients. (Some of the online discussion can be read here). It should be noted that the army lists for TtS! are all available as free downloads from Simon's online shop. This is a very affordable ruleset, the production quality is very good, reads well and is chock full of stunning pictures of miniatures.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Review: Victrix Numidian Cavalry

These are the best ancient Moorish/Mauretanian cavalry out there.

The figures are dynamic, conveying the impression of fast light cavalry dashing forward to hurl their javelins. The sculpting detail is crisp and there are a good variety of realistic javelin poses (at least based on my dim memories of high school athletics).

With the exception of their horses, which really should be stouter ponies, they are a very faithful depiction of the Moors on Trajan's Column:

You get 12 cavalry in each pack. Each sprue has three different horses, three different rider bodies, three shields, three javelin arms and a generous selection of six heads. Since their Greek sets - which started with a ratio of one head per body - Victrix now provides more heads than bodies in their newest sets. This is a good thing as kitbashing is one of the key appeals of 28mm plastic miniatures. 

As you can see from the assembled figures and the section of Trajan's Column above, the heads in the kit are a close match to the style displayed by the Moors, which is something of a corkscrew locks bob.

In order to better represent riders carrying multiple javelins there are two left hands bearing extra missiles. These require you to do a bit of amputation and grafting in order to replace the existing empty left hands sculpted on the rider bodies. This is easily achieved with a scalpel and plastic cement.

Each of the four sprues comes with command options: a Punic-themed standard with a crescent, a horn, an officer's sword arm, and a lovely cloak which is presumably for an 'officer'. These are fairly standard wargame convention. 

To my mind they are probably speculative for irregular light cavalry. They could be good fodder for a command stand and the leader bits could make a decent Prince or King, especially with that dashing cloak. That cloak, by the way, fits on a number of other Victrix kits. I dry-fitted one on an Iberian warrior's body and it fit fine.

The detail is so crisp that it is tough to find a metal personality figure that would match as a king. All the alternatives I've looked at are sculpted in a far coarser style.

So, if you are looking for ancient Moorish or Mauretanian cavalry, look no further. This is an affordable and exciting set.

...But are they Numidian?

This set from Victrix is marketed as "Numidian cavalry" and in appearance they fit with a fairly established wargaming convention of what Hannibal's famed Numidian light cavalry look like.

The corkscrew locks hairstyle, reminiscent of cornrows, and the name have often led to sculptors and painters depicting the Numidian cavalry as sub-Saharan Nubian cavalry rather than North African Numidians.

Here's an example of that tendency:

The Numidians, along with the Moors and Gaetulians, were the ancient ancestors of the Berber people, whose name derives from the Latin barbarus, after the Greek for barbarian.

Nowadays, their descendants may style themselves as Amazighe and can, in my personal experience, have blond hair and blue eyes, or look like footballer Zinedine Zidane, who is of Berber descent.

I bet he would have made a cracking cavalryman.

Skin tones are more a matter for the painter than the sculptor, though the manufacturer in this case seems to favour a look slightly south of the Sahara, complete with zebra skins.

From the Victrix Facebook page
In contrast to the Warlord "Numidians" the sculpt of the Victrix faces fits a North African rather than a Nubian look.

So what about the hairdos?

Duncan Head's Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars (AMPW) is an influential source of information on the look of Numidian cavalry. The first edition of AMPW has a joint listing for the "Numidian or Moorish Cavalryman" which references the depiction of Moors on Trajan's Column and leaves that as a the main clue to what ancient Berber horsemen may have looked like.

In a foreward to the recent republication of AMPW, Head notes that the depiction would be better served by reference to visual evidence provided by vases from Canosa, as discussed in a 1946 article, 'Numidian Horsemen on Canosa Vases' by M. Rostovtzeff in the American Journal of Archaeology (Vol. 50, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1946), pp. 263-267; you can view this for free here by registering with JSTOR).

Peter Connolly was aware of the Canosa Vase depictions, and even features a photograph of one in his Greece and Rome at War, but, in comparison to Head, Connolly goes on to make a less cautious extrapolation from the Moors on Trajan's Column to the Numidians of Hannibal.

Numidian horseman, from a Canosa Vase terracotta, 3rd Century BC, the Louvre.

Rostovtzeff bases his claim on comparing the similarities between the Canosa Vases and the images of Numidian kings on coins. Allen Curtis took a similar approach in several discussions on TMP, though he did not cite Rostovtzeff's article and may have been unaware of it.

Rostovtzeff goes through three different (North) African styles of hair and beard: the Numidian, the Libyan and the Mauretanian ala Trajan's Column. He also cites literary evidence from Strabo and Livy to back this up.

Here are some kings of Numidia:


Massinissa is the most relevant king for our period (ruled 206 BC - 148 BC). Note the hair is curled, but not in corkscrew locks.

Micipsa, son of Massinissa
Adherbal, son of Micipsa
Here is the head of the Canosa Vase Numidian rotated 90º.
It doesn't display any sculptor's marks suggestive of corkscrew lock hair let alone cornrows. The beard and hair are overall comparable to those of the kings above. I would say they are of a broadly Hellenic style. Rostovtzeff points out a sharply pointed beard as well.

The only Numidian king who resembles the wargamer's Moorish Numidian is Juba I, who ruled at a much later period, 60-46 BC. Juba II was later king of both Numidia and Mauretania.
We don't appear to have any reference to what Numidian cavalry of Juba's period may have looked like. It may be the Numidians of Juba's time shared the same hairstyle as the Moors (Mauri), we don't know. The Canosa Vases are from the 3rd Century BC, contemporary with the Second and First Punic Wars. The Trajan's Column Moors date to AD 113.

It surprises me to say this, but the heads from the Wargames Factory Numidian Cavalry are a better historical match. Wargames Factory got a fair bit of flack for ahistorical depictions with some of their models, but their Numidian hairstyles are a fairly close match to the available historical evidence. Unfortunately, their line is currently unavailable since their acquisition by Warlord. With Warlord's existing Nubian cavalry it's not clear if the plastic Numidians will survive.

Sample Wargames Factory Numidian from An Hour of Wolves site.
One could probably rummage around the bits box for suitable heads, especially from the broadly similar Greeks, though at this point I don't recall any ones with suitable beards. If I do find something that matches I may post up some photos of the kitbash.

Victrix is also producing a set of Numidian infantry with the same hairdos. The Carthaginians may have used some Moorish infantry. AMPW mentions this, though I'm not sure what the original source is. Anyone know?

The Horses

The Numidian pony was a stouter breed than the horses that come with the Victrix kit. AMPW has a good write up on the specifics.

I suspect the reason for the different look is economic. 

Victrix is in the process of rolling out several plastic horse kits, which include Iberians and Macedonians/Greeks. The horses for all sets are quite obviously based on the same model skeleton and have exactly the same poses (the same goes for some of the riders). The horses differ in terms of tack and bridling. The 'Numidian' horses come with the historically attested rope around the neck, used to choke the windpipe while the rider steered with a stick.

However, the poses are dynamic and exciting, so this is not a big loss. I can't begrudge the manufacturer some limited sculpts if it translates to lower prices. I suspect the cost is tied more to design costs rather than tooling and casting.

I do have to add that two out of the three horse bodies are rather prone to breakage in shipping due to very narrow joints and the lack of box packaging (they come in a ziplock bag). Several of my horses were received had the hooves snapped from their bases, though Caliver Books were kind enough to throw in a free miniature pack in my next order.

If the manufacturer or any retailers read this, I highly recommend some bubble wrap around these packs.
Arrows show points of breakage

  • Dynamic poses
  • Ample choice of heads
  • Lots of command bits that can be used for other models; the standard may look better on some Carthaginian citizen cavalry
  • Minimal mould lines
  • Crisp detail


  • The hairstyles are actually Moorish/Mauretanian, possibly of a later period than the Punic Wars.
  • The steeds aren't Numidian ponies, but some larger breed of horse

Looks aside, they will kill Romans just the same on the tabletop and hairdos aren't that striking from 'tabletop distance'. More will rest on the paint job which should include light skin tones, and some red on their goatskin tunics (see the new edition of AMPW for more).


POSTSCRIPT - Relating to some comments on TMP about whether the Moors' tunics may have been Romanised, here are some shots of the terracotta sculptures mentioned above from Rostovtzeff's article. The first figure is the one from Connolly. You can see a short-sleeved, ungirded tunic with fringing. What may be a baldric crosses the torso. Duncan Head says there were traces of red found on it.

Presumably they may look similar to common depictions of Libyan skirmishers. A cloak is visible on the second figure from the Victoria & Albert Museum, as well as on some coins of Syphax, Massinissa's rival.