Sunday, 11 September 2016

DELENDA EST ROMA! - My 'Enemies of Rome' project

This blog is to act as a record of my progress - or lack thereof - in completing an 'Enemies of Rome' wargaming project in 28mm miniatures.

1st Century BC-Head and shoulders bust sculpture.
Naples Museum. 


(Wargamers looking for the miniatures bit can skip to the Project Outline at the bottom).

As a one time student of colonialism and empire in the modern period, I discovered the literature and thought of ancient Greece and Rome in the course of exploring the intellectual referents of the Bush-era neoconservatives. These architects of the 'New American Century' and the Iraq War were rather fond of Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian War, also an influential book in the 'glass half empty' corner of contemporary international relations theory.

I wanted to understand what made contemporary Western imperialists tick. So, I started reading Thucydides and related material in the period, availing myself of the nicely illustrated Landmark series. While Thucydides remains amongst my least favourite writers of this period, I found the overall tale of imperial conflict between Athens and Sparta to be quite fascinating.

I also rediscovered miniature wargaming around this period after a brief reacquaintance with Warhammer Fantasy Battles. The High Elf army I was playing with leant itself to 'combined arms' action in the manner of Alexander of Makedon, whereby shock cavalry would complement a solid infantry phalanx. At least, this is what was successfully argued by Seredain the Cavalry Prince, the nom de guerre of a High Elf player on the Ulthuan forums.

This was entirely appropriate considering that most of the Warhammer armies had their roots in real life sources from classical antiquity. The High Elf army blended in Greek, Persian, and medieval European influences. The tactical advice was sound. In the relatively short run that I was once again active in Warhammer I didn't lose a single battle, mainly because I had a tactical plan that fit my army and my opponents often did not. Work and real life caught up, Warhammer started to drift towards a place I didn't enjoy, so I migrated to ancients with the release of the Hail Caesar ruleset.

This sparked a far longer interest in tactics and generalship in the ancient period. An interest that now finds me building up the army of Hannibal and Rome's other enemies.

Given Rome's substantial influence on modern Western imperialism, fighting Rome in the ancient world, by mustering armies of the people eventually conquered by them, offered some outlet for proxy aggression after all my immersion in anti-colonial studies. Perhaps I should have called this blog 'Beautiful Losers'.

Scale Shift

When I first considered this project four years ago I had initially opted for the 15mm scale due to budget constraints. It proved rather hard for me to find a manufacturer that produced Carthaginian and Republican Roman ranges that I was aesthetically happy with. Scale creep was a particular problem for 15mm. Basing was likely to end up a concession to DBx players, the majority of the local ancients scene, though I had no intention of going down that route.

I eventually plumped for Corvus Belli's Carthaginian range, which had fairly complete Iberian, Celtic and Numidian lines that fit. I was enthralled with projects by glorious mad buggers such as Olicanalad who had played out a Hannibal: Rome v Carthage campaign using Commands & Colors for the battles.

(For those interested, here's an alt-map of the game board by Mark Mahaffey).

I ordered most of what I needed from Corvus Belli before I got sidetracked by work for a few years, during which time CB shut down its ancients lines and went all out for Infinity.

When my ancients bug bit again (as an afterthought to the discovery of the free RPG Mazes & Minotaurs; what if D&D had been based on Greek roots instead of a European hodge-podge?), I looked at getting some Romans to face my Punic forces.

Sadly, the Republican Romans I was holding out for were by Warmodelling/Fantassin, which has suffered some financial troubles and, last I checked, were out of production.

Fortunately, two historical occurrences led me to 28mm. First, was the discovery that Victrix had churned out a fairly extensive line of Republican Romans and Hannibalic forces in plastic, bringing the price point to that of 15mm. The second factor was Brexit, which lowered the sterling enough to make it attractive to go all in.

Perhaps it was the early years with Warhammer that made 28mm seem like a 'natural' scale to me. Perhaps it's failing eyesight and the detailed sculpts of today that also have a strong appeal. I had also picked up some 28mm Greek hoplites before my hiatus. There was unfinished business at this scale.

I bought a box of Victrix Athenian hoplites from my local FLGS to assess their quality. I was satisfied and punched in an order before the pound recovered any further.


Here is a broad outline of the project.

Victrix Carthaginians (from their website)

Step One: Build up a sizable Hannibalic force comprising:

  • Africans (Carthaginians, Libyans, Numidians)
  • Iberians (Iberians and Celtiberians)
  • Celts
  • Italians (non-Romans from the South and North: Samnites, Brutii, Lucanians, Etruscans)
These would be the main troops to fight Rome in scenarios derived from the Second Punic War. Each nationality could also be expanded for battles before and after the Punic Wars. Hamilcar's conquest of Spain, the Numantine Wars, the Social Wars, the Samnite Wars.

These along with my Greek hoplites could be used as the basis of a Syracusan army in a pinch. There is a lot of diversity and flexibility in this period provided one is willing to take on a relatively large army project. The benefit is that parts of your Punic army can war against each other during different periods, though this veers into poorly documented and hypothetical territory. But this is what standard scenarios and pickup games are for. Until I acquire the Romans these are the kind of small scale games I could play. There's the 'Eagle Rampant' variant of Lion Rampant skirmish rules that could serve if my forces are particularly small.

Later on, many of the above nationalities can be parts of Roman armies against the Hellenistic kingdoms, another culture and region that interests me. That Pyrrhic line from Aventine is so tempting.

Victrix Republican Romans (from their website)

Step Two: Build up a four legion Republican Roman army.

  • Two Roman legions (Velites, Hastati, Principes, Triarii)
  • Two Allied alae (ditto)
  • Plus cavalry wings
This would represent a fairly standard two consul republican army. It could be expanded to suit with some of the Italian allies of the Punic army, who would mainly bolster the ranks of the hastati.

Side project: I mentioned earlier that there's unfinished business on the Greek front. I also have plans to build up an army that could represent the forces of Spartan king Agesilaus II, friend of Xenophon, who led a dogs of war force on an imperial expedition in Asia. I've long loved the aesthetics of the bronze Corinthian helm and am rather fond of Xenophon's escapades and work.

I may get rather bored of assembling and painting 12 phalanxes of hoplites, but the task will be made easier by three of those units being the lovely Steve Saleh Spartans from Gorgon Studios plus a whimsical single unit of his naked Spartans from Foundry. I've got some weedier Warlord/Immortal Spartan and Classical Greek hoplites that would serve as neodamodeis, perioikoi and Peloponnesian levy allies. The beefier Victrix hoplites could serve as mercenary remnants from Xenophon's 10,000.

Plus, there may even be some games involved as at least one local player is willing to deploy Persians if I make good on my hoplites and there's some owners of the Victrix kits lurking out there.


I'm fairly agnostic on rulesets provided they meet my criteria. I like those that lend themselves to fairly fast play, minimal geometry, historical scenario battles, and avoid tournament-oriented min/maxing. This rules out most of the DBx family and derivative rulesets such as Impetus. It also rules out WAB though the rules structure is eminently familiar to me. I'm just no fan of individual model removal.

The rulesets I'm gearing towards are Hail Caesar for the casual scenario group play, Lost Battles to scratch the simulationist itch, Commands & Colors: Ancients in miniature for one-on-one fast play, and possibly the intriguing grid-based To the Strongest! by BigRedBat who runs an inspiring blog for the 28mm ancients miniature enthusiast.

Enough writing for now. Onward with assembly!


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