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.