Thursday, 31 March 2011

I don't need any encouragement!

My wife bought me this great map last week from the Ordnance Survey

It's got a map of Roman towns, major roads, villas and industrial facilities, overlain on a faint map of the current UK. It also has a few little panels and box-outs with a brief history of various Roman institutions (Villas, Towns, etc). All in all a very nice thing for any ancient history geek - but she really doesn't need to encourage me; I'm quite capable of spending/wasting time and money on wargames all on my own!!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Battle Report - Alexandrian Greek vs Persians

This is a battle report from my first game at Stalbridge Warmaster Ancient's day.

I was paired up with a fairly new player to the game called Jerry, who was in command of a Late Achaemenid Persian army led by Darius in his chariot, while I had Alexander's Macedonians led by the great man himself (Alexander not me!)

Alexandrian Greek (1250pt - Break Point 7)
Alexander - General
Leader x 2
4 Medium Phalanx
4 Unreliable Hoplites
2 Archers
2 Peltasts
1 Skirmishers (left in box!!)
1 Thessalian heavy cav
1 Companions Heavy Cav
2 Skirmishing Cav.

Persians (1285pt - Break Point 10)
Darius in Chariot - General
Leader x 2
4 Persian Infantry
8 Unreliable Subjects
2 Archers
2 Skirmishers
2 Heavy Cav
4 Light Cav
1 Light Chariots

The battle maps have been prepared using the free Battle Chronicler program, I heartily recommend downloading a copy! Through-out the report I'll be referring to "left" and "right" as per this map (and my perspective in the original battle). For those people not familiar with Warmaster Ancients I've provided a glossary of language I consider to be a bit 'Warmaster specific', at the end of the post.

The battlefield had a large hill with broken ground on the right flank and a smaller hill with a wood just to the left of the centre. I deployed the Greeks to move and take the centre ground, the Persians were deployed with their greater numbers across a wider frontage to try and overlap round the flanks.

As Gareth explained to us during set-up it was going to be a case of whether the superior Greek infantry could punch a hole in the Persian lines to be exploited by the Companion shock cavalry, before the Persian skirmishers and cavalry got round the flanks and disordered the Greeks.

The Persians had two solid brigades of subject infantry in the centre, with two small brigades of Persian infantry as reserves. Two big brigades of cavalry occupied either flank, with the heavy cavalry concentrated to the right flank Skirmishers and Archers covered the immediate flanks of the subject infantry.

I deployed the Greeks in two mirror image brigades of 2 phalanx, with peltast in front and archers to the flank. The unreliable Hoplite allies were on the right flank with Alexander to keep them in line and the cavalry formed a reserve. Giving me only 4 brigades to command initially (having forgot to deploy the unit of skirmishers!!)

Turn 1

I won the roll for first turn and ordered a general advance. Leader #1 got the right flank moving, but Leader #2 failed to move the second phalanx brigade in the centre, and thus the cavalry was trapped behind. Alexander got the Hoplites keeping pace, so my battle line was decidedly concave, but I was confident at this early stage there would be no problems.

 Jerry's turn started with a failed command on the right hand cavalry brigade, but all the other orders were passed and the Persians advanced solidly across the board, passing 7 other command checks.
Persian Turn 1
End of Turn 1
Turn 2

Luck was with me in turn 2 as I made most of my command rolls and recovered the shape of my battle line, first double moving the central phalanx brigade, before shuffling the left and right flanks a little and moving up the cavalry. Mindful of the threat posed by the light cavalry and chariots on the left I deployed the left hand brigade, moving the archers into line formation to guard the flank of the phalanx and moving the Peltast to the crest of the small hill to stall any charge by the Persian subject infantry. Alexander shifted to the centre and one of the leaders went out to the left flank.

Greek Turn 2
Persian Turn 2
In response Jerry was very unlucky with his command rolls, but nearly made up for it with his shooting. The left and right flank cavalry both advanced, but failed their 2nd and 3rd command checks respectively to leave them one move short of really causing problems for my flanks. His right-hand skirmishers moved up ready to shoot. In the centre however his general failed his command roll and the main infantry body stubbornly refused to move.

In the shooting phase the first genuine hostilities of the battle resulted in 2 hits on the front right Hoplite unit from the skirmishers, driving them back and confusing them! To make matters worse they had been pushed back so their flank was exposed to the hill which his cavalry was about to ride over, with no way of moving them next turn.

Turn 3

With the Hoplites immobilised on the right flank I somewhat lost my nerve this turn and mainly just shuffled around aimlessly in the centre. The exception was the non-confused Hoplite block who charged the skirmishers, who wisely evaded. This was the plan though as the Hoplites now had their flank resting on difficult ground protecting them from the flanking cavalry.

The Peltasts on the left pulled back to guard the phalanx flank and the archers shuffled along to accommodate them. All the phalanx unit shuffled forwards a touch.

In the shooting phase the left hand archers took a few pot shots at the chariots and succeeded in driving them back, although not substantially disrupting the brigade.
Greek Turn 3
Persian Turn 3
The Persian 3rd turn was very much where it all kicked off! The right flank cavalry brigade split to move the heavy cavalry into reserve and to move up the light cavalry, who then failed their 2nd command roll to charge! In the centre however Darius was calling the shots and first moved up the left hand subject brigade, before successfully double moving the right brigade into combat with the respective phalanx block.

The shooting phase was again useful with the right-hand Hoplites taking hits and again being pushed back and confused, this time by the light cavalry. The advanced block of Hoplites took two more hits and were threatened with a substantial drive back off the difficult terrain, so the rear unit decided to stand their ground, refusing to give way to the fleeing unit and forcing them into confusion.

The combat phase was quite messy. Because of the layout of the units Jerry had only been able to get 3 units from his brigade of 4 subject infantry into combat; one against the front of the Peltasts, one into the front unit of archers on the right and one unit in support. The Peltasts lost their combat and rather than risk being confused the Phalanx coldly stood their ground and refused to make way for them as they were pushed back, resulting in the Peltasts being destroyed. The archers made a decent effort of it, but were also wiped out. Devastatingly the loss of the archers meant the Persians could charge into the flanks of a phalanx unit, where the phalanx would be unable to effectively fight back. In the ensuing scrap a whole phalanx unit was lost and although the Persians had lost 1 unit of subject infantry and had two others down by a stand, the Greeks had lost a unit of Phalanx, Peltasts and Archers and had two stands of subject infantry in the flank of a second phalanx.
The Greek centre in trouble
End of Turn
VP: Greeks - 25; Persians - 150
Break: Greeks 3/7; Persians 1/10

Turn 4

As we were nearing our time limit for the game I threw caution to the wind in this turn. I firstly used initiative to charge the Thessilian heavy cavalry into the rear of the subject infantry menacing the phalanx, and the right hand unit of light cavalry into the same unit's flank. I then used initiative to charge my two left hand phalanx units into the heart of the Persian lines, my plan was to then double the Companion cavalry through the resulting gap into another part of their lines. Although the first command roll was a success they failed their second (needing 8 on 2D6). This forced Alexander to join the Thessalians instead as he was spoiling for a scrap.

Greek Turn 4
The Phalanx punched through the Persian lines, taking heavy losses themselves though trading one Phalanx unit for 2 subject infantry.

In the centre the effrontery of the subject infantry in the flank of phalanx was paid back, facing Alexander and chargers to their flanks and rear they were wiped out. The victorious Phalanx and light cavalry reformed while Alexander and the Thesselian cavalry rampaged through another 2 units of subject infantry to leave the Persian centre in disarray.
Alexander rampages through the Persian centre
Alexander leads the charge through the Persian Centre
End Game

Unfortunately at this point we had to stop with the game nicely balanced. Both sides I think felt they could have gone onto win.
End of Game
End of Game
Toting up the damage it was clear how close the battle was:
VP: Greeks 150; Persians 200
Break: Greeks 3/7; Persians 6/10

The Greeks had an extra turn, but both sides had a turn each of dictating charges, so it was probably reasonably balanced. Although the Persians had next turn it is hard to see where they could kill another 4 core Greek units in order to force them to break. The right hand Hoplites would probably be able to hold their own against the Light Cavalry, even if charged in the flank, certainly to the extent of avoiding being wiped out. There was a possible flank charge against the left Phalanx, which would have been fatal, and with some lucky command rolls the left flank light cavalry would have maybe been able to deal with the Peltasts and Archers.

However in the subsequent Greek turn the Companion cavalry would have had the two remaining subject infantry in their sights and Alexander and the heavy cavalry would likely have a charge against the Persian infantry in the centre, which would have taken the Persians to one unit short of their break point. So I think the Greeks probably had the upper hand positionally.

Let me know if you enjoyed this battle report, or any feedback you've got.

Warmaster Glossary
Brigade - 2-4 units in base contact that can be activated with a single command order
Command Roll/Test/Check/Order - 2D6 roll against commander's leadership, modified by distance, etc
Initiative - allows a unit to charge or evade from an enemy unit in 20cm with no command rolls
Evade - either in initiative or as a charge response (for skirmishers) unit can move away from an enemy unit
Drive Back -units taking hits from shooting are forced to retreat D6cm for every hit
Push Back - unit driven back into friendly units can "push" them back as well as they make way
Confusion - units driven back on a d6 roll of 6, or who cannot pass through friendly units are "confused" they cannot receive orders next turn.

Stalbridge Warmaster Ancients Day

I was lucky enough to make it down to Stalbridge in Dorset at the weekend and meet up with some guys I knew from the Devizes warmaster campaign last year as well as some new faces. The day was organised by Gareth Harding, who helped to write some of the updated armies lists on Rick Preistley's website and who owns a huge collection of painted warmaster armies.

He provided sets of paired armies for the games with full army lists and hints on how to deploy and use them and we played two over the day, one ancients and one dark ages. Although the turn out was disappointing (possibly something to do with the nice weather) it was a great success with old hands getting some games in and a few people being introduced to the game for the first time.

I played my ancients game as Alexander's Macedonians against Late Achaeminid Persians commanded by a new player called Jerry. Then in the afternoon I played as Sarmatians against Dacians, with Ben, an opponent from Attack! last summer.

It was great fun to get playing Ancients again and I'm going to post a couple of battle reports using Battle Chronicler as separate posts, the first hopefully tonight or tomorrow and the other later in the week.

Numidians from TB Line

TB Line have been busy of late, just releasing two more 10mm Ancients packs; Numidian Skirmishers and Balearic Slingers.

The Numidians look really good, excellent definition. Not so sure about the skirmishers though, they seem to lack a bit of definition around the face (the picture above is probably the best). I'm still intending on getting a few packs of these excellent figures, but as with Pendraken and Magister Militum there is a "house style" developing for TB Line, in that the poses for each horseman are pretty similar between the different ranges, so I'll be interested to see how they look as two opposing armies.

These are a smart release though, there are lots of armies that use the equivalent of Numidian light horse from Carthage, and most of the Roman lists and slingers can be used in most Mediterranean based lists from the Ancient World with not too many problems.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Big range expansion for Governance of Technology

I've been a huge fan of Antenociti's Workshop; Jed Norton's terrain and lately miniature website, for a long time. It introduced me to Infinity and really upped the stakes in my terrain scratch building. Although slightly off-topic, this is one of my creations using some of his terrain elements.

gothic corbels and window frames
window frames, ivy and dead leaves
barrels and kegs

His newest project is a joint miniature and terrain line, called "Governance of Technology" (GoT) which has been going for about a year now. It is set in a dystopian future where an all powerful technology board strictly controls each planet's access to technology, thus keeping each civilisation in stagnation.

It's a bit of a strange beast, in that there is a website with loads of background, quite well defined factions and whatnot, but its not actually a miniature game in its own right, so ostensibly it is just for figure collection. I know Jed is a regular on the Infinity forums and plays the game, so to me it is surprising that there are not proxy rules for GoT figures using Infinity rules, but maybe he is playing the long game and there are developments in the pipeline to turn it into a full-blown skirmish game?

I have seen today on the South London Warlords site the GoT range will expanded quite a bit at Salute with:
* 7 new GOT Figures
* GOT-Trooper Suad-packs x3
* Nova-Rus Light Tank 28mm
* Nova Rus APC 28mm
* UK Firefly Light-Gunship 28mm
* Terminus Police Dodge-Tata MATV 28mm
* GOTA - APC 28mm

The vehicles are really something to look forward to as his Nova-Rus "Bear" is a great looking kit and has been selling faster than he can cast it.
Nova-Rus "Bear" 4x4 Jeep
 There are currently 37 figure types (some packs of two poses of same model) and 1 squad pack in the range, along with 8 vehicles, so an expansion of 7 figures and 5 vehicles is relatively a pretty big one.

I'm looking forward to seeing these new models a lot and hopefully in the next month or so I'll post up my first building tile for GoT/Infinity which I've been working on.

Meanwhile, back in the land of 10mm Ancients there is another Salute announcement on the website that is of interest from Magister Militum:
"We have three new 10mm buildings which will be out for Salute, a Roman villa/farm, slave/workers quarters and barn."
Quality 10mm ancients building are in short supply, with only Kerr & King's Jerusalem and Total Battle Miniatures' Dark Age settlement springing to mind, so this is very exciting news as well.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

One Wargamer's Year

I always have a look at TGN's monthly gaming polls which detail how people are spending their money and what games they are playing with interest. I keep a spreadsheet when I buy figures, etc, so I can keep track of how much money I am spending and to keep it to around £50 a month. I'm not really sure how interesting this will be to people, but I thought I'd do some stats for the year March 2010-March 2011 to show how I've spent my money in the last year.

I don't tend to keep track of what I'm buying in the way of paints, knife blades, etc, etc. Only the major purchases for figures, scenic items and figure case, etc. This amounts to £660 in the past year.

First up - what games I've been buying things for:
The figures are perhaps a little misleading in that I started a project in the autumn to collect an undead Kings of War army and then bought some vampire counts bits and bobs so I could field them as VCs in Warhammer if I wanted to. So most of the KoW and Warhammer stuff represents this. The Misc category is tools & scenery bits mostly, but also odd figures for Governance of Technology, etc.

So I've already mentioned the Kings of War/Warhammer cross-over so I thought I would break it down by who made the figures, rules and stuff I've been buying. I've not labelled the >1% ones, but you can see it is the big four for me of Magister Militum, Games Workshop, Mantic and Corvus Belli who have had the vast majority of my money.

In terms of buying habits, I was personally quite surprised when I crunched the numbers.
I have bought a fair bit of stuff from Maelstrom over the past year, so I gave them their own category, but the other webstores and manufacturer's websites I combined into categories. I was quite surprised by the amount I'd spent on Ebay! The "shop" category doesn't really tell the whole story as I'd estimate I spent £100-150 on bits and bobs like paint in physical shops over the year, mostly in small purchases of £5-10, I also didn't record the paints and whatnot I bought at wargames shows, only the figures. So I think shows and open days actually make up a much more important part of where I spend my money than I thought.

And because every post really should have a picture of a model in it; here are some Kings of War Zombies, which are part of the 19% of my annual wargames spend at Mantic!

Let me know what you think of my spending - similar to yours? Am I frittering away my money on lousy games? Leave me a comment!

Friday, 11 March 2011

TB Line Carthegians

Tridente Bologna have really delivered again with their latest 10mm Ancients. They have Carthage infantry, cavalry, command and war elephants up on their site.

As regular blog readers will know I had problems finding convincing elephants for my own Carthage force, but these new ones have blown me away. As an army centre-piece they are going to be fantastic.

I think these might be the final push I need to send a substantial order the way of TB Line and get some of their fantastic Republican Romans and Gaul as well.

Warmaster Ancients Day

I'm heading over to a (fairly) local Warmaster Ancients event next weekend.

It's being organised by the "Purbeck Brotherhood of Ancients", who, having met a lot of them last year, sound a lot more sinister than they are! They are also running WMA games at Salute '11 this year. All the armies are provided so it will be a great chance to use something different from the Carthage and Imperial Romans I've used before. Also be a great chance to get stuck in and kill some stuff! Gareth Harding, who helped write some of the expanded WMA army lists on Rick Priestley's website has a huge collection of nicely painted Magister Militum armies, so hopefully he'll be providing some of the forces.

I'm going to make a real effort to take photos of the games I play and maps and then do some BattleChronicler reports after the event.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Pendraken Competition Results

Some really amazing winnners in the Pendraken 10mm painting comp. Anyone interested in grand scale models should check out the winners thread on their forum here.

My chariot entry was accepted into the comp even though it was a few minutes past the deadline (thanks!) but sadly didn't win a prize. There were 5 judges who gave 3/2/1 rankings for their favourite entries and in the vehicle category there were 11 different entries all polling at least 1 point! So a really spread field. The winner was some way out in front

 Camouflaged Sherman, by fred12df
And then the other entries were all really close apparently, with this one sneaking into 2nd place.
Sci-Fi Marines APC, by kassad
What they have now done is all entries that received at least 1 vote by the judges have been placed into a community vote and my chariot made it through! So it got at least a bit of love from the judges!
My Chariot
Shame I couldn't get the composite picture done in time, especially as it seemed so tight for 2nd place and the more detailed shots could have sneaked me over the line, but definitely need to make sure next time there is a competition I leave plenty of time for sorting out the pictures. If you are a member of the Pendraken forum you can vote for the "people's choice" on this thread. No pressure to support my entry. ;)

Monday, 7 March 2011

Infinity Competition Entry

I managed to get another Infinity miniature painted for a competition on the official forum for the game. The competition is simply for the best painted mini as voted for by the forum community. It is a pretty tough crowd and even when just posting pictures of minis on the forum you are doing VERY well if you get any serious positive feedback. A lot like the "Cool Mini or Not" site.

Last time I looked among public votes I was languishing back somewhere around 10th out of 18 entries. The top three get a prize of some new terrain from Microarts Studios for Infinity.

This is my entry as a composite image. Its a fairly big picture, so click on it to enlarge.

This fella is a Wu Ming from the Yu Jing faction in the game. The base is a custom one made from a bit of plasticard for a pavement and a drain-cover from the GW 40k basing kit.

He was mainly painted with Vallejo paints. I used a very light grey colour to paint the white and then shaded it with thinned GW's Badab Black wash just in the recesses. And then basically water with a very small amount of BB wash in to shade/wash all the "white" areas. It was then tidied up with more of the base colour in many very thin layers. Before highlighting the raised areas with more of the base colour and finally a few thin layers of Vallejo gloss white.

What I've effectively done is used the thin layers of grey to make the faint wash underneath show through progressively more towards the recesses. This way you can shade the white, but also it keeps the finish smooth. Too often its easy for white to look grainy or rough and this avoids that.

For the gun I'm painting all my Infinity models without metallic paints; its not "Non-metallic Metal" as I'm not trying to paint it like metal, but instead like reflective plastics, or painted surfaces. To do this I just use very thin paint to give nice blended layers with final, quite bright highlight lines on edges.

Any questions, or if you like it, please drop me a comment below.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Realistic Verdigris - A Tutorial

There seems to be a bit of a trend in Games Workshop painting at the moment for using verdigris on anything they can. For those of you not familiar with the term it is the greenish tarnish that appears when copper (or any copper-alloy) oxidises. It is the same effect as silver tarnishing, or iron rusting. I believe if you want to paint something properly you need to understand it first, so this post will explain the Chemistry behind the effect, and the resulting colours, and then look at a technique I've developed for getting quick convincing results.

From Wikipedia (its OK, we're only after generalisations, its not a scientific paper!) "Verdigris is a complex chemical mixture of compounds, complexes and water. The primary components are copper salts of acetate, carbonate, chloride, formate, hydroxide and sulfate. The secondary components are other metallic salts, acids (organic and mineral), atmospheric gases and water. All the components are in an ever-changing and extremely sophisticated electrochemical reaction equilibrium that is dependent on the ambient environment."

So its enough to say oxidisation is a complex process for copper due to the different copper compounds which have different colours. Therefore the actual colour of verdigris will vary depending on conditions. I'm going to lay out some very general principles to help choose the right colour.

The main component is Copper(II) Carbonate, which is the characteristic light green colour. This will be your starting point for verdigris representation.

Copper (II) Carbonate
If the copper/brass is on a ship's instruments etc and exposed to salt water it can instead be Copper (II) Chloride. This is interesting as Copper (II) Chloride is a brown colour, but as it absorbs moisture it becomes Hydrated Cooper (II) Chloride which is a bright green colour. So depending on how old it is it will likely get more vivid.
Anhydrous Copper (II) Chloride

A darker green component is Copper (II) Acetate, which is formed in the presence of acetic acid, which is present in small quantities in fruit, particularly fermented, or over-ripe fruit, but also vinegar.

Copper (II) Acetate
Finally of interest is what happens when Copper (II) Carbonate is heated. if exposed to temperatures of ~300oC it turns to Copper (II) Oxide and this is pretty much black.

So to put this into practice; if we were weathering a brass cannon we would want a grass green colour, but blackened near the mouth of the cannon, and near the fuse. If that cannon is on a ship it would be a much brighter green, and if the cannon was on the walls of an industrial city it may be darker.

Games Workshop in their tutorials almost always use a thinned down mix of Hawk Turquiose and Dark Angel Green, which I think looks a little flat and unrealistic. As a general rule I like to use pigments for weathering, rather than thinned washes as the end texture is much better and you naturally get irregular application which looks less contrived. MIG & Forgeworld are two notable manufacturers of pigments, but most of their ranges focuses on mud, dust and rust. Originally modellers used artist's pigments/pastels for weathering, so I have returned to this principle and I have a stick of soft pastel pigment from Hobbycraft (~99p) - #165 from Faber Castell.

I scrape a small amount into a palette with a knife blade so it is a fine powder and then mix with MIG thinner for washes.

Then wash this around the brass/copper component that needs weathering. The painted surface means the thinner will flow around recesses by capillary action. The thinner can be used to control the thickness of the application and hence the final colour. By adding more neat thinner to the model you can "lift" off some of the pigment, or spread it around, making it more or less translucent.

I should point out, although specially designed thinner gives a good result, other thinners such as ordinary water, water mixed with dishwasher rinse aid, turps etc can all serve fine.

I believe for a single application technique this gives much better results than washing with thinned paints. These Mantic skeletons have had their telescopes painted with GW Shining Gold mixed 2:1 with GW Scorched brown. Highlighted with a quick drybrush and then weathered using this technique.

You can hopefully see in this last picture (especially if you click to look at the full size version) the different finishes you can get by just applying the pigment thicker (Right).

Obviously there are a number of pastel greens available and by mixing these along with black or brown (either modelling pigments or pastels) different effects such as the previously mentioned "marine verdigris" would be achievable.

I should say this technique is probably only suitable for table-top standard painting, where it has advantages over washes, but for display models a more involved technique would probably be best. I understand Vallejo do a range of washes for representing verdigris, which involves 4-5 stages of different coloured washes, but I think that is probably not justified for basic minis.

Let me know if you've found this tutorial useful - comments are the lifeblood of a blog!

Thanks. Simon

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Ancient British Chariot

I thought I would put up a collage photo of the British Chariot I painted; this is what broke my computer yesterday..

It's pretty big, so click on it to expand the image.

Please leave a commend with any feedback, or if you just like it!