Celtiberians

My recent Ancients gaming gave me the push to investigate the back of the painting cupboard, where I knew I had squirrelled away one of those projects of shame – 30-odd half-painted minis from 2017. On the back of my Battle of Tribola game, I’d bought some Crusader Miniatures from Nick at Northstar – some rather combative Celtiberians to add to my Iberian forces. I’d got them all undercoated and started, only to abandon them for a new enthusiasm for the Second World War. Weird!

Left: Celtiberian command, all by Crusader Miniatures. The spearman on the left just reminds me of Roman sentries in Asterix, so I felt he had to get based up protecting his boss!

A quick count-up showed me that I needed a few extra figures to pad out the Crusader models to units of 12 (my standard collecting size at the moment), so I assembled some of the Victrix plastics that I’ve had hanging around (my original army is entirely metal). These new figures got a white Halfords spray undercoat in preparation for a quick paint job using mostly GW Contrast paints (my current go-to for speedy army painting); the older ones had been sprayed with Army Painter Fur Brown, which made a good base for the flesh and bronze which is such a large component of these models.

Charge! Three 12-figure units plus the war chief. This will be a contingent in my battle games, or will probably serve as a faction for Saga with a few slingers added in.
I love mixing up different models in my forces (and can’t actually help myself, to be honest). L-R: Crusader with a GB spear, Crusader, Gripping Beast Pict with a Warlord Games Celt head swap; Victrix with a Warlord Games head; Crusader. The shields are a random Celtic selection from my bits box.

Painting was a pretty straightforward affair, just a bit repetitive for this number of models. The brown undercoated models had a basecoat, a wash of Windsor and Newton Nut Brown ink, and then a single highlight. The new white undercoated plastics were faster, with a single layer of GW Contrast (the Guilliman Flesh paint really speeds up my work on skin areas) and the odd highlight where needed.

A Victrix Celtiberian. The tunic is GW Contrast Black Templar – a really quick way of getting dark tunics painted for these tribesmen.

Although I have been known to use transfers on occasion, I really enjoy painting my own shields. The designs are based on various surviving Iberian and Celtic patterns with a bit of artistic licence – what I’m trying to do here is to create easily identifiable units for the gaming table, not an exact authentic representation. I’ve always associated blue with Celts (I think it’s the woad business) so I went with a variety of designs in blue, black and white.

Plastic warriors form the front ranks of this unit – these are Celts by Warlord Games and Iberians by Victrix.

I chop and change how I varnish models – in the past I’ve hand-varnished to avoid dulling the metal areas. This time around, I decided to spray varnish with Testors Matt Dullcote, but I left the wash and metal highlight until after varnishing. This made the metal ‘ping’ and I hope that you can see this in the pics!

The front lines – tufts on the bases and movement trays are by Gamers Grass, supplied by Northstar.
Old and new: Left – metal by Crusader , Right – plastic by Victrix

I always get asked about basing so I thought I’d pop in a photo of two of the units on and off their movement trays. While I admire the incredible diorama effects gamers like Simon Miller get on their unit bases, I need some kind of halfway house where I can play both skirmish and big battle games. I’ve therefore adopted a standard where I have a mix of individual and group bases (in this case, ones, twos and threes). The bases are 2mm round-cornered MDF from the incredible company that is Warbases – I stick a layer of 0.5mm self-adhesive magnetic sheet onto the bottom of this. To get the unit trays, I’ve again used a 2mm piece of MDF (120 x 60mm in this case). These have a layer of self-adhesive steel paper on the top, trimmed to size and then painted to match the bases; finally, another piece of magnetic sheet goes on the bottom of the tray so that it can stick straight into one of my steel paper-lined Really Useful Boxes. It feels like a lot of investment in magnets, but it speeds up my gaming no end as I can just pull a box off the the shelf and know that the figures are already on their unit trays ready for battle.

The current basing arrangement: 12 figures on magnetic bases on a steel-paper movement tray, which in turn is magnetised underneath to stick into a Really Useful Box for transport. Individual figure bases are 20 x 25mm – I’ve always found the extra depth handy to fit large 28mm figures. The overall movement tray is 120 x 60mm.

All my magnetic supplies come from the ever-helpful Trevor and Paula Holland of Magnetic Displays/ Coritani, regular friendly faces from the UK show circuit who also run a mean mail order service.

A Tale of Two Caballeros

Although I’ve resisted getting a 3d printer myself, I’ve been very aware of the explosion in STL files and Patreons, and none more so than the most recent work of Spanish-based Caballero Miniatures. Sculptor and owner Marcos has been hard at work on a project that happens to be a shared passion – the age of El Cid and Medieval Spain.

My friend James at Fenland Miniatures printed off some of the Spanish caballeros (knights) for me. I was expecting to be impressed, but the quality of these blew me away. The phrase ‘extraordinary levels of detail and animation’ feels barely adequate to describe these incredible models.

As an experiment, I thought I’d pick two identical knights and paint them up; one as an 11th century Spaniard, and the other a First Age Noldor Elf from Middle-earth.

Spanish knight (left), Noldor (right)

The minis arrived printed in grey resin with an intricate network of supports which was removed with warm water and a pair of clippers. As James warned, there is some really fine detail on the models and I accidentally broke off several of the tassels on the Elf’s saddle (which is why he hasn’t got any – not because he wouldn’t like some!) I trimmed a few areas with a scalpel and added Northstar wire spears for lances. It was an extraordinary experience after years of drilling out hands to take spears to find that there was no need – the precision of 3d printing had left a perfect hole to glue the lance into!

Having decided to convert one rider to a Noldor, I removed the original head and swapped it for a plastic one from the Oathmark Elves boxed set from Northstar/ Osprey. A cloak was added from green stuff along with an appropriate shield and some feather plumes, also from the Oathmark kit.

Riders, shields and horses are all separate pieces but were straightforward to put together using superglue. However, none of the minis came with bases (I understand this is usual with 3d prints) so I had to cut my own from plastic card.

You can really see the astonishing detail in this close-up – note the stirrups, tassels. reins and shield strap – detail that would be impossible in a traditional metal mould. There are some slight layer lines on the horse’s body from the printing, but these were barely visible after painting.
First coats of paint. Both models have had an undercoat of Halfords white primer followed by base coats of GW Contrast paint and standard acrylics.

I won’t go through the painting process in detail but currently I’m using GW Contrasts over a white undercoat and then highlighting them up with acrylics. I decided to go for different colour schemes to emphasize the different cultures, so it was white for the Elven horse (GW Contrast Apothecary White) and blue/ black / grey for the rider; the Spanish horse went chestnut (GW Contrast Gore-Grunta Fur) with green and black clothing.

Having got our caballero painted, it was time to see how he measured up to his companions in my El Cid army. Being mostly collected 20 years ago, my force is entirely metal. On the left you can see a Perry Miniatures knight (from the First Crusade range) and on the right, a Gripping Beast Spanish knight (from the El Cid range) with original GB horse.

L-R: Perry , Caballero, Gripping Beast (old horse)

The finished Noldor is due to join a unit with my other converted First Age cavalry, made from Gripping Beast plastic Arab heavy cavalry with Oathmark bodies, arms and heads. I was very pleased with the match between these – they are easily similar enough to mix. I guess the big question is whether I expand the Elven cavalry using more plastics or more 3d prints? A difficult question!

Converted Elf cavalry: Caballero (L), Gripping Beast plastics (R)

Les Poilus

WW1 French soldiers going into action. Woodbine Designs miniatures (by Gripping Beast), trench by Amera, background by Jon Hodgson Maps

At the end of last year, I penned a short article on painting World War One French in their mid-late war horizon blue uniforms, and it has recently seen print in Wargames Illustrated magazine (Issue 403, July 2021). The theme of the issue is ‘Vive La France’ and has a wide range of articles about wargaming with French armies from various periods of history.

Here’s a few out-takes from the photo session that I posed with some of my 28mm figures. The French are lovely sculpts by Soapy from the Woodbine Designs range by Gripping Beast, with a trench section by Amera and a photo background downloaded from Jon Hodgson Maps.

These chaps are patrolling the area just outside the bunkers of Fort Vaux, Verdun. For more on this, see my Fort Vaux page

I’m not going to do a step-by-step painting article here, as that’s available in the magazine, but I will say that the key ingredient in painting these poilus was Army Painter Wolf Grey, available in both dropper bottles and spray cans (handy for doing whole platoons, as I was doing a few years back at the height of my WW1 gaming).

A difficult job in May 1916 – driving Germans off the escarpments of Fort Vaux.

Getting the article done has reminded me that my WW1 project is unfinished business – I have a small bag of soil from Ypres that is just waiting to be used for basing up the next phase of this! More soon, I hope.

Les Poilus in the act of capturing a trench.

Second Age Scrapping

It’s fair to say that Paul W and I are enjoying playing big battles again at the moment. This week’s excursion took us back to the Second Age of Middle-earth with a scenario inspired by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. As Gil-Galad and the Noldor march south towards Mordor, their path has been blocked by an Orc host: they need to break through as quickly as possible!

Left: full-on Orc vs Elf scrappage. Orc army by me, Elves by Paul W

Paul W and Paul S divvy up the Noldor and prepare for war

We were, once again, playing my own Midgard rules. The scenario was ‘Take the High Ground’ which was inspired by the Battle of Hastings; in this case, the Orcs had the advantage of the hill (a 4 foot long slope under the cloth, hopefully visible in the pics) but had one quarter of their forces arriving late to the party. The Noldor, meanwhile, had to get up there and take the position in short order. There were three salient points (marked by standing stones) on the crest of the hill which would grant extra Reputation (the factor in Midgard by which battles are won and lost) each turn after Turn 3 in order to emphasize the importance of the slope.

Orcs to the left, Noldor to the right, conveniently colour-coded blue and black! Paul’s Elven army is entirely GW Lord of the Rings minis; my Orc force is a mish-mash of GW LotR and Oathmark plastic goblins with a wide variety of conversions.

Having placed a solid double line of Orc warriors on the hill, reinforced by some Trolls at centre right, the Elves went for a mixed formation of spearmen and archers in the centre and cavalry on both flanks. Predictable so far!

I decided to break the routine by sending a forlorn hope of Orcs down the hill on both flanks to meet the Noldor riders. This wasn’t executed with quite the alacrity I was hoping for (the Orcs were lacking decent quality Heroes to keep them moving) but it did force the Elves to raise a few eyebrows.

Haldir’s Elf archers peel off to the left to deal with a counter-attack. The blue glass beads are serving as Might Points, the mechanism by which Heroes influence their warriors and commit mighty deeds.

Thus the battle began to break off into three zones, with the Elves peeling off troops to the right and left to deal with the Orcs racing, sorry, limping towards them.

Lord Elrond commands the centre.
A combined group of Elf archers and Spearmen hunt down the Orcs on their right.
Akdar, Captain of Trolls commands the Orc centre
Celeborn gets stuck in! Yes, I know that the swords should be straight, strictly speaking, but they’re nice figures!

My lucky Orcs on the right managed a charge against Celeborn and his elf cavalry, doing surprisingly well and holding their ground. Unfortunately for them, Celeborn’s trait was to be able to rally a destroyed section; as a result, the renewed Noldor escaped destruction and drove the Orcs back. Boo!

An Orc captain drives his soldiers forward to hold the hill. The rider is a conversion made from Oathmark and Warlord Games plastics, mounted on an OOP Mierce Miniatures wolf.
Slay the Orcs!

And then it was time for the centres to clash! I pushed my Orcs forwards to take the fight to the Elves and we had a fair old melee raging across the crest of the hill. The Orcs held on despite heavy casualties from the Elven onslaught; with the advantage of the hill plus extra units in support, they were able to weather the storm – for the time being, at least.

Another view down the battle line. All our units are mounted on 120mm wide bases for Midgard.

With luck on our side, the forlorn hope of Orcs on the right actually wounded Celeborn (he was lucky to survive, having rolled a double one, but had a spare Might Point to help save himself). However, it was clear that a gap was about to open up with the approaching demise of the front line of Orcs, so Akdar sent in the Trolls. I’d been holding these back to avoid the inevitable hail of Elven arrows but hopefully now they could do some damage!

Trolls (top right) lumber into position. Meanwhile, the Elven cavalry flank attack (bottom) is being held – just.

Lord Elrond gets stuck in to the Orcs!

Troll Captain Akdar joins the fight – bad news for the Elves.

At this point, we had reached Turn 4, which meant that the Orc late arrivals turned up. A random roll indicated that they were going to arrive on the Orcish left flank, hopefully just in time to save it from the Elf flank attack.

Late-arriving Wargs and Warg riders under Orgul the Swift surge onto the battlefield.
The first line of Orcs crumbles to the Noldor onslaught.

By now, the Orc centre was taking serious casualties and Reputation was teetering. The Wargs tore into the Elf cavalry, but more was needed. Orc Commander Orgul the Swift rode up to the crest of the hill and pitched into combat against Elrond’s Elves. Midgard is designed for heroic deeds and so I chose to challenge Lord Elrond to single combat. Paul accepted and the fight was on!

‘Oi, I challenge you! And I’m not sure that your curved sword fits with JRR Tolkien’s vision of Middle-earth, you know. ‘Aven’t you read The Fall of Gondolin?’

Elrond was a tougher Hero than Orgul, but I threw in both of Orgul’s Might Points in an effort to take down the Noldor Lord in the first round – sadly to no avail, as Elrond won the round and wounded the Orc captain, gaining a point of Reputation. However, the next round luck was with me and the Heroes drew, sparks flying from their blades – both gaining Reputation this time for their heroic display. The final round was too much though – both Orgul and Elrond wounded each other – with Orgul dying as a result. It could have gone either way!

Now the Elves had the upper hand and pressed the Orcs in the centre. With Orc Reputation at zero, I had to hold on to at least one of the salient points to continue the game. The Trolls rushed up but took heavy casualties in their melee with the Elves and were left with a single model in the unit holding the ridge. Unfortunately for him, he was facing two Elven units with bows who took him down in the final shooting phase of the turn. The Orcs fled, hotly pursued by the surviving Elf cavalry: victory to Lord Elrond!

This was a really tight game with plenty of opportunities for both sides to win it. I had probably been quite impetuous in rushing my Orcs down the slope and could perhaps have changed the outcome in holding back, but where’s the fun in that? Orcs gotta Orc! I was pleased with the scenario and the latest rules tweaks are working well. More soon.

Viriathus, Enemy of Rome

Following on from my recent Punic Wars gaming, I found myself stuck at home having to self-isolate. Tom WD suggested a Zoom game to cheer me up so I got organising. Of course, this meant that I’d just have to use my own collection, so I plumped for the fascinating campaigns of Viriathus.

Left: Viriathus and his bodyguard cavalry fight a losing battle against the Principes.

Viriathus (Viriato in Spain and Portugal) was a charismatic Lusitanian warrior who caused serious problems for the Romans during their occupation of Hispania in the 2nd Century BCE. He comprehensively defeated a Roman force under Praetor Caius Vetilius at the Battle of Tribola (we gamed this in 2017 at the Hereward Wargames Show in Peterborough using Simon Miller’s To The Strongest rules – game report, historical background and photos from this one can be found here: https://mogsymakes.net/the-battle-of-tribola-147-bce/ ).

L-R: Viriathus plus chieftains Audax and Ambon. Viriathus and Ambon are from Crusader Miniatures, the others are all Gripping Beast.

I set up a simple scenario based around the Tribola battle, with the Romans attacking a Lusitanian force in the open but with some of the Iberian warbands being concealed on the flanking hillsides and appearing later on during the game. Tom WD messaged me his deployments for the Spanish, while James D (playing the Romans) just adopted a standard triplex acies formation as Vetilius deployed his troops for battle. He was aware that it was hostile territory so kept the cavalry and Triarii handy to cover any sudden appearances!

Roman Commanders Praetor Vetilius and his legate, Marcus. As we can see, Marcus isn’t too chuffed at being posted to Hispania when daddy promised him a comfy job in the Senate.
Initial Roman deployment – two ‘legions’ with cavalry covering the flanks.
The Lusitanians take up position with a force to goad the Romans into the attack with light cavalry, slingers, warriors and Viriathus and his bodyguard in the rear.

We were playing my own Midgard rules again (still testing out ideas) and were experimenting with a couple of new concepts for this game. I’d reduced the Spanish warriors’ attach dice but increased their speed to create a slightly different dynamic to the warbands given their reputation for guerilla warfare, and the ‘Replacement’ trait for Roman manipular formation was also due for another run-out. However, I imposed a penalty on the Triarii to simulate the fact that, if they got into combat, the Roman army would be in trouble. The game uses Reputation to record victory and defeat, and I decided that the Romans would forfeit a Reputation token if the Triarii got into combat, or double that if the combat occurred before any of the Hastati and Principes in the legion had seen action.

The hillsides are full of danger in Lusitania! (My son appeared and decided to add a wolf from my Middle-earth collection into the cave. We decided that any unit encountering this would have to take a Command Test).

I don’t think that James was particularly surprised when some Lusitanian warbands and caetrati under the command of warleader Ambon appeared on the hillside. Marcus promptly wheeled part of his legion to the left to cover this flank, which was an easy manouvre thanks to the Romans’ drilled trait.

Romans advance strongly in the centre and the Lusitanian light cavalry are beaten back.

Roman allied cavalry ride up to deal with the Lusitanian flank attack. Surprisingly, this newly-painted unit acquitted itself well!

The flank attack on the Roman left stalled due to poor leadership, with units not carrying out their orders and Ambon (only a Level 1 Hero) unable to do much about it. This resulted in a combat on Roman terms, with casualties on both sides. Ambon was killed by a Roman pilum and the warbands started to sense defeat.

At this point, the second Spanish ambush (on the Romans’ right flank) was unveiled – two units of slingers emerging from the rocks and trees. Vetilius despatched a pair of units of Velites to deal with them.

More slingers emerge from the woods.

Tom committed Viriathus to the fight, hoping to break his way through Marcus’s legions to the Triarii. However, the Lusitanian cavalry suffered badly and were cut down to a man. Viriathus survived, losing a point of Reputation for having his guard killed around him!

Having escaped the killing of his cavalry, Viriathus joins a fresh warband.

The big fight in the centre continued apace, with the Romans beating back the Spanish. The flank attacks had failed to create the disorder that Viriathus needed for a breakthrough and his men were now being ground down by Roman pressure.

Audax leads the warbands against the Romans.

Praetor Vetilius takes command of the melee and drives off the Lusitanians in the centre.

Marcus’s legion stares down Viriathus and his surviving warriors, who sensibly decide to melt back to the hills.

With teatime being called in all our houses (between Suffolk and Nottingham), we had to call it a day. The Romans had won a clear victory, killing warleader Ambon and retaining 6 Reputation tokens to the Lusitanians’ 1. Had we played another turn, there is no doubt that Viriathus’s army would have broken.

The new rules had worked pretty well. The replacements trait was used on a couple of occasions to shore up the Romans trying to hold off the left flank attack and was instrumental in pulling damaged units out of the line and replacing them with fresh ones. As Viriathus tried to break through. Marcus sent a unit of Triarii in to replace a damaged one of Principes and was justified in doing so – despite the loss of Reputation, the veteran warriors saw off the Spanish in short order.

Despite committing some Triarii to the fight, the Romans have the victory with 6 Reputation tokens remaining. With a mere 1, the Lusitanians are on their way out.

Return to the First Age with Midgard

After an absence of a few months, Paul W and I pulled out our Elf and Orc armies for Middle-earth and set up another game loosely set in the First Age.

Paul has been really helpful with ideas for developing my Midgard battle rules (still in playtesting) and had pretty much memorised my Noldor army list and points values which made life much easier! I cobbled together a somewhat mixed Orc force with some help from my nine-year old son who had decided to join us for the evening’s game (and, probably not unrelated, a cheeseburger).

Left: Orcs and Elves scrap it out over the ancient watchtower.

I decided to put my scratchbuilt watchtower model in as the objective for the game, propped up on a rocky outcrop that would offer some advantages to anyone defending it. We placed a wood on the left flank, but otherwise the battlefield was clear The Orcs were led by a Balrog with a Werewolf, Troll and Orc Captain as lieutenants in command of Orc soldiers, archers and warg riders. The Elves had a goodly number of heroes with the usual mix of spearmen and archers and a sizeable wing of heavy and light cavalry.

Orcs deploy with a double line of soldiers backed up by a Balrog and his Troll bodyguard. A crack force of Orcs led by Akdar the Troll captain has been detailed to assault the tower on the right.
The view from the Elven lines as the forces close.
Akdar the Troll races forward to the watchtower, preceded by archers and warg riders. The silver tokens are Akdar’s Might Points that he can use during the turn to influence his troops and carry out mighty deeds.

The Orcs tried to rush forward towards the Elves but were hampered by some disorder in the ranks; this played into the manicured hands of the Noldor, who unleashed a couple of nasty volleys of arrows against the Werewolf and his Orcish guard, who were pretty much destroyed. The Werewolf survived without a scratch but decided to jump ship to a fresh unit.

Paul’s Elven reputation cup! Still full of reputation tokens at this early stage of the game.

The main Orcish advance didn’t go to plan, but the attack on the tower was much better. Paul got a Noldor spearmen unit in position which was shot at by the Orc scouts before taking a full-on charge from Akdar the Troll and his soldiers. This should have been a more even fight, but the Troll Captain crushed the Elves and drove the survivors back off the hill (with some assistance from Paul’s shocking dice rolling).

Akdar gets stuck in! Farewell Elves. Paul’s Elves are entirely Games Workshop LOTR minis, Akdar the Troll is a Reaper Bones piece, and the Orcs are a combination of plastic kits – largely GW with many conversions.

In the centre, though, Paul was rolling some awesome dice for Elven shooting which put some big holes in the Orc ranks.

The Elves eventually had to stand and fight, coming off worse across the line.

Over on the right flank, next to the watchtower, things got really interesting. Orgul the Swift led a couple of units of warg riders in an effort to hold up the Elves. Outnumbered two to one by enemy horsemen, Orgul opted to draw his scimitar and challenge the Noldor leader to single combat. Despite some heroic dice rolls, Orgul took a wound and then succumbed on the second blow to the Elven blade. Unsurprisingly, the remaining warg riders beat a hasty retreat.

Akdar continued to beat the Elves off the hill. With his trait Fearsome, Akdar’s opponents had to retreat double the usual distance after losing a melee. Unfortunately, the Orcs’ impressive advance took them off the other side of the hill and opened them up to a flank charge from the rearmost Elven cavalry. Ouch.

Akdar gets over excited!

In this final turn, the Orcs lost several units in the centre and had their right flank pretty much rolled up. With the loss of Orgul the Swift, the army’s reputation dropped to 0 and they fled the field, Akdar trying to fight his way out as the sun set.

A good fun game as usual – I’ve tweaked a few areas of the rules recently which streamlined the action. As was my original intent in designing Midgard, we played a game with around 15 units and 4 heroes a side to a decisive conclusion in around two hours, including the heroics of a single combat. My son picked up the rules (and a pink inflatable flamingo) pretty quickly and didn’t object to getting beaten by the Elves! Win-win.

The Elves secure the right flank under the watchtower. Red markers are Charging/ Winning tokens that allow a bonus in these situations.

Did you know that there was an inflatable pink flamingo in the pub function room? Neither did I.

Republican Romans

Following my rediscovery of Punic Wars gaming last month, I pulled the ‘Ancients in progress’ box off the shelf in the painting cupboard, where it had sat unopened for four years. Inside were some half-painted Roman cavalry which demanded finishing off!

Once that was done, I decided to get a few photos of the new cavalry alongside my mini-legion that I’d completed a few years back, so here they are.#

Left: Principes. 28mm plastics by Victrix with an Agema metal character model on the right with green shield.

Obviously, it’s debatable whether you can call these small groups a ‘legion’ at all, but if you’re happy to accept that it’s seriously scaled-down, then it does the job. Scrivs, Martin and I collected one of these each a few years back, basing the Hastati, Principes and Triarii on smaller 80 x 60mm unit bases. The initial plan was to play Hail Caesar with these as ‘small units’ but since then we’ve used them for To The Strongest and Midgard. I’m slightly kicking myself for not using sabot bases now that Saga: Age of Hannibal is available, but hey, I’ll just paint some more for skirmishing!

The mini-legion in battle order
Aerial shot showing the basing.

When I painted this force, I was experimenting with coloured undercoats. This has all been done with Army Painter Fur Brown, which has been left/ washed/ highlighted for the skin, spear shafts and shield backs. If I was doing another legion (never say never) I’d be going with the GW Contrast paints all the way.

Allied Roman cavalry clash with Iberian caetrati and slingers (the Spanish are metal sculpts by Mark Copplestone from the Foundry range, and also some Crusader Miniatures)

Seeing as the cavalry have just been finished, let’s review these first. I confess that these are not actual ‘Roman cavalry’ figures. When Victrix released the Iberian Cavalry set, I snapped one up, despite already owning…errr….substantial numbers of Spanish cavalry in metal. There weren’t yet any Roman cavalry available at that point, so I converted 8 of the Spanish to try to look like allied Romans who had been locally equipped. Martin provided me with some allied Roman heads and I added round shields from the Velites – then painted them red. I think they just about work!

The horses were sprayed with Army Painter coloured undercoats (Desert Yellow and Leather Brown) before being painted with oil paints and then wiped off. This can take a few days to dry but gets horses done quick! In this case, I left the horses for (checks notes) 4 years before doing the rest of the painting. The oils were nicely dry at this point.

Coming back to the riders (who had not seen any paint in their previous life), I quickly sprayed them with Halford’s white primer and blocked them in with GW Contrast paints. These received a bit of highlighting and drybrushing before I called it done.

Seeing as we’re working from the rear of the army, let’s have a look at the Triarii next. These fine fellows are (like the rest of the legion) Victrix plastics apart from a couple of Warlord Games Caesarian Romans that I snuck in for a bit of movement. While not as animated as some of the more recent sets (e.g. Vikings), these fellows DO have chunky spears that won’t snap easily. Bonus..

Triarii with their commander, Praetor Vetilus (Foundry metals)

Now we move on to the main fighting line composed of Principes and Hastati. The red/ white / green of the shields is mostly influenced by the artwork of Peter Connolly, although perhaps there is a subconscious nod to the Italian tricolore there as well?

Principes
Hastati. The two front left models have been converted from Velites for a bit of action (I can’t help myself)

And now it’s the turn of those lucky teenagers in the front line, the Velites…

I did something sensible with these and created sabot movement trays so I could use them for skirmishing. The figures are based on 2p coins and magnetised into the tray so they stay in pretty well during play. There’s also a nice dynamic about a plastic model based on a metal coin or washer, in that it’s very hard to knock them over during gaming!

Will this be the last legion for the moment? Do I need an allied legion from Victrix as well? Ooh, shiny! (as my friend Guy would say)…https://www.victrixlimited.com/products/romes-italian-allied-legions-legionaries-in-mixed-armour-plus-velites-and-command

Punic Wars Revival!

Two games of Saga: Age of Hannibal with Sam had got my Ancient Spanish army out of its boxes and into action; the Iberian battle board is great fun, but I wanted to play something bigger. And so I threw together an encounter battle pitting my Republican Romans* against Sam’s growing Carthaginian force backed up by a substantial number of Spanish.

*For reasons of disclosure, these also included Scrivs’s Romans that have been living in my loft for the last five years. They threw dreadful dice!

Left: Carthaginians (left) try to hold off the Romans (right) from breaking through and taking the pass.

I had thought about using To The Strongest (Simon Miller’s fine set of card-driven big battle rules), but resorted instead to my own Midgard rules (still in playtesting, whenever real life allows. See the linked page on my site here: https://mogsymakes.net/midgard/ ). Midgard is designed to play fast-moving big battles with Heroes driving the action and actually worked pretty well for this game, although we dropped the rules for single combats, as it seemed out of scale with Punic Wars big scraps.

Under their commander Khemmitsbaal and two sub-commanders, the Carthaginians mustered:

1 x elephant and attendants

6 x Iberian warbands

4 x African spearmen

4 x Iberian skirmishers

2 x Greek archers

3 x Heavy cavalry

Right: African spearmen muster with the elephant in the centre

Facing off against them were Consul Vetilius and his two sub-commanders, Marcus and Metillius, with:

4 x Velites

4 x Hastati

4 x Principes

2 x Triarii

4 x Light Spanish Cavalry

The Romans were able to be arranged in a manipular formation due to the support rules in Midgard (having friendly units around you is critical to winning sustained combats) and some extra traits thrown in, allowing a fresh unit to replace a worn one. These kept the Romans in the game but the legions took quite a hammering nonetheless!

The game opened with the Romans making their advance in the centre and on the left, hoping to break through there with the legions, while Marcus and the Spanish Light Cavalry took on a delaying role on the right. The drilled trait that the legions had ensured that the fresh Roman units were able to keep up the pace and get quickly into position for the attack.

Marcus and the allied Spanish Light Horse face off against a huge Iberian warband in a delaying action, Marcus and his companion are Copplestone sculpts from Foundry, the Spanish are a mix of Gripping Beast, A&A and Foundry Miniatures.
The main action develops. The Iberian warbands are at the top left, with the Carthaginian centre facing off against the fast-advancing Roman legions. Commander Khemmitsbaal is with the Iberian warbands, clearly keen to get his hands bloody! Sub-Commander Ambon can be seen at the bottom (the metal beads are Might Points, used for heroic deeds and keeping control).

A full-on battle developed in the centre as the Roman legions came to grips with the Carthaginians. Some rough Roman dice rolling resulted in several of the Hastati units struggling to get the breakthrough I had hoped for!

Hold the elephant…hold the elephant….now! Elephant model by Victrix, painted by Sam. The Carthaginian spears and Greek archers are ebay purchases from Sam’s collection (Crusader Miniatures, I believe).
Bold Hastati finally get stuck in to the elephant (and bounce off…) These are Victrix plastics, painted and based by Scrivs. As Midgard works on a set unit frontage (and these are based on smaller bases than the rest), we placed a couple of Scrivs’ markers at either end of the unit to extend its frontage. At the top, you can see a few Roman Velites trying to turn the flank of the Iberians.

With some serious scraping going on around the centre, I was very much hoping to be able to break through. Alas, it was not to be. I had foregone my lucky green Welsh dice for the night and things went against my Romans in short order!

However, there was one lucky break; in combat with my Hastati against the mighty Iberian warband, Sam decided to commit Khemmitsbaal. With the Iberians taking some damage, Khemmitsbaal had to make a ‘Risk to Heroes’ check and ended up with a double 1 (you don’t need to know much about my rules to know that this is a BAD THING). Fortunately he was able to use his final remaining Might Point to reroll one of these dice. Less fortunately, he managed to roll a 1 (again) and was left being carried out of the melee with a pilum wedged through his lungs. Nasty!

My much loved Iberian warband arranged in an unsubtle but effective block. This is a wide variety of 28mm metals from Newline, Essex, Gripping Beast, Foundry, Crusader and First Corps that I painted back in the 2000s. All the shields are by hand, something that I just enjoy.

Alas, Sam got wise to my delaying tactics and pushed forward with all the skirmishers and cavalry on my right flank. Marcus’ Spanish Light Cavalry got somewhat thrashed, with Marcus narrowly making his escape.

Spanish cavalry get sandwiched, having run out of room to evade the Carthaginians. This is gonna smart (it did)..

This hastened the urgency of the Roman main attack, but the dice just wouldn’t come right and it was driven back.

Full-scale scrappage! I’ve missed this.

Nelly is finally felled by some accurate pilum chucking! (I need to get one of those nifty Gripping Beast dead elephant models for these occasions)

The Carthaginian Heavy Cavalry on my left flank fought heroically and just would not crumble, leaving my battered Romans pinned against the rocks. With the clock on two hours exactly, we decided to call it. Neither side had broken but the Romans had only 4 Reputation Tokens left against the Carthaginians’ 7, giving the Africans a solid victory. Had Khemmitsbaal not gotten a bit bloodthirsty in the earlier combat, the Carthaginians would have had an even greater margin of victory.

This was terrific fun and the rules worked very well indeed. I was pleased that my tweaks allowed the manipular system to be modelled to a limited extent and that the command and control felt pretty much just right for the period. Predicatably, I went straight home and pulled out the box of half-painted Punic Wars models that have been sat there since 2017 – we will most definitely be back for more!

Romans on a road to nowhere.

New blog: mogsymakes by James Morris

Many years ago, Big Red Bat guru Simon Miller asked me why I didn’t have a blog to support the various games that I took around wargames shows. “Why would I want a blog?” I asked him. “You’ll get followers,” came the reply. I laughed.

I don’t really do this to get followers, but I love swapping ideas and photos with other gamers around the world. I seem to post on social media every week or so, only then to find myself unable to find my own pictures, battle reports or words of advice just a few weeks later. Questions like this crop up all the time: “Have you got any size comparison pictures with different manufacturers?” “What was the paint recipe you used on your wolves?” “Has anyone had a go at converting Elf cavalry/ Cretan gendarmes/ Sikh sappers?” “How does Muskets & Tomahawks II play?” And often, I say, “Yes, but…just let me find it…” Hopefully mogsymakes will go some way towards helping out with these senior moments of social media.

My chum Scrivs claims that one of his main reasons for having a blog is to be able to find his paint recipes several years down the line; I can confirm this, having used several of his colour schemes after looking them up online! I’ve gone for something in between a blog and a website, in that I have different pages and sections where I will hopefully archive posts to make them easier to find. It is still very much in its infancy, so any helpful suggestions about improving access and layout will be quite welcome.

And so, I find myself following Simon’s sage advice: get a blog. I hope you enjoy it!