Planet Ancients

An aggregated feed of blogs written by Society of Ancients members. Note - it may not all be related to ancient and medieval history, and/or to wargaming. Hopefully most of it is.

What did I forget now?

The thing with writing your own rules is that you really have no excuse for not knowing what they are or knowing what is intended. Well, not really. I quite often forget what I was thinking when I made design decisions. Plus, as I'm developing them I can forget where I've got to and revert back in my head to an earlier version.

For this week's entertainment I also had the challenge of not playing a game with these rules for about a month due to holidays and other commitments. Any how, notwithstanding these challenges we were back in Spain for some more Civil War action


What I was able to do for this game was debut some new forces, - namely some Italians (well, lots of Italians) and also some new AA units in the guise of truck mounted HMGs.

Also, for this game I decided to play along the table rather than across it. I did this for two reasons. Firstly I wanted to try a multiple lines of defence game. Secondly I wanted to try my off-set squares grid going along the opposite grain, which makes it perform much more like a conventional hex grid board.


Phil got the Italians and started off in a bullish fashion, advancing across the open ground (BTW these pictures are taken with my phone, so apologies for poor quality & a bit of shakiness). At this stage I was having problems ranging my guns on the targets. And I forgot to put out the Under Fire markers, which were a significant change to the rules one or two iterations back.


Phil, on the other hand, had got his guns deployed and registered on the first defensive point. To make things worse he also got one of his tankette squadrons in close. The one with the flamethrower. This is a new toy, so not too unhappy to see it deployed.


At last my guns got registered on those chaps in the open, and I started to give them a pounding.


Too late for my brave fellows in the olive grove over on the left flank, who were outflanked and subject to a tank assisted close assault. This lead to a hurried retirement on my part.


Then Phil got an airstrike, and started to plaster any of my units on the main road. Some work still to be done here on the rules as I couldn't work out what I'd written down about target observation. I do know you get a modifier if you have air identification markings on your vehicles.


Despite my best efforts Phil was able to forge forwards. A combination of massive amounts of small arms fire, tanks and artillery with a little bit of bombing is a winning combination. I did rough up some of his units quite badly (and damaged a CV35 with an HMG), but I let my units get isolated and overrun piecemeal. Alas my attempt to close assault an armoured unit did not succeed.


Finally Phil seized the last bridge with his AA truck unit.


This is a picture of the final position. Note the howitzers firing from a defiladed position. I think the Italians are a bit strung out, and if I had any forces for a counter attack I'd be well in there.

Another satisfactory run through, with a few notes taken for future modifications. And a successful first outing for the CTV. Jolly good all round, really.

Casualties of war

Andrew Brentnall has been extending his ECW collection with some casualty bases- here are some of them, there are many more. We hope to make the battlefield a little less "parade-ground" than usual. Many will make it onto the table for his Edgehill game at the Wargames Holiday Centre, Friday week!


Neo-Assyrian Kisir Sharruti









Here are a few photos of a Neo-Assyrian infantry unit that I've finally finished. The front two ranks are armoured spearmen and the back two ranks armoured archers. They are Kisir Sharruti or 'king's standing army' part of a large force consisting of regular, professional soldiers, maintained by the Assyrian king. The figures are all Eureka Miniatures, except for the standard bearer who is by Wargames Foundry.







Updated Cave Troll

The more I looked at him, the less I liked his face.  I moved away from my style of painting to trying to make him look like the cave troll in the movie.  Big mistake.  First, he looked surprised not scary.  Not good.  Second, he is supposed to be looking down to his left like he is reaching out to pick up someone.  His eyes were put too far up on his head.  He did not look like he was looking down at all.

So I painted over the face, and redid it in my style, further down on the split ball to make him look like he is looking down and to his left.
Much better.  Scary and looking like he is reaching out to grab an unlucky adventurer.

Rule Sets Game Scales

There ae literally hundreds of rule sets for ancients and these are only a few of them.   They cover those rules that have been used for tournament play and some of the others that have been popular.  There are others that have been popular, but are no longer available.   while I have quite a  few others in my library, many of those are out of print and almost impossible to find.   The following is only intended as a rough guide to what is available or might be found.

The following table is for a comparison of unit sizes in various rule sets only.   Many of the rules have been reviewed on other sites and those reviews should be read for details on game play.  Bow range is in millimeters except for "Command and Colors' and "To the Strongest".  In some cases this has been adjusted for 40mm wide bases.  The numbers under single base and unit are the number of infantry men in close order for a single 40mm wide base and for a unit 8 ranks deep.   For “Hail Caesar”,  Tactica, and Wargames Research Group the single base number is actually for a single figure.  A “V” indicates that units can vary in size.  Bow range has been used to try and determine what a unit would represent.   As can be seen bow range varies from set to set, with the longer ranges usually being used for earlier rule sets.  For those who want to fight larger battles the rules with bow ranges of 120mm to 180mm allow for larger armies to be fielded on an average table.   Raphia which is one of the larger recorded battles would fit on a playing area about 4.5m (15 feet) with those ranges.   Wider areas would be needed for the rules with longer ranges unless the battle was scaled down.

Rule Set
Bow Range
Single Base
Unit
Notes
Ancient and Medieval Warfare
240
250
1000
1
Armati
400
250
1000
2
Broadsword Ancients Scutarii
150
500 or 250
500
3
Command and Colors Ancients
2 hexes
?
?
4
DBA
120
500
500
5
De  Bellis Multitudinis (DBM)
100
250
500
6
De Belis Magistorum Militum
120
250
500
6
Field of Glory
150
250
V
7
Hail Caesar
180
50
1000
8
Impetus
300
500
500
9
L'ART DE La Guerre
160
500
500
10
Legio
200
300-500
V
11
Might of Arms
200
200
V
12
Mortem Et Glorium
160
250
V
13
Sword and Spear
160
500
1000
14
Swordpoint
600
80
V
15
Tactica
250
20
V
16
To The Strongest
2 zones
?
?
17
Wargames Research Group IV edition
400
20
V
18
Warmaster Ancients
300
250
750
19

 Notes:
      1.        Except for Elephants, Artillery, and Chariots all units are four bases

2.       The unit strength is for the recommended size.  There are two other unit sizes in the rules.  one with fewer bases and the other with more.

3.       A unit may have one or two bases depending on the number of figures available.  Figures may also be mounted on larger bases for formations like phalangites and warbands.

4.       This is actually a board game that can be played with miniatures.   Bows have a range of two hexes and the point that firing is measured from has a bearing on unit sizes.   If the range is measured from the center of one hex to the center of the one two hexes away then a single base (block) could be 250 men and an infantry unit would be about 1000 men.  If measured from the front edge of the hex to the front edge of the target hex then the number of men would double to 2000.

5.       This is for the third edition.   The earlier edition had a greater ground scale and a greater number of men per unit.  While the basic rules only allow 12 units per army there are variations that allow 24, 36 or more per army.

6.       DBM and its successor DBMM.   These are the big battle versions of DBA, allowing many more units per army and using a point system to determine the composition.   Units are actually single bases representing troops four ranks deep, but can be placed one behind the other for combat.

7.       FOG.  At one point this was a point this was a popular rule set for tournament play.   Units can vary in size from 2 to 12 bases and must be in even multiples except for some of the formations in the Later Imperial Roman lists.

8.       Hail Caesar is intended for 28mm figures, but can be played with smaller figures by replacing the inches in the rules with centimeters.   I have seen some 6mm armies with 80mm wide units compared to the 200mm wide standard units of the rules.   The rules actually have four unit sizes with standard units being about 200mm wide (though this can be less), large units, small units, and tiny units.  The figure ratio of 1:50 is bases on 20 figures for a standard sized unit.

9.       Impetus uses larger bases than most of the other rules.   120mm is the recommended base size in the rules.   The rules also recommend doubling the distances for 28mm figures.

10.   Also known as ADLG or LADLG this rule set has become what may be the most popular tournament set.

11.   Legio.  This is actually three different sets of rules.   The bow ranges were taken from Legio Macedonia and doubled for figures on 40mm bases   The rules are designed specifically for 6mm figures on 20mm wide bases.   The bow range is only about half that of other rule sets at 100 paces.  Others range from 240 paces to 300 paces.  Units can be up to 12 bases.

12.   These use a figure ratio of 1:50.   Unit sizes can vary.

13.   Another rule set with varying numbers of bases per unit.

14.   Units are two bases wide.  The rules are intended for armies of about 15 units, but also include rules for larger armies. 

15.  Rules as written are for 28m figures on 40mm square bases with up to 12 bases per unit.  6 to 10 units per 1000 point game.  Another option for 15/18mm might be to halve the ranges and number of bases per unit.

16.   First edition of the rules.   There is a second edition in the works.   Units of varying numbers of figures.   Similar in scale to the earlier Wargames Research Group rules.

17.   Uses square zones for movement.   Rules recommend 150mm wide zones.   Again there is the question of where missile fire is actually measured from.   This is further complicated by 45 degree firing arcs which increase the firing range by up to 40% in actual distance measured, though not in the number of zones.  The rules also allow for different zone sizes depending on the players preference.  The author also uses large bases similar to those used for Impetus.  See note 4 above for the effect on unit sizes which would probably be the same as those listed there.

18.   WRG.  At one time WRG rules were almost the only rules used for tournament play.   Their base sizes were adopted by almost all other rule sets.   The rules went through seven different editions before Phil Barker went to the DBX series of rules (see notes 5 and 6 above).  The rules were originally intended for 25mm figures on 60mm bases and the range above is for the 40mm base for 15mm and smaller figures.  Units could have up to 50 figures.

19.   Adapted from the fantasy rules.   Units are three bases wide.  Certain troop types are mounted on 20mm wide by 40mm deep instead of the 40mm wide by 20mm deep of most.  Out of print, but still used. 

There are a number of historical battles on this blog including Pharsalus, Hydaspes, Raphia, Asculum and Bibracte.   Clicking on the Scutarii label will include them amongst all the blog posts for that label.

2017 Flockathon- part III- Numidians


Last week's Successors are all completely based; photos to follow. Above are the second and final plase of the Flockathon. This is (most of) my Numidian army, which has roughly doubles in size and been completely re-based onto 20cm BatBases. I hope to have them flocked and tufted by the weekend.

1st St. Albans

After a couple of weeks of diminishing returns in attempting to finish off some 15mm figures, I decided that I would clear the hobby room table and give another boardgame a go.

Having already tried one of the battles without making much progress, I resolved this time to make the effort to properly learn the rules for Blood and Roses, a game from Richard Berg's Men of Iron series.


The Yorkists (White), arrayed in three battles, are endeavouring to give the Lancastrians a bloody nose and force concessions out of the king.

The Lancastrians are ensconced behind the Tonman Ditch, which, while difficult to traverse, is rather longer than the Lancastrian line. The Yorkist intent then is to get Salisbury across on the left and York across on the right to turn the line from both ends.

Sadly for the Lancastrians, there's not a great deal they can do about it. Their troops are average, they are outnumbered, and they have no longbowmen.

The turning movements begin...

The tactics for the Yorkists are pretty obvious: outflank them; soften them up with the bowmen; then attack with qualitative and numerical superiority.

Salisbury gave us a textbook example, as seen below:

After the longbowmen have disrupted Clifford's foot...

...and after the heavies have gone in.

And after this the net got ever tighter.


Somerset under pressure.

Now Northumberland in trouble.

With the Lancastrian strategy being merely to hold out until nightfall, there were few chances to counterattack. But when those chances did come, they were led by Clifford, who fought desperately to protect the king and fend off that rabid dog, Salisbury.

The king's person changed hands twice, but York would not be denied.

The Percies have had enough.

The heroes of the day for York were many, but for Lancaster only Clifford could hold his head high.


"A Clifford, a Clifford!"

Verdict:

I'll give this scenario another shot or two and look to make sure I'm doing all the rules right (there is a suspicion that one or two things may have been a little 'outside the book'), but once I've done that, I think that I'll enjoy working through the other battles in the box. For all that a boardgame lacks in spectacle compared to miniatures, it's a lot cheaper, it's less time consuming, and it's more portable than two all-options Wars of the Roses armies in 15mm would be!

Fire and Fury in the North!

And so the day arrived! A little later than planned as we’d been out the night before and I left everyone at a sensible time (albeit a little the worse for wear) and went to meet up with my wife at a friends party. I finally got to bed just after 4am. Vodka was involved. Had intended to get to the venue at 8.30, get the troops out and be ready for the guys arriving at 9. I woke up at 9.10!! Made it to the place at 9.30 though but the initial setup was a little unsteady… 🙂 

Some background. Various member of LAW and the Ayton games have been having the odd get together at other points in the year when one of use puts on a game (or two) in the area they live (or their home). So far we’ve played in Aberfeldy, Framlingham, Newark (Foundry) and few peoples homes (Simon, Paul, LT, Dave) with various people attending and putting games on. All have been great fun so I’d pondered a small gathering to play Fire and Fury up here in Newcastle so this weekend it finally happened and Iain (Essex Boy), Simon (Goat Major), Dave (World2Dave) and Ken (Marshall Ney) headed north (or west for Ken as he’s in Whitley Bay!) for a game. And food. And beer. The venue was the classroom at Stepney Bank Stables in the Ouseburn Valley which was ideal as the guys were staying at the Cumberland Arms just up the hill. It was good value, had lots of big tables, and the smell of the horses added a little ambience! The lighting could have been marginally better but was OK. If it had been sunny outside it would have been fine but towards the late PM it became a little dark.

If you’ve followed the blog over the last few months you’d see I’ve been trying to get my 15mm ACW forces sorted out and having the game as a target and focus has been a great help to getting units done, markers and scenery. I’d thought of just doing one of the scenarios from the books but none of them seemed to work in terms of forces required, table size, game length. So I visited the old Fire and Fury UK webpage and picked some of their Random Armies. These would hopefully give two ‘balanced’ forces for what would effectively be an encounter type action. I did roll on the Random events table and the Union got a caisson for artillery re-supply (no low-ammo within 12″) and an battery and brigade deployed in advane up to half way line.  Rebs got some captured guns and a flank march. Myself and Dave took the CSA with two decent corps. I sent the two brigades of Bright’s Div. on the flank march.

Here are the OoBs.  This was the table (about 8×5 using my 6×4 Mat-o-War with hills adding to the width and woods extending the flanks):In the centre is the town of Aytonsburg where a Union brigade has taken residence with an accompanying battery deployed behind the wall enclosure to their right. The river could be crossed using half your movement, the two fords only costing -3. The CSA objective was to take the town, the Union to halt the CSA advance and inflict as much damage as possible. 

The CSA deployed on the hills with the Corps Batteries on the heights. The plan being to push forward with elan and gain a foothold in the town before the main Union forces advanced. Which would have been fine but for the Union moving first! Tonkiss advanced Peeler’s Div. and his cavalry to occupy the town.McGarry advanced up the centre and took and took up strong positions with his guns and veteran troops behind the stone walls.Burt’s green troops could be seen in the far distance advancing through the woods.McMaster’s corps made a caustious advance against the town.And Hall’s veteran corps advanced up the centre and deployed to the flank to face the threat from the Union flank march.Peeler’s Div took up strong positions in and around the town and awaited the assault.Meanwhile, Hall’s troops lined up to face Burt’s flank attack.The attack up the centre had stalled when faced by several batteries and three well deployed brigades.McMaster’s assault on the town was struggling. Having driven the first brigade out from the outskirts three brigades lined up to assault the right side of the town held by only a single brigade.This was to be a crucial battle as the Union threw back attack after attack before finally being driven out! The time they gained was crucial.

Buff and Morrisey’s divisions pushed out the cavalry and tried to push down the road into the face of the battery there. Luckily they silenced the battery and were able to drive it off.  While all this was going on Tonkiss’s flanking brigade encountered some old foes charging from the woods! Although they did no damage the native did hold up the brigade for several turns resulting in them still being in a good position when Bright’s flank march arrived!These swept the brigade away and then advanced rapidly across the rear of the town to engage McGarry’s zouave brigades that were deploying to bolster the flank. Unfortunately at this point the valiant defenders of the town rallied and charged one of the brigades in the rear, sending it fleeing to the rear. They then charged again into the rear of the other brigade and finally their luck ran out!The CSA now took possession of the town and tried to push forward further into the rear. Meanwhile, Hall faced the massed troops of Burt’s corps. Contesting the crossing of the river the battle ebbed to and fro as the weight of numbers began to tell but finally, with guns brought up in support, Hall threw the Union back across the river and the remnants (three brigades were down to one stand!). Meanwhile, the attack around the rear of the Union line was thrown back by McGarry’s crack troops. At this point, with the day drawing to a close, we decided to call it a day. Burt’s attack had been repulsed but he still had strong forces to being to bear and was preparing another assault. The town was firmly in CSA hands and Buff’s Division prepared its defence. Morrissey’s largely untouched Division deployed along the left of the town along the road as along with Hall’s battered troops the attack on the centre could resume as McGarry had re-deployed troops to hold the flank. With plenty of fresh troops still in play we called it a draw as even with another couple of hours play it could have gone either way. The table at the end.

It was a great game. The d10 extremes did play a part on occasion (the CSA only one combined ALL their batteries against one target…and rolled a 10!) and I think Dave felt he rolled more than his fair share of 1s… I had made up LOTS of markers and we hardly used any. Maybe half a dozen disordered markers each and the odd low ammo. I think we missed the odd low ammo effect amidst the joy of rolling a high number! I managed to capture one Division commander and had one of my own disabled. The close combats were generally worked out OK. We had a couple of queries when two brigades hit one and we were unsure if ALL effects were added e.g. if one unit was fresh and the other spent was that a net 0 (-2/+2)?. We played yes.

And some of use felt that with the CSA have smaller units, even if veteran of crack, they struggled against large green Union units as losing even one stand lost them their fresh status. 

But overall the rules played fine and we had a great time. Thanks to the guys for coming up and playing in such good spirit. And it has been good to get the armies into a playable state!

There’s a gallery with more of the pics in here: Fire and Fury Newcastle 2017

Now. What do I need to paint for Ayton? 🙂

S-21 and Choeung Ek

We have been away in South East Asia recently, starting in Laos and finishing up in Cambodia. Both are lovely, beautiful countries with friendly, welcoming people. There is much to commend both of them to any traveller. We chose not to see Cambodia as an extension to our Vietnam trip a year or so ago in order to do justice to them both. This tour took us nearly three weeks.

With Cambodia there is some awkwardness to be addressed. Like a visit to Poland raises the question of visiting Auschwitz, so a visit to Cambodia raises the spectacle of the Killing Fields and how you are going to react to them.

The Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis is history to my generation (I'm in my late 50s). I do not recall when I first learnt about it. In many ways it has always been something I've been aware of. The Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge are something that happened in my life time, the details slowly emerging to disbelief and outrage.

The Cambodian leg of our tour ended with visits to the S-21 Interrogation Facility in Phnom Penn and the Choeung Ek Killing Fields associated with it.

Within our small group there was a discussion about whether it was appropriate to photograph either site, and whether such tourist-like acts are respectful. In the end I decided that I would take pictures, for two or three reasons.
  1. I was unlikely to be going back. If I wanted a photographic record, then it was now or never. If I changed my mind about having the pictures later I could always delete them.
  2. I was still thinking hard about it all as I was going round. I knew that I would only be fully able to get all of my thoughts straight if I wrote them down. From the minute we approached the gates of S-21, I was going to write a blog about it.
  3. Whether it is respectful or not the evidence needs to be shared, and shared regularly. If the evidence is kept in a dark, locked away place then it can be denied. Furthermore our understanding of the Cambodian Holocaust as well as the German Holocaust must be based on evidence and fact. If either become a matter of belief or faith then their existence can be denied.
S-21 was mostly used to interrogate and torture members of the Khmer Rouge who had been identified as traitors to the regime. It has to be remembered that the Khmer Rouge was not just a collection of fanatical communists, but included Cambodian nationalists who supported the King and wanted foreign intervention removed form their country. King Sihanouk backed the Khmer Rouge and became titular head of state when they seized power.  The US backing for a the Lon Nol regime who took power in  a coup, and the fall out from the way the Vietnam War was being waged drove Cambodians of a wide range of backgrounds to support the Khmer Rouge. Thus, initially, there may have been genuine reasons for suspicion, but after the initial batch of prisoners were forced to give the names of 10 collaborators then it became a terrible, deadly, macabre snowball of denunciations.


Terribly S-21 was set up in a school. It is hard to thing of a worse perversion of a building's intent, unless they had used a hospital.


The four school buildings were lettered A. B, C & D. The building above is building A. It contained relatively large rooms where inmates were held and tortured in order to obtain confessions and further names. Many of the camp guards were young, - probably in their late teens. Only the very young, without family ties, brought up within the Khmer Rouge could be trusted. They had no history before the revolution and so could be relied upon to show total loyalty.


This is building B, one of the detention blocks. As I understand it prisoners were not tortured in here, just held captive in their minuscule cells (see picture below). The arrangements were nothing if not practical. There was insufficient room to interrogate or torture people in these spaces, although the denial of space, light, and food and the rudimentary sanitary arrangements was all part of the process to break the prisoner's spirit.


The rooms in the lower levels have had the cells removed and now display board after board of photos of the prisoners held and tortured in S-21. These include the head shots you would expect as well as before and after photos of inmates being executed. The Khmer Rouge kept meticulous records of who was taken to S-21, including height and weight to go with the pictorial record. They had a single typewriter, I think, and one of the survivors was kept alive as he was an engineer able to repair it.

All sorts of people were detained in S-21, including a few westerners, although as I said above this was mainly for Khmer Rouge members who were suspected of betraying the revolution. The principal criteria for being held was to be denounced by someone else who had been detained. The Cambodian Genocide was not primarily racially motivated, although ethnic groups do seem to have been exterminated, as it encompassed anyone who might challenge the self-sufficient agrarian model the Khmer Rouge were intending to impose upon Cambodia (known as "Year Zero"). As such teachers, engineers, and intellectuals (such as anyone who wore glasses) were not required by the new state and so had to be weeded out. The aim was that Cambodia would only need Cambodians to run it and it would rely entirely on resources within Cambodia. Those who didn't die in the Killing Fields were sent to the countryside to grow rice or construct canals by hand.

It is a chilling vision of where such thinking goes followed to its logical conclusion. This was not done in the heat of the moment. Unlike, for example, aspects of the genocide in former-Yugoslavia, where groups of men would go somewhere, round everyone up and shoot them, this was meticulously planned and carried out over a sustained period of time.


Clearly anyone sent to S-21 would soon lose hope. The Khmer Rouge allowed no form of escape, however, using barbed wire as anti-suicide netting.


The site was liberated by the Vietnamese when they invaded in 1978/9. It is interesting that we heard the view that all of this slaughter was conducted at the instigation of Vietnamese spies. It is a view that is quite hard to credit, and is probably more rooted in the history of the area than hard evidence. Of course, once the Vietnamese invaded we had the unseemly site of the US administration backing the legitimacy of the Khmer Rouge regime as they were fighting the Vietnamese.

When the Vietnamese got to the camp the guards killed their last 14 victims and then fled. The graves of this last 14 are in the square surrounded by the school blocks, as seen in the picture above. Not everyone died. There were seven adult survivors and three children


There is also a small monument as a reminder never to forget the deeds carried out here.


On most days two or three of the seven survivors can be found in the grounds of S-21. They have each co-operated in writing a small book about their experiences which they will autograph for you, and pose for a picture either with you or for you. Bou Meng joined the Khmer Rouge with his wife but was not a party member. He wanted to help restore the King. He earned his living as a commercial artist working for cinemas mostly. He left secure employment to go into the jungle to support the revolution, before being denounced as a CIA or KGB spy. After a period of torture and interrogation he was spared in order to paint pictures of Pol Pot. He was not the only artist so saved, - there were a few others who also painted as well as a sculptor. Alas his wife did not survive. He never saw her again, live or dead, from the day they were both taken to S-21 on the pretext that Bou Meng was being taken to teach at the Fine Arts School.


The other survivor when we visited was Chum Mey. He was the man who repaired the typewriter. I haven't read his book yet. Reading both of them back to back was a bit too much for me to stomach.

There isn't a lot else you can say, really. Most of the victims were not killed at S-21. Although they had a gallows it was for torture, not execution. Once the guards and interrogators were done with the inmates they were taken to Choeung Ek, a Killing Field outside Phnom Penn.


Choeung Ek was a  graveyard for the Chinese community, situated just outside Phnom Penn before the Khmer Rouge turned it into a place of mass execution. Prisoners were taken from S-21 at night, moved in the dark so no one, both prisoners and Phnom Penn residents, would know what was happening.


At Choeung Ek most executions were carried out by being hit by iron bars and the like, with throats being cut by rough edged palm leaves to be sure. This method saved bullets. Whilst this may have been the main reason it also had a couple of other effects. The sheer hands-on brutality of the process tied the killers even closer to the regime. There's no chance of aiming to miss, - either you are involved in the killings or it is clear you are not. It is also quieter. In any event loud music was played at the site to cover the sounds of screams. Covering gunfire is more difficult.

There are 129 mass graves, of which 86 have been excavated. From these nearly 9,000 bodies have been recovered out of probably in excess of 20,000. Buddhist beliefs make the disturbing of the dead even more problematic than would normally be the case, so the remaining graves have been left. This means that heavy rains bring new bones and clothing of the murdered to the surface every year. This makes the site even more chilling. Nothing has been neatly tidied away.

It is a place where you have no idea of how to react correctly. Lots of people leave offerings of various types. Our guide, a Buddhist, remarked that these were all pointless as they mean nothing for the spirit unless a priest has been involved. I expect that most are doing so because others have done so before them and it is doing something rather than nothing. If in anyway it assuages grief or makes the visitor feel better about themselves then it is wrong. You cannot come here and leave feeling better about yourself as a human being. This was an act of imaginable horror carried out by people like us. If you think it isn't, then you are both wrong and open to being manipulated by those who would have their way through fear and hatred. It starts with "We must/can rely on ourselves alone" and ends up with "Let's kill everyone else". This is nothing to do with the inevitable consequences of Communism or Socialism. It is all to do with hate and fear, driven by Nationalism. The Khmer Rouge regarded themselves as a National Liberation Army as well as Communist Revolutionaries.

Never were the words "No man is an island" more true. Each man's death diminishes us all, regardless of where they are from.


In the centre of the field is a monument, or as it is called locally, a stupa. It evokes the Cambodian style of temple building in its construction. The windows you can see facing you are mostly full, floor to ceiling, with skulls and other remains. I did not feel the need to go in it.

There is a museum on the site, but otherwise all the buildings have been removed. The store shed for the tools and weapons used to dispose of the prisoners and the chemical store where they kept the DDT used to mask the smell of the rotting corpses have gone.

On reflection this is even more disturbing than I imagined. I hadn't really considered that this is a horror perpetrated by my generation. As I said above many of the guards ween young, often teenagers. The same age I was when this was being done. Young people swept up in a belief at first that they were liberating their country and going on to do a greater good. Their idealism was perverted and they became trapped in a process where they had to carry out these crimes or become victims themselves. No doubt some enjoyed what they were doing, but all of them?

I was also struck by the organisation and thought that went into arranging all of this. I've suggested above that what was done here was not the work of white hot passion. Someone found a photographer. Someone found a typewriter. Someone found suitable premises. Someone had the buildings modified. Someone worked out the workflow from building to building and from room to room.

Someone arranged the transport to Choeung Ek. Someone arranged the slaughter in an efficient and effective manner. Someone ensured that neither sight, nor sound nor smell gave all of this away. The level of organisation and calculation is formidable.

As someone who has spent their life as an administration manager, who has worked and run many projects, the finger prints of someone like me are all over this. Someone was given a series of problems to solve with finite resources and did so. It is a terrible, terrible, chilling thought. Evil has to be organised.

And it wasn't just in Phnom Penn. It wasn't just a few individuals. Before coming to S-21 we had visited a Killing Field memorial near Battambang, in the grounds of a temple called Samroung Knong


This stupa-like monument was built through private donations both local and from Cambodian communities overseas. This is a minor Killing Field, and less organised than S-21 it would appear. They think about 10,000 people were killed, many pushed down a well afterwards.


As with the stupa at Choeung-Ek the monument has windows filled with skulls and other skeletal remains.


The monument stands on a base where concrete cast reliefs show what happened, from the rounding up, the sorting, the executions and the mass forced marriages. These type of reliefs are very much a Cambodian architectural feature, as the famous Wats and buildings at Angkor are covered in them.

A friend of mine who went to Bosnia with IFOR once remarked of the people that he had met, who had done terrible things, that "They had colour TVs and washing machines. They were just like us." In a few years they had reduced themselves to living in squalor, killing their neighbours. Whilst Cambodia in the 1970s was a poorer country than former Yugoslavia in the 1980s and 1990s they were still people with hopes and aspirations who lived in well ordered civilized communities.

Anyone who ever says "it couldn't happen here" is ignoring the world around them and has no imagination.

So that's why I took my pictures, and those are my thoughts, properly organised, for now.

"They have a cave troll ...'

Took me a little while, but I finally finished the cave troll.  All my friends are at Cold Wars so I have some time to work on my Balin's Tomb game project.  I actually started with another construction, but that one ended up being way too big, so I think it will eventually, if I decide to do the scenario, get turned into the balrog.  But for now, here is the cave troll.
I decided to go all out with the construction.  Body is a larger sized egg.  Legs and arms are both split eggs (and a spool in the case of the lower legs) attached together overlapping somewhat to create bends, the length of the limbs, etc.  The fingers on both hands are tile spacers.  For his right hand, I used an oval bead that I built the fingers around so that later if I want to I can put a weapon or something else in his hand.  I was going to go with a chain, but the one I bought was too big to fit through the bead, and a smaller chain I think will look funny.  I could cut the chain and then use some thin wire to join it back together inside the bead, but that's a lot of fiddly work that I'm just not up to at the moment.  The head is a split ball (smallest size they make I think, I believe it is 1 inch in diameter) and his lower jaw is a small split egg.  His toe nails and teeth are also tile spacers cut and glued on.  His loin cloth is the now ubiquitous paper.
I just looked at images online to get the paint scheme.  Was pretty easy, and takes advantage of my style of blob-like painting for texture.  And now for the action shot to give you more of a sense of scale.
I think he turned out pretty well.  I would have linked up the split eggs a little differently in hind sight, now that I see how his arms turned out.  Perhaps I can take what I learned on him and if I end up doing the balrog, the balrog will look even better.

Here is the new cave troll next to the old one that I did at the same time as the old Lord of the Rings character figures I've already posted before.
At the time, two or three years ago I thought my original cave troll was the cat's meow.  I've come a long way.

Now all that is left for the game is to do the terrain for Balin's Tomb.