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.

15mm Picts

Soak far, so good

So I bit the bullet on the rebasing. I did a trial batch of Imp infantry and they came away okay after a good 12 hour plus soaking. They needed a bit of cleaning up, but have now been re-glued to their new size bases. I'm sufficiently happy with the look to move forward with a few of the British regiments. These are more of a concern. I can afford to make a complete cock up of one Imp unit as I've got hordes of them, but the Brits are a one for one unit recreation of the 1859/60 expeditionary force, so they have to come away unscathed.

For starters on this front a couple of Sikh regiments have gone into the foot bath. That's because I can then clean the paint off the spares and use them as EVA infantry as they wore western uniforms with turbans/head dresses. I'm using a plastic tray that once had oasis in it, - that foamy stuff that florists use for floral arrangements. The trays are designed to keep the oasis moist, so pretty much perfect for standing the bases in water. After a couple of hours soaking I was able to lever a few figures off, but then decided it was best to leave them overnight.

As you can see from the above couple of pictures they came off pretty smoothly. Apart from one base, where I may have used superglue, which needed some intervention by my trusty penknife the figures all peeled away from the mdf bases with little pressure. As Mr "Bruno" Brunavs, my chemistry master at O Level taught me, water is the universal solvent.

What has precipitated this action was Mr Friday's suggestion I look at the Lancashire Games website. After it being out of action most of the weekend it was back up and running today and they seemed to do most of what I wanted in their 15mm 19th Century Europe (1860-1880) range for the French expeditionary force. They also had a sale on, so it was a good time to dive in and buy up what I needed. I therefore had to come to a conclusion of unit size, - 16 or 12 men per regiment/battalion? Being a cheap skate I've gone for 12, so hence the need to rebase.

I only hope the figure sizes are compatible.

The other upside for all of this is that these figures will be based the same as the Chileans/Peruvians and so if I lurch into mid-late 19th century European warfare I've got a basis for some rules as well.

This has lead me to thinking further. I do like the look of three 15mm figures on a 30mm frontage, rather than the normal four on 40mm or on the 30mm x 30mm squares for pre-modern eras. My post WW1 stuff still looks right on the square bases, but I'm beginning to wonder seriously about my other 15mm armies I've done in RFCM style.

Could be I have an on-going project ahead of me.


Here are a few photos of some Galloglass that I've just finished painting. These figures are formerly Vendel, now Sgt Major Miniatures and will be used for Irish in my Yorkist War of the Roses army. I'll also use them for Lion Rampant as Men-at-Arms in Islemen and Irish retinues. I have just ordered some more Islemen from the superb Claymore Castings range from Vinnie to add to these and I'm 
painting more of the Sgt Major Miniatures figures - a unit of Irish Kerns. There is an interesting Osprey book on the Galloglass 1259-1600.

The original Travel Battle

There's been some buzz recently about the latest product from the Perry twins. This is a wargame-in-a-box that enables you to play figure wargames anywhere, like on a train, beside the pool on holiday, down the pub or anywhere else you are away from your own table and toys. This isn't a new idea. In the last few years Bob Cordery has been writing about his own portable gridded game called "The Portable Wargame", which has garnered some reasonable press and has a good following.

The idea of being able to take your wargame with you dates back even further. There's something in an early Don Featherstone book that talks of maps and talc and sticky units and chinagraphs to enable you to play solo when out and about. Anyway, although I haven't got my hands on a Perry Travel Battle set yet I'll share my thoughts with you at the end of this blog.

Personally I think that the most successful attempt at doing this sort of thing, - by which I mean a travel wargame that I actually made up and took places and played on a train with another real live person - dates back to the 1970s.

A Retiuarius and a Samnite face up to each other
I am talking here of Hugh Walter's Paragon Wargames Club's Gladiator Combat Rules. These first came to my attention through a short article in "Military Modelling" called something like "First Take a Biscuit Tin".

The idea was that as arenas were often circular you could turn a biscuit tin lined with brick paper into a suitable venue for gladiatorial combat.

This idea was intriguing, and when my mate Derek & I went to the big military show at Aldershot (?) one summer in the very early 70s we headed for the Military Modelling tent to see what what it was all about.

The MM tent was a big deal in those days, and was the major show venue in the south, matching Northern Militaire at the time. We found the Paragon boys running the Gladiator game just outside the tent and sat down and played most of the afternoon. Frankly, I think, they got sick of us and eventually introduced the full rules so we got killed and then were encouraged to leave.

Undaunted we went and bought a copy of the A5 Gestetnered rules between us, and also split a pack of Garrison Gladiators in 25mm, which were the only ones available at the time.

We then went home and both made ourselves an arena (that's mine, in the picture above) and our local group of friends played it a lot. Massed combats with all of us in the arena at the same time, chucking nets, feinting this way and that and generally having a great time of it. Soon Minifigs had their gladiator range out so we acquired those, plus other assorted figures suitable for combat, from Lamming, Warrior and anyone else we came across.

The beauty of it all was that it was genuinely portable and it was lots of fun. The rules, copied out meticulously, fitted comfortably in the lid. All my figures, lovingly wrapped in toilet paper, fitted neatly into two old tobacco tins (my Dad was a pipe smoker). One summer Derek and I bought RailRover tickets for the Midlands region and we went all over the place, mainly visiting model and wargames shops. We took the biscuit tin and whiled away the long slow train journey into Birmingham from Rugby stabbing at each other.

I even took my version into school, where me and a small group of friends would disappear at lunchtime to the far end of the playing fields, next to the cricket nets, and happily play a few games. I remember it so well, along with the lovable rogues who threw a spare net over me and roughed me up, damaging my watch, and upending the whole ensemble into a ditch. Happy days.

So there it all sits up on a shelf in the study, still usable after over 40 years. I bought a copy of the 1977 rules reprint a few years ago, but now I want it I have no idea of where it has gone. Typical. No worries, still got all the original handwritten rules in the lid. Derek kept the Gestetner rule book, even tho' he moved on to Ian Beck's "Rudis" (a much more detailed and realistic portrayal of arena combat, but alas missing some of the charm of the Paragon game).

So, what of the Perry game? First off I can say that I won't be buying it. It fits no niche that I have. I can't think of where I would play it, and I'm not turned on by Napoleonics at the moment. On the other hand, I think that some of the press and comment on the subject has missed the point. Remarks that we can't judge it until we see the rules I think are wide of the mark. It's a full terrain board, marked up in squares 10 x 20 in size, with some reasonable sized Napoleonic armies. Although as the figures are 8mm, so you could probably paint or use them for any European conflict up to the 1880s, depending on how fussy you are about shakos. If you want this type of portable product and the rules are rubbish, scan the internet for some that work or write your own. There's loads of square based systems out there. And if you want to widen your horizons then the boards would work with 6mm or 10mm figures for other periods in modern Europe.

Secondly, there's fuss over the price. It's £50. Too expensive? It's a box with terrain boards and two chunky sized armies in it that is in a robust box so you can carry it about. No, it isn't too expensive. I've just ordered 20 packs of 15mm figures from Lancashire games and not got much change out of £50. And that's just one army, no terrain, no box. Get real folks. How much would it cost you to put this together yourself? Or, another way of looking at it, the Black Powder rule book will cost you over £25, and it isn't even complete. Okay, it is toppy compared to some board games, but seriously, Command and Colours is over £50 and isn't portable. The bottom line is that if you reckon you'll play this a lot, then the price point is reasonable. If it's going to sit on your shelf gathering dust, then it's not worth it.

So, if you want a game you can carry around, then it's worth it. If you don't then it isn't. But there are other options if this is an itch you must scratch, as I think I've shown.

Update: Bob Cordery has posted a proper review here: link

Completed Balin's Tomb Terrain Layout

I was extra motivated this weekend to get this terrain finished once I decided how I wanted to construct it.  In truth, I still want to make a well, but that will be easy and add little to the look of the overall game board, so I thought I would just go ahead and share pictures of it.

I found a picture for a board layout of Balin's tomb online for the Heroquest game.  I like their boards because they are so symmetrical and pleasing to the eye.  So I decided to use it as the basis for my own game board for my Balin's tomb scenario using the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game rules.  The scenario in the book calls for a 4' x 4' board, but that's just too big for Balin's tomb.  Also, I want to give the goblin players a chance to actually win this scenario, and the only way that is going to happen is if they can swarm the Fellowship relatively quickly, so a large game board is the goblin player's enemy.  So I went with a game board that is in between the 4' x 4' monster called for in the book, and the tiny 15" x 18" or so board that some scenarios call for (that's actually too small for the number of figures, goblins specifically, that I want in the game).

Of course I wanted to stage the pics of the board with the miniatures so that you can really see how it will look when I run the actual game.  So that's what I did, choosing to represent a moment early in the scene in the movie where Sam comes face to face with the cave troll.

There is the entirety of the board.  It measures about 26" wide and 40" deep.

More of a close up shot of the action and some of the scenery.  Balin's tomb I've talked about before, but putting Gimili on top of it with goblins rushing him just looks cool.  Each corner of the board is a craft box made out of cardboard I got from Michael's on sale for I think $1.49 each.  I just removed the lid, painted them black, and then painted the gray all around on the walls, leaving the tops black.  The pillars of course are different than the ones I did before.  I decided to go with square ones, and these are just wooden blocks glued on top of each other (I believe they are 1.5" cubes) with precut thin wood circles and squares glued to the front side to create visual interest.  The walls (on the front and rear of the tomb) are made from thick craft foam with wooden squares glued to one side flush with the bottom so that the wall will stand up and not tip over easily.  I decided not to do an actual door and just leave the "doorway" open so that the miniatures can easily move through the space.  I might change my mind and do an open doorway, we'll see.  The two sides are made entirely from thick craft foam.  The walkway is 2 inches wide, 24 inches long.  The stairs are just the same thick foam cut of the appropriate length to make a stair step on each side of four stairs each.  In the middle I stacked and glued four pieces of the thick foam to support the middle of the walkway to keep it from sagging in the middle.  I decided not to put a "back wall" up against the back part of the walkway on each side of the room even though one is there in reality.  I think that by not putting in a wall, it will make it easier for players to move the figures for the game without banging into a large structure with their hands, like the walkway, and causing problems during play.  I hope that using the paint shade going from light gray on the front edge of the walkway to complete black for the part of the walkway that is against the wall will at least give the visual illusion that the walkway ends there in a "wall."

Sam bravely confronts the cave troll!

Boromir and Aragorn fend off a horde of goblins!

"Let them come!  There is yet one dwarf in Moria who still draws breath!"

Gandalf and the "wee ones" defend themselves!

Another wide shot of the action, this time from the other side.

I think the club game schedule is pretty full, so it will probably be June before I can run this game for the members, but I'm looking forward to it.  I'll offer it at Barrage in September/October (whenever the convention falls this year) as well.  In all cases when I run it, I'll post a battle report here with pics (assuming I remember to take them in the heat of the game!).

Persian against Other Persians

Gordon sent me piccies and a short report of a Persian civil war that took place in Glasgow a couple of months ago. Time to put them on here:

2000 pts is a lot of Persians. I had 90 colonists, 72 other HC, 84 LC, 72 infantry and 40 skirmishers. As the legitimists to Simon's rebels, the armies lined up as follows:

On my left lots of SI bow then 6x8 fig LC in the first line and 4 x18 colonist columns in the second with a 16 fig colonist and and 18 fig persian HC in line. Then another LC and a gap to three widely spaced 24 fig hoplites (2 in column and the elites in line)

Facing the cavalry the rebels had 6 x 8 scythian horse archers backed by 3 x 12 LI hillmen and 2 HC units then there was scythed chariots and in the centre 48 kadakes, 48 elite hoplites and 48 kardakes. 

My right had 2 x 18 HC persians 16 armoured cavalry and a further 18 heavies with 3 x 8 scythians on the flank. I kept 12 HC elites at the back. 

The rebels faced these with 2 armoured HC units to the right of the kardakes and then columns of colonists.

Three shots of army deployments.

A couple of ground level shots.

Both sides advanced except for my foot which sensibly hung back. I intended to shoot up the Scythians and then finish them off with my LC before performing a giant Austerlitz type wheel with the colonists. I couldn't hit a thing and the LC became embroiled in lengthy melees. The weight on this wing did eventually destroy the forces opposing them but the rebels had held up a large part of my army with a smaller part of their own. Things went disastrously for Simon on my right where my horse swept all before it as his morale collapsed and my dice tore holes in his units. In the centre this infantry had all of mine on the brink. However I had kept a unit of colonists back and it wheeled onto the end of the infantry (passing a missile halt test in so doing). The break of the end Kardakes unit took the rebels above their break point and the failure of morale of the elite hoplites removed any chance of a draw.

Finally, three action shots of the game in progress:

It's always good to see the Persians in action!

Review: Maximinus Thrax – From Common Soldier to Emperor of Rome – Paul N Pearson

Maximinus ThraxFrom Common Soldier to Emperor of Rome – Paul N Pearson
published by Pen & Sword
Pages: 296
ISBN: 9781473847033
Published: 24th August 2016

Maximinus Thrax, the Thracian, originally named Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus, was born circa 173 CE in Thrace and died in 238 CE, near Aquileia. He was the first soldier to rise through the ranks to become Roman emperor although his reign only lasted 3 years (235–238 CE). He was a Thracian tribesman “of frightening appearance and colossal size”. There were many feats of the strongman told about him and it was these strongman feats that brought him to the attention of emperor Severus. Maximinus was enlisted into the imperial bodyguard where he had a distinguished military career eventually achieving a senior command in the Roman invasion of Persia in 232 CE. Later he became emperor in a military coup. He was eventually ousted in a civil war pushed by the Senate against him.

I have been very much looking forward to my review copy of this arriving which, after a couple of redirects, finally found its way to me in the Philippines. I have been looking forward to this for a couple of reasons. One is that my knowledge of Rome is mostly based in the times of Augustus and earlier and second, I have been reading a fair bit of historical fiction of late set in the period of Rome in the second and third centuries CE. Harry Sidebottom’s series, Throne of the Caesars, is set in the reigns of Alexander Severus and Maximinus Thrax.

Pearson’s work is a narrative history of the life and times of Maximinus Thrax up to and past his assassination. It reads like a thriller, equipped as it is with various accounts of the treachery and assassination that were central to Roman politics.

Pearson covers the subject well, so well and in such an interesting manner that I am now looking for further reading concerning those times. The book itself is a great read and only real world time constraints (my day job) forced me to put it down at night.

My biggest surprise concerning Maximinus is that he has not been the subject of a movie yet.

I can thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has in interest in these times. I can also thoroughly recommend it to those who you who don’t as I am sure after reading this volume you will be searching for more information about this interesting period.

In-action shots of Raphia at Salute

Yesterday at Salute I was so busy failed to take a single photo, but happily chum Ian shot some lovely pics of our game. Most of the photos were shot during play and you may be able to make out chits, playing cards and ghostly hands, here and there.

The Egyptian phalanx- massed machimoi in the foreground.
The rather smaller Seleucid phalanx

Seleucid horse and elephants charge

Silver shields to the left rear

View from the dunes on the flank

Arabs- far from being the toughest unit on the table, but one of my personal favourites.

Almost 1K phalangites in this battle

The whole enchilada
A Ptolemaic "African" - they struggled against their larger adversaries

Ptolemaic xystophoroi

Clash of the  battle lines

Another African


Greek mercenaries on the Ptolemaic right

Ptolemaic guard (in the background)

Echecrates' Thessalians hold the Ptolemaic right
Galatian nudists in Ptolemaic service

Huge thanks to the team who worked so hard to set out  run the game- Ian Notter, Andrew Brentnall, Shaun McTague, Mike Brian, Mark "WHC" Freeth and Chris Cornwell. Many of the minis were painted by Shaun McTague and Craig Davey and some by Nick Spelller- hi Nick! The minis are a mixture of Foundry, Polemarch, Crusader and others. Most of the elephants are lovely Aventines.

Many thanks to the players- too- who really seemed to enjoy themselves! The first game was played in just over an hour, which absolutely astonished me and must be some kind of record for a 1600 mini game. The Seleucids won both games, although Antiochus was killed in the second one which was, therefore, something of a Pyrrhic victory.

Salute was a great show- although the venue is somewhat impersonal its meeting the people and many friends that makes it, for me. The Warlords organisation this year was extremely efficient and professional. A big hi! to every one I chatted with and to everyone I missed!  

On a final note, I have extended the current "To the Strongest!" rules sale to midnight tonight, for people who saw the game and want to buy a set with a 25% discount (or anyone else for that matter!). You can find them here:

Comparison of Baccus and Rapier Phalangites part 2

I had previously posted a comparison of Baccus' and Rapier's phalangites at
Since then I have received a package of Baccus's current phalangite.  The following two photos show a full strip of Baccus' phalangites with the cast pike, a strip of Rapier's phalangites (painted), and a pair of modified Baccus' phalangites.  As can be seen the shield on the Baccus' phalangites is the correct size.

Polybius, who lived from about 200 B.C. to the late part of the second century B.C.  was very familiar with the Macedonian phalanx and the Roman Legions of his time and wrote the following description of the Macedonian phalanx:
"Many considerations may easily convince us that, if only the phalanx has its proper formation and strength, nothing can resist it face to face or withstand its charge. For as a man in close order of battle occupies a space of three feet; and as the length of the sarissae is sixteen cubits according to the original design, which has been reduced in practice to fourteen; and as of these fourteen four must be deducted, to allow for the distance between the two hands holding it, and to balance the weight in front; it follows clearly that each hoplite will have ten cubits of his sarissae projecting beyond his body, when he lowers it with both hands, as he advances against the enemy: hence, too, though the men of the second, third, and fourth rank will have their sarissae projecting farther beyond the front rank than the men of the fifth, yet even these last will have two cubits of their sarissae beyond the front rank; if only the phalanx is properly formed and the men close up properly both flank and rear, like the description in Homer1— “"So buckler pressed on buckler; helm on helm;
And man on man: and waving horse-hair plumes
In polished head-piece mingled, as they swayed
In order: in such serried rank they stood."
” And if my description is true and exact, it is clear that in front of each man of the front rank there will be five sarissae projecting to distances varying by a descending scale of two cubits." Polybius, Book 18, chapter 29.

so how do the miniatures compare to Polybius' description?

Both have sarissae that measure 16 cubits (24 feet).  Rapier's sarrisae project out 10 cubits (15 feet) as described by Polybius for the 14 cubit (21 feet) sarissae so there is an excess length behind the left hand.   Baccus' figures are holding the sarissae at the base which does not match Polybius's description of how the sarissae were held.

I decided to see if it was possible to modify Baccus' figures to match Rapier's by trimming 10mm from the front of the sarissae and gluing it behind the right hands of the figures.   The front figure was easy, but the second took extra time to secure the cut off part.  Because Baccus' figures have their hands closer together there is more of the sarissae behind their right hands.  The Baccus' figures can now form the front two ranks of a phalanx with the Rapier figures.

The Battle of the Dunes in Miniature

In June 1658 the last battle of the Franco-Spanish War, English Civil War and French Fronde rebellion was fought amongst the dunes near Dunkirk. This engagement captured my imagination and two years ago I started on a project to build the armies needed to re-fight it with 28mm miniatures representing the various forces involved.

On one side, under Marshal Turenne, were French Royalists aided by a sizeable English Commonwealth force, supported by the English fleet. On the other was the Spanish army of Flanders, British Royalists in exile and the Prince of Condé’s French frondeurs. As regular readers will know from my posts over the past couple of years, I concentrated on building up the French (for both sides), Spanish and British Royalists, leaving Gary Kitching’s excellent New Model Army figures to form the English Commonwealth contingent.

The historical battle came about when Don Juan of Austria (the Spanish governor general of Flanders) led 6000 foot and 8000 horse to relieve Turenne’s siege of Dunkirk. Rather than waiting for them, Turenne marched north through the dunes to attack with 12,000 foot, 7000 horse and 10 light guns. Caught by surprise the Spanish/British/French army deployed along a line of high dunes without time to bring any artillery into the line nor to recall half of their horse which were away foraging.

Despite the difficult of manoeuvring through the sandy dunes the Franco-English won the day. The English foot under Sir William Lockhart charged up a very steep dune to engage the Spanish and Anglo-Scottish-Irish Royalists frontally as some of the French horse managed to get around their right (seaward) flank by advancing along the beach. Supporting fire from the English ships helped.

The full table view with Franco-English on the right.

Our game started well for the Franco-English.

On the meadows to the landward side, the French Royalist cavalry made short work of the first line of French rebel horse, seeing them off and then catching them in the rear as they fell back. One French rebel unit which had ridden through the ranks of its opponents decided to surrender and profess loyalty to the king rather than be surrounded and cut to pieces.

On the seaward side, the guns of the English fleet started to wear down the Spanish troops deployed to protect that flank as a large number of French horse advanced along the beach despite the umpire’s warning of the incoming tide.

A unit of Spanish mounted arquebusiers suffered so heavily from the naval guns that they had to withdraw to recover their order as if they stayed put they would risk suffering significant casualties.

Turenne held his French infantry centre back, engaging the Walloon, German and French foot in Spanish service with long range musketry, no doubt feeling confident that a victory on both wings was nearly in the bag. Indeed the Spanish players were overheard musing what we would do for the rest of the day as the battle seemed almost over.

Then it began to turn. On the meadows of the landward side, Turenne’s front line horse chased the enemy off the field and half of them decided to loot the Spanish camp rather than return to the action. This, along with the timely intervention of the Spanish lancers and cuirassiers of the guard stabilised that wing for a while.

In the centre the Duke of York’s Lifeguards charged and overran the French guns. They decided to keep going on to Dunkirk rather than turning back to continue to play a role in the battle.

On the seaward flank the incoming tide caused half of the French horse who had been working their way up the beach to turn back and head for solid ground. The others were driven in closer to a Spanish Tercio guarding the beach flank and took casualties from musketry while masking the supporting fire from the English fleet.

The first line of the English charged up the dune behind the cover of a forlorn hope. They did well but not well enough to take the position so they fell back. Then the second line charged, also meeting the English and Irish royalists as well as the Spanish.

They very nearly made it but an inconclusive result was not enough to break the Anglo-Spanish line.

Those of the French horse who had managed to make it around the seaward flank, attacked a Spanish Tercio from the front and rear. Unfortunately for them they were in a state of disorder, had taken significant casualties from musketry and the Spanish had a deep formation of pikemen who had a second rank able to turn around to protect their rear.

The cavalry attack made no headway against the Tercio. Then the Spanish mounted arquebusiers who had previously withdrawn to recover their order attacked them in turn, supported by a battalion of Scottish foot.

At this point, as the foot of the Spanish centre were slowly stepping back to avoid contact, we called an end to the game. The French had a significant advantage on the landward side, nothing significant had occurred in the centre and the English attack on the seaward side had been blunted.

The Spanish had fared better than they did in the historical battle but they did not win the day and most probably would have given up any further attempt to relieve Dunkirk without reinforcements.

Despite their numerical superiority and the lack of Spanish artillery, the Franco-English army had a very difficult task. Advancing over the dunes to attack an enemy on higher ground was never going to be easy. They almost made it but not quite. No doubt the scribes on both sides would be hastily recording victory although the result was actually a draw.

The battle was fought using Close Fire and European Order rules available as a free download from my website here.