Friday, July 31, 2020

Lockdown luxuries ... Out and About.

(Northampton's Eleanor Cross; vantage point for Northampton 1460 Battlefield)

As I mentioned in the previous post, we did begin some outdoor activites in July.

10th July: Commemoration of the Battle of Northampton

(Northampton Battlefield)

24th July - the battle of Edgcote

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Ancients Stuck at Home

(lockdown luxuries: painting 6mm flags)


When I started this blog 12 years ago (yes, some 420 posts ago, in 2008) it was branded 'on the move' because we were always going places (I thought, in a metaphorical sense as well as travelling around the country and, indeed, the world) ... 

In that time, I have reported on wargame events or military history attractions in 62 towns or cities across 6 countries, from here in Northamptonshire to as far afield as Alexandria (VA) in the U.S.   By road, by rail, by plane.*

(towns and cities around the world where the Shows North team has raised the ancients banner)

For most of this year, we have gone precisely nowhere.  I have painted toy soldiers, refurbished collections, attended meetings by Zoom, played games at home and games by phone.  I have researched and written articles and been filmed for TV.  But the furthest I have actually gone is the 60 miles to my late parents' house (which we are trying to sell during the current Covid pandemic - and that, as they say, is another story).  Wargaming?  A little.  Representing the Society of Ancients?  Scarcely any options.  On the move?  No. 

The furthest afield in the lifetime of the blog has been the World Wargames event in Alexandria (VA).  We all played FoG ancients and went to Washington on Memorial Day for a day out.  I played with the full sized version of my Italian Condotta (Hawkwood) army, and renewed friendships from a previous wargame trip to New Orleans.

(far from home: the view from our room at the Alexandria World Wargames venue hotel)

(far from home: Italians on the Move ... Sir John Hawkwood takes on all comers in Virginia)

The first city we reported from was nearer to home: Sheffield, back when Triples (now itself a piece of history, perhaps?) was at its traditional venue, the Octagon.  We were downstairs in the student bar supporting the DBA Northern Cup.  Ironically, the last event we attended before lockdown was also the Northern Cup (now, of course, securely berthed in Newark at Hammerhead).

(Sheffield Triples 2008: first blog 'on the road' for AoM - Shows North) 

In the picture, you can see a 'two board' set up for a DBA version of the 1356 battle of Poitiers (which was promoting that year's SoA BattleDay).  Again, something which remains part of our formula.

The most 'tagged' event over the 12 years has been Partizan, but it does get extra hits as there are two Partizan events per year, these days.  Second - and, therefore probably the single most reported trip for us - is Salute.  My very first stint on the Society stand was at Salute, when it was at Kensington Town Hall ** and I think I have not missed one since (although I have variously represented Wargame Developments, Lance and Longbow and the Pike and Shot Society depending on who might be short of volunteers).

(most tagged show: Partizan ... here, at Kelham Hall in 2008 with that Poitiers game, now on the prototype of my trademark folding (pasting table) battlefield) ...

Cheeky insert:

(Edgcote 1469: how the pasting table battlefields look today!)

So I think Salute is the most reported single show on our travels ... here we are back in 2008 again, and Salute had recently moved to Docklands ...

When will we be back out on the road again?  I don't know.  I am still holding out hope for the Society Conference at the end of October, otherwise most of the Autumn shows have already been cancelled.  I believe Warfare, moving to Ascot Racecourse, has not succumbed, yet so fingers crossed for that.

Outdoor events are less dramatically affected, now the initial surge of the pandemic has been addressed, and Northamptonshire Battlefields Society has led the way with socially distanced commemorative events at Northampton and Edgcote.

(Northampton Battlefield 2020: wreath laying at the Eleanor Cross)

(Edgcote Battlefield 2020: a strung out anniversary walk on the 24th July)

Indoors, of course, I am sure we have all been catching up on painting projects, storage, reorganising parts of the collection and tackling the lead pile.  I acquired some very nice Kieler figures from Germany to expand the Roman legionaries Phil Barker originally painted for the Tony Bath ancients game ...

(lockdown luxuries: new additions to the Tony Bath wargame flats collection)

... and, of course, the DBA collection - organising and photographing - goes on apace ... you could say 'unaffected' but, really, there is more time ... so, as well as a new page on camps and baggage, I have added new profiles on Arabs (15mm), Arabs (flats), Byzantines (flats), Mongols, Turks etc.

(lockdown luxuries: a small fraction of the 2020 painting output - see the links above)

The light at the end of the tunnel?  Local wargames are resuming under the protection of a gazebo, I am probably going to be given to go ahead to do a history talk outdoors.  Our community arts project reopens in August and my fingers remain crossed for some late Autumn shows.  I am not particularly keen that anyone takes any risks with this pandemic, however (and I not advocating anything that encourages people to use public transport just yet) ... 


*my fuller tally would say 12 countries across 4 continents, but the heyday of 'international wargaming', for me, was immediately before starting this blog, when, e.g., as a Society of Ancients team, we attended Historicons in the US and IWF events in Durban, Melbourne, Athens, Rome, Dublin etc. 

** as soon as I type that, I need to confess that I don't think it is actualy correct: back in my school days, we made an expedition to the Model Engineer Exhibition at the Seymour Hall and put on a demo game of WRG 4th ed Ancients (which was definitely a Society of Ancients 'thing' as Charles Grant was there).  My recollections of the event and its organisation are incomplete (I didn't book us in - but we definitely were booked in and I remember we had complimentary tickets for that reason) and I don't believe there are any photos (not that we have, anyway) but, in truth, that was probably my first shows gig for the Society of Ancients.  It would have been mid-70s .

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

14th March, Newark ... the one that got away ...

A casual comment on Facebook got me to flip back on posts just before the great lockdown - and indeed I did not post a report on Hammerhead and the 2020 running of the SoA's annual DBA Northern Cup.

Worse, all the work was done - pictures edited up and filed ready ... so aplogies for that.  I suspect I was ahead of the game with the photos and waiting for confirmation of the results etc. when the great curtain dropped on everything (and the posting bit didn't get done) ...

So here we are - 3 sections of pictures.  A quick dash around the show itself (we were most of the day in the - actually more comfortable - hall acros the carpark playing DBA, so it is brief as I had some shopping to do. Then my show game contribution: 54mm DBA Bosworth.  And some pictures from the Northern Cup.  

As it is a while back (and not in 'front memory') I'll get the pictures up (and then back fill some of the details as best I can) - so if you read the email version, and want a bit more detail, be sure to open up the website version in a few days as there will probably be more to read.



The 2020 Society of Ancients DBA Northern Cup

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Camps and Baggage Page

Just to announce that I am creating a new page on this blog specifically for the camps and baggage vignettes that I know a number of you particularly enjoy.

It will mostly be a gallery, but there will be links to the armies the camps come from, and occasional notes on which figures or bits were used.

The idea, of course, is to enable a little bit of themed browsing in the hope that visitors will find something inspiring.

I'm about half done ... and once I have caught up, new pieces will go up there as well as their other relevant page(s) with cross-referencing links.

You can find the page by going direct to it Ancients on the Move/Camps and Baggage ...

Or by looking across the page header and clicking on the button.

Please have a look around - please leave comments if you would like.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

DBA Special: III/25b Arab Conquest (30mm flat Zinnfiguren)

DBA Book III List 25b: Arab Conquest 639 to 660 AD

This is the army that fought the Byzantines at Yarmuk in 636.  Yes, there is an anomaly with the dates ... list b starts in 639, but Khalid's army at Yarmuk in 636 matches the later list, particularly in respect of the regular cavalry contingent (known to Arab historians as Khalid's Mobile Guard) who went on to win the battle.

The figures are 1960s flats originally painted by Phil Barker to play the Tony Bath ancients game.  They pre-date WRG.  I refurbished and rebased them for the Battle of Yarmuk project (for the DBA3 Great Battles of History compilation).

At the time, the DBA armies page didn't exist and the 2 command/24 element armies for the project vary from standard (to simulate the armies present for the battle).  For this gallery, I have extracted into a single command 12 elements that match the orthodox list.

(Islam's finest commander - the Sword of Allah)

Known as the Sword of Allah (in Arabic سيف الله), Khalid ibn Al-Waleed was arguably the greatest general of his age and, whatever the odds, was never defeated.  He commanded at the Yarmuk.  He was a master in the rapid use of cavalry to outflank and encircle the enemy.

(vintage 30mm flats: quintessential Arab lancers) 

 (Arab archers)

The infantry had to draw in and hold the enemy while the cavalry did their work.  They were stoic fighters, rated by DBA as swordsmen (4Bd) but had camels (at least, to aid mobility in the desert) and at Yarmuk, were partially re-armed with spears to enable them better to protect their archers (hence my improvised mix of swords, spears, camels and bows) ...

(although DBA's notes emphasise straight Arab swords, these vintage figures carry the trademark curved scimitar) 

Yarmuk is another of those battles where the engagement went right up to line of the (Arab) encampments.  This was either an indication of how close Khalid came to losing the battle (the traditional explanation) or (as I believe) shows him using a deliberately weak and vulnerable deployment to draw the enemy forward in order to trap them.

Either way, camps are fought over in this battle and are not just decorative.

(the last line of defence at the battle of Yarmuk) 

This army pairs with Maurikian Byzantine

DBA Special: III/17 Maurikian Byzantine (30mm flat Zinnfiguren)

DBA Book III List 17: Maurikian Byzantine 575 to 650 AD

This is the army that fought the Arabs at Yarmuk in 636.

The figures are 1960s flats originally painted by Phil Barker to play the Tony Bath ancients game.  They pre-date WRG.  I refurbished and rebased them for the Battle of Yarmuk project (for the DBA3 Great Battles of History compilation).

At the time, the DBA armies page didn't exist and the 2 command/24 element armies for the project vary from standard (to simulate the armies present for the battle).  For this gallery, I have extracted into a single command 12 elements that match the orthodox list.

(30mm flats: Maurikian Byzantine general's element)

The bulk of the force is heavy cavalry (indeed the options allow an 'all horse' army if you choose that route) and the player must choose either 6Cv or standard Cv (of which the latter would ordinarily be my choice) ad I chose the 6Cv variant because it allows the Byzantine army to use a very specifically Byzantine troop type (which you don't see that often).  It also makes more of the differences between the armies for Yarmuk - and (not insignificantly) Phil's collection had enough figures to do it.

(Double-ranked Byzantine cavalry en masse)

.. and a splendid sight they are.  You seldom such a wall of cavalry on the DBA table.

The figures are mostly Ochel's Kieler Zinnfiguren (although the weight of them suggests they may be copies for which Tony Bath gained some note) and are occasionally available today (the moulds still exist and the 3rd generation company will do production runs according to interest) ...

The basing is on 60mm frontages, and I have used the normal quantity of figures except the cavalry and 3Kn are 4 to a base, cataphracts 5 to a base, and  for the 6Cv I have used 7 figures (because they fit better and it looks right).

The simple camp features a tree and a natural spring.

 (DBA Byzantines from the Yarmuk campaign)

This army pairs with Arab Conquest

Friday, April 24, 2020

DBA Special: III/25 Arab Conquest (a and b 622 to 660 AD)

DBA book III list 25 (a) and (b) Arab Conquest

This project has taken a while to complete as it is unexpectedly large for a DBA army: (excluding baggage, it has 22 mounted figures and 52 foot - so 96 'pieces' in 'old money', over 100 including the camp) ... this is because there are some dismounts in the earlier period, and because there is a significant shift between (a) and (b).

Normally I don't do 'all options' (or indeed, many options) because I find it annoying to go to the trouble of crafting a particular army and boxing it up ready to use - then when taking it out to play, finding it isn't, in fact, ready to go.  Indeed, it has happened that I have ended up with 13 elements in play (having assumed the army was in the box and good to go, only to find, on counting up later, that there was an option that needed to be selected).

So my usual practice is to work out the definitive army, and prep and paint that. That is what you get in the box.

The Arab list is problematic, however ... the battle I have researched the most is Yarmouk in 636.  It falls 2 years before the list 25 transition to significant cavalry yet was won by Khalid's mobile reserve of regular cavalry.  

I don't know why the list designer puts the transition in 639 (there's bound to be a good historical reason, but I think you need all that cavalry earlier) ...

So my Arab DBA box has all the elements you need to cover (a) and (b), 622 to 660.  All options (but even I can see that's more than 12 and that choices need to be made!)

(DBA III/25 (a) and (b) Arab Conquest)

The key difference, therefore, is that, up to 638, the list is almost entirely infantry with a couple of dismountables ... then, from 639, 2 swordsmen, an archer and the camels become regular 'jund' cavalry.

It might also be worth noting here that at Yarmouk, Khalid re-equiped his infantry as spearmen, but here, throughout the period, they are all swordsmen (4Bd) ...

Also I should say that I intended this to be a fairly 'brown' army ... not particularly wealthy soldiers campaigning in dusty lands ... but as it went along, that didn't look quite right, so the outfits got more decorative.  Hopefully the effect is neither plain not gaudy.

(Khalid ibn al-Walid against a background from the film)

If you look at the background from the movie about Khalid's life, you can see the plainer colours used in the film and lots of basic flags..  It is great for inspiration but doesn't translate well to 15mm.

So the shields have devices, the tunics have stripes and the flags have slogans.

(III/25 ... the general ... in the early period he can dismount at deployment as a swordsman)

(the Arab general ... figures by Battle Honours, Museum and Essex)

The Soldiers

(in the early period you get 2 'fast' bowmen)

(in the later period you get 4 cavalry)

(but you only get 1 element of bowmen - it can, however, now be optionally 'solid')

I've included the 'fast' option in the photo as the figures are in the box.  I would always choose the solid (4Bw) of course -  because of the combat benefits when supported by the swordsmen.

The core of the army in both periods in the solid wall of swordsmen ...

(DBA III/25 Arab Conquest Muslim infantry)

The skirmishing options vary slightly ...

... and the earlier period has a Bedouin option.

Together, the army comprises figures (mostly) by Museum and Essex plus Gladiator, Irregular, Minifigs and Donnington, with a couple of Battle Honours Mamelukes thrown in. 

 The Camp

The Arab camp dates all the way back to my show game 'Welcome to Jerusalem' about the First Crusade.  The tent is scratchbuilt from card, tissue and cocktail sticks.  And there's an Arabian emporium.

(DBA 15mm Arab camp... various angles and details ...) .. 

There are some animals at the back, a camel guard at prayer and an assassin sneaking around the other side.   And there's a man trying to sell you a carpet.

(DBA 15mm Arab merchant Camp Follower)

Why is there a man trying to sell you a carpet?  Well, simply, I went to the Middle East as a young man and wherever I went there was always someone trting to sell me a carpet.  I was a young traveller who clearly had no need of a carpet - but that didn't seem to matter.  It might be different these days.  Of course, once upon a time, they were magic ...

This army fights all its neighbours and has no allies. The later period army is 'aggression' 4 but I still put some terrain in the box.  An Oasis always comes in handy and the mosque (made out of cork tiles and cocktail sticks) looks nice.