Thursday, November 10, 2011

Plataea BattleDay Special no. 1

Flats for Plataea

This is just to kick off a series non-shows posts which will hopefully support the build up to next year's BattleDay, the featured encounter being


Yes, the end of Xerxes's expeditionary force.

Readers will know that I acquired a substantial collection of flats at the weekend, and there is enough to put together a version of the battle - there are a hundred and fifty or so heavy infantry each for the protagonists, plus some cavalry and countless light troops ...

(flats: an immediate sorting aside of the Greek and Persian figures)

So, I have a little over 4 months to ...
Decide what's important in depicting Plataea ...
Decide which rules to use and develop the appropriate adaptations ...
Construct a miniature battlefield ...
Refurbish all the troops necessary for the reconstruction ...
Then make it all work.
It begins.

Starting positions ...

I will use the flats, and the first experiments will be using some or all of Tony Bath's original Society of Ancients rules. They will almost certainly be mangled and rewritten (we have the best part of 50 years experience of doing this sort of thing since Tony developed his earlier rules, and my assumption is that we have learned a lot in that time): I am not intending to bring to life a fossile, just to start with a system that originally had flats in mind.

(Persian infantry in Greece ... these might be styled on later the Cardaces?)

We shall see if it works.

Plataea was a vast infantry match. Although the Greeks had masses of lighter troops and the Persians an extensive cavalry army, these seem to have cancelled each other out to some extent, leaving the Heavy Infantry to sort it out. I therefore intend an infantry fight.

(some of the Heavy Infantry: urgently in need of rebasing before trial games can commence)

Enough of assumptions for now.

Some questions ... (and this is not just thinking aloud, answers are welcome, in person, as comments, by email - if you think you can help, help away ...):

Terrain ...
... green or brown, rolling or 60s style contour pieces?
... trees, temple components etc. flat or solid (1960s depictions sometimes show flat trees, sometimes solid modern - well railway scenic - types ... I have always assumed they used whatever they could get hold of. I have the luxury of aesthetic choices, so what do you think?)?

Basing ...

(Median infantry: closely arrayed like this the appearance is quite appealing)

... I've decided that the figures will be based, and probably in multiples after the same fashion as modern stands. But I'll probably remove a stand when that many figures are eliminated by the mechanisms - and so a gap which needs to be filled will open up. But (a) I need to decide what the battlefield will look like before deciding what basing finish will be appropriate, and (b) how many figures on what width base? How tightly should they be packed (flats, of course, can be packed very tightly indeed if desired)?

(Hoplite Phalanx: rough and ready - these figures are less tightly packed than the Persians in the previous picture)

Extra figures ...

(a drawer full of Greek cavalry: this should more than cover the requirements for Plataea)

... anyone know where I can get more of these figures - have a look at the pictures ... who makes and sells them? Or am I going to have to go to 'toy soldier' events to track them down?

Well, there's a few questions to get thing going.

Oh - and those Persians are going to need a barricade of shields ... or will they - what would you do?

(some of what's left after the Greeks and Persians have been selected ... there's another project or three still left I would think - but I must focus on Plataea for now)

Friday, November 4, 2011

31st October, Leeds

Fiasco 2011

This time last year the shows team pretty much decided Fiasco was no longer sustainable. The move from Armley to Clarence Dock and the Armouries knocked our audience significantly, but, somehow The Royal Armouries is somewhere we thought we ought to be.

The move to Saviles Hall, supposedly 'at the Armouries', but the other side of the Plaza knocked our audience some more. And as, now, we are in a hall dedicated to a local legendary Leeds TV personality rather than the history of weapons and warfare, all connection seems to have been lost.

Of course this would be neither the time nor the place to have anything but praise for Sir Jimmy and the awesome contribution he made to local and national life. If anyone could fix it, Jim could, and may he rest in peace. Leeds has lost one its unique personalities. There was a condolence book in the foyer on what was just the very day following Sir Jimmy's final curtain - which was a nice touch.

(clicking on the image will bring up the bigger version)

So, even at Derby, at the start of the month, I was doubtful about the value of attending (there's a high cost to attending, no expected revenue with which to offset it, so an equation solely down to the audience justifying the expenditure). Then a couple of significant things happened.

An idea that had been emerging amongst the
Gentlemen Pensioners came to fruition, and we needed to arrange a venue for the handing into my care of a classic flats collection ... and then Society member Rob (Scarab Miniatures) Broom offered to carry leaflets and samples alongside his War and Conquest game if we weren't already booked in (but would need to access some gear if he was to be able to) ...

(Early Medieval Spain: James Morris's El Cid collection - Rob's Fiasco show game)

Of course, I spied another option too, because (assuming Fiasco would have its quieter moments) I reckoned I could get a pretty comprehensive go at the game if I made Fiasco the venue for these collections and deliveries, and then sat with Rob as a willing volunteer.

(War and Conquest: the lighter armed Christians charge the Andalusian crossbowmen)

Result! And I have to say - it being a while since I played one of these Warhammer derived games - I quite enjoyed it. Rob gave me the choice of which side to play, and, obviously I chose the knights and charged home rolling excellent dice against his dodgy ones (so as the jaded amongst you will recognise, all the makings of an enjoyable game, whatever the quality of the underlying mechanisms!) ....

(Flats: a tray full of Egyptian chariots)

Anyway ... those flats ... David did some excellent photos and a quick summary on his wargames amateur blog (ancient flats) ... and as the collection has been dormant for a long time, I was happy to be nominated the new custodian on the basis that I will endeavour to get the collection used and back into battle.

There are 8 drawers of them, some painted nicely and ready to go ... mostly the more glamorous stuff (chariots, elephants and the like). A lot is partly finished and based up crudely, ready to play (that said, I remember basing in the early 70s and crude would cover it: aesthetics were different then) ... and then there is a heap of undercoated or part-painted stuff that has clearly never been in battle.

(Flats: elephants a-plenty ... and a tray full of .. err ... potential)

The good news is that there is sufficient Persian Wars content to put something together for next year's Society of Ancients BattleDay. That will tick 3 boxes for me (I'll deliver on the promise to get these figures back on the table; it'll settle what am doing for the BattleDay; and it'll give me an excuse to look again at Tony Bath's original ancients rules).

Hurrah! Not bad for just one outcome of my trip to Fiasco!

I will start up a 'specials' thread following this report in anticipation of next year's BattleDay - we'll have a look at flats, wargames rules and some of the issues that need sorting out before Plataea can be tackled.
(Lance & Longbow's New World DBA Participation table)

(6mm Gettysburg 'what if' presentation)

So, I spent most of the day playing the War & Conquest game with Rob ... but what about the rest of the show?

Well, famine and feast I guess. The trade turn out was OK and there was a fair chance you could get what you needed.

I had some items to discuss with Martin at
Warbases and Kim at Monarch Books (so another two ticks) and there were quite a few second hand books around (if you are missing 'early wargamer favourites' Tony at ERM has a lot of treasures on his stand at the moment, and Dave Lanchester has his guilty pleasures ...)...

(Ilkley Lads' splendid Crusader Kingdom 'Battle of Harran' game)

(Harran: the Crusader infantry have second thoughts)

Figure shopping wasn't so good, and the display games were variable ... some good, but not dazzlingly aesthetic, Participation Games, and 2 truly spectacular 28mm Crusades games. Our own El Cid scenario and the James Roach/Ilkley Lads Battle of Harran.

(impressive WWI Aerial Combat game played on a blown up satellite photo, overlaid and printed as an advertising banner)

I'm told the Crusaders made a bit of a mess of things, and that they were mostly running away by the time my camera showed up. These sandy desertscapes certainly show off the toys well.

(Al Andalus: the best armoured of the Berber cavalry)

The El Cid collection was by James Morris, and will be familiar to WAB enthusiasts from his period supplement. Rob had scheduled Plataea again - right on message, of course - but then had engineered some packing failures so was better served by turning to the collection he had in transit from a photoshoot for the new book. Or some reasoning of that sort.

(Al Andalus: Spanish Caballeros from the collection of James Morris)

I won't 'review' the rules for you here on the basis of just one game. And anyway, the set up we used was more for visual delight than for scrutiny of the mechanisms ... there was no real space in which the Berbers could manoeuvre and get their superior flexibility and firepower to work (but I'd like to see more, which is positive).

(El Cid: the battle standard advances, vanguard to the clerics and their train of valuables)

The combat, shooting and morale follows line that will be familiar to Warhammer fans, which means if you like that sort of thing you are likely to get what you want. It also seems to work smoothly enough (well, Rob knows what he's doing on this ground), and the game had a good shape to it.

(Berber light horse)

Thanks, Rob for an entertaining tutorial (the samples from the book look good, too) ...

Will we be back next year? Time will tell. I thought 2010 would be it for us, so it shows how much I know. We will continue to support the event, but it may be through someone like Rob carrying membership forms and slingshot samples, rather than me driving up with a full exhibition team from the East Midlands.

(a final view of the colourful War & Conquest table at Fiasco 2011)

I'll be making the trip to Manchester next week to play in the Northern Doubles, Warfare, down South is a fortnight after ...

And I've suddenly realised that the week after that is the Glasgow Armati event ... then Pudsey ... then Stockport, Wargammer and Christmas.

Suddenly it's wall-to-wall shows again!