Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Gladiators In A Tin

In a reply to the previous post Nick mentioned an article in a 1973 issue of military modelling that featured a gladiatorial arena in a biscuit tin. Funnily enough I came across this yesterday

Monday, 24 September 2012

In Off The Post (2)

As a teenager I agonised over sending off for these Ian Beck rules to use with my S range gladiators, only to be distracted away from them at the last minute by something even more exciting such as Peter Laing turcomans with Bactrain camels.. Now at last they are mine...

As you can see they are fantastically retro with colour represented by "hatching" and typeface so small it is practically microfilm.

 I have just sent off for some of the correct sized hexagonal bases and paper and look forward to getting my percentage dice out again some time very soon.

(S range Gladiators)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Frosty Punics

(Foreground: Roman heavy cavalry forms the filling in a sandwich of Carthaginian horse, while in the middleground Hannibal leads his noble cavalry in a charge. Behind them the lines of the Roman legions watch on)

Back in the olden days wargamers didn’t get too hung up about the historical accuracy of their miniatures. When Charles Grant needed Sumerian chariots for his re-fight of Kadesh he used a load of vehicles culled from Celtic, Indian and Persian armies. For his Punic Wars era Battle of the Po, Terry Wise meanwhile opted for Airfix Roman legions, with Hannibal boasting Numidian cavalry from the same firm’s Red Indian set.

The second of our wargame weekend battles was something of a homage to the late and much lamented  Wise (All the gamers round the table had bought figures from the great man over the years), pitting a Carthaginian army against one made up of Garrison 20mm Imperial Roman legion and auxiliaries.

For the purposes of the game all the Romans were counted as Princeps.
(Carthaginian battle lines)



Hannibal (Plus 2)

Marhabal (Plus 1)

3 x Libyan/Phoenician spearmen

2 x Spanish Scutari

4 x Gallic warbands

4 x Balearic Slingers

2 x Spanish Javelins


1 x Carthaginian Noble Cavalry (elite)

2 x Phoenician Cavalry

1 x Spanish light cavalry

2 x Numidian light cavalry

3 x Elephants



Fabius (plus one)

Convolvulus (plus one)

14 x Roman Legions (elite) – fight as princeps.

2 x Ligurian Archers

2 x Samnian javelins

2 x Roman Heavy Cavalry

2 x Roman Light Cavalry

(Light Cavalry skirmish, while the elephants rumble forwards)


With Stephen called away by work commitments the table was expanded to 6x4. Old John and Clive took charge of the North Africans, while Richard and I commanded the home army.

The formations of the two battlelines were predictable (as yet Ancient wargaming has not embraced the equivalent of the total football revolution) with both armies matching up like for like. For the Romans the key to the battle was clearly to fend off the Carthaginians’ superior cavalry for as long as possible, trust that the elephants would prove to be more bluster than substance, and then destroy the enemy centre with their better disciplined and more powerful infantry.

The Carthaginians meanwhile hoped quickly to dispose of the outnumbered Latin horse, and turn in on the flanks of the infantry while it was engaged in beating off the elephants.

The opening rounds of action saw the Roman heavy cavalry charging out to meet the Carthaginian heavy horse in the hope of knocking one unit out of the action and evening up the odds. Sadly the Carthaginian noble horse, commanded by the great man himself, were not amenable to this scheme, and the Romans quickly found themselves engaged in a melee in which they were outnumbered 3:2.

On the opposite flank the Roman light horse rode out to meet their Numidian and Spanish counterparts and then began a slow retreat in front of them, the aim being to keep things on that flank as indecisive as possible for as long as possible.

In the centre the elephants rumbled forwards with Spanish skirmishers protecting them from missile fire and doing their best to disperse the Roman auxiliary lights.
(The final moments)

Initially all seemed to be going well for Hannibal. The Roman heavy cavalry was battered and fell back, while the Numidians and Spanish destroyed one unit of light cavalry with ease and now enjoyed a 3:1 advantage over the other.  The outnumbered Roman light troops also took a hammering and soon only one unit remained.

At this point, however, the favour of the dice Gods turned in favour of the Romans. The remaining light cavalry and light infantry held on, despite both teetering on the verge of destruction, while the remaining Roman heavy cavalry unit also refused to give way. In the centre the elephants were now within charge move, but in the morale tests one of the great beasts panicked and charged back towards his own table edge. The Carthaginian commanders had sensibly left a gap behind the elephants for just such and eventuality and no harm was done. The remaining two pachyderms did charge home. The Legion were not awed by their trumpeting however and stood their ground. In the ensuing melee the elephants failed to make any headway and soon, disheartened and bloodied by pila and swords, turned and fled.

If the Romans though victory was now secure they were wrong. For at more or less the same moment as the elephants ran, their own cavalrymen finally gave up and fled, leaving the flanks of the legionaries open to attack.

However, in a masterstroke of strategy the Roman commanders had held four units of Legion in reserve behind the main battle line. These units were now able to move into action against the Carthaginian horsemen.

As the heavy Carthaginian infantry and Gaulish allies crashed into the Romans the outcome was still in the balance. But after several rounds of bloody hand-to-hand fighting the superior discipline of the Legion proved decisive.

Hannibal, who had cheated death in a positively Alexander-like manner (The Roman generals were not nearly so lucky) galloped off with the remainder of his cavalry leaving the bloodied field to the Romans.

This was a cracking little battle, which went to the wire, producing much joy and laughter amongst the participants. What more can you ask for?

Monday, 17 September 2012

More action from Eagle In The Snow


Top image: Gaulish warbands assailed on all sides by Romans.
Bottom: The Roman bolt-thrower crewed by S range and Garrison 20mm figures (The bolt is clearly the wrong calibre). Rules cobbled together on the spot allowed this device to fire twice the range of an ordinary bow and threw two combat dice at long range and three at short.

Eagle In The Snow Part Deux

(Garrison 20mm Imperial Romans in action: auxiliaries to the fore)

For the wargame weekend with Old John and Richard I set up a table with winter terrain on it which could be used for anything from ancients through to Russian Civil War and quickly wrote up three scenarios for the former. My plan was to start with a game in which Alexander, leading a fast moving task force, cornered some Persians in the mountains of Bactria, follow it with a Terry Wise-inspired battle in the Abruzzo involving Hannibal and some unhistorical Roman legions and finish with a more traditional clash between the Imperial Romans and the local Brigantes. Since Friday night also drew Clive and Stephen into the cramped environs of the Longuelade bivouac the table for this first game was small - just four feet by four feet - and for reasons that I can't now recall amongst all the yelling we began with the Celts and Romans.

Richard and Stephen commanded the Imperialist invaders determined to impose their alien way of life on the natives, while Old John and I took charge of the noble freedom fighters. Clive Norman was the war artist/umpire.

The scenario was simple:
The Romans had thrown a pontoon bridge across the Tyne. Some of their army had crossed to the north bank, while the rest would arrive at some point in the future. Celtic opposition was likewise arrived or arriving. All this was determined by dice throws, which - predictably - didn't seem to go well for the Brigantes.



Maximus (plus 2)

Sixtus (plus 1)

8 x Legions (elite)

6 x Auxiliary spearmen

4 x Roman auxiliary slingers

2 x Roman Auxiliary light Cavalry

2 x Bolt throwers


 (Stephen points out the error of his ways to Old John)



Venutius (plus 1)

Vellocatus (plus 1)

14 x Close order warbands

4 x Light Javelins

2 x heavy cavalry

6 x chariots


(Old John issues directions to an S range chariot as Garrison 20mm Roman slingers attempt to knobble the horses)
The ensuing action was confused. Suffice it to say here that the Brigantes chariots capered about the place looking impressive andheroically manly but achieving very little. The Celtic cavalry met with more success and drove the Roman light horsemen back across the bridge. The Roman infantry was made of sterner stuff and easily dealt with the roaring warbands, who retreated back towards what is now Wark.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Coming Soon...


Rampaging, frosty a-historical elephant action. Plus.. the thighs behind Vintage20mm.

In Off The Post (One)

Today the postman brought these rather splendid Minifigs S Range one piece castings: AGC3s Gaul or Hun Horse Archers. They aren't for me, they're for a friend. No, really...

(Not So) Desperately Seeking PBC103

These are the chaps I need to complete my Carthaginians. They are the Roman "Cavalryman of the Civil War" figures, but I've appropriated them as Carthginian noble cavalry (Seen here being lead by Hannibal). Six are required to complete the unit. Then I'm done...Probably

Thursday, 13 September 2012

From My Ancient Past (part one)

My first brush with ancient wargaming came back in about 1974 when I used some money from the 13th birthday fund to purchase this Avalon Hill game. Alexander the Great was designed by Gary Gygax and recreated the battle of Gaugamela. As soon as the package arrived I got my two wargaming friends around to play it. Naturally, as the owner of the game I got to pick sides. The Persians had elephants, so I went for them. After five moves it was plain that I had made the wrong decision. "This is stupid. You can't win if you're the Persians" I whined as one-by-one the not-so-great King's cardboard counter units were removed from the board. We never played it again. Alexander went up in the attic with the Christmas decorations.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Eeee Pet.

Old John and Richard's visit will be covered in more detail once the war artist has delivered his final sketches of the action. In the meantime here's a photo taken in the shadowy light of the Abruzzo dawn moments before the fierce battle between Hannibal and his Roman adversary Convolvulus began.

Observe how, despite freezing weather and layer of icey snow, the Balearic slingers and Numidians have refused to wear anything other than the skimpiest little dresses. A similar attitude is displayed by the womenfolk of Tyneside on Friday and Saturday nights, though they throw more combat dice in melee obviously.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Now, we had it tough...

Back in the 1970s Britain crackled with the static generated by 20 million pairs of crimpelene slacks, men sprayed their hair with an evil smelling laquer called Cossack, the height of culinary sophistication was mechanically reclaimed meat and pubs in Britain were compelled by law to be shut whenever you wanted to buy a drink. Life was brutish (or more accurately Brut-ish), money was short and so we had to get our wargames enjoyment from things like this:

You sent off for the Micro series from Tabletop Games in Nottingham. The small bag you received in return for your cheque or postal order contained everything you needed for a wargame - troops, terrain, measuring devices and rules, all bar the latter made of thin cardboard. It might have looked like an Avalon Hill boardgame, with counters representing troops, but you played it like a figure game - the hills even had contours. From what I recall it was actually quite a good game, if visually underwhelming.  However, I only had the Micro Colonial set with the Rorke's Drift supplement, though doubtless there are people out their who can tell us what delights the Ancients package pictured above contained.
Well, come on, speak up now!

OMG! It's, Like, Sooo Over...Nearly

When I started accumulating ancient armies I had a figures wanted list that ran to several pages. Gradually over the years thanks to a whole variety of people - including a bloke in Leeds who bought cheap figures so he could melt them down for his Prince August moulds and removed any he thought I might be interested in - I have gradually crossed more and more and more figures off that list. By the time I started writing this blog there were about ten items left on it. Then there were two. Last night I won these PB range Libyan spearmen on eBay...

So now all I want is the six PB range Roman cavalrymen of the civil wars - to complete a unit of Hannibal's Noble Cavalry and I am done. Well, apart from painting the blasted stuff, obviously

Monday, 10 September 2012

A Crossword Clue...

...In a recent Daily Telegraph was "Pair of card games that go from bank to bank". Here are some Garrison 20mm Romans crossing the answer*.

As mentioned in the last post, these figures were some of the earliest John Braithwaite designs, following on from the 20mm JonBee range he did for Minifigs c.1966/7. Those figures - which are very hard to find - were largely based on conversions of the Airfix Sheriff of Nottingham/Robin Hood sets (Braithwaite wasn't the only figure designer to use Airfix as the basis for his creations - Les Higgins used Airfix ACW Confederates for a few of his ECW). Some of the Garrison 20mm Romans also began life in Sherwood Forest. These Roman auxiliaries, for example.

* Pontoon Bridge, giddy up, now.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Eagle In The Snow

(Roman bolt-throwers with Minifig PB and Garrison 20mm crews)

A while back I said I had no Imperial Romans. I was lying. About a year ago, inspired by boredom, I won half-a-dozen lots of painted Garrison 20mm figures on eBay. I then put them in a box - right next to the Eval Kneval friction bike - and pretended I hadn't just spent a hundred quid on something I didn't really want and had no use for.

Happily the impending arrival of Old John and Richard from Vintage20Mil combined with the inadequate playing space afforded by my new abode caused me to get them out again. We will be fighting a couple of battles with them over the weekend. Before that here are some pictures of the Romans on patrol in snowy Northumberland.

(Garrison 20mm Roman auxiliary cavalry with a converted standard bearer. The figures - bought of eBay - bear all the hallmarks of the true Old School wargamer including blobs of solder on the fists and beermat bases)

 (Garrison 20mm Legion. These must have been some of the first figures John Braithwaite made for the range - they are much smaller than the later Persians and Greeks - more akin to Airfix HO/OO. They feature heavily in Charles Grant's games, often in opposition to hordes of plastic Britons commanded by Andra the Beserker)