Following my last post, and the helpful comments from you lot, I have managed to narrow down my choice of army to two but added a new question of manufacturer. That is turning out to be a bit of a bugger too to be honest.
My two army choices are either Indian or Sarmation. These are two very different armies of course and will play in very different ways.
The Indian is a more traditional army, one made of up of various troop types from regular infantry to elephants and heavy chariots; there is a good amount of bowmen too. It is still a more exotic choice than most and the elephants do add a seriously random element...they can be as dangerous to their own side as the enemy for a start! The heavy chariots provide a punch too but the rest of the army is somewhat light, not the sort of thing to go toe to toe with the heavy phalanx of Greeks or the legions of Rome. Essentially, this army can afford few mistakes and if it begins to collapse the whole thing could go vey quickly. That said, it can cause an opponent a few problems too. Each elephant in Hail Caesar is considered to be a distinct unit, so with the narrow frontage it is possible to hit an enemy unit with multiple elephants at once and really give it some trouble. It could punch a hole through the enemy lines and really open up an unwary foe. The heavy chariots are also useful and provide another offensive bonus to be feared, supported by quite a lot of other cavalry and lighter chariots these heavies will force the enemy to think about their deployment very carfully.
The elephants and chariots can look very colourful but the bulk could be a much simpler paint job, lots of white cotton for a start with many figures wearing very little. I think it is because this is a fairly unusual army that it attracts me so. It also has some historical match up options at the club but I think that they will make very interesting opponents for any ancient army; as I have said before, I am more than happy to fight any ancient army irrespective of date and theater.
The Sarmations are another fairly exotic choice. I have a feeling that the reason more members do not have such a force is that they hate painting horses...and there could be a bucket load of horses in this army! Lots of horses but any infantry fielded will be weaker and of the Levy type; arrow fodder at best. They could field Dacian infantry as allies but I do hate painting these irregular infantry forces. No, if you are going to go for Sarmations one would do well to stick with what they were good at...lots and lots of crushingly heavy cavalry and cataphracts supported by those nasty and irritating bow armed light horse. Hail Caesar army lists allow heavy horse and cataphracts to make up at least half of the number of units fielded and they could form the entire army on their own, not the sort of thing an enemy will feel comfortable with. As with the Indian army this is one that needs to win its battles quickly, not having the stamina of an infantry based force.
It will be quite a colourful thing and with all the scale and chainmail armour on both men and horses another impresive force to see on the table. There will be fewer figures per unit so less figures to paint over all but this is balanced by the horses of course. They will be of a less than regimented look as far as colours go but nothing like a Celtic force...bloody things are worse to paint than 18th C. militia!
The big issue now, and one that could well dictate which army I will go for, is which manufacturer do I use? I like Xyston but they are a very big 15mm figure compared to most. I do not want my army to stand out as if I had brought the wrong scale so I will forget these. I can get either army, albeit in bits and pieces from across a few ranges, from Magister Militum. These use the old Chariot ranges of figures and I think these are quite small for 15mm if memory serves...or are they? Then there is Donnington and Museum Miniatures, both good solid ranges. Or Essex of course although I do find some of their figures a little staid pose wise.
I like the look of the Magister Militum Sarmation Cataphracts but each manufacturer has good and bad points. So what do you think dear reader? Which is the better manufacturer...which one will supply a better force for the two army choices I have settled on? As I say, the choice of manufacturer may well dictate the coice of army. Scale and sculpt are key.