Monday, 25 March 2013

My Hail Caesar Army....A decision at last!

I have been spending a lot of thought time on this whole 'what army' decision....I know...bit sad.

The decision was between the Ancient Indians or Sarmation, both armies I liked, had an interest in and both that would be something different on the table. I looked at a lot of websites and had a lot of advice from blog readers about the various manufacturers too. To be honest, a large part of the decision fell on the figure choice...that and the costs. Given the general lack of funds I am always suffering from this is a major issue, I can't blow what little cash I have on figures that I am not happy with...and I do have so many issues with 15mm figures.

I have decided on the Sarmations or, at least the Alan version...not sure why. I felt that the cost of the Indian elephants and heavy chariot units alone would be tricky, plus the costs of low point value infantry of course, even if I did buy the army a unit or so at a time. It was not all based upon negatives though; I do like the idea of the terrible (in the original sense of the word) heavy cavalry and cataphracts, the swarms of annoying horse archers... I also decided I liked the look of one particular figure enough to look at the whole range. Not that they had a whole range of Sarmations of course, few manufacturers do. It would be a case of selective purchases but as the army doesn't need a whole lot of different troop types this shouldn't be too much hassle....possibly famous last words! The company in question is Magister Militum, or rather, one of the many ranges they carry and deal with. Take a look at the Sarmation Cataphact they do....

There is just something about this figure that I really like, no one thing in particular but the overall look and feel of it. It is not the over played figure type you often see, all three inch thick plate metal armour and like something from a Warhammer catalogue! This actually looks like a cataphract from a semi nomadic and Steppe born army, you could actually imagine a horde of these warriors unlike the overly heavy figures you often see. Social and cultural economics can and do dictate military equipment choices, metal has always been expensive to procure of produce, especially for Steppe peoples.

For the lighter horse archers I will need to raid the other ranges Magister Militum do, such as the Huns. There is so little known information on how any of these armies actually looked that as long as a figure has the right feel for period and type one can get away with things; particularly in 15mm!

This next figure is from their Goth/Visigoth range, a useful light cavalryman for many armies I would have thought.

The Sarmation army for Hail Caesar can be made up of purely cataphracts and heavy cavalry, or at least be an entirely a mounted force; I quite like the sound of that. Ok, the figures will end up being a little 'samey' but a varied paint job can help there, along with a little innovation when it comes to basing of course. These are not armies that need figures to be individually based to allow for a myriad of formations...column or line is about it really. This means, at this scale especially, I can build a unit around just two double depth bases and positions the figures in a more random pattern than the usual DBA style base would allow for...a mini vignette perhaps?

So there we are, I will build a Sarmation Army using figures from Magister Militum. It will be built within the remit of the official Hail Caesar army lists but will also be simple and efficient with just a few types of unit....heavy on the heavies as it were. All I need now is a bucket of pennies, so plenty of sofa diving for me and I may even make an early Guy......anyone need a kidney???

Friday, 22 March 2013

New Blood, Bilge & Iron Balls page

As some of you may know, I am the author of the naval wargame rules, Blood, Bilge & Iron Balls; published by Pen & Sword Books. The rules are slowly gaining interest with the public, age of sail is a fairly niche sector of our hobby after all, but enough people are getting involved for me to need to make a FAQ sheet and even new optional rules. One player in particular, Mark Ashley, has played enough to request extra rules for Spanish national characteristics and Shore Forts whilst my good friend, Clint, ( has decided to use the rules for his club game at Broadside 2013. He has also asked for extra rules on double shot guns....dodgy stuff....

To make things a little easier, I have now created a BBIB resource page on this blog. The FAQ's and new optional rules will be there and other useful game stuff will be added to the Free download page. This will be updated as new rules, resources or anything else BBIB related becomes available. If there is anything you would like to know about the rules or would like a new rule considered, please let me know. I would also love to publish your battle reports here, with pictures if possible, or anything else you have that relates to these rules. One of the biggest issues that have affected sales has been the lack of in play game exposure, it would be great to provide some examples of actual games here so don't be shy and share!

One thing that I was pleased about with the rule book is that it came with ships...albeit 'Top Down' paper ones that could be cut out (or downloaded) and and used straight away; no painting or fiddly assembly required. I still use versions of these ships, laminated to protect them a bit, as they are free and do not look too shabby; at least I think they look good but then again it was me that designed them :) I have seen that you can now get 'Flat' Napoleonic ships, upright 2D rather than the top downs I have. These will be a lot easier to get started with than 3D models as there is no assembly but I can imagine that they will be tricky to paint up.....but then again...

This 1st rate costs 6.90 euro (gawd knows!) which is about £5.90. Now I look at the site a bit closer, they are all the same price no matter what the rate. This seems quite expensive given that you are already a whole physical dimension down but they will be a lot easier to put together and they are the same 1/1200 scale that most wargamers favour. I imagine that a fleet could be put together really quickly though....I miss seeing the masts, the ratlines are perhaps a little heavy, but what do you think? Of course, you can download paper based flat ships from the Junior Generals website 

Are we ready for Flat wargames? Are these a bit 'old school' these days given some of the fantastic sculpts we have become used to...and seem to expect?

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

15mm Hail Caesar - getting there?

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.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A 15mm army for Hail Caesar

Damn I hate me. Get an idea into my head and it just wont leave, in fact it grows and wanders about the place making a nuisance of itself and generally getting in the way. In my last post I spoke (typed) of my thoughts regarding a new 28mm army for Hail Caesar. I also mentioned it in a post on the club forum, basically asking the members to stop me and my madness; they were less that helpful. Thanks to them the idea of a new 28mm army has now morphed, become corrupted if you will, to the idea of a 15mm army...and I usually really dislike 15mm. So, once the idea of the 15mm army had dug itself in deep enough it began to eat away at my sanity to the point where I am now trying to decide what army I want!

I am caught between several choices so I thought I would bring you lot in on the debate and see if some sense cannot be made of my confusion and indecision. What are your thoughts on the army types, pros and cons, effectiveness etc of each? I am also happy to fight non historical games too so i am not forced into a period to conform to thers armies.

Option 1. Carthaginian 

I am not a fan of Carthaginians, never quite sure what to do with the damn things. This may be a hang over from DBA where there are a lot of different troop types in the army but not enough of any one to be of use; enough to get themselves into trouble but not enough to get out of it. Ordinarily I would never consider this option except....I am being offered and unpainted Essex Carthaginian army for a good price, far cheaper than I could build any other army for. It therefore remains a practical option.

Option 2. Indian

One of my favourite DBA armies was my Indian one...elephants, heavy chariots...very cool; it is what is attracting me to a larger Hail Caesar army.  Ah, memories. I like the mix of troop types although it will by no means be a 'killer army'. It will be unusual, at least at our club, and interesting to use/fight against given the armies owned by other members. It will be a little expensive, what with the elephants and chariots, but it doesn't have to be bought in all at once of course. Manufacturers are Xyston, Black Hat, Magister Militum & Essex but the prices vary a lot between them. Xyston look great but the are the most expensive and I understand that they are quite a big 15mm figure.

Option 3. Sarmation/Alan

I like this option because it is something very new for me...I have been a dogmatic Heavy Infantry gamer for ages so the change to a more mobile force does appeal....and who can resist an army with your own name!!?? It is also another very different from anything the other club members have. The thought of a tank like force supported by some very nimble and annoying horse archers intrigues me. Magister Militun will probably have to be the manufacturer of choice here I think although I understand that they can be a little small. Not a lover of the more staid looking Essex figures for this army.

Option 4. Successor

I have always liked the pike armies. Never been a huge fan of roman armies but always had a soft spot for the Greek and Macedonian ones. It would be quite easy for me to choose to build a Successor or Alexandrian army. The trouble is that quite a few members have one, it wont be anything new or bring anything new to the party. Everyone makes the figures for these armies so it will be easy to build. I would be very happy to build and own one but, is this a time for something new?

Option 5. Something really off the wall, like Mycenaean?

Or do I go silly and try something completely different?

Ok, over to you lot. What do you think? Any thoughts you feel relevant are welcome. What works for you, what armies are interesting and effective, which manufacturers should I avoid, which armies have annoyingly complicated paint jobs?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Me and my Hail Caesar Greeks

At last! I have managed to make a start on my 28mm Greek Hoplite army...don't ask how long it has taken to make this start, let's just say that it has been while and leave it at that.

The first units finished are two ten figure Slinger units.

These are classed as Small Units in Hail Caesar, the rule set I will be using. I have used my now usual Strong Tone Army Painter dip but  altered my basing method to suit what I see as a more arid landscaping requirement. I bought a pack of Coarse Basing Modelling Sand from 'Famous Gaming; via ebay. I did not add anything to the basing sand but left it as it came, I felt that it gave the right look straight away. All I added were a couple of 'tufts', two different types and colours,

As it stands the army is made up of all 'Immortal Miniatures' figures, nothing wrong with that in itself of course, very nice figures. The problem comes with the boxes of plastic Hoplites; you only get 34 in a box and with Hail Caesar a Hoplite Phalanx needs 40 figures. Warlord Games, Victrix et al all have at least 40 figures per box. I will have to cannibalise one of my six boxes, at least, to pad out the other four...which is a bit of a bugger to be be honest. And this brings me onto my next turd in the water tank of wargame life; relative unit sizes. In Hail Caesar a, say, Roman infantry unit need only be 24 figures strong. A Hoplite unit needs to be 40 figures strong. This allows the Hoplites to make use of the handy 'Phalanx' rule of course but it does take some sodding painting! My Hoplite army will end up twice the size of everybody elses....poo.

Perhaps this is why I am also now being tempted by the new Warlord Games Republican Roman figures....sigh.