Romani ite domum!


Click to embiggen!

Click to embiggen!

One of my first armies in 1/72 was Imperial Romans.  Like most new wargamers, I went with something familiar, impressive, and badass.  Since then I’ve come to like more of the underdogs of history, but if you’re going to go with a winner, you might as well pick one of the winningest armies in history.*

I began with some recasts of the Airfix Romans set, made by HäT, and later added ESCI, Revell, and HäT originals.

roman-testudoFront line, Airfix recasts; behind them, ESCI, trying to form a Testudo or “tortoise” formation.  Third line, in blue, Italieri Republican-era Romans; fourth line, barely visible, Revell.  The blue uniformed troops I gave a dark wash.  Usually I avoid any shading on my wargaming 1/72s both to speed things up and to keep a cleaner, toy-soldier look.  The only exception is that I usually shade steel with black and flesh with a darker tone.

roman-legions-2Some stands with command elements.  Center, all Airfix; right, all ESCI; left, ESCI troopers but I think Italieri command.  Behind them a Revell tribune standing over a fallen Airfix trooper and an ESCI Caesar standing over a fallen Airfix Briton.  (They don’t serve any role in a DBA army; I had originally planned to use Might of Arms as my war game rules but found it a little too complex for what I was after, and I really the simplicity of DBx type rules.)   You can also see some cavalry (HäT Republican Romans) and a ballista in the background.

roman-legionsMore legions.

roman-auxilia-revellRevell auxilia — in this case, lightly armed recruits, probably Gauls in Roman gear.

roman-batavi-hatHäT auxilia — in this case Batavi, some Germanic tribesmen famous for using their traditional clubs in battle and for being excellent amphibious troops — or at least able to swim across rivers that gave the legionaries pause.  Behind them are some auxiliary archers.  Both the Airfix and ESCI sets had what looked like legionaries with bows, so I painted them in legionary colors, but really they would probably be archers from subject lands in more native dress — Syrian archers are often mentioned.  The second line of archers are Britons from the Airfix Briton set.  I’m not sure if any Britons served as archers for Rome but I didn’t need many missile troops for my Ancient British army so the Romans took them.

Some miscellaneous stands of troops did not get close-ups.  Those are more auxilia in Roman dress, camp followrs, and some skirmishers.  The army is far larger than I need for DBA and could probably form several Early Imperial Armies — perfect for a civil war.  I also made some Roman camps, as DBA armies usually need one unless there is a settlement on the battlefield.  I have couple of simple, generic palisades, but I also did a funner one, which I always get out for Good Friday:

camp-romanThree religious-supply store crucifixes and a pair of Airfix legionaries.

With any luck I’ll find some time to photograph some more stuff this weekend — my Roman mile fort, and the Republican Romans, as well as some Etruscans & Italian Hill Tribes, Thracians, Carthage, and so on….


*Well, that’s their reputation anyway.  They certainly conquered a big area and held it a long time.  Superior numbers, technology, logistics, and training seems to do that.

Published in: on April 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm  Comments (5)  
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men o bronze

The release of a new edition of De Bellis Antiquitatis, along with my hiatus from having to DM, and having just read a book on hoplite warfare, all converged to reignite my interest in ancients war gaming.  Or at least in building armies and painting them.

So this is the group shot of most of my Greeks (I have another dozen or so stands of Thracians, as well as some mercenary Greeks in my Persian and Carthaginian armies, and some unpainted hoplites probably).


Click to embiggen!

A lot of my Greeks are Spartans, naturally.  The lambda is really easy to paint onto a shield, and the red tunics look pretty awesome against the bronze everything else.

Come and take them.

Come and take them.

The general and piper are Zvedza; the rest are Nexxus recasts of the old Atlantic set.  The second line in the background is all Zvedza too.

greek-thracians-hatThese are the Thracians that I keep with the Greek army.  Like I said I have a whole army of them, I should post them next.  These three guys are HäT Industries minis.

greek-macedonainsMost ancient Greek city-states did not use a lot of cavalry (well Thessaly would be the big exception), but the Macedonians famously did.  Since my pikemen are actually hoplites with extra long spears, I use them interchangeably and the Macedonians are stored with my Greeks too.  Above we have mostly Zvedza cavalry (the guys way in the back are Nexxus/Atlantic) and some HäT hoplites/pikemen.

greek-pikes-hatHere’s another view of the HäT “pikemen”.  I think the shields are all off to the side because of the limitations of injection-molding plastics.  I wish they’d opted for separate shields instead but back when I was collecting plastics, I just bought whatever was available.  Nowadays there are so many sets available you could pick and choose.  Still, these figures are pretty solid and look OK.

Published in: on April 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Rules updates

Another rambling post; sorry.

Right now there are three revisions of rules sets going on that I’m paying attention to.

One is the ‘next’ edition of D&D, which is the most opaque of the three processes.  I hear bits and pieces about what the designers are going for, and see some polls on the WotC web site which are both uninformative and relatively uniformed — the questions tend to be very vague and the pool of respondents appears to be a tiny slice of D&D players (the ones who spend a lot of time online debating D&D).  Whatever D&D “Next” looks like, I’ll probably try it out but I don’t really need it, both because I have more than enough players and because I’m pretty happy running older versions, homebrews, and clones.

Another game undergoing a revision is DBA — De Bellis Antiquitatis, my go-to war game.  Truth be told, I probably haven’t played it at all since I began running D&D a couple of years ago.  Before that, I played DBA a few times a year, with a brief period when I played it a lot.  I only played in one convention tournament, and that was seven years ago.  So the rules will be the third edition, although DBA went through various minor tweaks — I think the official versions, with amendments offered by the author, would be: 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2.  The revision process has been fairly open, with drafts of the rules offered for playtest, comments accepted, and lots of discussion.  In fact things took a fairly ugly turn in the last few months, with some rifts in the online community, at least, among those who like the 3.0 changes and those who’d rather just tweak 2.2 a bit.  Honestly I don’t find the changes to be all that radical, but partly because DBA is very popular as a tournament rule set, there is a lot of angst over what changes will be made.  Also, the changes will certainly include changes to army lists, which may make some existing DBA armies ‘out of date’ and require some changes for tournament play.  This does not really affect me, and I have my perfectly serviceable 2.2 rules.  I may buy 3.0 just to see what is changed, or may wait for the long-promised introductory version which is supposed to include some illustrations, more detailed explanations, and perhaps some modeling advice for new wargamers.

Lastly, a rule revision that is likely to affect me is not a game at all but the cataloging rules which libraries will most likely adopt in the coming year or so.  To some extent this revision of rules is of interest only to librarians, although I suspect they will impact library users and information seekers generally for a long time, whether or not they are aware of the changes.  The current Anglo-American cataloging rules (which were adopted more or less universally in the English-speaking world and very close in principle to most European cataloging conventions, as they are all tied to an international standard for bibliographic description known as ISBD) are perfectly serviceable, of course, but there are some concern that all that ‘metadata’ created by publishers, internet users, advertising firms, and so on could be more easily imported into library catalogs (and library data more easily ported to the metadata formats used outside libraries), and the new rules are purported to do be able to do this.  Having seen the current version of the new rules (called “RDA”) I am aghast at both how technical and  jargony they are on one hand, and how loose they are on the other.  This is one set of rules that I think it would be nice to keep standardized…we’re not talking about a game here!  Leave game rules open to options and house rules, fine.  But if you are creating a standard for a professionals to use for collaboration…well how about making them standards.  You know, in the sense that we all actually adhere to the same set of rules.  The chief author of the previous set of rules offers a hilarious and devastating critique of the new rules here, although this essay is a few years old and based on a more incomplete version of the new rules then being floated.  The unfortunate thing is that while input on various drafts has been solicited from the library community, some of the most important criticisms have been largely ignored so far (e.g. revising the rules will cost a lot at time when libraries are already very strapped; many new terms are introduced that confuse librarians and will be impenetrable to library users; the rules fail to actually address some of the ‘big’ concerns that led us to want to update the cataloging rules in the first place; academic (college & university) libraries have disproportionate influence because public librarians generally have much less time and support for engaging in the discussion; and much more…)

So these three rules revisions — two to games that I hold pretty dear and one to professional standards I work with every day — are very interesting to watch, although it’s rather distressing to me personally and professionally to watch the cataloging rules being revised, with limited input from those most affected.  It’s fascinating to see these three very different processes, as processes, too.

The DBA rules are being tested by a fair sized group of players, and largely incremental rather than wholesale revisions, and have been freely available for all to see at each iteration.

In contrast the D&D revision is hidden behind an NDA, although have still felt free to discuss what they think is, should be, or is not in it, and the design team has frequently editorialized on the process albeit without giving any clear examples nor disclosing any actual rules.

The RDA process has been open to the extent that sections were released for comments as they were completed, although at the time it was difficult to comment on incomplete rules, and many of the public comments seem to have fallen on deaf ears.  Following that there were extensive ‘tests’ of the still very incomplete rules, conducted at various libraries including the Library of Congress.  It is a little shocking that despite years of work on the rules, some of the most critical parts (e.g. subject analysis) have still not been released and much of what is there basically rephrases the old rules with slight emendations, many of which are rather dubious attempts to fix display issues by entering different data (e.g., not everyone knows what the English and Latin abbreviations in the old rules mean, but rather than asking for an interface that displays them spelled out, RDA eliminates abbreviation!).

The reception of each set of rules has been very polarizing too.  This really shouldn’t surprise me; some people hate change because it is change, and some people love change because it is change.  Apart from the purely emotional responses (aka nerdrage), each constituency can expect to be affected to some degree by whatever the changes are, and we all hate have changes thrust upon us without our input.

I think the D&D players are actually the least affected — we can just keep playing whatever we were before.  Of course the newer generation of players doesn’t realize this and there are cries of “betrayal!” by loyal 4e players and a great deal of angst about how their preferred verison will be ‘supported’ by WotC and which pre-packaged settings will continue to be ‘supported’ because obviously you can’t just make up your own stuff. o_O

The DBA players have tournaments so they are a little less free to ignore new editions. Depending on the particular tournaments, they may be asked to use the rules and/or army lists, which may involve some re-basing of minis (a legitimate concern).  Indeed one ‘rogue’ group who in past published a lucid and popular guide to understanding the very terse and brief rules of the game has stated their intent to publish their own amendments to the current version of the game, which has angered the author of DBA and created enough vitriol (between ‘loyalists’ who want to adopt the new edition and ‘rebels’ who want to keep playing 2.2 with a few amendments) that I’ve dropped out of even following the discussions.  As small and mature as the DBA community is, it has all the appearances of the sort of ‘edition war’ we saw in D&D over the last few years. 😦

But obviously catalogers will be the least free to ignore RDA — in the US, as the Library of Congress goes, so goes the whole cataloging world for the most part.  A few attempts to delay or derail the RDA train have largely failed to stopped what I see as “a solution in search of a problem,” but life will go on.

So, interesting times.

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (4)  
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Great moments in the history of religion

Here’s series of DBA camps (the DBA rules require that most armies include a scenic camp, representing baggage, camp followers, etc. and which can be attacked by the other side) I made about six or seven years ago.  The latest is the MesoAmerican temple, which I made in 2005 or 2006 .  It is really only in hindsight that they share a theme … torture and mayhem in the service of gods.

Chronologically, then, we have:

The golden bull — a very oblique reference to Baal, and the Biblical ‘golden calf,’ no literal violence here but still it has a sort of religious theme.  The seated chap is from a reissued Atlantic ‘Greek civilians’ set, with his head swapped from an Atlantic Egyptian.  The serving girl is also from that set.  The bull is from the Atlantic ‘Stampede’ set.  The base for the bull is a crypt from my Dark Tower game (when the tower stopped working, I tossed it and most of the set, and kept only the plastic pieces for scraps…wish I knew then that the tower is repairable!)  The camp followers are from the Airfix ‘Robin Hood’ set.

Here’s a Greek temple, complete with oracular use of a lamb.  The figures are all Atlantic Greeks.  The two statues are a Grenadier Amazon and a Zvedza Greek.  They are standing on spools from thread, and the columns are from cake decorating supplies.

Here’s the sacrificial victim in detail.

Crucifixion. My original idea was to line a road with crucifixes, to represent the aftermath of a Spartican revolt, but then I realized everyone would assume it’s Golgotha anyway.  The Romans are Airfix  The victims came very cheaply at a religious supplies store. I may smoke a turd in Hell for that one.

Mayan festivities. The centerpiece is a little copy of an altar I bought at Chitzen Itza, and the temple is a very crude representation, but it was fun to do.

The priests are an ESCI Zulu and another Atlantic Greek; the victims are Zulus and an ESCI ‘Barbarian’.  The Coatl is a Grenadier model.

Crusader camp. Simple.  The tent and chest are from Weapons & Warriors sets. The cross and palisades are toothpicks.

A ‘northern’ crusade scene — perhaps the victims are Wends, Lithuanians, or Estonians.  I could swap out the Teutonic Knights and call the victims witches, Cathars, or Albigensians too I guess.  The guards are a Zvedza Russian and two Italieri Crusaders.  The priest is Friar Tuck from the Airfix Robin Hood set.  The victims are all Atlantic Greeks.

I am not so into the wargaming any more, but I had plans at one point to do a Hittite camp (depicting the ritualistic marching of the army between a bisected dog, goat, and man, which they apparently did to exorcise a defeated army), a Hebrew camp illustrating choice atrocities (there are plenty to chose from!), the cannibals of Ma’arra, Charlemange ‘converting’ some Saxons, Vikings ‘looting’ a monastery, and similar, but decided it was getting a little too morbid.  I’d still like to do a Hussite camp with the drum made of Jan Hus’ skin, but they have so many wagons in the army they don’t actually need a camp.

Published in: on April 8, 2012 at 8:00 am  Comments (4)  

Quantity has a quality all its own

Just showin’ off this shelf for minis my buddy Jeff made for me about 15 years ago…


Click to embiggen!


(The camera is crooked, not the shelf!)  That’s almost a dozen DBA armies (Carthage, Republican Rome, Early Imperial Rome, Spartan, Macedonian, Achaemenid Persian, Classical Indian, Aztec, and Conquistador…with enough extras to convert the Spartan army into pretty much any other ancient Greek army, and the Macedonians into any of the Hellenistic successor states, and enough Early Imperial Romans to have a civil war…).

Here’s a closeup of some of the Imperial Romans — mainly Airfix and ESCI 1/72s.  The Airfix are recast by HaT Industry, and the ESCIs are recast by Italieri.   I sure wish more old D&D figures were still in production!

These are some HaT Greek hoplites.  I gave them pikes rather than spears, to fill in the ranks of later Hellenistic armies — I already have dozens and dozens of spearmen from Zvedza and Atlantic (recast by Nexxus).

Anyway these pictures are a few weeks old — I’ve since put most of these back in their boxes and put out all my painted D&D plastics (not WotC pre-painted figures, but things like Citadel plastics, DragonStrike!, HeroQuest, and Descent minis, and that sort of thing.)

Anyway I readily admit that I am not exactly painting to “professional” standards, but hey, this represents less than 1/4 of my painted 1/72 historicals (not shown: Celts, ancient Germans, Medievals for the 100 years war and the first five Crusades, Mongols, Japanese Samurai, ancient Egyptians, Hittites, Elamites, Bedouins, Early Hebrews, Mittani, Assyrian, Nubians, Lybians, etc.)

The post’s title is a famous remark attributed to Napoleon.

Published in: on October 13, 2010 at 4:44 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Goodest Friday ever!

The camp for my DBA Roman army. Two Airfix Romans and three crucifixes from a local religious supply shop. Originally the idea was to make a Spartacus-style road lined with crucified rebels but I ended up with three, just like some story or other I remember hearing a long time ago.

What?  Oh yeah, it was it had something to do with a minor setback before the triumphant return of a zombie god.  If only I could remember more details.  Well, I need to get ready for the holidays…Black Sabbath is tomorrow. And then it’s all about Oester bunnies!

Published in: on April 2, 2010 at 2:29 am  Comments (3)  
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my dark ages project

Just a quick post to tie together the three 1066 armies and a static page with more information on how I assembled the armies.

Published in: on March 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The death of Harold Godwinson

Granted, the Vikings are more popular, and the Normans were the final victors, but the English army of 1066 had heart.   Harold and his men raced north to repel a massive Viking invasion, catching the enemy by surprise and massacring them.  Then they raced south to Hastings, shedding most of their (horseless) light troops and levies along the way.  There Normans won the day, but only after taking shocking casualties from the Huscarl’s axes.   The dismounted huscarls of Harold’s army turned back repeated charges by the Norman knights, which is pretty incredible really. (more…)

Published in: on March 28, 2010 at 3:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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Norman, is that you?

The Normans, as you may know, were descendants of Vikings (Northmen =>Norman) in France.  They spoke French but were basically vikings on big ass horses (for the time) with state of the art arms and armor.  One charming account of their diplomacy is mentioned by John Julius Norwich:

Calling a halt, [the Byzantine Catapan] sent a messenger across to them, offering the choice: either they could leave Byzantine territory peaceably and at once, or they must face his own army in battle on the morrow.

The Normans had heard communications of that sort before, and knew how to deal with them.  During the harangue one of the twelve chiefs, Hugh Tuboeuf, had approached the messenger’s horse, and had been stroking it approvingly; now, as the man finished, he suddenly turned and struck it one mighty blow between the eyes with his bare fist, laying the luckless animal unconscious on the ground.  At this, according to Malaterra, the messenger in a paroxysm of fear fainted dead away, but the Normans, having with some difficulty restored him to his senses, gave him a new horse, better than the first, on which they sent him back to the Catapan with the message that they were ready.
Source (more…)

Published in: on March 26, 2010 at 10:14 am  Comments (3)  
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“Deliver us, oh Lord, from the fury of the Northmen”

Hide the gold and silver, and lock up your able-bodied youths (who will be enslaved) and maidens (who will be… well you know), here come the Vikings with their Land-waster banner. My banner is based on a sail design from a second-hand souvenir dragon ship , which was made in Norway or Denmark.


Published in: on March 25, 2010 at 12:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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