Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Losing one glove...

'Losing one glove is certainly painful,
but nothing compared to the pain
of losing one glove, throwing away the other,
and finding the first one again' (Piet Hein)

Well, this posting is not about gloves, nor about Piet Hein, but about something I had thought lost long ago.  Fossicking through my accumulated Wargames bits of paper, I discovered, to my joy, this!

Cover page set up for my ACW rule set.
The name 'Bluebellies and Greybacks'
was added later.

This was to be the cover page for my hand written rule set (still attached: nine leaves of foolscap. both sides, and with marginal notes and amendments).  But it was this picture that I missed most (dated early 1989 - 26 years ago).  

From four years more recent (i.e. 1992), the following is part of a map that was to be used for a 'Second American Civil War' set in the state of Tennessee.  This was a multi-player thing, and several actions were fought, with varying results.  But I did make two very bad mistakes with the thing. First, I wanted to play as well as run it.  That's OK for a two or three player game, but we had more participants here. It didn't really work.   The other was that I allowed the thing to begin before I was quite ready.  In the event, the largest armies met, I think at Shelbyville and the campaign bogged down.  After a bit of a contretemps with one of the players for reasons I no longer recall I got fed up with the thing and closed it down.

Page 1 of my 6-page map of Tennessee, the theatre
of the Second American Civil War.

But I kept the map!

The idea was that after the disaster to Schofield's Corps at Spring Hill and Thomas's Army subsequently at Franklin, the Federal election campaign, which had seemed to be favouring Abraham Lincoln, turned sharply in favour of his rival Gen. McClellan.  The increasingly bitter campaign was fought out amid a storm of criticism of the President and his favourite generals.  After one of the most closely contested elections in all American history, McClellan was sworn into Office in January 1865.  By this time an armistice had already been signed, and hostilities suspended.

Heated attitudes remained, however.  Apart from the slavery issue remaining unresolved and an even sorer point than before, there was the matter of the territorial settlement.  The Confederacy insisted upon the return of Missouri, North Arkansas,  East and West Tennessee, West Virginia, and added, rather gratuitously, a demand for New Mexico,  Kentucky and Maryland as well.  That was far beyond the price for Peace even President McClellan was prepared to pay; much less would he for a moment entertain the idea of 'returning contrabands' that the Jeff Davis led government was arrogant and naive enough to insert into their list of demands.  

Generals Lee and Cleburne led the CS Army's warnings that the talks would fail in the face of Davis's uncompromising attitude.  They expressed no surprise at all when the Union armies refused, pending a Treaty ratified by Congress, to yield one inch from the advanced they had reached by the War's end. Lee resigned in disgust; Cleburne accepted with relief a posting in Galveston, Tx; other well-known generals also found expression of their distaste for a renewal of hostilities in various ways. Never known for his patience, Davis nevertheless began rebuilding the Army of Tennessee.  Negotiations having stalled by the end of February, 1865, Richmond severed relations with Washington a month later.  

On 1 April 1865, the Army of Tennessee left its Mississippi and Georgian cantonments, and marched north.  The Second Civil War had begun.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bring and Buy, ... and a question.

Bring and Buy, 2015:

Twelve French Horse Grenadiers of unknown provenance. The
two Minifigs Cuirassiers have been added to the picture by
way of comparison.
I didn't bring, but I did buy... a little.  The more or less annual modelling/war games Bring and Buy was held at the Woolston Club this year, and, ever in search of a bargain in matters of interest, I hied me along to said event.  In the past it had been held in the depths of winter, the first weekend in July. The two-month difference was much appreciated; it was a pleasant half-hour walk to the venue. 

Quite a colourful unit.
A bit of touching up here and there is probably called for: especially
the horses.

Well, I say half an hour; more like three quarters, stopping off at a petrol station on the way to buy a bacon and egg pie and a sausage roll by way of brunch, and stopping off at Linwood Park (also on my way) to sit in the late morning sun and eat.  Most pleasant.  There's been a howling southerly blasting through here since that evening...

Arrived at the venue, I thought that, as I was on a very limited budget, I would do a circuit of the stalls before coming to a decision. Although I could have bought more, only two items really demanded that I part with cash.  First was the above lot of 12 French Horse Grenadiers.  As I had been wanting to get such a unit for my Imperial Guard anyhow, $25 seemed to me a goodish price for these colourful guys.  If I do put in an order for Minifigs later this year, it will now be for Garde Chasseurs a Cheval instead. Meantime, I was glad to return to this vendor the half-dozen British infantrymen that had snuck in to my inventory during the Waterloo event in June.

A certain amount of touching up will be needed, but nothing major - except for the horses.  I don't especially like grey war games horses, so although maybe three will be done as dappled greys, a couple more as blue roans, the rest will be bays, with maybe a couple of chestnuts.  

Palm trees - enough for a smallish oasis.
For the rest, these palm trees insisted that they were a 'must-buy' for my WW2 Desert War, my involvement in Brian's 'Harad' Project, and, as it transpires, my Army Men project.  Four bucks for eight trees seemed to me a bargain.  I could have bought more, but I'm not building a forest!  In the following pictures, the 45mm tall figure gives an idea of scale.  The PzIV is a toy from China at I estimate 1:64 scale.
Figure (45mm) added for scale, along with 1:64 (?) tank.

As these palm trees came without bases I had to find something upon which to mount them. Most fortunately I had some off cut bits of wood that had been kicking around against just such an eventuality.  I've bevelled the edges very roughly with a craft knife thing, but further work will need to be done with file or rasp.  A coating of sand will finish them off.  I was told that the trees could be painted with acrylics, after a good soapy wash, but I'm not sure I'll trouble. Possibly a dry brush of the trunks and the trees an overall ink wash will suffice.  If I do anything at all. Twenty-nine dollars, plus two to get in the door - that was well under half what I had budgeted for, and I came away well satisfied.  

What to do with these?

French Foreign Legion done up as ACW Union.
What is wrong with this picture?
These picture have nothing at all to do with the Bring and Buy sale, but rather with my sorting out my American Civil War armies.  Long, long ago, to augment my Union Army, I bought several boxes of Airfix French Foreign Legion figures.  From these I formed four regiments, of which three are depicted in the above picture.  Two comprise 27 figures (HQ of 3 plus 24 'other ranks') and the other 21.
The unit on the right of the picture painted as coloured.
The C.O. is left 'white'.  The darkened caucasian
features make an odd impression, I find.
As you can see, I never quite finished painting them.  Partly I think this was due to my not being able to make up my mind about them.  It was the havelocks, really.  Unpopular with the soldiers, they disappeared rapidly, so they are kind of unhistorical.  I was not keen to carve them away though.  In any case, painted white, they look quite elegant.  These are nice units
I was going to make them into a Coloured Brigade, and you might have noticed the deeper tan of the fully marching unit (except for the paler C.O.).  Interestingly enough from the photographs, the darker complexions do not much alter the generally Caucasoid appearance of these guys. But really, I still haven't been able to get past the havelocks.  Of course, the rifles look wrong, as well.  So I'm thinking they are likely to be recruited holus bolus into the Army of Azuria, or possibly of the Door - a vaguely Turkish opponent for Azuria and Ruberia... Unsure yet.  Any suggestions?

What of the fourth regiment. then?  Here it is: 
New York Zouaves: Airfix French Foreign Legion with
turbans added.  That two of the figures have been broken I hope
was due to accident and not 'plastic fatigue'...

These guys were painted up at least thirty years ago.
These are Union Zouves, Airfix Foreign Legion figures with plasticine turbans added. Understrength at 21 figures, this is, of course, a veteran/crack unit.  It will remain part of my Union Army, and was anyway part of a different brigade from the three other FL-figure units. Unfortunately two of the figures have snapped off at the ankles, and I don't know why or how. The flags will have to be removed from the other three, and that will have to be done carefully, I suspect.  They have been hand drawn on paper and coloured with the type of pens used to make overhead transparency pictures.  The distinctly 'lozenge' shape is not accidental - I find that paper flags 'drape' better if you begin with that shape.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

By The Deep, Six!

The fleet of jeeps and other interesting items recently
received theough the post.  The running officer is there for scale.

A very welcome phone call from Brian last week resulted in my receiving through the letter box a pile of much appreciated additions to my Army Men Project.  I was told about the jeeps - turns out there were 24 of these.  But one or two other interesting items snuck in as well.  Although underscale compared with the largest of my Army Men, this is all to the good.
A double column of  light vehicles - enough to transport a
platoon, at three men per vehicle.
Brian assured me that the alternative fate of these vehicles was to be garbaged, thrown out, discarded, made redundant ... well, you get the idea.  Tossed aside as surplus to requirements.  Ever the softy, I accepted their refugee status and have found them a home...   Nine or ten of these will fetch up as transports for my Kiivar Recon Group infantry platoon, and 3 men per jeep.  The Group will then comprise an armoured car company of 5 vehicles, a HMG technical platoon of 2 MG mounting buggies, an infantry platoon mounted in jeeps, and some support weapons, of which more anon.
Raesharn 909th Rocket Battery.

Meanwhile the above picture depicts what will probably be the equipments of a Raesharn rocket battery.  These will have to be a little 'down tech' from more modern missilery, and more cognate to an extra large 'Katyusha' rocket.  Its size might be explained by the huge payload.  I'll have to write special rules for these.  I'm thinking:
Command vehicle, comms, and towed twin launchers.
1.  One-shot deal per rocket, per battle.  Probably, at that, fired in salvo.
2.  Not hugely accurate.  Artillery grid applied for each rocket, instead of for the battery as a whole as for guns, howitzers and mortars, and always on the 'Indirect Fire' grid.
3.  ...But woe betide anyone in its 'beaten zone.' Counts as heavy artillery, and 'Heavy Anti-Tank' for any armoured vehicle covered at least partially by all four central 'on target' squares of the grid.  Not too flash, neither, for bunkers and such that are similarly placed.

The column comprises a command vehicle, comms vehicle, and two rocket tows with their twin launchers.
3 light AA guns with tows.  What I'll do with these three
is uncertain...
Also included in the package were 5 of these interesting pieces of equipment.  It is hard to work out what scale they are meannt to be, but they seems to be AA weapons.  The guns seemed a bit dinky for my Army Men scale, so two of them have been replaced with something more gun like as in the pic below.  These are to be AT/AA Dual Purpose guns.
These two have had their guns replaced, and will serve as
towed dual purpose light AA/AT guns.

The temptation is to to take the gun bits off the trails and place them on jeeps as portee mounted DP guns, then using the trails as the basis for infantry guns.  I'm still thinking about that.  At least one of these will be added to the Kiivar Recon group.
Light DP AA/AT guns in their AT configuration
(i.e. guns in 'flat trajectory mode').  One thing about Fantasy
Worlds: you can invent your own military jargon.

909th Rocket Battery deployed for action.  The vehicles
ought, perhaps, to be parked further off...
Among I think four hard plastic figures that I will discuss another time, this sword-wielding fellow appeared. Having nothing else in this line in this scale, I was a bit at a loss what to do with him.  But then it occurred to me he could be a statue (Pigeon latrine) of some well remembered, long forgotten nobleman.
A village statue of some local hero:
Vicomte Hughnon, or, as it may be, Hermann Graf Slingburger
Apart from the splash of Nuln Oil he has received already, and a suitable plinth, there he is as he will continue to be: Vicomte Hughnon de Hautemerde, depicted in the last moments of his rebellion against Louis X.  Or maybe it is Hermann Graf Slingburger of Bavaria offering terminal defiance to the House of Wittelsbach.  Or could it be Sir Willoughby Wibton of Wibshire, offering defiance to the Genovese crossbowmen at Agincourt? My, they don't make 'em the way they used to...
...Or is it Sir Willoughby of Wibshire?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Red or Blue...?

The opening battle of the late Barry Taylor's 'Wartenburg'
This posting is somewhat inspired by recent discussions in David Crook's blog spot, A War gaming Odyssey.  This article has lain in draft form for overlong, but I'll publish it here anyhow, with odd pictures added.  Many of those long-time readers might recognise.  Mr Crook observed that the 18th Century lends itself so well to Imagi-Nations, and the creation of fictitious armies, with perhaps an exercise in developing one's own uniform (not to mention flag) designs.  Why not other periods?  My own view is that the 19th and 20th are both susceptible to such treatment.
Ulrichstein Campaign: Electoral forces attacking
Ulrichstein rebels at Zaltpig.
I will admit at the outset, though, that my 18th century armies, though fictitious, are very much based upon historical prototypes.  The Empire, its capital at Schnitzel, is a rather more coherent form of the Hapsburg Empire, The Emperor Violoncello modelled a little on Charles V, and the Empress Harmonica is a thinly disguised Maria Theresa. The characters of the originals have been modified for my own narrative.  The great and good Archduke Piccolo, the Emperor's nephew (and hence the Empress's cousin) though not what you'd call a rash commander, is no Leopold von Daun.  Altmark-Uberheim is a rather more piratical "Prussia", The Grand Duchy of M'yasma a kind of Russia en petit, and Ursaminor (whose army uniforms I did design) a very vague form of Sweden - the bit on the south Baltic coast.
Ulrichstein Campaign:  Imperial Army, under the Archduke
Piccolo himself, advancing into battle against the main
Ulrichstein rebel army.
For some reason, I've never been able to face the prospect of creating an Imagi-Nations form of the Napoleonic wars, though fictitious campaigns and wars do hold an attraction.  My method there is to tweak history a bit.  For instance, in the 1809 war, the Battle of Znaym may have been fought to an indecisive conclusion.  With Austria still in the fight, suddenly the British found the means to drop a considerable force under General Sir Arthur Whitbread onto southern Italy, where it was to be joined by a cobbled together force of two Austrian Army Corps under Count Eusebius von Carlsberg.  The local French Commander, General Dubonnet (in line for the Marshalate)  had, however, a considerable force in the region with which to try and hold the Mainland portion of the Neapolitan Kingdom.
Ulrichstein Campaign: closing stages of the battle
that broke the rebellion.
Or one might simply redesign the other campaigns according to what troops one has available.  I will probably be returning to this topic in future blog postings.

The renaissance period suggests a small war between the Austerian Empire and the Severian Kingdom.  Of course, one might easily discern behind the names, Austria and Sweden (Sverige). and the similarity of meaning between 'austere' and 'severe' lends a certain ... wit, shall we suggest? ... to the proceeding.
30YW - fought between the armies of  Imperial Austeria and
Royal Severia.  
The mediaeval period has suggested to me the Wars of the Clover (White Clover  vs  Pink), for which I already have the figures, but they are wanting their paint; and perhaps 4-5 centuries earlier, the beleaguered Ionian Empire holding out against surrounding Barbaric pressure.

My own Imagi-Nations 19th century project was originally inspired by H.G. Wells's 'Little Wars' but was intended for a Colonial setting rather like Joe Morchauser's Hausserian Wars.  The respective RED (Ruberian) and BLUE (Azurian) forces represented a Brigade group: 3 battalions, with a squadron of cavalry and a gun battery attached.  Some vague notion that a GREY (Grauheim) or GREEN (Gruenheim) might join them in disputatious claims to a sizable and lush territory of Mweusiland.  The Mweusi (BLACK) are a warrior people who take rather a dim view of being colonised.

I even had a map of the region drawn up, based upon the back yard of the house I was then living in. But this project was largely modified into a straightforward one-on-one struggle over chronic border disputes and violations between the RED and BLUE nations.  GREY (Grauheim) and PURPLE (Porphyria) are hidden Allies whose navies are likely to be involved, but whose land forces tend to be directed away from intervening in the Ruberian-Azurian conflict.
Kiivar 'Armoured' Infantry
It was a visitor the Woolston Club 4 years ago who alerted me to the possibilities presented by Twentieth Century style conflicts and Army Men.  Actually, it has been a bit more complicated than that.  An article in Model Soldier 30-odd years ago suggested the idea of small wars in Latin America (or Africa, or the Middle East, whence comes to that) using a hotch-potch of surplus WW2 equipments, picked up for a song by belligerent but somewhat impecunious small states.  The ambitious and acquisitive state of Orotina, under its dictator President Adolfo Ximinez, has acquired by mysterious means, a large inventory of German WW2 equipment, even unto a company of Tiger II and JagdTigers.  Vastly outnumbering the neighbouring states, Pan-Andean People's Republic and Gran Bolivaria, Orotina plans to expand its territories at the expense of both.  But the sources of replacements are running out for Orotina, whereas its opponents can count on replenishment from their respective sponsors, The Soviet Union, and Great Britain...
Raesharn equipment in their distinctive camo livery.

Brian O'Sullivan, of A Fistful of Plastic fame (?), notoriety (?) Began years ago his Harad project - a vaguely 1980s Middle East conflict in which the Harad Empire, beset by external and internal political strife, is rapidly declining.  A couple of years back, I was persuaded complicate Harad's situation in the form of the Nabob of Tchagai, lurking on Harad's eastern border awaiting the chance to grab for himself a slice of Imperial territory.  Less well endowed with exploitable natural resources than the Haradian Empire, Tchagai can less afford to spend money on the latest generation of equipments, and with a small core of Leopard I and Vickers MBT Vs, has to bulk out its armour with WW2 vintage Sherman tanks.

But the Army Men project, though Jono decided the War Gaming aspect was less agreeable to him that creating imaginary worlds (for which he has a remarkably far-seeing talent), still continues as a solo project.  Over the last couple of years I have acquired or been given or scratch built enough equipments to work on, and just need to organise and paint up a whole lot of troops.  The savage battles between Kiivar and Raesharn I hope to revive later this year.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Forgotten Army Party 4: DBA Romans.

While I'm on the topic - more or less - we might as well have a bit of a look at my Airfix Romans.  Thes have been modified and organised for DBA and/or HoTT.  First of all - dust off the box lid...
...and open.  As you can see: quite a bit of modification led to this array.
Below, Legio I.  Four heavy infantry with red shields.
Legio II, White shields.  The bases have been 'flocked' with coarse sand from the beach, with baling twine scrub grass.

Below: the legions in line.  These units from the core of this Roman army.

After that, the troops got modified quite a but.  The four elements following received pin javelins and round thumb-tack slields, and so became Auxilia.  You will see that the pins have been thrust through the hands of the figures.  Then the ends were flattened into spear-points.  The shields are unpainted except for the 'bosses'

Below: blue shield velites - javelin-armed light infantry.

The velites got the same tratment as the Auxilia - pin javelins and thumbtack shield pushed through their left armes.
Roman light horseI'm not sure about the horses - they look like Atlantic horses to me, possibly from the American Civil War set.  The lower half of the riders were ACW Airfix '7th cavalry' painted as though bare-legges, with high sandals.
Roman heavy horse.

Below is my 'first attempt' as a Roman ballista.  It is rather too large for a field piece really...
... and the frame for the horse-hair torsion 'springs' for the arms of the weapon I'm considering redoing instead of the casings shown.  But overall, I wasn't too unhappy with this early attempt to scratchbuild artillery.  The handles of the windlass or winch were made from a wheel with the rim and most of the spokes removed.
The bolt is simply a short mail, or brad, with the jolt end cut off, and paper stabilising fletches added at the blunt end.  I think the guy standing at the back
Overall this army comprises:
8 elements Heavy Foot (Blades)
4 elements of Light-heavies (Auxilia)
2 elements of Velites (Psiloi)
1 element of Light Horse (Light Horse)
2 elements of Heavy horse (Cavalry)
1 element of Artillery (Artillery).
If playing HoTT, I can add a huge Roman soldier figure as Mithras, or Mars, as a 'God' figure.

Forgotten Army: Part 3

Enemies of Byzantium: irregular spearmen.
Apart from the more or less complete units requiring a bit of repair work,  I have a more-or-less historical opponent that has at various times been used as  Georgians (Abasgians) or Bulgars.  It is probably fortunate that military fashions tended to blend and mix throughout a region.  The horsed figures bought as Bulgars were fairly ideal for Georgians, even though those peoples lived at the opposite ends of the Black Sea.
Enemies of Byzantium: more irregular spearmen. Sixteen
elements (stands) in total.
What follows is a series of pictures of works in progress in various states of completeness - or incompleteness.

The below picture depicts some shields with which I had been experimenting - this some 15 years ago, you understand.  The oval shield were moulded flat,  like the starred trio in the picture.  Using two pairs of pliers, I tried bending them in a horizontal plane to give them more of the rounded ;semi-cylindrical look, as descendants of the Roman skuta.
Byzantine shields for a fourth 'Regiment'.  Admittedly the design
is anachronistic, dating more from the 6th century than the 10th,
but it has a dramatic appeal of its own...
There were meant to be 12 of them, to be wielded by the front rank of the skutatoi in the following picture.  That the shield design dates from about 400 years before, I'll treat as 'artistic licence'.
The 'Fourth Regiment'.  These guys are more heavily armoured
than the others, so dating more from the time of Nikephoros
Phocas and John Tzimiskes, than, say, Constantine IX..
In the following picture are;
1. 'Barbarian' bowmen.  These are various manufactures.  Some Tin Soldier Byzantine toxotai got in amongst them to eke out the numbers, as did some skutatoi to serve as standard bearers.  A very few figures of ancient manufacture against bulked out the whole thing to about a dozen elements.
2. Four surplus Varangian Guardsmen with axes, and shields slung over their backs.
3. Eight orphaned 'red' skutatoi who may simply remain as they are.
4. 'Red' light  bowmen (psiloi, toxotai).   I tended to use light - almost pastel - colours for regular light troops.
Byzantine detached toxotai (psilos bowmen), 'spare' skutatoi from
pre-DBM days, and the four remaining Varangian Guardsmen
figures who didn't lose their axes in favour of spears.  Edging the
picture to the left are some 'enemy' bowmen.

Rear view of the 'Axe-bearing' Guard, showing the slung shields.  One chappy has lost his...
One of the Varangians has lost his shield...
A box more than half full of 'spare' horsemen: barded and unbarded lancers, and horse archers, with a few light horse as well.  Those pennon ornamented lances are those that have come adrift from other figures.  As there are quite a few more horse archer figures than lancers, they might be given a lance and become Georgian heavy horse.  The uniforms are quite near enough in design.
Heaps of unemployed Byzantine horse.  As there will be a surplus
of 'heavy' horse archers, they may be given a lance and
become Georgian cavalry.

Shields, dislodged lances, and my preferred brand of razor blade.
The shields come flat, but I experimented with round them
using pliers.  Regiment Number Four may be getting such
semi-cylindrical shields.
A closer look at the spare shields.  You can see how I've worked on several to round them.  Pity I didn't think of it back in the early 1980s.

The previous two articles gave no particularly clear view of the light horse.  I used to go for the maximum: 1 Trapezetoi element (LH(S)) 2 Prokoursatores (LH(O) - they are the ones in the second line - and 2 Hyperkerastai (LH(F)).  You'd imagine they would get overwhelmed by the light horse of other Asiatic armies, eh, but they performed well, on the whole.  In later versions of the army, they would be assisted by Pecheneg horse archers, though it was just as likely these 'barbarians' substituted for the hyperkarastai...
Another view of the Byzantine light horse: lance-armed trapezetoi
and bow-armed hyperkerastai in the front line; lance and bow
armed prokoursatores in the second.

Some 9 lance armed extra-heavy horse, 15 lance armed heavies
and a heck of a lot of bow-armed guys.  More light horse and
'super-heavy' kataphraktoi as well.

Closer view of the 'spares'.

I also have several 'spare' skutatoi whose future remains undecided.  I am considering building out my foot units to four (not counting the Varangian Guard and the akritoi), each comprising 3 Spear and bow double elements (Bw(X)/Bw(O)), and one element of menavlatoi (Bd(X)).  Each should include two elements each of slingers (Ps(O)) and of javelinmen (Ps(S)).  That is quite feasible with my figure inventory!
The unmodified skutatoi in this picture will probably become semi-heavy
menavlatoi armed with very heavy throwing spears.

Bulgarian light horse archers from Essex, I think.  I've had them near 20 years and still haven't painted them...

Enemies of Byzantium.  These are Essex
Bulgar horse archers - quite 'gracile' figures.  They
could equally well be Georgian...
More horse archers of unknown provenance.
These, and the picture below, do have more of the 'Hunnic' look one would expect of
Bulgar light horse.
Asiatic armies need lots of light horse archers...
... but they require something with a bit of heft as well: Cv(S) (Bulgar) or Kn(S) (Early Georgian).
Not sure what these are - a bit of a mixed bag.  The centre
element looks like the personal retinue of Tsar Tervel himself...
Below, some Bulgar light horse archers that did actually get painted.
Bulgar light horse who have been with brush distance of
a paint pot...
The next two pictures are of quite nice Byzantines of indeterminate origin that have eked out my Georgians over the years.  Quite what their future is, is uncertain.
Byzantine horse figures who stood in for Georgians for many years.
They may revert to type and become thematic cavalry supporting
Nikephoros Phobos, pretender to the Imperial Purple of Ionium.
Meanwhile, I am of course leaning towards something imaginary, but leaning close to history, at least from the point of view of geography and the political situation.  The central Empire is that of Ionium, sometimes called by their enemies the Empire of Rum, from its Latin origins.

Some of these figures look vaguely Roman or sub-Roman.  But
if they can look anything like Bulgars or Georgians, that will
be what they will become.

The Emperor - a.k.a. the Czar - is one Dementius I Krazius, known as the Porphyrogenitus.  His chief commanders - Strategoi - are:
1. Ghiorghios Maniakes
2. Dmitrios Psychopathes
3. Michael Phrenetikos
4.Roussel de Bolluxe - a Norman mercenary in Ionian service.

The revolting Nikephoros Phobos has carved out an enclave of the Empire for himself - the so-called Empire of Pharbeyond - and at the head of which he has proclaimed himself Emperor, Caesar, and every other Imperial title he can think of.  Very conscious of his rights, the Porphyrogenitus, intends to deprive his rival of throne, lands and life - when he can find the time from battling Vulgarian and Abasgian barbarians...

Other enemies are:
Khan (sometimes called Czar) Tervel (Vulgarians);
King Bagrat of Abasgia (Subordinate generals Gurgen and Sumbat).