Sunday, February 27, 2022

Age of Unreason #13

 The final chapter of Leutnant von Klutz's patrol...

This will probably be the last ... for a little while.  I have another sequence in mind, but it might be a while before the motivation gets recharged...

Ho! For some war gaming!

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Age of Unreason #11

 This here is a follow-on from a(n occasional) series I began way back in 2010.  This strip was what I had in mind by way of a continuation, but it has taken this long to get the motivation for doing the actual drawing.  As it is, it has taken the best part of a week prodding at t to get it done.

To begin with, I suggest following the link to AoU ##8-10 for context... Or, you could follow the label.

And now...

To be continued... (maybe)

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Byzantiad - Work in Progress

All this talk of Mediaevals and Ancients, and Byzantine and their many foes, has led me at long last to have a look at what needs doing with my armies. Although Byzantine history is one of my favourite areas to read about, strangely enough, it is not at all my favourite period to wargame. I suspect it has something to do with wargames 'competitions', the meaning or purpose of which is quite beyond my comprehension. 

A survey of my stuff indicates a great deal of work to be done: buffing up and repair work on already painted veterans, and finishing off the figures I have not painted. We begin with some kavallarioi and skoutatoi that until two weeks back were quite innocent of paint - apart from the skoutatoi shields. Those shield have sitting idle in the arsenals at least 20 years - probably nearer 25.

Recent projects in battle array - quite a 
compact little corps.

  This little array looks almost like a little army in its own right - just 1 element short of a DBA or HotT army. A few comments:
1.  The shield designs given to the cavalry - apart from the command group in the rear - I found on the internet a few days ago. The command groups's shields were left over from my trapezitai light horse.
2.  The skoutatos shield design is quite frankly anachronistic, really dating from the late Roman, early Byzantine era, some 4-5 centuries before the period of this army.  But I just liked the look of the design - a stylised version of the rather horrible exsanguinated head on a bloody stake design.
3.  The shields have been hand painted.
4.  The lances will receive pennons and lance heads. Time was, I used pin heads with flattened points, but it seems these days the pins I have are too hard, my pliers don't quite meet flush, or I'm as weak as a kitten - the method ain't working. So I'm thinking of using the spear points from some unused plastic flagpoles from my War of the Spanish Succession sprues. That experiment will receive a trial later today.
5.  For my own army, I developed a convention that the kite-shielded, barded cavalry are Tagmatic - in effect the regular, imperial army - and the unbarded cavalry with round shields will identify the Thematic - in effect landed militia or retainer cavalry. My convention is  quite arbitrary, and the fact is that the bards were disappearing through the period of this army (c950-c1050CE).
6. The flaggy things are paper, coloured with felt pen.

Hand painted shield patterns and paper flags -
I'm tolerable pleased with the look.

I've also been working on the 'Enemies of' - specifically some light horse and close-order archers in the service of Abasgia or Bulgaria, as circumstances indicate. There's still a bit more needed on these, but pictures like this tell me what needs doing. 

Now, these fellows were all picked up second hand from somewhere, long ago. The guys in front are tiny - possibly 'true' 15mm, where the others are nearer 18mm. In fact most of my mediaeval figures are indeed 18mm. The four figures on the right flank of the main body look as though they could be Pechenegs; the others - I have no idea. I certainly have a broad mix of light horse archer figures!

Finally for this posting: some bowmen - apart from psiloi (light infantry) the only close order foot unit that I have fully armed with bows. 
Somehow a Norman archer has photobombed this
pic.  Rather an orphan, he's the only Norman 
archer figure I have...
Still a bit of touching up to do - especially the animal pelt jackets (Sheepskin?  Wolf? Bear?) these guys are wearing. I'll suppose they are sheep or goat skin unless or until I discover different. 

That will do for this posting. I hope soon to show the finished products... 


Sunday, February 6, 2022

Constantinople beleaguered... a campaign idea.

I've come up with an idea for a campaign using the FP3x3PW (Fast Play 3x3 Portable Wargame) system, the setting being the Byzantine Empire c.1000-1050AD. This is the Empire under attack by several enemies - three to be exact: Bulgars (a people centuries before were called Huns), Pechenegs (a nomadic people that frightened even the Turks) and Abasgians (Georgians).

A Pecheneg horse archer letting fly...

'First Pass' army lists:
1 Elite Heavy Cavalry - Bow/javelins
1 Heavy Cavalry - Bow/Javelins
3 Light Cavalry - Bow/Javelins
1 Poor Infantry - Spear
1 Elite Heavy Cavalry - Bow/ Javelins
1 Heavy Cavalry - Bow/ Javelins OR 1 War Wagon OR 1 light cavalry unit
4 (Poor) Light Cavalry - Bow
1 Elite Heavy Cavalry - Lance
1 Heavy cavalry - Lance
1 Infantry - Spear
1 Infantry - Spear OR Bow
2 Light Cavalry
Byzantine (3 Armies, each comprising):
1 Elite Really Heavy Horse (Kataphtaktoi) - Lance, bow, mace, mean attitude;
OR 1 Elite Heavy Cavalry (Tagmatic Kavallarioi) - Lance/ Bow;
OR Light Horse (Lance/ Bow or Javelin)
1 Elite Infantry (Varangian Guard or Rus) - spear;
OR 1 Infantry (Skoutatoi and Toxotai) Spear/ Bow;
2 Heavy Cavalry - (May be 'Elite' (Tagmatic Kavallarioi) OR 'Average' (either Kavallarioi) OR 'Poor' (Thematic Kavallarioi)
1 Infantry - Spear/ Bow
1 Poor Infantry (Peltastoi) - Spear
OR Average Light Infantry (Slingers (Sphendonistai), Bowmen (Toxotai) or Javelinmen (Akontistai)
OR Average Light Horse (Prokoursatores), Lance/ Bow
NOTES ON Byzantines:
1/ Only 1 Army may have the Kataphraktoi and Varangian Guard. The other two (or three) must use other options. If the Emperor takes the field, he commands the army with these elite units.
2/ No Army may have more than 1 Light Horse unit
3/ No Army may have more than 1 'Elite' Kavallarioi
4/ The Byzantine Player MAY elect to substitute ONE army with an all-mounted Army.
It may comprise:
1 Elite Heavy Cavalry
3-4 Heavy Cavalry (may be 'Average or Poor')
1-2 Light Cavalry

Byzantine Dramatis Personnae:
Emperor Dementius
George Maniaces (There really was such a dude)
Demetrios Psychopathes
Michael Lounatikos
I may shortly elaborate on this in my blog...

Well, here's the blog entry.  I have since added a map - a test of concept:  

This has added three potential 'players' - Normans, Fatimid Egyptians and although part of the Empire, a large region around Antioch that is the bailiwick of a certain rebellious and ambitious Byzantine Duke name of Evgenes Apostas.  It is unlikely, though, the the Fatimids will really be part of the campaign, as (a) I don't have a Fatimid Army, and (b) at the time I am considering, the Fatimids were on good terms with the Byzantine Empire.  The Normans will probably be involved in a separate campaign, c.1050AD, led by one Bohemond of Taranto, or someone like him.  For the rest, the map may lend itself to more extensive campaigning of a different type, which might include naval elements.

Campaign moves will be point-to-point, the battles taking place at - or in the neighbourhood of - each point.  The Pecheneg 'points' have been illustrated by stylised war wagons to signify temporary camp locations, rather than permanent settlements.  
Victory will carry an army to the next point along the road; defeat carry the army back towards its capital.  If the Empire captures a 'barbarian' 'capital' by winning a battle there, that will signify a conquest; if a 'barbarian horde' wins a battle at Constantinople, they will be be rewarded with kudos for winning the campaign, and bought off possibly with Imperial territory.  However, Duke Eugenes Apostas will probably succeed in deposing the Emperor... 

It is always possible that the Pechenegs will fight Bulgarians, and Abasgians will have a crack at Duke Evgenes's lands.  

A word on the accompanying cartoons:

This is really indulging in a little nostalgia.  I did these back in 1998, as 'character concepts' for a project I was engaged in that year.  This was a correspondence course, one of the eight for a Diploma.  This was a proper Diploma - the National Diploma in Children's Literature - taken by correspondence over several years, for which, though no longer extant, I still claim the letters after my name 'Dip. Ch. Lit.' - it was that kind of Diploma (why the University of Canterbury axed it, I have no idea, and I suspect neither does the University of Canterbury). The topic of this particular course was The Moving Image - basically film or video adaptations of children's (and young adult) stories. 

As part of the course we got to try our hand at stop motion animation, going through the whole process of concept, story-boarding, drawing the pictures, and laying out the instructions for how the pics were to be processed.  The thing was supposed to be just 5 seconds long, which, at 12 pictures a second, means 60 pictures all up.  Of course film is 24 frames a second, but each picture is filmed over two frames - standard for all stop motion animation.  

There are ways of saving effort, e.g. for repetitive action, simply recycling the pictures for each repetition; and for pauses and stills, you just film the images over more than 2 frames. 

I really got into this, and, under the title of The Alexiad created a 30 second epic based on a real incident: a mishap to one Pakourianos, Domestic of the West, in battle against the Pechenegs in 1086.  I had to study up how to animate galloping horses, zooming in on a distant shot, figuring how long it would take to draw and shoot a bow (the Pecheneg horse archer fleeing), how the arrow would bounce off a shield (might have been better to have stuck in).  There was quite a bit to think about.  I was very pleased with the end result.  The thing was recorded (several times) on VHS, for which we unfortunately no longer have a reader, and I never did copy it onto another medium...

The closing pic here discloses the nature of the ... erm ... mishap to the ...uh .. late Domestic of the West... 

Incident with reference to Anna Comnena's
Alexiad (English Translation).

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

A Word on my 'Illuminations'

The observant reader will have noticed the occasional hand drawn 'cartoon' accompanying my posts upon my recent Mediaeval games.  I just do these for fun. I just wish I could think of witty captions for them.

Byzantine victory over Bulgarians -
from John Skylitzes

I'm just a fan of the illustrations that adorn and bring to life what few snippets I've seen of the Chronicles of John Skylitzes.  They are simply charming, even the battles scenes depicting a total slaughter. I see that John Skylitzes: a Synopsis of of Byzantine History has been published and is available in paperback. I'd really like to know more about it, especially to the extent that it includes illustrations from the original. I have Anna Comnena and Michael Psellus in translation, so, why not...?

If this sort of thing appears in my blog, it is simply an indulgence, no more...

Bagrat's Raid - a mini-campaign in less than an hour

Continuing on from the previous posting, and having played out one small battle using Mark Cordone's '3x3' grid battlefield concept, I thought I'd try out a few small modifications in a series of battles that I called 'Bagrat's Raid'.  

It appears that late in the reign of Emperor Manuel Ponos, a certain Abasgian Atabeg Bagrat, casting covetous eyes upon the riches that might be had for the taking just over the frontier in Eastern Byzantium, resolved upon a raid. Any and every sort of plunder he sought to his own profit.  No sooner conceived, than the project was put in motion. In the early summer of 997, he crossed the frontier with a mixed column of horse and foot. 

Word quickly spread throughout the eastern fringes of the Empire, punctuated by columns of smoke from burning villages and farms. It so happened that the Emperor was making a state visit to the outlying city of Trebizond, accompanied by his elite Kataphraktoi. At once determining upon a personal intervention, he placed himself at the head of his escort and a gathering of local Thematic troops, and set off to intercept the raiders.

The Plain of Amphorae

Marching rapidly, the emperor intercepted the raiders in the Plain of Amphorae, two or three skhoinoi* southwest of Trebizond. He had with him:

Imperial Army:

Emperor Manuel Ponos I commanding with
1 unit Kavallarioi personal bodyguard, part lance, part bow
1 large unit of Kataphraktoi, heavily armoured horse, part mace, part lance, part bow
1 unit of Hyperkerastai light horse,  bow only
1 unit of Skoutatoi heavy infantry, part long spear, part bow
1 unit of Peltastoi medium infantry, spear only
1 unit of Akontistai light infantry, javelins

Both sides hastily drew up their forces in what amounted to an encounter battle.  

Abasgian Raiders:
The Bagrat Bey had brought along with him:
1 unit personal bodyguard, heavy cavalry, lance
2 more units of heavy cavalry, lance
1 unit of Ossetian (Alan) light horse, bow
1 unit of heavy foot, spear
1 unit of medium foot, bow

As was to become habitual during this whole episode, the Abasgians struck first. The Ossetians probed on their right flank, but were quickly repulsed by the Peltastoi. On the left, a unit of heavy horse flung back the Prokoursatores, but were themselves forced to break off in the face of the Skoutatoi behind them. In the centre, the Abasgian spearmen held firm, awaiting whatever the Byzantines might care to send their way.

The force sent was formidable: the heavily armoured wedge of Kataphraktoi, armoured head-to foot, horse and rider. The Emperor himself supported the attack with his own elite tagma of horse.  The spear held, but with some loss (a strength point). The early clashes redounding to his disadvantage, Bagrat threw in his reserves: his own bodyguard to support the spearmen, the other horse unit to supplement the lead, thence to resume their attack on the left. On the right, the battle settled down to an archery duel.

As I don't have small sized or single figure command stands, my generals will be permanently attached to their own units. Now, I'll probably class such units as elite, though for this, my first '3x3' PW battle, all units were classed as ordinary.  In fact I maintained this convention throughout this raid.

However, the generals all counted towards aiding combat (+1 for shooting or close combat) for their own unit, but also for any unit in the same grid area.  In effect, if the general were supporting or being supported, the unit directly engaged would receive +2 in combat.  

As it transpired, the Abasgians got the better of the archery duel on their right, the spearmen gradually pushed the Byzantine heavy horse in the centre, and the heavy horse forced back the skoutatoi on their left. Although the Abasgian line of spears eventually collapsed, the rout of the skoutatoi on the Byzantine right decided the battle. The Emperor's column was forced aside, and the raiders continued on their way. Both sides had lost 4 Strength Points.
The Emperor Manuel Ponos 'fleeing the field'
(from a hostile chronicler...)

* * *

Duke Doukas intervenes:

The Emperor left far to the rear by the raiders, a local landed magnate, the Duke Doukas, had also hastily brought together such local troops he could assemble, and set off to intercept the intruders before they could do more damage.  At the time the Abasgians had reached the market village of Komicros, and it was in and around this place that the battle took place.

His military resources limited, Doukas was able to assemble fewer troops than he would have desired,
having with him just 5 units:

1 unit, Kavallarioi personal bodyguard, part lance, part bow
1 more unit of Kavallarioi
1 unit Prokoursatores, light horse, part lance, part bow
1 unit Skoutatoi, part spear, part bow
1 unit Sphendonistai, light infantry, sling

The raiders seized the village first, and the woods alongside (the placement of village and woods was random - each decided by 2xD3). The open flank, Bagrat covered by his light and a unit of heavy cavalry.  Placing himself in the rear of the village, he also kept a heavy cavalty unit in reserve. Doukas at once launched an attack on the village, and sent most of his horse to try and clear the open flank. On his left, his psiloi slingers faced off against the Abasgian bowmen, a risky proposition, as the latter enjoyed the cover of the woods.

Aside: Although the slingers and archers were in adjacent squares, it seemed to me reasonable that both might engage in shooting action only.  The difference is that if one side was forced back, the other would not be in a position to follow up. That consideration decided me that the light infantry would in fact close assault. The hope was that they might 'get lucky', and they could always 'take a hit' instead of retreating. In the event, they held on for a considerable time. 

In fact the slingers did take an early hit, and the Byzantine light horse was also forced to flee. But the heavies didn't remain unsupported for long. The prokoursatores quickly rallied and re-entered the fray. 

The cavalry fight proved a deal deadlier than the fight over the village, both sides taking heavy losses, until finally the Abasgian heavies collapsed (2SP = unit destroyed or routed)  

Byzantines attacking the village of Komicros.

At once Bagrat threw in his reserve heavy cavalry. They at once reversed the fortunes on the open flank, just as the Byzantine foot finally broke into the village.  That success was not, however, to be sufficient. The right now weakened, left both flanks vulnerable.  

Although Doukas tried to press his advantage in the centre, his heavy foot had already taken some loss. In the climactic battle in the around the village, the Byzantines were thrown back out of the place, but the Abasgian spearmen also fell back, badly depleted. The miraculous victory of the Byzantine light horse, who forced the enemy heavies to fall back, was not enough to save the battle.  

For at last the slingers had given way, to be followed up by the Abasgian archers. The raiders were again victorious.

This was - or would have been if losses were cumulative in this campaign - something of a pyrrhic victory for the raiders, really more of a drawn battle.  Losses had been very heavy on both sides, though to be sure, the Byzantines had slightly the worse of it: 5 SP to 4.


Duke Doukas pursues...

The victory won, the raiders were left free for the time being to carry out its tasks of burning and plundering.  The Emperor was still distant, but the Duke, Doukas the Dauntless, was not yet bereft of resource.  Gathering together as much of his Thematic cavalry as he could muster - five units of kavallarioi and one of prokoursatores, he set off in pursuit of the raiders. Heavily laden as they were with plundered loot and looted plunder, the Abasgians turned to face the pursuers. At once, they attacked.

This proved to be the quickest battle of the campaign, as the Abasgians simply swept the Byzantines from the field. The cavalry on the rise on the right of the Byzantine position managed to hold fairly comfortably, but the dogged spearmen and Bagrat on the raiders' right just bulldozed their way through. Although the raiders lost 2 strength points, they were able to break clear and continue on their way.  

The Emperor Once Again...

Once again this battlefield was garnished with two pieces of terrain, a woods on the Abasgian right; and the Emperor standing with his bodyguard and the kataphraktoi on the rising ground in the centre of his line. The forces engaged were identical to those of the Emperor's first attempt to intercept the raiders.
Bagrat of course occupied the woods with his archers, where they faced the Byzantine foot - psiloi and peltastoi  (Here I made a mistake and thought of the psiloi as slingers - sphendonistai - rather than the javelinmen - akontistai - they were supposed to be.  In my view javelinmen ought to have a shooting range of 1 square only in this 3x3 version of the Portable Wargame).
As they had in every battle so far, the Abasgian raiders took the fight to their enemy (in fact, they must have 'won' at least 80% of the initiative rolls this whole campaign). Although the heavy horse drove back the kavallarioi on the Byzantine right, it was not without the cost of a SP, and the prokoursatores were able for the time being to maintain their position there. Bagrat's personal unit held their own in the uphill fight against the katapkraktoi, both sides taking a loss. Meanwhile, having driven back the akontistai, the Abasgian archers took the fight to the enemy spearmen whilst their own came out of the reserve. This probably was not the way to go, for the bowmen were routed from the field before the spearmen could properly relieve them. 
To this setback was added a second, with Bagrat's complete repulse from the hill, followed soon after by the spearmen.  Although their attack knocked about the peltastoi, they were also driven back into the woods. 

Now was the Emperor's moment.  The Abasgian assaults beaten off, the whole Byzantine line surged forward.  There was no stopping them.  It was bad enough that the Abasgian left was driven from the field.  The decisive moment for the entire raid was the outright collapse of Bagrat's personal unit.  He himself escaped harm or capture, but that was about all the profit he got from the raid.  Without a sufficient force to escort the plunder, the Byzantines recovered nearly all of it..  

This was indeed a costly battle for the Abasgians, no fewer than 8 SPs lost (not counting the 6SP for the commander) against 3 lost to the Byzantines.  The Emperor had more than recovered Byzantine fortunes after three successive defeats.

* * * 


This campaign was pretty much a play test of Mark Cordone's original idea.  It took a couple of actions to get used to; and questions arising from how shooting fitted into the whole scheme had to be addressed.  Now, it is true that Mark answers that question to some extent in his original rules (a copy of which I took the liberty of printing out).  The problem I had was that some of my troops - especially Byzantines and Bulgars, are built as much for shooting as for eye-balling up close. 

By half way through Bagrat's raid, I settled upon this routine for each 'bound':
  1. Shooting (range: 1-2 squares; both sides dice)
  2. Dice for initiative
  3. Top score moves
  4. Close combat (both sides dice) 
  5. Bottom score moves
  6. Close combat (both sides dice)
This routine seemed to work quite well, I thought.

I have been wondering about double armed troops shooting whilst moving into contact. I mentioned it to Bob Cordery somewhere (blog or fb), but I think I'll leave that one 'under advisement' for the time being.  Maybe units that don't 'do' close combat (light troops and archers) simply take a minus when they find themselves in one.

One convention I did adopt, though.  Byzantine horse and foot tended to be part-armed with lance, and part-armed with bow.  I gave the horse a minus for shooting (in other words they hit on a six, or a five if not moving)  But since these guys are usually interested in getting tore in, I doubt if they did not get the extras very often, if at all.  The skoutatoi I decided won't get the minus.  The reason is that historically (at least in theory) they were issued with a heck of a lot of arrows - two quivers, 40 or 50 to a quiver if I recall correctly.  Furthermore, they had ammo carts close by to replenish.  The Bulgar horse archers were all individual double armed, javelin and bow.   So they don't count the minus for shooting.  On the other hand, they have to face the lance if the latter move into contact... 

* 1 schkoinos - about 5 kilometres, roughly.