Sunday, February 26, 2012

I'm Spartacus!
My army of escaped slaves
Another one of my all time favorite childhood movies was Spartacus, so I guess it was inevitable that there would be a Spartacus wargame in my basement. The main obstacle to creating a slave revolt army was the lack of appropriate figures. Of course, there is very little information on the appearance of the escaped slaves so I guess my problem was there were no figures to fit what I thought they should look like.
Ah, the Romans. Everyone agrees what they looked like
Old Glory came out with Spartacus figures in 28mm a few years ago and they came complete with various bits of gladiator equipment. I've seen a number of other wargame armies for this period with gladiator figures arrayed in close order. Sadly the one thing we do know about Spartacus and the lads is they did not use gladiator equipment except for a very brief period right after the original 70 gladiators escaped and captured a wagon carrying equipment for the arena. Soon after that they captured real Roman equipment and also appearantly fabricated as much of their own as possible. They discarded the arena stuff ASAP.
Escaped slaves partially armed with Roman gear
In spite of capturing equipment from the various contingents of raw troops the Romans initially sent against them and fabricating some of their own, the number of slaves outgrew the equipment available to them. Some of them would be fairly well equipped, as in the picture above. Other elements of the army would have little equipment available to them, as in the picture below.
A horde of poorly armed ex-slaves
When the new plastic figures from manufacturers like Wargames Factory came out it seemed like the perfect opportunity to build a Spartacus army. The heads, bodies, weapons and shields are interchangable between sets of figures. My escaped slaves are made primarily from the Wargames Factory Roman set and the Numidian Infantry set with a light sprinkling from various other sets. The parts are swapped around so one man may have a Roman mail shirt, another a Roman helmet and a third a Roman shield, and so on. The Numidians make a great foundation because they are dressed in a simple sleeveless tunic that looks like something a slave might wear.
Roman general with his exotic German bodyguard
The sources tell us that the German and Gallic slaves formed a seperate contingent of the army that sometimes travelled with the rest and sometimes operated alone. I believe they probably looked pretty much like all the others. Any time they had to spend fabricating things they needed would have been spent making weapons rather than trying to reproduce their native costumes. Painting a large number of them with fair hair is the only distinction I allow for appearance.
A Roman cohort
Wargaming the period - I like the DBx series of rules. DBA has the virtue of simplicity and I am a lazy fellow, so my first effort to do Spartacus was to make 12 element armies of Romans and Ex-slaves. I don't care for the look of a DBA army (not enough toys) so I made a Roman cohort or a similar element of slaves from twelve 28mm figures mounted on a 6"x2" base. After a few games I thought that the slave army didn't 'feel' right. It was composed of roughly equal numbers of blades and warbands. I took a look at the DBM rules and army lists, and they seemed to make more sense. The DBM Spartacus army has more than half of its close fighting infantry classed as 'Superior Horde', with the rest as 'Inferior Blades'. I think Inferior Blades are a good classification for that part of the army that had been prisoners of war or or showed some military aptitude. Superior Hordes is a good classification for the swarms of desperate people who attached themselves to the army as it moved up and down the Italian penninsula. They may not have known anything about weapon handling or acting as a unit, but they knew what fate awaited them if they were recaptured, and it must have made them subborn in battle. The list allows a few German/Gallic warbands and a few cavalry and skirmishers. The warbands are optional to allow for those occasions when they were away operating on their own. My Spartacus army has 1 Cavalry element to represent Spartacus himself, 12 elements of Inferior blades to represent the more skilled and better equipped part of the army, 16 double depth (24 figures) elements of Superior Horde to represent the masses. There are also 4 elements of Inferior Psiloi. They are opposed by one of the earlier, less capable Roman forces consisting of 1 Cavalry General, 10 elements (cohorts) of Inferior Blades, 2 elements of Numidian Light Horse, and 4 elements of Psiloi. The first game is scheduled for 2 weeks from tonight. I'll post a battle report and some pics when it happens. 
Shepherds skirmishing in front of the Slave Army

Monday, February 20, 2012

Saxons and Vikings

For my premiere entry on the new blog, let’s talk Saxons and Vikings. This has been one of my favorite periods since I was a kid at the RKO Palace theatre watching Kirk Douglas storming Aelle’s castle. Odin! As you know, the toys do accumulate over time so I now have about 1400 figures for this period. For rules I started with some basic concepts around movement and combat lifted from DBA and added in lots of ‘chrome’ to enhance period feel, troop quality modifiers, etc.  An element consists of a dozen 28mm figures on a 6”X2” base and we can play a game with 50 or 60 elements per side to a conclusion in 3 or 4 hours.  My regular opponents enjoy doing this game occasionally but aren’t as in to it as I am, so there is little chance of engaging them in a campaign any time soon. Too bad, since campaign ideas have been floating around in my head for some time.
Interior of a viking chieftain's mead hall by Mike the artist
                                         Saxon hearthtroop
                             A peaceful North Anglian village, but for how long?
The rivals in this campaign are the small, lost to history 9th Century Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of North Anglia and the Viking sea king Orm Longsword. North Anglia is located on the West coast of Britain, wedged between Wales and Scotland. It is isolated from its neighbors by the surrounding mountains, but exposed to seaborne raids from the Vikings that infest the Irish Sea. King Burghred is old and spends more time in prayer and penance these days than in governing. His only son, Aelfred handles affairs of state these days. While not a natural warrior, Aelfred has improved the organization of the army and the efficiency of the state. His relationships with the other four leading families are a bit strained, as the crown is not necessarily hereditary.
Aelfred, brilliant organizer, reluctant warrior

Orm has his base on a barren island in the Irish Sea. He supports his followers on the proceeds of hit and run raids against Saxons, Irish, Scots and Welsh. He is a great warrior, poet, drinker and ring giver, and a foot taller than most men. Now in middle age, Orm dreams of a kingdom of his own. North Anglia, small, wealthy and isolated on its landward borders, seems tailor made. His own ships and men are too few to conquer and hold the land. He will have to forge alliances with other Viking leaders to defeat the Saxons.   
Orm Longsword confers with one of his captains

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Welcome to my wargame blog. I started this as a companion to my Ardoberg-Holstein Imaginations 18th Century blog. That one will chronicle the long running war between the Elector and the nefarious King of San Maurice. This blog will cover my gaming in all other periods. I do enjoy gaming in most periods, and I hope this blog will be a vehicle for exchanging ideas with other gamers. I hope you will find something useful and enjoyable here.