Tunicked

Next stage of the pezhetairoi is complete: tunics done.

Tunics

I settled on the colours after reading a Wargames Illustrated that I picked up while on holiday – happened to see an issue all about Alexander the Great so figured it was worth a buy. In one of the articles the author references Rubin Post’s Ancient Warfare vol VI, saying that Ptolemaic soldiers wore 40% red, 18% white, 12% yellow, 12% blue and the remainder in purple, green, grey, and maroon. Seemed like a good place to start even though I’m going for Macedonians rather than Ptolemaic.

All paints are Vallejo Model Color unless stated.

RedRed

This makes up 40% of the tunics, so 13 of the 32 soldiers in the taxis.

Unfortunately I ended up with a ridiculously complicated recipe, but it’s a lot faster than it looks! It’s based off Meg Maple’s red technique.

Khador Red Base (P3)
Watered-down Skorne Red Shade (P3)
Shade in two steps down to ½ Skorne Red ½ Black Red
Khador Red Base layer again
Highlight twice up with Ember Orange (P3)
Wash with thinned Red Ink (P3) – pull away from the deep recesses
Shade with thinned ⅓ Red Ink ⅔ Black Red
Shade with thinned ¼ Red Ink ¾ Thamar Black (P3)

WhiteWhite

18%, so 6 of every 32.

Ivory
Shade down in half steps with Dark Sand, Green Ochre and Beige Brown
½ Dark Sand ½ Ivory
Ivory

YellowYellow

12%, so 4 of 32.

Flat Yellow
Highlight up with Ivory
Shade with Yellow Snow (Secret Weapon Wash)

BlueBlue

12%, 4 tunics.

Lothern Blue (Citadel)
Up with Ivory
Shade with Asurmen Blue (Citadel)

MaroonMaroon

One or two tunics this colour.

Sanguine Base (P3)
Highlight up to Skorne Red (P3)
Final highlight about ½ Khador Red Base (P3) ½ Skorne Red

PurplePurple

One or two tunics.

Beaten Purple (P3)
Highlight up with Basic Skintone

GreenGreen

One tunic this colour.

Olive Green
Highlight with Flat Flesh
Shade with Thraka Green (Citadel)

GreyGrey

One this colour.

Mechanicus Standard Grey (Citadel)
Highlight with Dheneb Stone (Citadel)

And I did lie, they’re not quite done! I’ll go over them in one last pass and paint some extra details. I’m not sure exactly what yet, but some will have white trim around the base of the tunic and the sleeves.

But that’s for later, next up is the linen armour. I’m aiming to get them to a really bright white as I’ve always found that a striking part of a Hellenistic army.

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State of Macedonia

Here’s where the Macedonians are at:

Macedonians red

I decided to start a whole taxis of pezhetairoi at once, at least until I’ve painted all their tunics. I did this to guarantee that I get a sensible distribution of colour—if I do it two elements at a time I might end up with “the blue guys” and “the yellow guys” inadvertently.

Once I’ve finished their tunics, which involves painting white, yellow, blue, and a smattering of other colours, then I’ll break it back down to two elements at a time for all the fiddly bits.

You can see the shields in the background too. After some experimentation I went for NMM which isn’t as crazy at it sounds! I did something similar for my Norman SAGA warband and it doesn’t take too long and while it’s not the greatest NMM effect I still like it. 🙂

Relic Knights

relic-knights

In the shiny sparkliness of the far future, there are only rainbows.

At Call to Arms earlier this year I bumped into an old friend, Shane, whom I’d heard had gotten into Relic Knights. Relic Knights is a game I’d been following for about four years now – it had some very interesting ideas and innovations so I asked if we could tee up a game later on.

princess-malya_1

Princess Malya, the flagship character and one of the first models in the Relic Knights range

Relic Knights is a tabletop miniatures game by Soda Pop Minatures, first published by Cool Mini or Not but now by Ninja Division. Like Kingdom Death and Malifaux, it started out as a small range of boutique miniatures that became quite successful and then led on to a game release. Relic Knight’s came in the form of a Kickstarter, launched in August 2012 and promising to be shipped by the following May. The standard script followed: nearly a million raised, delay followed delay, finally shipped in July 2015 more then two years after the promised date. I got carried away during the Kickstarter and was in for a couple of hundred, however after looking at my pile of unpainted minis I withdrew my pledge before the end, but I did pick up the rule book later on just to read through it.

the game

So, the game. Shane came up to the club with two cadres: the fast but delicate Cersei Speed Circuit – a racing team fighting the good fight – and the doughty Black Diamond – a hardened band of mercenaries. Being the gentleman that he is I got first pick, and chose the Speed Circuit. They seemed to be the more interesting of the two to play. We set up, flipped for our objectives (like Malifaux, it exclusively uses cards) and deployed.

The starter box for Black Diamond.

The starter box for Black Diamond. I think they’re the bad guys…

It is at this point you realise that the designers of Relic Knights really have deconstructed the traditional miniatures game and thought about every single assumption that the genre makes, and changed it to suit their universe. So when you come to deploy, you can deploy anywhere on the board! I’m so used to having a deployment zone that it’s really hard even to think about the tactical ramifications about putting my models anywhere on the board. There are some restrictions of course: you take turns placing models, and each has to be at least 8″ away from enemy models and objectives. We found that they ended up in small clumps, usually defending your objectives.

winning

The game is is a race to reach a certain amount of victory points. Each player has a randomly generated primary and secondary objective (worth 5 VPs and 3 VPs), a set objective per faction (worth 2 VPs) and gains 1 VP each time they destroy an enemy character or unit. So as you can see, it’s heavily skewed towards objectives with the destruction of the foe a minor concern. We played to 8.

Relic Knights is played at a breakneck pace. Each player’s moves are very short as you act with a single model or small unit. You and your opponent rapidly ping-pong back and forth, and most importantly you never have the traditional end of turn pause. Because there is no turn! The whole game is just alternating activations until someone wins. This is achieved by requiring each player to set up a queue of models to activate, so you can’t just use the same model over and over again like in Infinity. This is just as brain-bending as you’d imagine, as you have to plan beforehand and are telegraphing your plans to your opponent. Of course, they’re doing the same, so mind-games aplenty.

combat

A stat card for Calico Kate, Relic Knight for the Star Nebula Corsairs.

A stat card for Calico Kate, Relic Knight for the Star Nebula Corsairs.

Likewise, combat is also quite different to most other systems. For one thing, every ranged attack has infinite range. All areas of effect are the same size. Easy! Every ability is handled by playing a combination of cards from your hand to pay for it. If you can pay for it, the attack hits. Next each player draws more cards based on their offensive and defensive abilities, and the acting player can pay to boost the attack while the defender can pay to boost armour, redirect or dodge the attack. It’s a very clean system and has its hooks into the other parts of the game: spend your hand now to dodge an attack, and then you won’t have enough cards to pay for your next model’s attack. The punchiness felt pretty right, the smaller models couldn’t stand in the way of the hard-hitting characters, but they could slug it out with each other for a while.

On a whole the game felt very fluid and fast-paced. The tactical repercussions of having to plan your activation order ahead of time I was just getting to grips with by the end of the game, and I could see a ton of depth there waiting to be discovered. The designers have done an amazing job of capturing the essence of the source material, something that you very rarely see in miniatures games. For that alone I have to salute them!

Fiddlyiness

There were a few things I didn’t like though. It seemed very fiddly to me. There were a lot of things to remember, especially the innate shared abilities that almost every model has. The way you interact with the objectives was hidden away in the scenario section of the rules and we didn’t find that till near the end of our game. Effects that you add in the game require you to use a generic numbered token and then write down what that number corresponds to – very odd! All things that I imagine repeated plays would get you knowledgeable on, but it felt very much like a first edition set of rules that is begging for a second.

The miniatures

Where this game falls down for me is the range of miniatures. Which is such a lost opportunity, because the range started off so well and had a huge potential.

Rin Farrah by REIQ, a pin-up artist.

Rin Farrah by Reiq.

The first thing that strikes most people when they look at the game or miniatures is that they have turned up the perv factor to 11. Almost every female character design begins and ends with emphasising the ludicrously proportioned breasts. The miniatures are then generally posed in submissive or compromising poses – knees together, feet facing each other, arching through the small of their back, or on all-fours in the classic “sexily riding on a motorbike” pose. That coupled with the variable quality of the sculpts leaves me with the sad impression of the fevered scrawlings of a horny teenage boy.

In short, not exactly the kind of minis I want on my painting desk or display cabinet. Let’s face it, miniature wargaming already has to fight an uphill battle to not being seen as grown men and women still playing with children’s toys, and this will do nothing to disabuse people of the notion. Soda Pop cling desperately to the tenet that this is a man’s (boy’s?) hobby and seem hell-bent on proving the point by going out of their way to make their products as puerile as possible – Tentacle Bento, anyone? The worst example I came across is the artwork introducing the Noh faction, a race of demons, which attempts to get titillation out of showing a group of hyper-masculine alien warriors surrounding a bloodied and bruised woman prisoner. The saddest thing is that this is so normal in our hobby that it takes a game like Relic Knights, which takes it to another level, to bring attention to it.

As to the quality of the miniatures, I was unimpressed with the Kickstarter miniatures. They are done in a type of resin/plastic that didn’t appear to hold details very well. Even the flagship models like Malya and One Shot were quite poor. Shane told me that they’re looking at recasting everything in resin which is good news – I picked up some of their early Noh in 2011 and they were amazingly detailed.

There are also scale issues, something that won’t be solved by going to resin unless they can upscale some moulds. Some miniatures tower over others, and one miniature’s head might be the same size as another’s whole torso.

conclusion

Hiring pinups artists to advertise your game says it all really.

Hiring pinup artists to advertise your game says it all really.

So those are my thoughts on Relic Knights. Rules-wise, fantastic. It has some amazing ideas and is a very interesting direction for miniature games to go in. The concept I’d give a 10/10, the execution about a 6 – too many rough edges on the rules that keep it from truly flowing as it feels like it wants to. I’ll put this into the same basket as the second edition of Infinity – good ideas, but needs another edition to smooth everything out.

Theme-wise, it has huge issues for me. Which is such a shame, I could see me getting into this game otherwise. The hypersexualisation of the women in the game makes me uncomfortable and is unhealthy for both the hobby and society in general. Only one of the factions, Shattered Sword, is “restrained” enough in character design for me to think about getting them, but their play style and miniatures don’t excite me.

So I think I’ll be sitting this one out.

Call to Arms 2015

The main game I’ve been playing for the last five years is Malifaux, a tightly-balanced skirmish game set in an alternate Earth dripping with overtones of the wild west, Victorian horror, steampunk, and all sorts of other influences. It’s a bit of a mishmash but it manages to pull it off – after a while ninjas battling undead cowboys or hillbilly gremlins seems pretty normal.

Call to Arms is the annual convention held by the Wellington Warlords at St. Patrick’s College in Kilbirnie, Wellington. This is the second year that a Malifaux tournament was held there, and I was hoping to improve a bit on my nightmare run last year – bottom of the table with zero wins!

Call to Arms 2015

These are my people.

I took along my Gremlins, as usual, with a few new models painted up to try out: two warpigs, three stuffed piglets and a Gremlin taxidermist.

There were ten of us competing plus one organising and umpiring (thanks Simon!), a pretty good turn out for a Wellington event. We even had Hayden and Peter come down from Auckland which was great.

Game one

Strategy: Headhunter
Scheme pool: Line in the Sand, Distract, Plant Explosives, Vendetta, Protect Territory
Deployment: Corner

First game was against a local player, Liam, and his Lucius crew. He took what seemed to be a pretty standard crew – two death marshals, a hunter, a lawyer, a doppelganger, and Francisco. I had Som’er, one skeeter, two bayou gremlins, a warpig, a hog whisperer, two stuffed piglets, Burt and Gracie.

The terrain had a fairly open centre with plenty of cover around it. My plan was to use Burt and Gracie to collect heads for me (they’re quite reliable like that), the stuffed piglets to cause a bit of mayhem and to drop scheme markers thanks to the hog whisperer’s The Crispiest of Bacon ability for Plant Explosives, and somewhere along the line to distract a few enemies. I didn’t think this would be a problem due to the nature of strategy requiring us to be near each other from the get-go.

Deployment against Liam

Mid-turn one against Liam

We both led with some scheming – I had Burt put a marker down to make Liam assume I had taken Protect Territory – I think this had the desired effect and led him to not worry about my scheme markers later on. He had declared Line in the Sand and one of his death marshals started to drop markers for that on his right flank.

The clash started soon with Burt being pulled into combat with the hunter, who had declared Vendetta against him. This soon became the centre of the melee, with Gracie and then Francisco committing themselves into the combat. I claimed the hunter’s head for my first VP, and was trying to keep Burt alive to deny Liam’s second Venetta VP by passing off his attacks onto Gracie. This was going well until Francisco drew the red joker for damage, so then I sent in the warpig to become the new damage soak who managed to keep him alive for the rest of the game.

I had taken Pig Feed on Som’er so I used him to get some extra mileage out of the warpig and the stuffed piglets. I found stuffed piglets to be great at ruining plans – people just don’t want to touch them, and because they’re peons they don’t drop head markers. I was able to move them into position easily and had Som’er shoot one, this dropped a scheme marker thanks to the nearby hog whisperer. This plus a scheme marker dropped by a sacrificial gremlin gave me all three VPs for Plant Explosives.

The last few activations was spent desperately trying to remove Liam’s scheme markers he’d dropped for A Line in the Sand – he placed a total of five or six during the game but I managed to get the total down below four by the last turn. Phew!

In the end, 6-4 to me. I was very pleased with the ability to drop scheme markers easily with the combo of the hog whisperer and stuffed piglets, that worked better than I had hoped though I could tell it was going to be hard to keep the whisperer alive. Burt and Gracie were their usual reliable selves and it was good to finally see some use out of Burt’s Slippery ability. Plus I really liked Som’er’s Pig Feed upgrade and can see I’ll be taking it more often.

Game two

Strategy: Turf War
Scheme Pool: Line in the Sand, Distract, Make them Suffer, Assassinate, Take Prisoner
Deployment: Standard

Second game had me paired up against Hayden, a Wellington stalwart who had recently moved to Auckland. He plays Ten Thunders and recently picked up Brewmaster, before the tournament I had encouraged him to use him instead of his usual choice of McCabe or Shenlong because I wanted to see how he played.

We played over a very open board, and with Assassinate and Make them Suffer in the mix I chose to use Ophelia. I took her, one Young Lacroix, a slop hauler, a warpig, a hog whisperer, a convict gunslinger, Burt, and Gracie. He took the Brewmaster, Wesley, Fingers, Ama No Zako, Toshiro, and two komainu. I thought this played into my hands with a lot of minions and minion summoning, however I did my usual and forgot that Make them Suffer only applies if masters or henchmen do the killing, and I’d only taken Ophelia! She was going to be very busy.

I sent the warpig and hog whisperer up one flank which worked out very well – he managed to kill a komainu on turn two, then next turn killed Wesley and rebounded off him into Ama No Zako. He kept slowing her which really helped negate her effectiveness, however he did get distracted later in the game which gained Hayden a VP.

In the centre I was facing off against Brewmaster, Fingers, Toshiro and a komainu. Not a great deal happened in the first few turns, then I took out the komainu (with defensive +2) in one turn with the gunslinger in an impressive display of rapid firing – five shots in total! Brewmaster got shot to bits by Ophelia, however the next turn Hayden won the initiative flip and healed him nearly to full with Fingers – so close! At the end of the next turn he ran him out to distract Ophelia – Gracie slightly mauled him, followed by me winning the initiative finishing him off with Ophelia for the three Assassinate VPs.

I ended up winning it 7-4. Again the warpig proved its worth – if they get a good run they can really pinball around a cluster of enemies and spoil plans. I’m always worried about Ama No Zako so was happy when she got locked down. The Assassinate points make up for my mistake choosing Make them Suffer, which only rendered me one VP when Ophelia took out a summoned komainu.

Game three

Strategy: Collect the Bounty
Scheme Pool: Line in the Sand, Breakthrough, Vendetta, Distract, Spring the Trap
Deployment: Close

The final round I found myself at the top table with the only other player to get two wins, Peter from Auckland. He was also the only other Gremlin player, a fact we both derived some smug satisfaction from! We also ended up taking similar crews: I took Som’er, a skeeter, Lenny, two warpigs, Gracie, and three stuffed piglets. Peter took Zoraida, a slop hauler, a hog whisperer, two warpigs, Gracie, and the whiskey golem.

We both knew that the warpigs make for excellent additions in a Collect the Bounty game – they’re very hard-hitting but as only minions you’re only giving up a single bounty point if (when) they die. However I knew their 1AP charges were going to be cost me against Zoraida’s Obey.

A whole lotta piggies.

A whole lotta piggies.

I took Vendetta with one of my warpigs against Gracie – turns out I picked the wrong pig of mine to put it on! Distract I wasn’t sure why I picked it – it always runs a bit counter to a killing strategy and ended up netting me a single point. My plan on the right flank was to lure Gracie into attacking one of my warpigs (the one without Vendetta) then killing her with the other one. In the centre I was going to use the great combo of Burt and Gracie to kill his two warpigs, with the stuffed piglets for support or early bombing runs.

The opening moves saw one of my warpigs hemmed by Zoraida’s voodoo dolls. I took the risky move of charging it with that same warpig, which of course made it inflict the damage on itself. However when a warpig kills a model it can heal up by ending its activation, so as long as it actually killed the voodoo doll it’d be okay! Luckily it managed it, so ended up a lot further up the board with no wounds.

My plan against his Gracie got off to a good start – an early Zoraida-induced charge from one of my warpigs against Som’er led to him squeeling into position to get off two shots against Gracie which reduced her to three wounds. I moved my vendetta warpig into position for a charge next turn to finish her off and gain my three VPs – all looking pretty good.

In the centre things were also going pretty well too – I had blocked up his warpigs’ charge lanes with the stuffed piglets, and Lenny rode Gracie into melee and took out the slop hauler while Gracie herself mauled one of the warpigs.

Turn three everything turned to custard however! Peter won initiative and took out my vendetta warpig with Gracie – it had already taken six wounds from Zoraida’s Obeys, and a high ram was all he needed to finish it off. That led to Gracie being restored to full wounds and my Vendetta scheme being worth zero VPs because I wasn’t able to declare it. Then Lenny took a red joker to face so my centre looked like it was going to collapse as well. In the meantime the whiskey golem was quietly running around putting down scheme markers for Line in the Sand and Breakthrough.

The end came quickly, the score was 5-2 in Peter’s favour which led to him deservedly winning the tournament. I ended up on 6 TPs with a DIFF of +2, gaining me fourth place. Also the second tournament in a row in which I just missed out on the podium after losing on the top table. 🙂 Still, I was very happy with my performance, and most importantly I had three very enjoyable games against great opponents.

The day after

I’ll admit that my interest in Malifaux had been flagging of late. A number of factors led to this: I don’t love the direction that the art is going in, I find the plastic miniatures frustrating to paint, the fiction has been uninspiring since the pinnacle of Twisting Fates, and two of the new Gremlin masters seem unnecessary and rushed (Mah Tucket and Wong). However don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thought that the game itself is wonderful. It’s very well put together and balanced, and holds up extremely well to high-level competitive play. And somehow Wyrd has created a game which you can still be very good at without having to be a dick.

So I’m happy to say that this tournament has got me back into the Malifaux spirit. I have a diverse enough roster of miniatures already (just shy of 50) to field a lot of different Gremlin crews even with just two masters, especially now that I’ve got two warpigs painted up. I’ll be getting my pigapult painted up soon now, plus I’ve got a Zoraida crew box assembled and ready to base and paint if I want to branch out into a new master. Ulix is looking mighty fine too, his pig shenanigans look like a great deal of fun.

And most importantly we’ve got a really good local scene now. The tournament attracted a lot of attention, due in no small part to a lot of the players putting in a huge amount of effort in getting some really nice boards built – thanks Simon, Alastair and Jordan! We were talking with a lot of interested players throughout the day, people who had maybe bought a crew box but never played a game before, or had heard of the game but didn’t think anyone locally played it. Very promising!

The Winter Cup, part 2

This is the second and last post about a DBMM tournament I entered, The Winter Cup. The first part can be found in a previous post.

Day two of the Winter Cup was upon us! There were two more entries just for the second day which brought the total up to 16, a huge number. Coupled with a Hordes launch event it saw a jam-packed club meeting.

Meeting of the 25th of July, 2015

Game three

After my two timeouts on the first day I was left in the middle of the table and was drawn against John van den Hoeven and his Trojan army. I’ve known John for a long time, since I got into 15mm DBR back when that was still a thing, and have always enjoyed playing him – he’s great fun and always has wonderful looking armies! His Trojans were no deviation from his usual and they took home the Best Army award against some stiff competition.

John’s Trojan army was a pretty good opponent for my Seleucids – his heavy foot was of a lower quality to mine so I was likely to win any slog in the centre, though his large numbers of light chariots and Hittite swordsmen did pose a threat. Luckily I invaded so he was forced to deploy first, giving me the line-up advantage.

After the first Trojan turn.

After the first Trojan turn.

He deployed in a box formation against an expected flank march. Great pip dice in the first turn allowed plenty of redeploying, so his Hittite shock chariots exploded out of the box to head off my line cavalry that was attempting an outflanking manoeuvre. The foot plodded up in the face of my phalanx.

Hittite foot getting tramped by the companion cavalry.

Hittite foot getting trampled by the companion cavalry.

Game three left

What was left of the Hittite chariotry after a poorly timed 4-1 roll.

I saw an opportunity to position my companion cavalry against his Hittite foot, so sent their column off behind my phalanx. I abandoned my planned outflanking with the line cavalry, so just sent up a couple to stop his march moves and repositioned the rest in the centre, eyeing up his Hittite chariots. I knew that the match-up was far from ideal but I did outnumber them considerably.

John then proceeded to roll terrible pip dice for his Trojan commands, meaning that his left flank stalled and his Hittite ally had to do all the work.

The Hittite foot ended up making first contact with the companion cavalry and started to lose elements right away. The Trojan foot fared a little better against the phalanx, however they were working their way around the flank so would have probably got the better of the pikemen in a few turns. The real tragedy for John occurred when he sent his shock chariots into my line cavalry and had one die to a 4-1 – this left his general exposed who was then flanked and taken out next turn. That, coupled with the losses of the foot, was enough to break the command and make the game a foregone conclusion.

Lessons

There wasn’t a lot to be gleaned from this game unfortunately, my wildly good luck and John’s poor luck meant it was a bit of a lop-sided encounter. A few things though:

  • Try to plan for low pips during the next bound. John got stuck with about three turns in a row of poor pips which of course is hardly something you can plan for, but I can see that making sure that you’re not over-extended after a bound of high pips is quite important.
  • When going in to a potentially risky engagement, keeping some troops behind the line in case of a bad 4-1 or 6-2 roll could keep disaster at bay.
  • Pike blocks certainly devour most other spear-armed foot as long as you keep the flanks intact.

Game Four

My good result from the third game catapulted me into fourth place, so I was facing off against Mark Pickup and his Late Imperial Romans on the second table. Pretty stoked to achieve that in my first DBMM tournament!

I was pretty sure it was going to be a tough game. I assumed that I’d be seeing foederati warbands as well as legionaries, so my phalanx would be tested more than usual. What I wasn’t counting on were the cart-mounted ballistae! More on them later.

The elephant staring down the barrel of a ballista.

My sole elephant staring down the barrel of a ballista.

I defended so was forced to deploy first. This led to my phalanx being directly opposite some warband, as I expected. My cavalry on the left flank was faced with knights, cavalry and light horse, and my companion cavalry and Greek peltasts were opposite the superior Roman auxilia and a smattering of knights.

Mark also had three ballistae mounted on carts, one on each flank. I hadn’t faced these before so was looking forward to seeing how they worked. Turns out they can shoot over the heads of friendly troops! I was petrified of them but really they’re mostly just a pip-sink, as I was constantly forced to move recoiled elements back into position. However they did slow down my phalanx as I hadn’t screened it with skirmishers, so had to move pike elements in front of the vulnerable elephant. I ended up losing three elements in the run-up to the warband which proved very costly: without the fourth rank on three of my files it meant that I wasn’t able to destroy any warband during my turn. This mean that the warband was able to absolutely annihilate my phalanx!

The other flanks didn’t fare any better – my cavalry did surprisingly well against the knights to begin with, but soon the worm turned and I ended up getting a gap exploited and a few flanks turned. The peltasts lost an element to the artillery and then the auxilia closed and was able to easily dispatch them with help from his light horse on the outside flank.

My one compensation was killing the warband general!

Lessons

  • Screen the phalanx! I’ll be looking again at my Macedonian list to put some skirmishers in with the pezhetairoi. I can see now that they’re vital to protecting them from ranged combat as they advance, and against other skirmishers (such as in my first game again Vince’s Thracians).
  • Artillery ain’t that bad, mainly a nuisance pip-sink. However its high factor does create the potential for losses with every roll. Plus slowing down an advance  can be great.
  • Warbands are scary for heavy foot! That first turn can be hairy – if they win a few combats then they’re set for taking out the rest of the file, plus creating the overlap for the adjacent combats.
  • I need to deploy in a better way when defending. I should be making advantage of getting the first turn with a totally regular army – if I’d set up a screen of light troops in the centre and then redeploy my phalanx against the knights and the companions against the warband, that would have been a much better move.

Closing

So in the final tally Mark, my opponent from the last round, took out the top spot. Peter Noble came second with Ptolemaic (go Team Successor!) and Gary Lewis came third with Tudor English. I finished eighth out of sixteen.

I really enjoyed all four of my games and am looking forward to getting my own army on the table as soon as possible. There’s a real depth to the local player base which is awesome – plenty of great opponents to learn from and great games in the future.

And of course as soon as I got home I started flicking through the army list books and painting my own army. Without a single element painted I’m already planning how to extend the army… Lysimachid is looking pretty good!

Painting Mediterranean flesh

When painting a miniature I almost always start with the flesh. Not only is it usually the lowest layer of a model, it can also be quite messy. Plus I find it’s the trickiest to get right – if you get the wrong hue or tone it can really throw off the whole piece.

I’m currently painting a Macedonian army for DBMM. I’ve never done an olive skin tone before so I did some extensive research (i.e., the whole first page of Google results) and while there were some people claiming that ancient Macedonians were much closer to northern Europeans than Greeks, the general consensus was that you wouldn’t go far wrong looking at modern Greeks.

I wanted to make my army look the part of olive-skinned peasants that has been trekking through the plains of Asia for the last few years, instead of the traditional Osprey look of generic white fella. So I took a few miniatures and started experimenting with some skin tones. All up I did six tests before I found one that I was happy with.

Step one

First off, paint all the flesh in a mix of ¾ Citadel Cadian Fleshtone and ¼ Vallejo Model Color Medium Fleshtone.

Step two

Into the mix of Cadian Fleshtone and Medium Fleshtone, add the same amount of Vallejo Model Color Flat Flesh. With this colour do a broad highlight, leaving the base coat showing through in most recesses especially on the underside of the limbs, most of the neck, under the knees and the crevice above the calf muscle. Also don’t worry about painting the fingers and toes, these will be painted with a much higher highlight later on.

To be honest this step could probably be skipped and I’m going to try this next batch I do.

step three

Next is straight Flat Flesh. This will look very ugly, but don’t worry, the next step is a back-highlight to smooth it in. Really I should two-brush blend this layer in and save some time, I’ll have to set some time aside to practise the technique.

This layer is just building on top of the previous one, but covering a smaller area. Focus is especially paid to the top of the calves and shins, knee caps, upwards-facing sides of limbs and the extremities of the face. Also pick out the fingers and toes.

Flesh layer 3

step four

This is the back-highlight step, to fade the extreme highlight back into the base tone. I use Flat Flesh mixed with some of the base coat (Cadian Fleshtone with some Medium Fleshtone). I keep adjusting the mix and testing the colour on a miniature, it’s ready when it’s half-way between the  previous step and the one before.

Use this to blend out the harsh jump between the two previous steps. Try not to cover up too much of either step!

You could easily swap step three and four. I choose to do it this way because sometimes by the time I get to the top highlight I find that I haven’t left enough room for it. This way I get to make sure that the top highlight is the right size.

Step five

This is a quick wash with watered-down Citadel Shade Seraphim Sepia, about two parts water to one part shade. This is over the whole area, so use an old brush as it’s not very important.

Step SiX

Nearly finished! Some careful shading with Citadel Shade Reikland Fleshshade. I water this down about 50%.

This is put around all the edges of clothing, into the recesses of the face, under the head, the underside of the arms, between the fingers and knuckles, just under the knee caps, just at the top of the calves, around the ankles, and between the toes.

Final touches

From here I do a final tip highlight of ½ Vallejo Model Color Flat Flesh and ½ Vallejo Model Color Basic Skintone. This I apply in very small areas to highest points of the model especially the nose, chin, fingers, knuckles and toes.

This is what the first eight look like with their flesh finished:

Overall I’m very happy with it. It’s pretty quick and I think I can speed it up some more, quite important when you’ve got about 300 figures to paint. It’s got that warm rich tone that I was hoping to get too.

 

Prepping miniatures

A great day in any wargamer’s life, the arrival of a big box of miniatures:

Big ol' box of minis

Big ol’ box of minis

It’s around about 500 AP of Macedonians, just shy of 300 figures. Cripes! As I got my first batch ready to paint, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to do a post about how I prepare my miniatures.

Head count

First step: check your miniatures! I sat down for about 90 minutes and went through the whole order to make everything was in order. Out of 44 packs one was totally wrong, one was one miniature short and one was missing two shields. A quick email to the Foundry and the replacements are on their way. I also found three bonus packs got slipped in there, so that was a nice surprise. Thanks Marcus!

Working space

I had tidied up my desk the day before (can you tell I was excited to get these fellas?) and picked two packs of unarmoured pezhetairoi and got to work:

Desk

Ready to roll

I always work on a cork tile when prepping minis because I use the scalpel a lot and it’s safer that way. I do sixteen miniatures at a time, preferably two of the same pack if possible (as in this case). I’ve found sixteen a good number to balance between a) making the most of the production line, and b) not going insane by doing the same steps over and over again. Being a Hellenistic army, all but two packs of bow- and sling-armed skirmishers have some form of spear. I only use metal spears now. Spears cast from white metal just aren’t rugged enough to hold up to gaming wear and tear, they bend easily and are hard to straighten perfectly. I get mine from North Star Miniatures, £5.60 for 40. Gotta get another seven packs just for this army. 😐

Spear

Spear points

Tools

Tools

I use a scalpel and a file when prepping. Actually, I lie. I like to get my nice file out and put it on my desk, but I very rarely use it! I’m a scalpel man through-and-through. You can pick up a good one from any good modelling shop. Make sure you get a set of spare blades because if you’re not careful you can end up snapping the tips.

Flash and Mould lines

Half of prepping is removing flash and mould lines from the miniatures.

Mouldlines 1

A mould line running down the helmet and left sleeve.

Mould lines are on nearly every miniature you’ll ever paint. Moulds for metal miniatures comes in halves. When casting, the two halves are put together, metal is poured through pipes left in the mould, it cools, and then the halves are separated and you have your miniatures. Unfortunately the halves are never quite perfectly lined up, so you get a slight disjoint all around the miniature. If it’s done by a good mould maker the mould lines will either be in a hidden spot or very easy to clean up. If not, then they can be a real nightmare to clean up. Worst-case you get a large line that runs across the face. Flash is large pieces of extra metal that are still attached to the miniature. It’s an artifact of the casting process rather than a defect, as the cast metal gets caught in the pipes used to pour the liquid metal into the mould. Fortunately none of this batch of miniatures had any flash except the usual bits on the bottom of the base. The tricky bit with flash can be that sometimes you can’t tell what is flash and what isn’t! My general rule is that if it doesn’t come off really easily, odds are it’s not flash. Check photos on the manufacturer’s website and double-check before going at it hammer-and-tongs.

Scraping

Prepped

Miniature with the mould lines removed.

Once your flash is off, it’s time to tackle the mould lines. Most of my line-removal technique is just scraping along the surface with my scalpel until the surface is smooth. You can tell you’re done because when you scrape the metal it will become very glossy, and once it’s all glossy and you can’t see the line any more, it’s likely done. If this is impractical because the gap between the two mould-halves is a lot (half a millimetre or more) then you need to cut into the higher surface more to bring it down, then start scraping to level the two sides. The more you’ve had to work on it then the more likely you’ll be left with a flat surface. If this bothers you, you can carve a bit more detail back into the miniature, but this can be quite risky! Also it pays to check the miniature from different angles. Sometimes you think you’ve got all the lines but when you pick it up and start to paint it you see a huge gash that you totally missed during prep. I find it’s safer to do all the legs, then all the left arms, etc. This way I’m less likely to miss a line. However once I’m done I go over every miniature one-by-one and double-check.

Gluing

Next step: putting it all together. Luckily the miniatures I’ve got are in one piece, plus a separate shield and spear. I’m not going to glue the shields on until I’ve painted most of the miniature so they’ll remain off at this stage. The spears will be attached though.

Glued

Sarissa gluing and blu-tacked into place.

I always use Araldite, a two-part epoxy, when putting miniatures together. Compared to superglue the drying time is extremely long – about eight hours, compared to a few seconds – but  I find this makes it easier as it allows more time to make sure everything is in place. Plus it’s much more resilient so no need for battlefield repairs. To lock everything into place while the glue is drying I use blu-tac. For these guys, they’re all in similar poses, so I used the same technique for every figure: a small blob of blu-tac just under the right arm, apply the glue to the hand and by the right foot, then put the sarissa into place and push it into the blu-tac. I repeated this for all sixteen  then went back and made sure they were all still in the right position. Any that weren’t I tweaked around and made sure they were.

All glued

All sixteen glued up – time to hit the hay and wait for the glue to dry.

Next day, the glue’s dry. All that remains is to pick off the blu-tac. This is the first test is making sure that there’s enough glue there! If not, then you’ll probably pull off the pieces you were trying to glue on instead of the blu-tac. 🙂 I glue together multi-part models this way too, just by using blu-tac as a brace.

Undercoating

Nearly there! Now to get to applying some paint. I used to lay my soldiers out on some newspaper, spray them, flip them over, then spray them again. I went to a two-day masterclass with professional miniature painter Meg Maples and she really opened my eyes about the best way to undercoat. So now, I put them all on a wooden base like so:

Pre-painting

Attached with, you guessed it, blu-tac.

Spraypainted

Mr Speckles.

Then I take it down to the carpark, shake up my can of spray paint, and spray-em. I start with it on the ground and just going down each side and from the top. Then I pick up the block and have a look at any angles that haven’t got good coverage – usually they still need four more sprays – from the underside, from the left and right side in each direction. The most important thing however is not to totally coat the miniature in paint. You want it about half covered with white with some of the bare metal still showing through. This will leave you with enough of a rough surface for your acrylic paint to stick to, while not obscuring any detail. I got a bit heavy-handed on these guys but still have some metal showing. I only painted the shields on one side. I find shields can be so small that they get blown around by the spray paint, and figured that I can just use a brush-on primer on the underside instead. They’ll barely be seen anyway.

Ready to paint!

I then attach them with blu-tac to some DBMM bases, ready to paint. I used to not worry about this part and just pick them up when painting, but after too many smudged faces and rubbed helmets I figured it was time to be a bit more professional about it. Done And that’s it! Sixteen pezhetairoi, ready for painting.

The Winter Cup

On Saturday the 27th of June I played in the DBMM tournament, the Winter Cup. Organised by Allen Yaxley, it’s a four-game tournament at the Hutt Club which drew 14 players. It’s my first DBMM tournament, and my first DBx tournament in well over a decade. Here are my thoughts.

Format

First off, the format is great. The first two games were played on the 27th of June, the next two on the 25th of July. I’ve organised a lot of tournaments and have always stuck to one-dayers due to the availability of players. It never occurred to me to run multi-day tournaments weeks apart! I know as a wee lad I had no problem going on gaming binges for days at a time, but I think these days I’d feel far too burned out even if I could even find the time.

Table jockeying

In the last ten years most of the tournaments I’ve played in have been Malifaux. It was funny coming back into DBx gaming because I noticed the logistical differences immediately. The main reason for these is that in every other common gaming system, the boards are pre-set. This means that the organiser and some helpers set up every table before the tournament, and they usually stay that way for the whole day. When each round is drawn the players are allocated an opponent and a table to play on, so they make their way there and do battle.

In the DBx systems the terrain is generated as part of the game. This means that the table you’re on doesn’t matter, so you’re just given an opponent to play each round. You find your foe for the round then you both work out where you’re going to play. This is when the fun starts! What ensues is a comedy of wargamers moving from table to table with their laden carrying trays, landing on one table only to find it’s already claimed, cagily asking their previous opponent if they plan on moving tables, or two orphaned gamers desperately searching for that one empty table that should be left over. It brought back a ton of memories of old DBM tournaments, I did miss that chaos before each round. It is a great way to bond with one’s fellow gamer before trying to defeat them!

The army

As I am currently “between armies”, I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a Seleucid army from the ever-friendly and helpful Vince Cholewa. As I’m currently painting up a Macedonian army that seemed like a great fit, it’s mostly the same core of troops so I felt that a) any lessons learned while playing them would be retained once I get my own army and b) I wouldn’t fall in love with a different style of army altogether from the one I’m getting, and regret buying it.

I put together a list that most closely resembled my planned army. This meant I didn’t play up the strengths of the Seleucid list, but I felt that this early in my DBMM career that wasn’t going to matter too much! I had a big phalanx, a fair amount of companions, a large number of line cavalry and a single elephant.

Game one

First up, was Vince! He took Thracians, an army I usually pass over when flicking through the army list books but is actually a very fine force. Plenty of very good skirmishers, lots of varied light horse, a solid block of Greek mercenary hoplites and a core of noble shock cavalry in wedge.

I couldn’t think of a better person for a beginning player to face. Vince explained everything in the pre-battle setup and then also verbalised his thinking behind his deployment and what he was planning on doing every turn. It really helped to hear that, as it not only meant I picked up on movement costs but also got me thinking about the deeper tactical problems he was mulling over. Also any foolish moves I did he would point at and suggest better alternatives.

In the end we timed out, no doubt due to my inexperience and Vince being prepared to spend time to explain the finer points of the rules.  Even though it ended in a 13-12 draw in my favour (only due to me being the invader!) if it had gone on for another few turns my army would have surely broken. I was making small progress on my right flank, but on my left the Seleucid nobility was be slowly but surely cut down by the Thracian peltasts and light horse, and the Thracian nobles were about to join the fight.

Game two

My second game was against another familiar face, Drew Fortune. When I first joined the Hutt Club back in 1993 Drew was there also playing WRG Ancients 7th edition. He dropped out of the scene until quite recently, so it was good to catch up. After that and the ballyhoo of finding a table, we got down to business. He was fielding a beautiful Ottoman army that he’d recently painted up – I think it was his sixth game. So given it was only my fourth game, it was bound to be one involving a lot of time spent with our noses in the rulebook!

And sure enough, we timed out and weren’t able to finish the game. That was a shame because it was looking pretty close at the end – some hurried moves against his light horse and Janissaries on my last turn had rendered my left command disheartened, but I was making some good progress in the centre and right flank against the Ottoman cavalry and Serbian knights. However Drew had taken a much steadier toll on my army from the beginning of the game so it ended 14-11 to him.

Lessons

I learnt a lot during the day:

  • Army-scale wargames with large formations of troops feel very different to skirmish games. Looking at a large table with your army of a few hundred miniatures in front of you gives you a sense of scale and generalship that I haven’t experienced since I stopped playing DBM.
  • Moving from DBM to DBMM can be difficult! I spent my day constantly getting the combat factors wrong, especially for knights which have gone from +4 vs mounted and +3 vs foot to the other way around. The other ones I found tricky were auxilia being +3 against mounted instead of +2, and light horse being +3 against foot. That last one just seems wrong!
  • Cavalry is fantastic. I heard someone calling it the universal soldier of DBMM, something I can totally agree with. The fact that mounted don’t suffer corner-to-corner overlaps in their turn, and that foot don’t get rear ranks against it, means they are much more useful and versatile than in DBM. I’m not regretting the dozen elements of it that I have in my Macedonian army.
  • The troop interactions are very interesting compared to DBM. Watching my mighty phalanx get slowly nibbled away at by a screen of Thracian peltasts was a novel experience!
  • Even though the rules suggest a more static and lumbering game that DBM, DBMM actually allows much easier redeployment through an encouraged use of columns and changing formation into and out of them. This makes for a more interesting and dynamic game than I expected.

All in all, I’m very happy with my decision to get back into ancient wargaming and am looking forward to the next day of the tournament.

Returning to the fold

I’ve been gaming on and off for two decades now, but I always see my “golden age” as when I was playing DBM back in the late ’90s. For various reasons I stopped gaming in the early 2000s and by the time I got back into it the DBM crowd had moved to 28mm DBMM. I didn’t have the time to paint a new army of that size so I stuck to skirmish games – Malifaux, Infinity, SAGA, and the like.

I had kept an interest in the ancients scene though, and always took a slow walk past the DBMM tables at every tournament. Recently I made the decision that my next project would be to take the plunge, hunker down for a few months and paint up an army to get back into the period. So then I had the hard choice – picking one of the over 300 armies available to start with!

I settled on Alexandrian Macedonian, specifically the army of Philip of Macedon at the Battle of Chaeronea. It’s an interesting army with a nice set of combined arms – the solid sarissa-armed phalanxes, the companions to add some mounted shock troops, and plenty of Greek cavalry and light troops to work the flanks. Plus, Wargames Foundry has a great range of figures:

WG092 from Wargames Foundry

Macedonian phalangites from Wargames Foundry

After a number of hours spent mulling over the army list (ah, how I’ve missed wrestling with DBx army list books) I’ve settled on the following to get started:

Command One
1 x Philip of Macedon: Reg Ax (S) C-in-C
4 x Hypaspists: Reg Ax (S)
12 x Phalangites: Reg Pk (O)
2 x Macedonian archers: Reg Ps (O)
2 x Agrianian javelinmen: Irr Ps(S)

Command Two
1 x Alexander the Great: Reg Kn (F) in single-based wedge, Brilliant subgeneral
4 x Companions: Reg Kn (F) in single-based wedge
2 x Prodromoi: Reg LH (S)
8 x Phalangites: Reg Pk (O)

Command Three
1 x Nameless subgeneral: Reg Cv (O)
4 x Thessalian cavalry: Reg Cv (O)
6 x Greek cavalry: Reg Cv (I)
6 x Greek peltasts: Reg Ps (S) (can support Cv (I))
3 x Thracian light horse: Irr LH (O)
4 x Thracian peltasts: Irr Ax (O)

All three commands have two elements of army baggage, bringing them up to 24 ME each and a total of 78 ME for the army.

The figure count though, that’s the real damage: 136 foot and 54 mounted! It’s been a long time since I’ve bulk painted but I’m pretty confident I can knock it out in a few months – I’m pretty good once I get a production line set up. I’ve got a couple dozen other miniatures to finish up – mostly Space Hulk Blood Angels plus some Malifaux and Infinity – then I’ll be placing an order with the fine gentlemen at Wargames Foundry and off I go.