A Wargamer’s Guide to the Early Roman Empire – Review

I recently had a look at and reviewed Daniel Mersey’s Wargamer’s Guide to the Desert War. I am fortunate to have received a copy of Mersey’s Wargamer’s Guide to the Early Roman Empire to have a look at.

The book is paperback of 126 pages so slightly longer than the Desert War, was published by Pen & Sword Military on 4 July 2017, ISBN: 9781473849556. It is one of the range of wargame books being published by Pen & Sword. Best of all, it is on sale currently.

The book follows a now familiar format, although in this case, it contains seven chapters:

  1. The Roman Empire 27BC t0 AD284 – an overview of the history of Rome and its wars over the period of the Early Roman Empire
  2. Armies, Organization, and Equipment – covering, well, the armies, their organisation and equipment. A generalised discussion of the organisation covering the Romans; Britons; Caledonians; Dacians; Germans; Palmyrans; Parthians; and Sassanids
  3. The Key Battles – covering (briefly) the battles of Teutoburg Forest; Idistavisus; Medway River; Cremona (Bedriacum); Mons Graupius; Tapae; Issus; Lugdunum; Nisibis; and Emesa. These sections within this chapter briefly describe the battles then provide suggestions for wargaming the battle
  4. Wargaming the Battles of Rome – covering Facing the Might of Rome; Command Structures; Missile Fire; Legion versus Warbands (and Cavalry); the Role of Auxiliary Infantry; and Getting the Right Look
  5. Choosing Your Rules – a summary of a number of rules, including: Armati II; Aurelian; Commands & Colours: Ancients; De Bellis Antiquitatis; Hail Caesar; Kings of War Historical; Legio VI; To The Strongest; War & Conquest; War Games Rules 3000BC to 1485AD; Brink of Battle; Broken Legions; De Bellis Velitum; FUBAR Medieval; Lord of the Rings Battle Game; Of Gods and Mortals; Open Combat; and Song of Blades and Heroes
  6. Choosing Your Models – a look at some of the main manufacturers in various scales including manufacturers of 28mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10/12mm and 6mm. This chapter also discusses scale for each of those figure sizes. There is also a handy table of manufacturers and the ranges they cover (refer point 2 above for the ranges)
  7. Scenarios – presents the setting up of some scenario based battles to provide some variety in the games we play

There is also an index and a list of titles for further reading.

This book has found a welcome place on my bookshelf (actually, coffee table as it has become the favourite for flicking through with a cup of coffee this week). Mersey has set a standard for his Wargamer’s Guides and continues to deliver to that standard. Whilst much of the historical content is familiar to me it is good to be able to read that from another gamer’s perspective. There are 8-pages of eye candy in the middle of the book with painted figures from Simon Miller, Daniel Mersey, Barry Lee and Wargames Illustrated to encourage the reader to whip out the paintbrushes and finish off those Early Imperial Romans.

Mersey discusses the troop types against the very familiar descriptions of troops found in the old Wargames Research Group Series of rules, particularly the 6th edition. He discusses their use in battle, their formation, speed and armament.

I am now torn between completing my Desert War Armies or dragging out the Early Imperial Romans, getting them sorted then building some Britons, Germans, Dacians or Palmyrans for opponents. Hmm, now that I think about it I have some Sassanians tucked away here somewhere as well.

Well recommended for its general nature but also for the inspiration it provides.

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A Wargamer’s Guide to the Desert War 1940-1943 – Review

Daniel Mersey, a wargame author with an increasing number of publications, has written a few “Wargamer’s Guides”. Previous volumes have covered the Anglo Zulu Wars and the 1066 Norman Conquest. This volume covers North Africa and the Desert War between 1940 and 1943.

The book is paperback of 118 pages, published by Pen & Sword Military on 12 June 2017, ISBN: 9781473851085. It is one of the range of wargame books being published by Pen & Sword.

In many respects, I found this book a better “beginning wargames” book than Iain Dickie’s Wargaming on a Budget as it covers pretty much everything from figure size and model scale, through rules, and figures, and playing the game and setting scenarios.

The book contains six chapters:

  1. The Desert War – an overview of the war covering the early cumsy attempts of the Commonwealth and Italian forces, then the changes broiught about by the introduction of German firces and then lastly the American effect and concluding with Operation Torch and the collapse of the Afrika Korps
  2. Armies, Organization, and Equipment – covering, well, the armies, their organisation and equipment. A generalised discussion of the organisation of the four armies but with references to more detailed Order of Battle. A reasonable equipment list for wargamers is also supplied. There is also a general painting guide for figures and vehicles here
  3. Wargaming the Campaign – it is what is says
  4. Choosing Your Rules – a summary of a number of rules, including: Battlegroup; Blitzkrieg Commander; Bolt Action; Chain of Command; Crossfire; Desert Rats; Flames of War; Iron Cross; KISS Rommel; Operation Squad; Panzer Korps; and Rapid Fire
  5. Choosing Your Models – a look at some of the main manufacturers in various scales including manufacturers of 28mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10/12mm and 6mm. This chapter also discusses scale for each of those figure sizes
  6. Scenarios – setting up some battles to get a feel of the desert war

There is also an index and a list of titles for further reading.

Mersey relies on previous authors’ works as well, such as Don Featherstone, which is not a bad thing.

The book also has a number of colour plates illustrating the subject in the figure sizes of 28mm, 15mm and 6mm. Many of the colour plates are from the Perry Twins.

Being a wargamer and having grown up on stories of the Rats of Tobruk and el Alamein, I have always had an interest in the Desert War. That it was in the first half of the Second World War when the equipment was being developed that would later be used and characterise the late war was  a bonus. Who can not fail to admire the Italians in their tiny tanks or groan at the number of breakdowns of the early cruiser tanks and then marvel at the later Lee/Grant tanks.

This is a volume that should be on any wargamer’s bookshelf. Even now, I am about to post this review, make a coffee and sit in my favourite reading chair and flick through this book again, planning my next Desert War project. Will it be Chain of Command and 28mm or more 6mm and Blitzkrieg Commander? Perhaps even 2mm this time.

La Haye Sainte – 3D Printable Terrain for Waterloo – Kickstarter

Friend Anthony from Singapore has been experimenting with 3D printing. After a couple of false starts he has learned the ILAR* principle. ILAR was necessary because 15mm, 6mm and 28mm are sizes, not scales. Buildings need scales.

Anthony has it right now and has released the 3D printing plans for La Haye Sainte via a Kickstarter. He notes that:

La Haye Sainte is a complete set of 3D printable .STL files that will allow you to print and assemble a model of the farm at the centre of battlefield at Waterloo.

Using contemporary sketches, watercolours and accounts as the basis, (rather than the current state of the farm), the files will include everything you need to print the complete farm buildings, as they were on Sunday 18th July, 1815, and simulate the fire damage to barn that occurred throughout the battle. Where conjecture and/or doubt remains the files will come in several configurations to allow a variety of solutions, and for each wargamer to decide how they want the farm represented.

The basic farm will look like this:

The plan of La Haye Sainte
The plan of La Haye Sainte

Each of the larger farm buildings (Barn, Stables and Main House) will be made with removable roof sections. Since 3D models are scalable, you can print the model to the limits of your printer, though the files will be delivered optimised for 15mm as shown below. Anthony is a wargamer and has worked hard to make the models both accurate and usable, so the final farm will be table and figure friendly, which means no broken bayonets if you put models “inside” the buildings. All pledge backers will receive a link to his research and the conclusions he made from that research when he created the 3D Models, icluding compromises he had to make to ensure the models remained usable and, perhaps more importantly, printable.

15mm Figures stand ready by the gate
15mm Figures stand ready by the gate

I have seen the model and it is indeed a fine piece that will look the business on the tabletop when printed and painted.

Head on over to Kickstarter – la Haye Sainte 3D Printable Terrain for Waterloo. I can thoroughly recommend this.


* ILAR – It Looks About Right – a naval principle from the 20th century.

Some Trees

The trees - and this is how they usually look in battle
The trees – and this is how they usually look in battle

I managed to get a little time today to spend on the hobby so decided that I would sort out some of the Woodland Scenics Trees I had purchased in Singapore. These are plastic and quite light so I decided a little weight under them would do them good. I looked for washers but really, here, the 10 centavo and 25 centavo coins seem to do the trick quite nicely. The 10 centavo coin is worth less than a cent (US, Aussie or SGD, it is less that a cent). The 25 centavo coin is also worth less than a cent.

The coins happen to be magnetic (as are Singapore's new coins). That is quite useful.
The coins happen to be magnetic (as are Singapore’s new coins). That is quite useful.

One of the neat things about the coins is that they are magnetic. Indeed, the new coins in Singapore are also magnetic. I’m sore of wondering whether that is a because of the addition of a rare earth to the coins or something a little simpler. In any case, being magnetic means that I can late a strip of magnetic tape in the scenery box and the trees will stand on that.

The picture below shows the finished, ready for sand to be appied to the base and a coat of paint The trees are way more stable this way. By the way, half the trees are for use with 6mm figures, then other half with 15mm.

The finished product - trees on coins, nicely weighted and ready for some ground texture and paint.
The finished product – trees on coins, nicely weighted and ready for some ground texture and paint.

First Repairs Done

Before I outlined the possible plans for the weekend and they were:

  1. Watch TV
  2. Go out and drink beer
  3. Get back into wargaming items
15mm DBA armies a little jumbled - these are the Hungarians and Koreans
15mm DBA armies a little jumbled – these are the Hungarians and Koreans

Whilst it was a tough choice as one does enjoy the odd tipple, what finally worked was to drink beer of Friday night (way too much as it turned out) and then I got into some wargaming related stuff today. First cab off the rank was to repair the existing figures after their move from Singapore to Manila. They looked a little messed up when I opened their box:

Figures were jumbled all over the place and there were a number of bent spears. I was more worried about anything that had broken off. Fortunately, nothing was broken off, just a lot of bent spears and the odd paint chip. The paint chips were not seriously noticeable so I have decided to leave them as they are. Now these three DBA armies are ready for battle again.

All the figures here are 15mm scale with the Later Hungarians being from Essex Miniatures, the Nubians are old series Gladiator Games and the Koreans are Alain Touller Figurines.

Nothing to see here, move along!

Everyone should have a Lightning!
Everyone should have a Lightning!

This is also in no way indicative of a desire to do plastic kits more so that I always liked the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle and if one is going to do a Beagle, well, one simply has to have a Lightning!

And if it is enough for Jeremy Clarkson to briefly have had one in 1:1 scale in his frontyard, then a 1:100 scale kit should not raise any eyebrows.

The fact that 1:100 is, in wargaming terms, 15mm, has nothing to do with it (as is the fact that the Beagle is a bomber, of course).

And a Beagle, beagles are sweet aircraft!
And a Beagle, beagles are sweet aircraft!

Now, all I need to have some fun with these is the right colour paints, some putty for filler, some wet and dry paper for tidying up and smoothing out and a rainy Saturday to make them followed by a sunny Sunday to paint them!

Napoleonic — Battle Five at the Gun Bar — Another Last for a While!

I noted back on 30 June 2014 that I was having the last battle at the Gun Bar for a while as I was taking up a new job and moving from Singapore. Well, as is the way of things in IT and Banking, that move was delayed a week, then another week, then another week and we are still sitting here.

So, it was off to the Gun Bar again, this time with plastic soldiers painted ready for Anthony to base (see previous posts here). To make the trek worthwhile, another Napoleonic game was organised with Général de Corps Anthony facing off against Major General Thomo the Lost again. This was also a special battle as again it was likely to be the last time I was going to be in the position to battle with Anthony, face to face, beer to beer, for some time to come as I up sticks and hopefully high-tail it out of Singapore.

The battlefield was laid out as I arrived, with the battle being taken from Stuart Asquith’s Programmed Wargame Scenarios. The scenario was the British were withdrawing in the Peninsula to the defence lines at Torres Vedras and a rearguard had been left to delay the French by holding a village and a bridge. Again, for depth, it was decided to play along the battlefield rather than across it.

Now, I have mentioned the dice feng shui before so this time I suggested I take the poorly rolling blue dice and Anthony used the high rolling red ones. We again diced to see who would be French and who would be British. Again, I ended up as the British commander.

The British had two battalions of green Portuguese Line and a Battalion of veteran Caçadores. Accompanying the Portuguese were two battalions of British line troops (one understrength) and a battalion of Highlanders (who also were veteran).  There was the 5th battalion of the 60th foot, armed with rifles and already having taken casualties earlier in the retreat. In support was a regiment of Light Cavalry, a foot battery of artillery and a horse battery.

The French started the battle with two regiments of light cavalry already in the table with the rest of the French force arriving one unit at a time, one bound at a time.

I based my tactics around holding the village on the British right with the poor quality Portuguese. Meanwhile the British would hold the more open ground as well as defend the bridge. The Horse battery was deployed forward with the 5/60th to slow the French advance a little and the foot battery was deployed on the hill to the rear. The Caçadores were forward on the British right flank.

The Highlanders were held as a reserve in the centre of the line, able to turn either way as the situation required.

The French advanced and the British fired. The blue dice were indeed rolling low, at one stage I rolled 9 dice and scored nothing higher than a three. However the British tactics were sound and the French élan was such that they came forward rather piecemeal.

The Caçadores went into square on the right, holding up and preventing the French cavalry from attacking the British right. In the meantime the horse battery and the 5/60th fell backwards firing all the while. After 10 bounds, with the scenario due to end, the British still held both the village and the bridge. Victory in yet another of my last games at the Gun Bar. To be fair, 10 bounds was not really enough time for the French and I suggested for the depth of table we were using that a variable finish between 12 and 16 bounds would be more interesting and give the French a better chance.

The photos below are from Anthony’s phone as for some reason as yet unknown, my phone was talking really odd photos and they were not at all clear,

Interestingly, throughout the entire game I won the initiative roll only once, Anthony won that nine times. I inevitably rolled down, he rolled up. I think there is definitely dice feng shui here and the next time we play, the blue dice will be reserved for marker duty, replaced by the green set perhaps.

Dice feng shui exists – at least with those blue dice! After the game finished, I rolled the nine dice again and had seven numbers four or greater! Go figure. The only dice that rolled well was the 8-sided dice being used for morale checks. I should also note that Anthony’s rolls were generally positive – split about 50:50 around 1,2,3 and 4,5,6 on using the red dice so, dice feng shiui exists!

Napoleonic — Battle Four at the Gun Bar — Last for a While

The last time Général de Corps Anthony faced Major General Thomo the Lost was the 5th of May.  Nearly eight weeks later we faced each other across the field of battle one more time. This was a special battle as it was the last time I was going to be in the position to battle with Anthony, face to face, beer to beer, for some time to come as I up sticks and high-tail it out of Dodge … er … sorry … Singapore.

The battlefield was laid out as I arrived and it was decided to play along the battlefield rather than across it. Because of the wicked dice feng shui plaguing Anthony in the past, we decided to dice to see who took the French, with the winner to take them. Once again, I ended up as the British commander.

Forces were equal so we set about deploying. At about this moment, a very nice beer was offered by the commander of the French so toasts were drunk and we retired to the balcony for the Singapore version of a sausage sizzle and that marvel of Australian gastronomic delight – the sausage sanger! The sangers were despatched, as was the beer, so we returned to the table.

I had based my tactics around holding the village in the centre of the table with my forces able to run back into the forest should the going get a little tough. My artillery was massed on my left. The rifles were in the best position to take the town and they were ably supported by the Portuguese.

My right flank was protected by three battalions of English and Highland troops. Battle commenced, dice were rolled, the French were rolled, au revoir, c’est tout ce qu’elle a écrit.

Whilst I lost a light cavalry regiment carelessly, and a few troops from other battalions, the French lost heavily. Again, the dice smiled upon me and laughed at Anthony. I must remember to take my pilgrimage to the shrine of St Magnus (the patron saint of dice rollers – read the Orkneyinga Saga for verification)!

In any case, thanks Anthony for the hospitality, beer, sausages, the games and most importantly, for being a mate!

And then, what better way to complete the battle than …

Bang on!
Bang on!

Bang On!

Napoleonic — Battle Three at the Gun Bar

Back in December 2013 we fought Napoleonic — Battle Two at the Gun Bar. About six weeks ago we started Battle Three. However, a period of high stress as well as hunting for a new job meant that whilst we started Battle Three, I had not had a chance to return to the Gun Bar to finish off the French.

Today I returned to the Gun Bar and finished off the French!

The British cavalry “got tore in” to the French horse and guns on the right, quite effectively, destroying the gun and forcing a retreat from the French. Further time was spent as the British and the French rested their horses before engaging further.

Meanwhile, in the centre, the French columns came forward. They managed to survive a light cavalry charge on them, pretty much destroying the light cavalry but then for some reason the French advance slowed and this allowed the British lines to engage in what they do best, shooting!

“Make Ready! Present! Fire!”

They shot! Devastating volleys delivered on the hapless French.

Game Three at the Gun Bar was over, the gallant French again victims of outrageous fortune (a number of dice rolls came up 1 at the time the French needed 4+).

Adieu!

And thanks Anthony for the brunch. Lovely!

DeBAKLe 2013 — the AAR

The guys getting ready for start of DeBAKLe 2013  -- organiser David Khoo is sitting, back to the camera preparing the first round draw
The guys getting ready for start of DeBAKLe 2013 — organiser David Khoo is sitting, back to the camera preparing the first round draw

I stood in the maelstrom that was emigration from Malaysia at 2CIQ (Tuas Second Link) on the way back to Singapore and as I was jostled in the crowd for around 30 minutes, my mind started to drift off to contemplate the weekend in Kuala Lumpur — pondering not just DeBAKLe 2013 but also the general wargaming scene in Malaysia. It does appear healthier than here in Singapore with quite an active group of wargamers meeting regularly to battle through different periods of history.  There is currently a large Napoleonic campaign in under-way (Leipzig) with the battle being broken down into component parts and played over different weekends.

At dinner with some of the guys on Saturday night (great choice of dishes by the way guys and a good reason for my weight having shot through the roof again – love eating in Malaysia) inevitably conversation was centred around wargaming, and armies and tactics, this was a refreshing change for me where wargaming conversation in Singapore is all too infrequent.

For DeBAKLe 2013 there were a mix of experienced players and new, a good sign for the hobby there, as was the fact that there were 14 players at DeBAKLe 2013, the number up on previous years and causing David (who organises it) to consider four rounds next year.

As readers of Thomo’s Hole will know, I had painted a Nubian Army to take to DeBAKLe 2013 over the five days before leaving for the competition. I am still pleased with that effort and some nice things were said about the appearance of the army there.

On to my games.

Game 1 -- vs the Ch'in (Book II/4a) -- after the first moves
Game 1 — vs the Ch’in (Book II/4a) — after the first moves

This was my first battle – the Ch’in were fielded by AJ KJ and in what was a huge surprise to me, I was the attacker. It was a surprise as the Ch’in aggression was 3 and mine was 1. So, the Nubians invaded Ch’in China!

AJ KJ laid out two woods and a road. His army consisted of two heavy chariots (a sweet target for my bows), some cavalry and mostly warband and bows. The Nubians (Book I/3) consisted of two warbands, seven bows (one of which was the general) and three Psiloi.

Game 1 - at the death
Game 1 – after my first casulalty

AJ KJ advanced over the table and tried to keep his heavy chariots away from my bows. He was successful in doing that however I managed after an early set back to remove his Cavalry, Psiloi and a Bow. I had lost two Bows by this stage.

AJ KJ marched his warband into the wood to clear out the Psiloi there whilst I prepared to roll up AJ’s right flank.

The best tactic possible then came into play. When AJ’s KJ’s warband hit my Psiloi, the battle factor was 2-1 in his favour and looking at little awkward for the Nubians. The die were cast and the result was a role of 6-1 in my favour. Scratch a warband.

Game one then was a 4-2 victory to me – scoring me 8 points and AJ KJ 2.

Game 2 vs Faris's Patrician Romans - Book II/83 (west)
Game 2 vs Faris’s Patrician Romans – Book II/83b (east)

Faris was my next opponent and he was using Patrician Romans – a nice force because of the variations possible. He had a mix of knights, cavalry, auxilia, light horse, blades and psiloi. A good mix to take on the Nubians with a lot of good match-ups likely from his side of the table.

The Patrician’s are aggression 0 and I am aggression 1 but I lost the attacker/defender roll and laid out the terrain. Two sand dunes and an area of rough ground. We deployed and my plan was to move things around so that my warband and psiloi faced off against his auxilia whilst my bows concentrated on his knights and cavalry and tried to stay away from his blades.

The end of game 2 - and another win
The end of game 2 – and another win

Faris came forward and tried to get his bow killers into contact with the bows. However, I managed to keep out of the way of the Auxilia and manoeuvred the bows to get some shots on the cataphracts. Cataphracts died. It was a hard victory however as Faris managed to get some good troops into my bows and managed to kill my general. At that point I was three elements down (two bows and a psiloi, one of bows was the general however) and Faris was also three elements down. I rolled for PIPs and needed to roll at least 2 to do anything. A role of 4 saw me able to position myself well against his Psiloi and the result was a 4-3 victory my way, with another 8 points. Faris picked up 5 I think for this – 3 points for killing a general and two for the other two elements.

I was in the top four at this point (surprisingly) and so it was on to the final round.

Deployed ready to face the Anglo-Saxons (Actually, I think these were Anglo-Danish so IV/71)
Deployed ready to face the Anglo-Saxons (Actually, I think these were Anglo-Danish so IV/71)

I’ve been reading a lot of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon series recently so when I saw the Anglo-Saxons, a mix of blades and spears (the shield wall) I thought of Uhtred! This battle was against Tony, also undefeated at this stage and his army was a mix of blades, spears and the odd Psiloi. They were aggression 1, same as me, but I ended up being the defender again. I placed my two areas of sand dune and one of rough going.

We deployed and started to play. My only real hope in this battle was to get my warband into his infantry and hope for a quick kill. The shield wall rather than the blades was the target.

I used my light troops to anchor my left flank on sand dunes and arrayed myself between dunes, narrowing his attack frontage and I hoped keeping enough of his troops out of the battle until I could make some inroads into his forces.

Tony left me an opening on the right of his centre and I was starting to work that. I really only needed to hold his centre and then start to wrap around it and even though it was the bows doing it, I figured I had a good chance to start to roll him up.

The opening combat was therefore my bow general against his blades – a starting factor of 2-5 his way. I added one as I was a general and he subtracted one as he was overlapped so now 3-4. I rolled one on my dice roll so a roll of 4 or better on Tony’s and I was toast. He rolled 4 or better. The rest of my combats were closer but all my elements lost and were pushed back. Game over! I lost it 1-0 with the general being the casualty so 11 points for Tony and none for me.

Joint sixth place
Joint sixth place

After the game totals were all tallied, I had come in a creditable (well, I thought it was creditable) sixth place using the Nubians, not a world beating army but with all those bows, one to strike, if not fear, at least a little uncertainty into the hearts of opponents.

Deployed for a Big Battle DBA
Deployed for a Big Battle DBA

To finish the wargaming off for the day, we had a Big Battle DBA – which our side managed to lose conclusively with two commands broken and the third one element from breaking.

All in all, it was a great day.

After the wargaming was over, we adjourned to a Chinese Restaurant somewhere in Shah Alam or the Klang Valley for some typically great Malaysian Chinese food.

Thanks to the Broken Bayonets for a wonderful weekend of gaming and special thanks to David Khoo and his family for putting me up and feeding me (more about the burger later).