Historical Fiction is Costing me a Fortune!

And not so much for the cost of the book. Almost all fiction and about half the non-fiction I read today I read on my Kindle, tablet or ‘phone. I’ve gotten over missing the tactile feel of a new or old book as well as the lack of smell of digital editions so more and more I am downloading my books. The problem is not the cost of the book but rather the cost of the wargame figures in dollars, time and paint that results from reading the book. Within Thomo’s Hole, for example, I have noted the following projects that came from reading:

And that is just over the last 12 months. The list goes on however.

Currently I am reading two historical novels – one on my ‘phone and this one, Divided Empire on my Kindle. I had read part of this before then got distracted but I can’t recall where I got up to so I am sure I never finished. Of course, the biggest problem is that this is set in the period of the Later Roman Empire, around 400 CE and of course I am now thinking of Late Romans, Goths and what have you. This particular temptation is not helped by the fact that I have Goths left over and laying idle in the spares box after sorting and getting things ready for the Dark Age project.

Worse, there are another few books in the series and I can see myself at the minimum putting together a small set of some 6mm late Romans and Goths. Of course, if one is doing some Romans, one really should do two armies of them so that a quick civil war becomes in order so that would be a small set of three armies. Then really, one should at least have a fourth so a Big Battle DBA becomes possible. I can see where this is leading.

In a moment of laziness, I was looking through some new releases and The Black Sheep by Peter Darman popped up. I had read most of the Parthian series until Pacorus started to annoy me so thought “here is a good one to have on the list ready for when I finish Divided House, I’ll just have a quick look at the opening pages.”

The Black Sheep is set in the time of the War of Sicilian Vespers, a war I knew about in passing but not in any detail. As is usual in these things, one thing led to another and I started reading up on the Sicilian Vespers. Now I am thinking 1282 to 1302 CE and Byzantines, Sicilians, Anjou, Aragon, France, and Naples. Toss in some Turks and we have a campaign set. Best of all, some galleys as well for the Battle of the Gulf of Naples.

This will be a challenge in 6mm (and 1/1200 for the galleys I think) but hey, life is a challenge isn’t it! One a positive note, it could be the second part of a series of sets based around Sicily.

More lead for the pile! I have to stop reading.

Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC to AD 30 by Gabriele Esposito – Review

I have had an interest in the successor states since I first read Alfred Duggan’s historical fiction, “He Died Old”, which was set in the life and times of Mithradates of Pontus, who fought Rome for around 60 years.

From there it was a short step back to Robin Fox’s “Alexander” for some more academic ancient history. This was at the same time as starting to wargame as a hobby so building a Macedonian Army in 25mm size was a natural step given the interest I had in Alexander. Off to university studying Economics but at the same time managing to squeeze in some Ancient History in between lectures covering Malthus, Adam Smith, Galbraith, Solow, Keynes and Friedman, among others.

Pike phalanxes and Alexander’s Successors led to reading about the political machinations that exceeded even the best the popular soap operas could manage for skulduggery and I was hooked.

Over the years I referenced many Osprey publications as well as those from the Wargames Research Group when painting the models trying to achieve accuracy when painting them.

Gabriele Esposito, well known already for his articles in Karwansaray Publishers Ancient Warfare magazine has turned his attention to the Hellenistic States in a book published by Pen & Sword Military, titled Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC to AD 30, History, Organization and Equipment. The book is 155 pages long, (ISBN: 9781526730299) and was published on 17 July 2019.

Esposito has attempted to cover 350 years of Hellenistic history in a single volume analysing the organization and equipment employed by the armies of the Hellenistic States. Alexander the Great died in 323 BC and this resulted in his empire fragmenting into the various states of the Diadochi. Kingdoms were formed from Asia, to  North Africa and the Eastern European areas.

The book covers the complex Hellenistic military forces from the breakdown of Alexander’s empire until contact with the simplified Roman military machine obsoleted the pike phalanxes almost over night (OK, well it might have been over several years but in all interactions between the Legions and Phalanxes the Legions won and excuses were made for the failure of the Phalanx).

The Diadochi fielded armies with thousands of men, chariots, elephants and siege machines. The book covers these armies and analyses the forces of Macedon, the Seleucid Empire, Ptolemaic Egypt, the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Armenia, Pergamon, Pontus, Cappadocia, Galatia, the Bosporan Kingdom, Epirus, Sicily, the Achaean League and the Aetolian League.

To take such a broad subject and cover it within 155 pages means that the text rips along and Esposito’s writing style is very easy to read. The book is well illustrated with colourful maps (taken from Wikimedia under the Wikimedia Commons license). To illustrate the uniforms of the time the author has used the resources of a German based Hellenistic re-enactment group, Hetairoi which are a group covering much of the period. The re-enactors are used to illustrate uniforms, armour and weapons, shields and the like all in colour. Particularly impressive are the photos of the pikes.

The book is organised into 15 chapters, and Acknowledgement, Introduction, Bibliography and Index. There is also an appendix that discusses the re-enactors, Hetairoi e.V. (hetairoi is the Greek for “companion” and a reference to Alexander’s companions).

The chapters present are:

  1. The Military Revolution of Philip of Macedon
  2. The Macedonian Army of Alexander the Great
  3. The Succession to Alexander and the Wars of the Diadochi
  4. The Wars of the Hellenistic World
  5. The Armies of the Early Successors
  6. The Antigonid Army
  7. The Ptolemaic Army
  8. The Seleucid Army
  9. The Attalid Army
  10. Hellenistic Anatolia
  11. Pontus, Armenia and the Bosporan Kingdom
  12. The Epirote Army
  13. The Greek Cities
  14. Hellenistic Israel
  15. The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and the Indo-Greek Kingdom

That pretty much covers the entire Hellenistic world post Alexander.

At the end of the book there is a bibliography. Interestingly, after listing some 20 primary sources, Esposito lists the secondary sources he used. These are a mix of academic works such as Bar-Kochva’s, The Seleucid Army to popular works such as Peter Connolly’s, Greece and Rome but by far the largest number of secondary sources are the publications of the Wargames Research Group, Montvert and Osprey. Esposito then lists his 17 secondary article sources, which are all from various issues of the Ancient Warfare Magazine.

This book will be of interest to ancient wargamers and military modellers in particular, full as it is with uniform and weapon detail. It is a good primer on Hellenistic Warfare. It would also interest those undertaking more serious Ancient History studies, at least enabling them to more clearly see uniforms and equipment from the past. Best of all, it is currently on sale at Pen and Sword. I will admit, now I am looking forward to both reading his older work on the Armies of the Late Roman Empire as well as the imminent release of Armies of Celtic Europe 700 BC to AD 106 at the end of next month. Recommended.

Carthage

Chariots of Fire was the first game I had purchased recently from GMT Games. The other game I purchased at that time was Carthage. Carthage is one of the games in the Ancient World Series. The first of that series, Rise of the Roman Republic, is out of print. Carthage being the second and most recent still is in print.

I’ve always (well, for the last 40 years anyway) had an interest in Carthage, the Phoenician colony on the North African coast. Carthage almost bought Rome to her knees before she was an established power. The struggles between Rome and Carthage produced two of the great captains in history – Hannibal and Scipio Africanus.

The game Carthage concentrates on the First Punic War. This was the precursor to the one made famous by Hannibal and Scipio. Indeed, it was in the First Punic War that Hannibal’s father fought and were the oath taken by the father on behalf of Hannibal was made, the oath that the Barcas would fight the Romans until they succeeded in destroying them.

The game components look good with two maps covering the main areas of conflict (Italy, North Africa and Sicily). There are over 1,000 counters in this game as well.

The game itself lists four scenarios. These are:

The Mercenary War, 241 B.C. At the completion of the First Punic War over, the Carthaginian mercenaries in Sicily sought payment. They were sent back to Carthage where they were paid a small amount of what was owed to them and then they sere shipped off to Numidia.

After a while they revolted and massacred a number of officers then laid waste to Carthage. Some Libyans joined in the revolt. In the end Hanno was compelled to assemble an army of veterans and elephants to combat the mercenaries. Hamilcar Barca (Hannibal’s father) returned to Carthage from overseas as well with a mostly mounted second army and Navaras, a Numidian chieftain joined with Hanno to put down the revolt.

Agathocles, 311 B.C. In this scenario the Carthaginians are fighting against Syracuse, led by the ambitious tyrant, Agathocles. This fighting was based around Agrigentum (Acragas).
Hiero, Hero or Gyro? 264–263 B.C. This is an introductory scenario, simplified in its approach and what it involves. Very good for learning the game system.
The First Punic War, 264 to 241 B.C. This is the full war – with the folks at GMT making the assumption that our game war will end at the same completion date of the First Punic War generally.

Board Game Geek has Carthage rated at 7.47/10.

As with Chariots of Fire, I am very much looking forward to getting into this game.