Shiny Things, or Rather the Perils of Being a Wargamer and Reading a New Book

Actually, two books. I received a copy of A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC written by Marc G DeSantis, ISBN: 9781473861589, published on 29 November 2017.

When reading that I thought it would be a good idea to read Great Battles of the Classical Greek World by Owen Rees, ISBN: 9781473827295, published on 15 August 2016 at the same time as there was a degree of overlap between the two.

Both books are published by Pen & Sword and both look at one area of particular interest to me. I will review both books separately in other blog posts.

So, what is the risk to the Wargamer? Well, it is simple. My favourite periods of interest are Ancient Wargaming and Naval Wargaming. The Peloponnesian War has both. The 25 years of the Peloponnesian War covered a bitter period of classical Greek history and warfare. By this time the Greeks were well settled into the hoplite style of warfare with armoured man, large shields and a long spear standing in a long line with other men similarly armed.

To my pile of uncompleted projects I have added two Greek projects. One is the Greek world circa 670 BCE to 450 BCE – the period when hoplite panoply and warfare was developed to its peak. This was also the period where the Persians were defeated at Marathon and Plataea. The second is the Greek world circa 450 BCE to around 225 BCE which includes the Peloponnesian War.

Fortunately the core troops from the earlier period will also double up for the later period. Currently I am planning the hoplite forces. This little project will be in 6mm for reasons of:

  • space
  • cost
  • speed of painting

Rules will either be DBA or Basic Impetus. The armies should be easy enough to build to be useful for both rule sets. For example, the early Athenian army in Basic Impetus consists of a maximum of 8 bases of Hoplites, and one base each of Slingers, Javelinmen, Thessalian Light Cavalry and Thessalian Medium Cavalry. The DBA equivalent is 10 elements of Hoplites and two elements of skirmishers.

The only real question I have to consider from the rule perspective is whether to use 60mm or 40mm wide bases. DBA would normally be a 40mm element frontage while Dadi and Piombo recommend a 60mm frontage for Basic Impetus in 6mm. 60mm frontage is also the base frontage for Baccus’ SPQR rules.

The base size will set the area that is needed to play and 40mm has the attraction of probably only needed a 2-foot square area (DBA) or 3-foot square (Basic Impetus) while 60mm would set a 4-foot by 3-foot area (Basic Impetus).

More updates later as I start to plan further.

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Salamis 480 BC – The naval campaign that saved Greece

image I’d just left for a trip overseas when my partner mentioned that there was a parcel for me at the post office. She collected and told me it was a book. I knew then it was the Osprey Publishing Campaign number 222. I’d received an email from the author, William Shepherd, promising me a copy to have a look at.

I am glad this volume arrived. This book has been written in the Osprey Campaign series format attempting to cover the topic in 96 pages. The book contains a mix of historical background and modern interpretation coupled with photographs of contemporary artefacts, artistic interpretation and modern photographs of the battlefield, in this case the straits at Salamis.

I will freely admit that I am both an ancient tragic and a naval tragic so there are few better things for me to look at than a book about a topic like Salamis (maybe the Battle of Cape Ecnomus)?

The book itself contains chapters on:

  1. Origins of the Campaign
  2. Chronology
  3. Opposing Commanders
  4. Opposing Forces
  5. Opposing Plans
  6. The Campaign to Salamis
  7. ‘Salamis Divine’
  8. After the Battle
  9. The Battlefield Today

This is also a useful Bibliography included at the end referring the reader to a number of other works for further study along with an index.

Much of the analysis of the performance of triremes (trieres) at Salamis is based on various analyses of the Hellenic Navy’s Olympias, a trireme constructed in modern times based on information provided in the sources. Shepherd makes good use of this analysis as well as a number of photographs of the Olympias underway and in dock.

As you read this work it is clear that Shepherd has a strong interest in both ancient Greece and in naval matters, especially in reference to the oared fighting vessels of antiquity.

Along with clear readable text, there are some interesting illustrations painted by Peter Dennis which give a clue to how ancient naval battles must have looked. The battle maps in this book also give a clear indication of how the Greek dispositions severely hampered the Persians, effectively negating the quantitative advantage Xerxes enjoyed.

I can thoroughly recommend this book, especially to wargamers interested in ancient naval battles as well as those with an interest in ancient Greece. The book itself provides an excellent description of the battle and Dennis’s illustrations have me looking at my 1/1200th triremes and considering how to add flags to the stern of these vessels.

The book is available from Osprey Publishing, Amazon, Book Depository and other outlets. The recommended retail price is £14.99 and the book details are:

Campaign 222
Author: William Shepherd
Illustrator: Peter Dennis
Paperback published in June 2010; 96 pages;
ISBN: 9781846036842

I, for one, am looking forward to Shepherd’s next book which I believe concerns Plataea.