Friday, February 23, 2007

The bulk of the force

(Sorry for the dark picture)

This is the bulk of the current Greek force.

2 Phalanxes of Spartans

3 Allied phalanxes

2 units of skirmishers (not in these pictures)

2 big units of Thracians (you can see them hiding in the back)

There are two more units of hoplites not pictured. One wasn’t based yet when the photo was taken…the other are some Vendel hoplites that didn’t quite fit in as well. The Vendel figures were the first hoplites I had painted and are classed in the learning category…so they only come out when necessary.

The army is being bulked out still as I am currently painting light troops (slingers and more javelins are on the painting table). My eventual goal is to be able to do some of the larger hoplite battles such as Mantinea at 1/50 scale. That means I’ll need a core of about 200 hoplites per side. With around 160 hoplites completed I’m less than halfway there…but I’ll keep plugging away. At the same time I’ll be working on Persians as well to try and complete the period.

Detail of the two Spartan phalanxes and one of the allied ones. You can see the Thracian (peltast) unit way in the back corner sulking.

Allied hoplite phalanx.

The two other allied hoplite phalanxes.

The building in the background is from Crescent Root (lovingly purchased by my Girlfriend) and will be used for Xenophon’s march as well as the campaigns of king Agesilaus of Sparta.

Comments, questions or random blathering is highly encouraged.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bring on the skirmishers!

These represent the camp followers, youths, servants and anyone else who wanted to fight but couldn’t afford the full hoplite panoply.

I’ve added additional javelins to some of the figures for a little extra ammo.

Figures are all Wargames Foundry. I’ll need to be painting a whole lot more of these guys over the next few weeks to bulk out the available number. I’m currently painting up some slingers to help ease the burden these poor javelin throwers face.

Friday, February 16, 2007

How goes the Greeks?

I’ve finished roughly 160 hoplites (and far too few light troops) for the current ancient Greek army. The plan is to make a large enough force that it can be split and fight many of the battles of the Peloponnesian War era as well as be combined (like Voltron) into one large force for Greek and Persian war games. The main scope of the project will be the late 5th Century B.C. mainly focusing on the Peloponnesian War and act as Xenophon’s famous 10,000.

A selection of generic Greek hoplites that could fill in as Athenians, Corinthians or even Argives.

Another angle of these ferocious beasts. The phalanxes themselves can be arranged easily as either 24 figures or 32 although only 16 are shown here (the most photogenic # for my camera).

Here is a 24 man phalanx of Spartan hoplites. I apologize for the blurry picture as I (like most of the wargaming community it seems) still am not the best at photographing tiny lead men. I based most of the unit on 40x40mm bases with 4 hoplites on each, this makes ranking them up much easier (I also just like the look of it).

A single Spartan from the above unit looking suitably tough.

A smattering of archers. Proportionally I’ve painted a small number of pure light troops (only about 30) so I’ve been using Thracian mercenary peltasts (of which I’ve painted plenty) whenever I can. I need to jump back in and get a bunch more slingers and javelin armed skirmishers done.

The rest of the blog should be filled with notable Greek personalities, battle scenarios and general comments and information about this period in WAB.

Comments encouraged, welcomed and begged for.


Militiades - Athenian Badass

c. 555-489 B.C.
Famous for commanding Athenian forces at Marathon.

Militiades (the younger) was one of ten (one for each tribe) generals leading the Athenian forces at Marathon. He is said to have argued passionately for the attack and is said by some to have come up with the plan for weakening the middle and therefore strengthening and lengthening the wings. This formation adopted by the Athenians created (whether intentionally we do not quite know) a double envelopment which helped rout the Persian forces.

Militiades had been the ruler of Chersonese and had quarreled with the Scythians (and even joined in a Persian expedition against them) and joined supported the Ionian revolt. As the Persians put down the revolt, Militiades fled to Athens although his son Metiochus was captured and taken to Persia. Things weren’t all bad for Metiochus as the Persians often time treated their important prisoners as royalty and this seems to be no exception. Militiades stayed in Athens and ended up fighting the Persian punitive expedition sent in response to that cities part in the Ionian revolt.

I’ve chosen to model Militiades as an Athenian commander on foot in a muscled cuirass, sporty bronze greaves and a simple cloak. He would be a commander who fought in the main battle line taking a position of honor but I’ve pictured him here in the planning/leading stage, ready to give a rousing speech to lead the phalanx into battle. He is pictured without his hoplon and still wearing the cloak (which he most likely sheds for battle).

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Sepeia – 494 BC

Spartans vs. Argives

A Warhammer Ancient Battles Scenario

Strategic situation

For centuries the city-states of Argos and Sparta were feuding over control and leadership of the Peloponnese. Cleomenes, king of Sparta was told by the Delphic oracle that he would “take” Argos. Happy with his news that he would be the one to finally eliminate Sparta’s old enemy he led his army north to attack their rival. He took a rather odd route according to Herodotus, sacrificing at the river Erasinus, but receiving unfavorable omens. Believing his pass over the river was bared; he crossed by way of sea and landed southeast of Argos near the town of Nauplia near Tiryns.

The Argives raised their army and marched south to meet them outside the town of Tiryns at a place called Sepeia. The Argives has been feuding with the Spartans for many years and did not fear them on the battlefield, but had another worry. Herodotus tells of the Argives disposition “And now their fear was not so much lest they should be worsted in open fight as lest some trick should be practised on them; for such was the danger which the oracle given to them in common with the Milesians seemed to intimate.”

The Argive leader told his herald to echo any orders given by his Spartan counterpart to prevent any trickery and allow the Argives to follow whatever the Spartans were doing. When Cleomenes figured out what was going on, he secretly told his troops to attack the Argives when his herald gave the message to break for food. The Spartan herald gave the message and the Argives copied it, settling in for a good meal while the Spartan force attacked.

The forces

Argive Force

2,500 pts (or bigger if you’ve got the models) picked from the AOA Ancient Greek army list (excluding an army general which you get for free). Standard oracle rules apply.

Must upgrade at least one unit of hoplites to Argive hoplites. They gain LD 8 and I 4 and cost 11 pts (same as veteran hoplites from AtG.)

Restrictions – Cannot take, Spartan hoplites, Sacred Band, Peltasts, Thracians, Theban or Thessalian cavalry. Cannot take more than 1 unit of cavalry.

Spartan Forces

2,000 pts (or bigger if you’ve got the figures) picked from the AOA Ancient Greek army list (excluding an army general Cleomenes which you get for free). Standard oracle rules apply.


Cannot take Sacred Band, Peltasts, Thracians, Theban or Thessalian cavalry. Cannot take more than 1 unit of cavalry.

Must take at least 1 unit of Spartan hoplites. They must not be the largest hoplite unit in the army. For each unit of Spartan hoplites taken, one generic hoplite unit must be taken as well.


The battlefield will have been generally flat and open as most ancient Greek battlefields were. Any areas of rough ground or gentle hills should be confined to the sides and corners. In the left hand corner of the Argive side there should be a section of woods representing the sacred grove the Argives eventually hid in.

The battle as a game

The Argive player deploys first. Instead of actually placing down units, the Argive player lays down a group of 4-5 models for each unit, representing each unit type deployed, in a small circle or bunch. Each grouping of 4-5 models (which represents one unit) must be placed within the deployment zone and not within 6 inches of another group. These groups represent the Argive forces eating in camp and not prepared for combat. The groupings of figures will be replaced during the battle with units from their respective type (hoplite, skirmisher, and cavalry) but are not tied to a specific unit (see activating Argive units below).

The Spartan player deploys second with no unit closer than 18 inches to the Argive deployment zone.

The Argives get first turn. The battle lasts 7-8 turns or until army break point is reached.


Groups (the 4-5 model groups mentioned above representing a unit) cannot move until they are activated (see below). If a group is charged, they are considered to have been scattered and run off the battle field (as if you had caught a fleeing enemy). Move the charging unit up to contact and then remove the group from the board (which counts as killing an Argive unit of the type it represents).

Activating Argive Units

At the beginning of each Argive turn, the controlling player attempts to activate each of their groups (the 4-5 model groups mentioned above representing a unit). Roll a D6 for each Argive group on the board consulting the table below for the result.

Turn 1: Roll of 5+ Group becomes active and is replaced by unit it represents (either Hoplite, skirmisher etc…)

Turn 2: Roll of 4+ Group becomes active and is replaced by unit it represents (either Hoplite, skirmisher etc…)

Turn 3: Roll of 3+ Group becomes active and is replaced by unit it represents (either Hoplite, skirmisher etc…)

Turn 4+: Roll of 2+ Group becomes active and is replaced by unit it represents (either Hoplite, skirmisher etc…)

Once you have activated the group, replace it with a unit from your army list facing the Spartan board edge (since the alarm has now been raised). Once a group has been replaced by the unit it represents, the unit behaves normally and is free to march, charge, and shoot as long as the situation allows it. Each group is not representative of a specific unit, just a general unit type. Each group must clearly represent hoplite, skirmisher or cavalry (if you’ve taken some) but that is it. This allows the Spartan to have some idea of the type of troops deployed but not exact numbers or strength (or the position of characters) until the actual units are activated. This represents the chaos of combat and limited vision of the enemy the Spartan forces would have during the attack.

Once a group is activated and replaced with a unit, the unit behaves normally in all subsequent turns.

Example: It is the beginning of the 3rd Argive turn, and the Argive player has 3 groups left on the board. Two of the groups are comprised of hoplites, which represent surprisingly enough…hoplites, while the third is comprised of various javelin, bow and sling armed light troops and represents skirmishers. He/She rolls for the first group of hoplites and rolls a 1, they are still not activated. The Argive player rolls a 3 for the second group of hoplites so they are now activated. The Argive player now replaces the group with a unit of hoplites. Since there are two remaining hoplite units on the roster that have not been deployed, the Argive player has a choice of which one to put out for the group that was just activated. The player then rolls a 6 for the group of skirmishers and replaces them with the remaining skirmisher unit from their roster. The Argive player now continues on with the turn in normal order (declaring charges, rallying fleeing troops etc…) with two new units to take the fight to those nasty Spartans.


This battle could be fought simply as a pitched battle without the special rules above using the restrictions and deployments above. If this is the case, both sides should have equal points.

The Historical Battle

Now when Cleomenes heard that the Argives were acting thus, he commanded his troops that, so soon as the herald gave the word for the soldiers to go to dinner, they should instantly seize their arms and charge the host of the enemy. Which the Lacedaemonians did accordingly, and fell upon the Argives just as, following the signal, they had begun their repast; whereby it came to pass that vast numbers of the Argives were slain, while the rest, who were more than they which died in the fight, were driven to take refuge in the grove of Argus hard by, where they were surrounded, and watch kept upon them.


Cleomenes tricked some of the Argives into coming out and slaughtered them. When they became wise to the Spartans traps and refused to come out of the grove, Cleomenes had it burned with the enemy still in it killing most of them. He found out the god of this grove which he had destroyed was Argus. Upon hearing this, Herodotus has him responding "Greatly hast thou deceived me, Apollo, god of prophecy, in saying that I should take Argos. I fear me thy oracle has now got its accomplishment."

Cleomenes sent most of his army home and proceeded to sacrifice at a local temple (and stir up more controversy) before returning to Sparta. This battle secured for Sparta dominance of the Peloponnese over their old adversary Argos.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Tanagra – 457 BC

Spartans vs. Athenians scenario for Warhammer Ancient Battles

Strategic situation

During the ‘First’ Peloponnesian War between 460 and 446 B.C., Athens and Sparta pursued a series of alliances and petty squabbles, enhancing their dislike and rivalry towards each other. In 457 B.C. Sparta marched an army into Boeotia to intervene in a dispute between the Dorians and Phocians. This imposing army of Spartans and their allies understandably compelled the Phocians to back down. Athens took this opportunity to block the return trip of their rival city-states army.

The Athenians were blocking the Gulf of Corinth with their superior navy so the Spartans were left with trying to march through the Megarid (the area surrounding the city-state of Megara near the Isthmus of Corinth). As Athens had made a treaty with (and helped fortify) Megara, this would be a dangerous expedition. The Spartan allied army was now stuck in Boeotia and decided to stay there and plan their return. Thucydides gives another reason for the Spartan army to remain near Athens “Secret encouragement had been given them by a party in Athens, who hoped to put an end to the reign of democracy and the building of the Long Walls.”

The Spartans, while feared warriors, had not yet completely proven their dominance in hoplite battle that would have them dominate the land during the later stages of the Peloponnesian war. The Spartans were also weakened from a great earthquake and the helot revolt that resulted from it. Athens, along with allies sent out an army to meet the Spartans and they came together for battle outside Tanagra. The Athenians most likely feared the possibility of the enemy army ravaging their countryside (and the loss of face that would result) and there could also be truth in Thucydides mention of a possible plot.

The forces

The Athenians brought a large contingent of hoplites that was supplemented by a number of allies including the Argives (who sent 1,000 heavy infantry). The total number given by Thucydides is 14,000 not including cavalry of which there would be a very small amount. This was a large army from a city state at the time considering only 5,100 were sent on the Syracuse expedition originally, and estimates for Mantinea (418 B.C.) was only around 8-9,000 a side.

The allied Spartan army, led by Nicomedes, consisted of 1,500 Spartans and 10,000 allied soldiers. A group of Thessalian cavalry joined the Spartan side (from the Athenian army) during the battle according to Thucydides.

Athenian Allied Forces

2,200 pts (or bigger if you’ve got the models) picked from the AOA Ancient Greek army list (excluding an army general which you get for free).

May upgrade 1 unit of hoplites to Argive hoplites. They gain LD 8 and I 4 and cost 11 pts (same as veteran hoplites from AtG.)

Restrictions – Cannot take, Spartan hoplites, Sacred Band, Peltasts, Thracians, Theban or Thessalian cavalry. Cannot take more than 1 unit of cavalry.

Spartan Allied Forces

2,000 pts (or bigger if you’ve got the figures) picked from the AOA Ancient Greek army list (excluding an army general which you get for free).


Cannot take Sacred Band, Peltasts, Thracians.

Cannot take more than 2 units of cavalry.

1 unit of cavalry should be Theban/Thessalian (even if you only take 1 unit, it should the Thessalian, ignore that restriction).

Must take 1 and only 1 unit of Spartan hoplites. They must not be the largest hoplite unit in the army (and there must be more than one hoplite unit).

The battle as a game

Use the pitched battle scenario on a 4’x6’ table and dice off for who goes first. Can be played to army break point or 6-7 turns, whichever you decide (it is a game after all).


The map shows completely theoretical terrain. The battlefield should be mostly flat (as they sought out featureless plains to fight on) with any rolling hills or rough ground kept to the side.

The Historical Battle

The battle was fought at Tanagra in Boeotia. After heavy loss on both sides, victory declared for the Lacedaemonians and their allies.


So the Spartans and their allies (with the help of some turncoat Thessalians) eventually wore down and broke the Athenians. They suffered heavy losses, but had won the battle and opened the way back to their home. The Spartan army marched through the Megarid ravaging the countryside, getting a little bit of payback for the part Megara played in forcing them into such a bloody battle.

This was the first major land battle of the Peloponnesian War and started a pattern of Spartan dominance in that theatre. Athens however struck back almost immediately attacking the Boeotians at Oenophyta but that will have to be saved for another post. All in all, a worthy start to the decades of conflict these two Greek superpowers would carry on.

As always, comments or questions are welcomed.

P.S. I know my maps could be prettier, but I’m not an artist, nor to I pretend to play one on TV. I’m trying, but I apologize for the eye sore.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Early Achaemenid Persian infantry in Warhammer Ancient Battles

As I am in the planning stages of an Early Achaemenid Persian army to face off against my Greeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the list and have come up with a difficulty. I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to represent the standard Persian formation involving file leaders armed with Spara and Spear, backed up by bow armed ranks.

That should be easy right.

Front Rank – thrusting spear, spara

2nd, 3rd, 4th etc… Rank- composite bow

This would look right, sure, but there is a nagging problem. The thrusting spear in Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) is meant to be used in two ranks as the only advantage it gives is allowing the back rank to fight. Arming the front rank only with thrusting spears is pretty pointless, and you’re paying for it (not a whole lot, but it is still annoying to optionally pay for something that has no game effect). So I see two basic options to represent the Persian formation.

Arm the front two ranks with thrusting spear allowing them to fight two ranks deep (at least till the casualties start to roll in) and be at least a partial hand to hand threat.


Don’t give the front rank thrusting spears and just use the rules for hand weapons.

Now both options have pro’s and cons so let’s explore.

Arming the two front ranks with spears makes the most game sense to me. Remember that WAB has no fixed figure scale, so spear armed troops are still the file leaders fighting, just using the spear rules that WAB supplies. Aesthetically it is not as strong an option. Your front rank will be easy to tell with spear and spara, but the second rank would be armed with spear and composite bow with the following ranks armed with just bow. How best to model this so your opponent knows the makeup of your mixed weapon unit creates some interesting scenarios. It also looses the classic look of the Persian force with a thin wall of spara supported by ranks and ranks of bowmen.

By not giving the front rank thrusting spears at all (in game terms) you will have the most aesthetic option. You should still model the figures of the file leaders with spears, but as they have no effect on the game (as a front rank only) they will be armed with only hand weapons according to the mechanics of WAB. You won’t be paying the extra points for spears (as you won’t be using them) and are free to give the 2nd through whatever ranks composite bows. As a fighting force, this makes them pretty pitiful as most infantry they will fight will use two ranks at some point during the combat (in period all infantry they fight will probably be using two ranks). Whether you believe this matches the Persians reputation is up to you (I personally don’t believe they were that horrible). You might also deem that spears aren’t worth the points for the front two ranks and opt with hand weapons in that case (again modeling the front rank with spears for historical reasons).

With my current army lists I am opting for the first option, and arming the front ranks with spears. While the Persians of the period could not stand up to the Greek phalanxes in head to head combat, I don’t believe they were as pitiful as just giving them hand weapons would suggest. I believe the strength of the Greek infantry is represented by the large shield and phalanx special rule so there is no need to further dumb down the Persian infantry by having them fight in a single rank.

How to best represent this with figures, I’m still figuring out. I’ll post some pictures of my first Persian units when I complete them.

As always, comments and questions are encouraged.