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Xenophon's Ghost covers military history and wargaming from the ancient period to modern times.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Blitzkrieg Commander Playtest

Digging Axis & Allies figures out of the closet, we ran a test of Blitzkrieg Commander II in order to learn the rules.  I used Litko bases for the infantry, support, and command units, placing figures loosely on the bases.  With the Axis & Allies figs and my single Battefront 15mm M4A1 Sherman, we were able to play a 1500 point game, using American and German Army Lists from North West Europe, August 1944.  I used substitute vehicles for some units.

Germans defend the hill with the objective circle
The set-up and deployment took a long time because I needed to constantly check the rules. Ryan began getting bored very quickly; I probably should have tested this game solo once.  However, he wanted to try it out. Ryan played the attacking Americans using the Assault scenario, with about 1800 points of forces.  My Germans had 1500 points.  I used a marked minefield which is depicted by the white rectangle.

In Ryan's first turn, his scheduled artillery took out one transport with an MG 42 unit.  He force  of two Shermans and three half tracks on the right moved forward to the edge of woods, posing a threat to two infantry units.

After that, his command rolls failed, and he managed one command blunder, leaving most of his forces right in the concentration point for my scheduled Nebelwerfer fire.  My artillery destroyed two transports, carrying an infantry unit and an MG Browning as well as an 81mm Mortar unit.

I placed all of my armor on my right flank and began moving them toward the center during my turn.  I didn't get as far as I would have preferred before my command rolls failed.  The mobility, compared to DBA and horse and musket games that I have played, is still a big difference - I moved the force 40 cm in two command attempts.

My CO directed 81mm Mortar fire on a transport, but the firing was ineffective.  After that, I rolled high, leaving myself quite vulnerable.  In Ryan's second turn, he tried to run a Sherman right to the objective because I didn't have many forces in the area.  He only made it one move before his command roll for both his HQ and CO failed.  The daredevil move would have required him to pass by three German units, so I need to learn if such moves are legal.  I don't know if a close assault is required when you approach an enemy or not. In any case, we had been playing for 1 1/2 hours, so we decided to call it quits.  Breaking out the miniatures definitely helped me learn some of the rules better, but I need to review the rulebook more.  Ryan found the game very slow paced compared to DBA, so he doesn't like it yet.  Once I learn the rules, he might have a different view - not sure.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Multi-Prong Progress

I have taken a few days off and made progress on three wargame related activities.
DBN Work in Progress


I inventoried my  unpainted 15mm Napoleonics, separated out the figures needed for DBN, and started painting.  When first planning my DBN armies, I had focused on fielding every possible element for a French and Austrian army list.  Now I plan to select options that maximize reuse in Lasalle instead.  I am painting French Line, French Artillery, Austrian Jaegers and Grenzers,  and Confederation of the Rhine Cavalry.  I have more figures waiting for clean-up and priming.


To help him choose an army, Ryan and I played some more DBA, using available elements from my Spartan and Macedonian sets to simulate the Late Greek Thessalians fighting the Aitolians, a Psiloi heavy army. I wanted to try my hand at a light force. The Thessalians won both matches.

Round One

In the first game, the Aitolians ended up as the attackers, so Ryan placed minimal terrain on the board.  My Psiloi didn't have much bad going to use to its advantage, and Ryan protected his camp with Auxilia.  Despite my efforts to move around and flank him with the Light Horse and Auxilia, the Cavalry ended up killing off three Psiloi and the Light Horse element

Round Two

In the second bout, the Aitolians were defending, so I placed two steep hills (compulsory), a river placed 600 paces from a battlefield edge, and two woods as the terrain.  This gave me some additional options, but Ryan used Auxilia to secure two bad going terrain areas.  The river ended up as paltry, so it didn't have as much of an effect as hoped on the Thessalian's maneuverability.  The game took quite some time as both armies tried to gain advantage through maneuver.  The Light Horse spent much time moving, drawing off cavalry elements but otherwise not helping much.  My final strategy was to try to attack two cavalry and the Thessalian camp with the four Spear elements.  Before I could move the slow spear across the board, four Psiloi were individually picked off.

Ryan has decided on the Thessalians.  It met his requirement for a cavalry heavy force, and he wanted something within the theme of my collection.  We can play the Late Thessalians against the Macedonians, Spartans, and Galatians.  We have primed up some Essex hoplite figures that I already owned, so he will try his hand at painting tomorrow.  We also ordered Warmodeling (Fantassin) Thessalian cavalry elements and some more Essex Hoplites and Psiloi for his project.

BKC Inspiration

I just finished an excellent WW II history, An Army at Dawn, by Rick Atkinson.  The book covers the War in North Africa in 1942-1943, starting from the US and British joint amphibious landings to the fall of Tunis.  Having read little on the North Africa campaign, this book was a great primer.  It is the first of a trilogy, so I plan on picking up the next book which covers operations in Italy.

If I choose North Africa for my Blitzkrieg Commander II focus, I have some ideas now on the units and weapons that made the biggest difference for the Germans and the Americans.  The Germans will definitely have a Ju-88 Stuka for support.  I will mix up the American tank force to include Shermans and the weaker Stuarts.

I will do a lot more research this winter on the forces and also look at reuse for the US units for an Italian campaign.  The Afrika Korps paint jobs will not work for Italy considering that no Germans tanks left North Africa before the surrender.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ptomelaic vs. Thessalians

Ryan is testing out several armies to help him decide on his first army purchase.  He wants a cavalry heavy force supported by heavy foot (Spears or Blades).  We used elements from other armies to pit the Later Thessalians (II/5d) against the Ptolemaic (II/20c) army.  This was also the first time I had played the recently painted Blades in my Morph Collection.

The Thessalians went on the defense, and Ryan placed a minimum amount of terrain.

Initial Deployment
I used the road to move my Pikes up faster, deploying them into double rows in Turn 2.  In Turn 3, my Light Horse faced off against two Cavalry.

 I lost the fight, and the Thessalians scored an early kill.  After this fight, his cavalry advanced and engaged my General Knight.  I recoiled, luckily, and then moved backward out of his ZOC, shifting my other Knight over to support.  Instead of pressing the attack, Ryan moved his Cavalry back to support the main line.

Lines prepare to Clash
One Cavalry element flanked the Pike as the battle lines engaged.  The lead Pike was destroyed, but the rest of the fights went in the favor of the Ptolemaic army in general.  The Elephant destroyed a spear (QK) as did a Blade element.

Main Battle - first Bout
 I rolled low PIPs, but I was able to close on both Cavalry with my Knights in the next turn, and move most of the main line back into contact, providing several overlaps.  The first mounted battle resulted in a Thessalian Cav recoil, but my General destroyed his opponent.  The supported Pikes also destroyed a Spear element, ending the game.

Final Losses:  Thessalians 4 (Cv, 3-Sp) & Ptolemaic 2 (LH, Pk)

We plan to mock up a T'ang Dynasty army, Mings, and Trojans in the near future for more testing.  Meanwhile, I have started work on my DBN elements again.  It will be a few months before I finish up enough Austrians and French for a game, but I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Morph Gallery II

Finishing up my posts on the Macedonian Morph Army collection, here are shots of more elements:

Scythed Chariots

In it debut battle, the Seleucid Scythed Chariot hasn't made an impact, other than worrying my opponent for a few moments.  I may repaint one of the chariots for a Persian army eventually. I have the beginnings of a Persian force in the wait queue until the DBA 3.0 lists emerge.


These left over Galatians allowed me to field Warbands for the Morph army.


The Auxilia elements are a mix of figures painted in the summer and in my recent effort to finish the project.  Here is a sample of my auxilia.


Eastern Peltasts


Agranians & Tarentines

More Phalangites

I painted two elements as Leukaspides (White Shields) for the Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx.

Originally, I bought these Hypaspists with plans to mount them as Auxilia, since there is some evidence that Alexander's guard fought in this style early in his wars.  However, I ended up mounting them as Pikes based on additional reading and feedback from the DBA Yahoo Group.

This army collection should keep me busy playing for years.  The numerous armies that can be deployed will provide a lot of diversity in fielding a Pike heavy army.  

My interest in DBA was piqued by the ability to play with only a 12 element army.  In little more than a year, I have painted up Spartans, Galatians, Kappadokians and 58 Macedonian elements.  Half of a Persian army is primed and ready for painting, and I have some Greek Hoplites in the lead pile....I also plan on fielding a Polybian Roman army at some point.  I have passed the 12 element milestone multiple times already!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Morph Gallery I

I have taken some photos of the Macedonian/Successor Morph collection, particularly the newly painted elements. I posted pics of the initial element set back in the summer.   Let's start with a shot of the entire collection.

Macedonian/Successor Morph Army

For the Psiloi, I used Greek and Scythian Slingers.  In hindsight, I wished I had mixed in some javelin and archers, but this troop of 12 Psiloi will serve my needs for several armies.

I experimented with different washes on the Psiloi, as explained in an earlier post.

I have two elephant types.  For the first type, one of the head armor was missing a piece, so I puttied in the gap.  I used "green stuff" and super glue to assemble the elements, along with some use of modeling putty to fill in small seams.  I used Seleucid shield designs on one and a classic Macedonian star on the other.

Here are the other two Elephants.  For all of the recently painted elements, I used a Games Workshop wash.  It worked out great on the Elephant skin.  I did notice that it softened my acrylic paints, which are not GW brand.  There might have been a chemical difference. I have read about similar problems with mixing brands in scale model magazines.  Any pressure on the paint would smear it off until it dried.
 For the first batch of elements, I used paint colors expected for the Alexandrian armies - lots of purples.  For this batch, I used a Seleucid theme, incorporating more yellows, reds, and beiges into the color scheme.  The historical reference material for these armies is rather scarce, which can be a bit of a challenge in some ways.  For the mounted troops, I used a mixture of figures for the command stand.  The Seleucids include my first camel element - a fun change of pace.

Four Pike elements, comprised of Essex miniatures, were painted with the Seleucid color scheme.  I used shield decals for the designs. The figures had a mix of shield types, and the convex shield without the rim was a challenge in terms of the decal.  I ended up cutting small lines around the decal to help them lay down.

I also learned that Micro-Sol, used to apply decals on plastic models, results in the paint softening too much. I ended up creating one rippled area in the shield paint when using my hobby knife to position the decal.
 Another fun set of elements - imitation legionnaires (Bd) for the Ptolemaic and Seleucid lists.  I used artistic license on the shield designs.

I will finish tonight's post with a shot of the Greek allies (Sp) with hand painted shield designs.  They need to move out of the way of the artillery....

Monday, December 17, 2012

Morph Matrix

I essentially completed my Macedonian Morph Collection today, applying the last shield decals.  Once the weather warms, I will seal the final batch of figures  and deem the project 99 percent complete.  I need a Warwagon (Tower) to finish this project to 100 percent, but I am not in a rush to do so.

Coin of Demetrios I
Source: Wikimedia Commons
I started playing DBA after the 2.2 rules were out of print, but I stumbled about the Fanaticus site and WADBAG guide, prompting me to join the Yahoo Group.  Several Fanaticus links mentioned the concept of a Morph collection as a way to expand the play value of an army.  Using the draft DBA 3.0 lists, I have been working on the elements for the last nine months or so.

My goal was to field two Successor/Hellenistic armies, considering that many of their enemies were other Successor states.

My Inventory

When I first planned out the Morph army, I intended to include Hellenistic Greek armies in the mix.  I have since changed my mind given the differences in army composition and uniform design.  With any Morph collection, you must make some compromises in terms of the accuracy and uniqueness of the painting and shield designs.  However, I decided halfway through the project to limit the scope to the various Successor armies.  I also realized that the way in which I planned the original purchases (and painting) was too coarse.  I essentially identified the maximum elements for each type and doubled the amount.  As a result, I have some overages in a few areas.  I also bought additional Pikes in order to model the Hypaspists, knowing the figures would take me over the total needed for two armies.

Element Count - 58
Knights & Cavalry - 7
Light Horse - 2
Elephant - 4
Camelry - 1
Scythed Chariot - 2
Pike - 14
Psiloi - 12
Auxilia - 10
Warband - 2
Blade - 2
Spear - 2

As DBA 3.0 changed, the draft lists have become unreliable, so I have fallen back on the 2.2 lists until 3.0 is published.  Hopefully, the army lists will not differ too much.

Opponent Matrix

In order to assess my inventory, I built an opponent matrix to map out the fights between the armies.  I found this format to be an easy way to visualize the match-ups.  Note the Civil War fights between Seleucid (19b & 19d) and Ptolemaic (20d) armies.

Successor Opponent Matrix

DBA 2.2





















I can also field the Alexandrian lists with this collection.

Matchup Analysis

I also created an spreadsheet listing the element totals for each match-up and compared the results.  There are 30 historical match-ups between the armies. With my current elements, I can field all options for 17 of the battles.  If the players accept limitations on some options, I can fight 28 of the battles. 


I ended up with MANY extra Psiloi slingers (6), but I will put them to good use in other armies.  I think one of the Hellenistic Greek armies contained a lot of Psiloi elements, and I painted this batch before changing my mind.  I also have extras in the following areas: 2 Pike, 2 Auxilia, 1 Cavalry, 1 Artillery, and 1 Elephant.  One of the Cavalry elements is a Thessalian force, so I plan to match it and a Psiloi piece up with my Early Spartan army, letting me field a Late Spartan force, too.


War Wagon (Tower)

The Demetrios army list (Asiatic Early Successor II/16b) has a Warwagon (Tower) as an option.  I can field sufficient elements for a Demetrios army without it, but I would like to complete this unique element eventually.  I think scratchbuilding will be required. 


I have painted up two Spear elements for the set.  Five match-ups require more Spears than this, but only one fight (Demetrios vs. Pyrrhic (27a)) is impossible since I have other options.


To fight the Ptolemaic civil war match-up (20d vs. 20d), I need four more Warbands.  I would borrow elements from my Galatian army in a pinch...


Three later lists include imitation Legionnaires.  I painted up two stands, using Essex "Assorted Hoplites with Pilum" figures.  Two match-ups require more than this (Ptolemaic vs. Seleucid and Ptolemaic Civil War).


Given the collection size, I'm tempted to see if I possess enough figures for games requiring larger forces.  Of course, I might end up painting more if I check this out, and I have other projects underway. Frankly, I need a break from painting Macedonians at this point.

Photos Coming Soon

I will post photos of the collection in the near future.