Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Black Bird joins the navy

Picture of Black Bird being captured by Tartanes of New Byzantium's Navy

Originally from La Rochelle, the privateer Black Bird has been captured as a prize by New Byzantium's navy this weekend*. She has been found to be in good shape still, and has been made the fleet's Flagship. She is a big 40  gun (with 18 pounders too!) French Frigate. Tales of Heroic Naval action abound in the Byzantia Chronicle

Details of the action are classified, but down the the waterfront, Kostas Bravos was heard to grumble that he took it while the crew had all rowed away onto some small island and the Navy only got involved later when the original crew got grumpy stuck on the island. Why French privateers were all on the island he knew not, but scurrilous rumours are that they were after Commodore Villaneuse for some past slight.

(* My son brought back a pirate ship model from a school trip to la Rochelle for me....) 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Good Bad News

The Good News - was rummaging in my drawers yesterday (Ooo-er missus), and found 15 forgotten Old Glory 18th century Albanian bandits (see pic above) I had mislaid some years ago, some are even painted!

Bad news - those bandits double the forces that "Don" Dharko has available to him in his Trans-Syldavial lair and who are making travelling on the Klow-Byzantia road such a nightmare, even raiding our towns at times.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

All El Presidente's Men

A different time, a different Imagi-nation. Last week I played my French Foreign Legion (c 1985) vs a colleague's "AK-47" army. Great fun. I have some other various 1960s/70s bits and pieces in 1/300th scale and was thinking of rounding it out into a Banana Republic army to face him (In the rules we play ( CWC ) c 15 - 20 models = 1 battalion). I put the question about what it might consist of to the gurus on TMP, got an interesting outcome - first, some replies:

Central American forces in 1981, according to Janes'

Stuart, Sherman, M3 scout, M8 a/car, M3 halftrack, HWK11 (Postwar German) APC, M8 Scott HMC, M7 Priest, 105mm M101 howitzer, 75mm M116 pack howitzer

1 British infantry Bn, 1 recce troop, 1 arty bty, so probably Scorpions, 105mm light gun or pack how etc

Stuart, Sherman, M3 scout, M113, RBY-1 Israeli APC, Commando APC, 105mm M101 howitzer, 75mm M116 pack howitzer

El Salvador:
AMX-13, Stuart, UR-416 Postwar German APC, 105mm M101 howitzer

Sherman, Staghound, M3 scout, 105mm M101 howitzer, 40mm Bofors AA

Costa Rica:
no army

M8 or M20 a/cars

Check Out Peru :-)
- 300 T-55 main battle tank
- 110 AMX-13 light tank
- 130 M-113A1 APCs
- 130 UR-416 APCs
- 30 BRDM-2/Malyutka armored car
- 45 Fiat 6616 armored cars
- 45 Fiat 6614 APCs
- 12 BTR-60 APCs
- 12 HMMWV light utility vehicle
- 60 M8 Greyhound armored cars
- 20 Casspir APCs
- and Russian helos as well….


Guatemala still has C47s and Hueys at their International Airport. Troops (and they are all over he place are in US kit that looks right out of Vietnam. The police are in brown Technicals. The special/private police are in the black Technicals.


(Refurbished) Mustangs were popular with a number of South American airforces [via US MAP programs], as were turreted TDs such as the M36.

SU100, there are still quite a few parked around the airport near the Special Forces barracks in Havana.

As per the recent article in the SOTCW Journal, no less than four Renault FT-17s have recently been found in Afghanistan…. (37mm turreted versions). They aren't in terribly good condition though:)

Plus this link to a thread on longest serving WW2 equipment.

In other words, seems the most flexible option is to build out a bog standard late US or British WW2 force (US - M3, M4, M5, M8, M36, a few M24 - British replace with Comets, Humbers etc) and then add interesting bits and pieces one can find to supplement it. So, for example - an Ex British colony might have British 1950/60's, Russian/Chinese stuff given to 3rd world countries in 60's/70's, some US Military assistance Plan stuff in the 80's (of 60's/70's gear) and a smattering of French light stuff through the period (AMX 13, AML etc). Top of with a tiny bit of fairly modern equipmenet for El Presidente's guard and there you are.

There were some states that were initially Russian (or on-aligned) so you could also potentially start out with a Soviet Late WW2/early 1940's base (T34/85 instead of M4, Katyushkas etc).

And of course a few obligatory oddities - the last Marmon Herringtons saw service in the Cyprus civil war, A few WW2 German and pre WW2 French kit survived in the Balkans, Pz IVs served in the Middle East.

But the most interesting thing (to me) is you can build it off a "standard" WW2 force so you get 2 armies for (almost) the price of one!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Army Sizing 1920

Following the analysis of Army Sizing in 1756, the next step is to define the size of the military in the 1920's. Firstly, the initial analysis is c 1810 when Ottoman Europe was about 8m strong. By 1910 the population was about 24m, a 3 - fold increase. World War one ensured little growth.

Thus New Byzantium, reconstituted as Byzantia in 1919, re-emerged with a 3 fold population increase, from 800,000 to 2.4m. Using the 1% rule, we can calculate that a peacetime military of c 24,000 is affordable, and with Militias, trainees etc it can rapidly mobilise to c 48,000. Assuming again a c 1/3rd tail (Typical World War One level), that is a 16,000 person effective standing military. About 1/3rd are in the Navy and Air Arm, leaving c 11,000 in the Army. This gives (at about 600 men per Battalion) about 18 Battalion sized formations, roughly doubling at the time of callup.

As with the Napoleonic wars. the Great Powers bled themselves white in World War One, running between c 15% and 20% of all the population called up - so double that for % of males - (Russia was less, at c 7.5%, but that is partly a function of the society structure and partly exiting early). At full stretch, Greece as a late entrant in World War One had 230,000 men in arms with a population of  c 4.8m (ie c 5% of the population). The other Balkan states, fighting more intensively, averaged c 13% (Bulgaria at 20% was at major state levels)

(Warning - stats differ wildly per source so these are orders-of-magnitude views)

Assuming the same difference between large and small states in troop raising capabilty,  I set the 1% limit as a peacetime standing army, the 2% limit as with reserves called up, 5% as a state at war with a draft, and 10% as a small state at near total war. That means that in a major conflict Byzantia can mobilise about 120,000 men and at full stretch will be at c 240,000 (10 %)  Once you get to Bulgarian levels of 20% (480,000) the state is ruined whether they win or lose.

Most of New Byzantium fought in the Turkish army in World War One, but in the aftermath of the war the Byzantia view was that the defeated Germans and Turks were not the best example, and so they re-modelled themselves on the French army they served alongside in the Russian Civil War (most commentators there confused Byzantia with Greek troops, probbaly because they were both French equiped and used the Greek alphabet)

The big lessons from that conflict was the usefulness of fast moving Armoured Car and Cavalry, and easy to move medium artillery, and that has influenced Byantia's thinking. Tanks were felt to be less useful so they equip just one Guard unit.(Tanks also were less reliable and needed a larger support structure than armoured cars, about 20 men per tank as opposed to 10 per car)

Byzantia managed to wheedle a War Gift from the French and British, ostensibly to help fight in the Russian Civil War, so loaded up on decommissioned armoured cars, tanks, guns (and planes) from the two great powers over the 1919 - 1922 period.

The current structure of the army is:

Guards Brigade - these are a Battalion each of Tanks (Scholae Klibanaroi), Armoured Cars (Trapezitae), two Line Infantry (Varangians, Les Biscotins) and one Light Infantry (Gianitzaroi) - making five of the 18 peacetime Battalions, leaving 13 for the regular Army.

The rest of the battalions are re-constituted as per the regimental organisation of 1756, but re-equipped:

- an Armoured Car Regiment (Battalion sized) - the Latinikon (many are demobbed White Russian, French and British soldiers familar with the cars)
- A "Heavy" cavalry regiment - the Sipahoi - though some are not quite clear on the use of heavy cavalry going forward and there is talk of conversion to armoured cars. Others of course feel a Gentleman should always and only be on a saddle.
- Two Cavalry Regiments - the Skythikon and Turcopoloi
- Six Infantry Regiments of 1 (standing) Battalion
- Two Light Infantry (Evzone) Battalions who can operate in mountains and the deep woods
- An Artillery Regiment, supplying all the heavier Artillery (as per Byzantine tradition, mortars and light mountain guns are attached to infantry and cavalry Battalions)
How to organise them is the great debate in the mid 1920s - concentrate the cavalry and armour to break through at a point, or disperse it to stiffen the infantry?

1756 Army Sizing Explanation

A brief explanation of Army Structure. Following on from my analysis of army size vs population, I calculated that New Byzantium (pop c 800,000) can field an army of about 8,000 men without any major economic problems, probably going up to c 16,000 in war-time without a general call-up.

In order to structure the force, I used a historical models of Wurttemburg, about 50% bigger in population, and assumed that New Byzantiun - which is semi at war and also has a rich trading capital - could exist in these troubled times on a force of c 1.5% of its population. Assuming that about 1/3rd of the force is the "tail", a population of c 800,000 at 1.5% yields 12,000 souls, of which about 8,000 are effectives.The force is made up of:

- 6 Line Regiments, each of 1 battalion - (c 3,600 effectives) - increased from 4 regiments
- The Latinikon - 2 Heavy Horse squadrons ( c 600 effectives )
- The Sipahoi - 2 Medium Horse Squadrons (c 600 effectives)

- 2 Light Horse Regiments (Skythicon, Turcopoloi) each of c 400 light horse  (800 total)
- 2 Light Infantry Battalions of 400 men (800 total)

This brings the total to a round 6,400. The "other" 1/3rd in the tail is assumed to be the depot, senior officers, backup services (such as they are) etc etc. In addition to this, there is the small matter of the Guard. This comprises of:

- The Scolae heavy cavalry (300 lances)
- Two Grenadier Half-Battalions, the Varangian Guard and Les Biscotins (600 men)
- The Trapezitae (400 Light Cavalry lances)
- One Light Battalion - The Gianitzaroi - (400 men)

Giving a total Guard of  2,100 for a total of 8,500. I assumed most of the heavy artillery is in the tail (horses, ammo waggons etc) - the battalion guns are with the battalions of course.

One caveat - quite a bit of this force is of mercenaries - the Varangian Guard and Biscotin, nearly all of the Latinikon, and at least half the Line battalions are currently mercenaries - about 3,000 men. Byzantion's wealth is paying in silver rather than in population. The aim is to replace the mercenary Line infantry over time, but there is no real equivalent of heavy horse in the Ottoman/Rumelian tradition.  The Basileos rather likes having a mercenary Guard regiment, as their allegiance is to him personally

Now, you may also be aware that the Basileos has given permission for a unit of Marines (400 men) to be formed, add to that there is a Navy of some 1,000 sailing effectives - so New Byzantium is clearly moving substantially to a war footing as we enter this year of 1757.....

Friday, 1 April 2011

A Race for Cars

In this scenario, played as a Russian Civil War game , the Bad Guys (Bolsheviks) had a convoy travelling along a sunken road in a wood that was shelled by our Good Guys (White Russian and French) side. The Bad Guys deserted their vehicles and run for cover, and we have sent a platoon to retrieve the trucks for ourselves. Only problem is, the Bad Guy platoon has collected its wits and is also returning.

Mud & Blood rules, the opposing forces had equal numbers and organisation - each a platoon of 4 squads of 9 men and an HQ section of 9 men commanded by a Lieutenant (Level IV Big Man), assisted by a Sergeant (Level III) and each squad had a Lance Corporal equivalent (Level I).

Abandoned convoy in a wood - each side enters from opposite table corners, armoured car in centre

The French approach approach was to send 4 squads to the right side (closer) side of the column - 2 units of very poor White Russian line infantry stiffened by one of French poilu and one of crack Foreign Legion and a diversionary force (the newly painted Turcos) to our left. The Bad Guys sent 3 sections to their right (our right), and 2 to their left, hoping to grab the whole convoy.

In essence, the 3 Section unit of Bad Guys drew really great cards, and moved forward rapidly with their Lieutenant. The one section of Turcos were thus rapidly mown down and retired with over 50% losses. This allowed the Bad Guys to commandeer 2 vehicles

On our side, the Big Force moved more slowly, and a firefight with the 2 delaying sections of the Bad Guys took time but they were eventually sorted out by a Legion bayonet charge on the cars they were sheltering behind.

A bayonet charge by the Foreign Legion (White hatted Good Guys) sends the Bad Guys packing

There was then a tussle for the Putilov arnoured car in the centre - the Bad Guys had got to it and started driving it away, but lost a lot of their men in the process (including their Lieutenant). I shouldaddd at this time that both sides artillery were making random shots still as no one had told them that a rescue/snaffle sortie was happening.

The game ended with the Good Guys pursuing the rapidly fleeing remnants of the Bad Guys through the forest, taking potshots as they ran, and trying to puncture the tyres of the escaping Putilov. A stray bullet did cause a breakdown but the crew were able to get out and fix it despite pinging bullets and drove off.

Result - Bad Guys got 2 trucks and their armoured car away, heroic Good Guy French captured 2 trucks and caused 70% losses to their platoon with only 30% losses to us and were in command of the field. The points system we were using judged it a narrow 52 to 48 for us Good Guys (Hurrah). I think our concentration strategy was probably superior, as (i) the concentartion of 4 squads firepower took a huge toll on the Bad Guys and (ii) if the Bad Guys hadn't had that great rush of initiative earlier they would would have been delayed a bit longer by the Turcos and struggled to get the armoured car.

Mud and Blood yielded an enjoyable game from a simple scenario (we had played the same awhile ago with another set of rules, but it wasnt as much fun - the M&B random card system really adds interest). Owing to the more unpredictable nature its important to get your grand strategy right.