Thursday, 24 February 2011

Byzantia - I love it when a plan comes together

Byzantia's elite Varangian Guard assault a farmhouse strongpoint

A bit of background - I have a Greek World War One/1920's army, which I got mainly because:

(i) I have had a plan for doing Back of Beyond post-WW1 Imagi-nation gaming for some years.

(ii) I also have a thing going (you may have noticed) for Byzantium, so the Balkans were my chosen turf.

(iii) About 5 years ago I was offered c 100 Eureka specially made c 1900 Evzones at a good price (Evzones are the Greek elite light infantry - the guys who now stand guard and ponce about in skirts, tassels and pompoms but who have a war record the Foreign Legion would be proud of.). Ideal for the rank and file of a Balkan Imagi-nation, as the Evzone uniform - being quite different - stands up fairly well into the 1920's and makes them ideal Imagi-Nation material.

Byzantia Infantry in action in Trans-Syldavia

(iv) Last year some guys at my club decided to get into WW1, but we decided to do Eastern / Salonika Front as (a) it seemed less written about, more mobile and thus more interesting and (ii) one of the guys wanted to build Russians anyway. I immediately bid my Greeks for the project, and we were off

After building the WW1 armies, we kinda fell into the Russian Civil War to allow my friend's Russians to fight my Greeks (see the Odessa Files posts here) as they are on the same side in WW1.

Anyway, the Russian Civil War (for those who are not familiar with it) is full of the most weird and wonderful troops, contraptions and personalities and I have managed to build my Imagi-Nation up while also building up a (reasonably) believable Greek/Allied army for WW1 and the Russian Civil War. The combination of Greek, French and White Russian troops has allowed ample scope for my Imagi-Nation of Byzantia, so I thought I'd reel it off so you could see how the plan (all accidentally, I swear) came together:

- The Varangian Guard - traditionally wore blue and were heavily armoured - however, someone gave me some poilu, and these are now French Trench Stormers in Varangian Horizon blue

- The Gianitzaroi - my guard Turkish regiment - they are actually Turks, but double as Turcos in my French army - there are minor differences to Turcos, but first you have to know what a 1918-20 Turco without his  overcoat on looks looks like to pull me up :-)

- My own Fluff has a western mercenary unit - les Biscotins (aka Byzantine Boukellari, or Biscuit Eaters) and they double as the Foreign Legion.

Les Biscotins prepare to defend a Byzantia border village, Varangian Guard can be seen in the house behind.

- as to the 1920's Byzantine cavalry, between the French, Greek, Cossack and White Russian volunteer/mercenary cavalry there is every permutation and combination you could dream of!

- the Latinikon drive tanks (Brrrrm Brrrm) and the Tagmatic heavies are in (still got to build them) Ford Model T Armoured Cars

So - Result. I now have a WW1, RCW and Byzantia army in one build. Pictures to follow, Varangian Guard up top.

.....just wait till you see the specially designed Renault-Danglis tank......

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Odessa Files Part V - Action at Srednogorod

One of the small skirmishes in the Bolshevik advance on Odessa. The small town of Srednogorod was the scene of an encounter battle between Bolsheviks and Graeco-French allies, trying out Contemptible Little Armies (CLA) rules. The objective was simple - take the town!

CLA only defines "units" of 8 - 18 figures so we went for 1:1 scale, both sides c1,000 points (c 100 figure armies - about 2 platoons plus support weapons)

The Bolsheviks fielded 2 platoons of 4 squads of 10, one being elite, and also had a unit of Cossacks, 3 Machine Guns, 3 Field Guns....and a Putilov Armoured Car. 

The Greeks fielded 2 platoons, each of 4 squads of 9 men, including a Chauchat per squad, 2 Machine Guns, a Mortar and a Schneider-Danglis 75mm mountain gun'. You can only field 2 units of Evzones in an army in CLA, so all the Evzones were played as ordinary troops

The Greeks also has French support for the first time, a unit of Poilu in Bleu, and a unit of the Legion d'Etrangere (Elite) (It's interesting, once people in the club knew we were doing eastern World War One Salonika Front / Russian Civil War / Back of Balkan Beyond Imagii- Nations they started donating various figures here and there, so I now have enough for a squad/platoon/company of Poilu in bleu, similar Foreign Legion, a Machine Gun, and enough other various bit and pieces to move the Byzantia Imagi-Nation along quite nicely - of which more, later)

To be honest though , the Russian Civil War is so "back of beyond" it has been quite fascinating in its own right. We fell into it just to allow Greeks to play Russians to test various WW1 rulesets (our German opponent not being around), but it has proven a fairly fascinating gaming environment owing to the variety of nations and troops involved, the open nature of the games, the penny packet armour used)

(Greeks on the left, Bolsheviks on the right, armoured car at the bottom)

The two armies raced for the town, the Cossack cavalry and the armoured car tried to attack down one flank so they could get into the Greek rear. (Above). The first action occurred as two units of Greeks saw the Cossacks heave into view and let fly with Chauchat and rifle fire, toppling some of the Cossacks. The 75mm gun also fired at the Cossacks, to some effect but when one of the Greek machine guns and the mortar opened up, they had had enough and fled. Sadly for the Greeks, the Putilov car then rolled up and its murderous fire swept the Greeks - those who didn't fall ran (caught in open by enemy armour), and the Greek flank was about to collapse with 2 squads gone and two more Russsian units moving up on foot behind the Car.

It was at this point the Mountain Gun saved the day, the Greeks stopped their knees knocking and fired over open sites - and scored a direct hit on the Armoured Car, destroying it!. This cheered up the Greeks no end, and caused the Bolshevik foot to rethink their option against a flank still covered by a machine gun and Mountain Gun.

Over open sights, the Greek mountain gun prepares to try and stop ther Charge of the Putilov Car!

On the other flank the Bolshevik artillery made things very hot for the Greeks until they could shelter in some thick woods and a small hamlet nearby, where they stayed, slowly being whittled away by Russian assaults while desperately trying to drag a machine gun and mortar over to help (heavy weapons move slowly and can only shoot in line of sight)

While this was occurring, French Poilu and Bolsheviks troops clashed in the village, and desperate close range shooting and hand to hand fighting started. The Russians committed the Bolshevik Elite commanded by a Komissar, the French Foreign Legion also joined in the fray. The Bolshies slowly won via pure numbers (although a lot cheaper, they fight better in hand to hand than Greeks or French troops as they count as Ferocious - only the Legion could match them.)

 The game ended with the Greeks retiring to lick their wounds , the French wiped out in their debut game.

CLA Is the 5th ruleset we have used for Eastern Front WW1/RCW, it is the simplest - very "beer and pretzels" so we got the game finished quickly. It has the most comprehensive army lists of all the sets (The Salonika Front and armies in the East like Greeks are ignored by all the others, which is odd as the more open nature of the warfare makes for much more excting games in our opinion). However, we felt the rules were a bit too simple for our needs, and (unless we were reading it wrong) having 5 point "Ferocious" poorly trained (but clearly very motivated)  Bolsheviks troops beating 10 point French Poilu and being the equal of Legionaires in H2H was a bit rich.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Orchestrated Manouevres in the Park

Byzantine Tagmatic Sipahoi and Guard Trapezitae Lancer

As spring blossoms, the Guard New Byzantine cavalry units can be seen in the Hippodrome, exercising to keep them fresh (aka getting out to be rebased) as the storm clouds gather.  As you can imagine, I have a unit of the left hand side cavalry here (Front Rank) but I am scratching my head on where to get those on the right in 28mm

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Military Bases

New Byzantium's elite Gianizaroi riflemen, still unwashed and drybrushed on their new 2p pieces


My Lace Wars troops were originally based for Warfare in the Age of Reason (AoR), 1/2" per figure frontage and depth. This was a tight squeeze even 15 years ago when the first Old Glory and Front Rank troops were recruited, newer recruits for New Byzantium are quite a bit bigger!

But the army has now been been hit by 2 dilemmas:

(i)  I moved city, and AoR is not played where I now play - in fact a whole host of new 18th century rulesets have emerged, with wider basing (thank heavens) but they are all different base sizes.

(ii) I am increasingly enjoying the new generation of "big skirmish" games like Sharp Practice, which require individually based figures to work best

Thus one is in the situation of trying to find a Universal Basing that allows you to play as many of the rulesets as possible.

You can see the various main heritages - the DBx lineage with the 15mm per close order / 30mm open order infantry,  20mm heavy cavalry, 30mm light cavalry, based on 60mm frontage elements (in 28mm). Then there is the Warhammer heritage, 20mm frontage per foot, 25mm per horse, single mounted or sabot (though there is a convention to base 2 wide to more easily move figs, but so they can form OK looking columns.

Separate bases seem to be nearly universally done on the 1" per man round base (or in the UK, the 2p piece)


Well, I decided to decide on aesthetics in this most Reasonable of Ages. Close order foot at 15mm frontage look "right" to me, at 20mm frontage they look too far apart for 18th century close order foot in my opinion, but most rules are now at 20mm. However, 3 men on a 2" frontage look like a decent compromise of looks and are close enough to 20mm frontage.

Also, 2 men on 1" round bases are 2" as well, so you can get a 2" frontage "elemet" with 3 close order or 2 open order troops on it - works for me. In other words, all my Light foot troops are available for Sharp Practice games as individuals.

The DBx heavy horse on 20mm are just too boot-to-boot, its more lap-to-lap with todays' bigger figures. 25mm is a bit far apart to be totally boot to boot, but is OK. Personally I prefer my light horse to be further apart, but many new rules in the period don't differentiate.

Keepng to my 2" frontage element idea though, 2 heavies in an element work just fine - and I have based my lights singly - so they can be used in Sharp Practice as well as single men.

Depth for all close order foot will be 20mm (as that seems to be the one standard), and cavalry 2"

So - the die is cast, let the basing begin! Photos to follow....

(Now all I have to do is work out how to optimise battalion size - AoR is 12, Kriegkunst is 16, Black Powder is 24+..... )