Friday, 25 March 2011

New Byzantinomics, cloaks and daggers....

I published a bit of research I did today on army size vs population size on Emperor & Elector - in essence it showed that a "peacetime" army of the period was typically c 1 % of the population (give or take +/- 33% anyway) and of that about 1/3rd is the "tail". I also found that "European" Turkey in c 1810 was about 8m people. In my mind I had New Byzantium as carving out about 10% of the land, ie (on average) c 800,000 people - or an army of about 8,000.  Unfortunately, the army structure I designed is about 16,000 strong in peacetime.

Now all is not lost, as it was already made clear that the 1st battalion of the 6 Line regiments were mainly mercenaries, as were the bulk of half the heavy cavalry (the Latinikon) as well as 2 mercenary regiments (the Varangian Guard and Biscotins) and some of the artillery - so I know where the extra people come from.

However, the next issue is paying for them - population is a largely function of land productivity in this period, except if you have a trade hub (it being a bit early for the Industrial Revolution) - which of course Byzantion is. It is a port city and a good stopping off point to and from Istanbul.

But the city's real asset is the Byzantion - Klow road, as this allows goods to be unloaded at Byzantion and sent over the to the Adriatic by road, as from Klow its a short hop to the Syldavian ports, thus totally removing the need to travel around the whole of Greece by sea.

The one problem with this road is that it passes through Trans-Syldavia, a wild, forested and hilly land ruled over by a few semi autonomous Duchies etc before reaching Syldavia. Ever since the depradations of "Don" Dharko and his bandits in the Trans-Syldavian hills, robbery of traffic has been increasing and merchants are starting to complain to the Basileos - and more worryingly, threatening to go sailing around Greece thus cutting Byzantion off from all sorts of revenues, which go to pay for a larger than normally affordable army, which in turn is necessaryy to keep greedy Balkan neighbours and Johnny Turk at bay.

A pretty pickle indeed.

What no-one is clear about is just why Darko et al are starting up now, and - more suspiciously - is anyone putting them up to it, are the Trans Syldavian statelets sponsoring this, or is it just normal Balkan banditry that has found a new sweet spot? Enquiries to the various statelets about protecting their bits of the road have been met with "not our problem, we're fine here" responses, along with coldly polite suggestions not to send Byzantine troops to protect the traffic on the road.

At a time like this, there is only one person the State can call on - Diogenes Orczy, who some call the Crimson  Paeonia (others call him the cuck(old)ing fop)...... He is to join the second mapping expedition (the first one disappeared about 2 years ago in the Trans-Syladavian winter), which is due to set off to AplTrnova within weeks as Spring is a-coming in...

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Drawings of P.Joux

If you have never seen them, well worth a look - over here (I have the above regiment, hence the interest. The picture he drew of one of my others is not printable in polite society ;-)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Imaginary Enemies

With the 1920's Byzantia army now nearly fully built, and the 1756 army in full rebase mode, plus the summer campaigning season approaching, it is time to expand the horizons to the neighbouring states and see who is surrounding the Pocket Empire Holy Kingdom of New Byzantium.

And here we come to the first problem - shall they be Imaginary or Real, and if Imagined, how so - from my own (hopefully) fertile imagination, from others' - Tintin's Syldavia and Borduria, Hope's Ruritania, Christie's Herzoslovakia - or (and this seems most attractive) from some of the other members of the August community of Imagi-Nation creators. All have advantages and disadvantages:

- Real nations have the advantage of being known, in all sorts of ways, and any opposing force so built can play other opponents without them asking embarassing questions about why you have American Civil War Zouaves painted up like that

- One's own imagination can furnish more opponents than one can shake a stick at, but the worry is that they are all a bit same-ey.

- Literary Imagi-nations are a good bet, as you can glean something of them from the books/films/comics/whatever, but you risk the "how come your Bordurian Mountain Regiment  look like Greek Evzones, when everyone knows they should look more like American Civial War zouaves" issue* :-)

Besides, sources of Bordurian history in 1756 are sadly sparse.

- Other people's Imagi-Nations are very tempting, as there is a backstory and (in theory) two heads are better than one in creating campaigns etc, even though the endgame is to lop one head off. (Owing to poor translation, New Byzantium takes Kipling's advice rather literally, and have worked out the best way to cut to the chase is to ensure that all around you do actually lose their heads...). The problem with playing with Other People is thay can be so ill mannered as to win the battles, so this option shall have to be watched with great care.

Sadly, the current knowledge of the surrounding area is sketchy (literally - all there are are sketches). West and Northwest lies Habsburg land and other small states, to our East lies the Sublime Porte, to the Northeast lie unknown lands and mountains and eventually the Black Sea, to the South is the sea and (further on) Greece, still (in 1756) under the Ottoman boot.

In fact it is a bit embarrassing, as the physical geography of the region is fairly unclear still (never mind the political lie of the land), and while it sounds very romantic to say that Byzantion is six days hard ride from Strelsau, it is not helpful in planning the movement of the entire 1st Corps. (In fact, even the Gianitzaroi got lost on their way to Trnova, as "over yonder hill" is not entirely helpful, so Don Dharko got away - for now!).

This spring, His Excellency will despatch a second mapping team, this time with a guard detachment, as the last one disappeared somewhere in the Trans-Syldavian mountains**

So if anyone is on our borders, declare yourself now and let diplomacy (by all other means) commence! Besides, it saves money on the mapping project.....

* Well, it wasn't a problem till I just started it :-D

** The only survivor of the first Geographical Survey had an attack of the humours and keeps on screaming about "where - wolves" or baying at the full moon, poor fellow.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Odessa Files - Part VI - Defence of Malodrevnya

A small action using Price of Glory rules, with converted lists and some amendments to the "To Hit" and To Save" rules which we felt was too bloody when we first tried them out.

The Bolsheviks are advancing on Odessa, and a platoon size group of (2 squads of) Greek Evzones and 1 squad of French troops, plus 2 machine Guns are thrown together to defend the hamlet of Malodrevnya,. Scale 1:1 (below):

Defending Malodrevnya - troops occupy all the houses, Foreign Legion right bottom behind wall

It wasn't clear where the Bolsheviks would attack from so the troops occupied all the houses, except the Foreign Legion detachment who occupied some ruined walls on the most likely direction of attack (bottom right of picture).

The Bolshevik attack, when it came, came across the whole of the right and top of the table - as seen from the other side of the table, below - two big platoons plus some other troops and outnumbering the Allies c 3:1, but the Greek and French troops were higher grade

Here come the Bolshies!

The heaviest action were on the two left  hand buildings, the Foreign Legion (top) were shot down very fast (too close to enemy coming on table) but two Chauchat teams in the house held the Russians off for quite a while, until finally being overwhelmed and the remnants retiring, but the shaken Russians stayed behind the cover of the wall even then. Where is a Comissar when you need one?.

The main action was on the bottom left house, where 2 machine guns and a sniper took a big toll of Russian troops, an fought off two attempts to take the building by charge before finally succumbing to huge Russian firepower concentration and another mass charge. Lieutenant Metaxa was the last to die in the house, bravely defending it to his last gasp.

What's left of the Russian assault on the house (still a lot of them) finally breaks in

At this point, with c 1/3rd of the troops remaining, the Greeks chose to retire. They had taken nearly double their number of Bolsheviks with them but there were still hordes of bolshie Bolshies on table.

Rules wise the game was a bit less "bang - all fall down" with our mods, but I still prefer Mud & Blood for small actions, the "Initiate" workflow here I found more cumbersome than M&B's card system.  My honourable opponent, on the other hand, really likes the initiation system so it's clear its an individual taste thing (but then, he is a Bolshie beggar after all....)

Relevant Imagi-nation Content:

This is a dry run of my Byzantia Imagi-Nation army - decent line infantry and a few elites vs the continually border-bashing Bolshie hordes of neighbouring Bolshovia.