Posts Tagged research

Reading List: Lost Battles

Lost Battles by Philip Sabin uses game theory to analyze army sizes from historical battles.  Our knowledge of ancient battles is often spare, inaccurate or deliberately misleading.   The one constant, is that most ancient battles were fought by choice – both generals needed to seek  engagement for a battle to happen.   The premise being, battles only occurred if both Generals thought that they stood the best chance to win, i.e. both armies were within a degree of parity.  Sabin creates a game system which incorporates leadership, moral, fighting skill amongst a number of other traits – then attempts to balance the opposing armies for the battle’s historical result.

As an example – Caesar’s battles in Gaul are well documented by Caesar’s own text.  We know how many legions were at each battle.  We know if the legions were freshly raised or veteran.  We also have a good understanding of the number of men in each legion.  In contrast, we know very little about the tribes which battled against Rome.  Enemy numbers vary significantly and can we trust troop sizes from a book written as a propaganda tool?  Using the game system, Sabin is able to estimate the number of tribesmen present at the battle as a balance vs the “known” number of Roman soldiers.

From a gamer’s point of view, Lost Battles is an excellent resource.  The book literally lays out battles in gamers terms – number of units, historical deployment, historical results.  His system uses a concept of Key Zone – a section of the battle field that the army needs to occupy to receive a moral bonus.  The Key Zone encourages generals to match the historical result through way of a reward.  Players may very well see something like it appearing in Adepticon’s 2012 WAB tournaments.

The author maintains a site containing an over view of the game system with links to a computer simulator using the book’s game mechanic.  A Lost Battles board game is also available from Fifth Column Games.



The Rise of Rome

The “lost” WAB book The Rise of Rome by Allen Curtis is now being published in serial format by Wargames Soldiers and Strategy magazine.  The first installment in issue #52 Feb 2010, provides background and army lists (WAB and Crusader) for Etruscans and Latins (including Rome itself).  The lists are founded in the era of Lars Porsenna (500BC) but also contain options for Samnite era (300BC) armies.  The article is well stocked with photos from Gorgon Studios and Aventine Miniatures.  I was able to purchase my copy in the US through On Military Matters.

The historical record on the Etruscan military is a bit thin – leaving the author little to work with  other than a few guesses and a good imagination.  Unfortunately, this leaves the Etruscan list limited in it choices.   The main body of the army is the Greek style hoplite phalanx with a supporting cast of Priests, Axemen, skirmishers, low quality cavalry and chariots.  The leadership of the army is rather poor, although inexpensive characters are available to compensate for this.  Finally, the list uses a version of Oracles called Divination to round out the options.  The Latin list is rather similar- having stronger characters, a light infantry option, better over all leadership and chariots only as a character option.

I have been able to play 1 game with the new Etruscan list… and it did live up to its historical legacy by turning in a solid defeat.

The series is scheduled to include history on the early Carthaginian forces and lists for a variety of other Italian armies.

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Reading List: Greeks

Arms and Armour of the Greeks by A. M. Snodgrass, as the name implies this text focuses on the weapons of the Greeks.  I was surprised to learn that the most famous part of the hoplite kit – the bronze plate corslet, originated in central Europe then spread via trade to Greece in the 8th century and Italy in the 7th century.  The plate corslet with grieves remained in use in Italy into the 4th century – long past its use in Greece.  By the time of the Persian wars, the Greek Hoplite was wearing a linen corslet.  Which may explain the increased mobility demonstrated by the hoplites against the Persians in several battles.  The final chapter of the book discusses the troops in Phillip/Alexander’s Macedonian army.  I would recommend this section to anyone playing in this period – not only are the pike men well described with a 2 foot rounded shield and no armour, but role and fashion of the hypaspists.

The Greek and Persian Wars by John Hale is an audio recording.  Normally I like to read my books, but I found this set of lectures well constructed and well spoken.  Not only did the set provide a firm eduction in the Greek and Persian wars, but it help provide a guide to the pronunciation various historical people and places.  Being able to hear these names spoken is a huge help in being able to bend my tong and ear to these difficult sounds.

A history of ancient Sparta by Timothy B. Shutt, is an audio recording.  However, unlike the work by Hale – the content is shallow and the lecture is poorly spoken.

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Hannibal’s Veterans

Hannibal’s Veterans built from various Wargames Factory plastics.  Most of the figures use the mailed Roman body with helmets & shields from the Celt, Roman and Numidian kits.  Arms are mostly from the Numidian kit with wire NorthStar spears.

The army unit “Veterans” is a bit of a gaming term.  Hannibal brought with him a number of African mercs on his march from Spain to Italy.  How they were equipped is not well documented – being the losing army, nobody carved tombs or statues depicting these warriors.  We know (with some certainty) that Hannibal’s army looted armour and possibly weapons from the Romans after their early victories.  It’s possible that the units were re-armed and re-trained in the Roman style, but I am not certain what that means exactly.  For gaming purposes, the unit wears looted mail with shields and helmets from all areas of influence – Roman, Celt and Punic.  The primary weapon is a long thrusting spear in the style of the Roman Triarii.

Reading List

Hannibal by Sir Gavin De Beer – a 40 year (1969) text which has not aged all that well.  The book details the dates and places of battles (both major and minor) for the 2nd Punic War, along with overviews of the events leading up to Hannibal’s Italian campaign as well as his decline following Zama.  Little information is provided about the armies commanded by Hannibal (notes to follow).  From a gaming point of view it the listing of events in the second half of the Italian campaign.  Not nearly so important as Lake Trasimene or Cannae, but fertile ground for wargaming scenarios with small unit actions which would be easy to recreate on the table top.

Page 200 provides a pair of sentences stating that Hannibal re-trained and re-armed his men in Roman style following Lake Trasimene.  The author provides no further support for this statement.  Wearing captured Roman mail seems to be a well accepted notion.  However, I am doubtful that Roman arms were used if for no other reason than the expendable pilum would be hard for Hannibal to use and replace without the manufacturing capacity which Rome enjoyed.

The troops of the late campaign years are described as declining in quality, then finally replaced by Bruttium Italian mercenaries.  The authors statement of declining quality is not substantiated  by Hannibal’s continuous series of victories over the Romans.  No mention is made of what happened to the original body of troops:  Were they all killed in a decade of conflict?  Did the Gauls and Spanish slip away and return home?  Did the Carthaginian mercenaries depart on the handful of troop ships supplying the Punic army?

Hannibal by Theodore Ayrault Dodge.  Read the first handful of chapters, but did not get “into” the book.  Author seems to confuse details of the Roman solder of the Punic wars (212BC) and the Imperial solder of Trajan’s Column (100AD).  Left me wondering just how accurate the author’s other points of details may be.  I may come back at some time to finish the book – but its hard to find the motivation.

Legionary The Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Manual by Philip Matyszak.   The book is a fun read as the author speaks to potential soldier in 100 AD.  Good look into the daily life of the army.  Best hobby tip – the red die used on the Roman tunic tended to fade in the sun.  By the end of a campaign the army would return wearing pink.

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Reading List: Soldiers & Ghosts

Soldiers & Ghosts by J. E. Lendon is a psychological review of why the ancient solder fought and how he approached his fighting.  The book is in two sections:  Ancient Greece and Rome.  While I enjoyed reading both sections, I find the Roman portion a bit more enlightening and well documented.   The coverage of the Greeks reads more like mythology than history.

The soldiers of Greece are described as heavily influenced (almost dominated) by the legacy of the Iliad.  The super competitive warriors of Greek attempt to display their bravery by their commitment to stand their place in the citizen phalanx. By testing their resolve in the ordered warfare of the phalanx battle, each warrior publicly attempts to live up to their mythical ancestors.

The soldiers of Rome are subject to two conflicting requirements:   virtus or martial courage and disciplina or unit discipline.  The Roman soldier was every bit as aggressive and reckless as his Celtic opponent, virtus demanded that each man demonstrate his willingness to fight.  At the same time, army leaders imposed disciplina – the requirement to work as a team.  Often harsh punishments were used to keep the soldiers in their place and working for the benefit of the unit.  Ironically, the same centurions responsible for disciplina are found at the front of the charge expressing their virtus.

Of note for early Republic fans – the Roman section opens with an in depth review of the maniple system and how the Romans came be be ordered in that system.

The Military indebtedness of early Rome to Etruia by E. S. McCartney is a linguistically review early Roman practice dating to 1916.  In summary, the author attributes most things Roman to the Etruscans.  Reading between the lines, Rome appears as an Etruscan city gone rogue rather than an independent Latin state.  I have no idea how valid these ideas are – I would think an additional 100 years of research would produce better results.  At a minimum, the 40 pages of this document do provide a primer of terms and concepts from the early Republic which games should fine useful.

Notes:  document page number

pg 125:  Romans rejected the use of the bow and arrow, however the Etruscans continued in its use for much longer.

pg126:  Romans originally used a square shield.  The dual lobed ancile shield may have been ceremonial only.

pg 129:  Axe – used by Oscans during the Punic wars.  Etruscans used long after sword and spear were common.

pg 139:  Etruscans equipped with Bronze shields and heavy, metal tipped spears.  600 BC

pg 159:  Eagle, Wolf, Minotaur, Boar and Horse standards in use by the Romans before the time of Marius.  With Marius come the primacy of the Eagle.  Etruscans may have introduced the animal standards to the Romans, a figure from 600 BC is shown with a Bull standard.

pg 160:  Cavalry – mounted infantry rather than full fledged horse back fighters.

pg 162:  Chariot – status symbol of the King (600 BC).    Transport to the battle?  Driven during the battle?


Republic Roman Army Project

Republican Rome Army Project – Wargames Factory birthed a thousand Roman armies from their $9.99 sale.  I picked up 3 boxes – 150 Romans should be more than enough for any project.  The army list below will be used as an opposition force to my Carthage army.  Its not 100% legal, lacking a 2nd Hastatus unit, but its primarily intended to be used on the demo table.  If I should chose to play the army, I’ll convert the Italian Spearmen into Hastatus to meet the army list requirements.

Military Tribune, Sword and light Armor, 69pts
#16 Hastatus, Full command, 144pts
#16 Princeps, Full command, Pilum and light armor, 176pts
#16 Princeps, Full command, Pilum and light armor, 176pts
#12 Triarius, Full Command, light armor, 180pts
#10 Velite, 70pts
#12 Italian Spearmen, Full Command, 99 pts
#8 Cretan Archers, 80pts

Armor Options:

  • Mail armour – first used by wealthy citizens, then in general distribution after 123BC when furnished at public expense
  • Pectorale – 22.5 cm square bronze chest plate.  Inexpensive armor option, pre-dating mail.
  • Muscle cuirass – archeological evidence of use into the 1st century BC.
  • None – light gear increasingly worn by Hastati in the years following the Marian reforms 105BC.

Plume vs. Feathers:  various sources are giving contradictory information about head gear.  A reference to the Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus indicates Republican soldures wearing plumes from the time of the Punic Wars up to the time of Ceasar.

Cavalry:  Polybuis notes that the cavalry were armed in his day in ‘Greek fashion’ (i.e. with linen corslets, strong circular shields and long spears), but he observes that perhaps up to 190BC they had lacked body armour & carried only a short thrusting spear and a light shield.

Colors: Crests could be white, red or black. Tunics could be white, sand or red. Shields red or white.

Time Line:

  • Servian Constitution – 580-530BC.  Established the 5 class system and introduces Hoplite style of warfare.
  • Maniples Reform – 390-340BC.  Wars with Gauls and Samnites motivate a change from phalanx to Maniple sub-units.
  • Marian Reforms – 105BC.  End of the Maniple system.  Standardized equipment for all members of the legion.


Republican Roman Army 200-104BC by Nicholas Sekunda, Osprey Publishing

The Making of the Roman Army by Lawrence Keppie

Chronicle of the Roman Republic by Philip Matyszak

Colour Guide Republican Romans by Michael Farnworth

Pyrrhic War Roman Shields on TMP

Figures are WarGames Factory Romans combined with Numidians.  Metal shields from Gorgon, wire spears from On Military Matters.









Gorgon Etruscans

Gorgon Miniatures released their new line of Etruscan figures.  I was lucky enough to pick up a few blisters this weekend & plan to work various figures into my Carthaginian and Roman armies.  But what about playing the Etruscans on their own – who are the Etruscans and how do the figures translate to a WAB army?

The Etruscans were a group of city states in northwestern Italy who existed as an independent culture from 900 BC through 100 BC.  They are most famous for being the original rulers of Rome.  The final king was over thrown in 509BC, leading to the legendary attack on Rome by Lars Porsena.  Little is known about the military structure of the Etruscans other than that they were strongly influenced by the Greeks and, in turn, influenced the Romans.

Weaponry:  Swords were rare.  Spear and axe (used as both a battle axe and for throwing) were the most common weapon.  Archery was practiced & bows are commonly found in Etruscan tombs.

Armor:  Bronze cuirasses of Greek influence.  Shields commonly round, but rectangular also used.

Organization:  The main body of the army was arranged as Hoplites in the phalanx formation.  Light infantry, unarmored and armed with spears, attack from a distance & attempt to provoke the enemy.  Cavalry were used for skirmishing and to peruse routing infantry.  Chariots have been found in Etruscan tombs, but it is not known if these were used as transports or fighting platforms.

Army List: The Ancient Greek list from the WAB 1.5 rule book can be used to create an Etruscan army list.  By selectively choosing units, a conservative representation of the Etruscan army may be fielded and stay “tournament legal”.

  • Etruscan Hoplite played as Hoplite Phalanx
  • Etruscan light infantry played as Peltast with javelin & shield.
  • Archers played as upgraded skirmishers.
  • Skirmishing Etruscan cavalry played as Light Greek Cavalry with upgrade to Thessaly/Thrace cavalry available.

What about the “fun stuff”?

  • The Etruscan Chariot was used more for racing than for fighting.  While it’s most likely that the racing chariot descended from a military weapon, it is unlikely that the Etruscans continued its military application in the time period of the heavily armored hoplite.  Citizens able to afford a chariot would instead be in the phalanx.
  • The Etruscan Axe was largely a ceremonial weapon by the time of the phalanx (Connolly).  In addition, neither a battle axe nor a throwing axe is compatible with the hoplite fighting style.  If the axe must be included, Thracian Peltast rules can be used with halberds standing in for the battle axe, and skirmishers can have the standard javelin play as the throwing axe.


Rome and her Enemies, a complication of Osprey titles.

Greece and Rome at War by Peter Connolly

A discussion on building an Etruscan list for Field of Glory.

Catalog of the Etruscan Gallery by Jean MacIntosh Turfa.   Notes:  See page 29, Chariot racing.


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Celts/Iberians: WIP and Reading List

Starting to get this dip thing figured out. The key was diluting the stain with mineral spirits to get a shaded effect without coating more than 50% of the model. The current mix is 1 part stain to 2 parts spirits. In the photo – the back rank was dipped at full strength & the front rank was dipped using the diluted mix. I’ll need to come back at a later date & clean up the excess shade. Probably re-paint the shields also as the grain from the dip is very noticeable on the flat surface.

The second photo displays the simple paint job under the dip.  Its so nice to be able to work through a unit of 10 in only two nights.  With my current time constraints – the dip make for a marvelous alternative to the grey legion.

For game play in WAB, these Numidians are going to fill in for just about every spearmen in the ancient world.  Ultimately, I think they will fit well as a Iberian tribe in Barcid employ.



Reading List

Barbarians Against Rome:  Rome’s Celtic, Germanic, Spanish and Gallic Enemies by Peter Wilcox and Rafael Trevino.  Published by Osprey.

Gallic chapter plates contain excellent painting references.  Illustrations are an obvious resource for the Wargame Factory Celts.

Spanish chapter plates display a variety of Iberian tribes.  Most warriors carry the scutum shield of Celtic origin (long and oval), or the caetra – a small round buckler.  The Lusitan tribe is depicted as carrying a large round shield with boss.  Tunic is sleeveless and earth tone.

The Celtic World by  Cunliffe, Barry W.
Contains photo of WF Celtic ornamental shield.

The Ancient City:  Life in Classical Athens & Rome by Peter Connolly and Hazel Dodge.  A focus on Athens and Rome – how the cities operated, how common & noble people lived, how buildings were designed and created.

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Reading List: Classical World

Book Reviews

Warfare in the Ancient World edited by General Sir John Hackett – the text provides an over view of various periods in ancient history including Assyrians, Hoplites warfare, Persians, Alexander the Great, the Successors and about 5 chapters on Romans.  Each chapter is 20-30 pages long and written by a different author.  The book provides a good introduction to a periods arms and methods of warfare, has adaquate battle diagrams but does not contain any painting references.

Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World by Simon Anglim, Phyllix Jestice, Rob Rice, Scott Rusch and John Serrati.  An overview of the fighting men of ancient times.  The book is organized by type (infantry, cavalry, command and control, siege and naval) rather than by region.  Sadly, the book reuses prints by Peter Connolly for most its illustrations – only the battle maps are original.

Greece and Rome at War by Peter Connolly.   The book is a re-working of three earlier titles now out of print.

  • Hannibal and the Enemies of Rome
  • The Roman Army
  • The Greek Armies

A massive work overflowing with Peter’s color illustrations of ancient troops- Greeks, Macedonians, early Italians, Celts, Spanish, Numidian and lots of Romans.  Most of the illustrations are reproduced, although a number of the panoramic war scenes are missing.  In addition to troops, the book also contains prints of fortifications and sea vessels.  Out of all the books I’ve reviewed from the library, this one goes on my buy list



Online Research

Ligurian Warriors in the Hannibal WAB list caught my eye for the combination of javelins (mixed weapons) and light infantry.  Information on the tribe seems sparse, but it may be possible to rep the unit using Celt figures.

Per Wikipedia Liguria is a northern region of Italy.  The tribes of Liguria mostly allied with the forces of Carthage. Photo source Wilipedia, used without permission.

Britannica Online :

No ancient texts speak of Ligurians in southern Gaul as nations or attribute definite racial characteristics to them. Such authors as Strabo and Diodorus Siculus described them as a rough and strong people whose piracy the Romans deplored. These views, however, appear in late texts and refer to the Celticized Ligurians (Celtoligures) between the Rhône and Arno rivers. Strabo declared that they were a different race from the Gauls or Celts, and Diodorus mentioned that they lived in villages and made a difficult living from the rocky, mountainous soil. In any event, their reputed boldness caused them to be in great demand as mercenaries. They served the Carthaginian commander Hamilcar in 480bc and the Sicilian Greek colonies in the time of Agathocles and openly sided with Carthage in the Second Punic War (218–201 bc).

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Reading List: Rome/Carthage

The local library is invaluable when conducting research when building/painting  historical armies (or I should say, my wife the librarian is invaluable when conducting research).    Be sure to check the juvenile section of your library – many of the well illustrated volumes are located in the kids section.

Several books that I have/am reading to get me up to speed for my new Punic army.

Warfare in the Classical World by John Warry – the book covers the whole of the classical world, with only 3 chapters dedicated to the period of the Successor Wars/Punic Wars.  The strength of the book are color prints of solders from the various armies – limited to one or two per chapter, the prints provide a strong reference for army building/painting.  For the Punic army: solders typically dress in white tunics with purple trim.  (Per Goldsworthy, the purple trim was for Spanish soldiers only.)

Roman Warfare by Adrian Goldsworthy – a rise to fall overview of the Roman military.  Battles are well mapped and well diagrammed.

The Fall of Carthage by Adrian Goldsworthy – in depth history of the Punic wars.  Text with limited battle maps.  The author borrows text from Roman Warfare in the overview of the two powers.

pg 207:  Hannibal’s army at Cannae August 216

10,000 cavalry: 4K Gallic, 2K Spanish, 4K Numidians

40,000 infantry:  8K skirmishers, 20K Celts, 8K Libyan and 4K Spanish

Generals: Mago (brother of Hannibal), Hasdrubal – hv cav, Maharbal- Numidian cav

pg 208:  “Our sources were most struck by the diverse dress of the enemy army.  On the one hand were the Libyans, dressed in Roman helmets and armour, and with oval scuta, then the Gauls stripped to the waist (since this is probably what Polybius means by ‘naked’), and the Spanish in their white tunics with purple borders, to which we might add the unarmoued Numidians with their distinctive hairstyles and riding their small, shaggy horses.  It is uncertain how accurate this picture is.  The Spanish had left home two years before and one may wonder how many still wore their native garb and had not replaced it with what ever was available locally or could be made in camp.”

215BC and 214BC – Hanno leads smaller armies of local troops from south-west Italy:  Bruttians and Lucanians with Numidian cav support.  These smaller forces were routinely defeated by the Romans while Hannibal was unchallenged.

pg 242:  Hasdrubal 207BC attempts to march reinforcements into northern Italy.  Defeated at battle of Metaurus.  Hasdrubal killed & army destroyed.

“Significantly” fewer than 40,000 men.  Spanish and Gauls.  10 or 15 elephants.  Little cavalry.

pg 243:  Mago 205BC lands near Genoa.  2800 cavalry, 18000 infantry, 7 elephants.  Forces drawn from Balearic Islands, Ligurian tribesmen and (presumably) Libyan/African forces.  Army defeated in 203BC, Mago dies of battle wounds, and army is withdrawn to Africa.

Roman Fort by  ??? – a fully illustrated overview of a typical Roman fort based on findings from Hadrian’s wall.  The pictures are a good source of information for terrain projects.  (lost track of the author’s name)