Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saracen DBA/HOTT Part VIII: Arabian Myth

This should be the final entry for the DBA Saracen or the HOTT Arabian Myth army, other than a camp or stronghold. To past the evenings during the last week, I painted the Black Tree Design Bowmen and Crossbowmen that I received in the early autumn of 2010. They have been sitting on the back burner for a while and I needed them completed in order to use them yesterday for some DBA gaming.

See Captain's Blog: Form 540, the blog devoted to my gaming activities.

Last year I order two of the Warriors of Islam army pack deals from Black Tree Design Miniatures. The first was AB1059 Warriors of Islam Archers (20 figures) which I used to make five 3 Man Shooter Elements and three 2 Man Psiloi Stands. The second package, AB1058 Warriors of Islam Crossbowmen (20 figures) provided five 4 Man Shooter Elements. For either DBM or WRG Ancients the Crossbowmen represent Regular Troops and the Bowmen Irregular.

Warriors of Islam 2 Man Psiloi Elements

AB1059 Warriors of Islam Archers
Based as 3 Man Shooter/Bow Elements

AB1058 Warriors of Islam Crossbowmen
Based as 4 Man Shooter/Crossbowmen Elements

I got the idea of how to paint them by looking at the Warhammer Ancients sourcebook on El Cid.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Games Workshop Palm Trees

Last weekend when I dug out the shoebox of palm trees from the storage closet for my Vietnam photo shoot, I discovered that fully 3/4 (21) of the trees still needed to be based and painted. I remembered that it felt like a daunting chore at the time they were assembled.

The Jungle Project was quickly sidelined the first time after seven trees had been painted and based. Oh well, the job had to get done. Over the last five days (and nights), I have slowly taken 15 or so minutes at a time, to complete this project in stages.

Warrior leads his horse to water, surrounded by lush vegetation.

I commenced by super-gluing one to three of the trees to each of ten plastic stands. I then applied a layer of texture paint to the bases. I then proceeded by working on 1/3 of the trees/stands at a time. First I'd paint the stands and then the palm trees. Finally I glued either sand (to four desert stands) or static grass (to six jungle stands) to complete the effect. Carried out in increments, the task wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

Actually, it's rather easy to spend 15 minutes just before bedtime on a painting project like this, and then another another 15 minutes in the middle of the night after answering a call of nature. Thus when I woke up in the morning, the stands were dry and ready for the next stage.

Foliage for a tropic island or the mighty jungle. 

IMO these trees were one of the better deals from the people at Games Workshop. They were rather clever in the way these models were designed to be assembled in an endless variety of shapes. Unlike most plastic model trees these looked pretty good, despite being 100% plastic.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tourists of Duty or My Time in Vietnam

Before he left Halifax, Rob Swan ran a fun series of Vietnam war games. I think they were partly inspired by the Tour of Duty TV series and were mainly played with the Gi'ac My rule set. I recently was reading my copy of Charlie Company and reflected fondly back on those games. Like the Charlie Company rules, the scenarios that Rob ran were based upon time spent in-country. My character was a US Infantry sergeant who survived his 12 month (game) tour, and was finally on his way home.

Sgt Rockwell, due to his good luck, and seemingly invulnerability started to be referred to as Sgt Rockwell, the latest product of Rockwell Industries. After each game, if your character survived, you received a D6 die roll (1-3 = +1, 4-5 = +2 and 6= +3) to augment the character's stats or skills. I was fairly lucky with my rolls. Victor Charles was not happy that I had survived my tour, and I was a recipient of a personal scenario. A VC hit team was waiting for me at the airport as I prepared to return to the World. These games were long before the digital camera and little, if no record exists of them.

Sgt Rockwell leads his squad out of the jungle.

As my contribution I painted up an US Infantry Platoon. I had over forty figures from the Charlie Company line by RAFM. They were divided into three ten man squads, accompanied by an under strength weapons squad and a HQ squad. I built four M113 plastic APCs and a M-48 Patton tank, all ESCI models, purchased from Squadron Shop. I later obtained two 105mm howitzers, which were never assembled or put into the field. Last year when I started to Blog about my WW2 Japanese I dug out the howitzers. I wanted to see how easy they were to assemble compared to  the B.P. Cast model guns. In two words, No Contest.

Two 105mm Howitzers with Camp and M-48 Patton Tank

Heavy Weapons Squad with M113 APC
(2 Hvy MGs, 2 M-79s, 1 LAW and I Sniper)

Understrength HQ Squad. Doc runs towards the Lt.

Shavetail used for scale 
(Above M-48 Patton Tank and Below M-88 ARV)

Having the guns on my painting table inspired some eBay purchases, all from the same seller. I won a M-88 Armoured Recovery Vehicle and a fifth M113 APC. I also gained two Roco M113s, but there is such a noticeable difference in scale compared to both the 20mm figures and the other M113 models that I will put these two APCs up for auction. Since there is no other piece to compare it to, I decided to keep the ARV, even though it too is by Roco Minitanks.

I finally painted the arty crews this past weekend and then decided to photograph the complete unit.  I dug out my box of GW plastic palm trees to provide a jungle like back drop.

 2nd Squad exiting a jungle trail. M-48 at the rear of the column.

Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant

At one point I decided that my Roman Army needed an ancient equivalent of the Army Show. According to Wiedenmann (Emperors and Gladiators 1992) "the military were great aficionados of the games, and supervised the schools. Many schools and amphitheatres were sited at or near military barracks, and some provincial army units owned gladiator troupes".

 I won these twelve figures in an eBay auction, about  five years ago. I do not know the manufacturer but they were made for slot bases.  After getting them half way painted they were put aside and forgotten. (Note: March 14 Today I was looking on-line at the Gladiators sold by Black Tree Designs and I am pretty sure the figures I have are from their line)

Recently I was going through one of my storage bins and found two items to reignite my interest. The first was the SPI Ares game Arena of Death. Arena of Death was a tactical combat system for Dragonquest, the SPI fantasy RPG System. 

The second was an old beat up rule booklet from the early 1980s called RVDIS, The Wooden Sword. rules for Gladiatorial Combat written by Ian Beck. Both sets depend upon a  hexagonal tactical display. RVDIS describes the various gladiators by there weapons and armour.

Cimachaerus: Gladius in each hand.
Dimachaerus: Long dagger in each hand.
Gaetulian: Heavy throwing darts.
Hoplomachus: Thrusting Spear and Gladius
Laquearius:: Lasso in right hand, may have a trident tied to left wrist.
Provocator:Spear and gladius
Pugiles: Armoured boxing gloves.
Secutor: Gladius in right hand.
Tatierius: Net inright hand, trident in left. It may not be thrown.
Thrcian: Sica in right hand (Curved sword 40 to 45cms in length)
Velite: Javelin in right hand tied to the wrist. Can not be thrown.

Gladiators were typically picked from prisoners of war, slaves, and sentenced criminals. Criminals were expected to die within a year but could earn release if they survived three years. Despite the low social status held by gladiators, there were also volunteers who fought for money, and the possible celebrity status, a successful gladiator could achieve. 

Who knows how much of the combats were choreographed or scripted in advance. Most professional gladiators were only expected to fight three combats per year. Alas that can not be said for the condemned criminals who fought to the death nor the helpless Christian martyrs, among others.

"The overall death rate among gladiators is unknown, but few survived more than 10 matches or lived past the age of 30. One (Felix) is known to have lived to 45 and one retired gladiator lived on to 90. George Ville calculated an average age at death at 27 for gladiators (based on headstone evidence), with mortality "among all who entered the arena" around the 1st century CE at 19/100. A rise in the risk of death for losers, from 1/5 to 1/4 between the early and later Imperial periods, seems to suggest missio was granted less often" (Futrell: A Sourcebook on the Roman Games 2004)

The following link has something to say on popular gladiatorial myths and the possible rates and causes of death. One argument presented here is that the death rate was caused more by injury and infections,  with euthanasia being a hammer blow to the head.

Suetonius, in the Twelve Caesars, recorded that after receiving the salutation, used as the title, at the start of a mock naval battle on Lake Fucinus that Claudius retorted back "Aut non!" (Or not!). I read somewhere that the combatants took this as a sign that they would not have to fight. Oars were stowed on the galleys and it took a threat of force to get the games to begin.

Note The Army Show was originally a CBC radio show developed in Dec 1942, featuring Wayne and Shuster. The show later toured overseas to perform for the troops.

For those who may not be familiar with Wayne and Shuster  I offer this skit with a Roman Flavour: Rinse the Blood off my Toga