Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Greek cavalry and Successor elephants done.

And together at last! Thebans and hamippoi from Xyston along with a test pair of the Potbelly Miniatures Successor jumbos (sans towers).


There's nothing negative to be said about Xyston, and the Potbelly models were good to work with. I do fear for the pikes, as the 3d printed plastic is quite brittle. To replace them was going to cause problems as well, so I decided to leave them be and if they break I will cross that bridge when I come to it. It would be great to have the option to order them with open hands, but they are very good value and take paint nicely. They are a little larger than your usual 15mm Indian elephant, but they should look good on the table and on the whole I am very pleased with them.

Monday, July 1, 2024

A new approach to painting.

As a painter, I've tended to be one of those people who works in big batches. In my case it has made for periods of great progress followed by long fallow patches. Having just come out of a fallow patch that, for various reasons, lasted about five years, I've been wondering if it's time to change my approach.

Back in May I took stock of the leadpile and thought about what I was going to do with all these figures I had yet to paint. Was I going to give up further progress as a bad job and start selling things off or was I going to get back on the metaphorical horse? I wondered if I could set myself a goal of painting two figures a day until the end of the year. If I could do that, I thought, it would give me a) more figures to game with and b) a potential way to move forward with the rest of the unpainted collection.

As per usual, my default was to go into big-batch mode. I got about 80 foot painted, and then started on a large cavalry lot, which I have just finished. All of this of course requires decision-making at scale, time spent prepping in large numbers, and then painting one or two steps a session (64 spears in brown, 32 tunic base colours in light grey, 32 in a variety of others, etc...) until the batch is finished.

What this means in practice is my hobby space is completely taken up with prepped figures, paints, bits and pieces, and the sense that you are on a big job. You can't, for example, set up an evening game if you feel like it, because to do so would require you to pack everything away to clear space, play the game, and then put everything back out again.

So I decided to try a new approach. For the moment, I'm calling it 'four for now'. Four to a base is how my infantry figures are organised for painting, so why not just do four figures to (almost) completion in a session? You see immediate progress, you shorten the time frame for playable numbers, and you can do it all in a much a smaller space footprint. I can store prepped figures elsewhere, so when I want to play a game, I can. 

I suppose the idea is to make painting less of an all-or-nothing thing, so that I can work on getting through the figures I have but without making it all-consuming, and by making painting something I am always doing in little bits. 

My first 'four for now'. Washes, base painting and shield patterns to come when I'm up to bigger numbers.

We'll see how long I last! 

Friday, June 28, 2024

Next batch of figures

I had previously harped on here about how keen I was to next get stuck into painting some Persians. Well, so much for that: this next batch (due for magic wash tomorrow) is Greek cavalry and hamippoi of the Theban variety. 

Xyston figures. My goodness, they are a treat to paint. I am a workman, not an artist, so am not able to quite do them justice, but even so, they are wonderful to work with. They do take a bit of prepping, mind....

I'm also working on some 3d printed elephants and from the Xyston pile have another 50-odd Greek cavalry and 80-odd Theban hoplites prepped. 

Successor beasts from Potbelly. Drybrushing underway.

With work extremely busy at the moment but without much tangible to show for it it has been nice to come back home to practical hobbying and feel like you are getting somewhere in at least one aspect of your life!

Sunday, June 16, 2024

In the post

Since moving back to New Zealand in 2019 I've missed playing Commands & Colors: Ancients. I have the boardgames of course, but playing with figures is for me where the game is best as a spectacle.  

In Japan I had made a hexmat myself, but utilizing as it did quite a lot of spray paint, it would not be very economical to use that method in New Zealand. So after a delay of five almost gameless C&C:A years, I decided to order a mat from Tiny Wargames in the UK. It should arrive soonish, and I am looking forward to it very much. Commands & Colors will never be the best simulation you will find, but it is easy to remember, small enough to play on the kitchen table, and so quick to set up and take down you can give the table back to the family by breakfast. 

Also heading this way is the World War One boardgame The Lamps Are Going Out. I have been looking for an affordable copy of it for years. The one I am getting is the paper map first edition, but that suits me fine. I will be playing it solo, and the fact that it uses areas rather than hexes is something I find helps to avoid analysis paralysis. Time will tell how much play it gets (my record with boardgames is not great!), but I hope that it will be one I can set up and play in a weekend, and come back to repeatedly when the mood strikes.

Speaking of boardgames, I also recently got hold of a copy of Ben Hull's Fields of Fire. It is a heavy undertaking, but I am building up to it. As a dedicated solitaire game it is something that once learned will be rewarding. But I digress from my stated purpose - that one is already out of the post and on the shelf!

Monday, June 3, 2024

Sentinum 295 BC with Lost Battles

SP came around tonight for another session of Lost Battles. Our last ancients game was, looking at blog records, late last year, when we played Zama and SP carried off the Washbourn Trophy in triumph. This time around we would play Sentinum. 

SP elected to play the Romans. They have an advantage in fighting value, 69 as against 60 for the Samnites and Gauls, but most of that is taken up with superior Roman generalship. The armies themselves are pretty even - five units of cavalry for the Romans - one veteran, the rest average; five units of mounted for the coalition, four heavy cavalry, one chariotry.

In infantry the coalition has fourteen units of heavy infantry against the Roman ten legionary units and two levy light infantry units. The numbers favour the coalition, but the Roman legionaries have better morale and when fresh are harder to hit.

The Romans have an average commander in Fabius and an uninspired cavalry leader in Decius Mus. The coalition has Gellius Egnatius as an uninspired infantry leader.

So far there is not much between the armies, but at Sentinum the coalition is classed as fatigued: that is, their staying power is compromised. Once a Gallic or Samnite unit has taken a hit, it attacks thereafter at -1, meaning in effect that all things being equal a fatigued heavy infantry unit up against a legionary unit will need 11 or 12 on two dice to to score a hit, so the coalition troops have to try to make an impact early and keep as many units fresh as possible for as long as possible.

Looking from behind the Roman right.

As it eventuated, there was not too much need for deep strategy: it was one of those rare games when everything went right for my side and nothing for my worthy opponent. 

Our right wing engaged immediately, and the infantry in the three central zones advanced. I kept the cavalry on my left refused. They were outnumbered and I felt it was best to be circumspect at the outset.

One wing and the centre engaged. My refused left can be seen on right of the picture.

The Gauls on my right quickly made inroads and the chariots burst through after just two turns of combat, shattering one unit and routing the guard for the unfortunate Decius Mus and denuding the Roman left of any meaningful defenders.

A double hit is scored, Decius Mus is unable to rally either of them, and the Roman left is lost.

Why did the Romans not invoke Favour of the Gods and force a re-roll, Lost Battles afficionadoes may ask? The reason for this is that I had already had such frighteningly good dice in the centre that SP had invoked the gods there, and with the token now in my hands, could not do so again until I had issued an invocation of my own. 

The action continued apace.

Galvanised by the early loss of his left wing and cognisant of the need to fight fire with fire in the centre, SP put as many command points into combat bonuses as he could. This paid off with hits against the Samnite left centre under Gellius. But in doing this he neglected to make use of his cavalry superiority on the right.


The refused Samnite cavalry wing is left unmolested.

Gellius Egnatius leads the Samnites as the centres continue the fight. The victorious Gallic cavalry and chariotry can just be seen in the distance in behind the Roman left.

The Roman rear is now exposed and with three units to use for this purpose, the Gauls focus on getting deep in behind the Romans to interfere with their morale and prepare to strike in future turns. SP pulls two units of cavalry out of the line on his right to respond to the threat.

A double hit by Gellius on the Roman right centre sees another unit shattered and the levy light infantry flee.  

With options running out for Rome bold attacks are initiated by the cavalry, now split across two zones to meet threats from two directions, and by the legionaries in the central zones.

Black arrows show direction of Roman attacks in turn 6.

The chariots are hit, but do not break. The other cavalry fails to hit at all. In the right centre, a mighty effort smites Gellius's unit, but in a scene which epitomises SP's luck tonight, Gellius rallies the hit. There is another successful attack in the central zone, but not enough to turn the tide. 

A series of attacks by the coalition sweep away the remaining Roman cavalry and Fabius's sector of the infantry line. The rest of the army holds on for the remainder of the turn, but Gellius administers the coup de grace on the turn after.

Final attack: Gellius rolls up the Roman line, already beset front and rear, with an attack from the flank.

It was a rather unfortunate game for SP. He stuck at it but you can't do much when the dice are your enemy.

From my perspective The Gauls and Samnites were able to keep just enough units fresh to avoid the worst effects of fatigue, and seemed to manage to align their most important attacking moments with their most potent dice rolling. The luck went entirely my way, but it was interesting to see a Lost Battles Roman army unexpected defeated on the table: beat the cavalry, surround the infantry, wear them down until morale starts to fail. 

It was pretty much the historical formula.

Victory Points:


The coalition spent: 3 x average heavy cavalry, 1 x average chariot, 9 x average heavy infantry equates to 52 points

Samnites & Gauls:

Roman shattered: 2 x average legionaries, 2 x average heavy cavalry, 1 x veteran heavy cavalry equates to 32 points

Roman routed: 2 x levy light infantry, 8 x average legionaries, 2 x average heavy cavalry equates to 46 points

Withdrawn: 1 x average commander, 1 x uninspired leader, equates to 9 points. 

Handicap: 18 points

Fatigued: 20 points

Total points for Rome: 52; for Samnites & Gauls: 125, for a major victory.

I now get to keep the Washbourn Trophy for a spell, which makes a bit of a change!

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Libyans on base

There have been a few delays but we've finally got to the fun part - taking the freshly varnished figures off their temporary strips and arranging them on their bases. I think I've said it here before, but it's the part of the painting process I enjoy most. 

The hard work is done and the game - as it were - is almost afoot.

To delay things further, the reason it took about four weeks to get these chaps to this stage is two-fold: one, I decided to bolster the ranks a little, and two, it has been difficult to find the right paints I use during the basing process.

The extra figures I got are from Potbelly Miniatures, a 3d printing enterprise based in New Zealand, of whose existence Mike of Bucellarii kindly apprised me a few posts ago. They are nice figures, but the resin used presented a challenge - none of my glues would work! It took me a bit of time to find the solution, which turned out to be Cyanoacrylate from Avetek NZ. 

The other problem (still not resolved, unfortunately!) is paint. In Japan I used to finish figure bases in Tamiya Flat Green, cardboard bases in any variety of green or khaki, and the edges of said bases in Mr Hobby H58, Interior Green. In order to maintain consistency, I wanted to use the same colours over here, but had not got them yet. I therefore ordered a few pots of the H58. These took about a week to arrive. When I went to use them, I found to my surprise that it is no longer the same colour. I wondered if I'd ordered the wrong code, and went to check: apparently Mr Hobby changed the formula in 2019. 

So I was stuck. I had two pots of paint that won't do the business. Do I order some black and try to mix them to the right colour or find something from another manufacturer that's closer? In the interests of saving time and shipping costs I tried buying a Humbrol pot from a local store, but that is not quite right either. Hmm.

It wouldn't be so bad if this were Japan. It would take ten minutes to find an alternative hobby paint at the local Joshin, and even if you got things wrong it would cost you about $10 for the various paints and thinners I've picked up so far. In New Zealand these mis-steps have cost me $80 and I still don't have the right colour. Oh well. It's never going to do much for your equilibrium comparing prices of hobby products between NZ and Japan!

So I will just use the wrong colour in the meantime and hope it is only me that notices the difference.

The figures drying on their bases (with the offending H58 in the background!)

One thing I have reason to be thankful for is that I was able to bring my non-hobby acrylic paints back here from Japan with me, so it's rare for me to need to actually buy any paint. I shouldn't grumble too much!

Anyway, on to the flocking stage, and I have a game planned for tonight with SP, so it should be a good long weekend.

Monday, May 27, 2024

A Game of Empire

 As a break from painting I got out my copy of Phil Sabin's Empire to play a solo game. Empire is a light wargame set in the ancient era covering 200 years from the time of Alexander through to the demise of an independent Macedon. The map covers Iberia to India, with areas connected by land or sea. It starts with the Achaemenid Persians pre-eminent in the east, controlling eight areas, and Carthage (three areas) dwarfing the foundling Roman Republic (which has to meet consolidation conditions before it can begin to campaign) and Macedon, both of which control just one home area to begin with.

There is a revolt phase (die rolls to find which area throws off the yoke of its oppressor) then a campaign phase in which each of the four powers look to expand their territory or reassert control over territory lost. Three 'great captains' (you can probably guess who they are!) allow five campaigns on the turn(s) they are active instead of the usual single campaign per power.  

There are two scoring rounds, turn 10 and turn 20. Carthage and Persian start with 12 VPs each; Rome and Macedon start with 0

We pick up the action in 350 BC.

350-341 BC. Bactria revolts. Carthage conquers Sicilia. Rome bickers with its Latin neighbours. The Persian Empire moves on Aegyptus but is defeated. Macedon conquers Graecia.

340-331 BC. Persia revolts. Alexander rampages through the east, taking Thracia, Asia, Pontus, Syria and Aegyptus. Rome continues to bicker. Persia takes back the province of Persia. Carthage fails to take Magna Graecia.

330-321 BC. Aegyptus revolts. Alexander continues his campaign, taking Armenia, Mesopotamia, Persia and Parthia. The Persians attempt a revolt in their home territory but fail. Carthage again fails to find a foothold in Magna Graecia. Rome is still embroiled in internecine conflicts. 

320-311 BC. Macedon fails to take Bactria. The Parthians successfully reclaim their capital. Rome consolidates Italia and now has a presence in the Mediterannean. Carthage fails to make any headway in Magna Graecia.

Alexander's conquests and Parthia reclaimed for the green team.

Carthage dominates the western sea as Rome emerges.

310-301 BC. Pontus revolts. The Parthians fail to take Bactria. Rome fails to take Magna Graecia, and so fails Carthage. The Successor kingdoms reassert control of Pontus.

300-291 BC. Thracia revolts. The Parthians again fail to take Bactria. Carthage takes Magna Graecia; Rome promptly takes it off Carthage. 

290-281 BC. Persia revolts. Carthage tries another futile expedition to Magna Graecia. The Successors fail to bring Aegyptus into their orbit. Parthia fails to take Bactria. Rome fails to take Cisalpina. Failure is epidemic!

280 - 271 BC. Macedon takes Thracia. Rome fails in an expedition to Sicilia, Parthia fails to take Bactria, and Carthage fails to take Magna Graecia.

270 - 261 BC. There is a revolt in Numidia. Rome takes Sicilia. Successors fail to take Aegyptus. Carthage fails to retake Numidia. Parthia takes Bactria at last. 

260 - 251 BC. Thracia revolts. Carthage brings Numidia back into the fold. The Successors again fail to take Aegyptus. Rome fails to take Cisalpina. 

Rome and Carthage with their spheres of influence (251 BC).

Rome and Macedon (251 BC)

The east (251 BC)

This is now the first scoring round. Parthia controls Parthia and Bactria for 2 points, taking them to 14. Carthage controls Africa (2), Numidia, Iberia (2) for 5 points. This takes them to 17. Rome controls Italia (3), Magna Graecia, Sicilia for 5 points, giving them 5. Macedon controls Macedonia, Graecia, Asia, Pontus, Syria, Armenia, Mesopotamia for 7 points. 

At this stage I thought that Rome looked to be in a strong position to push for a win in turn 20. 

250-241 BC. Revolt in Graecia. Rome tries to attack Africa, unsuccessfully. Carthage attempts to take Sicilia but fails. Macedon takes Graecia again.Parthia fails to take Persian. 

240-231 BC. Rome takes Cisalpina. Carthage fails to take Gallia. Greeks fail against Aegyptus; Parthians fail against Persia.

230-221. Revolt in Magna Graecia. Rome fails to retake it. Parthia fails to take India. Legacy Successors take Aegyptus. Carthage fails to take Gallia.

220-211 BC. Hannibal sweeps through Gallia, Cisalpina, Italia, bringing Rome to its knees. Macedon fails to take Thracia, Parthians succeed in taking Persia, Rome, forced to consolidate again, fails. 

After Hannibal's devastating campaigns against Rome.

210-201 BC. Revolt in Iberia. Scipio consolidates Rome and retakes Magna Graecia, but three other campaigns fail. Carthage fails to reclaim Iberia. Macedon takes Thracia. Parthia successfully conquers India. 

200-191 BC. Pontus revolts. The Roman expansion continues: they take Cisalpina, Gallia, Iberia, Numidia, and just fail to take Africa. Parthia fails to take Mesopotamia. the Successors retake Pontus. Carthage reclaims Numidia.

The Roman revenge is swift, but they do not expand east into Greece.

190-181 BC. Revolt in Syria. Carthage fails to take Iberia. Parthia fails against Mesopotamia. Successors take Syria and Rome fails to claim Sicilia.

180-171 BC. Revolt in Syria again. Parthia takes Mesopotamia. Carthage fails to take Iberia.  Successors claim Syria. Rome takes Sicilia. 

170-161 BC. Revolt in India. Macedon fails to take Illyria. Rome takes Numidia. Parthia fails to claim India. Carthage can't wrest back Numidia.

160-151 BC FINAL TURN: Revolt in Asia. Rome takes Africa. Carthage's attempt to revolt fails. Parthia is unsuccessful in India again and the Successors fail to take Asia.

Last turn scoring: 

Rome: Italia (3) Magna Graecia, Sicilia, Africa (2), Numidia, Iberia (2), Gallia, Cisalpina for 12 points, taking them to 17.
Macedon: Macedonia, Graecia, Thracia, Aegyptus (2), Syria, Pontus, Armenia for 8 points, or 15 all up.
Carthage: no territories remaining, it rests on the 17 it had at turn 10.
Parthia: Parthia, Bactria, Persia, Mesopotamia for 4 points, taking them to 18.

Parthia takes the win with 18. 17 for Rome and Carthage and 15 for Macedon.

Views of the board at game end.

Final positions. 

It was another interesting play of a Phil Sabin game, and surprisingly close. With two turns to go any of the four powers could have won mathmatically. By the last turn it was down to Carthage and Parthia, though I didn't know that until I tallied up the final score. If Carthage had held Africa on the final turn they would have taken the game.

Thoughts: Rome was fighting Carthage all game and never got a chance to expand east. Macedon could not hold Alexander's conquests, with vital revolts depriving it of a stronger result in the first scoring round. But it did manage to stay competitive. Carthage had a worthy fight with Rome and was only just short of victory. Parthia got back into the game with an early successful revolt against Macedon in its home area, and did just enough to take the win.

I wonder if Rome slightly underperforms in Empire. I don't recall a Roman victory in the times I've played it, and the need to risk a sea attack to get a foothold in Greece seems to result in a 'Carthage first' policy when an attack east earlier is probably necessary to achieve a win. 

Good, thoughtful fun anyway, as is usual with Phil Sabin's designs.

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