Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Bruce Catton

I was browsing the other day looking to see if they had the new Gettysburg Solitaire book from Worthington Games. It turns out they didn't, but somehow or other (as one does) I ended up going down an internet rabbit hole. This time it led to Bruce Catton. I'd owned one of his books and loved it (I forget which one - A Stillness at Appomattox, perhaps?) but had lent it to someone and not got it back.

Since that first reading I've always checked secondhand book shops just in case they have any Catton on the shelves but I've not had any luck so far. I imagine it would be a bit different if you were shopping in the US, however!

Anyway, by roundabout means, I came across the website of a secondhand book store in Wellington called Haven Books which had a copy of the Army of the Potomac trilogy. I ordered it and it arrived today, well-thumbed, yellowed, and obviously much-read. Just how a book should be.

But my search also turned up another gem - a C-Span video of a lecture on Bruce Catton given at Gettysburg by David Blight.  I won't spoil it with an inadequate introduction, but if you have an hour and fifteen minutes to spare, you might find it worth your time.   

To close, the Gettysburg movie, Catton, Foote, and Burns have no doubt been the catalysts for many a Civil War obsession. Do readers have any other particular books, videos or lectures that got them interested in the ACW? 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Back on the horse(s)

Well, I stopped procrastinating, rearranged the garage, bought myself a lamp, and started prepping some Greeks for the Mantinea battle day project. I've jumped into cavalry and Theban hoplites first. The figures are a reminder of just how lovely the Xyston figures in this range are - beautifully sculpted, characterfully posed, and nicely proportioned; just slightly north of average for 15mm, they are not yet at the giant stage that the Hellenistics became - but also of how much of a pain it is to drill out hands for spears. 

The other problem of course it that they are intimidating. For a limited painter such as myself there is always the feeling that you won't be able to do them justice. 

Garage prep space.

But making a start is the thing. 

In other news I succumbed to an artfully placed ad while browsing TheBookDepository and ordered Undaunted Normandy. It arrived on Saturday (along with my Landmark Caesar, which is just as good as I'd hoped) and I opened it up for a wee test run on Sunday.

The first scenario in the game booklet

The first thing you notice is that the components look a lot nicer on the table than they do in photos. I was impressed enough to almost go and order the expansions on the strength of the look and feel alone. Better sense prevailed however, and I decided that I would force myself to discover whether I actually liked the game before ordering anything more (radical idea, I know!). 

How is the game? Well, I must preface my comments with the caveat that while I love the idea of squad level WWII games, in practice I mostly find them ho-hum. This one might turn out to be all right. It has a card management aspect to it that I think could be quite enjoyable with the right opponent. Solo it lacks a bit, but then that is true for most games. 

The essence of the game seems to be to build up the cards in your draw deck so as to allow you to string together move and fire sequences (or fire and move sequences, if you prefer) that will put your opponent under pressure. Interestingly, when you fire and hit an opponent's piece, you don't remove the piece, you remove one of the cards which could activate that piece. The piece is only removed when there are no accessible cards for it remaining.

So there is a natural attrition there, but it takes place in the card decks, not on the board itself. Your pieces become less able to act the more they are hit (i.e. there are fewer cards left in the deck left with which the piece can be activated), and the more pieces move, the more undesirable cards are introduced into the deck, thus making it less likely that you'll be able to pull the cards you want when you want them. This is presumably a mechanism to represent the difficulty of coordinating effectively over longer distances.

Pleasingly, Undaunted doesn't have those overpowered 'heroic leadership' pieces which seem to drive so many tactical WWII games. Leadership is abstracted into allowing you to choose cards to put in your deck, and is not the old '+2 to hit when Sergeant Skegg is stacked with your MG squad' type arrangement. 

Not an heroic NCO in sight!

I only played through about five or six turns, but will do a proper review when I've had the chance to mangle my way through a couple of games. 

A good weekend, then! I hope any readers who've got this far also had a productive Saturday and Sunday.


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Working through prep for 2nd Mantinea

As mentioned in my last post, the Society of Ancients Battle Day for 2023 has been announced as 2nd Mantinea, 362BC. This is the first time in a couple of years that the battle is one I have armies for, so I'm determined to make the most of it. Pleasingly, although I don't have all of the troops I'll need painted yet, I do have a pretty decent start made on them. 

My rules of choice will likely be Lost Battles, so it's the Lost Battles scenario I'll look to to work out how many more troops I'll need to paint up. Bearing in mind that the troop scale is 2.5, it will be 1250 men per average infantry unit, half that for veterans, double for levies, and average cavalry will represent 625 actual horsemen per unit.


2 x Veteran Hoplites (Spartan)

8 figures per unit - 16 figures total 

13 x Average Hoplites (5 x Athenian, 2 x Mantinean, 2 x Elean, 2 x Achaean, 1 Arcadian, 1 Allied

16 figures per unit - 208 figures total

1 x Average Light Infantry (Mercenary)

16 figures per unit

3 x Average Heavy Cavalry (1 Spartan, 1 Athenian, 1 Elean Achaean and Arcadian)

9 figures per unit - 27 figures total

Total figures needed: 224 hoplites, 16 light infantry, 27 heavy cavalry


Average Leader plus Veteran Hoplites (Epaminondas and the Sacred Band)

8 figures per unit, plus Epaminondas and companion - 10 figures total

8 x Average Hoplites (2 x Theban, 3 x Boeotian,  2 x Tegian, 1 Megapolitan, Asean and Pallantian)

16 figures per unit - 128 figures total

5 x Levy Hoplites (2 x Argive, 1 Euboean, 1 Thessalian, 1 Messenian and Sicyonian)

32 figures per unit - 160 figures total

3 x Average Light Infantry ( 1 x Locrian, Malian and Aenianian, 1 Thessalian, 1 Euboean and Mercenary)

16 figures per unit - 48 figures total

4 x Average Heavy Cavalry (2 x Thessalian, 1 Theban, 1 Boeotian)

9 figures per unit - 36 figures total

Total figures needed: 2 leaders, 296 hoplites, 48 light infantry, 36 heavy cavalry

Grand total: 2 leaders, 524 hoplites, 64 light infantry, 63 heavy cavalry

Next step will be to work out how many figures I have already painted, and how many are in the lead mountain. Hopefully I will not need to buy any more, but if I do, it won't be the biggest disaster in the world. There is a little flexibility, too: if I end up being short I could use 12 figure units for light infantry and 24 figure units for the levy hoplites without losing too much in the look of it all.


64 Thebans (Xyston), 64 Generic hoplites (Black Hat) / 8 unpainted (unknown make), 88 unpainted (Xyston) - 224. (300 if Italians are added) - enough for Thebans

64 Spartans, 96 Generic hoplites (Xyston) / 64 unpainted (Xyston) - enough for Allies.

48 Levy hoplites (Old Glory Italians, but they could pass at a pinch)

28 Hoplites (Chariot Italians which could pass at a pinch).

48 Light Infantry with javelin and small shield (old Glory) / 32 unpainted (Xyston)

48 light infantry with bow or sling.

Oodles of peltasts.

Unpainted (all Xyston):

8 Mounted Generals

8 Cavalry with petasos and pilos in chitons

12 Cavalry with Boiotian helmets

8 Cavalry armoured with Boiotian helmets

12 Thessalian Cavalry with cloaks and chitons

20 Cavalry with petasos and pilos in metal and linen armour

12 Spartan Cavalry

19 foot command

To paint: 

64 Spartan hoplites, 88 Theban hoplites, 19 foot command

80 cavalry, though I can get away with a few less.

To buy:

Ideally, I would purchase and paint up another 72 generic hoplites (and about 120 more so I don't have to use Spartans for Athenians etc.!) I will think about this...

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