Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thapsus Refight


Coin issued by Metellus Scipio. From the Roman Numismatics website.

Last night I played through another Thapsus (46 BC) refight, this time a 'Caesar Incapacitated' scenario (check the bottom of this post if you want to see scenario details, troop numbers, etc), which follows Plutarch's report that there was a suggestion Caesar that had taken a turn before the battle, and that this had rendered him unable to command the army.

Command duties have therefore been assumed by Caesar's staff. Both sides are surprised. This means that the armies start undeployed and can bring on to the table a maximum of four units per turn, with elephants and heavy infantry counting as two units on the first turn.

Turn 1

Action begins with Metellus Scipio's men in the process of building a camp. Guarding its construction is a screen of elephants, light infantry, and Numidian light horse.

Caesar's men advance with light infantry and veteran legionaries to clear the way for an assault on the half-completed fortification.

Scipio at top; Caesarians at bottom

Turn 2

Seeing that an attack is underway, Scipio hastily musters more elephants and legionaries to support his forward troops. Caesarian legionaries arrive on the scene en masse.

Turn 3

Scipio shores up the centre and brings up more cavalry reinforcements for his left. The Caesarian slingers drive off the elephants and light infantry and the legates continue forming the legionaries into line.

Turn 4

Scipio brings on his right wing, pushes the centre forward, and advances his light cavalry into contact on the left. The Caesarians advance forward on their left and on the right bring up the cavalry to counter the Numidian horse.

Turn 5

The cavalry charges cause casualties on both sides, but the Numidian light horse break first. Although the Caesarians advance on the left, a command mix up means the centre is left behind.

The Caesarian centre lags behind. 

Turn 6

Scipio's centre takes advantage of the communication breakdown to hit the inside flank of the Caesarian left. The elephants cause tremendous damage.

The Caesarian centre does advance this time, but the left is under extreme pressure.

Turn 7

The elephants continue their attack on the Caesarian left, forcing the veteran legionaries to retreat after having taken 50% casualties. On the other wing the cavalry fight continues. The horse of both sides are shaken, but the Optimates are able to feed fresh cavalry into the fight.

Turn 8

The fresh reinforcements tell, and Scipio's heavy cavalry routs Caesar's Gauls and Spanish. Everywhere Caesar's line is under pressure. Again the elephants do awful damage to the Caesarian legionaries, this time in the centre.

Scipio's cavalry drives two units of Caesar's veterans from the field in a glorious charge!

Turn 9

The elephant attacks again prove unstoppable and with half of the Caesarian army gone, their right flank defeated and enemy cavalry in their rear, the Caesarians flee in an effort to make it back to the safety of their camp.

Those elephants were magnificent!

And Caesar's absence is decisive: Metellus Scipio has won an incredible victory by 115 points to 36. An absolute humiliation for Caesar. His men are in a terrible way and if Scipio and Juba follow up as they should, it is probably the end of Caesar's African campaign.


This scenario did not turn out at all as the battle is attested to have in The African War, but it did make for a tense and interesting battle. Caesarian command rolls were abysmal, and this allied with a very strong performance from Scipio's elephants and cavalry just blew the Caesarians away.

Scenario Details 

(Also posted on the Lost Battles yahoo group):

The second Thapsus scenario is 'Caesar incapacitated' and mixes Plutarch's report that Caesar may have had a medical incident prior to the battle with Cassius Dio's hasty attack scenario.

The battlefield is oriented roughly west/east with Scipio coming from the west (top of the board) and Caesar from the east.

Ground scale is 600m per zone. The flank zones on both sides of the battlefield are treated as coastline (sea to the north; inland salt lake/lagoon to the south). There is a fortified camp in Scipio's left rear zone.  

Scipio's key zone is left centre (in front of the camp). Caesar's is currently right centre, but I'm not 100% settled on this.

The attack limit is 3.

Both armies are surprised.

Scipio deploys first. 

Armies (@ troop multiple of 6)
Metellus Scipio: 
10 x average legionaries (30,000 men. Probably a mixed bag but treated as legions.
1 x levy heavy infantry (6,000 men. Numidians).
1 x levy light infantry (6,000 men. Numidians).
2 x African elephants with light infantry support (30 elephants [but treated as if 60 in the rules] and 3000 light infantry).
2 x average heavy cavalry (3,000 horse. Gauls, Germans, Spanish, possibly some more heavily equipped Numidians).
1 x average light cavalry and 2 x levy light cavalry (7,500 Numidians. Some with reins and some without. Some better / more motivated than others).
1 x timid commander (Scipio)

Total: 45,000 infantry, 10,500 cavalry and 30 elephants with a fighting value of 66.

10 x veteran legionaries (15,000 long-serving troops).
3 x average legionaries (9,000 newly recruited for the campaign. There are another two legions guarding the camp which are not counted in these figures).
2 x veteran light infantry (3000 archers, slingers and assorted skirmishers).
2 x veteran heavy cavalry (1500 heavy cavalry. Gauls, Spanish, poss. some Germans, Gaetulians. Includes original cavalry, more recent reinforcements, and deserters).
1 x average commander (Caesar's staff).

Total: 27,000 infantry and 1500 cavalry with a fighting value of 74.

Scipio deploys first as follows:

Left centre: 1 x AEL, 1 x LLI [1 CP each]
Left flank: 1 x LLC (2CPs)

Caesar deploys second as follows:

Right centre: 2 x VLI, 1 x VLE, Caesar's staff [3 CPs, double moves]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Gifts from abroad

There was a lovely surprise that came with the postman today - a package from Mr. Hunt, all round good guy and blogger of Dulce et Decorum renown.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned here that an army I'd thought was finished was probably going to need a few extra reinforcements. Mr. Hunt very kindly got in touch, asked for my address, and has now sent me some 15mm Saxons to make up the numbers.

They are just the ticket: a nice variety of animated poses, and they will work very well as hero figures for my Saxon and Viking armies for Simon Miller's To the Strongest rules.

It was a very nice gesture, and I have a feeling that these are going to get a lot of table time.

Thank you Mr. Hunt!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thapsus playtest

I've been putting together an article and orders of battle for a Thapsus (46BC) scenario recently. Since it's only a playtest I'm using very condensed depth so that I can fit the zones (yes, zones: it's for Lost Battles, of course...) on my little table.

In this one Caesar won the battle but lost the game due to the fact that his old nemesis, Titus Labienus, got around one flank and managed to do just enough damage to put the victory points in the Pompeians' favour, 100 points to 91.

The Pompeians held out until the very last turn, too: even after a flank has been turned, the camp has been lost and the commander in chief has run away, legions are tough.

As a little aside, you'd think that Roman Civil War battles would be dead boring given that they almost always feature the same troop types, that Caesar always has the advantage with his genius for command and his veteran troops, and that everyone knows the battles, etc., but in Lost Battles they are not boring at all. One of the key reasons is that Phil Sabin has a lovely little rule (at first you think it's just an annoying mathematical anomaly) regarding legionary victory points that makes average legionary vs veteran legionary match-ups very tense in big-picture terms.

If you read Caesar you see how careful he is with his men. He doesn't want to lose them, put them in situations which might affect their confidence, or fight if their morale is suspect. He wants everything in his favour (how he goes about ensuring that things are in his favour is of course one of the joys of reading Caesar!), and that little rule in Lost Battles gets the Caesarian player feeling much the same way.

Anyway here are a couple of snaps. This one shows the situation after turn two. I've drawn in the zone lines using MS Paint so that it's easier to see who and what is where.

In the historical battle Caesar's men rushed Scipio's left flank, panicked the elephants and the Numidian cavalry, and then rolled up the Pompeian line. As you can see in this photo, the attack on the left flank is the main focus at this stage of the battle.

This next shot shows the battle at just before the halfway stage. The Pompeian left is still resisting, but the camp is under attack and is about to fall. Labienus is putting genuine pressure on the Caesarian left, and has shattered one of the veteran cavalry units. This success was telling in game terms.

In this last picture we see the later stages of the battle. The Caesarians have broken Scipio's left, taken the camp, and forced Scipio himself to flee the field. The Pompeian legions are holding, and with Labienus now attacking the Caesarian flank they are doing some damage. But the Caesarians have superior quality and position and, as they did historically, they will go on to roll up the flank and win the day.

So there we go. A successful test and an entertaining battle to engage with. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Vendors and Manufacturers

Today I saw a thread on The Wargames Website asking how many manufacturers people had bought from and thought that making a list of my own here would be a good post to follow my last. Unlike the TWW thread, I'm including vendors used as well.

Here we go then:

Magister Militum (Chariot 15mm figures)
Old Glory 15s, Last Square (Old Glory 15mm figures)
EM4 (Corvus Belli figures)
Essex (Essex 15mm figures)
Quick Reaction Force (Friekorps 15mm figurs)
Tin Soldier (Tin Soldier 15mm figures)
Black Hat Miniatures (Black Hat 15mm figures)
Xyston, Brookhurst Hobbies, North Star (Xyston 15mm figures)
Strategia e Tattica, Strategia Nova, North Star Miniatures (Miniature Wars 15mm figures)
Donnington Miniatures (Donnington 15mm figures)

Navwar (1:3000 naval models)
Heroics and Ros (6mm figures and models)

Dayton Painting Consortium (RSM 95 20mm figures)

So that's 13 figure lines brought through 18 vendors. At least two of the vendors have since gone under, but the others are still going strong so far as I know.

I do have figures other manufacturers' figures in my collection as well of course, but theysewere picked up in private deals or from B&M shops.

I would wager that I use fewer manufacturers than most other wargamers, but the ones I do use I tend to go back to for more!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Great service from North Star

The other week someone on the Society of Ancients forum posted that there was a half price sale on Xyston figures about to start at North Star Miniatures in the UK. I can always find a use for a few extra packs of Xyston, so I thought I'd look and see what they had in stock. They did in fact have some things that would come in useful and I put in a small order for seven packs.

About thirty minutes later an email arrived for me from the owner, Nick, apologizing and saying that three or four of the packs I'd wanted had sold out, and asking whether I would like a refund or to pick some replacement packs to throw in.

I replied saying that I was sorry to have caused such a lot of hassle on such a small order and for him to just make up the numbers with any Macedonians, Persians or Gauls he still had in stock. He said it was no trouble at all and that he'd do so. Next day there was message saying that the package had been dispatched.

The box arrived today, and I've found that not only did Nick seem to have known my mind better than I did myself regarding which make-up packs to choose, but he'd also thrown in a bonus pack of figures for good measure.

It was a great interaction all round, from the email pleasantries through to the fast service, the discounted VAT, the very reasonable shipping cost and his throwing in the extra pack (which went above and beyond the call of duty). It was very much appreciated, and I'd certainly recommend Nick at North Star both for his excellent service and also for being one of the many nice people we are lucky enough to have in this hobby.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Carriers and other bits and pieces.

A few more ships to add to the 1/3000 collection. Akagi, Kaga and Shokaku are the main attractions, but with USS Houston, HMAS Canberra, Suffolk, Java and Admiral de Ruyter and a few support vessels in there as well.

I reckon those decals for the Japanese carriers are just the ticket, even if I did fail to apply them quite as beautifully as they deserved.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

1/3000 naval progress

I've been making a bit of progress with my 1/3000 naval project over the last week or so.

The British.

 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen.

The IJN.

Still a few more to do, but we're starting to get somewhere.

As a small observation, this project has really brought home to me how just useful the internet is. I don't know how many books you'd have had to have bought to get the info for each ship / ship class that one google search will bring you. This project would still be a mere pipe dream without the 'net.

Monday, October 23, 2017

WIP: Ships and terrain

The weekend has seen a couple of terrain items finished, some new 1/3000 ship packs bought, and a few Navwar models varnished.

The new camps, enclosures and pond should do the trick, I hope.

I'd been meaning to pick up the last three Fujimi 1/3000 model expansion kits and finally did so. Unfortunately, most of the shops double up with those in the packs I already have, so that's a slight disappointment.

It's my own fault: I suspected this already, but rather than fiddle about trying to read the kanji in the shop, I just bought them anyway.

I can use the destroyers of course, but there are only so many Yamatos, Musashis, Akagis, Kagas and Nagatos a man needs. The good thing is that I can use the extras to experiment with painting. I find plastic models harder to paint than metal ones, so I might well end up being grateful for getting a second go!

Hopefully there will be a few more finished 1/3000 models to game with in the near future.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Terrain workings

After being less than impressed with my own table last week I decided it was time to get some terrain organised. I'm not really very good at making terrain, but I wanted something to pass for a camp, something else I could use as a suitable enclosure for a Celtic or Dark Age village, and something that might do for a pond or small lake.

Village enclosure:

First up, cut a stick mat used for rolling sushi into two 2 cm width lengths and affix to an 80 x 80  base. Use white glue and sand to texture the base.

Spray with gray primer to help the glue hold better.

Brush on some old craft paint in burnt umber.

Dry brush with buff.

Flock to taste.

Think about getting some better houses!

(Roman) Camp

100 yen shop bricks glued together and onto a base.

Texture base, prime gray, and then paint tents darker gray using brush.

Apply burnt umber, then dry brush the tents lighter using various grays and off whites.

Prepare to flock.

Pond (so far).

Cut out shape. Glue on small stones pond.

Add sand. Paint bottom of pond green. Burnt umber elsewhere.

Flocking and water effect still to come...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Of blowouts and birthdays.

My recent return to To the Strongest! has now concluded. Unfortunately, there were a few problems with the camera, but now that I have a new SD card installed, we are back to normal on that score. The other camera problem is that the tabletop looks a tad forlorn, though this is not the camera's fault. My carpet tiles are fine for a biggish 5 x 4 game with five hundred figures on the table, but rather sad and flat for a 3 x 2 one with only 150. So too do my generic 100 yen shop hovels look rather less than impressive. Not for the first time I can see that I'm going to need to up my terrain game...

Anyway, to my surprise, the game ended up a blowout in favour of the Normans, who I thought were going to struggle to make much headway against the Anglo-Saxon shieldwall. As it turns out, the Anglo-Saxons were a little too enthusiastic in their attempts to bring the Norman horse to battle, and as a consequence the line became disjointed early and the Normans were able to gang up on poorly supported units and wear them down.

The deep shieldwalls were tough, but they just could not get back into position and suffered for it, by being out of command and/or teamed-up upon.

Any normal wargamer would have known this already - as did I in fact - but sometimes it seems I just have to learn the hard way!

The Anglo-Saxons lost three deep shieldwall units and 2 generals (13 victory banners) against no losses for the Normans, so the game was up. The Norman horse managed to evade Anglo-Saxon charges for the most part, but even when they were caught or elected to stand they were able to pull back or rally before they were finished off.

Anglo-Saxons/Normans is quite an intriguing match-up (as you would hope!) in TtS. There are some nice tactics to play around with, but I must have the Anglo-Saxons hold their line and their discipline better in future.

View from behind the victorious Norman left. Dodgy hovels can be seen in the distance.

Again from the Norman centre.
And finally from the Norman right.

In other news, it was my birthday earlier this week, and my dear and long-suffering wife sanctioned the online purchasing of some birthday treats. A visit to the Book Depository website later and the reprint of Ian Heath's classic Armies of Feudal Europe and the Dan Mersey fantasy skirmish rules Dragon Rampant were on their way here. I was sorely tempted to pick up Bloody Big Battles too, but will save that one for next time.

On the figure front I see that I'm not quite finished with my Dark Age project after all: I'm going to have to pick a few more Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans to paint up as hero and leader figures so that I don't need to cover the table with those mood-damaging cube markers.

It seems a wargamer's armies are never done!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blogging enters middle age.

I've been putting a little thought into blogging recently, particularly around some of the changes I have noticed since I started the caper.

When I first began, I got hardly any traffic at all. That was fine and what I expected. I was in it for my own pottering-around satisfaction, not for popularity. But if I did a battle report I'd put it on TMP, and soon found that I'd perhaps get 300 hits over two days - more if it was on a popular battle or topic - and I started to like it.

I began to post links to my newly-painted figures there to show what particular ranges looked like (there were not so many photos on manufacturers' websites in those days - or that was my excuse anyway), and the odd how-to article, game review, or lighthearted take on something. Again, these would get some hits and over time you'd build up a list of followers and make virtual connections with other bloggers.

After a couple of years of this I noticed there were diminishing returns. People stopped clicking on my links so much from forums. I'd get 200 hits instead of 300, 150 instead of 200, until, eventually I was down to about 50. Sometimes less.

And the chat around a post dropped off, too. Instead of 5-10 other forum members adding comments, you might get one or two if you were lucky.

So with both interest and engagement dropping off, it seemed that posting links was shooting myself (and the forums that hosted the links) in the foot. People had perhaps become tired of blog-hawking and blog-hawkers, and also perhaps resentful of the draining effect the constant outside links had on the vitality of the original forums. Denizens were no longer so impressed by the promise of battle reports, game reviews or painting updates, and there was, I felt, a perceptible undercurrent of hardening passive-aggressive antagonism on both sides (Why are you posting that here? We've all seen it done better before! vs I've put loads of work into this. The least you ungrateful lot could do is have a flamin' look!).

At any rate, the blog honeymoon was over.

I've since adjusted, and now I pretty much don't link to my blog anywhere, unless it's for 'educational' purposes, or I'm particularly excited about something, and want to share that excitement in the relevant forum.

It seems to me that bloggers have naturally congregated into loose circles of like-minded folk. Not necessarily like-minded in era, figure scale or rule set, either; often it seems to be a shared set of ideas about what you like to see in a blog, and so you comment or show your support for those people whose blogs you enjoy, learn from, or are in awe of in some way, regardless of whether you play the same games or not.

These days my hits are a long way down on what they were at their peak, but the peak was actually vastly inflated by bot visitors, anyway. I'm very content to keep pottering along at 100-250 hits per day - hopefully mostly by real people - and enjoying the comments that people leave and the little community that builds up.

It's been good. I'm happier, more relaxed - and hopefully a slightly kinder hobbiest - than I was when I felt a certain amount of pressure to try to spread the word.

Anyway, I'd be interested in other people's observations around blogging and the changes they have noticed.

Thanks for reading (if anyone has got this far!).

To the Strongest revisited

Well, the time has come to pull out Simon Miller's fine To the Strongest! rules again. I keep meaning to play them, and now that my Dex Bellorum project is complete, I've got small-based units I can use to do so, and don't need to use the big table.

So I'm going to do a solo run-through to reacquaint myself with the rules.

Here are the armies: 

3 Generals
13 Units
3 Commands
32 VPs, 11 Victory Medals, 133 points
Save / VPs /
Pts / Ammo

The King (R)
Great leader, heroic, mounted, senior
3+ / 2 / 11 / -
Veteran cav, javelin,
6+/ 2 / 11 / 2
Veteran cav, javelin,hero
6+/ 2 /12 / 2
Cav, javelin, hero
7+/ 2 /10 / 2
Light infantry, javelin
7+/ 1 / 4 / 2
12 VPs, Demoralised on 6, 51 points
-- / 3 / 1 / --

His Retainer (C)
Heroic, mounted
3+ / 2 / 6 / -
Veteran shieldwall, hero
6+/ 2 / 10 / -
7+/ 2 / 7 / -
7+/ 2 / 7 / -
8+/ 2 / 7 / 6
Light infantry other, bow
8+/ 1 / 4 / 3
Light infantry other, bow
8+/ 1 / 4 / 3
15 VPs, Demoralised on 8, 46 points
-- / 3 / 1 / --

The Bishop (L)
Heroic, mounted
3+ / 2 / 6 / -
Veteran cav, javelin, hero
6+/ 2 /12 / 2
Cav, javelin
7+/ 2 / 9 / 2
Cav, javelin
7+/ 2 / 9 / 2

8 VPs, Demoralised on 4, 36 points

3 Generals
12 Units
3 Commands
34 VPs, 11 Victory Medals, 133 points
Save / VPs /
Pts / Ammo

The King (C)
Heroic, senior
3+ / 2 / 6 / -
Veteran shieldwall, deep, hero
6+/ 3 / 14 / -
Veteran shieldwall, deep, hero
6+/ 3 / 14 / -
Shieldwall, deep
7+/ 3 / 10 / -
Shieldwall, deep
7+/ 3 / 10 / -
Light infantry, other, bow
8+/ 1 / 4 / 3
18 VPs, Demoralised on 9, 59 points
-- / 3 / 1 / --

His Brother (R)
3+ / 2 / 5 / -
Shieldwall, deep, hero
7+/ 3 / 11 / -
Shieldwall, deep, hero
7+/ 3 / 10 / -
Shieldwall, deep, raw
8+/ 3 / 7 / -
Light infantry other, sling, raw
9+/ 1 / 3 / 2
15 VPs, Demoralised on 8, 38 points
-- / 3 / 1 / --

His Brother (L)

2+ / 2 / 4 / -
Shieldwall, deep, hero
7+/ 3 / 11 / -
Shieldwall, deep, hero
7+/ 3 / 11 / -
Shieldwall, deep
7+/ 3 / 10 / -

11 VPs, Demoralised on 6, 36 points

The battlefield is 8 squares by 12, with minimal terrain, so that the two armies will have a good opportunity to just go at each other hammer and tongs.

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