Jay's Wargaming Blog

December 11, 2018

Of Mice And Frogs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 9:21 pm

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Guest post on Brachatomyomachia for HoTT by Bernie F.

Homer was the most popular and admired poet of the ancient world. Of course he was also read in schools and probably bored thousands of pupils to death. So it’s not a surprise that parodies on his poems were written. One of them, a parody of the Iliad, had the title “Brachatomyomachia” (“The Battle of Frogs and Mice”) and in antiquity was even thought to be composed by Homer himself. Actually, however, it had probably been written in the 1st century BC by an author living in or near Alexandria in (or rather “at”, as the Ancients would have said) Egypt. The little poem of about 300 lines was very popular both in antiquity and the middle ages and has come down to us in dozens of manuscripts. And it still makes a good read.

A Summary

Psicharpax (“Thief of crumbs”), son of the mouse king Troxartes (“Bread nibbler”), drinking water from a lake meets the frog king Physignathos (“Chubby Cheek(s)”), who invites him to his “palace”. As the frog king swims across the lake, the mouse prince seated on his back, they are confronted by a frightening watersnake. The frog dives, forgetting about his passenger, who drowns. Another mouse witnesses the scene from the bank of the lake, and runs to tell everyone about it. The mice arm themselves for battle to avenge the frog king’s treachery, and send a herald to the frogs with a declaration of war. The frogs first blame their king, who by telling them a barefaced lie about the real circumstances persuades them to go to war. In the meantime, Zeus, seeing the brewing war, proposes that the gods take sides. Athena refuses, saying that both mice and frogs have done her a lot of mischief, adding “No, gods, let us refrain from helping these hosts, or one of us may get wounded with a sharp spear; for they fight hand to hand, even if a god comes against them.“ And so it happens. A bloody battle ensues and eventually the Mice prevail, not the least because of their great hero Meridarpax (“Stealer of small bits” or “Slice snatcher”, as an English translation says). As the gods themselves are afraid to fight this mighty hero and even Zeus’ thunderbolt does not stop the mice, he summons a force of crayfish or crabs to prevent complete destruction of the Frogs. Powerless against the armoured crabs, the Mice retreat, and the one-day war ends at sundown.

Heroes, Equipment And Troop Types

In the poem the mice seem to have more and greater heroes than the frogs. I prefer to classify the latter’s champions as »sneakers«, since a certain Prassaios (“Greencoat”) “presses through those in front of him” to support his king against the mouse king. In the same scene his companion Origanios (a name connected to “oreganum”; the English translation gives “Rueful”, while a German one I own prefers the more proper “Bitterling”) is called “the only one distinguishing himself in the frog army”, so he alone (or the king if accompanied by him) would deserve to classified as »hero«. Anyway, the mice should have at least one hero more than the frogs.

About the equipment of the mice we read: “First they fastened greaves to their shins made from yellow bean-pods broken into two parts which they had gnawed out, standing over them all night. Their breast plates were of skin stretched on reeds, skilfully made from a ferret they had flayed. For shields (aspides) each had the centrepiece of a lamp, and their spears (the Greek word used is longchai,  plural of longche) were
long needles, the all-bronze instruments of Ares, and the helmets upon their temples were chickpea shells.”

This equipment may be only that of a precious few, as the mice had only one ferret flayed and certainly won’t have a large numbers of lamps available. The rank and file may have been unarmoured and had simple shields, if any. Instead of the spear the mighty Meridarpax “splitting a chestnut-husk into two parts along the joint, put the two hollow pieces as weapons on his paws”.

The frogs’ equipment is similar to that of the mice, but made of more readily available material: “They wrapped around their shins leaves of mallows, and had breastplates made of fine green beet-leaves, and cabbage-leaves, skilfully fashioned, for shields (again aspides). Each one was equipped with a long, pointed rush for a spear (again, the word longchai is used, and smooth snail-shells to cover their heads.” (the first example of completely biodegradable armour, it seems). The differences between the several types of leg protection is interesting, by the way: the mice use classic greaves, while the frogs wrap a flexible (and presumably thick) material around their shins.

In spite of the breast plates and the round shields I prefer to classify the infantry of both sides as a kind of peltasts or, in the terms of HOTT, as »warband« (perhaps with an option for grading the mice as »spears«). This also suits the nature of the combatants.

The Frogs

Warband General @ 2AP – Physignathos, king of the frogs

Sneakers x 2 @ 3AP – Assorted frog champions like Seutlaios and Borborokoites

Warband x 7 @ 2AP – Ordinary frog warriors

Water Lurkers x 2  @ 1AP – Ambushers

Total Cost: 24AP
Stronghold: Pond.

Variants: Hero General (Physignathos if accompanied by several frog champions like Prassaios and Origanios) or Hero (Origanios) @ 4AP, God (Zeus or other Olympians, if
they ever dare to appear) @ 4AP, Behemoths @ 4AP or Beasts @ 2AP (the crayfish army send by Zeus), Hordes (less well motivated warriors) @ 1AP.

The Mice

Hero General x 1 @ 4AP – Troxartes, king of the mice, accompanied by several lesser heroes

Hero x 1 @ 4AP – “The Mighty Meridarpax”

Sneakers  x 1 @ 3AP – Lesser mouse champions

Warband x 6 @ 2AP – Ordinary mouse warriors

Land Lurker x 1 @ 1AP – Ambushers

Total Cost: 24AP
Stronghold: Mouse-hole.

Variants: Flyers (Mosquitos) @ 2AP, Spears (alternative classification of the warriors, may therefore not be used with warbands) @ 2AP, Hordes (less well motivated mice like Meridarpax’ father) @ 1AP

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August 31, 2018

HOTT Army Lists Completed!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 10:24 am

I’ve just finished uploading over a hundred HOTT army lists to the blog. Click here to access the lists, which are given in alphabetical order. This was going to be – as per my last post – a “long term” project; but it proved to be a fantastic alternative to doing the work I actually need to do, so I’ve completed it in double quick time. Procrastination is the mother of HOTT pages…

I’m planning to tidy the lists up a bit over time, improving the presentation and adding graphics/photos where possible.

If you have lists that you would like to add, or photographs of your HOTT elements/armies, please do get in touch by emailing me here – solowargamer@hotmail.com.

Once again, a big THANK YOU to Alan Saunders for giving permission to reproduce the lists here, and more generally for having done so much to ensure that HOTT didn’t just slip into the mists of time. Alan’s current website, which includes much HOTT material, can be found here – http://hordesofthethings.blogspot.com/

Lost World

August 27, 2018

HOTT Army Lists Project

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 10:21 pm

HOTT2

Hordes Of The Things – HOTT for short – is a set of ‘fast play’ rules written by Phil Barker, Richard Bodley Scott and Sue Laflin-Barker. Currently out of print, HOTT still has an active community of players. Its longevity is down to the fact that it combines the brevity of the DBA stable with a flexibility which allows players to create army lists for whatever takes their fancy. Armies have been drawn from a huge range of books, films, history and mythology. The only limit is the imagination of the player!

Alan Saunders has rightly been called The Godfather of HOTT for his pioneering work in creating and compiling army lists, rule variants, tips, eye candy and a plethora of miscellaneous HOTT-related material on his classic website ‘The Stronghold’. Since moving to Australia Alan has broadened his gaming interests, but is still an active HOTT player, and there is a wealth of useful HOTT material on his current website ‘The Stronghold Rebuilt’ – click here to visit it.

Alan has kindly given permission for me to gradually upload some of the original army lists onto this blog. This is very much a work in progress, as there are lots of lists to be added, so do check back periodically to find the latest additions.

Click here to access the army lists page, or use the menu sidebar on the right to access individual army lists directly (under Pages –> HOTT Army Lists).

January 11, 2018

God Cannot Abide Complexity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 11:55 am
Götz von Berlichingen

Götz ‘Er kann mich im Arsche lecken’ von Berlichingen.

 

I believe it was Götz von Berlichingen (pictured above) in John Arden’s play Ironhand (an adaptation of Goethe’s original drama about the man) who uttered the memorable line “God cannot abide complexity”.

Götz is an interesting if thoroughly obnoxious character whose history merits further study. I have to say though that I agree with him about the whole complexity thing. If he ever said that – which he probably didn’t. Although he is credited with inventing the insult “lick my arse” – and that’s not to be sniffed at.

Anyhow, as far as I’m concerned, Phil Barker and Richard Bodley Scott’s ruleset Hordes of the Things was a cracking example of rules that were relatively easy to master, but which delivered a game that rewarded skill and subtlety at the highest level (it also rewarded the throwing of lots of sixes, but most rulesets do that). I’ve never really seen the need for anything more complicated when it comes to tabletop battles.

Even Hordes could perplex the newcomer though. I fought my first ever game against a near-legendary Australian wargamer called Thomo the Lost, who almost certainly let me win. In the process though he gently pointed out that I might do better if I grouped my units together in future, rather than deploy and move each one separately – I’d need a lot less ‘pips’ per turn if I did that. A genuinely nice man, Thomo, and by easing me into the game he ensured that I’d come back for more rather than run screaming from the room!

 

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Iron prosthetic hand worn by Götz von Berlichingen.

 

Rules are truly a minefield for the newbie with little or no experience of gaming. Obvious points can be missed. Complexities are rarely grasped at first sight. Of course there are those players – we’ve all come across them – who have minds like finely tuned clockwork mechanisms, able to compute and model and project at a mere glance. Sadly my mind doesn’t work like that. It’s more like a wheezy old Atari that’s been left in the garage during a particularly damp winter. Hence the need to avoid unnecessary complexity wherever possible.

If simplicity is the keynote in cobbling together a basic ruleset for hex wargaming – my current project – then affordability is another important goal. Having invested in some Hexon scenery recently, I’ve discovered that they have a series of hex-based rulesets available for free on their website. While these rules look pretty good, they’re clearly the finished article rather than a starter set. I may ‘mine’ them for ideas, but I doubt I’ll adopt them.

One of the reasons for that is the affordability issue. I have lots of armies consisting of around twelve to fifteen bases or ‘elements’ – a legacy of my Hordes and DBA background. I don’t want to have to invest in lots more units for each army, simply so that I can mass them in groups as per the Kallistra rules. Those rules use several bases per hex in order to (a) produce a nice ‘mass battle’ look on the tabletop, and (b) to allow for logging of casualties by removal of bases.

Now the whole casualty-logging business is a topic in itself, but after a lot of faffing around my preferred solution is to attach a small D6 to each unit and use that to register current unit strength, to log losses caused by firing and melee, and so on. When the unit takes a hit, you flip the die accordingly. When you move the unit, you move the die with it. This approach is simple, it’s cheap, and it works a treat. And – most importantly – it enables me to continue using my favourite old armies without having to rebase or expand them in any way.

Doubtless it’s not the most elegant solution, and – like the use of a hex-based battlefield – it certainly won’t appeal to every wargamer. Personally though I don’t find it too obtrusive – it does the job with the minimum of fuss. And, of course, it avoids complexity. Götz von Berlichingen would almost certainly approve!

 

Bases with Dice

Using dice to show unit strength.

 

 

January 10, 2018

Hex Enduction Hour…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 2:39 pm

My Hexon Terrain

 

Meanwhile, back on the table top, I took delivery last week of a box of Hexon modular terrain from Kallistra.

The setup pictured above uses about two thirds of the tilesets from their basic starter box set. Currently we’re limited to using a medium size dining table for games. Plans are afoot for building an extension, which will allow us to install a nice big wargames table when it’s complete. Until then, small is beautiful…

The plan is to use this for working on my “beginner” level hex-based wargames rules, which I’ve been mulling over for a while now. I’ve opted for a hex tabletop because my gut feeling is that it’s easier for people new to wargaming to grasp rules wherein movement, firing, combat, facing etc. are addressed without the need for complicated measurements, wheeling and turning, and so on.

I’ve always been impressed by the rules used in Bill Banks’ 3W Ancients hex-and-counter game. I found it fiddly to use in practice – small hex sheets and even smaller punched counters – but the rules themselves were fun and seemed to give realistic results. My own rules will likely take a lot from the Bill Banks rule set.

Setting up the Hexon layout wasn’t too much of a chore, and I’ve already ordered a few additional pieces.

As you can see from the photo, I haven’t flocked the hexes yet, and the scenery is bog standard rather than specific to a hex tabletop. I’ll probably have a go at adapting and/or making suitable scenery, but if that proves to be less than successful I’ll no doubt end up buying even more bespoke stuff from Kallistra. Their products are not the cheapest, but I feel they’re worth the price.

When I’ve finally arrived at a workable rule set I’ll upload it to the blog to see what people think.

Incidentally – in case you didn’t know – Hex Enduction Hour was the fourth album released by The Fall back in 1982…

 

Hex

December 21, 2017

China My China

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 12:13 am

Chinese Zhou Dynasty Chariot

In the haze of the morning, China sits on eternity… 

Christmas really has come early this year…

When I powered up Field of Glory II this morning and saw the ‘new user content’ icon flashing, I assumed someone had added a custom battle or a small campaign. Instead I found a major add-on put together by Jomni, the guy responsible for the Sengoku Jidai expansion to Pike & Shot.

This time Jomni has added the Chinese theatre of war to the primarily Western and Near Eastern areas covered by FoG II and its first official expansion.

And what a splendid job he’s made of it. Options include five variants of the Chinese, covering the period from 1046 BC to 23 AD. Their opponents include a number of ‘barbarian’ tribes  – the Di, Donghu, Beidi, Qiang and Xirong.

The Chinese can also, as part of the Silk Road theme, go up against armies already covered in the main FoG II game and its Immortal Fire expansion – including the Indians, the Macedonians, the Graeco-Bactrians, the Skythians/Saka, and others.

Jomni has modded the graphics to produce some fine new troops. Here my Chinese take the field to face the Qiang, in a small/medium sized ‘sandbox’ battle from the later Zhou period:

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I’ve stacked my left flank with chariots and cavalry to overwhelm the enemy and envelop his right and centre, while hoping to hold him off with my infantry elsewhere.

Here my chariots and horse prepare to engage the foe:

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Meanwhile, over on my right, raw recruits are tasked with holding the line for as long as possible against the approaching barbarians:

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My simple plan works, but the outcome hangs in the balance for a while, even though I’m fighting this battle at a pretty low difficulty level.

It’s clearly going to take time for me to learn exactly how to handle these Chinese troops!

Here, my left flank mounted – cavalry and chariots – see off the enemy:

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They’re only just in time to save the day, as my right flank has all but collapsed and my centre is starting to buckle as my infantry begin to break and run:

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All in all it’s a very satisfying first game. The new armies look good, and add a whole new theatre of war to the existing options.

And that’s just the skirmish/sandbox side of Jomni’s mod.

In addition, he’s added a full-fledged ‘Silk Road’ campaign:

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This enables you to pit any of the nations mentioned above against any other, in a series of conflicts spanning nearly a thousand years.

Not bad for a free add-on to an already excellent game!

I’ve got a pretty shrewd idea of how I’ll be spending much of the holiday period…

 

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