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Ottoman Renaissance

The rise of the Ottoman Empire has long held a fascination with me. From obscure and unlikely beginnings, the family of Osman fought its way to dominate the Middle East and threaten Christendom itself. My keen readership will be aware that the early Ottoman army from 1281 to 1361, is quite a one dimensional army. In De Bellis Antiquitatis, the army comprises two elements of cavalry, the feudal Timariot fiefdom holders, seven Ghazi light horse elements, serving out of religious fervour, and some poor quality Azab “batchelor” foot.

The early army doesn’t look like a classic battle winner. Supporting your light horse with another, evens the odds against cavalry but you risk more units! I used the Old Donnington miniatures to represent the early Jannisaries, with some Essex slingers- unpleasantly referred to as babies by my sons!

The later army in DBA is a much tougher proposition. The guard cavalry Qapukulu make an appearance. I have painted a unit that would accompany the Sultan but in the Big Base variant, the general is detachable. There are now three Sipahi cavalry with a reduced number of light horse borderers or Akinji searching for loot.

In this scale, one only gets a single base of Jannisaries but when have we let that stop us! In the Renaissance version of DBA, you can have four units with bows, so I painted four! The arquebusers are next on the shopping list! I love the uniforms on these troops and would dearly love to visit Istanbul to see the modern reconstructions.

My choice of Big Base DBA was partly inspired by my desire to replicate the look of a contemporary army. The plan is below, Serb knights and artillery to be added later…

More research led me to collecting Levantine horde. These acted like a police force in conquered areas and I represented them with Turcoman spearmen. 

As the empire stretched into Eastern Europe, Delis and Voynuks can be added. I used Essex miniatures for Dellis and need to send to Old Glory for the heavily armoured Voynuks foot. I have two units of such horsemen to represent an Albanian ally. There remains plenty of scope for more purchases like Bedouin, religious berserkers and even fire lance armed incendiaries ( made by Baueda by the way!)

And there’s warwagons and Tartars…….and so on. I hope you like the collection so far. I’m not going to put them all on the bigger bases as I think the units blend quite well. I do have to say goodbye to some figures who aren’t part of the reorganised armies so keep an eye on eBay for some bargains looking for a new home! (Below)

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De Bellis Antiquitatis, Just do it!

Sometimes, in order to go forward, one must take a few steps backward. Backward to me meant going back to where my wargaming journey began, many moons ago. The ruleset was De Bellis Antiquitatis or D.B.A. to the hobby illuminati! For the first time it seemed, you could get into wargaming with a simple game that was easy to learn and addictive to collect. Many years later, I had come to derive more and more enjoyment from painting and collecting than uber competitive tournament style games. As figures have got better and better, the urge to collect everything out there is just too great. D.B.A. allows you to have a variety of armies and the rules can even be stretched from the Ancient period into the Reanaissance and beyond (you have been warned!). So with Christmas and Godendag out of the way it was time to reorganise….

D.B.A. Of course uses the “industry standard” 40mm wide basing and that’s not what I was looking for. Impetvs had been tried and these bases looked great although I could never quite get into the rules system. A lucky hit on the Miniatures Page got me started, Impetvs bases with DBA rules. The DBA- rrr variant is also available and that lead me to reconsider the formative Renaissance rules we have been working on…..

Next post will be entirely devoted to the Ottoman army as this army spans the longest period of history. I was quite pleased with the new bases, and the speed at which one can rebase. I am a great believer in diving into new projects and this one in particular seems to have reached a rich seam. Sometimes you have to just realise that something needs changing and just do it!

Once I had started on the Ottomans, I rampaged through the collection and worked on my Alans. Not enough for a full army but enough for an allied contingent. The temptation is to go for more than twelve elements but I have promised myself that I will limit myself to just every option, and a camp, and the ability to field every army simultaneously…….

You guessed it! Before too much longer I was rebasing my French Ordonnance and Hundred Years War English! I’m really loving painting, fixing and reorganising. Now to get some games in and work on getting my sons into playing! 

Thanks for reading!

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Rebels and Patriots- the shape of things to come!

I’m always envious of those people who can multi-task. You know the sort of person who puts us all to shame by chasing promotion at work, whilst restoring a house and carrying on an affair! Well I can’t I’m afraid. The last week has been one of basing wargaming figures and that is, how do you say, tedious in the extreme.At the local Crusade show, I picked up Rebels and Patriots by Michael Leck and Daniel Mersey. Building on the success of earlier titles, these books are the very epitome of what I look for in a set of rules, playability and fun. The downside was rebasing nearly three hundred figures.

I went for slightly larger bases than the standard, although the game is easily played with single based miniatures. The only thing to do was to set up a production line. I put out the discs and use Pollyfiller to fix the Woodlan Scenics ballast. The colour before was a ghastly bright green but that will just have to be screened by flocking and the ubiquitous tufts.

The great thing about our modern age is of course that you can do something else whilst performing mundane tasks. I decided to annoy my neighbours by blasting out the Dropkick Murphys on Sunday morning! Even I was taken aback by the scale of the task. As you only need sixty miniatures or so, I think some of my veterans may head to the great eBay hobby recycling site.

Once dry I’ll drybrush the bases but that will be it. I’m also rebasing De Bellis Antiquitatis armies at the same time so sand and MDF has been the theme of January. I’ll post these “new” armies this week. I really want to go back and play more DBA games this month to get writing on our own ruleset. Meanwhile apologies for a less than inspiring hobby blog but a necessary evil I’m afraid. I do wish I hadn’t bought sixty miniatures in exactly the same pose though………

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Despertaferres! The shape of things to come!

I hate to say it but the annual greatest weekend in the Welsh wargaming calendar left me wiped out! I actually played in the L’art de la Guerre doubles with Mark Fry, and we didn’t came last! The old stalwarts of DBM had a great turn out, as did the Field of Glory competitions. Mortem et Gloriam was hit by illness and scheduling but this was the biggest Godendag for quite some years. We even included To the Strongest ( Brucey’s Play your Cards right by any other name) and they may even be invited back. My thanks to all those systems organisers who worked so hard to make the weekend so successful. The venue accommodated over a hundred players with ease and hopefully we can all meet again in Late August. Mark is even now writing up our experiences of the competition for your delight.

Getting everyone together does take some considerable amount of time and even then there is always one team who didn’t know the start time ( yet again!). This week has been my efforts to follow the in-crowd and dispense with surplus 15mm miniatures. Finding L’art de la Guere meant a diminishion of figures needed and who am I to stand against the tide. Mr. Porter , Steve Charlton and our own big name Don McHugh have all been selling their collections. I prefer to call my efforts rationalisation……

From before Godendag, I have gone back to De Bellis Antiquitatis. Tiny, compact armies that allow you collect all your favourite armies. While trying to develop our own beginners set of rules, I had forgotten just how good these rules are. Now, being a wargamer we all know it doesn’t stop there! Buying twelve units and playing the standard rules is far too simple. Impetvs or Big Base DBA with amendments to take the armies through to 1700AD, welcome to our 2019 club project…

I really like the bigger bases and I enjoy the scope for creating those Impetvs style bases. My new basing technique involves using Woodlands Scenic Ballast, rather than the old Pollyfiller. It is a lot quicker and all I need to do now is rebase several hundred miniatures. Thankfully I can just put four DBX bases together where the basing is suitable.

One amendment is to keep generals on separate 40mm bases. We are toying with dispensing with pip dice and allowing all elements to move. Dispensing with pips would be a major departure but allows for the play to still ebb and flow but determined by the general’s and not the dice. More info on this project to follow soon but I hope to have the Ottomans completely reorganised by the end of the month. Simon Hall has just reopened his store to supply me with some extra Huns for my next reorganisation. I’ll leave you with a few snatched shots from Godendag and the hope that the year continues in this exciting manner!

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Pandemic Fall of Rome – A perfect storm!

Caesar’s double bed is warm

As an unimportant clerk

Writes “I do not like my work”

On a pink official form

The Fall of Rome has been blamed on many factors. Auden may have blamed creeping bureaucracy whilst others look to the  class struggle or Christianity to explain the demise. The latest release in the Pandemic series by Zee games allows you to assess whether you may have indeed been able to steer the Empire away from its eventual demise, in the West at least. We all may think that we could do a better job than the boss, or Prime Minister or President, but are we really that special person who can add to a massive organisation and not make it worse. I looked to James for advice……..

The game is of modest complexity but the production values are very high. The board and cards are a delight and look like they will stand the test of time. The rules are pretty straight forward but I left the ungentlemanly conduct of actually reading them to James! The Pandemic series is very popular with boardgames and one of its strengths is its aim to engender cooperative play in the aim to stop the spread of disease initially but now other topics and eras are in the game teams sights. Likening the migrations of the Barbarian hordes to the spread of disease might offend the Politically correct but the simulation does work. The cards drive the Barbarian tribes down various routes and it is the Empire’s job to stop them.

But this is the late Empire of course and you do not have the resources to fight off every incursion. Rather, one must ally with some tribes , and recruit them as federatii, while facing down others. The game is card driven and the mechanism is very effective. James chose to be a military hard man and proceded to battle through the Goths in the East. I was a Roman leader tasked with placating the hordes but the Saxons were oblivious to my overtures unfortunately. It does take a bit of getting use to, having to work cooperatively, but the game is a classic of state craft.

Our cities were rapidly sacked but our armies were victorious. Fortress building was our preferred strategy and the revolts were quashed but do tend to depress the resources available to the state. Our charm offensive won over all but one of our opponent tribes and victory all depended on a climatic battle against the Saxons in Mogontiacum in present day Belgium.

James won the massive battle but the Saxon invaders weren’t wiped out in time. The enclave at Gesoriacum on the coast meant that the Empire was lost as the cards literally run out( playing time in total about two hours). It is a classic boardgame and I whole heartedly recommend the game. The mechanism is slick and yet subtle. The game is fast paced and involves the players in the action from the start. The potential for conversion to a play aid for miniatures is obvious! Buy this game and banish those Winter blues. Stay close as the next post will be the runners and riders for the Epic Godendag wargaming weekend!

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Blucher- Blunders on the Taff

It’s a strange sort of individual who frequents the Great Western Public House on a Friday afternoon in January. Amongst the homeless, the down trodden and a few ageing Cardiff City football hooligans sat the elder fathers of our movement. Chris was at the bar trying to get a pensioner’s discount on the one pound fifty breakfast whilst Colin explained his intention to transport us to a balmy day in April 1809, the Battle of Sacile. After some discussion of personalities we decided to sit Colin on the other side of the table from Chris and for me to direct the glorious French Armee!

The Austrians were ensconced in a tight defensive position above Fontano Freddo. It would take all my insight to come up with a workable plan. Steve , being inexperienced would launch a headlong assault on the heights, Jackson would bypass Vigonovo and roll up the Austrian right through the forests of Roverado. In order to help general Jackson with the heavy woodland fighting, I thought it wise to give him Sahue’s cavalry division…

Barbou’s Division led the assault up the slopes. The VIII Korps looked confident but it was decided to soften the Korps up with the heavy artillery of the Reserve. Steve was so confident that the attack would progress well he diverted half the Third Division to take possession of Fortano.

Meanwhile the Second Division took up position to the left of the village. General Jackson sent his light cavalry out wide to probe Martin’s flank! The assault on the Talponedo heights proceded a pace and the front line of the Austrians started to crumble.

Three times Steve assaulted the rise and three times his gallant blue coats were sent back down the hill. Claiming that the assault had only been a feint, we hastily amended our plan. General Jackson was to be given priority and our right would try and hang on to the gains in the town and its environs.

Archduke John looked dismayed as the advance of the French left restricted the redeployment of the reserve cavalry. Chasseurs and Hussars were locked in a swirling melee on the left of the line. They even managed to best their heavier German opponents. The Austrians fell back into the woods with only their Grenzers holding up the sweeping French advance.

The Austrian right wing may have been discomforted but their centre remained strong with fresh troops as yet uncommitted. Having been battered all day, the Archduke gave the order to move down the hills.

It had been a glorious day! The Blucher rules are great fun and the battle proceeded without any rules disagreements or “discussions”. I think they really capture the essence of the period and we were all very jealous of Colin’s collection at the end of the day. The French felt that they had done better than the actual commanders on the day and the Austrians could claim a commanding position at the close. We would have to leave the post game analysis to tiffin. Happy New Year to all our readers.

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Desperta Ferres ruleset- unit statistics

Not the most inspired title for a blog post I know but a big thank you to everyone who has volunteered ideas and suggestions so far. Before we go any further, could you put your mind to the following categories and think if there is anything missing from the unit statistics. I think we are decided on the central marker of combat effectiveness that is termed “valour”. Keen correspondents will remember that I originally favoured “Virtus”, i.e.manly bearing, but this was too Roman for some and too sexist for one😳. The alternatives were “pluck” or ” mettle” and these may reappear later if ever we get to later periods and conflicts. I like “valour’ because it centres the game on the actual heroes and sometimes villains who we are seeking to represent. Each unit will have a rating from two ( nervous militia) to the superlative value of eight for household troops, palace guards and so on. The number will be the starting point for the number of dice used for shooting and combat.


The choice of defence value is deliberate as the intention is to incorporate armour and what we might call “shelter” or “cover” . Some troops may be lightly Armoured or have no armour but their open formation allows them to minimise hits. Would we need four defence values to cater for plate armour or dismounted cataphracts?

Defence could also be augmented by formation like the Roman tortoise or Barbarian shieldwall?

I do think we are on to a winner with ranged shooting. I always find it hard to run some Nomad or Eastern armies without the ability to inflict damage from a far. Here we would be departing from DBA. On a similar note shooting would be at a disadvantage when from horseback or harassing skirmishers.


Maybe a necessary complication for those troops who are just about fit to be on the battlefield. They would already have a low valour score but should we penalise their ability to charge an enemy too?


The wargamer’s favourite, the Parthian shot, is not limited to Parthians if they have the agility ability. These troops could shoot and then evade. If auxilia and similar were given this they could stand in the battle line with the legions and not be penalised by terrain. Agile troops could be disadvantaged against the less mobile adversaries in a combat in open ground perhaps. Giving the agility ability to mounted troops would depict troops like the Huns where there has been an artificial division between light horse skirmishers and medium cavalry. I do remember Richard Bodley Scott saying that he nearly merged the two categories but for the clamour of older gamers.

Formations would therefore be either “massed” or “loose”. The armylists would have to decide which armies could field the troops who were worthy of course.

Impetuous and Shock

Proper wargames need these two! Gallant knights and screaming warband have to be impetuous, forced to charge if in range of an enemy. Shock would be the term for the brutal swordplay of the legions or else the impact of a Swiss pike keil.

In summary then, for each unit in the army we would need the following to be noted in a roster, or displayed by counters; 

Valour, defence value, shooting ability, dubious, impetuous, massed or loose formation, agility and shock. As mentioned in conversation, it would be a rare unit and an expensive unit to have more than a few of these abilities. Please keep sending in your thoughts, next up will be a discussion on the unit depictions on the tabletop. As always, thanks for reading!

All images from the Superlative Total War series.