Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Zeno - A portrait of a SSD militiaman

Zeno is your typical  militiaman from a game of Song of Shadows and Dust.

Zeno (Antiochene militiaman)
39 points
Special Rules
Armed, Bludgeon, Steadfast

Born and raised in Antioch at the dawn of the first century BC, he is proudly descended from Macedonians ... at least on his father's side. That his mother's father's family come from stock indigenous to Koile Syria is a fact seldom raised in Zeno's presence. Despite his august ancestry, Zeno's family have fallen on bad times of late and, when his father's sausage factory burnt down, he decided to find his own way in the world.

Convinced that there was no greater cause that the protection of one's metropolis, Zeno decided to join the Antiochene Civic Militia. He had originally through to sign up as a regular phalangite in one of the royal armies, or even apply for the elite agyraspides, but certain past indiscretions with the recruiting sergeant's daughter meant that such an avenue was blocked.

Despite only being required to walk the beat a few days a week, his martial training (however limited) and new contacts in the civic administration have instantly improved young Zeno's standing in the poor and middling quarters of the city. On the up, he hopes one day to lead one of the watches of the city.

Zeno is a 15mm Xyston figure from their Seleukid range. He is the first member of my militia faction for SSD. The shield is hand-painted (obviously) and displays the Seleukid anchor, a symbol of the dynasty but also of permanence and security. It has been inspired by James White's excellent work in 28mm which can be seen here.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Song of Shadows and Dust

I am pleased to be able to publicly announce my new forthcoming rules set: Song of Shadows and Dust which will be published by Ganesha Games. More astute readers of this blog will have noticed a build up over the course of the year of ancient urban scenery and miniature civilians, thugs, ne'er-do-wells and gladiators. This has all been in preparation for the new stand alone set of historical miniature wargaming rules I have been working on based on the Song of Blades and Heroes fantasy rules by Andrea Sfiligoi.

Song of Shadows and Dust (SSD) is inspired by the breakdown in civic order which plagued the great cities of the Mediterranean in the first century BC such as Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem or Alexandria. In Rome the long-running feud between the optimates (conservatives) and the populares (popular party) was punctuated with street brawls, bloodshed and assassinations, erupting numerous times into open civil war. In the great metropolises of the East, rival claimants intrigued for royal titles, instigating popular uprisings against their brothers and cousins while recruiting foreign auxiliaries to aid in the oppression of their own people. Although these rules are flavoured by such a setting, they are perfectly appropriate for any pre-modern urban setting from Babylon to Bruges.

SSD seeks to reflect the gritty reality of urban violence and civil disruptions while preserving the keep-it-simple, play-as-you-want, no-book-keeping-required spirit of the original rules system. Also included are rules for playing short campaigns where the consequences of running away from a fight or taking a nasty blow to the head are likely to come back to haunt you.

All the rules needed to play the game will be provided in the book, however, as the rules and points values are compatible with both Song of Blades and Heroes and Song of Arthur and Merlin players can expand them using the other rulebooks or their supplements as sources of ideas, scenarios and additional special rules - after all, the seedy underbelly of society must have existed just as much in Camelot as it did in Rome.

Players control factions on the tabletop of between five and ten models each. The table itself is covered with buildings to create an urban setting and also includes a wide variety of different civilians. The players are given objectives such as stealing a particularly valuable item, assassinating an enemy leader, rescuing a captured comrade or avoiding the local militia/police whilst having to foil the objectives of their opponents.  Faction members can be anything imaginable in this sort of environment - from Roman senators or Arab sheikhs, to beautiful courtesans, blind prophets, zealous priests, gladiators, drunks, common henchmen, street urchins or assassins and so on.

SSD has been written and is now in the process of intensive playtesting.

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Annals of the Relic of Saint Pius AAR (Chapter 4)

Chapter 4, The Last Battle
Unrest reigns across the kingdom.

Rival warbands march across the hills while the country folk have fled their homes and taken shelter in the marshlands and the woods. Ten years have passed since Sorviodunum and the affair of the Holy Toe of St Pius. Victorious against their weaker foes, the proven and legitimate rulers of the land had demonstrated their worth and ruled well for three long glorious Summers.

That was before the Year of the Rains and the three Years of the Famine which followed close on its heels. In those dark days it was only rumours of the reappearance of an old enemy which filtered through to the prince’s court, brought by travelers  bards, priests and merchants. Then, as the prosperity of the land dimmed, the visitors grew fewer but the rumours continued. Women, children and livestock started to disappear and shadowy figures were seen crossing the fields in moonlight. The Prince of Venta’s prestige faltered as he failed to protect his people and the enemy grew ever bolder until now they show no hesitation at stalking the land in broad daylight.

Thus, the prince and his loyal warband saw no alternative but to hunt their enemy and pursue them back to the untamed wilds where they had been sheltering this last decade. With this, his last push, the Prince of Venta, the Holder of the Holy Toe, must destroy his opponent and restore order to the land, or die and be succeeded by whoever has the strength to take his place.

This is the fourth and final 'after action report' of the Relic of Saint Pius campaign, the full details of which can be found here.

As the victors of the ambush at Constan's Ford, Flavius Constans and his Romano-British milites were the defenders in the last battle. Their opponents were the Romano-British equites led by Artorius - the Magister Equitum with pretensions - who had failed to save the day (or gain a single Victory Point) at Sorviodunum.

The rival Britons deploy their warbands. As the attacker, Artorius chose to enter from behind the woods, thereby denying the cover to his enemy's bowmen.

As the two forces slowly close, Flavius Constans forms his spearmen into a rigid shieldwall, ready to repulse any mounted charge from Artorius. Meanwhile, the British archers move ahead under the direction of Calpurnius Draco.

Artorius splits his force in two, while he leads one of his companions and the two companion archers to the right of his line, the two other companions find the shelter of the stone circle on the left and trot out of view of the  foot bowmen. Saint Neot slowly makes his way forward to give divine guidance to the British knights. Artorius' mounted archers try a series of Parthian shots, riding at the enemy shieldwall, releasing their arrows and then retiring out of charge range - but the shots go wide or bury themselves in the hardwood shields.

Then, in a mad dash, one of Artorius' bow-armed companions charges right up to the face of the shield wall. With one well aimed shot, the most gallant of Constan's supporters is taken through the eye. The force of the hit spins him around in a macabre dance of death and to left and right of him the resolve of his comrades crumbles as a result of such a brutal kill.

Flavius Constans' shieldwall and their supporting archers scatter widely. Some flee the field of battle entirely while others rally themselves after their initial shock.

Seeing his enemies flee, Artorius seizes the initiative and presses forward. He knocks Draco to the ground with a glancing blow of his spear and continues on to bury it in the chest of an archer. The other mounted companions also surge into the melee, riding down individual footmen where they stand.

At that point, the impetus of the charge faltered, allowing Constans and Draco to start to rally their forces.

Spearmen bravely returned to the fray, surrounding several of the companions ...

... and even knocking some of them to the ground.

Artorius falls, surrounded by bowmen and for a moment victory hangs in the balance.

At the crucial moment, the archer companions put aside their horn bows and charge wildly into the fray. The renewed assault takes Constans and his men by surprise and one of the spearmen goes down beneath a fury of hooves. That is enough to shake the morale of the weary footmen and again they flee, several of them receive mortal wounds in the back as they run from the melee. Constans turns to run from the fight, tearing off his crimson cloak of office and snatching up the tattered garb of a fallen follower as he fled the field.

One more series of charges by Artorius and his knights see the total obliteration of the last opposition. Draco, fearless to the last, fell with his standard still in his hand as the last archer ran from the slaughter. There can be no denying the outcome of the day's battle. Once the shieldwall had broken, it was hardly a contest - more of a hare hunt. Artorius stands victorius. Constans' body was never found.

Victory Points:
Artorius and his equites - 30
Constans and his milites - -11

Year Book photos - Rulers of Venta Belgarum, class of c.490.

And thus our chronicle comes to its blood-stained end. Four hundred and ninety years after the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Artorius mab Uther was hailed as Imperator on the Field of Slaughter. His valiant equites escorted him to Venta whence he was crowned Artorius Rex, king of the Belgae. Over the years he would rise to be the King of Kings, overlord of all the Britons and, ruler even, of many of the lost lands where the Angles and the Saxons now make their sordid homes. 

As I write these last lines, all of Britannia south of the Great Wall sends tribute to my lord and master. The Great King has even seen fit to acknowledge one of his many bastards, a handsome boy by the name of Mordred for whom, I feel, God has a special purpose in mind ...

Early SSD playtesting sneek-peeks

If a picture tells a thousand words, here are a few enigmatic pages...

Please excuse the unfinished nature of everything. One of the highlights of this series of games was when the Boris Johnson-esqe demagogue in the toga took down the bellicose tribal warlord. Pure poetry in motion.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Painted 15mm ancient civilians

Here is a quick snap showing some of the recently painted citizenry of Antiocheia Mikros - my 15mm scale ancient cityscape. These figures come from a range of different manufacturers but I hope you'll agree they all work perfectly well together. From left to right: three Xyston women from the women and youths camp followers pack, a Xyston Athenian oarsman/rower, a Xyston priest (with sacrificed goat) from the Seleukid command pack, a Donnington Arab merchant and camel, a Donnington Roman senator from the civilian pack, a Corvus Belli Roman scribe from the engineers pack, a Mick Yarrow Assyrian girl carrying a water pot and the Lurkio Moorish javelineer who seems to have snuck into the shot despite already appearing earlier as a potential gladiator...