The ancient Assyrians in miniature
An odd thing about going to a very religious school is it gives a good knowledge of biblical warfare. This is a great help if you take up ancient wargaming as a hobby. Then there’s reading Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib” describing the ancient Assyrians as “descending likes wolves on the fold” that stuck in my mind.
Later this made me think of building an Assyrian wargames army. In the 1970s I toyed with getting a 25mm Lamming Miniatures army but decided the blocky style of figures wasn’t for me. They looked more like pie tasters than the elegant figures shown in Assyrian sculptures at the British Museum.
WAB and WRG and me
Alan Buttery’s Wargames Research Group (WRG) work on biblical armies kept the flame burning. I then got the seminal WRG book on biblical warfare when it was issued. Following that was the Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) Chariot Wars volume, which was in many ways a follow up to the WRG book.
Even combined with new and old Osprey books I didn’t quite crack. It was De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) that finally did it. I went for an early Nomad army that was quick to paint, then a Mycenaean one.
I was hooked and realised adding Elamite and Neo-Babylonian forces to the early Nomads would create the allied force at the 691BC battle of Halulue. Naturally I’d need the opposition in the form of a Neo-Assyrian army.
Recruiting and organising the armies
As usual I started sensibly with a DBA army for each allied contingent. When it came to the Assyrian host I decide to have my cake and eat it by creating a force that would work with other rules like Field of Glory (FOG). The annual sale at Museum Miniatures saw a parcel of small Assyrians arrive. Now they are organised and ready for their turn on the painting table.
For those interested I have based my army on the DBA list for Neo-Assyrian Empire and then added elements (an element is a group of figures on a base) to make up numbers for Field of Glory and similar rules. I won’t reproduce the lists here as the DBA one is in the rulebook and the Mad Axeman’s FOG Wiki has several suggested Field of Glory lists too.
Now I just need to check I’ve enough Nomads, Elamites and Neo-Babylonians to face these wolves…
My first ancient army was Airfix Romans and I notice their patchwork leather shorts are back in fashion! These were first unpainted and then with thinner plasticard shields added painted up. This force fought Ancient Britons, and even elves and goblins, with WRG Ancients 4th Edition rules.
They were followed by a Republican army made by the long defunct Leviathan Miniatures. Nicely cast separate pila and well proportioned figures I enjoyed painting. Happily ignored by burglars but I sold them some years ago when moving.
My current Romans are made by Martin Goddard at Peter Pig. I created a notionally Flavian army for Boudicca’s revolt but now plan to use them back to the early first century AD. This is based on the finds at Kalkreise which show frontier troops using lorica segmentata armour earlier than previously thought.
This army was created based on the DBM rules and suggested forces in Roman Britain. It was painted while I was working in Bath and couldn’t afford to go out every evening in the late 1990s.
The DBM army arrayed
Time moves on in Dumnonia
Over time I have decided to concentrate on 15mm for ancient games as described in a previous post on the British opposition for this army. So this army is overdue a refresh. I’m simply bringing small groups of figures into larger groups to tie in with Field of Glory. Having more Romans is a pleasure in itself too!
Working amongst the Roman collection in Exeter Museum has also re-awoken my enthusiasm for this period of Devon and Britain’s history. Plus recent Osprey books on this period including Boudica’s Revolt and the Teutoburger Wald coupled with reading some historical fiction by Simon Scarrow and Lindsay Davis.
General and Auxilary Cavalary
New cohorts for old!
The first batch of figures are under coated and ready for painting on the work bench. I’m glad I kept colour notes to help them blend in with my existing figures!
Back to my gaming roots
One of my first ancient armies for wargaming was a box of Airfix Ancient Britons. Despite the archaeological anomalies like the solid wheels on the chariots and odd arms and armour in places they were great fun to paint and fought many a battle in the 1970s. I did sell them off when I moved up to 25mm metal figures from Minifigs. However, the Roman invasions of Britain and Boudicca’s revolt kept the interest in gaming with Ancient Britons alive. Sadly I’ve no photos of those early Ancient Britons nor their Roman opponents
Airfix never had druids and screaming women!
Going down a size
Moving house twice in a year focussed my attention on just how many unpainted little metal men I had. Yes, I used the past tense there!
I decided to clear out anything I just have a few of and wasn’t going to turn into a complete army. I also decided that for big ancients armies I would move to 15mm size figures. This is because they take up less room, are quicker to paint (as I can’t see so much detail now!) and thanks to scale creep are almost as big as my old Airfix figures were!
Before making this decision I considered trying 10mm for ancient and medieval but found them not quite right for me. I used some Pendraken 10mm Vikings as a test and can while they did not suit me I suggest trying Pendraken if you are considering 10mm. I sold these on eBay as part of the grand clear out in the end.
Cracking on in 15mm
Another consideration was having a Peter Pig Roman army in 15mm I had painted for DBA and DBM. Getting a similar scaled opponent made sense of course but like most wargamers I try to leave sense out of it when choosing armies and scales!
Peter Pig Romans
The challenge with painting an army of irregulars is getting the variety there without painting each figure separately. I have a simple system for this involving strips of cardboard!
This is a rather ocd variant of the old take a colour and paint a different bit of each figure with it. To ensure variation I sort the figures into groups with a minimum of duplicates. Then each group is glued to a cardboard strip and undercoated.
I paint all flesh first using a red brown wash then a warm flesh colour.
After that the fun begins! Well my idea of painting fun anyway. Take a colour and go through a strip of figures applying it to different areas, so a dark brown is hair on figure one, trousers on figure two, belt on figure three and so on.
Then take another colour and move onto the next strip. As you can now see repetition of colour and pose is kept to a minimum. Having plenty of paints helps!
One point to keep an eye on is use brighter, historically more expensive, colours on better equipped wealthier types. Use patterns on clothing and showy shield decorations as well, again more so for those who could afford them.
For the sake of sanity and speed use one colour for shield backs, spear and weapon shafts, metals. Then varnish and base to taste!
Chariot Miniatures slingers
Chariot Miniatures Warband