From chatting to a 28mm Early Achaemenid Persian army
Discussing the new version of the DBA ancients rules with a colleague led into how he’d always wanted a hoplite army. Given I’d always fancied wargaming the invasion of Greece by Xerxes in 480 BC before we knew it we are planning armies.
We agreed on larger figures simply because Tony was keen on them and plastic ranges make such an ambition affordable. I certainly wouldn’t have agreed to get a 25/28mm size Persian army in metal as with all the cavalry and hordes it would cost a small fortune!
Planning out the Persian host
Having settled on DBA I looked at the Early Achaemenid list. Double bases for the Immortals and sparabara infantry increased the body count but using light infantry instead of hordes reduced it. Well, reduced by a small amount! Once I had worked out what I needed I looked at the Wargames Factory range of Persians.
Happily they cover all the troop types I needed and I set about planning the figures I needed. I then got a bit too enthusiastic and decided only Big Battle DBA would do justice to the battles of 480-479 BC. Some thinking later and I produced the army and list of figures needed at the end of this post. The number of figures was slightly daunting but having more time at home because of a health problem meant I had time to assemble them.
In the course of thinking about the army I used the usual references for wargamers from Duncan Head’s book on the Persians to Field of Glory army lists. Plus this made a great excuse to buy Tom Holland’s new translation of Herodotus!
Recruiting the plastic Persians
Happily I found some boxes on eBay and then North Star Figures had a sale of Wargames Factory at the right moment. Even so I found after much sorting out and assembling of figures more were needed! Caliver Books provided my last recruits so it was just planning how to paint them.
Painting 28mm Persians
Whilst the Wargames Factory Persians are not the finest figures on the market they provide the basis for a good paint job. I realised if I did that painting my miniature Persians would take longer than the campaign lasted! So I decided to go for the good old block colours and brown varnish technique.
This is also known as “the dip” method as marketed by the Army Painter company. I use a similar approach of painting in the basic colours in almost toy soldier style. I let them dry completely and then apply a coat of Ronseal acrylic varnish with a brown stain in it. Using lighter colours than you usually would helps the varnish stain combination do its work. The stain varnish combination provides instant shading and looks ok on the gaming table. A bit crude for 28mm size figures perhaps but gets them on the table.
Big Battle DBA Early Achaemenid Persian army list
General and sub generals 3 bases of 3CV = 9 figures
Cavalry 3 bases of 3CV = 9 figures
Light Cavalry 3 bases of 2LH = 6 figures
Immortals 3 bases of 8BW = 24 figures
Sparabara infantry x bases of 8BW = 72 figures
Hillmen 3 bases of 3AX = 9 figures
Medising Hoplites 3 bases of 4SP = 12 figures
Light infantry 9 bases of 2PS = 18 figures
There is an option to replace the light infantry with hordes but that would be another 63 figures to make and paint…
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!