Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Storm of Spears

I just finished a compelling and enlightening book: A Storm of Spears: Understanding the Greek Hoplite At War. If you have any interest in the manner in which ancient warriors fought each other, this book may be a required read. Amazon describes it thus: 

The backbone of classical Greek armies was the phalanx of heavily armored spearmen, or hoplites. These were the soldiers that defied the might of Persia at Marathon, Thermopylae and Plataea and, more often, fought each other in the countless battles of the Greek city-states. For around two centuries they were the dominant soldiers of the Classical world, in great demand as mercenaries throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Yet, despite the battle descriptions of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon etc, and copious evidence of Greek art and archaeology, there are still many aspects of hoplite warfare that are little understood or the subject of fierce academic debate.

Christopher Matthew's groundbreaking reassessment combines rigorous analysis of the literary and archaeological evidence with the new disciplines of reconstructive archaeology, re-enactment and ballistic science. He focuses meticulously on the details of the equipment, tactics and capabilities of the individual hoplites. In so doing he challenges some long-established assumptions. For example, despite a couple of centuries of study of the hoplites portrayed in Greek vase paintings, Matthew manages to glean from them some startlingly fresh insights into how hoplites wielded their spears.

These findings are supported by practical testing with his own replica hoplite panoply and the experiences of a group of dedicated re-enactors. He also tackles such questions as the protective properties of hoplite shields and armor and the much-vexed debate on the exact nature of the 'othismos', the climax of phalanx-on-phalanx clashes. This is an innovative and refreshing reassessment of one of the most important kinds of troops in ancient warfare, sure to make a genuine contribution to the state of knowledge.

Christopher Matthew has just completed his doctoral thesis on hoplite warfare at MacQuarie University in Sydney, where one of his assessors has said he 'singlehandedly advanced the whole field'. He has also been invited to lecture on the subject at other Australian universities. This book, closely based on his doctoral thesis, will be his first, although he has already had several articles published in academic journals. 'He is currently working on a new translation of Aelian's work on tactics and co-editing (with Dr Matthew Trundle) Beyond the Gates of Fire: New Perspectives on the Battle of Thermopylae, both of which will be published by Pen & Sword.

“…groundbreaking reassessment combines rigorous analysis of literary and archaeological evidence with the new disciplines of reconstructive archaeology, reenactment and ballistic science…painstakingly examines and reconstructs details of hoplites’ equipment, tactics and capabilities…Both experts and laymen can gain fresh knowledge from reading this well written analysis of ancient warfare…”
Toy Soldier and Model Figure Magazine

"The author has taken a fresh look at old evidence of ancient Greek writers and artists and coupled that with modern research. . . . In the process, some interesting and groundbreaking developments emerge that shed new light on just what the ancient writers meant and how much artistic license was used in creating the vase paintings we envision when we think of this period of history. This is a serious work of intellectual pursuit."—IPMS/USA

"…indispensable reading for anyone interested in ancient warfare."

"...practical and thought provoking...a well-argued, well-written and well-illustrated chance to think about the problem anew."
The Historian 

I recommend this book unreservedly. It changed the way I view Hoplite warfare. As a martial artist and product development professional I appreciate Dr. Matthew's use of re-enactment and applied science to reach his conclusions.

So what "game effect" does all this theorizing make? I don't think it changes the way Hoplites should be represented in any of the rulesets I currently use. It may effect the miniatures chosen to represent said Hoplites. For instance, according to Dr. Matthews my favorite beloved Wargames Foundry Hoplites are using an overhand grip to throw a javelin. . .

. . . since spear-fighting while in the phalanx was done underhanded. . .

I have a lot of these overhand-spear-wielding figures in the Lead Mountain. I sure do like them, even though I now believe they don't accurately depict Hoplites in the Phalanx.

Hmmm. Vive artistic license!

See ya!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Just HOTTs

Though relegated to the basement of Tower Games for our last Hordes of the Things outing due to a cards tournament, Bruce and I soldiered on through two games.

My Undead defended in the first game; Magician General, Hordes, a Behemoth, Knights and a Lurker who never showed up. . .

. . . against Bruce's Macedonians; Hero General, Behemoth, Spears and Warbands. . .

He wanted his Warbands to find my Hordes, and I wanted my Knights to get to those Warbands first! I sent my Knights across the front of my army toward the Warbands and Bruce countered with his Hero General, while the Behemoths jousted in the center.

But the Hero General was fighting without support - very heroic of him! - and eventually fell to a "hard" flank by the Knights. Game One to the Undead.

We decided to play our second game at "double-size," or 48 points, with up to two generals, one of which was designated as Commander-in-Chief. Bruce brought out the Sea Kings, in roughly two equal commands. I didn't get a picture of the army deployed, but it consisted of a couple of Heroes, Airboats, Riders, Behemoths, Warbands and Knights.

The Undead were again defending and countered with one large command and a smaller aerial strike command of Aerial Hero General ("Cruella") with two Flyers. The large command was led by the Magician General (C-in-C) and consisted of Hordes, Behemoths, Knights, Beasts and a Hero - "Undead Larry, Moe and Curly." I anchored my right flank of Beasts in the Woods. Plan was to hold position with the large command and counter attacks as best I could, regenerating Hordes from the nearby Stronghold, while looking for key strike opportunities for Cruella.

The Sea King Airboats moved out in front, while their Heroes pressed hard on the Undead left flank of Knights and Behemoth.

The Knights and Behemoths were able to hold off the Sea King Heroes on the left flank, eventually killing both through good use of terrain and fortunate die-rolling.

Cruella was able to force the issue on the right flank, then descend on the Rider General and kill it, subsequently demoralizing the command when it failed its next PIP roll.

A couple of turns later, a PIP roll of 6 for Cruella allowed each of the three elements in her command to move individually, providing enough flank contacts and overlaps to eliminate the elements needed to break the sea King army in dramatic fashion. Game Two to the Undead. Thank you, Bruce, for two more fun games of HOTT!

One HOTT/DBA project I've been looking forward to is the painting of two 28mm 36-element Samurai armies representative of the combatants of the Battle of Sekigahara. The Steel Fist Miniatures Kickstarter I supported just made the last of the requisite Daimyos (in combination with Perry Miniatures) available. Don't know when I'll get to painting them, but I have one less excuse now!

This is Ishida Mitsunari from the Kickstarter page:

See ya!