Thursday, 28 March 2013


I have decided to scale down my Assyrians a bit more.

The original points cost of my planned WAB Assyrian army was well over 3500, which is HUGE. But I was using the older v1.0 rules, and the newer ones have some changes, notably in Rank Bonus, that mean large units are perhaps not as useful as they once were. WAB v1.0 had a maximum Rank Bonus of +3 in resolving Close Combat. That meant it was good tactics to have large units with four or more ranks, so that more losses could be absorbed and the Rank Bonus would still not drop for a couple of rounds of Close Combat.

WAB v2.0 drops that maximum Rank Bonus down to +2. Basically that means 20 figure units, arranged in four ranks, are now in real terms just as effective as 25+ figure units arranged in five or more ranks. Few combats will go on long enough for the extra figures to make any difference at all. So I decided I might as well spare myself some of the painting. I also put aside one unit of 12 cavalry, a unit of 12 armoured Slingers and a unit of 12 armoured Archers. That drops the points down to a more realistic level. Cavalry especially are horrendously expensive.

I will paint those back-burner figures up at a later date, but right now I want to concentrate on getting a balanced army fielded as fast as possible,

So now the Assyrian army proper (minus its auxiliaries and/or allies) is as follows.

1 x General/King in Heavy Chariot
1 x Standard Bearer.
1 x Royal Guard unit (20 figures)
1 x Heavy Chariot unit (3 chariots)
1 x Cavalry unit (12 figures)
2 x Armoured Infantry units (20 figures each)
1 x Armoured Slingers unit (12 figures)
1 x Armoured Archers unit (12 figures)

The Auxiliaries / Allies are less affected by the v2.0 changes, as they were going to be small units anyway, albeit with a lot of Archers. They remain the same size.

1 x Infantry unit (20 figures)
2 x Infantry units (18 figures)
2 x Archers unit (10 figures each)
1 x Tribal Skirmishers (Archers) unit (12 figures)

Monday, 25 March 2013

Assyrian Royal Guard

Today I completed my first unit of true Assyrians, and of course it had to be the elite Royal Guard.

This is a 20-strong unit, based up for WAB. Tough cookies, too.

I went for rich colours. I like the drama of them. Although I just did a simple block-paint style on all my 20mm wargame figures now, these did take a while to paint as there are so many colours involved per figure.

The first two Caesar chariots are coming along nicely. Both had warps in some of the panels, and as the plastic is thick and strong, and has memory, these cannot just be bent straight. The method I use is to place them in a saucepan and pour about an inch of boiling water on top of them. Leave them 10 seconds then fish them out one at a time with a spoon. The plastic is now so soft that it can easily be straightened. Hold it straight and then dip it into a mug of cold water. Hold it for 20 seconds and job done. I fixed the very warped panels on both of the chariots this way, and they stayed fixed. Sadly Caesar figure sets are a bit bad for bent panels and spears etc. I suspect it's down to how they are handled after ejection from the mould. But the boiling water/cold water method works 100% for me, and although is adds a bit of work, it's not a major chore.

Still got the basing to do, but I tend to leave that until the whole army is finished. It's going to be a simple base colour of flock, probably of tan stone or some such shade.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Assyrian Chariots

The Caesar Assyrian chariots are very nice pieces of kit.

They are very well designed and engineered, and clip together without glue. I will use some though, for added strength. They look and are much more solid than the flimsy and brittle HaT ones. They also snap together in seconds. I clipped the parts off the sprue and had a quick test run, and there are no problems at all. I only bothered to trim the excess sprue from the chariot hull in order to ensure the pins fitted, but I will finish the rest later and make a start on it. Unlike the HaT plastic, this stuff is easy to cut with a sharp blade, and does not tear.

I mentioned in my last post that the set does not include a driver. I was going by reports from the excellent Plastic Solider Review site. However, I think they are incorrect. One of the figures is clearly, to me at least, in a characteristic pose for a chariot driver. All one needs to do is remove the pin on his arm, and I wonder if that was the intention. It would also not be hard to convert the figure holding a sword to a driver, at a pinch. I'm actually at a loss as to why he would be using that weapon on a chariot anyway.

So lesson learned. If building a chariot-based army again, I will think long and hard before using HaT chariot models. I dare say not all the HaT chariots are as badly engineered as their Assyrian one, but I'll make sure to check them out first.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Finally Coming Together!

Well, except for the damn Assyrian Chariots, that is.

Attempting to paint a few details onto the almost finished one, I fumbled it whilst turning it in my fingers to paint the other side panel. In an instant the yoke bent and snapped in half, followed by one of the wheel axles, and then as my fingers finally managed to get a grip again the hull bent, and then sprang apart. I had a major hissy fit!

I threw the thing in the bin, followed by the other two - part-completed - ones from the same box. The two remaining unopened boxes are up on eBay, for someone who has a gentler touch than I do. I kept the figures, horses and a few of the accessories to use elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong. They are nice little models. They would work well in hard plastic, although a few parts would be very fragile, perhaps too much so for a wargames table. But something is badly wrong with that cream coloured soft plastic. Bend a component and it breaks in half. Useless. Maybe it was just that box, but I was loath to open the others to prove the point.

So the chariot parts from one box ended in the bin. Instead I have bought two boxes of the Caesar ones. They are engineered a bit more solidly than the HaT offering. The yoke, beam and chariot floor come as one part instead of three. The parts look more substantial too. That should make it much stronger straight away. The sides are pinned in place, which should make a very strong joint once glued. I prefer the HaT figures to the Caesar ones, especially as the former do not include a driver! As I have three sets of HaT Chariot crew, I will use those and modify another figure to provide the driver for the fourth chariot.

 I have downsized the army somewhat. WAB does not really require huge units or large forces. Units of twenty to twenty four seems ideal for infantry and ten to fifteen works well for cavalry. I had made further purchases of a box of Assyrian Allies and another of Chariots. That brought the latter up to a total of nine, which was perhaps a bit OTT. Getting shot of them and a few other surplus to requirements kits on eBay freed up enough cash to buy the two boxes of Caesar chariots. HaT come three to a box, but Caesar boxes hold only two. As the minimum number of chariots in a unit is three, that leaves one for the General/King. I think a single unit of three will do for now. I may, when funds allow, buy another box but I certainly will not be going back up to nine.

I also got rid of a box of cavalry. Two units of twelve seemed sufficient. Even with the reductions the points total is close to 3000, which would give a long game indeed.

Friday, 8 March 2013

WAB Armies Of Antiquity Assyrian Empire


It might be approaching senility, or it might simply be that it has been so long since I played using the Warhammer rules that I had forgotten some important aspects of them.

I rather unfairly suggested that there was not much advantage to using the mixed 50/50 formations of Spear and Bow. I said that it only gave one in Close Combat, but of course I am wrong. I had forgotten that it would also give an advantage from missile fire.

In fact all things considered, it's a pretty useful formation that, for a 25% reduction in missile capability, offers at least a 5+ Armour Save from attacks, and a massive 4+ Armour Save if the Spearmen are equipped with large shields. Compare that to a mere 6+ Armour Save if the Bowmen were alone, and it is a significant benefit. So I was wrong.

However, that does not alter the fact that the Chariot Wars list forces the Assyrian player to field units in that formation, which is something I disagree with strongly. Now I had a vague memory that the early WAB Armies of Antiquity book, from a while back, featured an army list for the Assyrians. I was able to pick up a copy on eBay for less than a fiver the other week. When it arrived I quickly ripped off the paper and flicked through it. Bingo! An Assyrian Empire list. And Lo! The unit compositions are much more flexible that the later Chariot Wars one.

I quote.

"Half the unit may (my emphasis) have swords, light armour, and bows. The other half may have swords, light armour, thrusting spears and shields."

Yes, may. Not will. Which means, however one reads it, that the unit can consist solely of Spearmen if one so wishes. Obviously the person who put this list together is a bit less, shall we say, controlling than the one who did the Chariot Wars list. This list also clears up the issue of second rank missile fire, stating clearly that it is at full strength. That's something that Chariot Wars leaves unclear. The AoA list also allows independent units of Bowmen or Slingers. The only two Assyrian formations that have to field 50/50 ratios of Bow and Spear are the Cavalry (where it is both historically accurate and unproblematic) and the units of Siege Troops.

This may all seem a bit too legalistic for some, but at the moment I am trying to work out unit numbers, troop types, and weaponry, and one has to have a good idea of what one is aiming for, in order to sort out the figures into units for painting and basing.

I am still not totally happy with the Assyrian list in AoA, and will probably include the Assyrian Auxiliary troops that are found in Chariot Wars but not in AoA. There is plenty of historical evidence for these troops. I will use common sense and count them as normal Infantry rather than Light, only allowing the Bowmen to skirmish if they start the battle as a separate Light Infantry or Skirmisher unit. The Spears will remain as normal Infantry at all times, as will any Bows who start the battle formed in such a unit.

So it is finally coming together!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

WAB Chariot Wars 2

Moving on from my moan the other day about the WAB unit compositions for the Assyrian army being impossible to work out when using the HaT boxed sets (the same also applies to the Caesar ones, by the way), I then went on to try out the special rules to see how they worked. What I found really surprised me,. and led me to wonder if the Assyrian Army's rules had actually been play-tested at all.

Now I know all rule writers try and inject a bit of historical flavour into each army included in their Army Lists. They use special rules, and then introduce the odd tweak here and there to try and give a particular army the "feel" of the original. This is very hard to do with Ancients, as often the evidence is so poor and contradictory that one has little to work with. In light of this, if one does decide to give an Ancient army a bit of flavour, then it's vital to play-test the rules to make sure they actually work in a game.

Now one vital thing has to be remembered about the Assyrian army in WAB Chariot Wars. It cannot field a unit of Bows. None. Nil,. Nada. Zilch. It is verboten. Neither can it field a unit of Spearmen, or Slingers. No. Every unit has to consist of equal numbers of a second type of figure. Bowmen have to be mixed 50/50 with Spearmen, or Slingers. Slingers can only be fielded in a 50/50 mix with Bowmen, and Spearmen have to be mixed 50/50 with Bowmen. And that applies to the standard Assyrian Infantry, and the Auxiliary Infantry, and the Cavalry.

So how does that work in the game? Well, it doesn't.

Now most people I know use a fairly standard size for their Infantry units in WAB. It's a compromise between front rank fighting power, how much frontage the unit takes up on the battlefield, ease of manoeuvre  and keeping a decent number of ranks in order to get a good Close Combat Bonus (+1 for each extra rank at start of Close Combat, up to total of +3 for normal Infantry). Some folk use a 20 strong unit with a 5 man front rank. I tend to use a 24 strong unit, with 6 men in the front rank.

Now I want to demonstrate how the unit compositions insisted on by WAB Chariot Wars leave the Assyrian army at a huge disadvantage.

Here is a unit of Assyrian Auxiliaries in my usual 24 man formation . The front rank is Spearmen, the second Bowmen, the third Spearmen and the fourth again Bows. It fulfils all the WAB unit composition rules for the Assyrian army, but it's at a real disadvantage on the table top. Why? Because its fire-power is reduced by 25%. Using the special rules in Chariot Wars, the second rank of Bows can fire over the front rank at, I am assuming, full effect. But then the Massed Archery rules come into effect for any Bows behind that, and their fire-power is divided by two. So in this formation, the 12 Bowmen only have 9 shots. OK, so that's not a massive reduction  but why force players to take it at all? What's the trade-off?

There are two options that one can use to maximise one's fire-power and use the Bowmen to their full advantage (and by that I mean to make them the equal of other Bowmen in other armies). One can take the 24 strong unit and make it 12 wide, with the whole of the second row being Bows. They can then fire at full effect. But that results in a huge frontage and a unit that is hard to manoeuvre, as well as being dreadfully fragile in Close Combat (only a +1 Rank Bonus)

The third option is to just stick to tiny 12 man units of 6 Spear and 6 Bow. That way at least one can have a reasonable frontage and some ease of manoeuvre  The fire-power (6) is only slightly down from the 24 strong unit (9), but its chances of surviving Close Combat are almost nil.

So a lot of disadvantages arise from being forced to have mixed units and being banned from fielding Bow, Spear or Sling-only units. But surely there must be some benefits to those compulsory mixed formations?

Well, no. I really can't think of any at all. Okay, so the Bowmen get some degree of protection in Close Combat by having a row of Spears in front, but so what? The Archery rules don't offer any advantage to taking one's archers so far into harm's way that they will find such protection useful, and any sensible commander would ensure they keep their vulnerable missile troops well away from the major punch-ups in the first place. So in practice there is little or no advantage at all in using such mixed formations, and the fact that the rules FORCE one to adopt them is a nonsense.

Now I am sure that the writers did some research. And yes, there is some evidence out there that the Assyrians sometimes fought with their Bowmen protected by Spearmen in close proximity. But it is stretching the evidence far further than it is safe to do so, if one extrapolates from it that the Assyrian units ALWAYS formed and fought that way.

I would suggest that the best way to handle it is to make the Mixed Unit composition rules optional  If one chooses to field the types as separate units, then they stay that way for the duration of the game. If one chooses to field them as mixed units - in whatever proportion, it doesn't have to be 50/50 - then they also stay that way for the duration of the game. This solves the ratio problem caused by the figure types in the plastic boxed sets, and it also leaves the choice of how to field one's units to their best advantage down to the commander, which is as it should be.

ps. And no, those are not yet finished. Although painted and varnished, they await the arrival of some new 2mm thin laser-cut bases.

Monday, 4 March 2013

WAB Chariot Wars

I had decided a while back to base my Assyrians for Warhammer Ancient Battles. I like the rules, which give a fun game, and I still had an early edition lying around somewhere. Once I found the box it was in, I was also reminded that I used to have a copy of Chariot Wars. Rummaging further, I unearthed it and set about working out the unit compositions.

Immediately I hit on a snag. The WAB lists for the Assyrian Heavy Infantry insists on units of equal numbers of Spear and Bow. Now this is a real problem if using the HaT Assyrian Infantry sets, as only eight of the figures are bowmen. That means that a large number of the spearmen in the box need to be cast aside as surplus to requirements. The situation is even worse when it comes to the unit composition for Heavy Slingers. The HaT set includes eight of these, but as the unit composition stipulates that such a unit fields equal numbers of bowmen, it means that all the spearmen in a box become redundant. Once one has used the eight slingers and eight bowmen to make up a small unit of Heavy Slingers, there are no bowmen left to form a Heavy Infantry unit. And it doesn't matter how many boxes you buy, as proportionately there will always be large numbers of spearmen that cannot be fielded.

The WAB entries on the Assytian Auxiliaries are strange too. Again we have the requirement that they be half Spear and half Bow. This also causes problems with the HaT Assyrian Allies set, even though 16 of those are bow-armed. But it gets sillier. WAB classes the whole unit as Light Infantry. That means they can fight as a formed unit or as skirmishers, even though the spearmen are not designed to do so, equipped as they are with thrusting spears and large shields. Okay, so the bowmen can safely be classed as Light Infantry able to fire in ranks or fight as skirmishers, but the spearmen are equipped, and historically acted, as Medium Infantry. Trying to insist that these two types make up the same unit flies in the face of common sense.

This soon started to give me a headache, so eventually I fell back on my old philosophy of If It Does Not Work Or Causes Too Much Hassle, Then Feck It.

So I will use WAB rules and statistics for the Assyrians, but the unit compositions will be ignored. I will field the units as I see fit..

If I decide I want a mixed unit of Heavy Infantry with a second rank of bowmen, I will do so. If I want bowmen as a separate unit, then I shall field them as one.

The same goes for the Auxiliaries; the bowmen can skirmish or fight as formed infantry either on their own or mixed with spearmen,and the spearmen will fight simply as formed. The heavy slingers will be either on their own, or in a mixed unit behind a rank of spearmen or bowmen, as I decide.

And Ya Boo Sucks to those who don't like it!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Ongoing Saga

There's been a bit of a break in my work since the end of January.

I had to pop into hospital at the end of the month for major surgery, and at the moment I am one month into the recovery stage, with another two months to go. I had hoped that this would leave me plenty of time to get on with my Bearded Meanies, but that's not been the case.

Because I cannot sit down. More than a few minutes normally seated at my desk is agony. Most of the time I am propped up in bed, and that means that although I can paint a bit, anything more than rough base coating is not on the cards. Without support for my forearms and wrists, I find I cannot paint with any accuracy.

But I do what I can.

When I found the concentration levels and strength to start on the project again, I took my project box from the shelf to get back into the swing of it.  But on opening the box which I had carefully placed my part-finished Assyrians in, I was perturbed to find that several of the cavalrymen's spears had broken. Also broken was the yoke of the part-painted chariot.

How? I had not dropped them and there had been nothing heavy in the box, only a dozen or two part-painted HaT figures. I managed to save the chariot yoke with a blob of glue, but what the hell is it with this HaT plastic? It manages to combine, against all logic, being soft with being very, very brittle. Now the Assyrian Infantry and Allies are a very soft grey plastic which is bendy but still strong. However, the Chariots and Cavalry are a cream plastic which is slightly firmer than the grey stuff (although still softer than most other figure makes out there), but which snaps far too easily.

Ok, it's annoying. :Luckily I had some spare spears from the Infantry that I can use to replace the damaged cavalry ones. The chariot yoke should hold, once it is in place over the four horses. But by gosh, it is going to be a very fragile little model.

Which brings me onto another issue. I now have three boxes of Assyrian chariots, one of which I am part way through making. But frankly I am sick of them. Oh, they are nice little models, but thanks to the rubbish plastic they are right pigs to build, and I predict a lifetime of fixing the little sods once they are used in anger on the tabletop. The body of the first one was not too bad, but the second has been a nightmare to glue, and I've chucked it across the room a number of times in frustration at trying to get the bending panels to stay together long enough for the glue to harden. Four times I have had to strip it back down because one side or other has warped under gentle finger pressure and the butt-joint betwixt the sides and the floor has opened. HaT use hard plastic for their modern guns and wagons, so why can't they do the same for these bloody chariots? It's not rocket science! I like HaT stuff as a rule, but....

So I might just finish off the three I have stared, and sell the other two complete boxes on eBay. Irregular Miniatures do some 20mm Assyrian chariots in metal, and they look okay. Although they are three times the price of each HaT one, I feel sure they will be easier to make and paint, and will be a lot sturdier.