Sunday, May 5, 2024

Mesoamerican DBA part 4: Chichimecs

Ah, the siren song of DBA armies - it wouldn't be that hard to paint just one more, right? At the beginning of last summer, there was a crop of "SKODBACs" popping up everywhere (Simple Knock-Out DBA Campaigns). I saw a few reports on these and thought they sounded like fun - but instead of putting one together with my existing Bronze Age or fantasy armies, for some reason the thought crossed my mind that I could paint another two Mesoamerican armies and have a nice little set of five for a SKODBAC of my own. 

One of the two additions that I settled on were the Chichimecs, DBA list III/41b. (Before I get much further, I do want to note: "Chichimec" is one of these probably-derogatory exonyms applied originally by the Aztecs and adopted by the Spanish, and is not what these people called themselves.) This list covers various desert peoples of northern Mexico and the southwestern United States; in fact DBA uses it for the Pueblo cultures as well. This was not the first time I had considered them; in fact I painted up a few as mercenaries for my Maya army a couple of years ago (though more on that later.) I figured I would take the same approach as before and convert them from the Caesar Libyans set; my dad had a bunch of spare bowmen left over from building his Libyan army which he was willing to contribute. Well, ten months later, here they are!

This time I did a bit more looking around for pictorial references; Ian Heath's book on the armies of the Aztecs and the Incas had some useful illustrations and I also tracked down a reference to the Ixmiquilpan murals which includes more-or-less contemporary depictions of Chichimec warriors.

All agree that the Chichimecs were habitually unclothed except for a belt or string tied around the waist, often a cape (usually of animal skins), and perhaps occasionally a loincloth. (Ian Heath asserts that the capes were not worn in battle; based on other depictions I am not so sure - and as most of the Libyan figures start off with capes it was much less work to leave them in place!) Their usual weapon was the bow, with which they were legendarily proficient, and to reflect this the DBA army list is mostly archers, either as Fast Bow or skirmishing Psiloi. The list also includes some "club-men" as Fast Warbands; I added in some spears and atlatls in addition to war-clubs of a couple of types.

Options for the general as either a Bow or Warband unit. The warband general has a back-banner of red and yellow feathers, similar to though simpler than those used by the Aztecs.

Two additional warbands. There is some discussion of face and body paint being used by some of the Chichimec peoples; I have opted to include some as it made them more fun to paint - mostly stripes in combinations of red, yellow, white, or black, but some more elaborate.

The majority of the army is the Fast Bow units; the DBA list permits up to nine; I topped out at eight (with the Bow general potentially subbing in for the ninth on days when he's not in command). I tried to vary the three archer poses as much as I could. Most have hair lengthened with greenstuff and hairbands added. Some have their cloaks carved away for a more nude look; the remainder are painted with a variety of animal hide or vaguely Southwestern textile patterns.

Some archers based as Psiloi instead. Again, up to nine are permitted; I figured four would be about the useful limit (and was also as many as I had room to fit neatly in my current storage box!) Here I have mixed in a couple of warriors converted to be holding bows and arrows instead; quivers also added where needed.

Another view of the whole army together. All in all, these ended up skewing a little more fanciful than historical; it's more fun to paint cloaks and bodypaint and feathers, but it's possible that a more accurate representation would be a bunch of naked men with bows. I also tried something I don't usually do and varied my basing scheme - no ubiquitous green flock, but a bunch of spiny-looking tufts and rocks for these desert-dwellers.

And finally, one bonus addition. Remember those Chichimec mercenaries in the Maya army? Well, it turns out they really ought to be "Toltec-Chichimec" mercenaries from city-states like the Tlaxcalans - not the same thing at all! So the original band was split up and sent to join the new army, and I painted these fellows to take their place:

So, what about that fifth army? Well... we'll see. These guys took a lot longer than I expected, and I don't have much appetite for further conversions at the moment. Maybe a four-nation SKODBAC would be sufficient fun for now...

Monday, July 3, 2023

Painting, gaming, and a new arrival: 2023 midyear review

Well, here we are, halfway through the year, and nary a blog post to be seen! While there's been a fair bit keeping me occupied aside from gaming, I have managed to get some painting done, and a few games on the table. First up, a few add-ons for previous armies:

The dwarven contingent got an artillery piece - still considering whether I might expand them into a full army some day. Crew are mostly from the same set as the rest of the dwarves, though a random MiniArt Germanic warrior got conscripted as a fourth. The cannon barrel and most of the carriage are from the same Spanish sailors set that supplied my conquistadors; the wheels and the mantlet are from a Caesar Assyrian chariot I'd had around for ages.

Monday, January 2, 2023

2022 painting round-up

Happy New Year, everyone!

Ever since I started tracking my painting a couple of years ago, I like to assemble it all at the end of the year for a review. For 2022, I painted 239 figures in total, down a bit from the last couple of years. The biggest contingents were two new DBA armies, who have previously been featured (Tlaxcalans, Undead), but my Proxian imagi-nations armies also saw considerable expansion (spurred on by several battles being fought over the course of the year.)

(There are a few absent from the picture - some chariot runners I painted for my dad as part of a rebasing scheme prior to a game at our local convention, a Leonardo tank painted for a club project, and a Scythian lancer borrowed to paint for a contest over at Benno's Forum.)

A few other highlights that I never got around to posting about on the blog:

Occiterran Red Hussars (from the Emhar Light Brigade set), painted up after the Occiterran defeat in April.

A proper Pharaoh for my Egyptians (from the Caesar set), painted up in time to lead the Egyptian army in my Battle of Djahy game at Barrage.

Camp followers for various DBA armies - Aztec and Tlaxcalan at left, Bronze Age at right.

A selection of Reaper Bones adventurers.

As for 2023, no big plans yet - I'll just have to see what the year brings as far as painting and gaming! My brother stopped by yesterday for a couple of rounds and DBA and HotT, so we are off to a good start...

Saturday, December 24, 2022

DBA/Hordes of the Things - Mummies and Undead

I've been on a bit of a DBA kick for the past three years or so, but before that I used to play a lot more of the related fantasy rules, Hordes of the Things. With Dark Alliance having put out a set of Mummies a few years ago, it had always been at the back of my mind to pick some up and fit them in as a fantasy complement or opponent for my historical Egyptians. However, I wasn't quite sure I wanted to build the whole army out of mummies, and my first thought was to fill them out with some of the Caesar Undead. Sadly, these are long out of production and I have been unable to turn up any at a reasonable price. 

However, earlier this summer, I had a little brainstorm while looking through my collection of unpainted figures. I have a large stash of Atlantic Egyptians that was gifted to me some years ago; I haven't painted many of them because they're a little tall and thin compared to the Caesar figures that make up most of my armies. However, looking at their thin, almost gaunt features and slightly odd postures, I wondered: could I just paint them as zombies of some kind? Turns out, yes, I could.

The next issue was army composition. I decided that I wanted to base it on a DBA army so that I could use it for either set of rules. The question was, who is:

  1. An enemy of the ancient Egyptians
  2. Not an army I already have available
  3. Matches the available figures as far as troop types and weapons
In the end I settled on the I/17a Early Hyksos list as the best fit for my criteria. Their army has a core of fast Blades and a Light Chariot general, with some lighter supporting infantry.

The LCh general. In Hordes of the Things, he might be a Rider or Knight, but likely a Hero General. The chariot and horses are from the venerable Atlantic Egyptian Cavalry set; lacking mummified or skeletal horses of the proper size I attempted to paint these as recently reanimated. The charioteer and his two followers are Dark Alliance figures; one has been converted into a standard bearer.

Four units of mummy warriors as 3Bd (probably still Blades in the HotT version).

Three units of Dark Alliance Anubis Army warriors as 3Ax. These end up being rather imposing; about 7 feet tall compared to regular humans, so to class them as mere Auxilia seems perhaps a little dismissive. In HotT they'll probably be Warbands instead.

Two stands of bow-armed mummies as Psiloi - probably Lurkers rather than Shooters in HotT.

One stand of zombie infantry as 4Ax. In HotT they might get played as Spears instead.

A solid Horde (7Hd) or another psiloi (Ps) round out the army. In HotT these will be a Horde and another Lurker respectively. 

I had originally hoped to have these done by Halloween (for which they might seem a more appropriate subject than Christmas) but better late than never! There still might be a few more HotT unit options waiting in the wings, but at least the DBA version of the army is ready to take the field - perhaps in the new year once my usual opponents return from the holidays!

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Battle of Ollebetnom

Since finishing his dissertation and escaping grad school this spring, my brother has moved back down to our part of the world and found a job here. Happily, this means we get to see him much more often, and there has been a certain amount of miniatures gaming going on as part of this! This past weekend, we were up at my dad's for Thanksgiving, and I brought along my Proxian armies for a game.

The scenario I decided upon was the Battle of Montebello from Neil Thomas's Wargaming 19th Century Europe book, which features a smaller French force attempting to cross a river and capture a town before larger and uncoordinated Austrian forces can muster a defense. The French also get to take advantage of a rail line that crosses the table to deploy some of their reinforcements. Because of the size and composition of the forces involved, I ended up reversing the scenario - my white-coated Elabrüners took the French role, while the Occiterrans in their blue jackets and red kepis took the historical Austrian role. (I also had to tweak some of the reinforcements a bit - so the Occiterrans had some cavalry that the Austrians did not have historically.) 

We had some fun setting up the table, digging into our childhood collection of Brio toys to find a suitable train and tracks that matched the classic toy soldier aesthetic. Unfortunately, I failed to notice until afterwards that the scenario was intended for a 3'x4' table rather than our 4'x6', which put Dad (attacking with the Elabrüners) at a distinct disadvantage. His foremost units were still one or two moves short of the town when time was called on turn 15. Still, my brother's stalwart defense with the Occiterrans definitely played a role as well, particularly in overcoming the command difficulties imposed by the scenario rules - only 1/3 of the Occiterran units could act at full effectiveness each turn. And most importantly, an enjoyable time was had by all!

Initial set up. The Occiterran commander grimly surveys the battlefield. The Elabrüner general seems dubious of this new-fangled "steam train."

Two regiments of Nordaleners arrive by rail in support of their Elabrüner allies.

Two regiments of Occiterran infantry attempt to delay the Elabrüner advance.

More reinforcements arrive for Elabrün, but in the background the Occiterrans have brought up fresh troops to occupy the town of Ollebetnom.

The Occiterrans are ordered to hold at all costs as the Elabrüners attempt to press down the road towards the town.

The Nordalener regiment has nearly reached the town, but without enough support to mount an assault.

The Occiterran Red Hussars, after futilely trying to chase down Elabrüner jagers, finally find a worthy foe in the Grey Uhlans.

Occiterran cuirassiers attempt to charge an Elabrüner cannon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Action at Orángeville and Rougebourg

This past week my dad and I were both up in Michigan for my brother's thesis defense. (Congratulations again, William!) Figuring we would probably have some time on our hands, I brought along a few miniatures, including the Proxian armies I've been working on on-and-off for the last several years. With some terrain from my dad's travel kit, and a few pieces from a "Vacationland" playset hauled up from the basement, we set up a little game on my grandmother's kitchen table.

The last time I had out these figures (was it really almost five years ago?) we used Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames. Those worked OK, but I thought they lacked a bit of period flavor, and so this time we tried his 19th-century rules instead. I liked these better overall, so we may give them another try the next time.

The scenario we came up with involved an Elabrüner attack on an Occiterran position - the Occiterrans set up in two small towns and a hill in-between, and the Elabrüners had to capture two of the three objectives within a time limit. Both sides had additional forces coming on over the first few turns. Dad decided he would prefer the role of defender, so I took the attacking force.

The situation a few turns in - most of the Elabrüner forces have arrived and started deploying.

As it turned out, my forces all arrived mostly on time and in a coherent manner - infantry behind the hill and woods opposite Rougebourg, and artillery and cavalry along the road to Orángeville. Dad's forces started off to relieve the more distant town, but I sent my cavalry out ahead to get in the way, which seemed to be well within their capabilities. One regiment managed to ride down some skirmishers before running headlong into canister fire; the other got involved in a melee with Dad's cavalry coming up from behind the town.

The Elabrüner guns have unlimbered and started to bombard the Occiterrans in Orángeville from beyond rifle range.

Most of the Elabrüner infantry has been committed to the attack on Rougebourg, while the cavalry attempts to delay Occiterran reinforcements.

A cavalry melee ensues as Elabrüner Blue Hussars clash with Occiterran cuirassiers. In the background, the last few of the Gray Uhlans throw themselves into the teeth of the Occiterran cannons.

Elabrüner and allied Nordalener infantry press on towards Rougeborg, stoutly defended by the Seridian Legion.

Since only infantry can assault towns, and they need a numerical advantage to be allowed to assault at all, I had to soften up the defenders before I could try to take either objective. Orángeville was conveniently in reach of my two artillery units, which gradually wore down the defenders, but with Rougebourg I had to push my troops forward quickly in column to cover the ground, then shake out into line to be able to shoot at the defenders, then re-form into column for the assault. This took a while, and I was fortunate that the Occiterran reinforcements had been delayed or distracted so that I had a significant numerical advantage.

With the defending Seridians driven off, Elabrüner troops occupy the town.

Artillery continues to fire on Orángeville as columns of Elabrüner infantry advance on the town. To the right, another Elabrüner unit arrives on the road from captured Rougebourg.

With one objective taken, I could now concentrate on the other, though we were about two-thirds of the way through our allotted time. Weakened by several turns of bombardment, the initial group of Occiterran defenders was wiped out by our assault, but we had taken enough casualties to be driven out in turn by an attack from fresh Occiterran troops. Fortunately I also still had one relatively fresh unit to throw into the fray, and with both towns in Elabrüner hands, the Occiterrans decided to cut their losses and pull back.

The Occiterran counterassault against Orángeville.

Final positions of the battle: with both towns occupied by Elabrün, the Occiterrans retreat back down the road.

All in all, it was a fun and satisfying little battle, and I hope to get these figures on the table again soon! 

(We also slipped in a couple of games of DBA - the long-suffering Maya finally won a battle against the Tlaxcalans)

And Cortez didn't fare too well against the Aztecs either...

Monday, March 14, 2022

Mesoamerican DBA Part 3 - Tlaxcalans

Even as I was wrapping up my Aztec army last year, I found myself wondering if I could pull together one more Mesoamerican DBA army - preferably one that could be an opponent for either the Aztecs or the Maya. As it happens, there was one plausible candidate - army list IV/19a. This list covers a whole swath of Mesoamerican groups, among them the Tlaxcalans. The DBA version of the army is heavy on bowmen, and as it happened I had quite a few archers left over from the Aztec project. I decided to see what I could piece together - and for those who are interested in the process, I wrote about it in a thread over on Benno's Figure Forum

(In brief: I took a great deal of inspiration from the Lienzo de Tlaxcala, a record put together post-Conquest by the Tlaxcalans themselves to document their role as Spanish allies. It's made up of about a hundred illustrated panels which run together in a narrative almost like a comic strip. As far as the figures go, they are mostly a mix of the Revell and Caesar Aztec sets, with a lot of conversions.)

Now, at last, the army is complete!

First up, our Tlaxcalan generals, as suit-wearing warriors who can be either solid Bows or fast or solid Blades:

The IV/19a list includes two additional units of fast or solid Blades. Unlike their Aztec counterparts, the Lienzo depicts most of the Tlaxcalan warriors without animal headdresses - the exceptions tend to be either feline or canine rather than avian. (One thing I learned while working on this project: the "crocodile" headdress that shows up in both the Aztec sets is probably supposed to be a stylized coyote and not a crocodile at all!)

The IV/19a list also calls for three stands of solid Bow. Per the description in the DBA army list, I depicted these units with two archers and two warriors with shield and maquahuitl - partly to help distinguish them from the fast Bows, and partly because I didn't have quite enough archers and wanted to avoid having to buy more!

The fast Bows, of which there may be up to five. There are a few converted Robin Hood figures mixed in among here...

In the IV/19a list, one of the fast Bows may be replaced with a fast Warband unit of Otomi allies. Unfortunately I was not able to find any good pictorial sources on the pre-contact Otomi, so they are a little fanciful.

Finally, one unit of psiloi - these are actually Atlantic Egyptians, as I had used up my stocks of Aztec bowmen. 

A couple of views of the whole army together:

But wait, there's more! Although my primary goal was to build the IV/19a list for the pre-contact era, in the end I also put together the four Spanish units needed for the IV/19c list variant, which covers the Tlaxcalan/Spanish allied forces. 

Here we have the Spanish general, as a unit of knights. The rider on the left is from the old Revell set of conquistadors; the other two are from the more recent Caesar set - though the man with the raised spear has a substitute horse for size compatibility.

One unit of Spanish sword-and-buckler men, as solid Blades. While I kept mostly the same overall color palette for the Spanish as for the Tlaxcalans, it was quite a change to go from the intricate designs on the Tlaxcalan shields to the plain metal of the Spanish...

One unit of Spanish crossbowmen and arquebusiers as solid Crossbows.

Finally, the Spanish get to deploy a falconet or similar small cannon as a stand of Artillery. The crew, the gun barrel, and the carriage are from one of RedBox's sets of Spanish sailors; the wheels are taken from another set. (There are a few panels of the Lienzo that depict Spanish cannons; they are shown there as having spoked wheels.)

Here's a shot of the Spanish contingent all together, and one more of the combined Spanish-Tlaxcalan army:

And with that, I am just about done with my adventure into Mesoamerica! I do owe all three armies some camp followers, but I think I am about due for a break - hopefully both to work on some other projects and to actually play some games!