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...


  1. Great report on an unusual army choice. Hope your SKODBAC goes well. It’s a fun format, and you’ve chosen an interesting setting with your Meso-American theme. (Thanks for the link from Fanaticus, too).

    1. Thanks, Martin! I'm looking forward to the games, though it might take a while to get through them. I will definitely post a report when done though!

  2. Lovely work and great link to the murals that helped inspire your work. CarlL

  3. Excellent work and some very good information to. Thank you for sharing!