The Plan

Ok, so we have some inspiration, we've read up on some history, got an idea of how they fight, seen some lovely photos and have some in-depth reading material....now what?


Opening shots.....

Before starting any project I always go through a process of determining what I want to achieve, what space requirements I need to consider, what era or sub-period I want to collect minis for, how to organise the armies, what rules I want to use, how to make the basing flexible and what look I'm after. The look is very important as this is what imparts that connection between the mind's eye and the table top. If it doesn't give the impression of a sequence of moving diorama events or 'shots' then to me I've missed half of what it's about...its gotta look nice!!
  

What Period?

There are essentially two eras or periods to choose from when creating Sumerian armies - it's the dress change that separates them, though there is plenty of overlap so your never quite cut out of the other era whichever way you go. A point worth noting is that to play this period you do not have to make just Sumerian armies. For the most part other armies not of the Mesopotamian basin have a force of spear and shield infantry so can be made quite differently from a 'typical' Sumerian or Akkadian city-state force. A player could have an entirely highlander 'warband' style army, one more focused on archery such as an Elamite army or a desert nomad force of Amorite warriors. Even armies further afield, such as a Harrapan (ancient Indian) force is doable - quite a bit of choice, so anyone considering this period to play should not be bound by seemingly 'one dimensional' armies.


Dynastic Sumerian - this is the time of men in sheepskins riding ass-carts! Big shields, plenty of war donkeys and the beginnings of the extensive campaigns of Sargon the Great. This time period has alot of appeal. It has those iconic looking units of sheepskin clad spearmen in dense formations doing battle against similarly armed and equipped city states forces locked in a death struggle for the title of the King of Kish and Mesopotamian overlordship! The inter city-state clashes that were constant provides rich gaming opportunities reminiscent of Classical Greek city-state clashes. The classic struggle between Lagash and Umma provides us with charismatic leaders and cool looking men in studded capes, though no doubt their clash was typical of so many others that must've occurred. Its also the age where doing battle in the name of the city-gods was seen to be the done thing, a touch more so than the later time period. The other advantage is that one army is really two - you'll use the same figures for one city state equally for another. Even the wars against the early Akkadians use the same figures.





Later Akkadian/Neo-Sumerian - around the time of Naram-Sin's reign, approx 2250 BC, we see the change to the more austere and 'elegant' looking Sumerian style 'skirt' dress. This provides us with the opportunity to game the extensive campaigns of the other great Akkadian, the god-king Naram-Sin, and we also see the massed invasion of Highlander armies of Guti and Lullubi, the rise of Neo-Sumeria and the eventual decline of the Third Dynasty, more expeditions to the Persian gulf and anarchy and chaos amid the weight of the Amorite invasion....plenty of scope!
Beautifully painted figures by Andrés Amián - see more here 

Both eras have numerous clashes with foes beyond the Mesopotamian plains - the invasion of Ebla, Amorite incursions, Guti, Lullibi and Hurrian attacks from the Zagros Mountains. The ancient enemy, Old Elam, and enemies further afield in the Persian gulf and clashes with Harrapan forces from the Indus Valley. One of the useful things is that alot of these troops were allies and enemies to the Sumerian states at various times so including these troops in the mix provides for alot of variation and variety in your armies.


So its sheepskins or skirts? After much consideration I decided that I wanted the iconic Sumerians with war donkeys - its the Dynastic period for me! At a later time I'll look to the later wars. That said, many of the allies I'll get will be usable for the later period so will provide for an excellent base upon which to build. Generally speaking, the mix of forces and allies is similar in both eras, the use of the ass-cart being the defining differing feature early on as their use petered out toward the end of the millennium....even then, we are not exactly sure when they disappeared from the scene so you can use them if you want!!!

  

Table space and game size?

So having decided what era I want to play I need to decide what size and types of games I want play. This to certain degree was decided for me when I got seduced by Mike Tittensor's  conversion of Peter Pig's Bloody Barons (BB) Wars of the Roses rules for doing the Wars of Sumer and Akkad - see his excellent article in the DASAQ....what? page.


I've already played other Peter Pig games based on the BB rules engine and the size of game and the pre battle campaign system is what I'm after - particularly useful when fighting battles of this era where a lack of detail can be filled in by Peter Pig's campaign system. Mr Pig's design philosophy is one I subscribe to. For those not familiar with BB rules, the pre battle part of the game sets up unique situations in every battle and provides a nice 'paperless' campaign vehicle to keep the games 'fresh'. It has a way to end the game so each battle has a beginning-middle-end that leaves no doubt as to the outcome...a complete package.


What rules?

...didn't I just decide. Yes...and no! Whilst I like to start with one set of rules in mind I'm always open to other game systems should they offer something different from one I am currently using. In this case, the very popular Hail Caesar system for example, with its ability to handle lots of figures and multi player big battles, is one set of rules I'd like to use at some point as well. By design HC allows for each game-master to decide on how they wish to represent individual armies - this flexibility has alot of appeal and the universality of the rules as so many people are playing them, makes their use definitely part of the mix. At this point I'll be focusing on building armies and developing army lists to play Bloody Barons Sumerian Wars.

(note - whilst using DASAQ as the basis of the BB conversion, I will create my own army lists and apply my own rules and ideas building and amending on DASAQ to portray Sumerian Warfare as my research, figure collection and gaming group dynamic dictates...each to his own!!).


Versatility

When starting a specific period like this versatility of troop use is important. Not alot of other people are likely to have these forces so getting a mix that enables both allies and enemies to be formed from one force is an important consideration. Also, there are a number of different armies that can be formed by the inclusion of different types of troops For example, an Old Elamite army can be made up using your existing Guti highlander units as Anshan Highlanders and Shushan spearmen can be made from the existing Sumerian spear units. To add a specific touch to the Elamites you could include a few units of concentrated Shushan archers which was a defining feature of these armies. So by adding just a few different units in various combinations an entirely new army can be produced. This will be particularly useful when fighting campaign game scenarios involving multiple 'nations'.


Lead?

Finally, we get the subject of figures. Surprisingly there are a number of manufacturers that do Sumerians. Whilst my wish would be to mix as many manufactures as possible, for me, it came down to two choices. I could use a mix of similarly sized Newline, Castaway, Foundry and Eureka figures (all sculpted by different people) or one manufacturer sculpted by a single sculptor that to my eye are not really mixable with those other figure ranges (other people do use them, but not for me).

You can see the pics on the web with suitable searches and make your own mind up, but once I got the lead in my hand and looked over many a photo and review, the answer was crystal clear. Cutting Edge Miniatures, with its comprehensiveness, attention to historical detail and being masterly sculpted - the answer was easy......it's Cutting Edge minis all the way for me on this project.

These figures are some of the most evocative miniatures I have ever seen. They take particularly well to the style of painting I intend to use, Army Painter dips, which will be required given the relatively high number of minis required for this project. The colors of reds, browns and yellows of this period lend themselves well to this style of painting and capture the moody effect levering off the superb Cutting Edge sculpts. The photos of my first sample painted figures in the gallery and liberally scattered around the pages of this blog hopefully illustrates what I mean.


What now?

So having decided that the army will represent a force of the Dynastic period and the minis  to be used will be Cutting Edge, what will I need.

In organising my force I'm building an army based on my army list for the Dynastic Sumerian and Akkadian armies. Ostensibly, I'll be building units that represent about 600 men at 6-10 bases, whichever scale seems to suit your purposes. At an average 7-10 units in the army this nicely falls into line with the typical force that could be fielded by a city-state, roughly 4,000 to 5,000 men at full mobilisation. These numbers essentially give you a mind's eye perspective of what these units represent, but it doesn't matter that much so long as they fall in line with the guidelines laid out in Bloody Barons. The following table gives the number proportions for use with BB - the lists are based on a number of existing army list documents and my own research and are provisional at this stage, but nevertheless are representative enough to enable armies to be organised.



Dynastic Sumerian 2750 BC to 2334 BC and the Great Revolt of 2250 BC.


These armies represent the city-state dynastic forces of the great cities such as Ur, Lagash, Uruk, Umma, Nippur, Eridu, Larsa, etc, though many others would use this list as well. It is also used to form independent armies of the Great Revolt such as those of the city of Kish or a rebel alliance made up of many city-states similar to one led by Amar-Girid.


Troop Type
Number
General (mounted)
1
Sub General (mounted)
0-2
Ally General (mounted)
0-1
Army Standard
0-3
Captain
1 per unit
            - change to veteran/levy
any
Gish gigir 4-Ass Battle Carts
0-3
Erin summa city militia Spearmen
2-5
            - upgrade to Regulars
0-2
            - upgrade to Shielded front rankers (regular/levy)
0-half
            - exchange as Royal Guard
0-1
Nim Archers
0-2
            - change all to Mari as Massed and Shielded
0-1
Mercenary Archers
0-2
Nim Slingers
0-4
Nim Skirmishers
2-5
            - upgrade as Regulars
any
Martu (Amorite) Wild Tribesmen
0-1
            - change to Skirmishers
2 for 1
Guti or Lullubi mercenaries Wild Tribesmen
0-1

Note- Martu (Amorites) Wild Tribesmen and Guti and Lullubi mercenaries units may only be 6 bases strong.
  • Allies: Amorite Nomad, Old Elamite, Early Eblan, Zagros Mountain and Hattian Kingdoms. Additional Great Revolt allies are Harrapan.


Akkadian Empire 2334 BC to 2154 BC


These armies represent ones led by Sargon the Great up to the Gutian invasion. One Sub General may be designated the Shakkana of Elam and may have a Gutian Bodyguard. An Akkadian army must have no more than 25% of its force made up of Martu, Makkanite, Lullubi, Hattian, Subartian or Elamite troops.


Troop Type
Number
General (mounted or on foot)
1
Sub General (mounted or on foot)
0-2
Ally General (mounted or on foot)
0-1
Army Standard
0-3
Captain
1 per unit
            - change to veteran/levy
any
Akkadian 4-Ass Battle Carts
0-1
Axemen Royal Guard
0-1
Archers Royal Guard
0-1
City Spearmen
2-6
            - upgrade to Shielded front rankers
0-half
City Massed Archers
1-2
            - change any to Skirmishers
2 for 1
City Axemen (with throwsticks)
0-1
Nim Skirmishers
0-2
Levy Slingers
0-2
Guti Bodyguard Archers
0-1
Martu, Guti or Lullubi Wild Tribesmen
0-2
Martu, Guti or Lullubi Archers
0-2
Martu Skirmishers
0-2
Makkanites Wild Tribesmen
0-1
Subartian Wild Tribesmen or
0-1
            - change to Skirmishers
all
Hattian Wild Tribesmen
0-1
Elamite Archers
0-2

Note- Guti Bodyguard, Makkanites, Subartian, Hattian and Elamite units may only be 6 bases strong.
  •  Akkadian Royal Guard Axemen and Archers may be taken as separate units or combined to form one or two units of axe (front rank) and bow (back rank).
  • Allies: Old Elam, Nomad Amorite, Early Eblan and a Sumerian subject city-state.


Unit sizes

Bloody Barons calls for units between 6-10 bases for levy or regular infantry, 6 bases for Household units. For consistency, I'm going to build my heavy infantry or tribesman type units as a standard sized 10 bases per unit (remember I want to keep open the option to use different game systems). Light infantry, two figures to a base, will not formally be organised into units. As each pack of infantry is sold as 8 figure lots, the skirmishers will simply be built on the basis of the number of bags I buy, ostensibly 4 bases per unit.


Ass-Carts

These are a new addition to the rules I've had to add in. In BB I shall treat them as essentially a type of cavalry and they'll function as such with variations - specific rules in a later post will describe their inclusion. I'll be basing them on a square base the size of four infantry bases joined in a 2x2 arrangement. Two of these ass cart bases together will give the effect of an eight base cavalry unit in BB deployed in two ranks (4x2) and provide a nice consistent 'eye pleasing' match compared to their foot slogging compatriots.



Basing

Basing will be relatively simple., but with some possible variations. 4 to a base for heavy infantry; 3 to a base for tribesmen and converged archers; 2 to a base for skirmishers. Ass carts one per base as described above. Leaders on appropriately sized rounds for visual appeal.

Leader base - note the cart is slightly raised to match the onagers on their bases.

The onagers and battle cart fit neatly on the 70mm round

I tend to prefer square bases for all my figures rather than the single rank style. For these minis, they are a bit of a squeeze on 30mm squares, which is the standard 15mm Peter Pig base size. 40mm squares are a standard 25mm base size but there is too much 'open space' on the base, that doesn't look right to my eye. So given that these armies are only ever going to fight each other and I'll be supplying both sides, then I'm going for a base size that looks right with these sized minis - 35mm squares. Game systems like Hail Caesar don't require specific base sizes and as long as all minis are based the same size in BB then this won't be an issue either. 35mm squares for the infantry and 70mm squares for the ass-carts. The figures in these pics are on 35mm bases.

For light troops,mounted two figures to a base, I am still a touch undecided and might use a round base 35mm in diameter which is visually more pleasing and matches the 35mm square 'foot print' of the heavier infantry. I think mounted this way they will make a nice difference from the heavier converged infantry.



A full unit of 10 bases, captain base in the front centre.


Note the 'open' space to the sides of the ass-cart. These areas could possibly have foot troops mounted alongside.


One variation I plan on using should i need to is to use some light infantry to surround a single war cart mimicking light infantry in support of the ass-carts. There is some historical conjecture as to the nature of ass-cart use in the period and one theory does involve foot troops moving along with the ass-carts in support. This arrangement builds on that idea. What it does mean is that you can build effectively a 2 base ass-cart unit but you only need one ass-cart model. The supporting infantry could be on their rounds or I may make up a few extra square base units just for this purpose. Having a small number of square based light troops might also be a useful way of distinguishing the quality of one skirmisher unit over another...there are a number of uses for troops mounted this way.




Based on the above I am going to build my units as follows.


My planned Dynastic Sumerian Army


Heavy Spearmen infantry, front rank with boss-shield
X3
Heavy Spearmen infantry, all with studded cape
X1
Royal Guard infantry with Axe
x1
Nomadic Levies
X1
Skirmishers (mixed bag of archers, slingers, javelinmen)
X6
Highlander infantry
X3
Ass Cart
x3
Leader (Ass cart)
X1
Leader (platform cart)
X2


I ordered a few more troops than I had originally planned. I don't like buying in dribs and drabs (in for a penny,.....) and by having spearmen, highlander, ass carts and skirmishers, I can paint different types of troops to keep from burning out. Its been a long time since I have painted an army of this size so this is important.


So there you go. That's the plan. Figures are ordered and awaiting delivery. :-)

9 comments:

  1. Very much looking forward to your progress!

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  2. Lots of good information here. I will be follow with interest.

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  3. Really impressive blog with heaps of information!

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  4. Your painting style and photography is wonderful, atmospheric and magazine quality. Great lighting on the photos. Between yourself and Cyrus you have really put Australia on Biblical gamer map.

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  5. Gents,

    Thanks for the positive reception. I hope to add more that will highlight how much potential there is for this period.

    Happy Wanderer

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  6. Very nice Blog and a lot of good materials.

    I played this period with small 15mm armies using Piquet Field of Battle.

    For this period You can freely download from the Piquet Yahoo group in the Folder "FOB Ancient" a
    FoB Mesopotamia 2300 BC V 2.4.DOC that has, in my opinion, several good ideas recreating the flavor of the period.
    I'm not able to find a satisfying set of rules to play the Bronze age Chariots Wars or earlier period.

    Thank You for Your Job.
    Stefano

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  7. Hi Stefano,

    Thanks for the tip. I shall check them out. Glad you enjoy the blog content.

    Check out the 'DASAQ...what?' link for the use of Bloody Barons for this period.

    Cheers.

    HappyW

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  8. Very very nice paint jobs here!!

    How large are the Cutting Edge Miniatures, by the way. I know it says 28mm but this can mean anything nowadays. Are these "true" 28mm (i.e. 28mm to the eyes, which means about 30mm to the top of the head) or 28mm to the top of the head?

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  9. Alcidas,

    Check out the design notes on the Cutting Edge website.

    My view is that the figures are 'true' 28mm figures that are proportional and not heroic in any way - to my eye, they do not match with other ranges in the same army...but other people have done so and it doesn't bother them. Personal choice.

    For me, they simply are the best sculpts out there for this period and that did it for me.

    HappyW

    ReplyDelete