EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Customizing Marathon (2)

The first item to be tackled was the shortage of figures. Three solutions presented themselves to me:
A. Reduce the number of figures per unit,
B. Reduce the number of units
C. Find more men.

I knew I would not be able to buy & paint an additional 300 figures in a 2 weeks so option C would mean substitutes, Romano-British "hoplites" and various Scottish, Irish & Saxon auxiliaries for Persia. It didn't take long to decide that I'd rather not go this route if I could avoid it.

Reducing the number of units would mean no need for adjusting rules as long as I adjusted the table to fit  but it might change the dynamics and since the number of units was uneven (eg 3 units of light infantry, 3 units of cavalry) then any rounding might also alter the balance. Again, I decided that this was not my preferred route.

The first option remained, reducing the number of figures per unit. Once again the question arose of modifying the terrain in proportion to the frontage of the units, but there was also a question of whether or not changing the unit size work with the rules to be used. Deciding on a set of rules suddenly became a critical event.

Initially, I had planned to used Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) since these are what I have mostly been playing. However, when I re-read the scenario, I also re-read the accompanying rules and decided that I would like to try them. If I have time, it might be interesting to play it at least once with each set.

Looking at Harry's Quick Play rules, the first thing I noted was that standard unit sizes were given. The second thing was that since casualties aren't removed and the number of dice per unit is fixed, then apart from looks, the number of figures didn't actually matter as long as the unit frontages were relative. A Persian infantry unit deployed deep, a Persian archer unit and a Greek hoplite unit deployed normally, all have roughly the same frontage. If the Greeks deploy deep or the Persian infantry deploy wide, then 2 Greek units can attack them.  Since I was working towards 18 man units for both armies, it seemed that if I used these for the Greek and Persian archer units and put 2 of them together for the Persian infantry, then than would work well. Alas, I was back to not enough figures! Reducing the numbers to 12 and 24, I did have enough but I presumed that I had best call each rank as equal to 2 under the rules.

My next concern was the frontage of the armies and the width of the gap between the mountain and the sea.
I went back and re-read the battle report again. The conventional interpretation was that the Greeks thinned out the center of their line to extend their battleline. In the game they did this by deploying 3 units on either flank in 4 deep formation while the 5 units in center deployed 2 deep. This formation was not wide enough so they deployed light infantry on the flanks and still the Persians outflanked them. Now we come back to the size of the table and a new, previously undetected issue: how wide were Harry's units? It occurred to me that classic 25mm miniatures were probably based on tradional 15mm per figure frontages. A study of the pictures appeared to confirm my suspicion but thanks to the internet I was able to get confirmation from the author himself. Now some time ago, mainly due to some awkward poses, for example that on my Immortals, I started migrating to a 20mm frontage for all my infantry. That meant if I deployed my units with the same number of files as the originals, my formations would be 1/3 wider. Considering that my table is a foot shorter this compounds the problem and makes it far too easy for the Greeks. Math is not a strong point but it seemed to me that if I used the right number of ranks with my wider bases then my 1/2 size units would be about 2/3 of the right frontage. If I then reduced the gap to 2/3 of the original, all should be well. The discrepency in frontage vs ranges and movement should be small enough to be excusable.

Now, if I do decide to refight the game with WAB, I will encounter another problem, 12 man hoplite units are too weak to use the phalanx special rule. That will mean either combining units or making a scenario rule to allow the Greeks to get the phalanx benefits regardless of unit size. I'll worry about that if and when the time comes.

In the meantime, after an evening of rebasing any hoplites not on a 20mm frontage onto 20mm sq bases, replacing shields and spears and the occasional head and weeding out figures that were beyond easy repair, I found myself with the requisite 11 hoplite units each 12 strong along with 3 12 man psiloi units. Some shuffling of Persian units then allowed me to field 9 units each 24 strong and 6 units each 12 strong and I laid the whole thing out. (Yes I haven't mentioned cavalry yet but there are an excess of these and I will probably field 12 man units). Some of the hoplites are a 100 years or more later in fashion and some of the Persian units are unlikely at best and other a motley crew as I merged 18 man units in 24's but they will serve.

Now, to see if I can entice some players and set a date for the refight. Next post will look at some of the units and their capabilities and examine some of the tactical problems and possibilities.


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