Monday, December 2, 2019

Wargame Design: How Do You Become a Wargame Designer?



The most common question I get asked about wargame design has nothing to do with mechanics, morale, resolution, or probability.  The most common question is much more basic. 

“How do you become a wargame designer?”

The answer is even more basic.  In our modern world, life is so much simpler.  If you want to be a wargame designer, than anyone can do it.  I have written about how I got started here.  In that blog post, you find the seeds of the answer to the question. 

If you want me to be more explicit, here are the two things you MUST do to be a game designer:

1.       You must create a game
2.       You must make it available for people to play


Today, we have access to a variety of tools to help us both create our games.  I myself have helped by creating a series of Wargame Design related blog posts that walk you through the basic process. Books, articles, and blogs exist across the internet to help guide the way.  In addition, self-publishing tools have progressed to a point that even basic computers have Publisher, PowerPoint, or even Word. 

There are a variety of distribution methods to get the games to the people.  The internet has made it   much easier.  You can distribute via message boards, your own website, other websites like the Wargames Vault, and Social Media.  You can easily reach the world-wide marketplace of ideas from the comfort of your home.    

That’s it.  Pretty simple stuff.  If it is so simple to do, how come more people do not do it?  Becoming a wargame designer is simple, but it is not easy.

I suspect there are a few different reasons why more people do not make the jump to being a designer:

1.       They are afraid
2.       They do not create a process for Creation
3.       They let the Perfect be the enemy of the Good


Fear is the Mind-Killer
I have read plenty of internet comments that are not very helpful and just mean about games and the people who designed them.  I can totally understand why a person would shy away from opening their creative labor of love to the world only to be attack, shredded and left for dead on the proverbial floor of the internet.  No matter what you try to do in life there is a line around the block of people who want to psychologically kick you in the junk, laugh about it, and then wander off to kick someone else in the psychological junk.  It is not fun to get kicked in the junk, physically or psychologically.

As a designer, there are two things that get me over this fear hurdle:

1.       I MUST create games.  I can not help myself.  It is a compulsion.
2.       I design games for a very niche target audience.  I design them for myself and no one else.

True designers or creators MUST create.  They can not help it.  I can not help it.  I watched the Matrix and immediately started writing out ideas for making it into a board game.  I couldn’t stop myself!  I had no intention of ever making a Matrix board game, but I wrote out the ideas anyway and put them in my concept folder.

If I did not create games, I would simply stop being who I am.  I would be dead. 

Secondly, I design for an audience of one.  I make games I want to play because I want to play them.  I do not try to make games for other people.  I am 100% convinced I have no idea what other people want to play.  I watch game reviews, play various games, and talk to lots of gamers.  Even with all of that research, what some people enjoy and others do not is still a mystery to me.  I don’t create for them, I create for me.      

Now, just because I create games I want to play doesn’t mean that other people won’t want to play too.  I leave that up to them.  I will still pitch ideas to publishers, self-publish games, and market them like crazy.  However, if someone else doesn’t like the way a game plays, I don’t mind.  It wasn’t for them anyway.  I can guarantee my games will always have at least 1 local player…. Me!  Any players above 1 is a great success.  Sometimes, other people even like my games!

These two factors help me get beyond the “Fear Factor” of becoming a wargame designer in the public eye. 


Creation is a Process
No game is like Athena and just springs from the mind of the creator.  To create is a process.  It can be a harsh mistress, but I have always believed in planning your work, and working your plan.  Then be flexible enough to change your plan....

To create a game requires time.  Time does not come easy.  The time you design games is always being taken by things like family, work, friends, and other choices.  You are always confronted with choices.  You have to prioritize the choices you make in a day.  I try to set about 1-2 hours a week to write.  Some weeks I do more, but I almost never do less.  Writing is a routine and you MUST get into the routine. 

However, creating a game is more than just writing.  It is re-writing, editing, testing, playing, etc.  All of which requires time and effort.  You must budget your time the same way you budget your money.  It is even more important than money.

Once you have a routine, the Creation process is much easier as well.  The more you do it the easier it becomes.  If nothing gets written down, then you won’t have a game.  Without a game, you are not a game designer.    


The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good
This impacts a number of wargame designers that I work with, collaborate with, and partner with.  I have fallen into the trap myself.  Sometimes, we get really hung up on making a perfect mechanic orsituation.  We will scrap something that works, because a one-off or edge case gets in the way.  Then, we go back to the drawing board, find nothing better and then get frustrated and walk away.  The game never gets done. 

To be a game designer, you need to actually produce games.  If you let the pursuit of perfection stop a workable game from hitting the table or playtesting phase, then you are getting in your own way.

This will be an unpopular opinion.  Of course you want to make the best game you can right out of the gate.  However, that is not typically how it works.  The more you play test, massage an idea, etc. the closer to perfection your mechanics and processes will get.  However, there is no such thing as perfection.  Instead, you want to get your current processes and mechanics as smooth, clean, and clear as you can.  Therefore, using this theory there is always one more step or modification to get your even better.  This is a trap!  If the mechanic and process works, then it is ready for playtesting. 



Conclusion
Being a game designer is very easy.  All you need to do is make a game.  Then play the game you made.  Bam!  You are now a game designer.  There is no special secret or magic to it.  It is simply a matter of sitting down and doing it.  Take those ideas, put them on paper (real or electronic) and keep adding on until you have a full game.  Then, play the game and see what happens.  The more you do it, the easier it becomes. 

The longest journey begins with a single step…. but more importantly it also ends with a single step.  Now, just go out and put the steps together in between and you are done. 

If you want to be a game designer, then make a game and make it available for people to play!            

Monday, November 25, 2019

Battle Report: Wars of the Republic- Romans vs. Gauls


As I mentioned in my blog last week, Osprey has asked me to do some work on a new Wargaming Series book based on the wars of the Roman Republic.  This project actually started by working on two separate projects for myself.  One project was centered on the Roman conquest of Italy and the other was focused on the revolt of Spartacus.  A third project about the wars of the Diadochi also ended up tied into this book as well, since the Romans and the later Successor kingdoms tended to clash as well.    


Much of the rules use the Men of Bronze engine as a base.  However, I have taken a great deal of feedback and incorporated it into the rules.  Therefore, they are their own unique beast.  However, I do maintain the basic concepts such as generic troop types, model and base agnostic, and mass battles at more manageable sizes. 

This is just an initial play-test that led to some interesting learnings going forward.  I hope you enjoy it as I work diligently on streamlining the rules. 

Celtic and tribes of Gaul were a constant problem for the Romans and the more settled people of the Italian peninsula.  Roving warbands, tribes, and clans would often swoop into the area for plunder and also ended up displacing the local populations. .  This challenge was one shared by the Romans, Latin League, Etruscans, and many more.  During the early days of the Republic, the threat of barbarian invasion was real, and it is said the Rome itself was sacked by the warlord Brennus in 387 BCE. 

Roman Consuls frequently had to take the legions out to defend the borders of Roman territory from the barbarians moving in.  Some of these missions were successful, but some were not.  However, the battle between Romans and Gauls was a perennial feature of the Roman campaigning season.      

Today’s battle will represent an Early Republic “Polybian Legion” or Triplex Acies formation facing off against a migrating tribe from Gaul somewhere to the north of Rome. 

Forces

Gauls

1 Elite Infantry
1 Drilled Infantry
2 Light Infantry
1 Warband Infantry
1 Lancer Cavalry
1 Skirmisher
1 Slinger*

Points= 42

*- Due to a faulty memory on my part, I set-up the game with the slingers and did not realize the points mismatch until it was too late.

Romans

1 Triarri- Drilled Hoplites
1 Principes
2 Hastati
2 Velites

Points= 38 Points

Mission
This will be a standard set-piece battle.  I opted not to use some of the more exotic scenarios and avoided complications this time around.  I am revamping the scenario and campaign system completely, but those will not play a part in today’s battle.  This is more of a straight up test of battle.  

Set-up
The Romans rolled up a field, and put it in the corner of their deployment zone.  The Gauls also got field and put it in the middle of the board to try and force the Romans out of formation.  The Romans put a hill in their deployment zone to avoid breaking up their forces.  The Gauls got a small wood and again put it in the middle of the field for cover and to break up the Roman Legion formations. 

Paper templates will take the field again as I test out the rules.  These are mostly using 28mm models in units of 10.  They work great with Victrix models.  I will be testing out multi-based models a bit later. 

The Romans on their side deployed with the Velites on both flanks, one in the field and the other on the hill respectively.  The Triarri were in the center back, with the Principes in front of them.  The Principes were flnaked by the Hastati.  All were deploed in open order. 

The Gauls forces barely fit on their edge of the 4x4 table.  The cavalry had to deploy in reserve as they did not have room to deploy.  On the left were the slingers, then the warband, followed by the light infantry.  The center was the Drilled Infantry and the Elite infantry.  The right was the light infantry and skirmishers. 

Turn 1 
The Gauls spend all of their Commander's Gaze to go first.  The Romans only spent two. 

The Drilled and Light infantry on the Celtic left move forward to secure the grove.  However, the Romans then steal the initiative and move up.  The Principes and right flank Hastati form Legion.  The other Hastati is in a field and can not form up.  The Roman army advances forward. 

The Gauls follow suit with their forces also moving up.  The cavalry moves onto the edge of the board. 

Turn 2:
The Gauls go first again, and the Romans do not interrupt.  The Celts win the bid 2 to 0.

The slingers try to move and shoot the Velites but fail.  The Light infantry takes the grove, while the Elite and Light infantry on the opposite flank move into the field with some skirmishers supporting them.  The Celtic cavalry hovers around in reserve ready to support. 


The Romans move forward.  Their light infantry also moves up and throw their Javelins.  The Slingers are too far away still.  However, the Skirmishers at the bottom of the hill and they take some Courage loss from the barrage, and start to Waver!

Turn 3
The Gauls bid 2 to Romes 0. 

Gallic slingers pelt the Roman Velites on the flank, and reduce them to 2 Courage and wavering.  The Romans try to interrupt and fail. 

Gallic skirmishers fire on the Velites in front of them, but fail to damage as they are wavering.  This time, a Roman interrupt succeeds.  The Velites charge down into the barbarian skirmishers, who do not try to evade. 


On the other flank, the Roman Hastati clear the field and form Legion.  This time, the Gauls use Commander's Gaze and successfully interrupt.  Gallic light infantry moves to charge the remnants of the Velite and Skirmisher battle, but they do not choose to support the Skirmishers.  Meanwhile, the Warband infantry moves up to support the slingers from the Velites.  The Gallic Light Infantry moves out of the woods and screens the Drilled Infantry moving into position.  The legion will have a tough time cracking those woods.


The Romans move up, with the Triarri staying in open order to act as a reserve.  The Velites ont eh right flank are rallied and are no longer Wavering.  The Hastati supporting their flank form legion.

The Melee between the skirmishers and the velites on the Roman left is resolved.  Both sides fight valiantly.  The skirmishers reduce the Velites 1 Courage.  The Skirmishers also lose 1 Courage, but fail their discipline check.  Since they were all ready wavering, they lose their last courage and flee. 

Turn 4
Gauls bid 2 and the Romans bid 4!  Romans go first. 

The Velites on the Roman right fall back from the slingers.  The Gauls then interrupt and steal the initiative.  Gallic light infantry on the Roman left storm out of the field and hit the Velites in the Flank.  The Velites try to evade, but fail to go far enough.  They are trapped in melee. 

The Romans try to interrupt, but fail.  The Gauls maneuver around with the Warband infantry moving in front of the Slingers to shield them.  The Gauls are inviting the Romans to attack them in the difficult terrain, and the Romans need to decide how to respond to the challenge. 

The Hastati on the Roman left break formation and try to charge into the Light infantry skirmish as a flank attack.  However, their momentum is broken up by the edge of the field and they fail to make the distance and are wavering!  The Triarri move to support them, but do not have enough Commander's Gaze to form up. 


The Hastati on the Right shuffle over to protect the Velites and square off against the Gallic warband. 

The Light Infantry Melee is resolved and the Celts steam roll the Velites into a rout.  However, the Gauls also lose 2 Courage and are Wavering. 

Turn 5
Romans bid 3 while the Celts bid 4. 

The Romans gulp, realizing that the Hastati are in a tight place.  The Gallic Elite Infantry containing the Celtic chieftain charges the flank of the hastati and is supported by the Gallic light infantry.  Meanwhile, the Celtic Light infnatry runs screaming from the center of the battle and throws their javelins at the triarri, but they are batted away by the veteran's shields. 

On the Right, the Celts fall back from the Hastati and Velites there while the Drilled infantry holds the woods. 

The Triarri form up and charge into the Celtic light infantry with abandon.  The Principes also go into open order and charge the light infantry flank. 


Melees need to be resolved, and the Celts decide to resolve the Light Infantry vs. the triarri and Principes first.  The Celtic Light infantry is swept from the board and the Triarri only take 1 Courage loss. 

The Celtic attack slams into the Hastati flank and they are reduced to 1 Courage and are wavering!  They are pushed back 2 Measurement units. 

Turn 6
Gauls bid 4 and Romans bid 0. 

Ferocious Drilled Infantry of the Gauls storms from the woods and attacks the Principes in the rear!  Meanwhile, barbarian cavalry comes thundering down between the woods and fields and also attacks the Roman Principes.  The triarri jump in to support their comrades. 

The Gallic Warband moves to block the Romans on the right from supporting their friends in the center.  The slingers also move up to threaten a barrage.  However, the Hastati break formation and charge headlong into the Celtic troops with the light infantry in support.  Things are about to get messy!

The Gallic chieftain and his entourage drive-off the Roman Hastati in a rout. 



The fighting in the center is bloody an intense.  The Romans use their Pila special ability and the two sides destroy each other in an orgy of blood and combat. 

On the Roman right, the Hastati break through and destroy the barbarian warband infantry.  However, the Hastati lose 1 Courage and begin to Waver. 

In the End phase, the Roman Hastati and Velite flee the board, as do the Gallic slingers.  However, the Celtic Elite infantry, along with their Light Infantry stay.  They have won the spoils of War this day!  

Conclusion
The Gauls manage to defeat the Romans when the Roman army collapsed at the loss of its Consul and main fighting units.  What did we learn from this test? 

The Roman Legion formation allows for powerful armor bonus, but it can be beaten by careful planning and maneuver.  For example, difficult terrain breaks up formations.  In addition, the Legion formation is more mobile than a Phalanx, but is limited in the diagonal approaches and can be out-maneuvered there.  Any overwhelming attack can cause them to fail a Discipline test and break formation.  If you keep them out of formation units with lower attack and armor ratings can beat the Romans.

Command and Control was vital in this game.  A lack of command resources hampered the Romans ability to respond effectively in the key Turn 5.  They could not use their Pila special rule and could not provide a key support charge.  In addition, a mis-timed charge in Turn 3 by Hastati left them vulnerable to counter-attack, and the Gauls had the Command points to make sure they could capitalize on the error. 

Proper supporting also was a big component of the game.  Without support units, the Elite Infantry would have tar-pitted in the Hastati.  In addition, the Triarri/Principes vs. Drilled Infantry/Cavalry fight would have not been as decisive.  Units going one-on-one would be a grind, but with support a Melee can end quickly. 

The new wavering and Discipline check rules make wavering a more common occurrence.  It is harder to recover from a devastating attack that rolled a lot of attack dice.  This means you may want to let a damaged unit get destroyed instead of helping it with more support units.  You have to decide.  For example, in this battle the Light Infantry decided NOT to support their Skirmishers allies since they were all ready in desperate shape.  Joining and supporting them would have led to the loss of the Gallic Light Infantry and Skirmishers in one melee.  I am not sure how I feel about this yet, but it is a decision point for the commander.

The terrain placement rules played a big part in this battle.  The Romans tried to keep terrain out of their way so their formations could stay together.  However, the Gauls used it to their advantage and allowed them to control the center of the battlefield.  In retrospect, the Romans should have placed out of their deployment zone and forced the difficult terrain away from the center of the board. 

Overall, a lot was learned as I start to test out the rules and lists I have written so far.  I learned a lot.  I tinkered with the turn sequence, supporting, terrain placement, and C&C.  This let me try it out on the field of battle.  More to come as I keep tinkering with the rules prior to publication.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Random: Official News from Blood and Spectacles Publishing





I know many of my readers have been interested in the follow-up plans for Men of Bronze.  I thank you for your support and love to see what you guys have been doing with the rules.  I appreciate all the feedback, and keep adding to the Living FAQ for the game.  In addition, I have also put up a draft QRS here and sent it to Osprey for editing.   


Initially, I had worked with Osprey on a game called Heirs to Empire which would feature the Diadochi wars.  Essentially, the many battles between Alexander’s generals and successors after his death.  IN addition, I was working on a game of early Roman combat set in the Italian peninsula called Conquest! Rome in Italy.  These were essentially mods to Men of Bronze and simply expanded the time period and made some small mods to the rules. 

After further reviewing these games with the Osprey editorial team and working with various miniature manufacturers, it was determined that there simply may not be enough players for such niche games.  They asked that I go back to the drawing board and try to expand the player base.  After some thought, I came back with a few suggested approaches, and we mutually agreed to broaden the scope of the game. 

I am pleased to announce that we have come to terms and Blood and Spectacles Publishing will be creating a new Ancients game for the Osprey Wargaming Series.  The working title for this game is Wars of the Republic which will allow the players to recreate the battles and campaigns of the Roman Republic and their foes.  I am excited as this is a very broad scope of history that will allow me to try and capture a wide variety of ancient combat such as the Triplex Acies, Macedonian Pike blocks, Hoplite warfare, tribal warfare, and some esoteric fighting styles.  In addition, it will allow me to cover fun topics like Pyrrhus of Epirus, the Punic Wars, the Mithridatic Wars, the Parthian Wars, etc.  This will be a tool box to cover various ancient styles of warfare across the Mediterranean.    

The core base of Wars of the Republic, will be the “Mass Battle at a Small Scale” approach similar to Men of Bronze.  If you ever look at reconstruction maps of ancient battles, you can see the approach I am using.  Your army is built of blocks of similar troops.  For example, the Battle of Marathon had three wings of hoplites, a left, right and center.  Therefore, the army on the table in Men of Bronze’s “Mass battle at a Small Scale” approach would be three units of Hoplites, one for left, center, right.  It is a slightly more abstract approach that lays out more like a re-constructed ancient battle map.  This is intended to allow small armies to fight large battles.  Of course, you can scale them as large as you like.  I want to spend more time playing than painting!  

Other features will also pull from the Men of Bronze style.  The game will continue to be scale and model agnostic and use generic troop types.  Command and Control will still be handled by leadership points.  Most combat will be opposed rolls.  However, there will be new special rules, clarified combat rules, a slightly different turn sequence, army structure changes, and a whole new scenario and campaign system. Of course, this is a lot of stuff to test and try out.  The scariest thing about writing ancients rules is that some else knows way more about it than you do! You can help me out by joining the Message board and providing me feedback here.   

As you know, the Osprey Wargaming Series is only 64 pages so some of the history and context may get put on the back burner for research elsewhere.   I am trying to cram a lot of content into a small package.  However, you can expect great Osprey artwork and we are working with vendors for miniature artwork.  The manuscript is due to Osprey by Summer 2020, and probably will be ready to buy in April of 2021.



I have also been in negotiations with Osprey for a second set of rules.  This is not an ancients set, but a different genre.  We have come to terms on the rules for Castles in the Sky.  This is a set of flying battleship rules set in an alternate 1914 setting.  You can find some early test games of the rules on this blog, and that should give you a taste of it.  There are a couple of interesting features in the rules that differentiate them from other game systems:

1.       Height bands
2.       Firepower vs. Armor
3.       Command and Control

Since there are height bands, maneuver is vital as the engagement envelope is relatively small.  Cannons and batteries can fire far, but the sky is a big place…. Even bigger than the ocean!  Therefore, you will need to maneuver your ships into combat position, or to avoid your enemies’ broadsides.  It will take skill to determine the best approach to maximize your firepower and minimize that of your foe.



The core mechanic of the game is Firepower versus armor.  Like Naval combat of the period, some ships could take a colossal beating without losing much fighting power.  Naval combat of the period had a paper-rock-scissors approach to combat.  Battleships could beat Cruisers, which could beat Destroyer, which could torpedo Battleships and then back around again.  This aspect is captured in the flavor of the rules.  You need to apply the right tool to the right job to gain the advantage.    

Finally, Command and Control is a big element of the game with limited command orders, friction, and other elements impacting how your ships react to what you are asking them to do.  Initiative and individual commander skill also play a role in the game. 

The game will have new artwork from Osprey to capture the flavor of the game.  In addition, Brigade Models UK have agreed to provide photographs of their great Aeronef range for the game.  I am very excited to get the manuscript completed for this game by summer 2021 for a likely spring 2022 release.


Lastly, I have one other small announcement.  For a variety of reasons I have been watching way too much Gundam anime and its ilk.  Along with that I have been interested in Jovian Chronicles and Lightning Strike models from Dream Pod 9.  This combined with experimenting with positioning rules for space games combined into a new Work-in-Progress game.  I tentatively call this new game GlitteringVoid.  I have a thread on the message board where you can find the game and leave some feedback.  The game has the basic rules, unit types, scenarios, and some limited campaign rules.  Those need some more work, and I plan on modeling the Black Ops campaign system but modified for this game. 

Please check it out and let me know what you think.  I am always trying to expand my design range, and I think this is a big step as I am trying out various concepts. 

That about covers it.  There is a lot of exciting things in the Blood and Spectacles Publishing space right now.  Keep in touch with us on Facebook. Instagram, the Message Board, and here on the blog to stay up-to-date.  Thanks for reading!        




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Monday, November 11, 2019

Men of Bronze: Thessaly Army List



As I was working on Men of Bronze, I was researching like crazy on Ancient Greek warfare.  I was looking at Herodotus, Xenophone, Thucydides and many, many more.  In addition, there were a ton of secondary sources such as Warry, Hanson, Gaebel and many more.  Through all of this research I ended up focusing on the classic City-States of Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Corinth, and Argo.  I also tried to capture their main enemies the Persians.  However, there was a much larger Greek world to consider. 

Nic at the Irregular Wars blog rightly called me out.  My book was missing details for such places as Pre-Reform Macedonia, Thrace, Magna Graecia, Syracuse, and more.  One of the big call-outs was not including an army list for Thessaly, the home of the best horseman in Greece. 

Since then, I have done research into two areas to create lists for Men of Bronze.  Since then, I have taken a much closer look at Sicily and the war between the Carthaginians and the Greeks there.  It was a fascinating learning curve and I have since been shopping the army lists and Historical scenarios for that period around to various wargames magazines.  The second area I looked at was related to Thessaly, the land of horses. 


Thessaly was an area to the north of what many people refer to as Ancient Greece.  It is often considered to be an outsider of the Greek world.  However, it rose to prominence later in the classical period and became especially important during the early years of the rise of Philip of Macedon and the Sacred Wars.  After Philip's death, they were also key allies of his son Alexander.  However, they were still well known horseman and cavalry troopers before these times.  The earliest reference I could find of Thessaly was in Herodotus before even the Greco-Persian wars.

A Brief History
Herodotus tells us a bit about Thessaly through the voice of Xerxes.  It is a broad plain surrounded by mountains in east-central Greece north of the major city-states of classical times.  It is bordered by a broad river called the Pineios River.  Indeed, Xerxes observes that if the river was damned, it would flood all of Thessaly.  This natural basin is a broad and fertile plain and one of the few good places in Greece for raising cows and horses. 

It was the natural landscape for powerful land owning aristocrats to develop.  These land-owners would come to control the regional politics.  This even included the small cities that began to develop in the late 5th century BCE.  In this regions, the horse became a status symbol for the aristocracy.  Under these conditions, horsemanship thrived.  Most athletes in the Olympic games from Thessaly were involved with horse races. 

The famous Thessalian Headwear
The region was divided into 4 Tetrarchies, which were nominally part of the Thessalian League.  These were loosely aligned politically, but in wartime would come together under the military leadership of a single archon or tagos.  Not much is recorded about Thessalian military history until 375 and the rise of Jason of Pharea.  However, we do have some snippets from Herodotus, Xenophon, and Thucydides. 

For example, Herodotus records two engagements between the Thessalians and Spartans.  The first was a Sparta landing force on the beaches near Phalerum.  In this encounter, the Thessalian cavalry managed to route the Spartans before they could form a proper line of battle.  The second engagement between the mercenary Thessalians and the Spartans was a land engagement where the Spartans managed to see the horseman off with little effort.        

Xenophon also offers insight into non-horseman units in the Thessalian armed forces.  During the Persian Expedition under Cyrus, mercenaries are recruited from Thessaly.  Meno commands 1,500 hoplites and 500 peltasts during the campaign.  In addition, Xenophon later tells us in a different text that Thessaly had hoplites, peltasts, and other light troops in addition to the cavalry units. 

Some sources also reference an unknown and ill-described light infantry trooper that was supposed to accompany the cavalry into combat.  It is unclear exactly what this force was, and seem reminiscent of chariot-runners from earlier bronze age battles.  It does not specify what the role of these troops were or their status within Thessaly.  They can be assumed to be a very light and mobile support force, similar to Psiloi.     

Diodorus Siculus and Xenophon also discussed the make-up of the Thessalian military under Jason of Pherae.  It consisted of the noble Thessalian cavalry and mercenary forces for the ground troops.  Again, Xenophon believes that the Thessalians could field up to 20,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry.  6,000 of these were mercenary troops of the highest quality.

Jason of Pherae? 

Most of our information about Thessaly comes from the later period as Macedonian influence became more relevant to Thessalian politics.  Phillip was elected Archon of the Thessalian league and was reorganized to support the growing military needs of the Macedonian army.  At this point, the Thessalian cavalry became a regular formation in their order of battle and became more of a heavy cavalry formation. 

The Thessaly Army List
As stated, the army of Thessaly was focused around cavalry forces.  Early Thessaly was focused on light cavalry, however later iterations transitioned into a Heavy Cavalry role.  However, as Xenophon tells us other forces were also present in their army.

One of the defining features of the later Thessalian cavalry was a special formation known as the Rhomboid formation.  Essentially, the cavalry formation was a diamond with a  point at each direction.  A leader was place at each point, this formation allowed the cavalry to move quickly in different directions.  In addition, this formation was tasked with protecting the left wing of Alexander's army during his Persian campaign.  There, they held the line in a variety of defensive battles using the Rhomboid formation. 

The Thessalian Cavalry can use the Rhomboid formation as a Special Rule.  The Rhomboid Formation uses the following rules:

Rhombus Formation


Rhombus
The Rhombus was a special cavalry formation used by Hellenistic cavalry forces to help increase their maneuverability on the battlefield.  The unit could quickly change direction and move based on switching the leader of the formation at the tip of any edge.
     Units in the Rhombus formation have the following rules apply: Unit may start the game in Rhombus
     A Rhombus can move straight forward, straight left, straight right, or straight back up to its full move
     If a Rhombus touches difficult terrain it will revert to Open Order
     To change from Open Order to Rhombus requires a Arete Point and can only be done in a Unit’s Activation.
     A Rhombus can change to Open Order at any point during an Activation
     A Rhombus formation provides +1 Armor and +1 Attack Dice
               
Units in Rhombus can be aligned this way.  The center line is 4 models.  On both sides of the center, there is a row of two.  Finally, the tip of both ends is a single model.  The Leader model should be at the forward tip of the Rhombus. 

Thessaly Line of Battle
Use the following lists to build your historical forces for Thessaly. The Lines of Battle help to choose the appropriate units for your historical forces. These are sample lists and there to provide a flavor of potential forces. Players can always modify these lists as they see fit
Each Line of Battle will have an entry with a number. The number indicates the limit of that Unit you can take in the army. If an entry says 1+ your army must have at least one of these units in it. If it is 0+ any number of that unit may be taken. If a Unit is not on the list, it can not be chosen.

Early Thessaly List
1+ Cavalry
0-3 Militia Hoplites
0-2 Peltasts
0+ Psiloi

Jason of Pharea List
0-2 Heavy Cavalry*
1+ Cavalry*
0-1 Elite Hoplites
0-4 Light Hoplites
0-2 Peltasts
0+ Psiloi
  This unit maybe given the Rhombus Special Rule for +2 Points

Late Thessaly List
0-2 Heavy Cavalry*
1+ Cavalry*
0-4 Light Hoplites
0-2 Peltasts
0+ Psiloi
  This unit maybe given the Rhombus Special Rule for +2 Points

Warlord Games Thessalian Light Cavalry- From Warlordgames.com
Sample Armies
Below you can see Sample Armies built from the Lines of Battle provided. They give you an idea of what your force could look like. They are all built to a 38 point force. They range from 5 to 10 Units each.

Early Thessaly
2 Cavalry
2 Peltasts
1 Militia Hoplite
1 Psiloi

Jason of Pharea/Late Thessaly
1 Cavalry with Rhomboid
1 Heavy Cavalry with Rhomboid
1 Light Hoplite
2 Psiloi
Thessalian Heavy Cavalry from Wargamesfoundry.com


Battle of Phalerum
Herodotus tells us a story prior to the Persian-Greek War about a mercenary Thessalian cavalry force meeting a Spartan army on the plains of Phalerum.  During the reign of Cleomenes the “Mad” Spartan king, he and the Tyrant of Athens had a falling out.  The Athenian Tyrant was named Hippias, and in addition to the military forces of Athens, had hired a group of Thessalian mercenaries to help maintain his rule. 

Cleomenes wished to over throw Hippias.  Therefore, he had a force of Spartan soldiers land on the beach near Phalerum.  The plan was to march to Athens and overthrow Hippias.  The Tyrant must have gotten wind of this plan and sent his mercenary horseman to intercept them.  Apparently, the plain of Phalerum had to be specially prepared for cavalry operations so the Thessalians must have know the Spartans were coming.  Herodotus’ account lacks almost any detail, except for one crucial element, the Spartan opponents were attacked and over run before they could form into a proper battle line.   

Despite the set back, the Spartans tried again the following year.  This time, they took an overland route.  They again faced the Thessalian horsemen, but this time the mercenaries were swept aside by a larger and well prepared Spartan force.  The Spartans were well prepared, and probably more numerous than their first encounter with the Thassalian cavalry. 

The following is to help recreate the initial battle of Phalerum vs. the Spartans.  Modern scholars know nothing about the battle and some great liberties must be taken with the force compositions, lay-out, etc. in order to make this into a viable scenario.      

Forces
Herodotus only tells us that the Thessalians were a cavalry force, while the Spartans were foot soldiers. 

Spartans
Elite Hoplites- Spartiates
2 Militia Phalanx- Allies
2 Psiloi- Helots

32 Points

Thessalians
4 Cavalry
2 Psiloi

36 Points      

Records of the Thessalian forces indicate a number of ill-defined and light troops that were sent to fight amongst and with the cavalry forces.  It is not clear how these troops were armed or equipped.  However, they sound similar to Psiloi.  They had no recorded arms or armor and were recorded as more of an afterthought.  Therefore, I have included Psiloi in the Thessalian mercenary list for the Battle of Phalerum to add some flavor and variety. 

Set-up
This scenario is played on a 72 base widths long by 48 base widths across board.  The Spartan side is one of the long board edges and is considered impassable terrain.  It is the sea where the Spartans are deploying from their ships.  The other side is open into the plains of Phalerum.  Instead of the normal 6 grid spaces for terrain placement, this battle only uses 3, all on the Thessalian side of the table.  However, place terrain randomly in these three with the Thessalian deploying first.  This represents the preparation that supposedly occurred before the battle. 

The Thessalians can be placed on the board edge with all the terrain elements anywhere within 12 base widths of their long board edge.

The Spartans are not placed on the table.  They begin the game in reserve.  They deploy as if subject to the Delayed Units complication found in the Men of Bronze rules.  In addition, when deployed on the board, a Spartan unit may not be within 12 base widths of another Spartan Unit.  If a Unit can not deploy anywhere outside of 12 base widths of a Spartan Unit, then it is placed in reserve again.  It may try to enter on a different turn. 

When entering the board from reserve the unit must be placed touching the deployment board edge.  This counts as their action for the turn.

Special Rules
See the section on deployment to see the special rules for this scenario. Other than what is listed in the Deployment section, no other special rules exist. 

Victory
The Spartan mission is to move 1+ unit off the Thessalian board edge.  Alternatively, they can completely rout or destroy the Thessalian forces opposing them.  The Thessalians win if they rout the Spartan forces from the board.  All other outcomes are a draw. 

The game will last 8 turns or until one side is destroyed/collapses. 

Greek Light Cavalry from VictrixLimited.com
Conclusion
Now, we can add one of the Northern territories of Greece to your games of Men of Bronze.  I think the Victrix, Wargames Foundry, Warlord, or any Greek Light Cavalry models will be great for such a force.  They will look very impressive in squads of ten 28 mm models on the table.  Their foot print on the table alone will be a sight to behold!

Keep your eyes on the Blog as I intend to add some more army lists for Men of Bronze such as Pre-Reform Macedon, Syracuse and the Sicilian Greeks, and early Sicilian Wars Carthaginians.  I am having a blast researching these forces. 

Thanks to Ingtaer, Grey Templar, and Duracellrabbit from the Dakka Dakka forums for help with the research.  Also, thanks to Nic at the Irregular Wars for his help with the topic.  These fine folks pointed me to some good resources online and in the primary sources.  Thank you!