Sunday, 11 April 2021

Ancients Project - Setting up a game (part 1 - terrain)

When setting up an ancient game I want to use a rule mechanism for determining the setup of the tabletop. Part of my reasoning for doing this is I will be setting up a quick 2nd Punic War campaign in the next couple of months and will need a mechanism for campaign games. This post covers the procedure for setting up terrain on the tabletop.

A tabletop setup using terrain cards

For the tabletop setup I am using terrain cards as they proved successful with my English Civil War campaign (see here). The ECW approach uses a deck of hand drawn terrain cards which are shuffled and six are drawn for my 6 x 4 foot tabletop, one for each 2 x 2 foot square area. This is fine for ECW terrain, but with ancient battles fought in more arid regions with few terrain features, a slightly different approach is required.

Making of terrain cards - 12 cards in all are required.

The approach I decided upon was to have four blank cards (representing open terrain) which are set aside. Then each player selects two terrain cards a piece from the remaining eight cards. The player's selected cards are added to the blank cards and shuffled. This allows players to select terrain to hopefully suit their army.

The Carthaginians (top) selected a river and town features. While the Romans (bottom) have selected a large hill and rocky broken terrain features.

Having shuffled the cards they are laid out in two rows of three to represent my 6 x 4 tabletop. In most cases this will work fine, but there are some additional rules for rivers. Rivers when placed will run North-to-South or East-to-West, depending how they are placed down (no peeking when you are placing them down). When a river's flow is blocked due to hills (they can flow through all other terrain features) they have to be rotated towards another square to avoid the hill. If there are two options, then use the dice to determine direction or allow the player who selected a river to choose the direction.

Terrain cards are laid out. The flow of the river will need to change due a blocking hill.

A river card's direction is adjusted to avoid a hill.

At the moment I have chosen to go with:

  • 4 x open terrain
  • 1 x river which is fordable
  • 1 x large hill
  • 1 x small hill
  • 2 x woods
  • 2 x broken terrain (fields and rocky terrain)

The approach will on occasion throw up four pieces of terrain, but will for the most part will deliver two or three terrain features. Additional blank cards could be added to the card deck for more arid regions when running a campaign, or reduced for more fertile regions.

A tabletop with terrain setup to reflect the cards.

Terrain setup with armies deployed.

Next up will be deciding the armies and their deployment.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Ancients Project - Some Buildings

I decided I needed some buildings to represent a town for my Ancients project. So this past weekend I found some old wood offcuts and purchased some wooden dowel and made some simple buildings suitable for an ancient setting. With these buildings I used some moulding paste to help:

  1. Cover up the gaps in the wood from my schoolboy woodworking skills
  2. Create texture for the tiled roofs.

If you are wondering why I am using blocks of wood from the hardware store to create buildings, rather than other modelling products. It all started from when I setup an St. Nazaire game and needed a lot of buildings here. Since then I have taken a wooden block approach as the buildings are practical in the sense that they don't require bases, don't have to be stored carefully, are easy to make, and are cheap to make at a $2 per building (if that).

My test model a small temple

With the exception of the pillars (made from wooden dowel) the other materials are wooden offcuts.

A moulding paste was used to give texture (a new approach with these buildings)

I got the moulding paste from an arts shop. It has the consistency of smooth peanut butter and I both painted it on and layered it on with an old paint brush.

The moulding paste used. It is water based and remains flexible.

Here are some photos of the process of creating the buildings...

Wood offcuts are made into a building.

The moulding paste gets applied and the roof is crisscrossed with a toothpick to give the impression of tiles. This has to be left over night to dry.

A sand coloured base coat is painted on

A suitable terracotta coloured paint is applied to the roofs

A brown wash is applied to the buildings

Windows and doors are painted on in a dark grey as I find black to be too harsh a colour. Then a wash of the original base coat colour is applied to the walls to lighten them up a bit. My original brown wash had been a bit too dark.

Orange is lightly brushed onto the roofs to help pick out the texture and lighten the terracotta look.

The columns get a coat of dark blue followed by a thinned coat of light blue. A brown wash is quickly painted around the windows and doors, no precision painting here!

The buildings are given a coat of PVA glue, then once dry they are ready for the tabletop. 

Time wise this was a relatively quick job:
  • One and a half hours cutting the wooden blocks and gluing them.
  • Half an hour applying the moulding paste and leaving the buildings overnight to dry.
  • A final couple of hours one evening to paint the buildings.
I generally reduce the size of my buildings a fraction to minimise their tabletop footprint and also so they don't dominate the tabletop. From a scale perspective while my figures are 20mm the buildings are nearer 15mm.

So I now have some robust ancient period wargaming buildings which can be thrown into the terrain box container and I don't have to worry about breakages.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Ancients Project and starting to play a few games.

I have been busily painting up the last few 2nd Punic War units I need, or think I need, while at the same time finally playing a few games. I always seem to start new periods with One-Hours Wargames (OHW) rules by Neil Thomas. As they are a quick way to get some models on the tabletop with minimal effort to learn the rules.

A game setup using a 6 x 4 foot table

The games resulted in a few additions to the original OHW rules. These include:

  • Units types geared towards from the 2nd Punic War (including elephants and catapults).
  • Increase in unit base widths to make manoeuvring difficult (and the units look more substantial).
  • A reduction in the number of hits before unit elimination which is partly offset with additional rally chance cards.
  • An elephant berserk rule upon their elimination.
  • Use of chance cards with some possible options to reflect both army characteristics and leadership quality.
As a solo gamer I often use chance cards in my games, but they are typically added on to the rules rather than incorporated with the rules themselves. The changes are my first attempt at trying to mesh the rules and chance cards together, and I have started with the Rally cards to offset the reduction of hits a unit takes before elimination (down from 15 to 13).

Here are my first variation of the OHW Ancient rules with the modifications mentioned above...

Units Types

The game is geared towards the 2nd Punic Wars and uses the following units types:

  • Veteran Heavy Infantry
  • Heavy Infantry
  • Warband (Gallic Infantry)
  • Light Infantry
  • Light Cavalry
  • Heavy Cavalry
  • Elephants
  • Catapults

The units need to be consistently based and I have been trying large base widths of 8”. This width creates naturally limits to the ability of units in formation to move around easily except when positioned on the flanks.

I have been playing games with 8-12 units per side using the army lists in Ancient and Medieval Wargaming by Neil Thomas as a guide to an army's make up.

My normal basing is 4x3 inches, but for these ancient games each unit has two bases to make units 8x3 inches.

Sequence of play

Each player takes a turn to move, shoot and melee with their units in the following sequence:

  1. Draw chance card
  2. Movement
  3. Shooting
  4. Melee
  5. Eliminating units (and berserk elephants)

The game ends after 15 turns.


During the movement phase a player can move their units. A unit may move up to the distances listed below:

  • Heavy Infantry - 6”
  • Light Infantry, Warband, and Elephants - 9”
  • Light and Heavy Cavalry - 12”
  • Catapults - cannot move but are allowed to pivot.

Units turn by pivoting on their central point, and may do so at the start and end of their move.

Only light infantry may pass through other friendly units.

Units that move may not shoot.


Terrain has an impact on a unit’s movement and combat.

  • Woods - Only light infantry and warbands can enter
  • Towns - No effect on movement and treat as broken ground for combat
  • Marshland and lakes - Impassable to units
  • Rivers - Can only be crossed at bridges and fords
  • Broken Terran (e.g. Rocky, Fields and Streams) - Only infantry can enter and heavy infantry do not halve combat hits.
  • Roads - Units moving all their move on roads add 3” to their move distance

Charges (Moving into contact)

Units may move into contact with enemy units, but have the following constraints:

  1. A unit may only turn up to 45 degrees at the start of their move
  2. Only one attacking unit can contact each side of an enemy unit (front, left flank, right flank, and rear)

Combat is resolved in the combat phase


Only light infantry, light cavalry, and catapults can shoot. The procedure for shooting is as follows:

  1. Units may only shoot at a target within 45 degrees of their frontal facing.
  2. Light infantry and Light Cavalry only have a range of 12”, and catapults have a range of 24”.
  3. Assess the number of hits by rolling a D6-2. Halve hits for units in cover, heavy infantry, or elephants.
All models are HAT plastic 1/72 figures


The procedure for combat is as follows:

Units only inflict hits during their own player turn.

Assess the number of hits

  • Veteran Heavy Infantry - D6+2
  • Heavy Infantry - D6
  • Warband (Gauls) - D6 (D6+2 when first charging into combat)
  • Light Infantry - D6-2
  • Heavy Cavalry - D6
  • Light Cavalry - D6-2
  • Catapults - cannot attack in combat situations
  • Elephants - D6 (regardless of unit type)

Halve hits for attacks on warbands, veteran heavy infantry, heavy infantry, and elephants. Ignore this rule if the attacking unit is an elephant.

If attacking from a flank or rear, all hits are doubled.

Units defending woods, towns, river crossings, or hills halve the number of hits.

Heavy infantry (including veterans) in broken terrain cannot halve hits.

Units cannot retire from combat which only ends with the elimination of one of the contesting sides. Units are allowed to face an attack upon their flank or rear, only if they are not already being engaged frontally.

Eliminating Units and Berserk Elephants

Units are eliminated after taking more than 12 hits. This is different to the 15 used in One-Hour Wargames, and the lower value is compensated by Rally chance cards which remove 2 hits from units (see chance cards).

When an elephant unit is eliminated, check to see if it goes berserk. Roll a D6 and:

  • On a score of 1 or 2 the elephant charges the nearest friendly unit with 12” and inflicts D6 hits. After this the elephant unit is removed from play.
  • On a score of 3 or  the elephant charges the nearest enemy unit with 12” and inflicts D6 hits. After this the elephant unit is removed from play.
  • On a score of 5 or 6 nothing happens and the elephant unit is removed from play as any other unit.

The elimination after 13 or more hits allows hits to be tracked with 2 dice.

Chance Cards

As a solo wargamer I enjoy incorporating chance cards into a game to create uncertainty and also to reflect any army characteristics. In all there are 15 cards one for each turn (the cards also help you keep track of the turn).

The chance cards are acted upon during the turn they are drawn and cannot be carried over to another turn. The cards:

5 x No Event. Nothing happens

2 x Confusion. A player’s units cannot move this turn, but are allowed to pivot.

2 x Ammunition Shortage. A player’s units cannot shoot this turn.

2 x Initiative. One unit can make a move, shoot, or conduct a round of combat. The unit can still be activated as normal later.

3 x Rally. A player can units can remove 2 hits from all units.

1 x Demoralisation. Only half a player’s units in combat (rounding down) can attack.

To help create some army characteristics, the Roman army replaces one Initiative card with a rally card. This represents the ability of Roman armies to maintain discipline and keep on fighting. As for the Carthaginians they replace a Rally card with an Initiative card.

The same approach can be used for good and poor commanders. For poor commanders replace an Initiative card with a No Event card, and for good commanders replace a No Event card with an Initiative card.

There is opportunity for this to be taken further with supply. Armies with supply problems would replace a No Event card with an Ammunition Shortage card.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

A bit of tinkering with the ancients game mat

After looking at the gaming mat I made last weekend it looked too much like a desert, rather than the arid landscape I was after. So I decided to add a bit more grass/vegetation to the map. This was lightly sponged on with three shades of green. A mid green which was followed by a light green, before a final sponging of a browny green.

Additional vegetation added
A quick reminder of how the mat looked before the extra sponging.

I did think at one stage of the sponging process I had made a mistake and all together ruined the mat as the green was looking too vivid. However, it all came together with the last sponging of brown-green which toned down the grass/vegetation.

A close up of the sponged area

With the gaming mat now looking more arid and less desert, it was time to play a game of two. I decided to start with some One-Hour Wargaming style games with a number off modifications to represent the troop types.

An ancients game in progress

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Ancients project game mat

The Ancients project painting has slowed down in the last couple weeks. This delay was partly due to the recent WW2 floor wargame, which was time consuming, and some Napoleonic wargames to test out a few rule changes. This week I managed to get the project progressing again with a couple of units getting painted and this weekend I created a game mat.

Some of the distractions delaying the Ancients project.

Over the last couple of years I have created a few game mats using material and paint. This mat is for an arid looking tabletop and to keep costs down I used a canvas drop sheet purchased from the local hardware store. This needed a good iron and trim before starting to paint it.

Canvas drop sheet. An old fashioned heavy one without plastic backing

The drop sheet needed ironing before starting...

... and needed trimming.

All ready to start.

In the first step I sponged a sandy brown wash all over the sheet. While it was still wet I sponged a lighter sand colour all over, this helps to soften the sponged colour. I did this a couple of times with increasingly lighter sand colours until the right balance was achieved.

The first sandy brown wash is applied.

The picture shows the lighter colour sand sponging.

As I wanted an arid look rather than a full sandy desert look. I applied areas of a green wash, then later over sponged very carefully with a mid-green colour. Throughout the whole process of adding colour gradually I kept checking with a based and painted unit.

Areas of green were applied to make the overall look arid rather than just desert.

The completed mat on the tabletop.

A closer look at the mat

With a completed mat on the tabletop it was time to get the two armies out and on the tabletop. With any luck I may be able to have a game.

Armies out of their boxes and deployed on the tabletop

All the figures are HAT plastic 1/72 scale miniatures.

A view from the Carthaginian side.

Friday, 19 March 2021

WW2 Floor Wargaming - Part 3 - Game Report

This is the last post on my WW2 floor wargaming efforts from a week ago. It relies on quite a few photographs to tell the story.

The Plan...

A quick reminder of the Allied plan. There are three objectives in the game:

  1. The buildings on the beach
  2. The crossroads
  3. The village
The Allies aim first to control the beach them secure the objectives in the order above.

Map of the game area (6 x 12 foot) and Allied plans

The funnies...

What D-Day style game would it be without some funnies? The Allies have a Sherman flail tank to help deal with the minefields and a hastily made Churchill AVRE Fascine Carrier to deal with the tank trap.

The Landing...

The beach landings began at 6am and went reasonable smoothly with only a few units from the first wave having to make second attempts to land. Each unit in a wave rolls a dice and arrives at one of the 6 landing craft representing landing areas on the beach. Only two units can arrive in a landing area in a single turn.

The first wave arrives and begins to engage the beach defences. On the left had side of the beach a lack of armour is making progress difficult.

Progress on the right hand side of the beach as the second wave arrives.

Activation cards are placed and revealed. Units within 6 inches are able to activate to move or shoot. At the early stages of the landing the Allies had to prioritise between: 1) moving up the second wave arrivals to clear the area for the third wave, and 2) engaging beach defences.

Two-thirds of the beach is now controlled and the Allied units prepare to take the left hand flank defences with support from naval gunfire (which was treated as artilley in the rules).

On turn 6 (9am) the beach is secured as the third wave units start to move off the beach. From this point on the Allies have air support which can attack if a black activation card is revealed. 

The Counterattack...

While the Allies had been securing the beach the defending Germans pushed up all available tanks into the second defensive line around the crossroads. More armoured reserves arrived on turn 5 and started moving forwards.

German reserves arrive turn 5 and move through the town. As with the Allies, the Germans were having to make priority decisions with their activation cards, whether to move up reserves or use their artillery to its fullest extent.

While the first line of defences had delayed the inward advance of the Allies. The Germans started to bolster their second defence with all available units and to prepare to launch a counterattack. 

German tanks counter attack on their left flank.

The counterattack began well, the initial advance of Allied tanks were stopped in their tracks. 

Reserves are quickly pushed up into the line. The Germans were pretty much putting all their units into the second line defence.

The second line of defence...

The German counterattack was a surprise to the Allies and further progress inland was not going to be easy. The loss of tank units was a blow and forced them to organised their armour and artillery into groups for the next advance. Grouping units together helped reduce the number of activation cards expended to provide artillery support and advance units.

The defending Germans move up their reserves into their second line of defence. While the Allies prepare to continue their advance and push along towards the second crossroads objective.

German reserves move to take up their positions at the crossroads.

The Funnies in action with the Churchill AVRE deploying its Fascine to bride the tank trap and a Sherman flail tank clearing a minefield in the background.

The Allied advance on their right flank is stalled by the German counterattack and units have taken up defensive positions. The only area to advance is the centre and units push through the gap between to two steep hills. These hills can only be occupied by infantry units and the advancing units will be channelled into a narrow front. 

Steep hills channel and delay the Allies advance as German reserve units take up defensive positions.

Allied infantry with all available artillery support attack the hill. The German counterattack had stopped advancing, but remained a threat. This was around turn 13 when German activation cards were reduced to 4 cards (rather than the original 5 cards) due to having a third of their units eliminated.

The Germans had a choice of continuing their original counterattack, or pulling back some of the units to help with the defence around the crossroads. The reduction to 4 activation cards would make maintaining an attack and defending the crossroads a difficult proposition. In the end the decision was made for two units to retire and support the crossroads defense. 

The fighting around the crossroads was most interesting. Neither side wanted to be too aggressive and take heavy losses as this would turn the game. Having removed the German infantry from the hills with a number of artillery bombardments the Allied tanks eventually moved forward to attack the crossroads.  

Air support which in previous turns had been ineffective, this time proved to be very useful. The Allies gained the upper hand in the fight for the crossroads.  Though their tanks had suffered hits and would be vulnerable to attacks.

With no threat on their left flank a German tank unit is rushed to the crossroads to hopefully tip the balance of fighting in their favour. It never arrived due to air support which was all of a sudden proving its worth.

The remaining German units defending the crossroads are mopped up. This was around turn 20 (4pm).

The third line of defence...

Having gained control of the second objective, the crossroads, the Allies had to hurry up and get their artillery into position for the assault on the village. The Sherman flail tank moves up to help the attack as it is the one remaining Allied tank unit which has not taken a hit.

Allied units line up ready for the attack on the village which is lightly defended with a single unit. The Germans having committed most units to the defence of the crossroads.

The attack begins

The town is cleared of defenders and is open to the Allies.

After game thoughts?

This was such an enjoyable game. I set up the game Saturday morning and began the game Saturday afternoon and finished Sunday morning with lots of breaks to rest and do other things. It was great fun and a rare thing to get many of my 20mm WW2 units out and in a game at one time.

The rule changes worked and provided an entertaining game. The combat results table (see previous post here) provided quick results when units engaged, particularly when they have an advantage. I definitely plan to apply the combat results table replacing the D3 dice I use in the rules.

The other change limiting the number of activation cards worked well, and introduced a number of priority calls into the game for both sides. They also kept units together as attacking or defending groups, rather than having individual units moving all over the gaming area.

From a game perspective there were a few decisions caused by the rule changes and size of gaming area:

1) The limited activation cards meant both sides needed to group artillery and mortar units together to minimise the need to issue too many cards, and these groups delivered what seemed like bombardments.

2) The Allies took a very methodical approach of bringing up all available units, get the artillery in position, then attack. This took a few turns, but paid dividends in overwhelming defensive positions.

3) One of the most interesting decisions was whether the German counterattack should have pushed on rather than stopping and redeploying units to the crossroads. By pushing ahead there was a risk of losing the crossroads, but the reward would have had a tank units running amok in the landing area. It was one of those moments where it would have been interesting to replay from that point in the game.

In the end it was a victory to the Allies taking the town at 6pm as evening arrived on turn 24 (each turn is assumed to represent 30 minutes).