Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back in Baccus

...In which our protagonist successfully puts an army of Successors to the brush (but otherwise succeeds only at making puns you wish you could brush off so successfully).

The whole army, photographed in adequate lighting thanks to some timely sunlight!

Hot on the heels of my previous adventures in 6mm comes yet another force in this scale of scales. This time it's a Successor army which came to me by way of accident.

Now, some of you are probably wondering: how do you get an army by accident? Where can I get one? To answer that, I refer once again to the First Lesson given in my previous post:

Lesson #1: Don't make one giant order.

You see, this story starts back when Olde Rivertowne was the Baccus supplier for North America. At the time, they were the ones charged with filling my bloated order for Commands and Colors: Ancients armies. They also happened to stock all sorts of paints and related hobby materials in addition to the miniatures, which I duly requested simply in order to further complicate matters. Long story short, while Olde Rivertowne did an admirable job in getting me the dozens of mis-matched packs that I'd listed, I did end up with a Successor army rather than the Carthaginian pack I'd ordered (the giant order was unsuccessful, you might say). Poor relations between the U.S. Postal Service and Canada Post only exacerbated the problem: shipments between the U.S. and Canada are for some reason far slower and more expensive than from the UK.

Greek archers and slingers. For some reason my army pack had a unit of archers instead of one unit of scythed chariots. The others are leftovers from the leadpile.

Not wanting to undertake a laborious, expensive and agonizingly-slow exchange to get my Carthaginians, I simply tossed the Successors in the leadpile and ordered some new reinforcements -- an option Hannibal might have envied! (I should note that Baccus and the Royal Mail both give sterling service; despite crossing the Atlantic, I've had packages from Baccus in my mailbox within four days of placing the order).

New feature!

Yes, I'm pleased to announce a new feature beginning with this site. I call it "the coin." Many of you probably know what a coin is. The luckier among you may even possess coins of your own. In any case, I've included "the coin" as a scale reference in some of my pictures (those being the pictures where I've remembered to include it). The actual coin in question is a 1998 Canadian one cent piece, for the practical reason that said coin has faceted edges and is therefore less likely to roll away in the middle of a photograph. See below for how this coin compares in size with more valuable currency pieces.

From left to right: Canadian one cent, American one cent, Euro two cent, UK one penny. The first three are all the same diameter, while the UK penny is slightly larger.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Alexander the Great was nothing if not successful, at least militarily -- but his succession was famously problematic. The problem was that Alexander had never officially named an heir. It was claimed that he'd willed his conquests "to the strongest", which in practice meant those of his relatives and generals who could back their claim with enough force to win.

Baccus AMA3 - "Phalangites, open handed, stood". The pike phalanx was the backbone of any Hellenistic army. The pikes here are made from pins with their heads clipped off. Shields are quite large, but this seems to be the case with all Baccus' Classical range.

It was these contenders - particularly the generals - who are most appropriately called Successors, or Diadochi in Greek. It was the strongest among them who succeeded in partitioning Alexander's empire, producing the three great dynasties in Macedonia (the Antigonids), Syria (the Seleucids) and Egypt (the Ptolemies).

A unit of Bronze Shields. The red stars are waterslide transfers from Baccus. The red-on-bronze look was not very successful; too little colour contrast, and they tend to blur at anything further than point-blank range.

For centuries afterwards, a Greek-speaking or Hellenistic elite controlled much of the known world, ruling states both large and small. Their armies were modelled after those of Alexander, built around a Macedonian-style phalanx. Over time these forces changed weapons and composition, as new technology and tactics evolved. It is one of these Hellenistic-period armies that the Baccus Successor army pack represents, containing a mixture of both classically Alexandrian units and newer innovations to the Macedonian arsenal.

White Shields, showing better contrast with blue-on-white. Incidentally, the blue stars come in sheets of 80, while the red come in sheets of 64... for the same price. I think you can see which is the better deal!

Baccus AIR6 - "Roman generals". Six poses, attired in classical style.

Here's those Roman generals, posing as Greeks. They show off their fine Hellenistic fashion sense with fuschia-and-yellow cloaks.

The times they are a-changin'

The cavalry arm saw some of the greatest change during the Hellenistic era. At some point the two-handed lances of Alexander's day seem to have been largely replaced by spear-and-shield wielding riders. The longer lance remained in service with the cataphracts, fully-armoured cavalry copied from the Persians and steppe tribes of the east, which began to see service in Hellenistic armies.

Baccus AMA14 - "Cataphract cavalry". Great sculpting. Some of the reins/forward horse bardings were miscast, but the detail was still there to accept a drybrushing on both the rider and horse armour.

Cataphracts in line. I like how Baccus heavy cavalry often comes in a standing pose; it gives them that nonchalant 'cavalry reserve' look.

Baccus AMA12 - "Hellenistic/Greek cavalry". Beautiful sculpting on these figures. The shield has a vertical spindle boss, doubtlessly attested to by some sort of archaeological or artistic evidence, but which precludes the use of waterslide tranfers. The figure on the right is actually the standard bearer -- from which I clumsily broke the standard!


Javelin-armed skirmishing cavalry also adopted shields, perfected initially by the city of Tarentum. Eventually all cavalry who fought in this fashion were called Tarentine horsemen, irrespective of their actual origin.

Baccus AMA15 - "Tarentine light cavalry". Nice sculpting, but I had a few miscasts in my bunch, generally shields, spear butts, and helmet crests. The red stars are waterslide transfers.

Tarentine horse. These could easily be mixed in with AMA12 and/or ARR5 for more variation.

Scythed chariots were another innovation adopted into some Hellenistic armies. Darius' Persians had attempted to use scythed chariots against Alexander, with little success; the Greeks themselves tended to do no better.

Baccus APE24 - "Scythed chariots". Each chariot comes with four identical horses. The chariot side panels (with attached wheels) are separate pieces.

Baccus' scythed chariots also seem to be suffering some teething problems. The two side-panels-with-wheels are asymmetrical, making it look like the chariot has a crooked axle; and neither of them fit properly. The very delicate yoke poles also need to be bent into position to sit across the horses' backs; I had one pole arrive broken (you can see it in the pic above), and consequently resolved to leave the whole rickety rig alone, forgoing the 'proper' yoking of the horses.

Scythed chariots... poor casting, poor painting, poor assembly, poor weapons. By the time I finished this unit, I was glad my army pack had a unit of archers instead of more chariots.

If you aren't broke yet, buy more

As I explained in my previous post, I've switched over to the Baccus Basing System (BBS). I'm starting to like the look it gives my units more and more; the multi-layer texturing really does stand out, even if it takes a painfully long time to produce.

Of course switching to the BBS meant buying the BBS. At the same time I bought the waterslide transfers for my phalangites. Still, it felt wrong, making an order from a miniature producer without getting any minis. And so, for purely aesthetic reasons, I bought some elephants.

Baccus AMA16 - "Successor elephants". One of the crewmen carries a bow, one a javelin, and the third has arms raised to support a pike (not included).

Being used to the single-piece Carthaginian elephants, I was surprised to find their Successor equivalents come in several pieces. The two sides of the howdah are cast separately, each with an attached crewmember. Furthermore, you have the option of giving a weapon to the third crewman. Luckily the fit was a lot cleaner on these models than on the chariots, and everything went together easily.

Cataphract elephants! I'm told the pikes were used as lances for jousting with other elephant-riders, much like European knights of the middle ages. Really. And holding up a 5kg pike from one end was not a problem for these guys, that's how hardcore they were.

One more of the whole army.