Friday, 12 November 2010

A real marsh - of sorts

I thought that I really ought to visit my local marsh since I have only been once and it was covered in snow and frozen solid at the time! I only live about two minutes drive away so it is a bit pathetic that I haven't been before.

It is one of the only remaining sizeable bits of marsh in the Midlands which isn't simply part of a floodplain. It is formed as run off from the nearby hills with the local geology preventing it from draining. There is reckoned to be about 5 foot depth of peat which has accumalated. Man has left his mark on the environment especially through the collection of wood. This has been going on for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years - pre-Roman settlement is known in the area. Without human intervention, wetland in this area tends to be wooded with trees such as alder surrounding numerous bodies of open water. As well as being used for things like clogs, in post-medieval times alder was one source of charcoal for gunpowder making. 
This map is from one of the information boards at the entrance to the marsh. The roughly horizontal line of trees seems, going by a nineteenth century OS map, to be the remains of a hedge line. The area has become more wooded in the last century with the decline of wood gathering though this is one method of keeping the meadows relatively clear...

Mowing machine
A small herd is maintained on the meadows; they keep down the grass and much of the scrub although the photo shows how much of  even the drier area is covered with low reeds. The herd roams into part of the marsh area as well. I could follow some of their tracks as far as the pond. Parts of the marsh may be too deep for them - the path crosses the main body of the marsh on a duckboard causeway and it looks decidedly wet underfoot. If you ever go - beware. I was wearing army boots and almost ended up pitching into the mire; the duckboards are decidedly slippy!

There are a couple of sizeable areas of open water surrounded by pretty dense reeds and bulrushes. Much of this is pretty tall.
Swampster in the bulrushes.

As for wargaming....
In DBMM terms I think I calculated that the marsh area would qualify as a 1 ME piece. Whether it is wet enough to be 'marsh' in rule terms is debateable though it is certainly far enough away from a river not to count as the marsh allowable adjacent to a water feature. It is certainly at least boggy ground. It did strike me that the rushes would be tall and dense enough to hide light infantry though their presence would likely to be revealed quite quickly if there was any movement.
The wet meadow is much drier (or was when I visited in October, though the autumn had been relatively dry) and might count as either open ground or some kind of rough going.

On a closing note... one of the reasons for the survival of this area of marsh (now an SSSI) was through the work of my father and his colleagues during the expansion of my town. Draining of the area had certainly been considered. He also helped to ensure that the route of the ancient and Roman road was preserved as the area was built up. Thanks, Dad.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Plutarch's Wars: Romans of the Late Republic

The army of the Late Republic was led by a succession of generals who have made their mark on history. Julius Caesar is of course the most famous. But this is also the period of Marius and Sulla, Lucullus and Sertorius, Antony and Crassus. It is the time when the Republic's most deadly enemies were probably its own generals but it is also the time of Spartacus and Mithridates, Tigranes and Vercingetorix, Cleopatra and Surena.
 I wasn't particularly interested in this period when I was buidling armies 25 years ago, but I liked the look of the new (at the time) Freikorps Romans and I ended up buying a few. The metal was pretty brittle then, but most of them survived in my possession unpainted for the next couple of decades.
Once I had built a Pontic army I decided to start painting some Romans as an enemy for them. Since I had these Freikorps figures I decided to continue using them, especially as I wasn't keen on most of the others then available.
In the past year or so, the range has been redesigned so these figures are no longer available. Their replacements look pretty good though.

The figures were designed for the period covering the late Republic and into Augustus's reign. It isn't really clear how early the squared off oval shields began to be common, so I have included some with the others.
I painted the shield designs based on some from Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome. Designs like this seem to have appeared on the monument to Actium so were probably used in the Civil Wars. Other shields may have been plainer and at least some seem to have had the name of their commander painted on. Actual colours are debateable though Amato's book shows a fresco with a red shield. I have some others painted with a blue background and some with black. (Incidentally, if you are interested in ancient paints, Pliny, book 35, goes into some details. Some paints would obviously be more common than others).

The Freikorps range includes some interesting looking generals for the Romans but unfortunately the horses are substantially smaller than most other ranges now avaible, so I have never painted mine. Instead, I have a variety of generals.

These are from the Warmodelling range. When I bought them, the company only produced Mid-Republican figures but these are equally suitable for the later period. The main feature of Warmodelling figures which lets them down a bit is that the horses tend to have stumpy legs, but from a normal wargamers viewpoint this is not as apparent. 
The legionaries from Warmodelling look pretty good although I think the shields are a bit too broad. I'm tempted by their 'auxilliaries' in the same range  for use in a Slave Revolt army which I am very slowly building.

These are from the Alain Touller range. They mix well with the other companies' figures. Their legionaries have pretty accurate looking shields although I'd prefer a wider variety in appearance.

I have a few of the Corvus Belli legionaries which will get painted some day. I'm not sure whether they will become the most experienced troops of a Slave army or a second Roman army for Civil War use. Either way, they are probably the most dynamic range of legionaries available for this period.

Plutarch's Wars: The Why and wherefore!

 Over the past couple of months I've returned to the period which first interested me in Ancient Wargaming - the Wars of Greece, pre-Imperial Rome and their neighbours.
My first ever ancient figures were 15mm Peter Laing hoplites and my first proper army were Carthaginians - again Peter Laing - put together originally using the old Airfix Guide (the so-called Purple Primer). I tried to read as much as I could about the period and my interest soon expanded to the whole Hellenistic period.

I pretty much stopped Ancient wargaming for about 10 years but when I restarted I still had quite a lot of figures which covered this same period.

One character who had interested me was Mithridates the Great. I read as much as I could about him (and managed to do a uni study on him) and as well as putting together a Pontic army, I began to have a lot more interest in this period of Roman history.

This meant that my main area of interest coincides pretty well with the period covered by Plutarch's parallel lives, most of which fall into a period just before 400BC to 1BC with the occasional later or earlier entry. Because of that, I've decided to label any posts from this older period as "Plutarch's Wars" and may well start a sister blog to help organise any links I put in.