Thursday 21 June 2012

Ancient Wargame - how does that work then?

Some years ago I came to the conclusion that painting 54mm Napoleonics and ACW for wargaming was a bit like cleaning out the Augean stables, the mountain of plastic never diminished and my hobby had become a chore instead of a pleasure.  To break the cycle I began searching for prepainted figures and bought up a clearance lot of the Timpo Romans made by Toyway (not to be confused with the original Timpo Swoppet Romans which would have required a remortgage on the house), these chaps are made of PVC so the weapons are a bit wangy and they plug in to a truly dreadful base which looks like a big orange dome.  Neither problem is insurmountable, dip the weapons in boiling water then straighten them and run under the cold tap - all sorted.  For the bases I reverted to my old favourite the tu'penny bit, the figures being PVC they stick to metal like barnacles on a boat hull, okay it's a bit of faffing about but it's not as tedious as having to paint 100 figures.

The Toyway/Timpo Romans, well detailed and nicely animated, I think the armour is quite accurate too.

I have never played an ancient wargame (not even with the Airfix figures I had as a lad) and my knowledge of the period extends little further than the Romans/Britons and Greeks/Persians but I have flicked through various Great Battles of ... and Great Commanders of .... type books so I know I am missing a trick and with that in mind I reached for the copy of Xenophon's "The Persian Expedition", which has been yellowing on my bookshelf these past two decades and headed for the local pub.

Britains Trojans, not the nice early Herald series figures but the later Hong Kong versions made of PVC (so I have no qualms about mounting them on new bases).  Will they pass muster as Carthaginians?  They'll have to because I haven't got anything else!

Xenophon's history of the Ten Thousand has provided me numerous scenarios which require few cavalry and no chariots or elephants, which is a good place to start as I only have infantry at the moment.  I have a reasonable number of Britains Trojans which will get the tu'penny treatment and be pressed into service as Carthaginians, supplemented by various African natives as ........ well Africans.


I recently happened across some old copies of "The Bulletin" the magazine of the British Model Soldier Society but they were priced ridiculously high so I just bought one issue, July 1956 - the month I was born.  Flicking through I found a set of very basic Ancient/Medieval wargame rules written by a T L Bath, which appeared to be written for 54mm figures.  Enquiries on the Old School Wargames Yahoo Group showed that they were the first known rules written by Tony Bath who had founded the Society of Ancients and they were designed to be played with 30mm flat figures.

to be continued


  1. I love those old Trojans even though the only versions I had were the Giant HO copies.

    Ignoring the wide array of unpainted ancients now available, and sticking with prepaints, the following ideas come to mind if approached from a traditional toy approach.

    Speaking of Xenephon, if you used the Trojan War fellows as Greeks, you could use Britain's Saracens as Persian cavalry and infantry as Persians with Toyway Egytian's and Roman Auxiliaries as Egpytian, Syrian and Anatolian subject troops.

    Forces of Valour did a pre-painted Roman cavalryman didn't they?

    Another old dodge from before Hat, Italerie, CTS etc got into ancients was to use Vikings for Gauls, essential for any Cartaginian Army. Egyptians could probably also find a place in a Carthaginian army as Libyan or Numidian mercenaries. Carthaginaian armies NEED Cavalry . Indians with spear and no feather bionnet might do but I wonder if some Arabs could be used?

    One last thought. Cleopatra's army could be done using Toyway Greeks& Egyptians vs the Romans.

    I'll be interested in hearing how the Tony Bath rules work, I seem to recall that they assume a fairly large number of figures. Luckily, if they work as a basis, there are all sorts of suitable free rules floating about.

    Have fun.


  2. Have you seen the Supreme sets? I haven't seen them in person but they look useful, esp for the cavalry.

    Looks to me like the Egyptian cavalry could be used for Numidians as well as for the "Egyptian hoplites" that Xenephon mentions.

    Their Saracens would make better Pesians that the Britains Storm Knights and they have Romans as well.

  3. Thanks for this Ross, you've given me much food for thought, I'm sure I've got some Deetail Saracens squirreled away somewhere and probably other stuff that could be used. I've seen the Supreme sets and they are great figures but a bit large.

    I find myself being drawn more and more to very early wargame rules, I'm not sure why, perhaps because they are more in tune with 54mm figures. I will post some more about the Tony Bath rules later.

  4. Nice project, Brian. I'm hard-pressed to elaborate on the advice given by Ross.

    There's a pretty decent selection of ancients offered by HaT and other plastics makers these days. But either you can play with them unpainted, or exchange the Augean stables of Napoleonics/ACW for that of an earlier time. One compromise solution might be to force yourself to paint them very, very simply. You may have the same problem as I, can never bring myself to prioritizing quantity to the extent of hastily slapping the paint on.

    Good luck, I look forward to reading more.


  5. Thanks Steve, a change is as good as a rest, as you so rightly point out. And Ancients are so much simpler to paint than those flamboyant Napoleonics! I now have a plan to make a quick fix army using the prepainted stuff then take my time adding auxiliaries etc. from conversions and unpainted figures.

  6. (belatedly; from a google search...)

    Did you /really/ manage to obtain just that one issue of the BMSS Bulletin, at random? :)
    Nice discussion that started on the old_school_wargaming forum!

    The next two issues are also "of interest", by the way!

  7. Brian, I stumbled across your post on the Tony Bath forum where you requested help in turning the rules into a pdf. I would love to offer my assistance in preserving this piece of history. If that is still your intention, please feel free to send an email to austrodavicus at


  8. irbyz, initially I picked up the whole bundle intending to buy them all but then reeled in shock at the price and put them all back. Mrs C. being infinitely sensible in all such matters, declared that I should at the very least get the July 1956 issue because that was the month I was born and it had to be "fate".

    When I discovered it contained the first installment of the Tony Bath Ancient rules I hightailed it back and bought the following two issues (and a few more since then!)

  9. Many thanks for your offer of help Dave, email is on it's way.

  10. There were also some HK copies of the HK Britains 'Trojans'. I bought a bunch of them for hardly anything. They'd been converted already and I repainted them. James O