Monthly Archives: November 2015

Ancient Warfare – Armor, Helmets, and Shields I

Weapons and Warfare


The most militarily significant impact of metal technology on war in the Bronze Age was its contribution to personal defensive systems, the armor, helmets, shields, neck collars, greaves, and other defensive equipment worn by the soldier to protect himself. The development of these protective systems had an enormous impact on warfare and tactics, and the development of new metal weapons during this period was stimulated mostly by the search for new ways to thwart and overcome the effectiveness of defensive armor. The inherent dynamic of weapon development operated then as now, but in reverse. In modern times we are prone to see the advent of some new offensive weapon which provokes a defense against it. In the Bronze Age the more significant military revolution was in defensive systems, which stimulated a search to overcome them.

The major protective devices of the ancient soldier were the helmet, neck collar, thorax body…

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The Last Great War of Antiquity I

Weapons and Warfare

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After the fall of Maurice a rumor spread that Theodosius had managed to escape, as his father had hoped, and reached Colchis, from where he made his way to Khusro’s court (Theophylact 8.13.1-6). When, five months later, Lilius presented Phocas’ credentials to Khusro as the new Roman emperor, he was repudiated. Khusro II dismissed Phocas as a usurping tyrant, and declared war with the aim of restoring Theodosius to his father’s kingdom. Eastern sources helped to spread the word that the son had escaped (Theophylact 8.13.5; Armenian Chronicle Attributed to Sebeos 106, 110).

And so Chosroes exploited the tyranny as a pretext for war, and mobilized that world-destroying trumpet: for this became the undoing of the prosperity of Romans and Persians. For Chosroes feigned a pretence of upholding the pious memory of the emperor Maurice. And so in this way the Persian war was allotted its birth, and Lilius remained…

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Parthian Military

Weapons and Warfare

fdzrfrdzggbfgbfThe fully armoured cataphracts were mounted on horses whose head, neck, chest and sides were similarly protected by metal armour and the army’s strength lay in the combination of these troops with the light horse archers. The least successful Parthia armies were those using the most cataphracts and the fewest horse archers. The cataphract camels used in 217 AD were probably Hatrene. Foot were only used in defending cities or in the mountains.A Sassanid triumphal sculpture shows the defeat in 224 AD of Parthian dignitaries who are fully armoured in cataphract style, but mounted on apparently unarmoured horses, but close examination shows that horse armour is in fact depicted. Sarmatian allies were hired for an intervention in Armenia in 35 AD, though they failed to link up. A large force of other allies did join and may have been Dahae, who also took part in a civil war from…

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Roman Navy: From Myonessus to Actium

Weapons and Warfare


Between 190 and the build-up to Actium in the latter half of the 30s, warships larger than “sixes” disappeared from the fleets of the Mediterranean powers. Rome had methodically destroyed her major rivals at sea and emerged from the war with Antiochus as the undisputed naval power of the Mediterranean. One might reasonably ask why the Romans never developed an interest in midsized polyremes, except for their occasional use of “sixes” for flagships. The commonly accepted answer is derived from authors like Polybius and Livy, who chronicled the development of Roman naval power during the Punic Wars. The answer goes like this: the Romans perfected the art of grapple-and-board warfare in order to off set the nautical skill of their adversaries. Their first “fives” were of sturdy build, and although they did not handle as well as the Carthaginian “fives” they faced, they carried the Romans to victory thanks to…

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Rhodes as a Naval Power

Weapons and Warfare

hnhfgxrsrhodesportPlan of the shipsheds of the military port of Rhodes: those to the west are the width suitable for larger triremes and quadriremes, but the eastern slips are narrower and presumably intended for lighter craft like tribemioliae with which Rhodes was closely associated.

The ships rated higher than ‘ten’ seem not to have been used for ship-to-ship combat, so an additional explanation must be sought for their design. The use of ships as fighting platforms to attack city and harbour defences, for example by Demetrius I Poliorcetes against Rhodes in 305 (Diod. Sic. 20.85–8), suggests that the very large polyremes may have been designed with this function in mind. Demetrius’ fleet of 500 ships was likely to have been deployed against the coastal cities of Asia Minor, had he not been ousted from Macedon by Pyrrhus in 287. In this respect, the largest polyremes are analogous to the very large…

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The White Ship


King Henry I King Henry I

In 1120 King Henry I had occupied the throne of England for twenty years. In that time he had sired many sons and daughters, but only two were legitimate. His daughter Matilda was married to the German Emperor. His son, William Adelin (or athelin) was his heir. A year earlier William had married Count Fulk V of Anjou’s daughter.

In November of that year, King Henry was about to cross from Normandy to England from the port of Barfleur. When the winds were right a man named Thomas FitzStephen approached and offered the use of a new vessel, named The White Ship. King Henry already had a fine ship for his own crossing, but suggested his son travel in the new vessel. William went aboard with two of his half-siblings and some two hundred and fifty others, many young people.

Aboard their own vessel and far from…

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Slow Acting Curse


11 26 opening the tombIt was on this day, in 1922, that archaeologist Howard Carter and his sponsor Lord Carnarvon first opened the tomb of Tutankhamen. The ancient Egyptians buried their Pharaohs with great ceremony and loads of precious objects to sustain them in their afterlife. They took great care to make sure that their kings were not disturbed. They built labyrinthine tombs with secret chambers, blocked passageways with huge pieces of stone and even, in some cases, placed a curse on the entrance. The secret chambers and enormous stones did not deter the thieves. I’ve no idea if the curses worked or not because I don’t know who the thieves were or what happened to them.

European interest in all things Egyptian had really taken off in the early eighteenth century but no one had yet found a tomb that had not been broken into and looted. Carter had been working with ancient…

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Dungeons & Dragons Was Played When There Were Dungeons & Dragons

Worlds Beyond

1447767293455Fox News has an article describing an archeological find from China that looks like the world’s earliest Dungeons & Dragons game, dating from 300 BC. Not only is the die familiar, but this description of the game from a 2000 year old poem brings back memories from happy D&D nights:

“Then, with bamboo dice and ivory pieces, the game of Liu Bo is begun; sides are taken; they advance together; keenly they threaten each other. Pieces are kinged, and the scoring doubled. Shouts of ‘five white!’ arise.”

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Sanchia of Provence, Queen of the Romans

History... the interesting bits!

One of 4 sisters, all of whom became queens, Sanchia of Provence was born in Aix-en-Provence in about 1228. She was the 3rd daughter of Raymond Berengar V, Count of Provence, and his wife Beatrice of Savoy.

Sanchie Sanchie de Provence

Sanchia was 7 years younger than her oldest sister, Marguerite, who married Louis IX of France in 1234. Her 2nd oldest sister, Eleanor, was 5 years older her senior and married Henry III of England in 1236. Sanchia probably spent most of her childhood with Beatrice, who, as the youngest of the 4 sisters, was 3 years younger than Sanchia and didn’t marry until 1246; she would become Queen of Naples in 1266.

I could find no information on Sanchia’s childhood, beyond the fact that the sisters were all close, and remained so throughout their lives; thus helping to forge international relations through their exceptional familial bond.

The one description…

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Some Very Old Shoes!



Here are a pair of beautiful 12th-century pointed Byzantine shoes. They are now held at British Museum of Art.

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Writing Your Own Single-Player Adventures

The DM's Apprentice

I’ve been working on putting together my very first adventure for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.  While I’ve played for a short while while, I have never run a game as a DM.  But my conundrum was that I don’t really have many people to  play through an adventure, aside from Mrs. DM.  So, I set out to write a short adventure to test out the waters of being a DM, while only having to manage playing with one PC.

It did start coming together, but it was quite a challenge to come up with ways to move the adventure along without using combat all of the time.  With only a single PC, I don’t want them constantly fighting.  And I don’t want them to have an entire party of NPCs fighting alongside them all of the time.  This meant getting creative.

Most of the adventure will involve stealth, intrigue…

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Tabletop – DFAE Playtest – Session 3 write-up

Stylish Corpse

This is the write-up for the third playtesting session for the Dresden Files Accelerated Edition. All the players were present for this one and I think much fun was had by all.

The scenario is designed to be deliberately open-ended — it can be played as a stand-alone adventure or can be hooked into a larger campaign if the group decides to carry on beyond the playtesting requirements; either way, one more session should resolve the primary Euphorium plotline (who’s making and selling it, how, why, for what benefit/group/purpose, etc.).

Jeremiah ToomsAs it stands, I’m fairly sure we’re going to need to split the UK and US contingents because scheduling is a pure bitch with a total time-zone difference of 7 hours and players with weird and wonderful work schedules. That’s life beyond the time-rich college-age, I guess. We’ll figure it out.

I kicked around the idea of starting a…

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The Might of the Hammer



Yes, Please.

One of my favorite games and IMO, the gold standard of translating table top wargaming to PC.

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Gamer Designer’s Corner: More Thoughts on Volley Fire



In my last post, I talked about how I thought the firing mechanic in The Sword and the Flame did a nice job of representing volley fire — that felt like volley fire.  I want to talk about volley fire form a different perspective in this post.

I was reading one of the Wally Simon game design books that are being published by On Military Matters.  In one of the articles, Wally talks about a mechanic he envisioned in which reaction to volley fire is incorporated.  His thoughts dovetail with discussions in Brent Noseworthy’s books on the Seven Years War and Napoleonic Wars.  In Anatomy of Victory, Noseworthy discusses how difficult it is to get troops moving again once they begin a firefight.  There is an inertia created when lines begin to fire.  This may be due to the noise and smoke, the fear of the bayonet, etc…

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Winter Thunder unbagging video


By Rob Bottos!

And yes, I make no apology for the SS counters… I wanted hot pink or magenta, but they came out kinda purply.

Good work, Tom and Mary and John!

Thanks Rob!

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ITR5 Fire Teams AAR

Advanced Squad Leader AAR Blog / Advanced Squad Leader After Action Reports

“Catalina Kid,” a M4 medium tank of Company C, 745th Tank Battalion, drives through the entrance of the Aachen-Rothe Erde railroad station during the fighting around the city viaduct on Oct. 20, 1944. Courtesy of First Division Museum

It’s Oct 1944.  The Americans were about to engage the Germans in what was to be their largest urban fight in the Second World War.  Aachen was also to be the first German city captured by the Allies.

In this “BFP Into the Rubble” scenario, 10 elite & 12 US 1st line squads teamed up with 3 Shermans and 2 tank destroyers faced off against a mix of 18 German squads with mostly 2nd liners, a pair of AA guns and 2 Hetzers.  The Germans also had 21 concealment counters, 8 Fortified locations and sewer movement capabilities.

There was a lot of rubble.

The Americans were to capture 7 buildings in 8 turns.



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Table-top Roleplaying: Imagination, Camaraderie and Windows to the Psyche

Geek Things Considered

Early D&D Early version of Dungeons and Dragons, then called Chainmail

Tabletop gaming used to be the gateway for nearly every hard-core geek into an imaginative world where grand stories would unfold and epics were begun. I personally cut my teeth on a small paperback book for Dungeons & Dragons that my brother brought back from boarding school in England back in the 80s. The book was small, pocket sized really, with no pictures and an obtuse writing style that made it difficult to understand at times. The rules were rough, the type was small and the book generally had no aesthetic appeal; yet I was still enthralled enough to start making characters in my spare time. It was a strange thrill to just make an adventuring party on paper and outfit them with equipment, manage the weight of their gear and balance their abilities together. I made characters for hours but…

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Meroë Pyramids

The Travel Blog

IMG_1504_editedThere are more pyramids in Sudan than there are in Egypt, yet there are infinitely less tourists visiting them. I went to take a look at what the distinct lack of fuss was all about.

The most famous pyramids in Sudan are arguably those in Meroë, hidden away some 200 km from the modern day capital of Khartoum. Once a thriving manufacturing city in the Kushite Empire, Meroë’s reign lasted from c.800BC to c.350AD. Trading iron, pottery, textiles and jewellery, with the Middle East and Asia, Meroë was once a metropolis of significance.

DSC_1133Arriving at dusk, we passed a couple of forlorn trinket sellers, bundling up their wares for a slow dusty amble home. We clambered up the hot pinky-orange sand dunes. The expanse of the site was ours alone but for one western tourist and local family weaving their way back to the entrance.

Over 200 pyramids are situated…

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