Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Four-way Clash of Spears battle! Celt-Iberian and Gallic confederation versus a Greco-Roman alliance

On Labor Day I was able to gather with some gaming friends at Giga Bites Cafe in Marietta for some more Clash of Spears action.

There were four of us, and we decided to fight a four-player battle, with each player bringing 900 points of troops. Each leader would only be able to activate units from their own warband, but initiative bidding would be handled per team. The active team could choose one of its units to activate, then the other team, etc. In that way, the two warlords would have to confer and work together to decide which of their units to activate and when, but once the decision was made, the owning player would direct their own troops.

With our choices of warbands determined, the teams actually formed up quite nicely.

A combined force of Greeks (under Bryan) and Romans (led by Brett) would try and subjugate the noble tribe of Gauls (with Noah leading), with my Celt-Iberians coming to their aid. With that settled, battle was joined!

At the end of the engagement phase, the tokens are ready to be revealed. Both armies advanced fairly uniformly across the front. The mules served to mark the objectives. 

On the right flank of the tribesmen's line, the Gallic force massed in strength.

The left flank (held by the Celt-Iberians) faces Bryan's beautifully painted Greeks, while Noah's Gauls would square off against Brett's Romans.

Combat began towards the center, where the Celt-Iberian slingers drew first blood, whittling down the opposing Greek slingers.

The brave Celt-Iberians can barely see the tops of the enemy spears, indicating the presence of cowardly Greeks hiding behind the hill.


Not too much else happened that turn, as the forces worked to position themselves for the next round of combat. (Note however, Noah's cunningly placed cavalry unit. They were about to ride into glory and history!)

Note the arrows that indicate the path of the Gallic charge into legend!

Stage 1 of the charge led the horses straight into a unit of Greek spearmen. The charging cavalry win the combat, forcing the few surviving spearmen to fall back.

The second part of the charge took the cavalry into the side of a second Greek unit. In the ensuing combat, the Greek spearmen were routed and destroyed.

The surviving slingers, as well as the spearmen who made it unscathed through the cavalry's initial attack, lost their nerve and fled. Alas, the brave Gallic horsemen were themselves destroyed - their courageous charge having taken its toll on their fatigue.

Meanwhile, on the left flank, the unit of Celt-Iberian nobles manage to catch the vile Greek leader poking his head out too far from behind a building and unleash a barrage of javelins!

I don't normally post photos of my dice rolls, but come on, this is a thing of beauty. The Greek leader failed saves meant he suffered enough wounds to kill him, but he called on his gods and they answered. After rolling again, he survived, albeit with only one wound remaining.

At the end of turn 2, the effects of the Gallic cavalry charge can be seen, as the lighter Greek screening troops have been chased from the battlefield.

Another end of turn 2 shot, showing more of the right flank, where the Gallic infantry was facing very tough Roman opposition.

Having been caught out after attacking the Greek leader, the Celt-Iberian nobles face the wrath of the opposing cavalry, losing half their number.

Again on the left, the hill would be site of many a bloody combat. In this instance the Greek spearmen were able to score some kills on the caetrati, forcing them back.

Turning our attention back to the right flank, the well-armored Gallic nobles advance against the Roman legionnaires.

Hoping to replicate the efforts of their mounted comrades, Gallic warriors charge into the fray! Unfortunately, it was not to be, as they were defeated by the disciplined Roman formation.

Not wanting to seem cowardly in front of his men, the Gallic chieftain himself charges the Roman line. His attacks have some effect, but the unit survives mostly intact.

Not to be outdone by his ally, the Celt-Iberian leader charges around the field, catching his wounded Greek counterpart and challenging him to battle!

Another view of the leader duel, just because it was a great cinematic moment in the game between two really nicely painted models (if I do say so myself).

This time, the Greek's fickle gods abandoned him, and he was defeated!

Celt-Iberian scutarii and Greek spearmen face off trying to claim the mule.

The scutarii are repulsed, leaving the hill to their enemies.

By the end of the turn, the Greeks had successfully pushed back the Celt-Iberian advance, but the fighting had taken its toll and they broke. On the right, the Gauls had suffered at the hands of the Romans, but still hung tough for the moment.

The Roman line having finally broken, they were more vulnerable to stones fired by the slingers and took some casualties.

The caetrati also targeted the disordered Romans, destroying the unit.

At the end of turn four, the Gauls failed their force break test - unable to bear more punishment at the hands of the Romans they flee. The Romans passed their break test, but their commander saw the writing on the wall and conceded the field to the tribesmen.

The Greek (Bryan on the left) and Roman (Brett on the right) commanders after the battle. Wait! Why are they so happy? They lost! Do they know something I don't know?

The victorious chieftains! The leaders of the Gallic warriors (Noah on the left) and Celt-Iberians (vacation-mode Santa on the right) after their hard-won victory. 

Another great day of Clash of Spears is in the books. We all had a great time and enjoyed the fellowship and friendly, mostly, competition. For me, personally, it was really nice to game with Bryan again after a too-long hiatus, and to make new gaming friends in Brett and Noah. I am really looking forward to playing with them again as we continue to Clash!

'Til next time!

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Painting Celtiberians for Clash of Spears


When Clash of Spears was announced, it really was a simple choice for me to dive in! The Kickstarter in late 2019 was the perfect opportunity for me to explore ancient wargaming at what I thought would be a manageable scale.

Plus, with the setting being the days of the Roman Republic, I could gather an Iberian force. That appealed to me greatly, because there is a very good chance that my ancestors fought in that region of Spain and in that timeframe. In fact, based on one of the areas to which I can trace my lineage back to 800AD, I can even pinpoint what I believe to be the most likely tribes that I am descended from.

The likelihood is that my family is descended from the Arevaci or the Pellendones, two tribes that operated in the northern part of the province of Soria, and the southern part of La Rioja.

I had always steered clear of wargaming in ancient times because of the sheer number of figures needed. I did not have the time or patience to paint 500 or so models.

But Clash can be fought with between 35 and 60 models, a very comfortable number of figures for me to paint in a reasonable amount of time, or so I thought.

Before even receiving the Kickstarter armies, I bought some packages of Victrix Iberian warriors, on foot and mounted, to start building my forces.

I began assembling them, focusing on a unit of caetrati (skirmishers who carry a small round shield, the caetra from which they get their name) and some cavalry. I started by painting the horses, using them to test the Citadel Contrast Paints which were growing in popularity at the time. And then, I stopped.

It was a combination of life circumstances that are not worth getting into now, but suffice to say that the partially assembled and painted figures sat... and sat... and sat.

Fast forward nearly two and a half years, and my friend Alvaro (co-designer of Clash of Spears with his brother Francisco) organized a tournament to be held at the local wargaming store, Giga Bites Cafe. (Details of the tournament itself can be seen in this post.)

Circumstances being much different now, and much more conducive to having some free time for gaming, I decided to dust off the partial army and get a warband ready for the tournament. Of course, things got a little unexpectedly complicated, and I wasn't able to really dig in to the project until the week before the tournament. This would be a challenging task - to complete a 44-figure army in under a week!

The army list I built consists of 46 figures:

2 leaders, one on horseback

8 slingers (6 of which were already painted)

20 caetrati (12 of which were already painted, but none of them had shields)

6 noble cavalry riders (all six horses were finished, but none of the riders)

10 veteran scutarii (none painted)

So, the clock was ticking and the race was on - paint 21 infantry figures plus seven riders and one horse, and complete shields for all of them. While that may not sound tough, and for many people it's all in a day's work, for me it would be a feat.

The unpainted portion of the warband, after priming.

The scutarii, so called because they carry a large shield, or scutum, had originally been mounted on round bases. In Clash of Spears, certain troops that carry the large shields can form up into shield walls, an action that troops with smaller shields cannot carry out. In order to keep straight which troops could, and which ones could not, form a shield wall, I decided to switch bases on the scutarii to square bases. That way, when formed into a wall they would be in a nice straight line and look great doing it!

The scutarii. I removed these figures from the round bases they were on and moved them to the square bases.

Shields, so many shields.

The first figure I painted was the leader's horse. Since it was the only animal this time around, I felt it made sense to knock it out quickly before beginning the assembly-line work on the remaining figures.

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!

At that point, work began in earnest! I started by painting the flesh tone on all the figures. This would be followed by tunics, footwear, accessories such as belts, scabbards, etc., and finally the weapons. By working on one color or area at a time I could speed up the process.

Painted flesh on all the figures.
A moment to discuss my painting equipment.

Though I am loathe to admit it, my eyes are not as good as they once were. Nowadays I need a little help painting these little guys. So, some time back, I bought myself some illuminated magnifiers.

Besides the added bonus of making me look like a dwarf miner, the magnification provided by the lenses makes it possible for me to pick out the tiniest details. And the light on the visor means that the miniature is never in shadow, even with my fat head bent over it for painting!

Ahhhhh! What is that?

This is what I see with the visor, though the photo doesn't really do the visors justice.

Tunics, belt and footwear completed.

At this point, I turned my attention to the shields. Because I use transfers from Little Big Men Studios for the shield designs, I leave the shield faces white. On the back of all of them, I used Citadel Wyldwood Contrast paint, which leaves a nice, rich, wood color. I made sure to leave the streaks as obvious as possible to simulate wood grain.

Now it was time for another time-saving trick: use a Sharpie to color the shield bosses and edges. I grabbed my metallic marker and started coloring. When I was done, I did give the shiny silver areas a quick wash of Nuln Oil to tone down the brightness and make it look more like steel.

Shield backs painted (the finished shield at left was one on which I tested my methods first).

Cutting out and applying the transfers.

Job's a good 'un! Shields completed and ready for their owners.

By this point, I was getting a little nervous. I was down to the last few days, and I knew from experience that when I did the bases I would have to leave them to dry for many hours. Ideally, I like to leave them to dry overnight, but that would not be possible this time around.

Once all the base colors were painted, it was time for a wash. The Citadel Contrast paints really don't require a wash, since they are already formulated to accumulate in the recess, giving a natural highlight. But many of the paints I used were the old-fashioned kind, that require a little help to look really good.

Citadel Seraphim Sepia is my friend here, and I splashed it liberally across the areas that needed it. Even after all these years, I am still amazed at the huge difference a wash makes in the overall appearance of the model!

The unwashed massed (top) and the washed.

Once the final wash was completely dry, I completed the bases. This post details my basing process. By this time it was Friday afternoon and the tournament was scheduled for Saturday morning. I let the bases dry as long as I felt I could get away with, then dry brushed on some detail and added tufts of grass.

All that was left were the finishing touches. I glued the shields in place and gave the miniatures a sealing coat of Testors Dullcote, then set them aside to dry overnight.

Phew! Done, and not a moment too soon. When I showed up at the tournament, I did so with a completely painted 46-figure warband.

I present to you my painted 900-point Celtiberian warband for Clash of Spears!

The warband. I use sheet magnets on the bases and a metal bottom glued to the carrying box to keep the figures from sliding around and getting damaged in transit. The spears in particular are prone to breakage.

The Celtiberian nobles charge!
This is why we work so hard to paint our troops. There is nothing like the appearance of a nicely painted army on a well-decorated tabletop.

This picture from one of my games shows the cavalry charging into a formation of Roman troops.

The scutarii obey their leader's order to form a wall of shields. (This is why I changed their bases to square.)

By the way, the people that say a fully painted army gets better dice rolls are lying to you. You can read about just how good my dice-rolling skills were here.

The next challenge for me is to add some more units to the Celtiberians so I can have some flexibility when selecting a force. The standard Clash of Spears game is 900 points, and that is exactly what I have painted, so I do not have any room to make changes in troop selection.

After adding a few units, I hope to knock out some smaller painting projects, which I will share here, for a variety of other games.

Then, I will tackle a Carthaginian army, including at least one elephant! Go big or go home, right?

'Til next time!

Monday, August 29, 2022

Clash of Spears - Summer 2022 Georgia Tournament!

I gathered this past Saturday, Aug. 27, with a group of wargamers to participate in the Clash of Spears Summer 2022 tournament at Giga-Bites Cafe in Marietta.

The tournament was hosted by my friends Alvaro and Francisco Erize - the amazing duo of brothers at the heart of Fighting Hedgehog and authors of the award-winning Clash of Spears rules.

Due to life circumstances, I've not been able to game in a long, long, time. But now that things have changed for the better, when I heard about the tournament I was eager to attend. I just needed to finish painting an army - so I stepped up and did what I usually do: I waited until the last moment and worked like mad to get a Celtiberian force painted up in time. Fortunately, I succeeded and showed up on the day with a fully-painted 900-point Celtiberian warband! (I will write on the painting saga in a later post.)

There were about nine other warlords vying for the famed Clash gladius, though that number would vary throughout the day as some had to leave early. 

My tournament after-action report will be told mostly in pictures and descriptions, rather than a boring, dry verbal account.

Once I arrived and the tables were set up (which I have to say, were beautiful), it was time to fight! Just my luck, I was paired against Alvaro in the first game - great. My first foray back into wargaming in many years, and I was faced with one of the game's designers! I did not expect this game to be easy, and I was right.

My deployment, and my first mistake. With two leaders, I should not have split my forces into three divisions. That meant my Lvl 4 leader would have to try and stay centered all battle in order to be able to give orders to two formations.

The right side, my left, of the Roman line. A nice. strong, compact formation.

The left, my right, of the Roman army. Light troops flanking the shield wall.

My Celtiberian nobles and a Lvl 3 leader form up on the flank.

Overview of the initial deployment. Observant players will already see that I am going to have trouble concentrating enough force to break the enemy line.

On my right, the caetrati and slingers face a well-drilled Roman formation. They would eventually see off the caetrati and assault into the slingers.

The scutarii look on as a unit of caetrati advances to contest the objective.

Clash of Spear measurement gauges come in very handy when making sure your troops stop just outside of enemy missile range,

On my left, top in this picture, Alvaro's Romans have advanced steadily towards the objective while maintaining a strong formation. At the bottom, the enemy eye each other earily over the second objective.

I took advantage of an opportunity to charge with my nobles, doing very little damage, before riding away back to a safe distance.

The Roman troops, having dispatched the caetrati, secure the objective by charging into and pushing back the slingers. 

At this point, the Romans held both objectives. Combined with heavy losses among my caetrati, this was enough to force a break test which I failed, conceding the field of battle to the Romans.

At the left objective, I still had enough force to cause some damage, had the leaders not decided that discretion is the better part of valor and fled!

The outcome was never in doubt, and my Celtiberians abandoned the field to Alvaro's Romans, awarding him a major victory. I managed to salvage a single victory point - not an auspicious start to the campaign.

The second game would be a skirmish between similar forces as my Celtiberians took on Kenny's Iberians in an internecine peninsular clash.

Kenny and I, right, prior to our match. Pardon the lunch detritus in the foreground, but Clashing makes one hungry.

The Celtiberian line, a much more compact formation than the previous battle.

Initial deployment, with the objective markers (the top objective is hidden in the structure). This was the retrieval scenario, with the hidden object in one of the randomly selected objectives. Until we knew which, we'd have to contest them all.

On the right, the caetrati advance towards the objective.

Slingers start peppering the enemy, caught in the open, with stones, diminishing their ranks.

State of the opposing forces after the first turn. My line is still holding together well.

A solid line of Celtiberians.

The slngers, having devastated one unit of enemy troops, turn their attention to the one securing the center objective, which, as the fates would have it, contained the hidden valuable. The enemy gains the advantage.

On the left, the caetrati soften up the opposing cavalry before being charged and taking some losses. Still, their javelins took their toll.

The weakened cavalry was no match for the charge of the scutarii, who decimated them!

At this point, though the enemy had possession of the treasure, the Celtiberians were solidly in control of the field. Due to their losses, the Iberians were forced to take a break test and fled, abandoning the sacred item that had cost them so much in sweat and blood. 

This game went much more my way, with the Celtiberians gaining a major victory! The nine points from this battle got me to 10 total points, firmly in the middle but still with an outside shot at the champion's gladius if things went well in the third game.

For that crucial game, I faced off against Brett and his heavily armored Romans - this would be a tough test indeed.

Once again, the Celtiberians face a heavily armored, compact formation of Romans.
Apart from a unit of velites on the hill, the Romans were all heavily armored with big shields to absorb missile attacks.

The wild Celtiberian caetrati rush screaming from the woods. Perhaps next time, quietly staying in cover would be more effective...

The one real tactical mistake I can point to that my opponent made - his cavalry charged unsupported and were caught alone and in the open.

Not one to pass up an opportunity, the leader orders the scutarii to break formation and throw their spears, impaling the the horses and riders under a storm of sharp steel. The eerie cries of dying horses could be heard across the battlefield.

Emboldened by the success of the scutarii, the caetrati charge a wall of Roman shields - with little effect other than to die upon Roman spearpoints.

Don't let the apparently disordered Roman line fool you - at this point they are still in a very strong defensive position keeping my troops away from the objective.

After butchering the caetrati, and the scutarii next, the Romans command the center. 

I managed to salvage some respectability by charging my cavalry into the enemy deployment zone, but it was too little, too late. I failed the break test convincingly, handing Brett a major victory.

In the end, the might of Rome prevailed again as the Celtiberians really weren't able to score enough damaging hits, while getting punished in return. Brett's major victory was a crushing defeat for my troops, and the two victory points I was able to salvage left me with 11 total - tied for fifth in the overall standings, firmly and solidly mediocre.

My impressions on the day:

First, Alvaro and Francisco put on a terrific tournament. Each and every table had beautiful well-placed scenery that truly enhanced the gaming experience. And the brothers were gracious hosts, moving from table to table to answer the myriad of rules questions and comment on the ebbs and flows of the games.

Secondly, the level of good sportsmanship was tremendously high. The competition was fierce, but there was no sense of the uber-competitive, win-at-all-costs, attitude I have sometimes seen at other events. Yes, everyone was out to win, but all of my opponents were fair and kind. Moves and countermoves were discussed before decisions were made, and rules queries were addressed politely.

It was a pleasure to compete and enjoy a day of fellowship with such a great group of guys. Despite the thrashing my army took at the hands of the Romans, I am eager to send them back into the fray.

I am planning on adding some units with heavier armor, but that will mean fewer skirmishers... or smaller units... or different leaders...

Choices, choices.

I have decided on one thing - next time, the gladius will be mine! Oh yes, my precious, it will be mine!

'Til next time.