We who turn the wheel, and look to windward…
(T.S. Eliot, “the Wasteland”)
I have something of a challenge ahead of me. A while back, my friend Norbert moved to England and had a yard sale for all his non-WarMachine miniature wargame stuff to various old friends. I didn’t want a lot of his stuff, but one thing did catch my eye– a collection of 1:600 Greek and Roman Galleys. I immediately claimed it and pay-paled (is that a word?) Norbert what he was asking for them, thinking I had really gotten a deal from the description. Shortly thereafter, I received a large-ish box from New Jersey, and the reality set in. They weren’t 1:600 Xystons, which I had pictured in my own head. They were 1:1200 scale Navwar galleys, and a LOT of them. So, maybe not the great deal I was thinking I was getting, but still, not a BAD deal. Not at all.
The problem really isn’t how crude they are sculpted compared to Xyston– it’s more how to best use this unusual windfall of many, many 1:1200 galleys that landed in my lap. There’s about 60 plus, and they are all roughly about the size of the Byzantine Dromon you see in the picture here to the right, here. So I’m not going to see a lot of variety, I’m not going to see a lot of detailed sculpting, and I’ve got large numbers of ships, all pretty much painted one color brown, some with sails, most without. All of them are mounted on what appears to be chunks of basswood as the bases. So, thinking this thing through, how can I have fun with this stuff?
- Large Numbers is a blessing, not a curse. So what if I have a lot of the same kind of thing? The fleets that engaged each other back in Ancient times weren’t that variegated, and they surely had large numbers. This purchase is an opportunity to create a large scale fleet action. Maybe not Salamis on a 1:1 scale, but perhaps Actium or smaller battles.
- Rules will have to emphasize Command and Control and Squadron Movement, not Individual Ship Micro-Management. Large numbers of ships mean large headaches for movement every turn. So I will have to adopt a miniatures system that resolves battles, moves quickly, and most importantly, doesn’t give players the choice of moving 25 ships a turn. I’ve seen this handled pretty well in the board game realm by WAR GALLEY (GMT Games). Converting a board game for miniatures is easily handled by converting hexes to a tabletop unit of measure and figuring out how to turn. I considered using the old RAM SPEED game from Metagaming, but it couldn’t handle 60 ships easily. The old micromanagement thing again.
- Each miniature will require some sprucing up. Essentially, I’m looking at mass quantities of Triremes, Pentaconters and Quadriremes painted assembly line brown and white glued to a basswood base. I will certainly have to soak the ships to remove them from the basswood, and maybe soak the ships in green cleaner to remove the paint, or figure out how to redo it with minimal damage (these are very tiny ships at 1:1200 scale, many sails are glued on (painted an off white). I would paint them a lighter base tan color and stain the wood with brown ink for starters, that will bring out the minimal detailing and look more like real wood. I would also add some color highlights so squadrons can be grouped together. Lastly, I will mount them on a nicer base, like a Rendara rectangular base.
- I might already have a set of rules that works, to some extent. Astute readers might pick up on the fact that I’m a big fan of Osprey’s “blue series” of rules. Some of them are hit and miss– I was not much of a fan of their last Fighting Sail rules, but really like other games they have published, like Dragon Rampant and In Her Majesty’s Service. So, if Osprey announces something coming out that vaguely will trigger my interest, I generally pre-order it on Kindle. Recently, I was notified that Poseidon’s Warriors was delivered to my Kindle account. Looking through the ruleset, I can see that the game definitely pushes some of the right buttons. Initiative is Igo-Hugo (still), but Player Fleets are divided up into squadrons, and squadrons are the activating units. When a squadron is activated, all the ships in the squadron move, and then the fun stuff is resolved (firing, ramming and boarding). There are rules for historical admirals, and advanced rules covering a wide range of subjects, from special weapons to flotsam and jetsam on the water.
Poseidon’s Warriors might not be as comprehensive, say, as Langton’s Naumachiae, which I also have! but they do present a good generalized, fast-moving approach to simulating smaller naval battles of the Greco-Roman era. I like that a turn is basically:
- Initiative (Roll a 1D6 to see who starts the Igo-Hugo sequence)
- Operations (in initiative order– includes Moving, Ramming, Artillery Fire, & Boarding)
- Morale (Roll 1D6 vs. your morale number – assigned at start of game)
This is dirt-simple on the same level as Big Danged Boats. I think I can follow it. 🙂
I will check in with the Galley Project from time to time in the months ahead. Don’t expect this to be finished quickly!