mercoledì 28 novembre 2012

Shermans !! (again...)

Tonight I've not much time, I'll just put on some pictures of my ever growing Sherman collection, without much explanations. I painted three more recently, all by Italeri, and all fast-assembly kits. I'm starting to like their fast-assembly kits, they're simplified but nice looking, and can withstand without fear the strain of wargaming.

Above a Sherman III (M4A2, the diesel variant) in british/polish service in 1943. It's meant for late african - early italian campaigns. Markings are totally fictitious. It's an early production Sherman, you can tell from the three pieces transmission cover, the protruding crew hatches in the hull and the smaller gun shield.

Above another Sherman III, it comes from the same kit as the former model. This one is again british, but in the original american Olive Drab colour, and it's meant for late italian - early french campaigns.
Markings are again total random.

Last one, a M4A3 76(W) - I hope I got the name right. This was the standard 76mm gunned Sherman in US Army service. More about this kit in a previous post.
I chose to paint it in a winter camo, as suggested in the box. I tried a different approach to the washable white camo, and I liked the final result - this kind of camo was often quite rough so applying the paint with irregular brush strokes helps to get the right result.

Work in progress! Nothing to do with Shermans - this Airfix MiG-15 is my current project. A few decalling and some final touching up, and it will be finished.
This is a new kit from Airfix, and is a good one - thanks Airfix, not just another re-release at last!

PS I use Citadel silver paint, it's the best silver I ever tried - I just hope their new silver paint is as good as this old one.

sabato 24 novembre 2012

T-26 soviet tanks and other Vickers derivatives

The Vickers 6-ton tank, sometimes known as Vickers E, was a very successful vehicle from the late '20s - early '30s. Some countries bought it in small quantities, and some other developed their own versions.
The original design was really modern for its age, but had become obsolete at the start of ww2, and so happened to its derivatives.

Above we have the usual family picture, showing from left to right the polish 7TP, two variants of T-26 (model 1933 and model 1939) and the italian M13/40.

The 7TP had already been depicted in an old post, so not much more to say here about the kit.
As for the tank, it was slow and not much armoured, but had a decent gun and in 1939 was superior to most german tanks as firepower. It was very similar to the original Vickers tank, apart the turret and the engine compartment which was bigger.

The italian M13/40 wasn't an exact copy of the Vickers model, but clearly was heavily inspired by it - through the earlier and even less effective M11/39. It too was slow and poorly armoured, but anyway was the best of the family as firepower and protection. Well it was developed 10 years later than its ancestor, so no wonder it was at least slightly better.
The M13/40 was featured in a long post not much time ago. 

The T-26 model 1933 (photo above) was almost the same as the Vickers tank, but had different weaponry.
The original Vickers 6-ton had two variants, one with two small turrets each one armed with a machinegun, and one with a single turret armed with a short 47 mm gun and a coaxial mg. The soviet chose both the versions, but then developed only the single turret variant, which had first a long 37 mm gun, and then the 45 mm showed above, possibly the best AT gun of its age. In time the turret was improved, the one in the picture is the earlier smaller one - quite similar to that of the 7TP, by the way.

The kit is by UM (ex-Skif), and is very detailed, but also very difficult to put together. Some pieces are made in photoetched metal, and there are no plastic replacements. These parts are quite a pain to work with, and I simply left the smaller ones out. The turret is plastic, but the surface detail is two separate PE parts: it's a pain to attach the bigger one to the turret, but I have to admit it improves very much the look of the tank.
The tracks are possibly the worst part of the kit - but the easiest to put together. They come as rubbery (ethylene?) rings, lack most of the detail but are very easy to put on. 

Overall a nice kit, but a very difficult one to work with - not good for wargaming, but a good basis for a nice display model - apart the tracks of course. 

Above we have the latest variant of the T-26 series, the model 1939.
This variant had a bigger turret, and had in some places thicker armour; other improvements were meant to reduce manufacturing time, not to increase combat effectiveness. The T-26 series, even if it is much underrated, was really important, being manufactured in the number of 10.000 or even 12.000.

The kit (again from Skif / UM) is basically the same as above, but with some different details and a different turret. The same things can be said about it: nice detail but a lot of effort needed. The turret may be bigger, but has much less detail than the other one. The model 1939 usually had a machinegun in the rear of the turret, but I heard it wasn't universal - indeed this kit doesn't have it. The camouflage is very odd, I found it in several sources and I liked it, it seems it was an experimental pattern used only during training right before the war, so it's definitely not typical. 

giovedì 22 novembre 2012

KV-2 (Forces of Valor)

Some time ago I posted a little preview about the new KV-2 kit from Forces of Valor (Unimax), now it's time to add some photos of the finished thing.

The kit came out neatly, without any trouble and indeed is very well engineered.
The tracks are quite decent too, I usually don't like single-piece tracks but this time they turned out to be nice enough. The tracks aren't made in the usual polyethilene-like stuff as in Esci kits, rather are more flexible but not as rubbey as Matchbox or late Airfix ones - in conclusion they're quite good, nicely detailed and easy to put together.

On overall the kit is good looking, details are nice but some are missing and in places things are oversimplified.
As I said before, this model is half way between a wargamer's kit and a modeller's kit, you'll need some time and some scratchbuilding to turn it into a show winner.
On the other hand it's easy and quick to build, but not as much as a fast-assembly kit, so not for total beginners or die-hard wargamers maybe.


The nice commander figure is made in the same stuff as the tracks, and it's a good touch.
Strangely enough, the hatch is meant to be modelled only as open, but it will take no time to convert it into closed if need comes. No decals included, but no need for them because I've never seen a photo of a KV-2 sporting sings of any kind.

So, is it recommended? Yes, definitely, but not for zealous display-modellers.

martedì 30 ottobre 2012

Panzer III saga

Today we take a look at some different Panzer IIIs...

Firts we have a "family shot". All kits have fairly similar dimensions so are well compatible with each other.

The first Pz III is the E version from Attack. Attack's kits are usually a bit simplified but spot on as accuracy, and depict unusual vehicles, this one is no exception and possibly is the only 37mm-gunned Pz III available at the moment. Not the easiest kit to put together but not bad either. 

Then we have two Italeri's fast assembly kits. These are J versions, and you have the choice between the shorter 50 mm gun (the grey one) and the longer 50 mm gun (the sand one). I'm not completely sure about the accuracy of this kit: earlier Js had shorter gun, later ones instead received the more effective long-barreled version, and then additional armour plates were bolted on many tanks. So Pz III Js with both short gun and additional armour likely existed, but maybe weren't that common. 
Anyway nice tidy kits, simplified as all fast assembly are, but really good looking. Great for middle war battles as Kursk and El Alamein. And you get two for the price of one... 

Last but not least the superb Pz III M from Revell, one of the best 1/72 kits ever.  The definitive Pz III before the series was superseded by the Pz IV and the Panther. Good for those 1943-early 44 battles.
The photo is quite cr*ppy, but you can have better ones here, together with a longer explanation.

mercoledì 24 ottobre 2012

M13 madness! (or, WW2 italian stuff)

My 1/72 italian stuff was already featured - albeit partially - in a former post, but I couldn't resist so I had to make another one...

Here's the family picture, from the right we have three M13/40, one M13 command tank, two Semovente da 75/18 and one Autoblinda AB41.
Apart the Autoblinda all the vehicles are based on the M13 chassis, ence the M13 madness title.

The M13/40s: on the left two Italeri fast assembly kits, while on the right the Italeri reissue of the old but still nice Esci model. The fast build kits are great, and very nice looking; the other isn't as sharp and sturdy, but has more room for conversions and improvements. Pity for its awful polietylene tracks....
The two tanks on the left are painted as vehicles for the Ariete armoured division, who fought in North Africa and also at El Alamein. The other one instead has a camouflage used only in Europe.

Now the two Semovente 75/18, again two Italeri fast assembly kits. Great models in my opinion. I have also an old Esci kit, yet unbuilt but I'm planning to build it as soon as possible.
All the kits above had a Breda AA machinegun included, but I used it for only a few because in 1941-42 there was quite a shortage of such weapons so only a few were fitted. Again both SP guns are painted as Ariete division vehicles.

Here we have the Carro Comando M13 (that is, command tank M13), which was a regular M13 but with some radio equipment in place of the turret - regular tanks usually didn't have any radio... 
The kit is again the old Esci one re-released by Italeri.
I made it in such manner that I can switch the commander figure with a turret, as to use it also as a normal tank. This version of the Command Tank had only two MGs, but later versions had a bigger weapon in the hull, possibly a 20 mm gun.

Lastly we have the nice AB41 armoured car, in a European theatre camo; it has nothing in common with the M13s but was the only other italian vehicle I had for the ww2 era so I placed it here for the sake of completeness. Brand new full-assembly kit from Italeri (not just another Esci re-release).

lunedì 22 ottobre 2012

Revell Panzer IV H

Revell's Panzer IV is one of the best models out there. Despite being quite complex, it's so well engineered it builds without any real trouble.

 The only drawback (and a small one) are the decal options, which are good but are only two.

Last picture is a comparison with the Revell kit and the older Hasegawa (which is a Pz IV G).
Both are good kits, but the Hasegawa is clearly less detailed, and is let down by the poor tracks.
Apart from the side skirts, the Pz IV H had a longer gun barrel than the former G version. That's clearly depicted in these kits.

Il Panzer IV H della Revell è di gran lunga uno dei migliori modelli in scala 1/72 in circolazione: infatti è tanto ben progettato che è piuttosto semplice da montare nonostante la notevole complessità ed il gran numero di piccoli pezzi. Unico difetto, se così si può dire, è la presenza nella scatola di due sole varianti di decal.
Nell'ultima foto un confronto tra il Pz IV H Revell e il PZ IV G Hasegawa; anche questo è un buon modello, facile da montare, ma è anche piuttosto vecchio e quindi meno dettagliato del concorrente; inoltre i cingoli sono mediocri. 

venerdì 21 settembre 2012

Cheap stuff for ww2 wargaming

Or better, how to give a second life to your childhood toys.
Trucks and lorries are quite scarce in 1/72 scale, and often quite expensive. The point is, while you need few tanks in a wargame, you'll probably need many trucks - to carry infantry, to move artillery, to resupply the troops...
I'm planning to expand my little collection of 1/72 trucks, but in the mean time I refurbished some old toys for wargame use. 

La mia collezione di camion in 1/72 è al momento piuttosto limitata; il problema è che durante i wargame i camion sono indispensabili: servono per spostare le truppe, per trainare i cannoni, per portare i rifornimenti. Per cui, in attesa di disporre di mezzi più adatti, ho recuperato i camioncini che di solito venivano inclusi nelle buste di soldatini stile Honk Kong, di cui da bambino avevo una discreta collezione.

Here the complete collection of trucks. These were sold together with figures in those Honk Kong blisters.
They're more or less 1/87 scale, so a bit too small compared to regular 1/72 stuff. Moreover these are based on post-war designs, so look a bit odd in a ww2 scenario. To make things worse, they have no chassis bottom, so you can look trough the cab straight into the ground. Anyway they're meant as a stop-gap measure and work just fine at that, in my opinion. I have 3 or 4 more of them waiting for repairs and painting. 

Sopra la collezione completa di camioncini. Sono un po' piccoli del dovuto, e grossomodo potrebbero essere in scala 1/87. Inoltre sono ispirati a modelli del dopoguerra, per cui in un  wargame della seconda guerra mondiale stonano un po'. Come se non bastasse, non hanno il fondo per cui dalla cabina è possibile vedere direttamente il suolo. A parte questo, in mancanza di materiale migliore si rivelano molto utili, e certo durante le partite è meglio usare un camioncino sottoscala e di scadente fattura piuttosto che un segnalino di carta. Tra l'altro questi giocattoli sono molto robusti, a differenza di certi kit...

Here's my favourite one. This (and another one still waiting for paint) has a paper piece that closes the cab and has a couple of drivers painted on it. A little nice idea, I wish all the other had this  but I may do it myself. Of course the two smiling crew have no resemblance to any real ww2 soldier, that doesn't prevent them from being happy - never seen anyone so happy to go to war, maybe they're high on drugs.

Ecco il mio peferito! Questo camion (e il suo fratello che come altri 2 o 3 è in attesa di essere dipinto) ha un pezzo di carta stampato che ne simula il fondo, e inoltre su un risvolto sono raffigurati due omini, in modo da popolare la cabina. Aldilà del fatto che i due indossano divise fittizie, che non somigliano ad alcunchè usato nella 2gm, l'idea è semplice ma geniale e potrei copiarla per migliorare l'aspetto degli altri camioncini. Notare il sorriso a 32 denti dei due, mai visto nessuno andare in guerra su qualcosa di così vulnerabile come un camion ed esserne felice, per cui evidentemente i due fanno uso di droga, e di quella buona...!

Here other vehicles, these  are a Daimler-style armoured car on the left and two jeeps.
The armoured car seems to be more or less 1/72, pity for the gun which looks more 90 mm than 40 mm. 
The two jeeps instead are overscale, being sort of 1/64. They reminds me more the soviet Gaz-67 than the more common Willys. Anyway they'll prove useful while I wait for more accurate stuff. A big advantage about this sort of toys is that they're way more sturdy than regular model kits. In particular the Airfix jeep (the old one) was definitely frail, and lost at least a wheel each game. These have no problems of the sort.

Gli altri veicoli: un'autoblinda simil-Daimler, e due jeep.
L'autoblinda potrebbe essere in 1/72, però il cannone è decisamente troppo grosso.
Le jeep invece sono più grandi, probabilmente 1/64, e in realtà ricordano più la Gaz-67 sovietica che la Willys. Ad ogni modo sono perfettamente usabili, e certo più robuste dei kit convenzionali.

mercoledì 19 settembre 2012

Ancient armies: Scythians

As anticipated, today we take a look at my scythian army.
The scythian people played an important but overlooked part in human history, and are an interesting subject for an unusal wargame army.
The scythian rule of the euro-asian steppes lasted several centuries, so you have many opportunities to play them both as an army by themselves or as mercenaries for other armies, especially achemenid persians and seleucids. 
The area controlled by this nation went from present day Bulgaria in the west to present day Afghanistan in the east; the eastern scythians were part of the persian empire and were called Saka, they provided the empire with light cavalry and foot skirmishers.

Gli sciti costituiscono uno dei più importanti popoli dell'età antica, e uno dei più sottovalutati.
Avendo dominato le steppe euroasiatiche per diversi secoli, non mancano le opportunità di impiegare gli sciti sia come esercito a se stante, sia come mercenari per altri imperi, ad esempio quello achemenide o quello seleucide.
Le terre dominate dagli sciti andavano dall'attuale Bulgaria fino all'Afganistan; gli sciti orientali, chiamati Saka, erano parte dell'impero persiano e contribuirono ai suoi eserciti con cavalleria leggera e schermagliatori.

Above we have the infantry stands and a command stand. The scythians usually relied on their cavalry, and infantry played a minor role, when it was used at all. While true scythians preferred to fight on horseback, their subjects may have fought on foot, and moreover several people from the steppes dressed in a similar fashion, so these figures have many uses anyway. The command stand is made of a noble scythian figure, he may even be a king.

Sopra abbiamo la fanteria, che costituiva una parte secondaria delle armate (quando non era del tutto assente) poichè solitamente gli sciti preferivano combattere a cavallo. Queste miniature potrebbero anche rappresentare la fanteria fornita dai popoli sottomessi, oppure altri popoli delle steppe, diversi dei quali vestivano alla moda scita.
La basetta di comando sulla destra è costituita da un nobile scita, forse perfino un re.

Here we have the cavalry, the most important part of the army. On the left we have the heavies, they are quite well armoured and somehow anticipated the cataphracts of following centuries.
On the left the horse archers, possibly the most feared part of the host because of their hit-and-run tactics.
Scythians had a fearsome fame, and defeated many enemies including the migthy persian army, but in the end were subjugated by the sarmatians who themselves used to be part of the scythian nation.
Only few nations in the history had a more misterious history than the scythians, who performed horrible deeds like cutting the scalp off their dead enemies and peel off their skin to make saddle clothes, but were also great artisans, making wonderful jewels. So a great nation both savage and refined.
The figures above are from Orion (the infantry) and Zvezda (the cavalry).

La cavalleria era di gran lunga la parte più importante degli eserciti, ed era formata da cavalieri pesanti (a sinistra) e leggeri (a destra). La cavalleria pesante scita era ben equipaggiata, e rappresentava una fase anticipatoria dei catafratti che dominarono i campi di battaglia dei secoli successivi.
Gli arcieri a cavallo erano se possibile ancora più temuti, grazie alle loro efficaci tattiche mordi-e-fuggi.
Gli sciti acquisirono nel tempo una fama terribile, sconfiggendo spesso nemici potenti tra cui i persiani; vennero però sottomessi dai sarmati, che a lungo erano stati una parte secondaria della nazione scita e che adottavano tattiche simili.
Pochi popoli nella storia vantano una storia misteriosa come gli sciti, che da un lato si distinsero per la loro ferocia (ad esempio raccoglievano gli scalpi dei nemici uccisi, oppure ne strappavano la pelle per farne coperte da sella), dall'altro per l'abilità artigianale (i loro gioielli ad esempio sono tra i più belli di tutti i tempi).
Le figure in questa pagina sono Orion (la fanteria) e Zvezda (la cavalleria).

lunedì 17 settembre 2012

Persiani achemenidi (in italiano)

Ecco la promessa versione italiana del post sul mio esercito persiano achemenide.
Questo schieramento è uno dei miei preferiti, se non il pregferito in assoluto, per una serie di motivi. In primo luogo per il colore, a quanto risulta gli antichi persiani, come molti altri popoli indeuropei, amavano molto vestirsi in maniera variopinta e questo permette di sbizzarrirsi molto al momento di dipingere le truppe.
Poi c'è la possibilità di collezionare unità molto diverse tra loro, poichè l'impero achemenide includeva numerosi popoli con culture e tattiche militari molto differenziate.
Le forze persiane avevano grossomodo tre origini: l'esercito regolare, che includeva anche i famosi "immortali" ed era perlopiù composta da persiani, medi e forse altre tribù iraniche; le forze di leva, che comprendevano in linea di massa fanteria leggera; gli eserciti delle satrapie, composti da unità reclutate su base locale e che quindi erano la parte più esotica degli eserciti sul campo. Eserciti provenienti dalle satrapie orientali erano completamente diversi da quelli delle satrapie occidentali.

Sopra è raffigurato l'esercito intero. Notare come molte figure indossino copricapi gialli: a quanto pare questi erano il segno distintivo della "cittadinanza" persiana. Il nerbo dell'esercito regolare era appunto costituito da queste truppe.

Sopra le unità di arcieri, che costituivano la parte più numerosa delle forze persiane al momento della campagna in Grecia. Le unità di arcieri erano suddivise in "squadre" da 10 uomini, di cui 8 armati di arco, 1 dotato di scudo e 1 con funzioni di comando. I soldati dotati di scudo, detti sparabara, si posizionavano di fronte agli altri e li proteggevano dalle frecce nemiche.
Questa tattica, probabilmente mutuata dagli assiri, era piuttosto efficace contro eserciti basati sulle armi da lancio, ma contro i greci, che preferivano il combattimento in mischia ed erano pesantemente corazzati, si rivelò un insuccesso quasi totale.
Ho deciso di dipingere ogni basetta con una specifica uniforme: non è chiaro se queste fossero applicate universalmente, ma certamente i reggimenti di Immortali le indossavano, e quindi è probabile che anche altri reggimenti fossero abbigliati in maniera standardizzata. Le due basette sulla destra rappresentano due distinti reggimenti di immortali.

Sopra sono raffigurati alcune unità di leva, armate di arco o fionda e abbigliate in maniera diversa in base alle etnie di origine. Queste unità solitamente si rivelavano poco efficaci sul campo di battaglia, anche se avevano la loro utilità specie negli assedi o nelle imboscate.

Abbiamo qui la cavalleria, nel nostro caso divisa in cavalleria "media" (unità a sinistra e al centro) e pesante (a destra). La cavalleria media costituiva la parte più numerosa delle unità montate persiane; le unità pesanti erano più rare, e costituivano un'anticipazione dei catafratti dei secoli successivi.
Anche qui ogni unità è abbigliata con una propria uniforme. Gli eserciti achemenidi avevano una proporziona piuttosto alta di cavalleria rispetto ad altri eserciti dell'epoca (senza dubbio più dei greci, che addirittura non di rado erano totalmente sprovvisti di cavalleria).

Sopra a sinistra abbiamo gli schermagliatori, a destra la cavalleria leggera. Queste truppe probabilmente provengono dalle satapie orientali, i cui abitanti erano molto rinomati nelle tattiche di schermaglia in particolare a cavallo. Tra i popoli iranici che fornivano queste truppe vi erano i parti, in quest'epoca poco più che una tribù ma che in seguito avrebbero preso il controllo dell'intero impero, e i saka, ossia la parte orientale dell'immensa nazione scita. 

L'esercito persiano originariamente si basava sulle armi da lancio, ma nel periodo tra le campagne in Grecia e l'invasione di Alessandro Magno cercò sempre più di rafforzare la propria componente di fanteria pesante. Questo non vuol dire che i persiani non avessero fanteria corazzata già da prima: i popoli dell'Anatolia, in particolare i greci, fornivano un numero notevole di opliti di buona qualità; certo è che questo tipo di truppa acquisì sempre più importanza, mentre al contempo le unità di arcieri e sparabara si riducevano senza però scomparire del tutto.
Le unità raffigurate sopra rappresentano la fanteria pesante persiana: queste unità probabilmente costituivano una sorta di èlite, visto che comunque erano già disponibili grandi contingenti di opliti anatolici.
Le due basette nel retro sono due unità di comando.

Gli arcieri e gli sparabara vennero essenzialmente sostituiti da unità di fanteria intermedia, equivalente ai peltasti greci e come essi capaci di combattere sia come opliti leggeri che come schermagliatori pesanti.
Non sappiamo molto di queste truppe, sebbene a quanto pare fossero divenute molto numerose nel tempo; non sappiamo nemmeno come fossero equipaggiate esattamente, anche se pare che avessero scudi leggeri, armi da mischia come spade o asce, giavellotti o forse lance, e probabilemente anche archi. Senza dubbio erano unità versatili, anche se probabilmente svantaggiate contro gli opliti nemici.

Come già detto, gli opliti greci costituivano una parte importante degli eserciti persiani, anche se molto probabilmente era raro vederli impiegati al di fuori delle province occidentali dell'impero.
Il rapporto tra greci ed impero persiano è molto più complesso di quanto si pensa di solito. Oltre a costituire una parte essenziale delle forze delle satrapie anatoliche formarono anche una parte consistente dell'esercito persiano in Grecia. Diverse città greche erano alleate dell'impero, combattendo al suo fianco contro gli altri greci. Alcune di queste città, come Tebe e Sparta, ebbero durature alleanze con l'impero. 
Al momento dell'invasione dell'impero achemenide da parte di Alessandro Magno molti greci combatterono al fianco dell'imperatore Dario, rimanendogli fedeli anche quando tutte le altre truppe avevano abbandonato la lotta. Questo non è certamente un atteggiamento tipico di "mercenari"; è probabile piuttosto che questi irriducibili greci fossero esuli dalla Grecia dopo che le loro città erano cadute in mano ai macedoni, unitisi ai persiani per vendicarsi di Alessandro Magno.
Va detto infatti che agli occhi dei greci dell'epoca non c'erano molte differenze tra macedoni e persiani, entrambi erano egualmente visti come stranieri. Il mito della fratellanza tra macedoni e greci venne diffuso ad arte dai macedoni stessi per controllare meglio le riottose città greche.

Tutte le figure rappresentate in questa pagina sono prodotte dalla Hat e dalla Zvezda; vi sono alcune differenze in stile tra le due ma nel complesso si integrano molto bene tra loro.
L'esercito seppure sia perfettamente giocabile così com'è, può ancora essere espanso, sia aggiungendo mercenari che truppe provenienti dalle varie satrapie.
Tra i mercenari occorre ricordare gli sciti (che verranno illustrati in un post a parte), i quali si trovarono a volte a combattere per i persiani come leve locali o come mercenari, a volte invece a combattere contro di essi.
I regni indiani non erano parte dell'impero, ma grazie a trattati di amicizia ed assistena reciproca fornirono sovente truppe ai persiani; gli eserciti indiani erano essenzialmente costituiti da arcieri, ma comprendevano anche molti elefanti.
Gli assiri erano stati sconfitti dai medi, ed inclusi nell'impero medio e poi in quello persiano. Non esistevano più come entità politica, ma continuarono a fornire truppe specifiche per lungo tempo. Inoltre diversi popoli della zona usavano tattiche ed equipaggiamenti di ispirazione assira, ad esempio i fenici che fornivano alla Persia buona parte della sua flotta e della sua fanteria di marina.
Le satrapie anatoliche fornivano soprattutto opliti, equipaggiati sia alla maniera greca che in base a stili locali.
Anche l'Egitto era parte dell'impero, fornendo la sua quota di truppe.
Le satrapie orientali fornivano soprattutto cavalleria leggera e schermagliatori, ed ogni popolo aveva una sua particolare scelta di armi: chi l'arco, chi la lancia, chi i giavellotti, chi una combinazione dei precedenti.

Si può quindi dire che per quanto riguarda un esercito persiano per i wargame le possibilità di espansione siano infinite. Non bisogna dimenticare infatti che tutti i popoli del vicino oriente prima o poi ebbero a che fare con i persiani, combattendo contro di essi o fornendo truppe per le campagne militari dell'impero.

martedì 11 settembre 2012

Ancient armies: Achemenid Persians

The education of many young italians is often full of classical teachings: during your long years at school they keep on teaching how great and noble were the classical cultures, that is the roman and greek ones, and how much we owe to them as for mathematics, laws, architecture, philosophy. They almost make you think modern society is just a bad imitation of those greater times.
Of course all other civilizations, except maybe Egypt and Babylon, are despised as primitive and brutal. Truth is, that's just propaganda. As soon as you leave that all behind, you find that many other great civilizations existed, some left us an heritage as important as that of Greece or Rome.
The most underrated of all is, in my humble opinion, Persian civilization. Persia was, and still is, one of the great beacons of indo-european civilization, and was related to west-european cultures closer than we may think.
As for modelling and wargaming, persian achemenid armies are possibily the most colourful and complex armies you can collect, so no wonder they're the ancient army I like most.
Not only you get exotic and colourful clothes, but you get a very complex organization, which included a "regular" part that had a system of uniforms, a levied part which was very motley, and a "regional" part, which was as diverse as possible: units from eastern provinces/satrapies were totally different from those raised in the west.

Here is the whole army. You'll notice that some photos are a bit blurry, but that has nothing to do with the bottle of alcohol in the background, really (hic!)

Here we have the archers, which made up the biggest part of persian armies at the time of the campaign in Greece. In these units for each ten men you had eight archers, a "nco" who kept order in the back and a shield-bearer in the front line, who was called "sparabara" and provided protection to his comrades. This tactic was quite effective against armies who relied upon missile weapons, but performed poorly against heavy armoured oplites, who always charged in and preferred hand-to-hand combat. At the time of Alexander's invasion this kind of formation was superseded.
Notice that each unit has a peculiar uniform; I'm not sure if uniforms were really implemented apart from elite units, but this add flavour to the army so I decided to dress each unit in the same colour. Most men wear yellow headgear, which is supposed to be the mark of persian nationals, which together with the medes had a sort of citizenship right. Those in white caps stand for another iranic tribe which didn't have persian citizenship.
The famed Immortals were equipped this way, indeed the two units on the left are painted as immortal regiments.

Then we have the levies, they come from different satrapies but all have bows or slings. This kind of light infantry made up a big part in every middle-eastern army; this men usually didn't perform well in battle, but proved useful for ambushes or during sieges.

Now we have the cavalry, regular cavalry on the left and center, the heavies on the right. 
Persian armies were always quite horse-heavy. Again each unit here has its own uniform. 
While medium cavalry was very common, heavy cavalry was a small part of the army, but paved the way to the catafracts of the following centuries.

Here on the left we have the skirmishers, on the right the light cavalry.
These troop most likely came from the eastern satrapies. Each nation inside the empire had its own way of fighting, and most of them provided light troops. For example parthians provided horse archers; back then parthians were just one of the many iranic nations of the empire, but later took control of the entire empire, and defeated many enemies thanks to their combination of catafracts and mounted archers.

After the defeats against the greeks the persians developed their own heavy infantry, equipped as oplites.
The achemenid empire had plenty of oplites even before, especially from the western satrapies, so these persian heavies were probably meant as elite units.
In the background we have a couple of command stands.

At the time of the macedonian invasion the persians disbanded many of their "archers+sparabara" regiments; these were substituted, as it seems, by medium infantry, equipped in the same manner as greek peltasts. These men could fight both as heavy skirmishers or as light oplites, and probably had also bows. We still don't know much about these reforms though, we don't even know for sure if these men were the kardakes mentioned into the sources, or what else. 

Many oplites fought for the persians, many of them were greeks. Their role was quite controversial, some considered them traitors of the greek cause, but they often fought bravely alongside their persian allies.
In fact a good part of Xerses' army was made up of greeks, and when Alexander invaded Asia many greeks joined Darius' army. Some were mercenaries, some were levies from the western sarapies, but some may have been allies. In fact, some of them were amongst the last to defend the already defeated Darius, so it seems they had good reasons for their loyalty. My own idea is that many greeks fled Greece after the macedonians invaded of their motherland, and joined the persian hoping they could help freeing their country. So those "mercenaries" were probably greek patriots which pro-Alexander historians later marked as betrayers . Truth is, back then macedonians weren't less stranger to greek eyes than persians, and moreover many greek cities had long-lasting alliances to the persian empire, Sparta and Thebes amongst the others.

All the figures in this page are either from Hat or Zvezda. Those have slightly different styles, but match really well together! I'm planning to enlarge this army, especially by adding some satrapy levies.
Other figures from different armies may be added to persian forces, especially Scythians, which may have been mercenaries or levies from eastern satrapies. Scythians will soon be shown in another post.
Indian forces took part in some campaigns together with persians. Western indian kingdoms weren't part of the empire, but were allied to it and sometimes sent troops, even elephants.
Assyrians were defeated by the medes, and vanished as an organized nation, but assyrians and assyrian-styled forces often were part of achemenid armies. The phoenicians made up a big part of the persian navy, and they provided also "marines". They were equipped in the assyrian style.
Anatolian satrapies provided mostly oplites, usually dressed in the greek style, but different local styles existed. Egypt too was part of the empire, and provided some peculiar troops. 
As for the eastern satrapies, they had mostly light cavalry, but also skirmishers. Many tribes had different styles of fighting, some chose the bow, other the spear, other the javelins or even a combination of the former.
So, the achemenid persian armies were as diverse as you may think, and are a great opportunity for building great wargame forces. Never forget that most of the nations of middle east some time or the other either fought against or fought alongside persian forces, so plenty of opportunities here!

PS vista la lunghezza del post, la versione italiana sarà presto pubblicata in un post a parte. 

lunedì 3 settembre 2012

Painting conversions (part 1)

While the WW2 is on overall well covered in 1/72 scale, there are still some subject not available, or difficult to get your hands on. While we wait for suitable sets, the only option is converting existing figures.
Now, I'm quite bad at cut-&-glue conversions, so I prefer stickying to painting conversions.

Per quanto la seconda guerra mondiale sia stata ben approfondita in scala 1/72, ci sono tuttavia diversi soggetti più o meno importanti che non hanno ricevuto adeguata attenzione. Occorre quindi procedere a delle conversioni: ora, non essendo io molto bravo a tagliare e incollare, ho preferito andare sul sicuro limitandomi a delle conversioni pittoriche.

The first project here is about chinese soldiers for the sino-japanese war and first stages of ww2.
These figures are Airfix japanese painted as chinese. That set is quite old, and detail is soft: but that's not always a drawback, because it makes it the n.1 set for painting conversions.
Chinese and japanese both widely used field caps, the designs were significantly different but as the Airfix set is not particularly accurate, also the field cap look is quite generic.
I painted the figures in grey, to simulate the winter uniform, or in light khaki, as per the summer uniform. I mixed the two clothing styles, and added some blue trousers to simulate the motley appearance of chinese forces, which sometimes had enormous supplying troubles.
The flag is that of the Chinese Nationalist army.

Le prime figure rappresentano soldati cinesi per la guerra sino-giapponese, e le prime fasi della seconda guerra mondiale. Per realizzarle ho usato la vecchia scatola dei giapponesi Airfix della 2gm; questa scatola non gode di dettagli particolarmente rifiniti, ma questo si rivela un vantaggio al momento di effettuare conversioni pittoriche; si può dire infatti che i giapponesi Airfix siano la scatola più adatta a questo scopo.
Le figure sono state dotate di divise invernali grige, divise estive khaki chiaro, oltre che di un mix delle due, assieme a pantaloni blu di probabile provenienza civile. Questo per dare ai soldati un aspetto disomogeneo, tipico di un esercito soggetto a gravi carenze di materiali.

Above we have some figures for the Greek army in 1940-41. As the greeks had a similar look to their italian enemies, I chose figures from the Esci/Italeri and Airfix ww2 italian sets, plus some other from the Airfix japanese set (again!); the officer is from Waterloo 1815's italian infantry at El Alamein. He's not much suited to this new role, but it was the closest looking figure I could find.

Qui sopra abbiamo soldati greci per la campagna del 1940-41; come base ho usato i soldatini italiani Esci ed Airfix, infatti i due eserciti nemici avevano uniformi di aspetto simile, colore del tessuto a parte.
Per aumentare le pose ho aggiunto alcuni giapponesi Airfix (ancora...), oltre ad un ufficiale della fanteria italiana ad El Alamein della Waterloo 1815. Quest'ultimo stona un po' col resto del gruppo, ma è la figura più adatta che sia riuscito a trovare.

Then we have some ww2 Slovak soldiers. I used Hat polish figures, which had short boots. I turned them into longer boots by painting black the lower leg. Quite lame I know...
Then I added some figures from... the Airfix japanese set :D These had puttees, which were also accurate for slovak soldiers. 

Abbiamo qui alcuni slovacchi sempre per la 2gm. Ho usato figure del set polacco della Hat, con l'accortezza di dipingere la parte bassa dei pantaloni in nero in modo da simulare stivali al ginocchio al posto dei pantaloni fermati alla caviglia usati dai polacchi ma non dagli slovacchi. Ho poi aggiunto alcuni giapponesi Airfix (ti pareva...); questi ultimi sono dotati di fasce alle gambe, ed infatti gli slovacchi avevano un mix di stivali e scarponi con fasce.

Then we have some french figures for th 1940 campaign. As french uniform didn't change much since 1918, apart the change in colour, I used Airfix ww1 french figures, plus some from the odd Esci ww2 french set.

Abbiamo poi alcuni soldatini francesi per la campagna del 1940. L'uniforme francese non ebbe grandi cambiamenti tra il 1918 ed il 1940, a parte il colore, per cui è possibile usare i francesi della 1gm della Airfix, oltre ad alcune pose dal set di francesi 2gm della Esci.

Then we have some late war hungarians, converted from Airfix and Revell ww2 germans. These are not much convincing, but will do their job decently during wargames.

Dopodiché ecco alcuni ungheresi per la parte finale della 2gm, convertiti da tedeschi 2gm di Airfix e Revell. Queste conversioni non sono del tutto soddisfacenti, ma visto che serviranno da pedine per i wargame vanno più che bene.

Last but not least we have some belgians for the 1940 campaign. These were Esci ww2 french, which were not much convincing in their original role, and are not convincing in this one either, but anyway... At the moment they're the only figures from this page that have seen some action during wargames.
The mustachioed officer in the middle is from a most peculiar set. I won't tell which one is though... try to guess! ;)

Per finire ecco alcuni belgi per la campagna del 1940. Essi erano originariamente francesi della Esci. Quel set non è particolarmente soddisfacente, poichè unisce capi di abbigliamento di periodi differenti. Non è del tutto adatto nemmeno per i belgi, ma in mancanza d'altro occorre accontentarsi.
Da notare che al momento tra tutte le figure illustrate in questa pagina sono le uniche ad aver visto l'azione durante i wargame.
Da notare l'ufficiale baffuto: esso non proviene dal set Esci, ma da una scatola ben diversa e piuttosto imprevista. Qualcuno riesce ad indovinare?