Being a treatise on VSF and Mars, and on 19th Century colonial warfare in general

(with a nod towards Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan, lest I take myself too seriously)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Jingals (San-bujaan)

"A jingal or gingall, (Hindi janjal) is a type of gun, usually a light piece mounted on a swivel; it sometimes takes the form of a heavy musket fired from a rest."

Here's how I'm making the "form of a heavy musket fired from a rest" as will be used by my Martians.  As always I'm using the Black Hat imperial martians. 

Raw materials: Figure firing from shoulder; pavise (from the imperial martian guard pack); a 28mm martian musket I picked up a while back from Bob Charette's Parroom Station range (two on a sprue); some skin and/or blood* 
*optional but inevitable  

Here are the bits I used:

First I trimmed back the stock and bayonet to make the jingal. I then hacked the musket off the figure, and "carefully" opened up a gap between right arm and body to accept the stock.  (That's where the blood donation came in.  Again.)  

Here's the half-way stage:

One of the two muskets is probably a bit short, so I'll see if it can be used for something else - perhaps an organ-gun or something.  It'll go off to the bits box for the moment.

Then assemble, with appropriate filing to fit, and mount on base with two other figures to maintain the 3-infantry-to-a-base ratio: 

I'm hoping that the pavise will help to secure and stabilise the figure.  I could have attempted a bipod/tripod, but the pavises weren't going to be used for anything else (and you get 8 in a packet for "free" with the Guards), so why sweat it?  It looks good, and I even get to use a handgun figure as a loader!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Polearm Infantry

I'm using Black Hat figures for my Martians.  It's a nice range; well-detailed and quite diverse.  You can find them here

There are three main types of infantry packs:
- Imperial Martian Guard infantry, with helmets and corselets and musket or polearm,
- Imperial Martians with guns or swords
- Askari with guns or swords
They have good command packs of each of them as well.  I'll get to mounted troops later.

So far so good.  I'll be using the non-guard troops as the mainstay of the army, and I need a mixture of muskets and pole arms. There are no polearm figures for the non-guard troops, and the packaging of the gun troops poses some problems.  Here's a pic of the contents:

As you can see three of the eight in the packet are armed with handguns, and I don't need handguns.  However I can use these handgun figures by converting them into polearm figures.  A bit of brass wire, a plasticard blade, et voila - here are before/after pictures:

My guns  and polearms are in a ratio of about 2:1, so I can use pretty much all of the figures. Being a Scot I hate wasting money on figures I can't use, so I'm glad I can use them pretty effectively.

They rank up pretty well, and hopefully the polearms will be fairly robust.  I'll probably replace the alloy polearms on the Imperial Guard figures with wire ones in due course.

Jingalls next - more conversions!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

OK, so when you say "100" ...

Call me a boring old accountant, but when I was thinking about unit sizes, I got to thinking about number systems, time and how your average Martian measures things in general.

As everyone knows(?), Martians have four fingers (or three fingers and an opposable thumb if you want to be pedantic) or toes at the end of each appendage.  So I can't think of any reason why they would have hit upon a decimal system of counting.  As for humans, two handsfull seems to be a good unit of measure (stop sniggering at the back!), so an octal system of numbering would make perfect sense.  To the dyscalculic amongst us, that means that Martians count on their fingers as follows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, and then 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20 after removing shoes and socks.

I can therefore imagine their military units being based on multiples of 8, giving theoretical values as follows:
Octal Decimal Macedonian title
Squad 20 16 Lochos ("file")
Platoon 100 64 Tetriarchia
Company 200 128 Taxis
(omitted 400 256 Syntagma)
Battalion 1000 512 Pentakosiarchia
Legion 4000 2048 Merarchia
Army 10000 4096 Apotome

Somewhat bizarrely, we end up with the nice octal round numbers used by my Martians being the same as appeared in classical Greek tactical manuals!  Maybe there really was something extraterrestrial about Altantis after all?

OK that worked out pretty well, and gives comparable unit sizes to terran counterparts.

Next stop ... Calendars and Time.  I'm betting the answer is 42, but we'll see.

Real World Footnote:
Apparently the Yuki language in California and the Pamean languages in Mexico use octal number systems because the speakers count using the spaces between their fingers rather than the fingers themselves.  Ain't Wikipedia a wonderful thing?

Translating SC into DoB2

SC (the Soldier's Companion ruleset by GDW, now published by Heliograph) gives a great deal of useful information on building Martian states and armies, and it is as good a starting point as anything for building up scenarios and "consistent" backgrounds for battles and campaigns.

The norm in SC is for units of 20 foot or mounted (including 3 or 4 officer/NCO figures).  The implied scale is about 1:10, and the British army has 4 "companies" of 20 figures making a full battalion which confirms this.  It also states that "most Martian Regular infantry is armed with smoothbore musket as well as some sort of melee weapon" which somewhat belies the typical 50/50 split of a Martian band between "cutters" and "shooters", but we'll go with the flow.  For random cities, the base force strength is 2 bands of infantry, 1 band of mounted and 2 guns per "army number", so your basic building blocks  are of 60 figures plus 2 guns.

But as I want to use Piquet's DoB2 (Din of Battle 2) in company scale, I need to do some translation work.  Company scale in DoB2 has each infantry unit (12 figures) representing 80-150 men, and an 8-figure mounted unit representing 40-80 men.  A gun model (and 3 crew) represents a gun section of 2-3 guns.  We're therefore talking about a similar figure/man ratio to that used in SC.

In my "typical" regular Martian unit I have a 4-company battalion consisting of
- 2 companies of infantry armed with muskets
- 1 company of infantry armed with polearms
- 1 company of infantry armed with jingals and rockets
That's 48 figures, and is close enough to the 2 bands of 20 infantry in SC.  The 20-figure mounted band will be represented by 2 troops of 8 mounted under DoB2.  That's 64 figures in all, so pretty good.  And 2 gun models is 2 gun models, as both rules sets have a model representing a gun section.

SC also attaches both mounted and foot mercenary bands to much of the regular forces, again on the 20-figures per band model.  I'll therefore have each band represented by two DoB2 units of the relevant type.  That's overweight in infantry and underweight in mounted but balances out fairly well.  I haven't decided whether I'll split the foot units into one each of "shooters" and "cutters", or whether I'll have them as mixed-weapon units.  Splitting will make them more specialised, but also less versatile.  They are intended for "light scouting and skirmishing" duties, so versatility would seem to be more appropriate, and it would also help to differentiate them from regulars.  Time will tell.

Battalions or Companies?

OK, this is all bit of a diversion, but it has been keeping me thinking.

The 1877 British Field manual specifies that a Battalion in attack would have a frontage of 400 paces - call it 320 yards.  This assumes 2 of the 8 companies in extended line, skirmishing forward, supported by 2 more in line formation 100 yards to their rear.  The other 4 companies (the main body) will be in company columns 250 yards behind that.  As the enemy is contacted, the support line will feed into and reinforce the firing line, and the main body hold itself in readiness to support the attack (frontally or by moving against the enemy's flank) or to cover a withdrawal.

The way this is normally represented on a gaming table is by a single battalion unit in a line, maybe 6" wide (if using 25/28mm and representing, say, 150 yards), and one rank deep.  That's only half the frontage of a British formation in the 1870's.  Or you can put the entire unit into skirmish, in which case it becomes very brittle if threatened as it has nothing to fall back on.  But whichever way you do it, it looks like a "thin red streak tipped with a line of steel" rather than a box about as deep as it's wide, incorporating supports and reserves as it did.

To represent actual battlefields and tactics on a table will always demand a certain suspension of disbelief, but unsupported thin lines is a suspension too far for me.  By using 4 "company" units, deployed two up and two back, I think it will look better, and make a battalion self-supporting to some extent.

So I'll go with company scale representation for my DoB2.

Another reason for using company scale is a sense of verisimilitude.  I can't see divisions of troops being shipped out from Earth - it's too far, it's too expensive, and it denudes the homeland of available troops. Getting three British divisions into Egypt in 1882 was tough enough.  Shipping a similar force half way across the solar system with very limited transport - and keeping it supplied there - just beggars the imagination.  SC has a division (8 battalions) of British infantry plus a cavalry brigade and supporting troops on Mars, but it just feels too heavy.  For me.  YMMV - your Mars may vary.

I'm happy that going for company scale will allow me to field more units without having too many battalions Mars-side.  They'll just have to recruit lots of local askaris/sepoys/whatever-the-martian-term-is, especially for the mounted arm.