Monday 9 December 2013

Ancient and Renaissance Blocks

The great block reorganisation has made some significant progress this weekend as the core sets for red, blue, grey and grey have been completed. It was not quite as onerous as I originally expected but was time-consuming all the same. One thing it has made me think long and hard about though is the possibility of using the block armies for earlier periods of warfare.

I have previously mentioned that I have played ancient games on a number of occasions and have owned Carthaginian, Ancient Indian, Gallic, Viking and Late Imperial Roman armies over the years. At the present time I do not own any painted ancient armies - in fact, the only ancient exposure I have is a complete set of all the Command and Colours Ancients series of games by Richard Borg (as I do for most of the Napoleonics as well). Now you could be forgiven for thinking that as devoted block user having these units available via the games would be sufficient for my needs. To be honest I certainly thought so but now am not so sure. The Command and Colours blocks are really good to look at but my feeling now is that it would be more in keeping with my current usage to use blocks of my own design.

Initially when I thought about this my head quickly became filled with a myriad of unit type permutations - pikes, spears, javelins, archers, swordsmen etc - which threatened to derail the entire idea or at least making it incredibly complicated. I then stepped back and thought about it rationally (which sets a rather dangerous precedent for me!).

Now that I have added some distinguishing marks to the existing horse and musket blocks - the black and white stripes - I should easily be able to differentiate between troop types so, for example, I could have Roman legionaries, auxiliary infantry and assorted allies represented readily enough. The same principle could be applied to cavalry so everything from Pathian Cataphracts to Numidian light horse can also be tackled simply by designating the appropriate label as the specific type required.

I must confess that my thinking was helped somewhat by referring to my copies of both DBA and HOTTs for reasons that are easy to see. As both sets of rules merge similar troop types into unit categories it makes it a lot easier to represent units using blocks - as long as they are clearly defined beforehand. This is something I will need to work out but to be honest, will be fairly straightforward to do by making use of the aforementioned different labels types and by standardising unit compositions in some way.

The biggest single problem I am facing with tackling this project is how to represent formed bodies of troops are with ranged weapons. The horse and musket era assumes that all infantry types are armed with a firearm of some kind (excepting those blocks used for native types - Zulus etc) but in the earlier period having having some way of identifying separate 'shooters and fighters' is required. After thinking about this I have decided that a new label type, based on the standard infantry label, will need to be designed. This will enable units of formed shooters to be represented and, by dint of the idea I am currently pursuing, will also double for pike units during the Renaissance period where the standard infantry block can be used as per its more usual horse and musket incarnation.

I realise this may seem a little on the confusing side for which I can only apologise but once the new block type is ready it will all make a lot more sense.

The plan is to tackle the ancient (taken in its 1500 and earlier guise) era and also the Renaissance in some fashion - simply because the lure of the Ottoman Turks of the period is something that I am unable to resist.


'Lee. said...

Hi David,

Most interesting following your ideas and thoughts on block games. I seem to be moving along the same path, after years of playing with figures in all scales and periods I find myself at the point where they just don't do it for me any longer and block games are the way I want to go. Something about those wooden blocks in the Commands and Colors games has changed things for me. I'm a step or so behind you though in that I intend to add the C&C Ancients games to my collection next year. I like what you are doing here, your block designs are very good and pleasing to the eye.


David Crook said...

Hi 'Lee,

Many thanks for your kind words - they are much appreciated. I must confess that the visual success of the blocks I am using has really made think long and hard about whether or not I need to use figures ever again! The designs I have used have evolved over time and the biggest difficulty I experienced was whether or not to use images of the troops or the military symbols. I am so pleased that I stuck with the latter as it seems to add to the flexibility of the collection - which is an important consideration for one who has such wide-ranging interests!

I have a number of ideas currently under consideration and will happily share these when I am able. In the meantime, please feel free to email me off list if you want to discuss blocks further - I would be delighted to help in anyway I can.

All the best,