Saturday, August 9, 2008

Punic firepower (We will rock you)

Hot on the heels of the first two bases being completed for my Spanish scutarii, comes a complete unit of Balearic slingers, which is only impressive until you realize that it's only 12 figures--and easy figures at that. Still, it's something.

The figures are Crusader Miniatures, like all the rest of the Carthaginians I'm painting. However, I saw pictures of the Companion Miniatures range online and was very impressed. They looked like the business. 

Balearic slingers were some of the premiere mercenaries of the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. Crusader, who market their figures as "Spanish slingers," designed them to look a lot like shepherds who've taken a break from abiding in their fields to lob rocks at someone. They've got their tunics, their bag o' rocks, a sling, and a small knifey thing at their waist; just a bit more military than Hillary Clinton (but not as menacing). 

The Companion Miniatures, on the other hand, bear a caetra (a wee shield) and carry a falcata in addition to their slings. They are much more as you'd expect buff BC mercs to look. This means that I may at some point transfer the allegiance of my just completed slingers to Rome and paint a new unit for Carthage using these figures. Field of Glory (FoG) rates these guys superior quality; they should look the part. Nevertheless, in a wikipedia article about the sling, the illustration of a Balearic slinger looks just about like the Crusader Minis.

In any case, I have my first complete unit painted for my Carthaginian FoG army. In fact, it's my first completed 28mm FoG unit at all.

Slingers are a fairly potent force for Punic War armies. The western Mediterranean didn't produce massed missile troops. The most typical skirmish weapon was the javelin. Roman velites, Italian states' skirmishers, Numidians, Gauls, and Spanish caetrati were armed with them. Even the Greek states used javelin-hurling peltasts as their main light infantry troop type. But the javelin lacks something in range, which the sling makes up for. Ancient sources, such as Xenophon, Strabo, Cassius Dio, and Vegetius, claim that a sling-shot outdistanced a bow-shot. Yigael Yadin claimed the same from the evdidence of Assyrian reliefs that showed bowmen in front and slingers to the rear. Nevertheless, most writers of ancients rules sets pretty much consistently give slings a shorter range than bows; FoG is no exception. Slings shoot 4 MUs (movement units of 1" or 25mm) while bows have an effective range of 4 MUs, but can shoot out to 6. Slings are otherwise as effective, or ineffective, as bows in FoG, but I'm not sure that this should be so.

In WRG 6th edition ancient rules, slings had better shooting values against armored targets; in some cases dramaticallty better. However, their maximum range was half that of bows (12" versus 24"), but unlike bows, they never suffered for long range, which bows did for any shot over 6". Also, WRG, gave staff-slings at 24" range. FoG doesn't consider the staff-sling as a separate weapon type and instead just lumps them in with slings. It's too bad; they should be separated and given a longer range. FoG is a great set of rules, but I find myself scratching my head sometimes over a detail that strikes me as an oversight. This is one of them.

I have to admit that I'm something of a slingophile. I just like 'em. Every time an army list gives me a chance in to use slingers, I will. I painted these fellows with plain tunics, though with a variety of colors. No units in an ancients army has any business looking uniform. I like how they turned out, except that the faces, as usual, aren't what I want them to be. The eyes are a little bit like what you see in Japanese anime.

I just hope these fellows don't fail miserably in their first game and get forever cursed. 

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