Saturday, 5 September 2009

The Punic Project

Ever since reading the Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC by Adrian Goldsworthy a couple of years ago I have been keen to wargame this very interesting and colourful period of ancient history. The Punic Wars spanned decades as two major superpowers struggled desperately for dominance in the Mediterranean. Its a period of history that has everything a wargamer could want; interesting characters, high drama, empire building, tactically diverse armies and a multitude of classic battles which are still studied for there tactical principles today.

With my 6mm Napoleonic project now well on its way to completion, and having received the latest edition of Ancient Warfare magazine (highly recommended if you have the money by the way) which focuses on the doings of the Barca family during the wars, my interest in this period has been re-ignited. Some of the excellent illustrations in the magazine reminded me how ethnically and culturally diverse the armies where with a large percentage, if not the majority of the armies fielded, being made up of a mix of client states, allies and bands of mercenaries. These could be Numidians, Iberians, Ligurians, Gauls, Celtiberians and Italian tribes which fought at varying times on both sides; the shifting alliances between the two major superpowers and the various smaller kingdoms, tribes, mercenary and ethnic groups being very dynamic. This is another useful aspect of this period as it allows you to use lots of the same miniatures (Gallic warbands, numidian light cavalry, Iberian Scutarii etc) for both sides or on their own as independent armies.

My plan is to do a lot of reading up on the period (with Nigel Bagnalls' The Punic Wars: Rome, Carthage and the Struggle for the Mediterranean next on the reading list) while I sort out the dilemma of what figures to use from the extensive variety of ranges available. I already have a rule set picked, which is of course the excellent Impetus. I have been using these rules for games of War of the Roses recently and I think they will work well for games set in the Punic period. There are special rules for Roman line-relief, using pilum and the way that the 'Impetus bonus' works means that you will have to use different tactics depending on whether you have 'Impetuous' or more steady units. The large base sizes mean that whatever scale I go for the units should look impressive.

The Dilemma
So I have my period and my rule set, the problem is I am having a rather difficult time deciding which scale and manufacturer to go for, but I have narrowed it down to three options:

6mm is the scale I originally intended to do this period in. Using Baccus figures I was going to go all out for mass effect with lots of 6mm figures on the 15mm size bases (8cm x 3 or 4cm for heavy infantry). I would have to sacrifice a lot of the detail that distinguishes the various units but the armies would look more like real armies and would suit Impetus' top down approach to the battles. A typical unit of Hastii/Principes having 60 figures on a base but despite the large number of figures it would still be reasonably cheap with a base like this only costing a bit over £3 and bases of skirmishers and other looses order troops costing much less. This would allow me to collect more than the main two armies with enough miniatures to do all the other nationalities that participated in the wars and also collect some of the contemporary Successor forces. However with the prospect of this range (one of Baccus' older ones) being re-sculpted next year and doubts about whether I would find it satisfying to paint large numbers I have some reservations.

10mm is the compromise scale that would still have some of the mass effect of 6mm but with a bit more detail giving me around 30 Hastati/Principes figures to a base with more variety of poses but 50% more expensive. Magister Militum, have an excellent and large range of figures covering all the various forces with a nice level of detail for the scale and some nice characterful figures for the generals. Though I would have to compromise on just focusing on the main armies, if painted well they should look very good, giving a less generic looking army than 6mm. However I'm not sure whether the extra detail would make up for the loss of mass look.

28mm is the scale where any hopes of creating some the 'mass' look go out the window. One of the advantages of 28mm with Impetus' large bases is that you can create some nice diorama type bases with wounded figures or terrain pieces built in. This option appeals to the painter more than the wargamer in me with the chance to have a stunning looking army. Both Gripping Beast and Crusader, plus Armorum & Aquila, have some excellent ranges with a variety of stunning looking transfers for shields that would make the figures look extra special. However this is by far the most expensive option and I would probably have to invest the majority of my hobby budget and painting time into it to get it done to the standard I would want.

A tricky dilemma but I suppose quite a good one to have; lots of options all with their own pros and cons. I thought I would write this post in the hope that it would help me decide but am finding myself even more torn between the scales, so if anyone has some views or advice especially if you have embarked on a Punic wars project I would be very happy to hear from you. Meanwhile I'll keep painting my Adlers.


  1. A point in favor of 28mm are the plastics from Warlord and Wargames Factory. The kits from these companies push down the costs of 28mm and they can be used to support the various nationalities of the era.

  2. I've tried Punic Wars in both 6mm and 10mm. My feelings about the 6mm Baccus figs pretty much mirror yours: good mass effect, but definitely geared towards the gamers rather than the painters. After I'd already amassed more than enough Baccus for my needs, I noticed that Rapier Miniatures had, in the meantime, produced their own Punic Wars range, individually-based and at least a little more 'characterful' than their Baccus equivalents. If I were to do it all over, I'd probably mix and match between the two.

    As for 10mm, I could never find a collection of Republican Romans I liked. I've got Old Glory, AIM, Pendraken and Magister Militum, and all of them make nice Carthaginians (even OG!), but their Romans are comparatively appalling. Poorly sculpted, poorly designed, miscast or disproportionate; every manufacturer has its issues. Steer clear -- you can do better.

    While I'm griping about Punic Wars' letdowns, I should warn you that there isn't much reading to accompany a long painting project. You've already exhausted your best in-print source in Goldsworthy, as neither Bagnall nor his so-called editor are seemingly capable of producing a properly-punctuated sentence. Both authors also suffer from the same problem as all their predecessors: the lack of primary sources. Every scholarly work on the Punic Wars is drawn almost exclusively from Polybius, with a leavening of Livy; consequently, one reads much like the next. If you're easily bored or distracted, you may find it hard to keep plugging along.

  3. Very interesting post. I am trying to decide myself on 6mm or 10mm for civil wars period romans. I have been looking into the baccus romans and have some AIM old figures that have me thinking 10mm. The magister militum range is large but I am not sure I love the look of the figures. The AIM romans are very nice. Let us know what scale you decide.

  4. Thanks for the feedback guys. I am definantly interested in what Rapier Miniatures have to offer so may have to get some samples ordered once they have finished moving. In the end I should probably put this project on the back burner and not bite off more than I can chew, I have plenty of 6mm Napoleonics and Perry Samurai to paint up. Though I may not be able to resist if Baccus re-sculpt the Punic Wars range up to the same standard as their latest stuff. Meanwhile I will keep posting and painting.

  5. Great stuff here guys. Really enjoy the blog. In fact, I've added you to my blog roll as well.

    I have faced the scale dilemna for Impetus as well. I have a largish 6mm Imperial Roman army done, and I'm almost finished a 10mm Carthaginian army. And if that wasn't enough, I'm plugging my way through a 15mm Free Company army. For me, the painting is the primary deciding factor these days, and I have to say, painting 15mm is very rewarding.

    Another consideration is what size game do you intend to play most regularly? Impetus games tend to run from 300 to 500 points, and the points-size coupled with base size seems to determine how "big" an army looks. Is there a particular reason that you're not interested in 15mm? There are some lovely 15mm Romans out there for this period.


  6. Hi, have looked at your blog before and as this is one of my periods I thought I'd finally contribute! As JET says there are some great 15mm figures out there. The majority of mine are Essex and I think they paint up well. I find the Xyston very nice but too big. I had contemplated doing some 6mm Punics but ended up doing my long planned Early Byzantine in 6mm instead - I didn't want to be working on the same armies in different scales at the same time! The Rapier minis look good and the various Baccus re-sculpts he's working through are excellent as well.

    Personally I'd go 15mm. 10mm is tempting but the quality is generally good but I would still try and paint them to 15mm standard and if I'm going to do that then may as well go 15mm anyway!

    My thoughts. Good luck with whatever you choose and look forward to following the project.


  7. Thanks again for the advice. I'm a big fan of both your blogs and you have given me much to think about regarding 15mm. Jet, most of the games of Impetus I have played tend to be around the 500 point mark and thats the size of armies I am looking to collect. The main reason I was against going for 15mm was that I felt that I wanted either to go for the mass look or the excellent diorama options that 28mm offers. I am slightly prejudiced against 15mm as I have seen lots of armies in this scale that lack that WOW factor that I want if I am going to invest a large amount of time painting an army. However Jet's latest 15mm project certainly has that wow factor and has got me thinking again. I've been having a look at whats available in 15mm and am not sure what I would go for. I'm leaning towards Xyston even though their range doesn't seem to be complete yet and is on the expensive side but the sculpts look as detailed as many 28mm I have seen so could offer quicker painting and a cheaper alternative to 28mm. In the end I am still undecided and if you have any suggestions for 15mm ranges I would love to hear them.


  8. Tom
    Have you finally decided what you are going to do yet? I'v also been toying around with the massed 6mm idea (100+ per 120x60 base).
    Simon (LSF)

  9. We had a similar dilemma and went for 10mm in the end. We use 6mm for Napoleonics but the 6mm range for ancients is relatively limited (Baccus mainly). We looked at 15mm (28mm wasn't even considered as it would take a year to get an army on the table) and liked Xyston very much but the cost to put one FOG army on the table was approaching £120.

    So we went for 10mm. I've gone for Pendraken for my Romans and basically got a 1000 point army for around £40 and a Spanish Army for £19. For Christmas the relatives all got me Magister Militum (Gallics, Selucids, Macedonians etc.) so I now have the metal (unpainted!) to form any number of 'Rise of Rome' armies.

    This is so we can create a Punic campaign using troops from different nations (as described) to make the battles more interesting (rather than just Romans vs Carthaginians all the time).

    In terms of quality, MM are better than Pedraken but more expensive. However, 10mm is never going to rival 15mm for detail, so use of colour and contrast is more important.

    You can see more on my blog if interested.