Friday, May 17, 2013

Res Mechanica: Automata Magna Subplauda

Here’s some additional special weapons for my ancients weird science game. Part of the back story is that the new technology was used by the Romans for entertainment purposes in the arena and the theatres. The Vitellian defenders of Rome at this stage in the war desperately coopt some of these machines into the defense.First up is an automata.

Several chapters of Heiro of Alexandria’s surviving notebooks describe variously sized self-propelled machines that were gravity-powered by the release of sand. These were used primarily for small puppet show type of entertainments. I decided to add a “big stompy robot” weapon to the Vitellians. Giving Roman artistic sensibilities, the form it would take would be Hellinistic in appearance, hence the use of a larger scale hoplite model. The inspiration really came from the movie Jason and the Argonauts and the great scene where they fought the giant statue Talos.

Here’s a detail of the sand exhaust port. I’m going to have a rule for running out of sand, thereby immobilizing the machine along with an chance to reload it.

Nero was reputed to have invented a new form of musical organ powered by water. I took that idea and expanded it to a giant water harp. It will provide a sonic attack. It will be part of the Flavian defenses of the Capitoline Hill, figuring the defenders dragged it out of one of the temples. The model used here as the basis was the Elenco Da Vinci automated drum with the drum removed.

Finally, there are going to be the Vitellian Cohors Volans Icarii. Some small craft wing charms and a bit of wire added to some skirmish troops. These will come in handy for the assault on the Capitoline Hill.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Res Mechanica: Mechanized Cavalry

Historically, when Sabinus and his supporters barricade themselves on the Capitoline Hill, there was a battle fought between Vitellius’ supporters and Flavian cavalry at the Roman suburb of Saxa Rubra. It’s not entirely clear if the cavalry attack occurred as an attempt to rescue Sabinus or was the event that precipitated Sabinus seizing the Capitol. For my game, I chose to let it be the former.

While part of the force will be traditional cavalry, I wanted to give them support mechanized support. Since one of the inspirations for this game came from the famous image of Hiero of Alexandria’s steam aeolipile, I decided to give them steam powered vehicles.

The miniatures game, Arcane Legions, actually had a couple of steam-powered ballista-armed chariots that I used as the start.

These are virtually unmodified, other than the crew which are some Old Glory and RAFM artillery crews.

For heavier support, I created this heavy steam car.

It’s scratch-built from two cheap plastic toy chariots plus some odd and ends that I had in my bits box.

It is armed with the Archimedean Heat Ray.

As a side note, I usually try to give each player a distinct character to lead his or her forces. This encourages the role-playing aspect that I look to include in my games. This cavalry force will be commanded, as it was historically, by Petilius Cerialis, a relative of Vespasian, possibly son-in-law, who crops up repeatedly in the military history of era, mostly as the commander in disasters or near disasters. Prior to getting his cavalry slaughtered at Saxa Rubra, he commanded the IXth Legion when it was ambushed at the start of Boudicca’s rebellion, Cerialis escaping with the Legion’s cavalry troop while most of its infantry was slain. After the Flavian victory, he was given a huge army to suppress the Batavian revolt along the line. Although ultimately successful, he had a couple of close calls due mostly to his rashness and incompetence, resulting in a negotiated settlement to the revolt. He went on to be governor of Britain and seems to have done a workmanlike job without any major disaster recorded, perhaps he had finally learned something by then. But definitely a colorful character to include in the game.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Res Mechanica: Classis Ravennas

In my wierd science Roman game that I'll be presenting at Historicon, I try to give each player a couple of units of infantry or cavalry, a hero, and one or more machines. (I have the game listed for 8 players will be probably accomondate up to 12.) I try to make these somewhat compatable with historical forces or at least have some explanation for them, no matter how far-fetched. For the wierd science elements, I make an effort to have some historical justitication for them and not just random fantasy elements, (I'm reminded of the old SNL skit about "What if Spartacus had a Piper Cub") Availability of cool models or an idea to build one is also an important factor.

One of the forces for the game will be the Ravenna fleet that historically went over to the Flavians shortly after the army of the Danube invaded Italy until Antonius Primus. After the fall of Vitellius, some of the sailor/marines fromt he Ravenna fleet were converted into the Legion II Aduitrix and served in the Batavian revolt and in Britain before ending up on the Danube. I couldn't determine if any members of the Fleet served in Primus' campaign to capture Rome but decided that, with some of the Hieronian inventions they would be able to participate.

The first is a land trireme, the Bellona, powered by oxen on a treadmill. This method of propulsion comes from a medieval illustration of De Rebus Bellicis from the 4th century. In this case, it was converted to land operations.

Here's some pictures of the main deck:

Its main armament is an Archimedean heat ray.

Now I think that the whole legend of Archimedes inventing a heat ray started in the Middle Ages but it was too cool to pass up and, given that an episode of Mythbusters kinda-sorta proved it feasible, I had to include it.

Secondary weaponry are a pair of rapid-fire ballista:

The other major element of the fleet in the game will be an airship, the Favonius.:

Although the Romans didn't seem to contemplate flying too much, the fact that I had a couple of cool looking Elenco da Vinci models, the submarine and the mechanical dragon fly, both of which had a somewhat classical look, inspired me to come up with this model. It's main weaponry are a heavy ballista and a couple of Greek Fire pottery "bombs."

I'll post pictures of some of the machines for the other forces in the game in the next couple of days.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

I am going to be running two games at Historicon in July. One is actually a very silly recreation of the barricade scene in Les Miserables that I’ll post some details on at a different time.

The other is the following:

Title: Res Mechanica: The Long But Single Year – Rome 69 AD
Rules:Astounding Tales/All God's Children Got Guns
Scale: 28mm
Day: Friday
Time: 7:00pm
Duration: 4 hours
Players: 8

Description: Archimedes wasn't killed, the Library of Alexandria didn't burn so technology in the Roman Empire grew at unprecedented rates. Being good Romans, they devoted these wonders to two things: warfare and entertainment. So when Roman turned upon Roman in the Year of the Four Emperors, they had some interesting tools to help slaughter one another. Weird Science Romans, featuring Hieronian steam engines and automata, Archimedean heat rays, winged Icarans, land galleys, and Nero's water organ.

The scenario will be the battle for the Capitoline Hill late in the Year of the Four Emperors. Historically, after the defeat of the Emperor Vitellius’ army at the 2nd Battle of Cremona, Vespasian’s brother Flavius Sabinus who was the City Prefect of Rome attempted to negotiate an abdication by Vitellius. When this failed due to the refusal of Vitellius’ supporters, Sabinus, Vespasian’s son Domitian, and their followers including some of the Urban Cohorts barricaded themselves on the Capitoline Hill. A Flavian cavalry force under Petilius Cerialis attempted a rescue but were defeated and the Hill was stormed. During the fighting, the Temple of Jupiter, one of the holiest sites in Rome, was burned. Sabinus was killed but Domitian was able to escape in disguise. A short time later, the Flavian army stormed Rome and Vitellius was killed.

I always thought this would make an interesting scenario. I’ve also been fascinated by the invention described by Hiero of Alexandria and so decided to add some fantastical “weird science” elements to this fight. In a later post, I’ll show some of the weird science models but for now I wanted to post the scenery I did for the game. This is still a work in progress and I have some details to work out.

Half of the board will be a much reduced impression of the city of Rome while the other half will be the more open countryside beyond the walls.

My normal gaming table is only about 6' by 4' while the cloth I use for conventions is 6' x 8' To check a full set up I usually set things up on my living room or basement floor.

Here's the Temple of Jupiter and its interior

One of the gates of Rome:

The Basilica Aemilia:

The Theater of Marcellus:

The Forum:

A back street:

As is obvious, this is not any attempt to create and accurate or detailed model of the city or the various buildings, nor are they particularly good models in and of themselves. The main virtue is that it was very cheap to create the city. Most of this is scratch built from scrap beaded styrofoam and a few foam boards with a couple of middle-eastern buildings from Game Craft that I modified a bit. There's only one resin model of a temple - I forget the manufacturer - serving as the Temple of Juno Moneta. I also used plastic figures of various scale and manufacture for the statuary.