Thursday, 31 March 2011

Favourite Units of Mine No. 4

Imagine the scene -

You are a peasant soldier, serving in the army of your King, Samuel, Tsar of the Bulgars. You are standing in line with 20,000 of your fellow Bulgars, armed with your spear, the point of which is blunt, your shield is held together by rusty nails and you stare out over the ground before you to the rise just ahead. There is a sound, almost like the soft crashing of the surf on the beach, growing steadily louder. You look nervously around, your neighbours about you shift uncomfortably, what lies beyond the rise you wonder?

Your hands grip ever tighter on your spear, the sweat on your brow starts to seep into your eyes.

The sound increases like a crescendo, now like thunder, then all of a sudden a thousand glints of light break the horizon, but these are not stars, but the shining points of lances, borne by a host of armour clad horsemen.

You are transfixed, frozen to the spot in fear and wonder at the sight as the horsemen  move closer and closer, now over the rise you see them in all their glory for the first time, huge mail clad warriors riding horses encased in leather and steel. The plumes of their gleaming helms flutter in the wind, and then you notice their faces, all clad in steel mesh with only the sockets of their eyes visible, staring out towards you, cold, determined, deadly.

Your friends start to waver, some start to turn to flee from the oncoming tide of death and destruction. The sound of the hooves of the steeds is now deafening, your friends shout in terror and alarm, then as one the shining points of the lances lower and a roar erupts from the horseman as they crash into your lines, the clang of steel on steel,  the neighing of the steeds, the screams of dying men. Suddenly you are released from your stasis as you become aware of one of the horseman, his lance now discarded having impaled one of your hapless brethren, now crashing towards you, arm raised high with mace in hand.

You turn away, you must flee from this herald of death, but there is confusion all round, a press of bodies, unyielding, you can't get through. You turn your head to see the rider your last vision on this earth as the mace arches down and crushes your skull to a pulp..........

All hail the Klibanophoroi!

The Elite arm of the Byzantine armies of the late 10th and early 11th Century, they were a return of the Cataphract Cavalry that had not been seen since later Roman times.

Their armour was a design of overlapping plates, known as Lamellar, usually made of iron, but sometimes of leather or horn, and their horses were encased in similar heavy coats of leather armour. The corselet formed by these plates was known as a klibanion from which the troops got their name. The rider's body was fully protected from the head to foot in plates of armour and mail. They were the Emperor's finest troops, their wedge formation in battle would bludgeon into the enemy lines with first, lance and then the heavy steel headed maces.

In WRG 6th Edition, these were the stars of the show for the Nikephorian Byzantine list, Regular A, Super Heavy Cavalry (SHC) they even carried Darts (no not the Phil Taylor type, but heavy lead-weighted missiles) which could be thrown into the ranks of their foes to cause mayhem, while the charge struck home. These were not filthy mercenaries who fought only for gold or ran away when the going got tough, these were the rock upon which the Byzantine Empire would be built. They were a symbol of Byzantine wealth and greatness and the terror of the Bulgar and other Slav nations who stood in their way.

Unfortunately for me though, none of the guys at the Dundee University Wargames and Role Playing Club had Bulgars, or Slav or any of the other traditional Byzantine enemies. Instead we had Carthaginians with Elephants, and Indians with Elephants, and Swiss with Halberds and Later Romans with Scythed Chariots. Talk about a pile of woe and disaster for my Byzantine Super Stars, they were doomed to become known as the "Scythed Chariot Magnets".

Everytime I played Jim, the Mad Doctor, who had the Late Imperial Romans, it was uncanny. You plotted the position of your troops on a plan before deploying on the table. Everytime we put the troops down, there they were, the Scythed Chariots, standing directly in front of the Klibs. I'd put them in the Centre - the Chariots were there, I'd put them on the flanks, the Chariots were there. Jim always denied that he had been peeking at my map before deployment and I always checked his map, but everytime the Chariots were where he had put them down on the table.

And these were not the sort of Scythed Chariot that you saw in Ben Hur or were driven by Boudica, Oh No! These damned things were pulled by horses who were clad in armour and driven by drivers encased in the same armour as the Klibs. These were Super Heavy Scythed Chariots!!

Desperately, I would always try and manoeuvre the Kilbs to safety but almost without exception it was doomed to fail. The Chariots would crash in and with their +5 bonus against SHC, they would invariably send my prized warriors to meet their makers.

I never won a battle with them against Jim's Romans and while occasionally I would have success against  some Auxilia or some Libyan Spearmen if I was fighting the Carthies, they were an expensive flop.

But, they just looked so cool..........

The guys above are now based for DBM were they now languish as a Reg KN (knight) (I) - Inferior!!! What happened to my highly paid, creme de la' creme, Emperor's Finest pin up boys? Guess Phil Barker must have heard how crap I was with them.


  1. Excellent post man! Was a really interesting read! thanks for sharing!
    awesome artwork! wish I had a steady hand like yours!

  2. Very nice description and figures.

  3. Thanks Guys!

    Your comments are always appreciated.