April 1, 2010

Its a word I often see when people are describing ancient weaponry. Once upon a time many years ago when the earths crust was cooling and HTMQ gave me money to wear green and stand in a straight line I was a weapons instructor amongst other things. (My father who was navy complained bitterly that the army had J/NCOs asinstructors while the navy didn’t have any instructor with less than 10/12 years experience and I pointed out that army was nortiously better at hitting the target, drill, discipline, organisation and not hurting ourselves than the navy and we had a different conversation) I’ve been trained on everythign from 9mm pistols to 105 howitzers and I’ve passed on a lot of that training to others via the manuals that came with these weapons.

Im nearing completion of the deisign for one machine – Agrippa – at 20 pages of engineering details, 10 pages of wood working specs and five pages of ammunition details. These are just the technical drawings, not the instructions. for assembly. The actual “instructions” which will include an operational manual, maintainence and repair instructions and training plans will come out about another 40 pages by my evaluation. That puts Agrippa on a par with any modern weapons system I’ve ahd to work with.

We may need to revise what “primitive” means.


Just out of interest…

March 22, 2010

Anyone feel the urge to send me like about half a dozen cedars for milling? It can’t be more than 10,000 miles across the Pacific.

No reason. Just have this bit of a catapult thing to build here and the local wood sucks, or is “too pretty” to actually use for anythign except postcards.


Well thats worth knowing.

March 18, 2010

The engineering specs for a 4 mina ballista cover 19 pages. Thats just the parts, not the entire plan by the way. The actual plan is only one A2 sized sheet.

Of course exactly how everything goes together and how it operates exists only in my head so thurppppppt. To be honest I don’t think there’s enough money to get me to part with the plans for Agrippa. It’s the result of 5 yerars work (so far). What would you pay a specialist for 5 years work?

Tell you what I’m in such a good mood I’ll show you the cover.

Go nuts.

Just while we’re chatting I notice a search for “Roman trebuchet plans”. I’m sorry but there’s no such thing. The trebuchet is a medieval counterweight weapon. The Romans were all torsion, all channels. Of course now I’ll be getting mutliple hits from people looking for Roman treb plans and the associated abuse, but thats life.

For those of you seeking plans who do get bitter that people like me don’t give up their plans I’d sugest you give some thought to the fact that we’re dealing here are actually fully functional weapons systems that dominated the battlefield for a longer time than gunpowder has existed. they kill, thats their job, they were designed to do one thing and do it well. Make dead people. I already give away a number of small scale plans and I frequently help people with projects but I can no more make public things like Agrippas plans than I could go about telling people how to put together explosives.

There are enough Darwin awards already and I’ll not have my name on of them thanks.


Slight but significant change to the Denmark Project.

March 11, 2010

Due to the funding not coming coming through we can no call it the New Zelaand Project.

By all means feel free to throw money at me for it because its still going to cost money, just less of it. Don’t forget the onager plan for a $1 donation is available below. We’ve moved a few of them and everyone seems happy with it, at least no one seems to have had any problems with it, so yay for testing befor putting on the market.


Name this object and WIN ten points.

February 28, 2010


Roman Seas Review

February 22, 2010

For those of you that don’t wargame skip this post. For those of you who follow in the footsteps of the likes of Genghis Khan and Winston Churchill you’re in for a treat. I’ve been wargaming for a few years now… ok pushing forty but whose counting. I’ve also played a wide range of periods and game types from ancient to miniatures to computer games, hell I was playing EPT before anyone even thought of D&D… I may have said too much. My personal favourite is table top gaming because you can’t beat the tactile nature of the environment and of course exceedingly bitter arguments over whether that distance is from the closest corner of the base meaning you get a +1 on the dice or from the centre meaning there no modifier. You either know what I’m talking about or you don’t. It’s lot like the Big Bang Theory, if you laugh too often you8’re a geek. I’ve worked with the incredibly painful Wargames Research Groups rules, which were good for their quick reference guide but not too much else, to the simply anal Squad Leader series which notable only for its love of lots of words and defining the difference in ranges of the pistols that one guy in 300 was carrying because hell that could change the outcome of the battle!. I’ve even written more than a few sets of rules myself, the first being the ancient skirmish rules I wrote in ten minutes at our wargames club at high school because everyone had brought their figures but forgotten the rule books. Last I heard they were still using them, evidence of simple bloody laziness if nothing else. But what I have learned from this is that “playability” is kind of the point of table top gaming really, the figures and scenery, not the complexity or the “accuracy” of the rules. So when I review Roman Seas I’m doing it with a lot of experience and a certain amount of disillusionment.

To achieve the balance between rules and pliability is exceedingly difficult but key to the long term success of any game and Roman Seas has achieved it exceedingly well. However I do have to take issue with the tagline. “Ancient Roman Naval Combat Rules 264BC – 400AD”. This “rule book” is in fact an entire game. With the book comes a CD that has all the files on it you need to print your own counters and game boards as well as your quick reference sheets. The quick reference sheets tables all have their relevant rule numbers listed so you can go back to them if you need to. But once you’re familiar with the rules you’ll probably only have the quick reference sheets on the table.  It uses a hex system which regulates many of variables helping to reduce arguments (note: reduce, not stop. The arguments are a feature, not a bug). Even then the rules actually apply to miniatures as well as the board game version. Specifically Eric Hotz’s Roman Seas range of ships and buildings. In fact you can buy the Roman World collection and make pretty much anything from the ancient world you want. I’ve been using some of the fortifications for some time now in rebuilding a model of Roman Legion Fort. You can also rebuild Hadrian’s Wall and even a tented camp if you want to cut and fold the teeny tiny tents. I have four actual tents and a miniature camp ramparts dug so I’m good.

Flexibility is key to the usefulness of Eric’s rules as they cover a period from the rise of the Roman navy during the first Punic War, which started in 264BC to the peak of great fleets at Actium in 31BC and on to the decline of the Empire when the Romans were dealing with Saxon raiders in the fourth century AD. He gives you Roman, Carthaginian, the massive Antonian/Egyptian ships and the barbarian Ventii along Saxon wraships (which are begging to be converted to having dragons heads) augmented with a range of merchants. With each of these different enemies different tactics were employed and Eric details these within the rules and provides rules for things like flame weapons while telling you why they were very seldom used. Even the hapago, a catapult launched grapnel are there.  What is central to Eric’s rules is the fact that his father was a Roman historian and these rules are accurate while providing the individual player with the opportunity to try different methods of their own. In short you can engage in a wide range of differing types of naval and river warfare using these rules. I would suggest that it’s an advantage to learn a bit about the tactics employed and assume you don’t it already.

When you use Eric’s models you’ll be able to create that engaging table top feel of gaming  (please keep your coke cans OFF the battle area gentlemen) and you wont be paying through the nose for it. As I mentioned you can get the entire Roman world set for $100 from which you can build any naval force as well as any port, fort or city you feel like. You can print off as many models as you want with a variety of optional extras and they go together very easily. I just got myself the Barbarians vs Rome set because I’m working on a couple of river engagement scenarios and the set has eight ships classes on 25 sheets. With printing it works out to being about 50 cents for each model if i use all the extras. Somewhat more cost effective than buying and painting cast models.

Roman Seas, the rules and the models represent great value for money as well as being of exceptional quality.


A genuine Can-o-Kick Ass.

February 15, 2010

Which is a good pun if you know your Latin. For others this is Onager-in-a-Can.

A slot together table-top fully functional onager. We all know that cubicle wars are hilarious, but not all of us can afford those twin over chrome plated fox tailed ossiclating widget grublet flash missile launchers that are all the rage with the computing nerd warriors. So why not get anciebnt on their ass with this fully portable system! Yes you can take Onager-in-a-Can with you anywhere it its handy plastic box your tiny catapult will be safe from crushing and can be assembled in minutes.

That geek from accounting will never know what hit him! (A small plastic bead in fact)

Easily mistaken for a lunch item the Onager-in-a-Can blends in on your desk top…

When opened we see all the components and ammunition simply waiting to be assembled.

The parts are laid out and the rubber bands added to the torsion frame.

The throwing arm is inserted with the bands wound up.

The main frame is then slotted together…

and finally the crash bars are added.

Your Onager-in-a-Can is now ready to go.

Onager-in-a-Can is made from 3mm (1/8) blasa wood using less than half a sheet. You can build one using the plan that is available below for a compelled $1 donation to the 22AD Research Fund. The plan is full size so you can glue it directly to the wood for cutting and comes with photo instructions. There is an additional experimentation and history sheet included with the PDF file, so its ideal for teaching some history and physics to the kids.

Current range is about 10 foot and if you happen to have a model making bandsaw like me then you can make one out of some hard wood and get much more range if you so desire or you can use the upgrade optional parts included in the plan. Origionally I had planned to make something that glued together but it turned out that the model worlks well just being slotted together meaning you’ll be able to change rubber bands without breaking it apart.

PDF files will be sent to your email address within 48 hours. Please make sure you enter you email addresss correctly to avoid bitter recriminations and later face palming. Also feel free to pay the paypal fee please. And if you wish you can always donate more than $1 if you so desire and my crew were certainly appreciate it since it’s a long way to walk to Denmark from here.