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"Aztec research - beginner needing help" Topic

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Andrew Beasley Inactive Member13 Dec 2009 1:36 p.m. PST

Having been a SciFi and Fantasy gamer for most of my gaming life and never really interested in history I wonder if folks can help?

I've come across a few wonderful game boards (e.g. picture ) and having liked the lizards from GW (due to Skaven) was very interested by the period but other than a part seen program on Discovery (fell asleep) I am stuck where to start.

I can find plenty of figures that I would like to paint but am unsure of:

1) General history / time line (e.g. who where the good / bad guys if any)?
2) History before Spain arrived?
3) Pronunciation of terms?
4) Details on troop type / army configuration?

Basically I think I need:

a) General intro to the people of the period
b) Details of troop types and units
c) History / archaeology of the area
d) Details on who has the most complete range (15mm preferred) and if any "vital" figures should come from other ranges

Given that this whole researching for games is new to me I would appreciate any help – I do have a fair bit of time next year to hunt up details before starting.

Thanks in advance

Personal logo Coyotepunc and Hatshepsuut Supporting Member of TMP13 Dec 2009 1:50 p.m. PST

Wow, where to start? is right! I would suggest the Wikipedia article, while simple and not 100% accurate it gives a good overview. I found "The Aztecs" by Nigel Davies to be a fairly complete history, but it is also a dry read. Osprey has a couple of books on the Aztecs, but they are fairly limited not only in the inforation presented but even as a color reference. If your local library has some repros of any of the Codices (as an aside to a GW player, the Aztecs had *real* codices) they are your best reference for uniform colors.

The Aztecs are a really fun army to research, collect, and paint. Since their history and culture seems to be taught less than, say, that of the Huns or Mongols (at least here in the States) it is really a whole new ball of wax for learning stuff.

Did you have a particular game that you were collecting and painting Aztecs to play?

Griefbringer13 Dec 2009 2:10 p.m. PST

e.g. who where the good / bad guys if any

History often tends to have a shortage of good guys, and this era is not an exception: the Aztecs had their fair share of rather cruel practices (not to mention an apetite for conquest), and the Spanish conquistadors were not any better.

Andrew Beasley Inactive Member13 Dec 2009 2:18 p.m. PST

Thanks for the quick responses.

Did you have a particular game that you were collecting and painting Aztecs to play?

I am in the fun position to say no here. I am a total novice in this period (both gaming and real life) and if it was not for the game boards I have seen in the last couple of weeks I would have continued in the fictional games.

I suppose I am a history virgin grin

artaxerxes Inactive Member13 Dec 2009 4:11 p.m. PST

Really depends how deep you want to go. Clendinnen, Inga. Aztecs: An Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991

crhkrebs Inactive Member13 Dec 2009 6:56 p.m. PST

This is my personal collection:

Anawalt, Patricia and Berdan, Frances, The Essential Codex Mendoza, University of California Press, 1997, ISBN 0-520-20454-9

Brown, Kathryn and Stanton, Travis, eds., Ancient Mesoamerican Warfare, Altamira Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7591-0283-X

Cocker, Mark, Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold, Grove Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8021-1666-3

Cortes, Hernan, Letters from Mexico, Pagden translation, Yale University Press, 1986, ISBN 0-300-09103-6

Diaz Del Castillo, Bernal, The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, Maudsley translation, Da Capo Press, 2003, ISBN 0-306-81319-X

Diaz, Gisele and Rodgers, Alan, The Codex Borgia, Dover Publications, 1993, ISBN 0-486-27569-8

Gruzinski, Serge, The Aztecs : Rise and Fall of an Empire, Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1992, ISBN 0-8109-2821-3

Hassig, Ross, War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica, University of California Press, 1992, ISBN 0-520-07734-2

Hassig, Ross, Mexico and the Spanish Conquest, Longman Press, 1994, ISBN 0-582-06828-2

Hassig, Ross, Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control, University of Oklahoma Press, 1988, ISBN 0-8061-2773-2

Heath, Ian, Armies of the 16th Century Vol 2, Foundry Books, 1999, ISBN 1-901543-03-X

Leon-Portilla, Miguel, Aztec Thought and Culture, University of Oklahoma Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8061-2295-1

Leon-Portilla, Miguel, trans., The Broken Spears, Beacon Press, 1992, ISBN 0-8070-5501-8

Mann, Charles, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Alfred Knopf, 2005, ISBN 0-7394-6441-8

Pohl, John, Aztec Warrior, Osprey Publishing, 2001, ISBN 9-78184-176148-0

Pohl, John, Aztec, Mixtec and Zapotec Armies, Osprey Publishing, 1991, ISBN 1-85532-159-9

Pohl, John, The Conquistador: 1492-1550, Osprey Publishing, 2001, ISBN 1-84176-175-3

Pohl, John, Aztecs and Conquistadors, Osprey Publishing, 2005, ISBN 1-84176-934-7

Robinson III, Charles, The Spanish Invasion of Mexico, Osprey Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1-84176-563-5

Sahagun, Fra Bernardino de, The Florentine Codex: Vol. VIII, Monographs of the School of American Research, 1982, ISBN 0-87480-082-X

Soustelle, Jacques, Daily Life of the Aztecs, Stanford University Press, 1961, ISBN 0-8047-0721-9

Thomas, Hugh, The Conquest of Mexico, Pimlico Press, 2004, ISBN 1-8441-3743-0

For military information I would recommend the Hassig books and the Heath book. For a general history I like Thomas and Soustelle. The best ethnohistories are by Duran and Diaz with Cortes in 2nd place.

Believe it or not, not much is known about Meso-american warfare. The more books you read on this, the more you realize that much speculation is put forth even by the experts. The vast majority of codices of the Aztecs, Tlaxcaltecs and Maya were destroyed after the conquest, for being "Satanic" and "demonic". With a few notable exceptions, the Conquistadors were either illiterate or totally devoid of any interest in the cultures they destroyed.

Imagine picking 20 books at random out of a typical bookstore and from those, determining what our society was about. That is about the situation. Throw in some scholarship, some archaeology, and then reading between the lines of the self serving writings of the people who were there, but writing many decades after the events.

Apart from that pessimism, welcome aboard. Oh ya, all the rule sets I've seen do a relatively poor job of actually mimicking Aztec warfare. That includes the ones I wrote for WAB! If you are interested PM me, and I can bore you with the details (and provide you with the lists). Cheers.


John Leahy13 Dec 2009 8:35 p.m. PST

Being interested for a long time in the Conquest era, Ralph knows what he is talking about. Rules can be problematical. If you want something simple but fun take a look at the Sword and the Flame variant. It's called The Sword, The Cross and the Gold.



platypus01au14 Dec 2009 2:41 a.m. PST

Hi Andrew,

As a gamer starting out with Aztecs my advice would be;

a) By Osprey Warrior #32 Aztec Warrior by John Pohl

This will give you a basic background.

Lots of others recommended above which are good.

From Ralph's list

Heath, Ian, Armies of the 16th Century Vol 2,

Is really, really good.


Red358414 Dec 2009 4:49 a.m. PST

If you get a chance to get down to London from the wilds of Lincolnshire the current 'Moctezuma' exhibition at the British Museum is really good.


Lowtardog Inactive Member14 Dec 2009 5:21 a.m. PST

I dont think I can expand on what has already been written here, especially Ralphs reading list, mine is a lot less but contains the Hassig and Heath books. The Ospreys though a little dodgy in parts are still good value for eye candy and painting inspiration.

I would also recommend downloading the pdfs form Chronofus De Meres forum. They are iddeal for some background on shields, costume and outline the army structure etc. One day I hope this becomes a book as the research is awesome.

Lowtardog Inactive Member14 Dec 2009 5:23 a.m. PST

Oops here is the link


Lowtardog Inactive Member14 Dec 2009 5:28 a.m. PST

We also have a small Yahoo group on this subject and other Meso American games, periods. It needs recruits :)so if you join feel free to ask questions and post post post


crhkrebs Inactive Member14 Dec 2009 1:51 p.m. PST


I owe you an email. I've been too busy. Sorry for being tardy.


Andrew Beasley Inactive Member14 Dec 2009 3:04 p.m. PST

A real big thank you for those notes and links. Once I get the software go live and the little matter of Christmas over with I'll have a good hunt for some of those books in the Jan sales and shows.I'll keep all updated with the progress (slow as it may be) and have a good trawl on the Yahoo site.


Lowtardog Inactive Member15 Dec 2009 8:32 a.m. PST

No problems Ralph atm my Home PC is down so awaiting new internet provider to connect.

ScottS19 Dec 2009 6:13 p.m. PST

Ralph, have you had a look at the recent Fields of Glory book, "Blood and Gold?" If so, what do you think of it?

MikeKT Inactive Member15 Jan 2010 6:49 a.m. PST

The Aztec list in Blood and Gold should be quite good within the book, and competitive even in an open competition. There is the expected range of troops and allies, quality is from average on up, and all the troops can shoot. I intend to try the list sometime, but have very few of the requisite troops.

crhkrebs Inactive Member15 Jan 2010 9:20 p.m. PST

I will probably buy "Blood and Gold", but so far I haven't been captivated with FOG. I've read the rule book a few times and own the first 5 books, so I'm not in a position to know.

If you play Aztecs versus Tlaxcaltecs in a FOG Flower War, is there a mechanism to take captives?

If all the Aztecs can shoot then how does FOG delineate between them and historically "shooty" armies like the Tlaxcaltecs and the Chichimecs?


MikeKT Inactive Member16 Jan 2010 10:17 a.m. PST

I suggest not reading the book but just downloading the quick reference sequence of play and index and getting a game with someone who plays it. It's quite learnable that way – there are active players whom I suspect rarely cracked the rulebook.

The Atlatl and sling are fairly common missile weapons for the region but there is more variation in the degree of use of the bow.

For a Flower Wars campaign or scenario I suggest scoring bases taken from the enemy in close combat by victorious units (i.e., those that don't themselves rout or perish) – scoring based on quantity of men taken vs. quality would have to be decided.

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