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"New to ancients - loads of questions on Thebes" Topic

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02 Jan 2017 8:43 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Battle Brush Sigur Inactive Member23 Nov 2012 5:04 a.m. PST

Hello, people. Last night I was introduced to DBA which I found to be a very neat little ruleset. Furthermore, my views probably were tinted by the fact that I got a bunch of models for myself too!

So I guess I'm an Ancients player now. Got a bunch of Thebans (15mm Essex minis), 10 elements of Hoplites, 1 element of Psiloi and one element of Cavalry. (Disclaimer: I'm a complete newbie to this so please bear with me not using proper terms or asking silly qestions :) )

Now after returning home last night of course I immediately started researching Thebans. Interesting stuff there. Sacred Bond, oblique order, cool hoplites in funny helmets (at least on the models I got. I read that they weren't all that common for infantry and far from being "standard issue") and all of that.

Now my questions, starting with a very general one:
.) What, to you, makes Thebans unique and interesting to play on the table?

.) The pose on the guys confuses me a little although it seems to be pretty common for hoplites. Here's a picture of the model in question (all single pose guys):


The way they're holding the spears looks almost like they're throwing them. Now I vaguely recall early Hoplites also carrying javelins but somehow I doubt that they'd be that long. Or is this a kind of "second rank fighting stance"? Standard attack stance? Or should I just repose the models to basically stand there, holding the spear in a classic "spearman" way?

.) Shield designs. During my research I read two things – the club symbol probably was common for Theban hoplites to paint onto their shields wasn't the one and only symbol there by far. Also, shield designs were painted right onto the bare metal rather than a base colour. Would you agree with that? Paintingwise I would prefer more colourful shields altogether but if we agree that those weren't common I'll reconsider.

.) Which brings us to the next question – painting. Somewhere on the internet I glanced over a bit of text that might have mentioned white playing a role as possibly a field sign? Anyhow, clothing, as almost everything as I can imagine was individual for each Hoplite, right? Were there any colours in let's say 4th to 3rd century BC that were predominant in Thebes' army?

.) All the models are wearing boiotian helmets (apart from the general and one more guy who seem to wear Illyrian helmets with the classic "brush" plumes) and I'm thinking of making the models (all the same cast mind you) a bit more individual looking by adding plumes to the helmets. Which plumes, if at all, were usually worn on boiotian helmets, what would a typical colour be (red?) and were they common on Theban hoplites?

.) I don't think so but as I just found this picture:


– metal armour was never painted, right?

.) Aside from hoplites and mostly out of curiosity – the colours of Psiloi tunics would probably be natrual beige to earthy colours, right?

Basically I aim to make the army look pretty and as colourful as possible within the realms of reason and historical accuracy (-ish).

Thanks very much in advance. :)

EvilBen Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2012 7:03 a.m. PST

Others will be better qualified to answer most of your questions, but on the stance of the unpainted figure:

that guy looks a little bit casual about it (or just tired?) but that sideways stance, thrusting overarm with the spear, and with the shield held by an outstretched left arm (often with the left shoulder supporting the top edge), seems to be the (or at least a) typical hoplite fighting stance. It's commonly depicted in both (ancient) figurines and vase-painting. Ancient images of hoplites fighting like the painted chaps in the bottom picture (holding their shields vertically and close to their bodies, with bent left arms) are much harder to find – even though it's what one would naturally imagine from reading e.g. Thucydides 5.71.

Battle Brush Sigur Inactive Member23 Nov 2012 7:13 a.m. PST

THanks for the info, EvilBen. I guess my mind is poisoned by the look of Renaissance pikemen. :) Looking forward to hearing more!

IGWARG1 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian23 Nov 2012 7:18 a.m. PST

1) Thebans may have more cavalry than other major city states.

2)It's a standard pose of hoplite armed with spear. Nothing wrong with it. In fact, since you found out that this type of helmet was not unique to Thebes and Thebans used other types of helmets you can use other minis with different helmets and poses for more variety.

3)You can use any shield designs you want. So called club design was not necessary used just by Thebans. A lot of what we know of shield designs are taken from coins by archaeologists. Just because Theban coin has a shield with club doesn't means that all shields had that design. It's possible that club design was only used by city guard or something like that. We constantly read about different designs within the same army as well as confusion it caused. I never read about any evidence that shield designs were always uniformed in any army except Spartans.

4) Clothing was individual choice. Also, variety of helmets, shield designs and clothing prompted armies to use field signs or watch words. In early battles it was not necessary as in was shieldwall against shieldwall. In later battles where lots of hoplites from different city states faced each other it became necessary. In one battle one side painted all their shields and or helmets white to reduce confusion during battle. I don't think you have to worry about field signs for your wargaming army.

5)Don't bother with modelling plumes for 15mm figures. Just use hoplites with different helmets for variety. Plumes came in variety of colors, red was common, but black, white, natural horse hair and other colors were also common.

6)It's important that you can distinguish between metal and linen or leather armor. Hoplites on the photo wear linen armor. It was "linen" color or painted or partially painted, just like in the photo. some argue that it was not linen but leather. It's irrelevant for painting in your case.

7) Yes, psiloi coming from lower classes were less likely to afford colorful tunics. Variety of grays and browns for psiloi. You can use dusty black and dirty white as well.

I highly recommend Osprey Elite "Greeks". This book deals with military fashion of the period. It will answer all of your questions.

Yesthatphil23 Nov 2012 7:46 a.m. PST

Lots of good advice, there, Battle Brush Sigur …

Just wanted to add a welcome to fascinating world of ancient wargaming: what a good choice!

Enjoy painting that army, too – form suggests you'll be getting another one quite soon grin

SoA Shows North

JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2012 7:47 a.m. PST

Peter Connolly's book 'The Greek Armies' is good too. 'Killer of Men' by Christian Cameron (a novel) gives good background flavour.

Who asked this joker23 Nov 2012 7:55 a.m. PST

There is a good discussion in the Lost Battles yahoo group on hoplites right now. One thing pointed out is that hoplites, in ancient artwork are posed with either the spear up (at rest) or overhead like the miniature depicts. This is an offensive stance. The hoplite in question is stabbing at his opponent. It is probably the most common posture for the hoplite if the Greek artwork is any indication of how they fought.

Clothing is definitely more individualized, as IGWARG mentions. Most armies of the time did not have a standard issue. I'd paint linen armor while with colored accents and vary the tunics. Metal armor should be bronze. Shields should be a mix but some hopliites in each unit could have the "nationl" symbols such as the club to distinguish which hoplites belong to who. That's a wargame thing though.

The plumes for the Boeotian helmet would be horse tails. Probably not colored. They would be black, brown or beige. If the figure does not have them, don't worry about them, again, as IGWARG says. Pilos is the cheapest helmet to make so there might be many of those in the formation. That is the conical helmet. The Corinthian helmet (that classic Greek hekmet you usually see) is expensive and should be reserved for a very few including officers. You could ad a few Attic helmets as well. These are similar to the Corinthian but have an open face.

I'll second the Ospery title mentioned above. Very good primer and should answer your questions especially about painting.

Hope that helps,


JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2012 7:55 a.m. PST

PS. Check out Veni Vedi Vici and Little Big Men Studios shield transfers for your Greeks

Tarantella23 Nov 2012 10:14 a.m. PST

The Essex hoplites from that part of the range all have the same pose but their is room for customisation here.

As is the spear usually ends up glue to the side of the helmet.

Though, once the spear is removed from the cast position, using a pair of fine nosed flat jawed pliers a 10-20 degree rotation can be given to the upper right arm. Follow this with a 20-40 degree arm bend and an adjustment at the wrist the figure can now hold a spear upright which is securely glued to the base or inside/outside the right foot.

Bending the arm backwards with a wrist adjustment you can glue the spear to the shield top.

Round jewelers file to tidy up.

Also,using steady thumb pressure the shield arm can be pushed against the body and likewise there is also a degree of left/right rotation available in the shield.

Very nice detailed figures though purists bemoan the size, shape and positioning of the shields.

Mars Ultor Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2012 3:58 p.m. PST

Only thing I'd add (in case you didn't find it in your research) is that the club is a symbol of Heracles/Hercules, who, according to myths, married into the royal house of Thebes. Thus a common symbol.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Nov 2012 4:53 p.m. PST

What, to you, makes Thebans unique and interesting to play on the table?

Epaminondas; the most innovative General of the late hoplite period.


GarrisonMiniatures Inactive Member23 Nov 2012 5:13 p.m. PST

The Theban Sacred Band bond was – well, actually not that unique. Later Thebans formed up in deeper formations than other Greeks – the Sacred Band were suposed to form up 50 deep, which is good as there were only 300 of them…..

Who asked this joker23 Nov 2012 6:24 p.m. PST

They were placed at the head of the column which is why they were also wiped out to the man. Going against Spartans greatly shorten one's life span.

Twilight Samurai Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2012 8:59 p.m. PST

I've always found Google images very useful for how other people have painted their Hoplites.







Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2012 4:56 p.m. PST

Welcome to DBA, it is great little game, that can be up numbered to giant size games. For DBA it's not at all important that you can distinguish between metal and linen or leather armor. Hoplites in any or none fight the same. What makes the Theban army interesting in DBA is that it can have 8 figure spear elements.

Here is list from near final draft. Has not changed in a long time so probably stable.
II/5c Theban Army 448-278 BC: 1 x General (8Sp or Sp), 1 x hoplites (8Sp or Sp), 5 x hoplites (Sp), 1 x hoplites (Sp) or peltasts (Ps), 2 x cavalry (Cv), 2 x psiloi (Ps).

These get a +2 when fighting foot but the first one lost counts as 2 lost. Thus they fight at +5 against other foot, as good as Blades.

What enemy army do you plan to put against the Thebans?

Battle Brush Sigur Inactive Member25 Nov 2012 6:26 a.m. PST

Thanks for all the replies and help. Very much appreciated.

I'm still thinking of maybe getting some more Hoplites just so I can mix and match various helmet designs onto one base for further variety than just position of the spear arm.

Spears will be metal rods rather than the ones the models come with as I'm really not a fan of lead alloy spears or pikes.

I actually got a few sheets of hoplite shield transfers by Litte Big Men studios from the guy who also gave me the models. I think I'll try to freehand them first though.

Yes, Google Image Search is a very handy tool for painting miniatures. The stuff I looked up for reference over the years….

We're playing DBA 2.2 so the Theban army list in there is about the same as you posted, Bobgnar, but it's all 4Sp, no 8Sp in there unfortunately.

Interestingly the models I have (which is one of those Essex DBA army packs) doesn't match either of the Theban army lists. However, there's a "Other" army list in the DBA rulebook in the long list of Late Greek Hoplite lists I could do.

What I have at the moment is basically 1x General (4Sp), 9x 4Sp, 1x 2Ps, 1x 3Cav. I'm thinking of either just going with this list or getting a bunch more Hoplites for helmet variety, more Cavalry and the additional required Psiloi (along with some Aux :P And maybe another army. :D ).

tansteel26 Nov 2012 9:04 a.m. PST

I believe what you have is the EARLY Hoplite Greek army. I/52d (668-450BC)

ether drake Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member26 Nov 2012 10:23 a.m. PST

The overhand spear stance actually generates more force per area than an underarm thrust, thus it's more effective for fighting and it allows greater defensive exploitation of the shield. Some scholars have done studies on this, you can find some details in Victor Hansen's book on Greek warfare.

As Simon said, the tactics of Epaminondas are the most compelling aspect. Think of it as the stepping stone from hoplite fighting to the reforms by Philip of Makedon. They beat the Spartans. They also had a Sacred Band of 300 paired male lovers.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Nov 2012 3:41 a.m. PST

The poor Spartans must have felt like Epaminondas was cheating… the guy was a genius.


JJartist27 Nov 2012 5:18 a.m. PST

Congratulations on choosing a 'heroic' army as your first entry to ancients.

Just a note on shield designs..

My Theban hero page, just cuz it's fun:

And "the Arcadians inscribing their shields with clubs" to mimic the Thebans at Mantinea 362 (excerpts from Xenophon):

And this older TMP link:
TMP link

Keraunos Inactive Member27 Nov 2012 5:38 a.m. PST

I did some thebans here.

The figures are xyston,
and I chose the ones wearing all metal armour.

The shields all have thee same club transfer (LBMS), but I used some simple colour backgrounds to break up the uniformity.

this link shows another idea to get some easy wins on shield patterns

- painting the 'lip' clashing colours

If I was doing an army entirely of them – that is just one unit – I'd probaly put the club on the sacred band only, and leave the rest with individual patterns.

Have fun

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Nov 2012 7:58 a.m. PST

I do like your Epaminondas, JJ.

Out of curiosity, would you depict Thebans all in Boeotian helmets, or give them a mix of helmet styles (maybe some pilos, or phrygian)?

Cheers, Simon

Battle Brush Sigur Inactive Member29 Nov 2012 10:05 a.m. PST

@tansteel: Oh, that may be an explanation. Thanks.

@JJartist: Thanks for the links. Incidently, I've been to your Heroes page before. :) Very interesting stuff.

@BigRedBat: Looking nice despite the picture being a little small. Would love to have the Xyston minis (and in fact that is the reason why the guy I got the minis from didn't like them. He found they didn't go well with his Xyston minis in terms of quality and size).

@BigRedBat: I probably will use all Boeotian helmets but only because these are the only minis I got for them. I would greatly prefer to have various kinds of helmets in there but I can't wait for weeks for more minis to arrive.

Started working on the first element for the army:



Not sure if I'll go on with freehanding all the shield emblems for the whole army though. ;) Hope you like them so far (they're still WIP)

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Nov 2012 10:47 a.m. PST

Very nice Sigur- they paint up well! Simon

Battle Brush Sigur Inactive Member29 Nov 2012 10:52 a.m. PST

Thanks. Yeah, they paint up well but having a unique pattern and palette on each of the guys is a bit of a pain. ;)

JJartist29 Nov 2012 2:30 p.m. PST

"Out of curiosity, would you depict Thebans all in Boeotian helmets, or give them a mix of helmet styles (maybe some pilos, or phrygian)?"

I do not think the Boeotian helmet is a common infantry helmet at all. I'd go for a mix, and the actual style is not commonly shown in miniatures:



Plataeans (lower right) in Boeotian style helmets at Marathon reconstruction of the Poikile Stoa:


As you can see these are not the usual cavalry helmets, but more like rounded Pylos styles…

Sorry Victrix and everybody else, with lots of Boeotian infantry wearing cavalry helmets.


Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Nov 2012 4:31 p.m. PST

Thanks that's interesting.

It lookz to me like the Foundry Boeotian helmets, on their Thebans, are broadly OK.


When I (eventially) get around to Thebans I plan to use those, with sundry other WotGs and head swaps mixed on.

Cheers, Simon

Battle Brush Sigur Inactive Member29 Nov 2012 6:27 p.m. PST

@JJartist: Thanks for the link. Very interesting indeed.

@BigRedBat: Those look fun. Maybe a bit hunched but I really like the look of those helmets. They look very militaristic. ;)

Here are some mostly-finished Hoplites and a base of finished Psiloi:


And here you can see the rest of the army:


One unit of cavalry (who are hit especially hard by the single-posedness, especially as the horses are very pretty and come with varied poses but the riders aren't only all the same but also basically impossible to convert. Well, it IS possible but would take a considerable amount of time) and five more units of Hoplites amongst which there is my general and his buddies.

I think I'm going for decals now on the rest of the lot (maybe not on the unit I make the Sacred bond and on the general's buddies). It's just a matter of time restriction and this not really being an army I chose and not really being the most amazing minis – especially in terms of variety, the quality is really nice – I'll go for full prettiness on later armies.

I'm really glad how colourful they turn out though. Hope you like them as well.

JJartist29 Nov 2012 7:39 p.m. PST

Your Thebans look nice…it's easy to make club designs for your shields and use your inkjet to print them out on decal paper.

Battle Brush Sigur Inactive Member05 Dec 2012 8:41 a.m. PST

Thanks, JJartist. :) I got a bunch of Little Big Men decals (man, those things are weird. never worked with self-adhering decals before. I think I may prefer the regular ones to slide around.)

Here are some new WIP shots of the other half of the Hoplite units:


..and finished cavalry:


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