Saturday 25 September 2021


 I decided to revamp my seascape. So I pushed the boat out and used 100Kr / 15 Euro on it. Plus time.

The base is a flamingo/styrene insulation block. This is NOT the pricey type but I coated it with a mix of emulsion, acrylic and PVA glue coloured with ochre. 

I first cut the basic shapes. Then I used a coarse rasp to round them. Then I used rough sandpaper to get the final shape before painting. THIS IS MESSY. KEEP VACUUM CLEANER CLOSE!

The flock I used was made by using a coffee grinder on sawdust I had coloured with acrylic paint. The result was sieved with different sieves to produce different size texture fractions. It was sprinkled onto wet painted areas. When fixed in place i painted it again with a dilute PVA solution. 

The vegetation is lousy old foam from a dead chair cut with scissors and additionally shredded in a coffee grinder (out of commission for kitchen use!). The foam was coloured with a mix of PVA and acrylic paint, It becomes harder when impregnated with dried paint.

I tried putting pins on trees as trunks but at 2mm scale this is not worth the trouble. The bushes and trees are glued directly to the ground with PVA.

The buildings are Hotz Roman Seas printed to 2mm scale. A little tricky to assemble but no big problem. They are then glued to a base then painted with PVA as a varnish and toughener.

The bays are real sand finely sieved glued onto acetate.

Quays and moles and towers are fine flamingo from chocolate box If I remember right. Could be card etc.

Add sea and ships to taste.

Saturday 18 September 2021



Sounds better than 'Here Come the Dikrotic Pentekontereis' for a kids' TV programme. As I wrote this I almost got PTSD on remembering seeing this show occasionally. But in black and white.

No, this is a late post to show my double-decker pentekontereis I made last spring but forgot to launch properly.

Dikrotic pentekontereis leave port as 'open' triereis enter

The double-tiered pentekonter was the spark which led to the triereis. The actual mechanism first used to achieve this is not agreed. Either the oarlocks were set one above the other or they were staggered. Staggering the oarlocks required the invention of the parexeiresia and gave a lowe overall height and a more stable ship.

upper tier with thole pins on the parexeiresia

Superimposed oarlocks meant a higher ship superstructure and the side of the ship was equipped with permanently fixed screens between the rowers.

War- and cargo-galleys. Both two-tier. Nineveh stelae showing Sidonian ship. Some say these are triereis with unmanned uppermost tiers...c.700BC

Some have resolved the puzzle about how the dikrotic ship was arrived at by allowing for two versions to be developed at different places simultaneously.

Part of the reason for the presence of two models may be due to different ways of representing the same thing. Maybe different conventions of how a ship was drawn prevailed at different places.

Geometric Period ship. The earliest dikrotik pentekonter -
 OR - a monokrote drawn in semi- persepective 800BCish

The modified ship was the pentekonter. This is why the resulting ship was a 50-oarer too. The shorter hull was less stressed in waves and allowed rapid turning which was key for ramming combat. Overall speed was less but for a warship type which was not expected to make extended voyages this must have been a reasonable trade-off.

The new ship was called a pentekonter. Not so helpful. It is difficult to tell if a dikrotic ship is meant when pentekontereis are mentioned in written sources. However, for a limited period, from c. 700BC down to 625 or so when the triereis was developed references must mean the most effective ship is meant, i.e. a two-tier ship. Thereafter, it is difficult to see how we can differentiate. A one-level pentekonter could be a scout ship or courier because it was faster but in a battle it would have been an easy mark for two or three-level vessels.

Somewhat more helpfully, new light warships with two tiers crop up with distinctive names. Lemboi, pristi and Liburnians are all double-decker pentekontereis. EARLIER POST ABOUT LEMBI ETC

My models are closed-in ' versions with no visible oarsmen. The complete deck allows the ship to be in a full-scale battle and this type could transport 50 men in addition to the rowers. 

Double-deckers did not necessarily have rams. They could fight by using boarding or obstruction tactics.

Next project...Phoenician pentekontereis and triereis.

Monday 6 September 2021


 The Mariners' Museum of  Newport News Virginia - home of the USS Monitor - have two series of vids that are worth watching for anyone of a marine bent. I recommend them here on the basis of  rams still being used in naval forces then there are plenty of wrecks ;)

Click to go to their website HERE

The first are presentations about pictures in their collection of maritime painting. These are presented by their art curator Kyra Duffley. She is knowledgable about the subject and waxes lyrical about some great lesser-known marine paintings. Short vids.

Second is about the naval side of the American Civil War. This is presented by John Quarstein who is an author and steeped in the subject. He has a very enthusiastic and ebullient presentation style which is very welcome for those tired of fast cuts and effects. Longer presentations certainly with detail you will not know about even if you follow the subject. Old school in the best way!

Give these a try. You will be pleasantly surprised. Not least by some nice southern states accents! Subscribe to them to support thier efforts!

Tuesday 24 August 2021


 Herodotos conveniently provides orders of battle for the two sides. It is possible to nit-pick over details but in the overall scheme of 1500 or so ships fine details are not so important.

Rank hath its privileges

The biggest challenge is to assign the ships to a manageable number of counters. There doesn't seem any point in making a counter for every 10 or 20 or for each ship. The map game is just a way of easily providing variation for the clash of models. To reiterate - because a simple re-run of history is predictable and dull we are seeking here to provide some unexpected surprises and variation whilst still keeping contact with the ancient events.

The appropriate notes can be scribbled on the reverse of the counters thus preserving some uncertainty for the opponent until the battle lines meet.

My obols are on the cat

GREEKS - these can be ordered after ethnic lines relatively easily. The massive Athenian contingent being divided to make sure each counter includes about 30 ships.

PERSIANS - fewer and larger  contingents mean we can follow a similar principle but allot about 100 ships to each counter - one could just as easily use 50 - so as to keep the number of counters manageable.

A NOTE ON QUALITY - Following the basic variables of  + / - / = as outlined before, each counter needs to be labelled for quality. + being superior, = being average and - being deficient. There is no need to refer to rules here because who knows what models and rules will be used at last? Just the relative quality needs to be known for now.


GREEKS - 12 COUNTERS about 30 per counter

ATHENS - 6 counters each of 30 ships     3 +    3=

MEGARA - 20 ships =

NORTHERN STATES - Ambracia7, Leucas3, Ceos 2 Pentekonters, Naxos1, Styra 2, Cynthus 1 plus 1pentekonter, Crotoniats1, Melians 2 pentekonters, Syphnians 1 pentekonter, Serephians 1 pentekonter  all rated -

EUBOEANS - Troezen2, Hermione3, Chalkis20, Eretria7    all rated -

PELOPONNESIANS - Sparta 16, Sicyon15, Epidaurus10  all rated =

CORINTH - 40 rated +

AEGINA - 30 rated +

PERSIANS - 12 COUNTERS about 100 per counter

PHOENICIANS - 3 x 100 ships  all rated +

EGYPTIANS - 2 x 100 ships all rated +

HELLESPONTINES - 100 rated =

IONIAN GREEKS - 100 rated =


CYPRIANS - 150 rated =

CILICIANS - 100 rated -



The ratings can be tweaked as desired. The main thing is to give variation to each fleet.

Sunday 22 August 2021


 Counters for the Sea of Doom. The idea is to scribble info on the reverse. Stick to thick card.

Friday 6 August 2021


The seascape needs to be established at two levels.

STRATEGIC / FLEET LEVEL and Tactical Level - which we save for next time...

We need to know where the different squadrons were moved to, harboured, and where they deployed.

The potential area over which the fleets could be deployed ranges round the whole of the Salamian coast and over to Phaleron where the Persians had their main base.

The Corinthians supposedly fled into the Gulf of Eleusis on their way to the Isthmus of Corinth where their land forces, the Spartans and others were constructing a wall to block the Persians from entering the Peleponnesus. 

Xerxes supposedly sent his Egyptian ships to block any escape attempt such as the Corinthians may have made. They went south round Salamis to plug the straits at Megara.

Next we have to allow some space for the Persians to mooch around all night at sea while they blocked the entrance to the Salamis straits. A player might wish to rush into the narrows immediately but the option must b ethere to remain at sea off Phaleron.

For the Greeks, inside the straits, they need the possibility to harbour their ships in different configurations.

The sea space needs to be chopped up into areas. We dont want a hex map. We dont need a map accurate in foot furlong and fathom but it should relate directly to the space available.

The pre-battle period, when ships can be shuffled around, lasts from dusk to dawn. Within this time the Egyptians must be able to get to the Megaran straits and back to the battle during the a.m. .

That trip is around 30km. It has to be accomplished between 6pm (dusk) to 6.30am(dawn). This gives us a scale to 'grid' the seascape at this 'fleet' level. 

Suitable base-ic base-map

The 12 hours of darkness need to be part of the game to set up the battle. But we do not want to have to go through every minute. Let's start with 4 3 hour moves - just to start things.

This means ONE turn of 'fleet level' movement will get us from Phaleron to west Salamis. Arbitrarily, then, we divide this on the map into 6 areas.

Now it is simply a question of chopping the rest of the map into similar sized pieces.

This gives a counter representing a group of triereis a movement of  3 areas in a single 3 hour 'fleet level' game turn.

We can also make the proviso that to get ships out or harbour and into the adjacent sea area takes a whole move.


We need to be careful about the situation in the straits. Let's make sure the area inside Psyttalea and St George is a single area. If forces get here then they face each other in the same area - forcing our battle onto the historical focus area.

A boyhood favourite! (before I found war-galleys!)

The same should stand for the Megaran straits - if a confrontation happens there we make the whole strait 1 area for ease.


We also need to make arrangement for the harbouring of our fleets. 

The clock starts ticking with all ships on their way to moor at the end of the day.  Both fleets' crews want to go ashore to stuff their faces. 

The Persians only have Phaleron as  a base. The bay is wide and can accommodate the whole fleet.

There is no tactical interest in making any other arrangement for our game.

The Greeks have three harbours. Even if you think one or other is unfeasible - if we allow the use of all three we get more interesting variability in the action.

Several arrangements are possible. 

1) Allow the whole fleet to be moored in any of the bays.

2) Allow half or two thirds to fit in each bay - forcing a spread.

3) Allow 1/3 in each bay - forcing maximum spread.

I prefer to allow full fleet capacity in one and less capacity in the two others. This is easily varied but the northern most mooring is likely to have been the worst and it is by no means certain either the other two could have acommodated the whole fleet.

100 ships per capacity point - 380 ships to get a berth

In terms of 'fleet game' mechanics - a group of ships (a counter) is 'moored' or it is 'at sea'. It takes a turn to move from the shore out to be at sea in an adjacent area.

Yes this is all arbitrary. But it is with reference to a realistic time and space scheme and it will be easily tweakable once we try it out.


This 'fleet level' part of the game will be a simple paper map with counters.

We need map and counters. 50/100 ships per counter to start with , or varying according to the historical contingents. 

We also need a time/turn track.  

We need a simple set of rules to move the counters on the map.

More we do not need.

Avoid simply remaking 'Trireme' boardgame!!!!


There are key decisions/events which affect how the battle occurred. It is possible to make a list of many small details but we are doing this exercise to arrive at a battle game - the cart must not be set before the horse.

I summarise the key elements which can decide how elements of the battle fall out.

1) When does Xerxes send his fleet to sea?

2) When or if Xerxes sends a blocking contingent to the Megaran straits.

3) When do the Aeginetians arrive with intelligence about the Persians? (and what info?)

4) When / if the Tenians desert the Persians and bring intelligence.

5) When / if the Corinthians leave the fleet  (or other contingents? ) and when they return / if?

6) When does the Greek fleet go to sea and where ?

7) When does Xerxes send what contingents into the straits of Salamis?

These factors can all be varied in the simplest way as follows..

+ factor  - more than historical effect

= factor - historical effect

- factor - less than historical effect

What this means is that one ends with  stack of  21 or so cards to be drawn at different stages which indicate each player's options.

The cards will be drawn at appropriate times. We end up with a game turn clock something like this.

We now have a framework for how the pre-battle events develop.

We must bear in mind that there are certain pre-requisites for this exercise. If we allow every last influence to be factored in we can easily discover that the battle was actually most unlikely to have taken place.

We are accepting that Themistocles' lure of a disintegrating Greek fleet which could be caught in the process of retreating was accepted by Xerxes. We are also accepting that the Greeks planned to fight in narrow confines not only to accentate their strengths but also out of experience gained at Artemesium. 

Looks juicy,but...

The key is to set the scen for a battle at Salamis which was historically possible but which presents uncertainties and decision-making challenges for the players.


We need a system to allow the battle to be laid out and fought on the tabletop...NEXT EPISODE

Monday 26 July 2021


It is easy to see how one can quickly drown in the literature concerned with Salamis.

There is a veritable  hæmerroid of books available about Salamis

To make a recreation of the battle from reading one quickly gets bogged down in academic debates on individual details such as...

Did the Egyptian Squadron go to the Megaran Straits?

Did the Aiginetians make a flank attack, an ambush or even arrive late in the day?

Did the Corinthians make a feigned flight, a real flight or never flee at all?

Did the Greeks back water ? If so, how much ? How long?



Historians work to synthesise a believable narrative. They filter the variety and wealth of material available to establish a believable, defendable framework. This is not what gamers do. Gamers should establish and identify parameters and factors and then effectively run a Monte Carlo simulation. 

Some would say a Fleming Simulation - but it is actually a genuine article 

We are interested in plausible what ifs. We are not interested in introducing spaceships and we are not interested in agreeing the historical outcome was the only one possible because of the historically prevalent conditions. The interest is in the variability. 

We have a few certainties for Salamis.

We KNOW the Greeks were not destroyed by the battle

We KNOW Xerxes withdrew from Greece after failing to deliver knock-out blows to either of the Greek land forces or naval forces.

We KNOW Xerxes had moved the largest army and navy the world had ever seen from Asia Minor to Attica and after the battle it was the end of the usual season for campaigning.

Print( or paint) the myth!

The winner of any ancient war-galley battle could mop-up at will, kill defenceless sailors and troops isolated on an island. The Greeks held the strait after the battle and kept the Persians off Salamis and kept a fleet in being but we do not know they smashed the Persian fleet. The Phoenicians went home in a fit of pique but there were plenty of them to go home - the elite of the Persian fleet who bore the brunt of the battle..

For Herodotos and Aeschylus the fact that the Persian fleet left was enough. Surely this was evidence of defeat. 300 'noble' warriors were slain on Psyttalia but what relevance had 300 in a battle involving up to 180,000 men !

But apart from these details....everything else is open for variation to create an interesting confrontation on the table.

    We  do not know where the battle happened.

    We do not know the strength of Persian forces involved, even if we agree the Greek ship total is             believable.

    There is potential argument over the natur eof the ships used on both sides and the number of fighting     men aboard them.

We need to identify and highlight key factors which affect the ancient battle. These factors must not be too numerous and they must have a substantial effect. These will be the basis for the kriegspieling or simulation of the engagement.

To be clear. The game needs to include variable set-ups, variable deployments, even variable sides if there were factors which could have changed those which occurred on the day.

The variables we elect to involve in the game will only be those that affect the day's proceedings in an interesting way. The location of Xerxes throne is not relevant but the location of his admirals is.

Ruggero Giovanini's epic picture of Salamis from Xerxes' perspective : LOOK AND LEARN

Next - Build the battle as a gaming model.