Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Thighs of an Elephant! A brief thought on the pachyderm

(A distinctly Grantian elephant picked up on eBay. Airfix elephant (from the Tarzan set?) with balsa howdah, card shields and Airfix Roman archers. The anklet is made of what seems to be blotting paper.)

In the Hannibal in the Alps scenario the Gauls, fearful of the never before seen elephants, were not allowed to come within  six-inches of them. This lead Hannibal to the conclusion that the best way to force the pass was to form elephant square and barge his way through. The result was effective, but, from a gaming perspective, slightly underwhelming. To reverse Bosquet's famous words: It was wargame, but it wasn't magnificent.

(The splendid Minifigs S range amoured elephant, probably based on the Funcken illustration of Pyrrhus, though it lacks the scale armour trunk protection.)

In future I'd be tempted to allow troops who aren't used to elephants to engage them in hand-to-hand combat but at half effectiveness. I imagine that nervous troops would approach the elephants tentatively (cavalrymen would be expending energy controlling their nervous horses that would normally have been used for fighting) attempting to poke at the target from a distance, possibly with their eyes closed - a tactic I often used when batting against the fast bowlers.

 (Minifigs PBs range Sassanid elephant, bought on eBay. The claret and blue paintwork suggests a Persian affinity with Aston Villa or West Ham United. I have often adopted a similar football-kit lead approach when working out colour schemes, though obviously I draw the line at that 1980s brown Coventry City shirt)


  1. Hello again Harry, I think that the Airfix elephant is from the Zoo set, I seem to remember getting some penguins or something unmilitary with some from eBay once upon a time … These also look good with Minifigs Indian crews riding astride ! IIRC, Bob O’Brien (in a series in Airfix Magazine) cut sections out of the legs to make it better proportioned – or was he inserting discs of plasticard to make it taller ? I ignored this major surgery: cleaning up the soft plastic, and trimming the ears back to a more Indian appearance, was quite enough. Incidentally, at least one of my eBay purchases has gone rather brittle with time – beware !

    On effectiveness: as you know, I am in the process of thinking about rules for elephants, and Patrick Waterstone’s (?) article in Slingshot last year pointed out that ancient authors make it clear that even the best trained troops found the beasts daunting, and, as you say, those completely unused to them found them even more so, and might break on or before contact with them. I would think that this might be represented by a large penalty in the morale tests to charge, or for being charged by, elephants (and the same for cavalry and chariots), leaving the halved effectiveness for all troops who survive to the second and succeeding bounds of melee with the beasts, representing the disordering effect of these monsters in ‘melee’.

    If using single models, this could produce the historical (I believe) effect that the elephants, few in number and strung out at large intervals, might have a relatively small effect themselves, but allow the larger units in their intervals to have a much greater effect against troops disordered by the elephants. A similar effect might also be applicable to the infamous scythed chariots …

    Best wishes,

  2. Love the diy elephant - reminds me of pics ( in a way) in Wise's "Introduction to battle gaming" although he uses a baby Britains elephant for a similar purpose.

    Your armoured elephant brought back happy memories of the one I had which I used as a mumakil for games using Minifigs "Mythical Earth" figures when a schoolboy.I had forgotten him until I saw your picture.Thanks for bringing back memories of great games and great figures...

  3. Most of my elephants are Britains baby elephants. I have actually got one of the Minifigs Sassanid elephants somewhere but always thought it looked less than inspiring. My own Garrison Carthaginian elephant is my favourite still, but too big. At some stage I might look into having a smaller 3D print made of it to fit in better, but that could just be a pipedream. Must get round to repairing the Grant elephants someday.

    1. The Minifigs elephamts are a bit static, but they have a hefty Tonka Toy quality to them that I rather like. I have quite a few of the Britains babies. If you need anymore let me know and I'll send them along.