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Unknown Composition: Army Lists without Armies

Posted: Thu May 10, 2018 6:40 pm
by David Kuijt
Hi everyone,

One of the huge advantages we have with Meshwesh (online army lists) that other rules systems that rely on print army lists do NOT have is that we can be responsive to new research. In particular, there are a significant number of cultures where we know (more or less) all of the following:
  • That the culture existed, and approximately when and where
  • Topography, Enemies, and sometimes even possible Allies
  • Maneuver and Invasion ratings (or as much as we ever do -- sufficient to approximate them)
And yet we do NOT have an army list. These are not speculative army lists -- these are real army lists, for historical armies, where we do not have sufficient information to hazard an informed guess as to what made up their army. The research has not been done; the information does not exist as yet.

Five examples from as many cultures will show you what I mean: the Zhang-Zhung, Bulala, Tiwanaku and Wari, and the Genoese in Cyprus.

The Zhang-Zhung were predecessors to the Tibetan Empire. We know where they were (more or less); we know when they were (at least an end date, which is all we have for a bunch of armies); we know some opponents for them (Tibetans, for sure; possibly some Tarim Basin dudes and/or Mountain Indians). We have no translated descriptions of their armies, their battles, and no archaeology of their armament or weapons. So we have nothing on which to write an army list.

The Bulala were an African group (tribe? Movement? Army?) who displaced the King of Kanem to the other side of Lake Chad in the 14th or 15th century. We've got some (limited, but sufficient) information on the Kanem-Bornu armies, but nothing on the Bulala. No images, no descriptions, no battle descriptions, no archaeology. We know they defeated (and therefore fought) the Kanem; we know where they were, but nothing else.

The Tiwanaku and Wari (sometimes Huari) were one of two major civilizations in the Andes in the Middle Horizon period. We know both existed; we know they fought (or could have fought) each other; we know how big their civilizations were; we have ruins of their cities. We have no descriptions of anything (no writing); we have no images; we have no military archaeology. Both cultures collapsed (likely due to a series of long droughts in 1020 and 1050 that mark the end of the Middle Horizon period) before the Inca rose up in the same areas a century or more later.

The Genoese invaded Cyprus in the 14th/15th centuries and were a thorn in the side of the Venetians and the Cypriots for a century or more. We have some descriptions of sieges, a tiny bit about some troops (Hungarian Horsebow, IIRC) that were there for only a couple of years, a lot about politics, but nothing about what their army would look like. The typical Italian Condotta army of that period is clearly incorrect -- the Genoese never shipped over any major number of Elmeti (mounted knights). We know a bit (enough, but not a terrible amount) about the forces of the Cypriots and the Venetians they were largely allied with, but we know nothing about the Genoese forces in Cyprus.

There are another dozen or more army lists that fall in this "unknown composition" category. I've been working up North American army lists, and I probably have enough data (mostly from 17th/18th century) to be able to create army lists that aren't pure speculation (for one thing, military archaeology does exist, and some descriptions from early contact). There are certainly many Asian armies where we don't have good access to translations on current research and stuff.

The hope is that you readers can help us if you become aware of:
  • Any research that could inform the construction of reasonable army lists for any of these armies
  • Any armies that are not represented, that fall in this category of "Known army, but Unknown Composition"
Later on I'll make up a list of these armies and post it here, and then keep it updated.

Re: Unknown Composition: Army Lists without Armies

Posted: Fri May 11, 2018 3:57 pm
by David Kuijt
Tiwanaku Empire
  • Location: Central Andes
  • Dates: 300 -- 1150 AD
  • Notes: Predecessor to the Inca; collapsed due to drought and climate change in the century 1050-1150.
  • Contact with the Wanka (Huanca).

Re: Unknown Composition: Army Lists without Armies

Posted: Fri May 11, 2018 4:37 pm
by David Kuijt
Huari (Wari) Empire
  • Location: Coastal Peru and Central Andes
  • Dates: 500 -- 1100 AD
  • Notes: Followed the Moche culture. Predecessor to the Chimu; collapsed due to drought and climate change and possible internal conflicts.
  • Contact with the Tiwanaku.

Re: Unknown Composition: Army Lists without Armies

Posted: Fri May 11, 2018 4:50 pm
by David Kuijt
Zhangzhung Kingdoms
  • Location: Western Tibet and the Hindu Kush
  • Dates: 500 BC -- 677 AD
  • Likely interaction with adjacent states and tribes
  • Conquered by the nascent Tibetan Empire 625 AD; revolted briefly in 677 AD.

Re: Unknown Composition: Army Lists without Armies

Posted: Sat May 12, 2018 12:32 pm
by David Kuijt
Bulala (or Bilala)

Pastoralists from the Lake Fitri region; they moved to Lake Chad and came into contact with the Kanem empire, killing five of the six rulers of Kanem from 1376 to 1400 and eventually driving the King of Kanem to flee to the other side of Lake Chad and form the Kingdom of Bornu.

It seems that our information on the Bulala is based upon the writings of a 16th century scholar, Ibn Furtu. There is an English translation but it is out of print. If anyone wants an idea for giving me a birthday present, this would work great: ... 121&sr=1-1
  • Location: East of Lake Chad in the Sahel
  • Dates: ?1350 AD to 1500 AD
  • We have data on what Kanem and Bornu had for armies, but nothing on the Bulala.

Re: Unknown Composition: Army Lists without Armies

Posted: Sat May 12, 2018 12:46 pm
by David Kuijt
Great Zimbabwe, Mutapa, and the Shona people.

Great Zimbabwe was abandoned in the 15th century, either because of lack of resources (climate change?) or exhaustion of the gold fields, and the center of the kingdom shifted north to Mutapa. 1050 is the start date (approximately) for Great Zimbabwe, but it doesn't seem to become a powerful gold-trading kingdom until the establishment of its coastal trading city, Sofala, as an outpost of Swahili trading city Kilwa around 1300 AD.
  • Southern Central Africa
  • Dates: 1050 AD -- 1500+ AD
  • Notes: Empire founded on trade for gold.
  • No military contact with any army-sized culture (outside of possible civil wars) -- isolated. But super cool.

Re: Unknown Composition: Army Lists without Armies

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2018 12:28 pm
by Olivero

Newer understood why army lists tend to focus on the Emishi and ignore the Ainu. Lack of information might be the reason, of course. But anyway, the inhabitants of what is called Hokkaido today and was called Ezo until the nineteenth century and the surroundings (northern Japan, Sakhalin, Kuril Islands) did fight their enemies in a wargaming relevant way at least on two occasions. One of cource against Japanese incursion in the fifteenth century (Koshamain's War) on Ezo, the other against Yuan Chinese punitive expeditions on Sakhalin. Raids against Siberian peoples at different times might not be relevant for the scope of the rules. The dates are a bit arbitrary, 1300 AD is sometimes mentioned, as before that date the word Ainu ist not used and the period before that date is more often named the Satsumon Period (bridging Emishi and Ainu and might be an enemy of the Early Samurai on its own). 1669 was the year of the Shakushain's revolt, the last time the Ainu people revolted against the Japanese in a more or less unified way.
  • Location: Islands noth of Honshu
    Dates: 1300AD-- 1669AD
    Connection to Emishi unclear, connected through Satsumon Period
    Fought and somewhat contended against Japan expansion (at first), attacked Yuan Chinese subjects in the Amur region (hence agression greater than 0) from Sakhalin and defended surprisingly long and successful against following punitive expeditions

Re: Unknown Composition: Army Lists without Armies

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2018 2:53 am
by David Kuijt
Olivero wrote:Ainu

Newer understood why army lists tend to focus on the Emishi and ignore the Ainu. Lack of information might be the reason, of course.
That's cool information, Olivero. Following some of the links after reading the Wikipedia page on the Ainu, I found some more here with good maps: ... _map6.html

The only problem is this: how did they fight? What was their military (tribal fighting) like? We've got nothing. I've got a dozen armies like this -- I have dates, locations, enemies, alliances, whatever -- but no information at all about how they fought. Same is true for the Wari and Huanco cultures in the Andes from 10th to 14th centuries, more or less -- the population is large enough, the culture is broad enough, the cultural interactions (enemies and allies) are enough to put in, everything is good -- except we have zero information about how they fought. So no army list.

If you can find any information like a description of a battle against the Japanese, or whatever, it might be possible to put an army list together for them. I'm sure we'll find something eventually. But right now...? Can't do it.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Re: Unknown Composition: Army Lists without Armies

Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:28 pm
by Olivero
Hi David, you can find some hints here and there on the internet. Sorry for the incoherend presentation....:

Unfortunately the main document on the Koshamain War seems not to be translated...

From your source one can date the beginning of the Ainu culture a little backwards to 1200, which is good becauce 1300 would not cover the conflict with the Yuan in the late thirteenth century.

In your source it is said "The Ainu built structures in the mountains around their villages, possibly fortified positions for protection from raids."

Pretty often the Ainu are called "Hunters" using bows and poison arrows....
"Ruins of Identity: Ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands - "They use wooden bows....arrow head ... poison""
They do trade often but also raid with paddled canoes

Some information is available for later periods...
"This growing imbalance of power accelerated after 1600. By then, the Japanese had firearms in the shape of matchlock muskets, which they had acquired from the Portuguese, while the Ainu still depended on spears and bows and arrows."

Shakushain's revolt between 1669 and 1672
The Conquest of Ainu Lands: Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion, 1590-1800
They have different tribes that fight as allies or each other
"poison arrows and few firearms"
"...killed by a hail of arrows..."
"...slash their way to the capital..." could hint at warband-style warfare // picture 54: Warriors armed with swords - of course this is seventeenth century and warfare would have been influenced by japanese arms etc.

"In terms of arms and armor, though, Matsumae’s advantage was decisive. As “peasants,” the Ainu had no right to bear arms in feudal Japan. Their most effective weapons were aconite-tipped poison arrows, which they made by dipping arrowheads first in fir resin and then in a bowl of dried, ground wolfsbane. These arrows had long caused consternation among the Japanese, who expended significant effort, unsuccessfully, to uncover the secret of their manufacture. In action, however, they proved ineffective, since the Ainu’s under-powered bows were unable to penetrate samurai armor, or even the cotton-wadded jackets worn by ordinary foot-soldiers."

I would suggest that the mayority of Ainu fought with Bows, either weak or not so weak becuase of the poison. Some might have fought as warbands. They would have been able to use boats.

Best would be to find someone to translate the Shinra_no_Kiroku....

Re: Unknown Composition: Army Lists without Armies

Posted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 7:13 pm
by Olivero
Tentatively and with some (lots of?) guesswork an Ainu Army List could look like this:

1200 AD to 1500 AD

Invasion Rating
Maneuver Rating

Home Topography
Hilly, Forest

General's Troop Type
Warband if used, Bow Levy

Troop Types Min Max Battle Line Restrictions

Warband 0 2 all
Spear and some Swords

Bow Levy 12 24 all

Skirmisher 0 8 --

Yuan in Japan, Java, and S.E. Asia 1276 to 1368 AD
Post Mongol Samurai 1300 AD to 1464 AD

One option would be to allow to choose to change ALL Bow Levy into Skirmishers with Bow (or None) (General could be Skirmisher then as well)

Time between 900 and 1200 would not be too different I guess. After 1500 and especially after 1600 Japanese weapons would change the army at least partially.