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Nikephorian Byzantine

Nikephorian Byzantine

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Historical Overview Section

The Byzantine Empire reached its height under the Macedonian emperors (of Armenian and Greek descent) of the late 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries, when it gained control over the Adriatic Sea, southern Italy, and all of the territory of tsar Samuel of the Early Bulgars. The cities of the empire expanded, and affluence spread across the provinces because of the new-found security. The population rose, and production increased, stimulating new demand while also helping to encourage trade. Culturally, there was considerable growth in education and learning. Ancient texts were preserved and patiently re-copied. Byzantine art flourished, and brilliant mosaics graced the interiors of the many new churches. Though the empire was significantly smaller than during the reign of Justinian, it was also stronger, as the remaining territories were less geographically dispersed and more politically and culturally integrated

The soldier emperors Nikephoros II Phokas (reigned 963–969) and John I Tzimiskes (969–976) fought against the Rus and also expanded the empire well into Syria, defeating the emirs of north-west Iraq and reconquering Crete and Cyprus. At one point under John, the empire's armies even threatened Jerusalem, far to the south. The emirate of Aleppo and its neighbours became vassals of the empire in the east, where the greatest threat to the empire was the Fatimid Egyptian kingdom. After much campaigning, the last Arab threat to Byzantium was defeated when Basil II rapidly drew 40,000 mounted soldiers to relieve Roman Syria. With a surplus of resources and victories thanks to the Early Bulgar and Syrian campaigns, Basil II planned an expedition against Sicily to re-take it from the Arabs there. After his death in 1025, the expedition set off in the 1040s and was met with initial, but stunted success.

Sowing the Dragon's Teeth: Byzantine Warfare in the Tenth Century has translations of the two key military manuals of the era, the Praecepta militaria of Nikephoros Phokas and the revised version included in the Taktika of Nikephoros Ouranos - outlining the tactical system used by Byzantine armies in campaigns against Muslim forces in Cilicia and Syria. Products of experienced soldiers, the texts offer a realistic view of Byzantine warfare and reveal the sophistication of Byzantine military science. Eric Mc Geer places the treatises in military historical context; explores the factors that led the Byzantine army to fight as it did; and investigates morale, discipline, and leadership - all of which determined the difference between failure and success.

The Varangians

Nikephorian Byzantine Emperior Basil II's distrust of the native Byzantine guardsmen led him to employ "Varangians" as his personal bodyguard. This new force became known as the Varangian Guard and recruits from Sweden, Denmark, and Norway filled the ranks until the late 11th century - so many Scandinavians left to enlist in the guard that a medieval Swedish law stated that no one could inherit while staying in "Greece" - the then Scandinavian term for the Byzantine empire!!
Image
Varangian Guard by Paul Crozier

The Byzantine Armies in order

  • Early Byzantine : 493 - 550 The Eastern Roman Empire & Belisarius on the offensive - Mixed & Bw/Sw Cv units and "legionaries" - D&F
  • Maurikian Byzantine : 550 - 650 Loss of Africa, The Strategikon, War with Persia & The Arabs - Good quality Ln & Bw/Sw Cv, Mixed Skoutatoi but no LH - D&F
  • Thematic Byzantine : 650 - 963 The Thematic System, Tagmatic units fighting the Caliphates - Mixed units & Bw/Sw Cv, Average & Poor units, Cataphracts - D&F
  • Nikephorian Byzantine : 963 - 1071 Basil bashes the Bulgars, Normans conquer Italy, Manzikert loss to the Turks - Bw* or Ln Cavalry, Varangians, lots of mixed spearmen & some Normans - D&F
  • Komnenan Byzantine : 1071 - 1204 Manzikert to Fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders - Lancer Cv, some KN, Varangians - S&S
  • Post Latin Conquest Byzantine : 1204 - 1261 Nikaia, Epiros, Trebizond vs the Latin Kingdoms - Frankish Kn, lots of archers, - S&S
  • Late Byzantine : 1261 - 1461 Byzantium, Epirus, Morea & Trebizond until their fall to the Turks - Cv Lancers, 4 Kn, lots of archers - EE

User-contributed links about this army:

Using the Army in FoG

  • The challenge when picking a Nikephorian list is not to get too carried away with all the (expensive) toys, as you can easily end up with a tiny army that is still quite brittle. The expensive toys in this case are the cataphract wedges and the Varangians.
  • The Post 1042 option to have armoured knights is likely to be the most favoured one, and with them in the army, possibly even as a 6 rather than a 4, you can afford to forgo the 2-base BGs of cataphracts.
  • Lance Bow* cavalry may also be an overindulgence, with cheaper lance-only types a more aggressive option, however the opportunity to shoot enemy foot to disrupted is attractive - and they are often going to be equipped with weapons that mean charging lance armed cavalry is a no-no anyway so you may get time to stand and shoot.
  • In period it is going to be facing mostly mounted shooting armies, so the IC will help to defend against shooting - and for the same reason, the foot units can afford to be poor quality as no-one is going to be charging them on horseback irrespective of their quality.
  • The final waste of points would be to take the Varangians as Elite - take them as heavily armoured by all means as this is a POA up against everyone they will fight however when it comes to quality, superior is good enough, and as someone once wisely said, if your plan needs Elites, you probably have the wrong plan.
  • If you want to use the Nike-style cavalry you can also take a Moorish ally to get a few more skirmishers pretty cheaply which is also a useful option.
  • A valid Byzantine tactic is to open the game by offerer your opponent cash to concede the battle without fighting, with an additional future payment should they agree to add their forces to yours for future engagements against unspecified third parties. Alternatively suggesting they concede in exchange for the hand of your cousins daughter, a generous annual pension and a nice estate in Anatolia can sometimes also pay dividends.

15mm Manufacturers supplying figures for this army

You can see some of the figures in the Ancients Photo Gallery also on this site. Many manufacturers produce just one "Byzantine" range, not specifying which era they are for (but most are Maurikian era I suspect). All generic "Byzantine" ranges have been listed here, together with any specifically noted for particular eras. For Latin or other allied troops, use Crusader or other knights of a similar timeframe. 700AD - in the Thematic list - is as good a date as any for round shields to start to change over to kite shields. For Varangians, consider using something from the Viking page.

Image Image Image Image Image
  • Essex Miniatures - Several Byzantine ranges. 8 Maurikians, 7 Thematics, 10 Nikephorians & 5 Generic Psiloi for all eras in their Ancients ranges. For Nikeforians Essex have two lancers suitable to use, BZA14 Thematic Kataphraktoi and BZA23 Tagmatic Kataphraktoi. In addition, BZA20 Trapezitoi could be used as a lancer if the tunic is painted in such a way as to resemble quilted/padded armor. They also have four useable horse archers: BZA15, BZA16, BZA22, and BZA24.
  • Donnington 22 Byzantines, including a Belisarius general figure (a clue to them being fairly early maybe..) plus a 23-strong C12-13 range
  • Museum Miniatures - 17 Byzantines, reasonably early period.
  • Black Hat Miniatures (previously Gladiator Games) - 10 Komnenans in their Crusades range
  • Old Glory 15's - 12 Belisarians, and 22 codes in a "7th-13th Century Byzantine" range
  • Minifigs - 21 Byzantines, from C7-C11 in their Dark Ages range, 5 more C11-13 ones in their Crusades range
  • Irregular Miniatures - 21 Byzantines, with Nikephorian, Tagmatic, Thematic, Maurikian and Belisarian cavalry listed as well as CC7-10 oval-shield foot and C11-13 kite-shielded foot
  • Tin Soldier 21 10th & 11th Century Byzantines
  • Battle Line Miniatures (NZ) Same range as Isarus
  • Alain Touller - almost 20 Byzantines with both kite and round shields
  • Isarus - sold by 15mm.co.uk 18 Byzantines, kite-shielded lancers and round-shielded bowmen
  • Outpost Wargame Services 10 Crusade-era Byzantines
  • Khurasan Miniatures - 20-odd Nikephorian Byzantines (kite shield infantry)
  • Viking Forge - Generic range of 20 or so Byzantines, Tagmatic and Thematic cavalry are listed
  • 50 Paces/Miniature Wars - 10 -strong Belisarian (early) range including Belisarius
  • Splintered Light Their Sub Roman British woudl make reasonable Varangians as they have the right mix of hairyness combined with a bit of Roman-style drill and polish.


Army Lists

900AP list used at Badcon 2010

  • 4 LH, Bw/Sw
  • 4 LH, Bw/Sw
  • 4 LH, Bw/Sw
  • 6 LF, Bw
  • 6 LF, Bw, Poor
  • 4 Cv, Protected, Bw/Sw, Average
  • 4 Cv, Protected, Bw/Sw, Average
  • 8 Mixed Bw/Def Sp Foot, Protected
  • 8 Mixed Bw/Def Sp Foot, Protected
  • 6 Varangians, Elite Heavily Armoured Offensive Spearmen
  • 4 Armoured Average Lancers
  • 4 Average Armoured Lancers
  • 6 Knights (Armoured)
  • IC
  • 3 x TC


800AP list used at Britcon 2009 by bahdahbum (on the Slitherine Forum)

  • Basileus Jean Ier Tzimiskes IC - - - - - - CinC 1 80 80 - General
  • Strategos Bardas Skleros TC - - - - - - - 1 35 35 - General
  • Strategos Bardas Phocas TC - - - - - - - 1 35 35 - General
  • Harun Al Rachid TC - - - - - - Ally general 1 25 25 - General
  • 1 Light infantry LF Unprotected Poor Drilled Javelins Light spear - - 6 2 12 2 2
  • 2 infantry HF Protected Average Drilled - defensive spearmen Spearmen - 4 7 28 2 4
  • 2 infantry MF Protected Average Drilled Bow - - - 4 7 28 - 2
  • 3 Light infantry LF Unprotected Poor Drilled Sling - - - 4 2 8 1 2
  • 4 bedouin ( hamdanid ) LH Unprotected Average Undrilled - Lancers Swordsmen - 4 8 32 1 2
  • 5 Varangians HF Protected Average Undrilled - Offensive spearmen Spearmen - 8 7 56 2 4
  • 6 bedouin LH Unprotected Average Undrilled - Lancers Swordsmen - 4 8 32 1 2
  • 7 Kataphraktoi Ct Heavily armoured Elite Drilled - Lancers Swordsmen - 1 23 23 1 2
  • 7 Kataphraktoi Ct Heavily armoured Elite Drilled Bow - Swordsmen - 1 25 25 - 0
  • 8 bédouin ( hamdanid ) LH Unprotected Average Undrilled - Lancers Swordsmen - 4 8 32 1 2
  • 9 hamdanid armoured cavalry Cv Armoured Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordsmen - 4 16 64 1 3
  • 10 Cavalry Cv Armoured Superior Drilled Bw* Lancers Swordsmen - 4 19 76 1 3
  • 11 Cavalry Cv Armoured Superior Drilled Bw* Lancers Swordsmen - 4 19 76 1 3
  • 12 Cavalry Cv Armoured Superior Drilled Bw* Lancers Swordsmen - 4 19 76 1 3
  • 13 Infantry HF Protected Average Drilled - defensive spearmen Spearmen - 4 7 28 2 4
  • 13 infantry MF Protected Average Drilled Bow - - - 4 7 28 - 2


900 point post 1042 list as used at Godendag 2009 - match report here . This exact list may be illegal as the minimum is 6 drilled Cavalry lancers, and this list only has 4, however it clearly slipped past the list checker (a certain Richard Bodley-Scott).

  • 6 Poor LF, Javelin, light spear
  • 6 Poor LF, Bow
  • 6 Poor mixed Bow/Defensive Spear formation, Drilled, Protected
  • 6 Poor mixed Bow/Defensive Spear formation, Drilled, Protected
  • 6 LF, Poor, Bow
  • 4 LH, Average, Bow/Sword
  • 4 LH, Average, Bow/Sword
  • 4 Menalavoi, Protected Average Heavy Weapon
  • 4 LH, Average, Bow/Sword
  • 4 Cv, Allied, Armoured Superior Undrilled Lancer Swordsmen
  • 4 Byzantine Cavalry, Average Armoured Lancer Swordsmen
  • 4 Cv, Allied, Armoured Superior Undrilled Lancer Swordsmen
  • 2 Crazy Cataphracts, Heavily Armoured, Elite, Lance / Bow / Sword
  • 2 Crazy Cataphracts, Heavily Armoured, Elite, Lance / Bow / Sword
  • 6 Varangians, Heavily Armoured, Elite, Offensive Spearmen
  • 4 Superior Undrilled Armoured Knights. Lance, Swordsmen
  • 1 x IC
  • 2 x TC
  • 1 x TC Allied (Georgian)


800 point post 1042 list

  • 8 LF Bow
  • 4 LH, Bw/Swordsmen (Alans)
  • 4 LH, Bw/Swordsmen (Alans)
  • 6 (3+3) Poor Protected Defensive Spear + rear rank Bow
  • 6 (3+3) Poor Protected Defensive Spear + rear rank Bow
  • 6 (3+3) Poor Protected Defensive Spear + rear rank Bow
  • 6 (3+3) Poor Protected Defensive Spear + rear rank Bow
  • 6 Superior Heavily Armoured Varangians
  • 4 Protected Drilled Heavy Weapon Menavaloi
  • 4 Average Protected Lancer Cavalry
  • 4 Average Protected Lancer Cavalry
  • 4 Average Protected Lancer Cavalry
  • 4 Average Protected Lancer Cavalry
  • 6 Irregular Superior Knights
  • IC
  • 2 x TC


Another 900 ap List, as nearly used by Hammy at Usk 2009

  • 2 x 6 LF bow
  • 2 x 6 LF javelin
  • 1 x 6 LF sling
  • 3 x 4 LH bow, sword
  • 2 x 4 HF Dspear + 4 MF bow
  • 2 x 4 Cv armoured lance, sword
  • 1 x 4 Cv protected lance, sword
  • 1 x 4 Cv armoured bow*, lance, sword (superior)
  • 1 x 4 Kn armoured lance, sword (superior)
  • 1 x 6 HF heavily armoured Offensive Spear




The actual list used by Hammy at Usk, which also slipped past Mr (Doctor) Bodley Scott, don't trust him with your urinalysis, even though also illegal, too many LF bow. They should have been half LF JLS

  • 1 8xArchers LF Unprotected Average Drilled Bow - - -
  • 2 8xArchers LF Unprotected Average Drilled Bow - - -
  • 3 8xArchers LF Unprotected Average Drilled Bow - - -
  • 4 6xSlingers LF Unprotected Average Drilled Sling - - -
  • 5 4xSkythikon LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - Swordmen -
  • 6 4xSkythikon LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - Swordmen -
  • 7 4xSkythikon LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - Swordmen -
  • 8 4xByzantine Cavalry Cv Armoured Average Drilled - Lancers Swordmen -
  • 9 4xSkutatoi HF Protected Average Drilled - defensive spearmen - -
  • 9 4xSkutatoi MF Protected Average Drilled Bow - - -
  • 10 6xVarangian Guard HF Heavily armoured Superior Drilled - Offensive spearmen
  • 11 4xSkutatoi HF Protected Average Drilled - defensive spearmen - -
  • 11 4xSkutatoi MF Protected Average Drilled Bow - - -
  • 12 4xByzantine Cavalry Cv Armoured Average Drilled - Lancers Swordmen -
  • 13 4xByzantine Cavalry Cv Armoured Average Drilled - Lancers Swordmen -
  • 14 4xByzantine Cavalry Cv Armoured Average Drilled - Lancers Swordmen -
  • 15 4xNormans Kn Armoured Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen -
  • A 3xSub Generals TC - - - - - -
  • B CinC TC - - - - - - CinC


Came first

800 Point pre-1042 list in march order:

  • Skirmishing Javelinmen LF Unprotected Poor Drilled Javelins Light spear - - 6 2 12
  • Skirmishing Archers LF Unprotected Average Drilled Bow - - - 6 5 30
  • Skirmishing Archers LF Unprotected Average Drilled Bow - - - 6 5 30
  • Flankers Cv Protected Average Drilled Bow - Swordmen - 4 12 48
  • Flankers Cv Protected Average Drilled Bow - Swordmen - 4 12 48
  • Cavalry Cv Armoured Superior Drilled Bw* Lancers Swordmen - 4 19 76
  • Spearmen HF Protected Average Drilled - defensive spearmen - - 4 7 28
    Archers MF Protected Average Drilled Bow - - - 4 7 28
  • Spearmen HF Protected Average Drilled - defensive spearmen - - 4 7 28
    Archers MF Protected Average Drilled Bow - - - 4 7 28
  • Rus Mercenaries HF Protected Average Undrilled - Offensive spearmen - - 8 7 56
  • Kataphraktoi Ct Heavily armoured Elite Drilled - Lancers Swordmen - 1 23 23
    Kataphraktoi Ct Heavily armoured Elite Drilled Bow - Swordmen - 1 25 25
  • Cavalry Cv Armoured Superior Drilled Bw* Lancers Swordmen - 4 19 76
  • Cavalry Cv Armoured Superior Drilled Bw* Lancers Swordmen - 4 19 76
  • Kataphraktoi Ct Heavily armoured Elite Drilled - Lancers Swordmen - 1 23 23
    Kataphraktoi Ct Heavily armoured Elite Drilled Bow - Swordmen - 1 25 25
  • CinC TC - - - - - - CinC 1 35 35
  • Sub TC - - - - - - - 1 35 35
  • Sub TC - - - - - - - 1 35 35
  • Sub TC - - - - - - - 1 35 35


One possible variation of the list would be to replace the Rus mercenaries with a BG of 6 Menalautoi (HF, Protected, Heavy WEapon, drilled). This should free up enough points to upgrade the javelinmen to average.

1st Place Bayou Wars 2012 New Orleans, La. Joey Miller

+3 scout points


800 AP 963 AD

6 LF Slinger Unprotected Poor Sl 12

6 LF Archers Unprotected Poor Bow 18

4 LH Bedouins Unprot Ave Lance Swd 32

4 LH Bedouins Unprot Ave Lance Swd 32

4 LH Bedouins Unprot Ave Lance Swd 32

4 Spear HF Prot Ave Drilled - def sp 28

+ 4 Archers MF Prot Ave Drilled Bow 28

4 Spear HF Prot Aver Drilled - def sp 28

+ 4 Archers MF Prot Ave Drilled Bow 28

4 Flankers Cv Prot Ave Drilled Bow Swd 48

4 Hamind Nobles Cv Arm Sup Undrill L Swd 64

4 Imperial Cv armoured Sup Drilled bow*, lance, swd 76

4 Imperial Cv armoured Sup Drilled bow*, lance, swd 76

4 Imperial Cv armoured Sup Drilled bow*, lance, swd 76

4 Imperial Cv armoured Sup Drilled bow*, lance, swd 76


FC 50

TC 35

TC 35

Allied TC 25

Alternative Lists & Historical Interpretations

Alternative Nikephorian Byzantine

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Created by admin. Last Modification: Friday 15 of June, 2012 20:12:21 BST by joeymiller. (Version 49)
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