Tuesday 15 March 2011

Toltec Test and Talk

First attempt at a Toltec grunt.

I have the mind to do an interpretation of the Toltec list.

It's been on my mind for at least 6 years now. Back awhile the ever enthusiastic and genial Paul from Seattle visited Magna Calgaria for a weekend of DBA (well, mountains and hockey too I suppose) and we had possibly the best match I ever played. (Thanks Paul, keep running!)

We matched the Toltec III/56 against the Dog Peoples/Chichimec  III/41 lists. Both are potentially the oddest monotypes going. The Toltec list can be interpreted as 12 Blade elements (variant swaps a psiloi for one of those heavy infantry stands) The Dog People have the option of being almost all psiloi (the exception being a compulsory warband stand.

Who were they? The Toltec culture held sway over much over much of Central America from around 800CE to 1000CE. Much of the technological and cultural aspects of what we know of in Aztec society originated with the Toltec, things like suited warrior societies, those macuahuitl sword clubs, blood sacrifices and much, much more. What most we know of the Toltec (outside of archaeology) comes from Aztec legend, which is problematic. And no, there are no popular histories of the Toltecs waiting for you on the bookshelf. Aside from the cool and wacky stuff from Carlos Castenada...but that's for a different topic.

The Dog Peoples or Chichimecs were the Mesoamerican Post Classical barbarians par excellence and regular invaders of Toltec turf from their dusty HQ's in Northen Mexico. Indeed the names of the two cultures are functionally synonymous with culture (Toltec) and primitive (Chichimec) in the Nahuatl language. So you've got a pairing on metaphorical combative par with Republican Rome and Gaul. But in this case, the Chichimecs 'won' over-running their cultural superiors, who were no doubt deciding where to have lunch.

For those sensible people of you who don't speak DBA-ese as a second language it's like this; the Toltecs are the heaviest and deadliest of infantry armed with those wonderful and scary macuahuitl, but slow and iffy in the hills and forests. The Dog Peoples are a fast moving cloud of archers, running about sniping and seeking a flank. As a match it's a challenging one. The Dog People cannot overpower the Toltec battle-line in a fair fight. The Toltecs cannot catch the Dog People without breaking formation.
Sounds great right? Why doesn't everyone have a matched pair? Well I'll tell you, but first about the match...it was scary. I took the Toltecs, mostly I was enamored by this force of jaguar and eagle suit wearing badasses. Naked guys with bows would stand no chance...ha ha! Well, not so easy. It was a tense and edgy match, particularly when Paul's psiloi infiltrated my battleline. There where double and triple overlaps and one die roll could end the match. Great stuff. That's the kind of match I play this game for.

Toltec grunt from behind.

So after that I've had Toltec's on the mind. But stymied, no one really does a Toltec line, mostly as there is little consensus as to what a Toltec force would appear like. The murals at Teotihuacan show warriors armed like later Aztecs, with exciting Mayan style head-dresses. Not surprising as the Toltec and Maya warred for some time. Few figures (if any) out there exist like that. The Toltec army Paul brought with him from Seattle was loaned kindly from another gamer. This he assembled from bits of Aztec and other Mesoamerican cast-offs. Well, why couldn't I do the same? But my inner pedant was constantly harping demanding some sort of thoughtful research. 'Hmmmph,' he says, 'why don't you just use Egyptians you attention deficit fool'.

So after research and consultation with the shaman, I came up with the following points I'd use to base my Toltec army around.

1. Only fairly important people get their pictures in public buildings. This is my way of not falling into Positivist Fallacy.
So the fancy head-dress and such finery would be reserved for the command elements. And I won't go bonkers trying to find rank and file troops like such.

2. The Toltecs introduced the macuahuitl, padded armor, and suit wearing warrior societies (specifically the Coyote and the Jaguar) to mesoamerica. They used the atlatl. There is reasonable conjecture and assumption they used the sling (i.e. everyone else used it).

So take a look at my test shots. They're Minifig 308X 'Maquahuitl Warriors'.  I had a bunch kicking around. So they're what's going to comprise the bulk of the troops. I do have to upwards of 40 foot to do after all.

In classic Minifigs style, they're all single pose. I don't mind. I don't get wrapped up in pose variation agony as much as others do and maybe I should. But I like the impression of coordinated badassedness. But you do need to use your brush to break up what could be monotonous. 

So the cotton armour is going to range from flowery tunic (as above) to the more common white padded vest (AC8 for us old school AD&D nerds) and I'll vary the shield patterns to keep it mixed.
Or I might do regiments, reader feedback on that? I've got a pair of shielded slingers for the lone Ps stand. They have a lot of dignity for guys in loin cloths.

So I've ordered more from Minifigs via Caliver Books.
The command I have so far a mix of Aztec and Tlaxcalans

I'll keep up on this project and update you as I get more involved with brushwork.

So, I've just laid bear depth of the scholarship I've put into this. I have no hidden text or sagely Prof. whom I consult. So if anyone has information to the contrary or in support of my wild assumptions, let me know.

It's important in this hobby we do not succumb to the inertia of knowledge and pedantry and  NOT attempt anything.

All praise Queztalcoatl,


  1. Very nice Sean! A cool area to muck about it and more exciting than Romans v hairy guys!

  2. I like what you have started. That era fascinates me. I just bought two armies of Aztecs from Gladiator. I only wanted one, but there was a mistake. When I get it done, we will have to get a rematch. You can get me back for Samurai Fever in Cowtown.

    I'll be watching your blog for more photos, as you work on them.