Saturday, 10 March 2012

Warriors Of Barsoom

18mm figures from Black Hat
So 'John Carter' has finally been released and we have our first proper big-screen adaptation of the world of Barsoom. The film takes a lot of liberties with the original story, but a lot of the visuals are spot on. And from a HOTT point of view, if you want to see a Hero take on a whole load of Knights, then it has the scene for you.

Anyway, I have been a fan of Burroughs' Martian novels for over 30 years now, and it has spilled over into my HOTT gaming, so to celebrate the film release I thought I would showcase my 15mm Barsoomian army collection. I have seven armies now, assembled over more than ten years. I still have figures to do a couple more, but haven't decided which ones yet.

One note; if you haven't read the books then the notes to some of the armies contain minor spoilers. Don't say I didn't warn you.

As ever, you can click on each picture to make it bigger.

15mm figures by Peter Pig, with warships from Games Workshop


My original Barsoomian army. Helium is the premier Red Martian city-state, and the epitome of Red Martian culture and civilisation. It is, of course, the home of John Carter. The figures are Peter Pig, aside from the Airboats which are Battlefleet Gothic cruisers from GW. The army is:

1 x Hero General (John Carter)
6 x Blades (Martian Warriors)
2 x Airboats (Large Fliers)
1 x Flyer (Small Fliers)

A horde from the dead-sea bottoms of Barsoom. 15mm figures from Peter Pig.

Green Martian

My second army. This is a typical Green Martian horde of the Martian dead sea bottoms. 

1 x Knight General (Green Martian Jeddak)
7 x Knights (Green Martians on Thoats)
4 x Shooters (Green Martians with Radium Rifles)

Green Martians were legendary shots, and make dangerous foes for the aerial elements of more civilised armies. Indeed this is a problem for Martian armies - some of them are heavy on aerials, and as anyone who has played HOTT knows, an army with no way of opposing aerials can find itself at a serious disadvantage. The first question I tend to ask when designing a Barsoomian army is 'How will it deal with aerials?' In some cases it will be by having aerials of its own - in other cases you need Shooters or something similar.

The figures for this army are from Peter Pig. Their army has a Hero general, presumably representing the mighty Tars Tarkas of Thark, but other Green Martian hordes wouldn't have such great leaders. My army allows for the Hero general, whilst also representing the other hordes as well.

Black Pirates

In the books the Black Pirates, or First Born, were raiders who appeared out of nowhere in their fliers to take slaves. Needless to say John Carter solves the mystery of where they come from, and exposes their secrets. I went for a primarily aerial army:

1 x Airboat General (First Born Dator)
3 x Airboats (Black Pirate warships)
2 x Flyers (One-man Scouts)
4 x Blades (Black Pirate warriors)

The foot and the small fliers are from Peter Pig again, whilst the Airboats are more Battlefleet Gothic cruisers.


Jahar is another Red Martian city-state that tried to take on the world using a combination of weird technology (developed by the scientist Phor Tak) and a massive army created by a forced-breeding programme which caused the inhabitants in some provinces to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. The army is:

1 x Blade General (Tul Axtar with an All-Female Bodyguard)
3 x Blades (Jahar Warriors)
1 x Artillery (Phor Tak with his Disintigrator Ray)
2 x Airboats (Large Fliers)
1 x Flyer (Scout Fliers)
5 x Hordes (Cannibals)

A lot of the figures in this army are from Peter Pig still, although from outside of the Martian armies they do. Again the fliers are from Games Workshop. Phor Tak's lab is a scratchbuild.


The Lotharians are a lost city of the ancient White Martian race. They defend their city with a vast army of archers, backed up with trained Banths (Martian lions). But all is not as it seems; the city has a small population and their armies are mostly mental projections so real that they can kill.

1 x Magician General (Lotharian Mentalist)
6 x Shooters (Bowmen of Lothar)
2 x Hordes (Bowmen of Lothar)
3 x Beasts (Banths)

This was a tricky army to design. The illusionary nature of the bowmen screamed out for Hordes but this reduced their effectiveness, and the story makes no concessions in describing the Bowmen as being deadly. I opted for a mix of Hordes and Shooters, but concentrating on the latter. The two Hordes allows for a certain level of regeneration to save the army from defeat at a key moment.

The figures are mostly Essex, from the Chinese Barbarian range. I added shields using paper from a hole-punch. The banths came from a plastic playset I was sent from the US many years ago.


Gathol is another Red Martian city-state, and an ally of Helium. It was a chance to do a Red Martian army that doesn't feature John Carter and has relatively conventional troops in it. gathol is famous for its thoat herds, though, so I assumed that they would have a decent cavalry contingent.

1 x Blade General (Gatholian Jeddak)
4 x Blades (Gatholian Warriors)
3 x Riders (Gatholian Warriors on Thoats)
2 x Airboats (Large Fliers)
1 x Flyer (One-Man Scout Flier)

This was my first army using the Martians from Black Hat. They are 18mm rather than 15mm, but fit OK with the other armies. the scout flier is an aircar from tabletop Miniatures, with a Black Hat crewman and, once again, the big fliers are from Games Workshop.


Another Red Martian city-state, but one at a lower state of technological development; they don't have flier technology.

1 x Riders General (Jeddak on Thoat)
6 x Blades (Manator Warriors)
3 x Riders (Warriors on Thoats)
2 x Shooters (Warriors with Bow)

This was one of those armies which had the issue of how it dealt with aerials. But a throwaway line in the one book in which they appear suggested that they practised archery in warfare, so a couple of Shooters seemed viable. They struggle against aerials still, but tend to outnumber other Red Martians, who rely on aerial navies, on the ground.

I have figures to do another couple of Red Martian armies, but am not sure what to do yet. I may just do another 'standard' Red Martian city, but without the Riders (just more Blades). I'd like to do the Holy Therns, but the attached beasties are not easy to find figures for. Yellow Martians are a possibility, their unusual fighting-style offering the possibility of an army based around Warband, although the unique nature of their air-defence is hard to replicate.

As anyone familiar with the Martian novels can see, the armies adapt well to HOTT, and make for an interesting campaign (yes, we've done a couple). and if you've not read the stories, I hope you are inspired to do so now.


  1. What figures did you use for your Banths?

  2. They came from a 'Tarzan of Mars' playset.

  3. Ahh... good to see the good, old stronghold back!
    THANK you

  4. I have been hoping to find an article like this and you have delivered in spades! Thank you. I have some of the Hinchcliffe figures, but I think I would prefer to go in 15mm scale. I also have that 'Tarzan of Mars' playset too.

    1. I'd love to build a couple of armies using the Hinchcliffe figures, just for nostalgia value :)


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