By Rob Morgan
Mythical creeatures, sometimes known as the Hippocentaur for some reason, crop up, not only in Greek mythology, but Roman and Indian culture too, as well as in the Celtic world, in Scots and Welsh myth especially, persisting into medieval times. Of course, Narnia has a race of excellent Centaurs loyal to Aslan the lion. They also crop up in Harry Potter! Homer and Pindar wrote of them in antiquity.
Part human, part horse, with a man’s torso joined at the horse’s withers, often regarded as liminal beings, caught between two lives, “wild as an untamed horse.” They inhabited parts of Thessaly and Laconia, and were warlike, fighting the Lapith in a war of legend. Theseus, he of the Minotaur fame, fought against the Centaurs as an ally of the Lapith king. Centaurs were resourceful and well-armed, using spear and bow to fight. Some enemies, like Caeneus, were invulnerable to ordinary weapons, so the Centaurs used rocks and tree branches in combat too. Female Centaurs, called Centaurides, were especially tough. There are lots of depictions, and they do have a certain element of attraction as a wargames force.
Mick Yarrow Miniatures now produces a fairly hefty range of 15mm Centaurs, and they are among the best I’ve seen. Four in each pack.
F1 is chainmail-armored Centaurs command: A standard bearer, with half-furled flag and a decent plumed helm, and shield. Musician with “pan pipes” and leaders with large sword and shields.
F2 is a pack of four chainmail-armoured Centaurs with couched lance. This is the best figure of a mythical creature I’ve seen for a long time. It looks fast and lethal.
F3 are Centaurs with a sort of ancient Greek body, with helm, sword, javelins, shield, etc. Several variants. I’d describe them as light cavalry to the lancers’ heavy.
F9 is a pack of “Scythian” type Centaurs, bow-armed and useful.
F10 is a pack of centaurs with clubs, unarmored or protected, but very realistic, and Centaurides, lady Centaurs with bows – again, very good.
I should mention that as Theseus was on the side of the Centaurs’ enemies, then the Minotaur (surely not a one-off, he must have had vengeful brothers and cousins) crops up armed with a big axe in pack F13 to provide a Centaur ally. There’s a Pegasus in the Mick Yarrow range too, might serve as a shaman or talisman. That’s a great figure too. With these, it’s possible to create a decent and very different mobile force. As raiders, they’d be extremely fast and able to carry off almost anything at speed. Rivers no obstacle – all horses can swim and a bit of armour’s not going to slow down powerful beast like these! The human part can’t be unseated either, don’t forget that, even in the pre-stirrup era of “mythical history.”
The ideal game for any Centaur force is a raid, of course, rather than any planned or organized campaign, a bit perhaps like the Cossacks or one or two North American tribes. Targets might be herds or flocks, rather than ordinary loot, and open plains and terrain more suitable than forest or mountain (though in Harry Potter’s tales, Centaurs inhabited the woodlands near Hogwarts, if I recall).
The lancers could take on almost any type of infantry, even success against chariots with their long lances, and the bow-armed types archery, along with astronomy (yes, I wondered about that) were specialties of the species, and could be used in attack or retreat. The “ladies” should be elite perhaps, especially nasty to encounter, but rarer on the battlefield. A Centauride as queen, maybe? I wondered too if horses might be inclined to follow their distant relatives without too much persuasion, adding another rather fast and potentially lethal dimension to the battlefield. Minotaurs, of course, may slow the force down significantly, if accompanying the raids.
The MY Centaur figures can be found on Mick Yarrow’s home page:
The current price per pack is 2£.