A Dark Ages Miscellany

After the scenery pieces Andy finds his inner animal.

I decided to do some figures that had come out of my painting pile but hadn’t been started yet.

These comprise a Viking warlord obtained from Colonel Bill (original manufacturer unknown), a Saxon Noble from Gripping Beast Plastics Saxon Thegn set and a couple of ladies from Belt Fed Miniatures, Gwendoline the Welsh Princess and Freyir the Norse Witch with her wolf companions. I also had another half dozen other wolves so decided to do these together.

In the picture above the two wolves on the right are those that came with Freyir. The three smaller wolves in the front rank are old Ral Partha figures; I don’t know who made the three larger wolves in the second rank.

All of the figures were started the same way, Halfords Grey primer undercoat, the humans then had skin base coated Brown Sand, as was Freyir’s hair. The skin was then painted with Medium Flesh Tone

First up is Freyir and her wolves. Her hair was Dry-brushed with Dark Sand, loin cloth and boots matt painted black, and then the loincloth dry-brushed London Grey.  The tunic and panels on the belt were painted Chocolate Brown and her staff Beige Brown. The boot tops and wrist bands were painted Khaki Grey and the staff skull and claws Pale Sand. Earrings and hair band (not visible in picture) were Silver.

The wolves were dry-brushed with Dark Grey and then Black Grey. Mouths were painted black, tongues Red and teeth Desk Tan.

The armour on the other three figures was painted black and dry-brushed Gun Metal Grey

Gwendoline has Black hair and Dark Sand tunic. Boots are Chocolate Brown and she has a Silver necklace, wrist bangles, belt and pommel.

The Saxon has a Black Red tunic, Flat Brown trousers and Buff leggings. Belts, beard and hair  are Chocolate Brown, and clock is German Camouflage Green.

The Viking has a Dark Grey tunic, Chocolate Brown belts and scabbard, Khaki Grey trousers and Flat Brown hair and beard. The figure didn’t have a weapon when I bought it, so I added an axe from the spares box, and a sword hilt from the GBP Plastic Saxons box to the empty scabbard.

All figures had appropriate coloured Army Painter washes.

Shields backs were painted black then dry-brushed Beige Brown, the faces were painted White. Gwendoline’s shield had a simple cross pattern in Flat Yellow and Red, while the other two had shield transfers from Little Big Man Studios. Shield rims were painted Japanese Uniform.

Finally all were given a matt spray varnish.

Of (Norse) Gods and Mortals

I have a fairly large collection of Dark Ages figures, Saxons, Vikings, that sort of thing, so when Osprey’s “Of Gods and Mortals” came out I started looking for some figures to serve as the deities in the game. I didn’t fancy Northstar’s prices for the “official” figures so I kept my eye open at various Wargames shows for something suitable.

On the SHQ stand I found a set of four Norse gods, Odin, Thor, Sif and Loki, for much less than the price of one Northstar model (link). Greek and Roman pantheons are also available’

These figures are larger than life, measuring 40 – 50 mm tall.

After the usual clean up, wash and dry, the figures were fixed to 40mm diameter slotabases; I used matchsticks to fill in the slot before building up the base with 4Ground Base render and priming them with matt black spray paint. All paints are Vallejo unless stated otherwise.

First up we have Thor and Sif (husband and wife) seen above.

Thor’s loincloth is Red, with an AP Red wash, cloak Red Leather with an AP Soft tone wash, boots German Camouflage Medium Brown with Black tops. His belt, Megingjörð, is Bronze with Silver detail, his hammer, Mjölnir, is Gunmetal Grey and Silver with a Beige Brown shaft. Hair is Mahogany Brown with silver braids and his helmet is also Gunmetal Grey and Silver. I did debate removing the horns, but he isn’t exactly a historical figure, is he?

Sif’s clothing is Deep Sky Blue, with an AP Blue wash, her hair is Dark Sand, dry-brushed with Pale Sand and washed with AP Soft tone (don’t believe what you see in Marvel films). Boots are Black Grey with German Camouflage Medium Brown tops. Her belt and scabbard are German Camouflage Black Brown with Bronze fittings. Bases are US Field drab with electrostatically applied grass tufts.

The other two gods are Odin (with his two ravens Huginn and Muninn) and Loki.

Odin’s tunic is Red, cloak Black Red, both with an AP Red wash, trousers London Grey and boots German Camouflage Black Brown with Black tops. His armour is German Camouflage Medium Brown with a black belt and a Bronze buckle. Wrist guard is German Camouflage Black Brown with silver trim, and his arm torc is Silver and Bronze. Hair is Light Grey, dry-brushed White.

Huginn and Muninn are black, dry-brushed Black Grey, their beaks are also Black Grey.
I have a variety of wolves which could serve as Odin’s other animal companions, Geri and Freki.

Loki is mostly in shades of grey, London Grey for the Tunic, Pale Grey Blue for the under tunic and Dark Grey for the Cloak, the latter with a Bronze and Silver clasp. Hair is black.

Bases are the same as Thor and Sif.

To give a sense of the size of these models, here’s Thor with a couple of his followers, 28mm Foundry figures.

Eadmund the Moon

Stephen bares his soul (and more besides).

This one has been in the bits bag for ages. It’s an Irregular Miniatures figure which, it’s fair to say, aren’t among the best. That said, Irregular do paint up better than they look in bare lead. That’s not saying much though.

So, this is Eadmund The Moon. I painted him up for SAGA as a Personal Champion. We don’t use the Swords For Hire and other bits in the Age of Vikings book that often. Not sure why.

I based Eadmund up on a larger, Hero, base. Irregular’s stuff is quite old and their 28mm stuff is more like true 25mm. To hide this lack of stature I made a miliput stone and plonked him on that to lift him up a bit. I also filed off the shield, which looked…well…poor. I stuck on a spare Gripping Beast shield (looking at the size of the shield on him will give you an idea on how slightly small he is).

And that’s Eadmund The Moon. Coming to a battlefield soon to give Andy and Jeremey a good taunt!

A Modelling Miscellany

Here’s a few things I’ve been up to over the last couple of weeks.

First up is a tower.

Actually, I did this earlier in the year. It’s made from two tubs of healthy snacks – cheeselets (the wider, shorter, tube) and a Pringle tube (smokey bacon flavour – lovely!). The stairway is made from balsa that was skinned with miliput and then scribed to make it look like stonework. Then a few barrels and sacks were added to make it looked lived in.

Next up are some wall bits. I bought these at Cavalier from Debris of War. I already had some walls, bought many moons ago, so I had to paint these to fit with what I already had. Either that or re-paint the whole lot. I’m not a big fan of stark grey stone. It looks artificial and most stone is actually a brown colour of one sort another. Certainly the stone someone builds a wall out of, anyway. Back when I did the first walls grey is all I knew. So these had to be done like that as well.

Another purchase at Cavalier (this time from Scotia/Grendel) was a dragon. I ummed and ahhed for quite a while about what colour to paint it – I prefer to steer clear of bright red or green fantasy dragons. My preference is for a more believable colour (given it’s a dragon). I already have a brown dragon so I couldn’t do that again. Instead, I decided to go with green but a more drab variety like you see in nature. Once done, though, it looked too green, so I decided to add some patternation to the scales – some brown stripes. I’m not entirely happy with the result, to be honest. I think it may get a re-paint at some point.

And yet another purchase at Cavalier, and another from Debris of War – a ruined…thing. Church? Building? Something.

The tiles were a print out of a medieval tile texture I found on the internet. This ruin is going with other ruin bits that can be put together to form a ruined church or abbey complex.

Last up is a scratch build. I’ve tentatively called it a ‘Templar Hostel’ because that’s what it was made for. I don’t know what they would have really looked like, so it’s quite speculative. It was built for this year’s Open Day (presuming that still goes ahead).

The Irish Rover

Stephen goes all Celtic.

Under Saga 1 the Irish were just too over-powered.

I always thought they’d be a good warband to play but the gross nature of some of their javelin abilities left them too powerful and, to be honest, it wasn’t fun playing them for that reason.

The good news is that under Saga 2 the Irish have been seriously nerfed, meaning it’s not so embarrassing fielding an army of them.

So I’ve revisited my Irish and the intention is to use them more often now they are a balanced force.

Fergal mac Amlaith’s mother is an Irish noblewoman and his father is a Viking Jarl.

He was brought up on the shores of Lough Ceagh where he looked after his father’s dogs. This love of animals has lasted into his adult life and now he has a large kennel of his own.

Since taking over his father’s lands he has demanded the fianna bondsmen swear fealty to him. They have all, both local noblemen and norse colonists, agreed to do that. This means that Fergal has a good many hearthguard to protect him and these men are led by Connor and Rory, the tribal champions – the feared curaidh.

The land tenants make up the rest of Fergal’s force. These bonnachts are well trained in how to use their javelins and hatchets and are prepared to fight to the death for their lord.

Looking over everyone’s pastoral needs is Father Padraig. He is a very spiritual man, though he is worldly too – he knows enough to know that peace is sometimes best achieved by knocking a few heads together.

They have all now sharpened their spears and swords and are ready to go roving.

Gael Force Norse

John Lambert gets his axe out.

I’d enjoyed using Norse Gaels in Saga Version 1 and was interested to know how they might fare under version 2 of the rules. I thought this faction was one that had changed the most under version 2 so decided on a new build based on the Footsore Irish and Viking ranges, taking advantage of the 3 for 2 offer they had running at the time. All figures painted using Artist’s acrylics.

Warlord – Hakon Maddadarson (The Hall Burner) – front pictured above

“Die bravely my slaves and I will take good care of your Dottirs!”

I mounted the Warlord on a piece of slate for a more imposing look. He has a rare and highly prized white Icelandic Gyr Falcon on his shield.

Daneaxe Heathguard

In version 1, there was an additional Saga ability bonus for taking Dane axes. This has gone in version 2 so only 1 point for this build.

Other Heathguard

I added 2 points of standard Heathguard. In version 1 Dane axe armed Warriors were the best option. In version 2 a powerful ability, Norse can only be used by Heathguard and Warlord so these appear to be a better option.

Gaed Gaedhil

These are fearsome mercenary warriors for which I used the Footsore Scots/Picts

Levy – Slaves

I used the Footsore Irish warrior range for these. Of limited use in Version 1 of Saga, they are a key part of my army in version 2. I painted 2 points of these.

The History of the Norse Gael Earls of Orkney is detailed in Orkneyinga Saga, an epic tale of bravery, treachery and Sainthood as rivals vie for the Earldom, raids in Russia, raids on Sicily, The First Crusade and an encounter with a Byzantine Dromon! How would the 28mm metal version fare on their debut?
The answer was rather well (see Jeremey’s battle report), despite misreading a SAGA ability and missing out on the chance to trap Andy’s Warlord, I really enjoyed the faction and the battleboard mechanics. Well worth a celebratory snifter or two of Highland Park ”Viking Honour”.

The Wolf at the door

Long had the Welsh Warlord Owain the Wolf Tamer been sat brooding in his hall. Never far from his thoughts were the crushing defeats he had suffered at the hands of the Anglo-Dane Warlords Andraes Vilhelmsson and Erik Uhtredson. But with Vilhelmsson held up in his hall to see out the winter months and news of Uhtredson forging alliances with the wretched Northmen. It was time to go on the offensive. But wary of fighting prowess of his enemies Owain knew he needed support, and so he had dispatched offers of gold and glory to other lesser warlords before setting out on campaign.
As dawn broke across the land, the armies of Andraes Vilhelmsson and Erik Uhtredson marched boldly marched onto the field. No sooner had they done so when the Welsh war horns were joined in their challenge by those of Hakon Maddadarson the Hall Burner and his army of savage Norse Gaels.
Surprised by the Norse Gaels, but not surprised Owain would not have the confidence to face them alone, Vilhelmsson and Uhtredson concentrated their forces against the Norse Gaels with the aim of routing them off the field before Owain could bring the full force of his army in to effect.

The Anglo-Danes march towards the Norse Gaels

Although the Anglo-Danes concentrated on the Norse Gaels, the swift Welsh cavalry managed to get within javelin distance of Vilhelmsson’s archers, drawing first blood.
Welsh Cavalry Launching their Javelins

Over on the other side of the battlefield Uhtredson’s Fyrd charged against the Norse Gaels. Hoping for a decisive conclusion to the fight the Fyrd won the fight but failed to inflict devastating damage on the Norse Gaels.
The Anglo-Dane Fyrd Charges into Battle

Forced to retreat from the fight and with Vilhelmsson’s Huscarls closing in, Hakon Maddadarson strengthened his line for the expected onslaught.
The Anglo-Danes and Norse Gaels form their Battle Lines

Meanwhile on Vilhelmsson’s left flank the Welsh Cavalry were still picking off the archers, but not without suffering losses of their own. Seizing the initiative Owain pushed his forces hard to get within javelin range.
The Welsh Finally Threaten the Anglo-Danish Left Flank

With his left flank now threaten Vilhelmsson sent a unit of Huscarls to fend of Owain’s forces. Having been abandoned to his fate in on the right flank Hakon Maddadarson was beginning to realise the pact he had entered into with the Welsh was misguided. Uhtredson threw everything at the Norse Gaels, Dane axe armed Huscarls and the Fyrd charged in. The fighting was fierce but the Anglo-Danish attack seemed to just bounce off the Norse Gaels and they were forced to retreat.
Hard Fighting as Dane Axes Clash in a Bloody Melee to the Death

With the battle against the Norse Gaels not going to plan and the Welsh making gains against Vilhelmsson’s left flank the Anglo-Danes could see the battle turning against them.
But there was to be no retreat, lured to battle by the treacherous Owain, the forces of Vilhelmsson and Uhtredson would carve an epic poem this day. Launching charge after charge the fight against the Welsh ended with a wimper of pushing and shoving while once again the Norse Gaels proved to be a tough nut to crack.
Last Charge of the Anglo-Danes

The battle ended with the exhausted Anglo-Danes having been narrowly defeated, made even more painful by the knowledge that the Norse Gaels and done more of the fighting than the Welsh, who could claim victory having shed little blood that day!

Thoughts on the Game
I cannot remember which scenario we played but points were scored by causing casualties and points deducted if any units were still close to their own baseline at the end of 6 turns.
Myself and Andy were both using the Anglo-Danish for the first time with the 2nd Edition Saga rules. Facing off against Steve’s Welsh and John’s Norse Gaels. Each side had 6 points.
Andy and I decided to concentrate both of our armies against one enemy army to destroy it in detail and then move onto the other. The Norse Gaels deployed first and so that was our target. This left the Welsh out on their own and away from the battle for a few turns.
Being the first time a few of us had used our armies for 2nd edition a few mistakes were made. On a few occasions we were a bit lax with the movement rules and getting units into combat. The Norse Gael ability to raise their armour was exaggerated somewhat which contributed to the lack progress by the Anglo-Danes. I also found the Anglo-Danes a bit boring in 2nd edition. Some of their abilities appear to have been reduced, which I felt was unnecessary as they weren’t an unbeatable faction in 1st edition. But that’s enough of the excuses. The Anglo-Danes lost and so now must regroup and take the battle to the Welsh, whether they run cowardly to their new found allies or not.

The Laird of the Western Isles

Last meeting we had a game of Saga based around control for the western isles of Scotland. Whoever came out victorious could crown their warlord the Laird of the Western Isles.

The idea was that we would play two games. Each player would keep the same warlord but could change army composition between games. We would be using warlord experience from the Book of Battles. Players were allowed to use warlords who already had previous experience. Players and their warlords were:

Jeremey – Uhtred Siggurdson (Viking)
Tony – Boe Vandradson (Norse Gael)
Eric – Sigvald Ironhelm (Viking)
Stephen – Siward Dunbar (Scots)

Each player would keep a running total of their victory points across both games. The player with the most at the end of the day would win.

The first scenario we played was the Battle Royale – all against all.

This was only the second time Eric had played Saga so he was naturally a bit cautious as he worked out how to use his Saga dice and the subtleties of the game and the use of the Battleboard.

Boe Vandradson leads his men from behind

Boe Vandradson had deployed his troops quite wide apart, threatening both Uhtred and Siward. The wise and wily Uhtred, a veteran of the battle of Lintonsfjord, had been equally cunning and had managed to get some of his bondi around the back of Boe’s axemen.

Siward Dunbar’s men deployed between some rocks, which the norse gaels had occupied and some woods, which were also home to some skulking norse gael hearthguard. The Scot’s archers went forward and showed Sigvald’s raiders what they were made off with a deadly flurry of arrows. Sigvald moved his men slowly forward, using some of his bondi as a spearhead to chase the norse gaels out of the rocky ground, presumably with the intent of occupying this himself so he could harry the Scots.

A steady, unspoken, truce existed between the Scots and norse gaels, who saw the vikings as the greater threat to their lands. How long this truce lasted is a moot point – eventually the norse gael hearthguard came out of the woods and charged the Scots archers!

Exhausted Scots archers after a hard day shooting vikings

Boe Vandradson showed his heritage by taking the fight to Uhtred and his men. This wouldn’t pay off though, as Boe was cut down by the vikings and had to be carried off the battlefield with grievous wounds.

At the end of the game the results were close but the winner had been Sigvald.

The second scenario we played was the team game. Since Eric had won the previous game then he could choose another warlord to swear fealty to Sigvald. He turned to his fellow Dane, Uhtred, and the two viking armies formed an alliance. This left the norse gaels and Sots to unite against the invaders.

Things moved a bit quicker this time. Uhtred had left his bondi back at their longboats to guard their plunder, with just him and his hirdmen to fight this time. Siward moved his archers forward again and they once more let fly at Sigvald’s troops. Sigvald was a little wiser this time so moved his troops up quickly to get into combat with the Scots sooner than later.

Scots and Vikings come to blows

Boe Vandradson, having recovered from his wounds from the previous encounter, kept up with his aggressive reputation and repeatedly charged into the fight, with his bodyguard doing all they could to keep up with him. Uhtred was happy with this and he and his hirdmen drew their blades and joined in with the fight.

Sigvald, exasperated at the casualties his men were taking from the Scots archers, acted rashly, and out of fury charged forward of his men toward the Scots. The archers were defeated and fell back but this left Sigvald out on his own. Seeing his chance, Siward took firm hold of his spear and charged the viking warlord. The last that was seen of Sigvald was him falling under Siward’s blows.

When finally the dust settled and the ravens had glutted themselves on the corpses it was time to see who would reign.

Victory had gone to the norse gaels. The lands had a new master – Laird Boe Vandradson of the Western Isles!

The game had been a close one. No one was trounced and no one had an easy time of it. We all had our bad dice rolls and we all had our good ones. How long Vandradson will keep his title as Laird remains to be seen.

Dearly Beloved

For our sins, Stephen builds a chapel.

At MHWC’s Broadside show in June I was glad (and surprised!) to see that Scotia/Grendel would be there.

What I bought off them was a resin ruined chapel, which would make a great piece of terrain for medieval games.

I cleaned up the pieces, cut some ply for the base, and glued the pieces together on the day after buying it. It then sat on the shelf for a few weeks. But last Sunday I finally got around to slapping some paint on it.

Before painting I thought I’d make a bit more of it. The first thing to do was create a tiled floor. I made the tiles out of thick plasticard. I chamfered the edges roughly and then scratched and gouged the surface to make them look worn and damaged. I then needed some more rubble. I made this from a mixture of sand and dried plaster broken up into bits. Though you can buy some rubble scatter mixes.

Once this was all dry I gave it a spray of dark khaki. This was then washed with my favourite all-purpose brown wash: GW’s Agrax Earhshade. I decided I wanted it to look like it was made from sandstone, so it was drybrushed with a khaki-heavy mix of khaki and grey.

An important thing to realise about medieval churches is that they were very colourful places. It was only with the advent of the Reformation and Protestantism that church wall paintings were considered idolatrous and were chiseled off or painted over. So I scoured the internet for pictures of surviving painted medieval church walls and then printed them off.

These were then glued to the walls. To make them look like they belong there and look a bit damaged and eroded by time and weather I splotched (that’s the best way I can describe it) the edges of the pictures to make it look like they belong on the walls and blend in.

Some staining and damp was added with a very dry brush using dark green and brown.

The model was then based with some mixed ballast and static grass.

The result is a ruined chapel worth fighting over!

Open Day 2019: The Tower Of Ballicroney

More Open Day updates from Stephen as he wows us with the size of his tower

I’ve been lucky for this year’s Open Day – I more or less had everything I needed for the game.

There’s been just a few jobs that needed doing – some Norse Gael axemen and an Irish round tower.

The game will be set in the early 12th century with the Normans raiding an Irish religious community. A key feature of early Irish monastic sites were the needle like round towers. These were built as safe places during earlier centuries when Viking raiders made their way around the Irish Sea. A few were also built in Scotland, mainly by the Irish settlers.

Entrance to the tower was on the second floor via a ladder. The ground floor was often solid stone to resist being battered down.

I made a few concessions with my model. It is to scale height and the ground diameter is also to scale. The actual towers converge which mine doesn’t. This is because of what I used to make the tower – three empty (Christmas) tubs of cheeselets. So it had to have parallel sides.

I also decided to use more elaborate windows. During the period when the towers were constructed the windows were just plain openings. I went with a Gothic window frame, which is out of period. I did this to make it more interesting to look at, so it can be used for other periods, and maybe fantasy games as well. I also went with a tiled roof rather than a stone roof. This was done to create a different surface texture and colour again, to keep the model interesting.

The windows were spare castings I had from a previous project.

The tubs were glued together using internal tabs. I then chose to hide the external joint using pieces of card to look like bricks – it makes it look like a decorative feature.

Individual bricks were made using heavy duty water-colour paper. This is ideal because it has a textured surface. These were stuck in groups and clumps all over the outside.

The tiles on the roof were made using the same card.

The ladder is made from styrene sprue.

The entire model was given a spray with a dark khaki colour. This was then washed using GW’s Agrax Earthshade. It was then dry-brushed using a mix of khaki and light grey, with a bit of white added for subsequent highlights. To create damp patches and mould I used both a brown and a dark green, paying attention to windows and doors (where people are likely to throw things out of) or around the base, where the damp could be.

All that was left to do was decorate the base with odds and ends.