Tuesday 30 April 2013

I've Rallied Thieves, Thugs and Low Lives...

I've rallied thieves, thugs and low lives,
My band of mercenary strays,
And when I'm King they'll deal my justice with the swiftness of a blade!

I wanna kill the King of Britain dead!
I wanna thrust a knife deep in his chest,
I wanna feel and see his blood run red!

I cannot rest till I am King,
For no man's fool am I!

I'll kill the King, I wanna see him dead!
I wanna seize his Kingdom, gonna take his head,
I wanna kill the King and rule myself instead!
"Kill the King", by Gary Hughes, from
"The Once and Future King, part II"

I love Gary Hughes's music, and his two albums inspired by Arthurian legend are favourites of mine. This track, the opener of the second album, is performed by D.C. Cooper, vocalist with Royal Hunt and Silent Force, in the role of the Saxon king, Aelle.

Well, before he got to be a king and was just a warlord, Aelle's warband, his "mercenary strays", looked like this.

I'll have a place like this, one day...

Aelle with his nobles and champion. Aelle in the middle, with his banner-bearing champion Eadwig at his shoulder, and his henchmen, the Aedligs Cenric and Sigebehrt to the left and right. In front of a borrowed mead hall, Aelle longs for the day when he swells his coffers and reputation enough to have one of his own!

 Round up the usual suspects.

Aelle's Gedridht, his elite hearthguard, two groups of six.

Light-fingered thieves.

Next, Aelle's warriors, a mix of Duguth and Geoguth. Three groups of six.

Definitely a bunch of thugs.

Finally, Aelle's four bowmen.
And low lives. Very low lives...

I think Arthur needs to watch out! Here's the whole warband. Aelle and Eadwig are front and centre with half of the Gedricht. Cenric is on one flank with the rest of the Gedricht, while Sigebehrt holds together two units of warriors on the other. The remains of the Deoguth and Duguth, without a noble, hang back a little. The archers are preparing to race forward.

I'm gonna kill the King of Britain dead!

Be afraid Arthur. Be very afraid...

Merry meet again!

Tuesday 23 April 2013

A Quick Change of Plan (and a couple of quick projects!) Part 3 and a bit - Fences

Good fences make good neighbours they say, but to be honest I'm not sure that any of these sort of fences are proof against neighbours, not if those neighbours are Saxon or Pictish raiders.

The Dux Brittaniarum rules call for eight inches of fences for a village. I think the best way is to make a series of short pieces, say three to four inches each, and make three or four pieces.

The bases here are 2mm MDF, which is not always the easiest stuff to get hold of, but Jackson's Art usually carries it in various sizes in their mount boards section. A narrow strip of wood, chamfered with a plane, gets glued down to the centre. This gives something for the fence posts to sit in while not making the fence so wide that any mini's are miles back from it. Plus it make the base of the hedge wide enough to retain a decent level of stability on the table.

Bases, common to all

The first bit of fence is made the same way as the pig sty fence here, with cocktail stick posts and MIG wire woven through. I made two four inch sections. This is the sort of fencing that might be put in quickly as a temporary fix, so short sections give some versatility. This is quick and easy but only moderately robust - the cocktail sticks don't give a lot of strength. If this bothers you use the variations below.

 Woven timber fence - entry level!

The second bit is a post and rail fence made by gluing sections of bamboo skewer into holes in the base. The rails are made from bamboo skewers split lengthways. The post structure is stronger, but the rails can become detached (just like the real thing actually). A single eight inch section of this represents the baseline sort of fencing you might find.

Post and rail - a little more up market!

The third piece uses bamboo skewer for posts, with some 2mm balsa superglued horizontally between them. Two pieces, one about 5mm above the ground level, one 5mm below the top. Then loads and loads of 1-2mm wide balsa strips glued vertically between them. This looks very smart and might well be the early Medieval equivalent of remote-control gates, but it does take longer (much longer) to construct. Since this is a bit posh and pricey, there's only a six inch length (perhaps to go near the church?).

Picket fence - very particular!

I had already kicked this post into life when Gareson put this post on his Iron Kingdoms at War blog. If you don't like mine, you'll love his. If you don't like either, well...

Here they are, all finished. I added scrub and static grass around the woven fences and the post and rail, but not the picket fence. Well, anyone posh enough to have that is going to do his weeding, isn't he? The armoured sub-Roman warrior (finally!) for scale is from West Wind, with a home-made chi-rho shield decal.

Git orf moi laaaand! 

Merry meet!

Sunday 14 April 2013

A Quick Change of Plan (and a couple of quick projects!) Part 3 - A Barn

Right, straight on with part 3. Any farm or village would need a barn, whether to store the things that needed keeping but you didn't want piled up in the house (turnips, perhaps?) or for large things that the house simply wouldn't hold (like the plough).

You've now seen quite enough of how these are put together, so I won't bore you with a "how to" sequence. The basic block of foam is 100x70x70mm - a bit bigger than the granary. I went with  fewer wall timbers on this one, just some humungous corner posts. Any intermediate posts are inside on this building.

The doors are (again) from Warbases. I made every door on every building I had constructed up until these last three. Frankly I was a bit skeptical about pre-made doors like this, but I when I saw some up close at Vapnartak, I was very favourably impressed. The guys at Warbases (really lovely people - so helpful!) didn't have to try very hard to get me to part with my money, as their products are VERY competitively priced, especially given the quality. I am very happy with the results. I won't say I'll never make another door myself, but I certainly wouldn't default to building my own like I used to.

So here it is, finished and ready for the table, with a dubious Saxon ne'er do well for scale. Fairly soon now I'll have some decent upstanding Sub-Romans to chase him off, but in the mean time he shows scale nicely.

Must be something worth stealing in there!

These three projects averaged out at about three hours work each: a bit more for the granary and the pig sty, a bit less for this one. However you shake it out, I don't think nine hours work to put three reasonably sized, interesting  and quirky terrain pieces on the table is a bad investment. Cost wise, the whole lot probably came to under five quid - cheap even for me.

Here's another view, just for completeness, and to show I did finish the back! Since it's a big expanse of nothing, I inset a bit of home-cast wattle panel (made from Fimo clay) into the wall to add a bit of interest.

Nothing round here either!

Merry Meet!

Thursday 4 April 2013

A Quick Change of Plan (and a couple of quick projects!) Part 2 - A Pig Sty

Following swiftly from Part 1 is the pig sty. Pigs were an important asset from ancient times, as a valuable way of turning inedible things (cabbage stalks, acorns, beech mast and turnip tops) into edible matter (pork!).

A place to keep the sow when she farrowed and somewhere for the pigs to shelter while they grow was essential. Although pigs were turned out into the woods at times to take advantage of the abundance of things like acorns, most of the time they would have needed to be confined, as pigs are inquisitive, industrious and frankly downright destructive animals, especially if they get into a vegetable patch!

The pig sty follows the usual mode of construction: a simple block of foam, in this case 45x35x35mm is made into something shed-shaped, with vertical walls about 20mm high and a door cut  into one end.

The pig sty could be wattle and daub construction, or planked, according to your preference. I've gone with wattle and daub, made with paper and PVA glue, and framing glued in place. The roof is added with rafters and a towelling thatch. Pigs need plenty of ventilation to be healthy, and a lack of it will promote things like pneumonia, which will restrict the supply of bacon - and we wouldn't want that! The thatch and gaps under the eaves would supply this. You've seen enough of how these buildings are made so I'll skip straight to the stage of having a completed shell.

A very des res!

Now, glue the sty to a base, leaving a decent sized area of base to make an enclosure. The base is the cheap and nasty 3mm hardboard again. Plenty good enough for this, though. Slivers of waste foam are glued down to add some contours to the ground. The next thing the build needs is a good, solid fence. A REALLY solid fence. The strength, ingenuity and downright perseverance of pigs when they want to be somewhere else has to be seen to be believed. So any fence has to reflect this. Otherwise the pigs will be anywhere EXCEPT in the pen...

First, a row of holes gets drilled, at 15-20mm centres (so roughly 3-4 feet in scale) to take a row of posts.

Postholes - always good for archaeology!

Next, add the posts. These are cocktail sticks held in place with superglue, but thick wire would do. I aimed for 1-2mm diameter, so the posts would reflect using 2-4" timbers, which is about what might be used in the "real thing".

 Good stout posts!

Finally, the fence itself was woven in place. This is several feet of 0.7mm steel MIG welding wire, annealed with a blowtorch and cut into 40-60mm lengths. I was after the effect of thickish wooden poles interwoven. Copper wire or thin string would work. This was time consuming and fairly hard on my fingers, but I'm quite happy with how it looks. Once the weaving was completed I gave everything a good coat of thin cyanoacrylate to make sure it stayed in place.  I deliberately avoided trying to use something that looked like a wicker hurdle. Any pig worth its salt would be through a fence build like that in no time flat!

That ought to keep 'em in place!

Finally, a gate, in the gap I left for that purpose. This is made pretty roughly out of basswood offcuts, then glued in place.

Some way of getting the pigs in and out...

Following primer, paint, flock, an ink wash and a thorough dry brushing with a variety of different shades, the usual coat of gloss poly went on to provide protection, followed by two coats of matt.

Finally, some little details. Static grass and weedy scrub was added outside the pen (nothing grows in a pig pen - or not for very long anyway!), along with some straw in the pen. This was sisal string, dampened down a bit and glued in place. A bit out in the pen,and a good bit more in the entrance to the sty. A bit of brown ink wash here and there gives a "lived in look", if you follow me...

Finally, I added a tuft of scrub, to represent a breakfast of turnip tops, and filled the hollow at the end of the pen with PVA to give the look of a nice muddy puddle to wallow in. I'll get some pigs at some point, but until then, I'll just say they're having a kip in the sty.

Ready to move in!

Note that while the sty is partially hollow, there's no pretense of being able to put a mini in there. There's a reason for this. Nobody in their right senses would force their way into a small confined space occupied by a sow and her piglets. Even a man in armour equipped with a spear and a sword might think himself very lucky to come out without horrific injuries. Here's an armoured Saxon from Black Tree Design for scale. He's either unusually brave or really doesn't understand how serious the situation is.

Little pigs, little pigs, come out and play...

Hunter could rapidly become hunted...
Merry Meet!

Monday 1 April 2013

A Quick Change of Plan (and a couple of quick projects!) Part 1 - A Granary

Three quarters of the way through March, I received my very lovely copy of Dux Brittaniarum, from the nice chaps at Too Fat Lardies.

A quick read through reveals its all pretty straighforward, especially as Griping Beast are finally releasing the generic Dark Ages plastic mini's I will need for the unarmoured part of my Sub-Roman army. A bit of luck with a pack of West Wind armoured Sub-Roman spear will add to these to make a cheap Sub-Roman army! Now, for some of the very nice pre-planned games (farm raid and village raid) that the rules include, I need... a farm and a village!

My well-stocked terrain box has plenty of Dark Ages terrain, but a quick count up revealed a problem! A "farm" for game purposes, is a minimum of three buildings, and a "village" is a minimum of four, plus a bit of fence.

Even my arithmetic could work out that two houses do not a Sub-Roman farm or village make. Ironically with the houses, plus a church, great hall and grubenhauser, I could make a fully functional Saxon farm or village!

Since I am obviously psychologically incapable of refusing the chance to build terrain models, the solution was obvious. So for now my grand plans for the Wansdyke and South Cadbury are on hold, while I build a granary, a pig sty and a storage shed / barn. Oh, and a length or two of fence!

All three of these are relatively small structures, and lend themselves to being made from solid foam blocks. I'll build them in the same order, granary first, then pig sty, and finally the barn. I'll fit the fence it somewhere!

Granaries were pretty standard structures, and every village or farm would have had at least one. They were typically mounted on posts or stilts, which were (crucially) set so that the building overhung them. This kept the grain off the ground, and made it less susceptible to damp or heavy rain running in, but also helped to keep out rodents. With the posts set inside the line of the building, a mouse or rat would have to climb up the post (easy enough), then crawl while hanging upside down to the edge of the building, which whilst perhaps not impossible, is pretty tricky.

A block of foam,  80x60x50mm, like this one here,

gets cut with a big knife to produce this roughly shed-shaped item:

Make a cutout at one end for a door. Note there are no windows. A thatched roof would make the structure sufficiently breathable.

Ready to go

Coat the walls with whatever suits your preference to represent wattle and daub (in this case paper) and add the timber framing.

Structure in place

Glue strips of wood (coffee stirrers, basswood or balsa, according to your preference) to the base. I went with two layers, a transverse set, and then three more running front to rear slightly inside the building edge.

View of floor timbers and support beams

Rafters go one next. A bit of overhang lets the roof fit nicely.

These are followed with the thatch, made as usual from towelling and PVA. A large woodscrew crowded in through the doorway makes a useful handhold at this stage.

Roof on

Now, here's the clever bit (don't get too excited!). Cut your base from whatever material you feel will best suit (this is 3mm hardboard - horrible stuff, this is about all it's fit for). By careful reference to your building, mark the position of the stilts onto your base. Then make your stilts and glue them to the base. These want to be about two to three feet high in scale, and sufficiently thick to look as if the will actually hold the building up when it contains several tons of wheat and barley! Again, timber is the obvious material, but there is evidence for the use of carved stone, certainly later on.

Holes and stilts

Glue your stilts onto the base, making sure that they are even and level and the store actually sits on top of them! Add some squares of plastic card to the tops of the stilts, giving a bit of overhang. These would have been slate, stone or split timber, to help keep the mice out. Then sculpt your groundwork.

Why not make the store, glue the legs to it and then glue the whole thing down, you ask? Well, if you do that, how do you sculpt the groundwork under the store? And, if you glue the stilts to the store and then sculpt the groundwork, what do you do when all the stilts don't touch the ground? There, I told you it was clever, didn't I?
Note the stilts all DO touch!

So, paint the two parts according to your preferred method and colours, and sort out your groundwork with flock. Fit a suitable door, either home made, or one from the nice chaps at Warbases, as I did here.

Ready for assembly...

Now, glue the completed store to the stilts and tidy up / weather the joined areas.

The stilts still all touch!

I gave mine a coat of gloss polyurethane for protection, followed by two coats of W&N Galleria matt through the airbrush. Now add any tufts, tussocks or static grass, especially around the bottom of the stilts, where long grass tends to not get trimmed back.

 Ready for the harvest.

Job done! Grain stores like this, with fairly minor changes of design, were in use for centuries before and after the Sub-Roman period, so a structure like this will give good service across ancients, medieval and even Renaissance games.

On the table. MDS Pictish raider for scale.
Merry meet!