Friday 28 February 2014

Bors - A Small Present

This is Bors, one of Musketeer Miniatures' fantastic Sub-Roman/Arthurian character figures.

I couldn't have been happier with this figure. The pose, anatomy and sculpting are all first-rate. The mould lines are minimal and flash is absolutely non-existent.

This was painted up as a gift/thank you for a colleague.  I've painted up minis in the past for my colleagues who have helped me out with their mass spectrometry skills. I've tried to find figures with quirks that reflect the job or in jokes. This one has been a while coming. I had struggled to find a figure that called out to me that it suited this particular colleague, but finally, Bors did it.

Well here he is - hope my colleague likes him. If not,  I'll have him back!

I used a fairly dark, quite limited palette, with just a few bright colours to catch and match the green dragon on the shield (this to reflect my colleague's large collection of green dragons on his desk...). The base is a 2p piece, and the helm is from the GB Saxon Thegns, with the head itself ground out. Bors can grab it in a hurry and be fully armoured.

There's something I noticed painting this guy. It's really, really satisfying to work on an individual mini, compared to the batch production approach needed to get an army on the table reasonably quickly. Luckily, I've got a few other "specials" to enjoy!

Saturday 22 February 2014

Wagons Roll! Part 3, Beasts and Men

With the wagons assembled, it's time to make them mobile.

Here are the yokes, with the cattle. The yokes were made by laminating two layers of 40 thou styrene sheet and filing/carving out the shape. Two pairs of holes were drilled, and neck holder were made up from soft wire to fix the oxen to the yoke. The yoke was attached to the shaft with a chain on the real thing.

One final thing. A two-wheeled cart is normally "driven" by having someone walk alongside the ox and guide it. A four-wheeler actually needs someone sitting on the seat yelling and using a stick. My drivers were converted from Gripping Beast Dark Age warriors. These two photos show the original figures and how the changes will be done.

These next two show the results of the cutting and grinding. I've put them on the carts to make sure they fit. It's a trial and error process.

Here are both drivers, assembled, green-stuffed to bung up the gaps/re-texture where necessary, and given a coat of primer. 

So, here's the two wagons, painted, hitched and based, just awaiting their drivers. The basework is some flock from Treemendus. It's fantastic stuff, totally awesome to work with, totally different to the "normal" flock I'm used to. Highly recommended.

After getting the drivers painted and mounted up, all I needed was a bit of static grass to get them on the table. Here's a quick closeup of the drivers. I think the conversions have worked well enough.

Rough looking pair! 

So, time for a couple of shots of the finished articles. These two, with the two-wheeler I built here, give me enough transport for the wagon train scenarios in both the Dux Brit and Saga rulebooks. Tons of fun!

Like Arthurian Britain's answer to Eddie Stobart!

Merry meet again!

Thursday 13 February 2014

Wargames Factory Ancient German Cavalry

I want a Strathclyde force for Saga. This is a very largely mounted force, and putting about thirty horsemen on the table can be an expensive option, so I looked around for ideas to build this force economically. I can convince myself that there is some versatility in this force by using it as reinforcements for Dux Brit (whether as British or Saxon core units, or as Germanic mercenaries).

I liked the look of Wargames Factory’s Ancient German Cavalry as the source for these troops. Twelve in a pack for about fifteen quid (at the time) was good value, and fully dressed (tunics and trousers) make them suitable for converting to other things.

I’d heard very bad things about WF’s products, so I was loath to buy these sight unseen. At Vapnartak I was able to pick up and look over a pack before I put my hand in my pocket and although you can’t do a complete review under these conditions, I was happy to take a punt.
You get eight sprues in a pack, four each of horses and riders, with three figures per sprue.

First, the horses. These are kitted in halves, with separate heads. You get three sets of bodies and four heads on a sprue, so the potential for variations is very large. Anatomically, I am happy with the models. Positions, poses and musculature all look OK, and the eyes are in the right place! These seem to be based on a shorter-legged, heavier-boned, more barrel-chested animal than Conquest Miniatures plastic horses. I’m pleased about this.

Horse sprue, front

Horse sprue, rear

The heavy-limbed "pony" phenotype is much more appropriate for Dark Age/Early Medieval context that the more improved breeds that Conquest use. Assembly is simple, and although the fit of parts is imperfect, it’s as good as that I’ve found with either Conquest or Warlord horses. The horses are modelled with simple bridles, a single girth and fore and aft saddle straps, of the type seen on reconstructions of the four-horn saddles associated with Roman and post-Roman cavalry in the pre-stirrup era. The saddles (on the figure sprues) fit extremely well onto the mounts.

The riders are kitted as bodies with the shield arm moulded in place, with separate weapon arms and heads. First of all, the riders fit beautifully onto the horses without lots of cutting and grinding (which is a novelty!). The figures are of a slighter build than GB plastics (or metals!) but are perfectly fine, close in shape to MDS Picts.

Rider sprue, front

Rider sprue, rear

Each sprue has three bodies, six weapon arms and NINE heads! Four have their hair in versions of the Suebian knot, one has an Imperial Roman-style helm, and the remaining four are generic beardies suitable for a wide variety of end uses. The sprue carries three short spears, which are useful, swords and knives which can be adapted (they are too early in style for my purposes as they are), two round shields and two hexagonal ones, the former great, the latter for the spares box, plus a horn and a horse skull standard!

Despite the slight dimensional differences between WF and GB plastics, GB heads seem to work with these figures to add some additional variety or to up-armour your riders with helms. The only issue is that GB put the socket for the join on the head, WF put it on the body, so a bit of work is needed to bridge this. I used a bit of scrap sprue.

A few dry fits suggest that weapon arms from GB Dark Ages Warriors will match up, immediately giving a further source of weapons and even more variation.

Casting quality is good, and the plastic is a nice, soft grade (less brittle than Renedra use for the GB figures) which is very easy to work with. Fit of parts varies - issues with the horse body halves are noted above, but the riders go together seamlessly. Cleanup is quick and easy - limited mould lines and no flash anywhere.

The sculpting is generally good. I like the folds in the clothing but some small details (hair, fingers,eyes) are quite "soft". However, I think it's fair to point out that many metal miniatures I've worked on suffer just as badly, but that anyone expecting Musketeer Miniatures quality is going to be sadly disappointed.

Here's one example I've put together quickly. He will need a little bit of greenstuff to sort out the head/body joint, and the filler on the horse sanded down (obviously!) but I think it shows the principle.

 Works for me

I'll post again once I've got some painted up. In the main, I would say I'm happy with these. They are perfectly capable of putting the force I want on the table at a very reasonably price, and I reckon they will look the business when they do. These don't fall out of the box and assemble themselves - they need a bit of work, but I like that work!

Merry meet again!

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Wagons Roll! Part 2, Four-Wheel Wagons

Four wheel wagons are slightly more complex to build than the two-wheeler, but not a lot. Obviously there's twice as much wheel building, and in my case a driver's seat bench, but frankly they don't challenge the building skills much more.

Here's two: one assembled, the other a kit of parts. The keen-eyed among you will notice a couple of design differences between this and the smaller one.

Ready to assemble...

First, a two-wheeler steers by telling the ox where to go, a four-wheeler actually has an articulated front axle. To be clear, the model doesn't: the axle is fixed and the bits and pieces just give the impression that they could turn. There's such a thing as too much detail!

Second (and more importantly) a two-wheeler has ONE ox, between TWO cartshafts. A four-wheeler has TWO oxen, with ONE shaft and a yoke.

Making a functional cartshaft isn't a problem - a length of plastic stock, with a slight upward curve at one end makes it.

What was more of a problem was attaching my existing cattle to the wagon! In the two-wheeler, the oxis removeable, so it can be used elsewhere. Try as I might I couldn't find an elegant but robust way of doing the same thing with two yoked oxen. I finally gave up and bought some more cattle from Irregular Miniatures. You can see them here.

So, here are both carts, assembled and primed.

And again, with a black ink wash applied. I'm leaving final assembly to another post, so...

Merry meet again!

Monday 10 February 2014

I got all livestock, I got all livestock!

In the words of the "Rock Island Line", I got all livestock.

The chaps at Irregular Miniatures are good for 28mm livestock. Have a root around on their stall, it's almost always worth it. One word of advice - there's always an odd item with more than its fair share of flash, so if that's what comes out, surruptiously put it back and get another one.

First up, pigs. I bought three and there really was very little to do on them. All the modelling I did was to add tusks to one (after all, you need a boar!) and prick up their ears (a few moments with the jewellers' saw and a smear of green stuff).


They are (arguably) a bit fat and short-snouted for Dark Age pigs, but I'm happy. I haven't been able to find much evidence of what pre-modern pigs looked like. My guess would be they tend toward the appearance of wild boar, a bit fatter and a bit less hairy (after all if you cross a modern pig with a wild boar what you get looks very wild boar-like indeed!). So, the colour scheme is derived from the Tamworth - a very ancient and equally excellent breed!


Putting them in the pigsty I built here, which was the most difficult part. Cutting into the terrain and removing parts of the pig bases without damaging either was a bit tricky. Luckily, a bit of blending in and everything was fine

Next up, sheep. The assumption is that Dark Ages sheep are all, invariably, Soay clones. The (limited) evidence doesn't seem to totally support this. Also, sheep resembling "modern" breeds are well attested by the twelfth century, so I'm not too bothered.

Easier than mowing the grass yourself!

 I added horns, of varying length, to four out of the five, to give the sense of a variety of ages. A single base like this is just right as a target/objective in a raiding game.

Plenty of wool here

The inspiration for these is Cheviot or (especially) Faeroes - the latter are known for fleeces in a variety of colours (white, grey, light red, dark red, chestnut brown, through to black).

Finally, cattle. More or less everything about them is here, based on the last set I got. These will make a further (future) appearance with the four-wheel carts I'm making.

All-round view.

Given they are going to end up permanently attached to a couple of wagons, there's no point in messing about with any sort of clever basework at this stage.

Ten thousand beef and onion pies on the hoof!

Merry meet again!

Friday 7 February 2014

Sub-Roman Hearthguard - More Knights

When I built my Sub-Roman hearthguard for my Dux Brit army, they came from a pack of West Wind minis, with a total of 20 figures in it. Having built ten as the hearthguard and as the command section, I was left with ten more figures. Well and good, but those ten were all in only two different poses. I really can't handle the idea of Dark Age warbands having this level of uniformity, so it was out with jewellers' saw and bench peg, to start changing the look.

Various arms were cut off, re-posed and pinned in place, with hands moved and angled. One slight problem was that the arms on the cloaked figures didn't really lend themselves to much re-posing. Solution? I've got a boxful of arms with spears, swords and axes left over from the Gripping Beast plastics, and a bit of filing, fitting and fettling soon sorted out the problem. Greenstuff solved the inevitable slight mis-matches, mended lost bits of cloaks and replaced missing chainmail.

The results of the sculpting/modelmaking gave me this lot:

Ready for paint

Prime and paint came up a treat (I thought). I went with nice solid colours (actual dyed colours, rather than various shades of dirt) as befitting a paid, retained warband. The different clothing colours were so that if I had more than one hearthguard unit (cough Saga cough...) there is some distinction. As usual I made up my own shield decals. 

Fighting wedge

For Dux Brit, I don't actually need another ten armoured hearthguard. However, I'm not one to throw anything away (no surprises, eh?) and so here we are. They'd obviously make (all together) a smashing elite unit for WAB (Age of Arthur is a favourite of mine), or three to four points of elite troops ready for the day when Gripping Beast get round to producing an Arthurian supplement for Saga!

Single point Saga units.

Painting these was caught up in the delay caused by my chest infection, plus the fact I had run out of bases! I was only a week away from Vapnartak, so I decided to pick up some from Warbases when I was there and save myself the postage, but the sight of the figures sat there unbased was driving me mad. Made the bases up from plastic card and got them finished, just in time to get a start on the new projects I've bought at Vapnartak!

Merry Meet Again!

Sunday 2 February 2014

Vapnartak 2014

This year's was a great show. More traders, more demo games, more participation games. The fact it was a better day weather-wise probably didn't hurt, as the place was absolutely rammed.

The York Club had marked out the parking area very thoroughly - which was just as well as the recent rain had turned the parking area into a swamp. More like quagmire than Knavesmire!

I managed to get a few photos of some of the downstairs games. My camera went phut before I got to the competition games upstairs, but the standard was incredibly high. The money positively flew out of my pocket, as per usual, with orders from Gripping Beast and Warbases, plus a buy-up with Irregular, Caliver, Treemendus and others.

These chaps are here every year. More a diorama than a game, but a fantastic display.

 This is the Medieval Jousting demo/participation game, run by Curtey's Miniatures. Fantastic.

Yorkshire Renegades' Modern Day Afghanistan was beautifully laid out, and drew a great crowd.

The Ilkley Lads put on a Tomahawks and Muskets game. This was a 40mm show. The added details in such a large scale are really quite something.

 Falkirk Wargames Club ran this huge Dark Ages game, "The Slaughter of the Danes, Cruden 1012". Big table, loads of figures, and using a home-brewed set of rules based on Basic Impetus, fast moving and eye-catching.

For something different, Border Reivers' "Battle of Trafalgar Square 1984" was splendidly off the wall, and fantastically presented.

The League of Extraordinary Kriegspielers' efforts are always worth seeking out, and this year was no exception. "Battlefield 1922, Wake Island" had so much going on it would have been worth an hour watching them alone.

Another splendidly off the wall game was this one from The Bunker. War of the Worlds, complete with fantastic fighting machines. You could practically hear Richard Burton's voice as you watched.

Couldn't work out who was running this breathtaking WW1 game, but hats off to them. Even though I have no interest in the period, I was hooked.

For sheer size, the Leicester Phat Cats Yom Kippur took some beating, and so were the Syrian forces on this side of the table!

And here's Daz from Gripping Beast, showing that if you get 'em young, you've got 'em for life!

Merry Meet Again!