Although I’m mostly a dyed-in-the-wool 28mm gamer, I have odd lapses. When Dan Mersey announced that he was going to launch a small 15/18mm 7th century Dark Ages range, I thought ‘maybe I’ll get a few.’ Then it turned out that Mark Copplestone was sculpting…then I started getting back into the Dark Ages…then…yeah. Another odd lapse.
I’d already cracked and bought a few packs of Forged in Battle Welsh by way of experiment, which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, and was waiting for some further news on the Wiglaf Miniatures range. One day last week, I managed to leave my sandwiches at home and had to pop back from work at lunchtime. This hungry cloud had a silver lining, as I found a small but weighty jiffy bag waiting for me with some familiar handwriting. I was absolutely delighted to find I had been sent a pre-production sample of some Wiglafs by none other than Mr Mersey himself!
As you’d expect from Mark Copplestone, they are superb little sculpts (comparable, I’m told, with his fantasy Barbarica range). Indeed, they could easily be 28mm, they have so much detail. The mail, pouches, faces, seaxes, clothing and hairstyles are terrific, but my favourite part has to be the helmets for the noble warriors: Benty Grange, Coppergate and Shorwell-type helms all feature.
Named leaders are also included, wearing noted archaological finds – Raedwald of East Anglia (depicted wearing the Sutton Hoo helm) and Penda of Mercia (with the more contentious ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ reconstruction of fragments – see here for a discussion on this if you’re interested.) Whether or not his helmet is historically iffy, Penda is a splendid figure and was fun to paint (and the helmet crest could easily be removed if you didn’t want it.)
Something I’m not used to with 15/18mm figures is having to add spears; it added an extra layer of prep before painting, but really wasn’t too difficult. Swords and shields were already cast-on and the clean-up of the rest of the figures was quick and straightforward. Spears are not supplied with the figures but this was no problem as I have a large stash of North Star wire javelins. Cut down, they did the job nicely with a drop of super glue to hold them in place. Hands are cast open and took the spears without too much trouble. The standard bearer got a simple banner pole made from a spear and an offcut of wire.
I understand that cast-on spears were also considered, but that would undoubtedly have compromised on the dynamism of these models. When you see them lined up in a ‘shield wall’ – or whatever the 7th century equivalent really was – you can see how good they look.
Painting involved a white undercoat (Halfords White Primer in the UK) with similar stages to painting the Forged in Battle Welsh from a few weeks ago. Basecoats were applied with mostly GW Contrast paints and selected highlights and details. To be honest, I spent slightly longer on them than I was planning to due to the exceptional detail. I expect that future models will get done more quickly.
With the figures done, I was waiting for inspiration to strike on the banner. I was considering a raven in the style of early Saxon metalwork, but then realised that the Wiglaf Minis logo (itself a period design) would fit well on the banner pole! I quickly reduced it to an appropriate size on the printer, cut it out and added some colour before using PVA to fix it to the pole. Job done!
After painting and varnishing, Penda and his standard bearer were based up on a 2p coin with the rest of the unit on a 80x40mm 2mm MDF base from Warbases. Like the Welsh lord, I’ve arranged the unit so that Penda can join them or move separately as he likes (his base magnetises onto the unit base).
In short, these little chaps are bloody amazing. At the time of writing, they are not yet available, but keep watching the Wiglaf Miniatures website for updates. I for one cannot wait to get a full army done.