Many years ago, Big Red Bat guru Simon Miller asked me why I didn’t have a blog to support the various games that I took around wargames shows. “Why would I want a blog?” I asked him. “You’ll get followers,” came the reply. I laughed.
I don’t really do this to get followers, but I love swapping ideas and photos with other gamers around the world. I seem to post on social media every week or so, only then to find myself unable to find my own pictures, battle reports or words of advice just a few weeks later. Questions like this crop up all the time: “Have you got any size comparison pictures with different manufacturers?” “What was the paint recipe you used on your wolves?” “Has anyone had a go at converting Elf cavalry/ Cretan gendarmes/ Sikh sappers?” “How does Muskets & Tomahawks II play?” And often, I say, “Yes, but…just let me find it…” Hopefully mogsymakes will go some way towards helping out with these senior moments of social media.
My chum Scrivs claims that one of his main reasons for having a blog is to be able to find his paint recipes several years down the line; I can confirm this, having used several of his colour schemes after looking them up online! I’ve gone for something in between a blog and a website, in that I have different pages and sections where I will hopefully archive posts to make them easier to find. It is still very much in its infancy, so any helpful suggestions about improving access and layout will be quite welcome.
And so, I find myself following Simon’s sage advice: get a blog. I hope you enjoy it!
Alongside my various projects on Greek myth, Middle-earth and other settings, I’ve been quietly collecting miniatures for Norse mythology/ fantasy as well. I’m hoping that these will see the table at shows next year as part of a big Midgard game as well as in various smaller club encounters.
First up is a Valkyrie from Bad Squiddo Games that I bought from Annie at Partizan in May. This is a two-piece resin casting based on Arthur Rackham’s classic illustration of Brunhilde (left), and by Thunor, it’s a fine piece of work! You can see how carefully sculptor Shane Hoyle has captured the pose of the original art.
My Norse myth collection has a blue-grey-white colour theme, so she didn’t get the Rackham colour treatment, and I went for a frosty base to tie her in to my setting. Nevertheless, I’m really happy with the model.
While most of the mini has been painted fairly quickly using GW Contrast paints and various acrylic highlights, I spent a few minutes giving her cloak a runic border for a further Norse vibe.
Next up are a pair of Elves from Lucid Eye’s Red Book of the Elf King range. As you know, I play a bit of Red Book every so often and am slowly building up a circle of warriors with a more frosty theme to fit the winter setting of the game’s background. These will also see service as Alfar in my Norse myth games.
The model leaning on his sword is a recent addition to the range, an Elf Captain. No-one sculpts cloaks quite like Steve Saleh and I bought this on impulse in one of Lucid Eye’s sales. Like the Valkyrie, he’s been painted mostly with Contrast paints with additional highlights and has a runic border on his cloak. It took me several weeks to decide on the colour of his plume (GW Contrast Fyreslayer Red) as I wasn’t sure if it was too much! Despite being outside my blue-grey-white colour theme, it grew on me and I then opted for a red/ black banner to tie the two models together.
The standard bearer is a newish Red Book character, Chaelech Most Cruel, again ordered on impulse during the 30% off sale! When he arrived, I decided that I didn’t like his sword and thought that he might work better as a banner bearer. Having been painting Wars of the Roses banners in September for Never Mind The Billhooks, I opted for a late medieval-style flag with a side pole. The raven banner itself is based on an image I found online and over-painted with more Fyreslayer Red to match the Elf Captain’s plume. The standard bearer’s shield is a resin casting from Scibor Miniatures that I’ve used on my other Red Book warband.
Last, but certainly not least, is another cracking resin model from Bad Squiddo Games. BSG aren’t the cheapest minis out there, but the quality control and packaging is absolutely top notch. When this model of Freya riding her giant boar Hildeswini arrived (£22), I was blown away by the quality of the casting. There was virtually nothing to clean up so preparation consisted of a quick wash and then undercoating. The packaging included a painting reference photo which was useful in identifying detailed parts of the armour.
This time out, I undercoated Hildeswini in black so that I could dry brush the bristly fur to a suitable grey-brown. Freya herself received a white undercoat and various base coats of GW Contrasts plus highlights. Being a goddess, she was also first in line for a fancy border on her dress.
Once assembled, I was delighted with the animation in this model. She’ll be a much appreciated leader in my games of Of Gods And Mortals and Midgard, for sure, and Bad Squiddo will certainly be seeing some more of £ winging their way.
I always take inspiration from historic battles and Hastings was fairly fresh in my mind after the War & Conquest refight that I took part in earlier in the year to celebrate Rob B’s birthday. One of the scenarios that I have in the Midgard Heroic Battlesmanuscript is already based on Hastings, so it didn’t take much to knock up some army lists to fit. Following the destruction of much of the army of Rivendell in last week’s game, I opted to have the surviving Elves under Glorfindel holding a critical hill against the advance of Saruman’s army.
Pete and I gathered as many Wargs and Warg riders as we could for the forces of Isengard, then bulked this out with Orcs and Uruks fighting on foot with bows and swords. The scenario requires that a quarter of the defending force arrive later in the game, so I was left with a thin blue-and-silver line of Elves holding the ridge. I picked Glorfindel as my commander hoping that he would do better than die in the first hail of arrows as happened last week! To get the Saxon vibe, all the Elves were on foot as a mixture of spearmen and archers; they probably had more shooting power than Harold Godwinsson’s forces in 1066, but there were certainly less of them as a result. After deployment, the line felt painfully thin.
Pete deployed Saruman’s forces with archers in front, warriors behind and the Warg riders (both light and heavy units) on the flanks. The battle was on!
I confess that I’d taken some lessons from Paul W at my club, who has learned how to play the Elves under Midgard rules far better than I ever did myself! The superior leadership and discipline of the Elves gave them plenty of options to make the best of their raised position and I (aided by successful Command Tests) managed to restrain myself from my natural tactics of ‘charge them in the face,’ as Tom WD would have it. After Gildor’s diabolical performance last week (the most powerful Hero on the table being shot up by Orcs before even having a chance to get into combat), I was determined to get a bit more out of my commander this time.
So, the Orcs advanced to combat, with their front line of massed archers getting the better of the Elves in the first round. I was taking casualties I could ill afford, so when the Orc archers advanced to point-blank range, Glorfindel led his spearmen down the hill to give them a kicking. Fortunately, the Elves won the combat comfortably and their leaders were able to pull them back from pursuing the defeated enemy. So far, so good.
One of the Elven spear units on the left had taken quite a beating from Orc arrows, so I sent Glorfindel down the line to rally them (a trait called Hold Fast allows him to restore a stamina point to a unit once a game). This turned out to be a smart move as this Elven unit saw a great deal of action throughout the rest of the battle.
Now Saruman sent up the Orc warriors and riders on the flanks. One of the heavy Warg rider units fell to a devastating round of bowfire from Elf Lord Quildor’s archers on the right flank, but the others crashed home and drove an Elven spear unit all the way down the far side of the hill.
On the left flank, massed light units of Warg riders were causing problems with their bows, but the Elves were holding firm despite mounting casualties. I pulled the wings of the Elf force back to hang on as long as possible. again assisted by Elven training and discipline.
Fortunately, the relief force arrived just in time. Lindir and his Wood Elves – two units each of bow and spear – rocked up in a random location in the Elven deployment zone. I think I would rather that they had turned up on the right flank to fight off the Warg attack, but as it happened they arrived in the centre. This meant that they could go straight into a supporting role, helping the battered Elven front line to hold the ridge.
With the Elves holding firm, the battle began to turn against Saruman.
The slope of the hill was a critical factor. One of things I tried hard to model in the rules was the advantage of terrain and supporting units, and by the time the second line arrived, the Elves had the advantage of both. Time and time again (assisted by some uncharacteristically good dice rolling, I must add), the Orcs were beaten back from the ridge. Despite being fought out with Elves and Orcs, it felt like a proper Dark Ages slog.
It was now a question of time as the Elves beat down the Orcs all across the battlefield. Despite the loss of a couple of units, repeated counter charges by Elven heroes had raised the Reputation of the force. There was a hairy moment towards the end when Glorfindel threw the dreaded double raven for his Risk to Heroes test (see Gildor in last week’s game!), but by judicious use of Mighty Deeds, he survived with just a flesh wound. (No really, just wounded – this is not a Monty Python joke).
Now Saruman’s bodyguard of Uruks was cut down; naturally, the ghost of Christopher Lee was lucky and survived, but his army was broken and the battle was over with a decisive Elven victory. Clearly this scenario is demanding to be replayed with Saxons and Normans to see if Harold can pull off the same result!
The river pieces that I’ve used in a couple of recent games (Mortimer’s Cross at Partizan and Stamford Bridge in Middle-earth) have drawn quite a few questions, so I thought an article about them would be useful. I apologise in advance that this isn’t a tutorial per se, as when I made the original river many years ago, I didn’t take any WIP pics. However, I’ve recently refurbished the pieces, so have included some upgrade photos and general commentary that I hope will be helpful if you’re considering building something similar. Here goes!
Like hills, roads and woods, rivers are thoroughly multi-purpose pieces of terrain which will serve on the gaming table across many historical (and fantasy) eras. A great number of battles have been fought over river crossings and they feature heavily in the early medieval conflicts that have always fired my imagination, so making my own was always going to be on the cards.
RULE 1: MAKE IT IRREGULAR
Rivers are rarely perfectly straight; they are far more likely to meander through the landscape, finding their way between the hills and gullies of the countryside on their way to the sea. They are hard to replicate exactly in miniature form, but you can make a great start by varying all the pieces slightly.
I cut all the base pieces of my river from 3mm hardboard (I’d probably use MDF nowadays to reduce warping) using an electric jigsaw. Each piece has the same width river and bank at the ends, but the rest can vary and increases the illusion of reality. Irregular banks can also ‘mask’ where the piece joins the table, as shown in the photo of our recent Mortimer’s Cross game at Partizan.
The groundwork for the banks was largely done with thin slices of cork bark (cut around 5-10mm thick using a saw). These were stuck down with wood glue to create the basic watercourse, then the banks were filled in with a mixture of filler, brown paint, wood glue and sand, with a few extra rocks placed in the river (cork bark or chippings again).
Originally, each bank was dry brushed and flocked, but when I refurbished the river this year, I added fleece fabric to match my current terrain cloth (see my article Sherpa Fleece Terrain Mat for full details of this project) alongside some teddy bear fur and grass tufts by Gamers Grass. The cloth covering overlaps the wooden base by an inch or two and gives a less harsh edge when placed on the table.
RULE 2: MAKE ENOUGH PIECES
If you’re going to make your own river, it’s a right faff to have to try to add extra pieces later on and match the exact colour and shine each time. Yes, it’s a bit of an investment in time and materials, but if you make slightly more than you think you’ll need, you’ll probably have enough.
Pieces can be adapted later on (I had to slightly modify one of the sections to fit Chris B’s watermill for our Mortimer’s Cross game), but making more pieces is going to be a colour-matching pain. I think I have about 12′ of river – there’s a full inventory below.
I also built a waterfall and ravine section which are detailed below. They’re not necessary for a basic rivers set (and in any case, they don’t get used much) but they are lovely for photos and set dressing in larger games.
RULE 3: PAINT IT BROWN
I know this is a favourite wargamer argument and that everyone has their own opinions, but…I find that a pure blue river often wrecks the illusion of many a wargames layout, especially in a northern European setting.
I wanted to create the streams and rivers of the British ‘Dark Ages’, so it was going to be brown and peaty, all the way. Rivers in northern Europe sometimes appear blue on a sunny day but this tends to be due to the reflection of the sky rather than white sands and crystal clear water.
RULE 4: MAKE IT SHINY
So much of the illusion of depth in a river terrain piece is created by the reflection on the water’s surface. There are some amazing water modelling products out there at the moment, but they all add a fair deal of expense, complexity and often weight to what is going to be a much-used portable gaming piece. The shiny surface on my river is created entirely with yacht varnish bought in cheap 250ml pots from my local DIY store.
After painting the river bed with multiple layers of brown acrylics and a few streaks of colour, it then received two coats of yacht varnish painted over the surface. When these were dry, I stippled on some areas of white to create the impression of a current, with patches gathering around rocks.
SPECIAL SECTION #1: THE RAVINE
The ravine was one of the extra sections that I’d built to go at the end of the table to suggest a rocky area such as my beloved Peak District. The whole thing was based on a piece of 3mm hardboard, though if I was doing it again I’d probably use 3mm MDF or something even sturdier. It was essentially built from slices of cork bark, increasing in height, with the slopes filled in with expanded foam. The edges of the slopes had warped over the years, but as I was going to overlap these with sherpa fleece fabric as part of the refurbishment, this didn’t need to be fixed.
SPECIAL SECTION #2: THE WATERFALL
This was born of walking in the Lake District and watching the John Boorman movie Excalibur! Like the ravine, it’s constructed from cork bark and foam, with some texturing on the waterfall itself with hot glue and filler. This is one area where I suspect that using modern water modelling products could improve it, but it does the job.
Having thoroughly enjoyed last week’s Middle-earth game, it was perhaps inevitable that Pete and I would end up back there this week. I had an idea for a scenario based on the 1066 Battle of Stamford Bridge transposed into Tolkien’s world. This week, it was the turn of the Elves to get a run-out against Pete’s Orcs.
Stretching the War of the Ring a little to accommodate the two forces, we pitched Saruman’s troops in a putative invasion of Rivendell. Elrohir son of Elrond had been sent to hold the river crossing for as long as possible (taking the role of the Viking ‘berserker’ in 1066) while the other Elves mustered for battle. (The Elf miniatures used are mostly Oathmark/ Osprey plastics with various conversions – you can read more about them here.)
The result of the combat would determine who had the advantage in deployment for the battle, as well as bolstering the successful force’s Reputation. Rules were, once again, my own Midgard Heroic Battles.
The Orcs deployed along the river while Elrohir blocked the single bridge, but no other Elves were placed at this stage. Pete debated sending his Troll or some Orc archers to try to fell Elrohir, but decided to go for the heroic option: Ugluk the Uruk stepped up to the bridge.
Despite Elrohir’s higher status, Ugluk got the first blow in and wounded the Elf (shockingly bad dice rolling by yours truly!) Things stabilised in round two, with honours even, but the third round of single combat was one round too many! Both champions struck a wounding blow, which doomed Elrohir, dropping dying to the boards of the bridge.
This favourable result for the Orcs allowed all their units to cross the river, with one of the groups surging forwards. Elrohir’s sacrifice allowed two-thirds of the Elf army to muster opposite the forces of Isengard.
The Orcs surged forward and I decided to meet them with a counter attack on the left flank, where the Elf cavalry rode up to rain arrows on the Orcs. With the Elven force being much smaller, I decided to refuse the right flank while attempting to crush Saruman in the centre. This was going to take some time, with Pete running his usual triple line of Orcs with hordes out front and Uruk Hai and Trolls in the rear, but the Elves just didn’t have sufficient troops to fight the Orcs in a single front.
In the centre, I advanced my Elven spears up behind the archers, hoping that the first line of Orcs could be taken out by arrows. In Turn 2, my last group of Elves turned up – an archer and spearman unit under the command of Lindir, a minor Elf hero – who took up position on Gildor’s left.
This was the turn to get the charges in, and the first Orcs crashed home. Ellandan son of Elrond counter charged his heavy cavalry into the Orc hordes; mad with rage upon learning of the death of his brother, he challenged an Orc captain to single combat. Considering my dice rolling, this was possibly a bit impetuous, and so it proved to be: Ellandan became the second Elf hero to fall in the battle.
The Elven archery wreaked havoc on the Orcs in the centre, but it was the black arrows of Isengard that produced the defining moment of the battle… Gildor had gone forward to rally his struggling archers when his unit came under fire. With an unnerving number of hits from the Orcs, Gildor had to roll two ‘Risk to Heroes’ dice without scoring a double one: easy, right?
Well, y’know, on paper…
You’ve guessed it, a double one on the raven dice popped up! But not to worry…I could expend a Mighty Deed (the silver counters used for heroic feats) to reroll a single dice. What are the odds of getting three ones? (‘1 in 216’ says Scrivs).
And with that, Gildor Inglorian of Rivendell snuffed it. Fortunately I had an appropriate mini available! Despite the Reputation loss – a painful 7 tokens lost from the goblet – it felt very Tolkien, given the number of heroes who end up with Orcish arrows stuck in them – Isildur, Boromir and Faramir all leap to mind. Out of an original four Elven Heroes, only one was now remaining.
However, all was not lost and Turn 3 was when Elven quality began to tell. The battle started to turn against Saruman; the Elves fought back with charges and devastating shooting, annihilating the Orc front line. The Elven cavalry broke through on the left flank and began to roll up the line. Saruman used his influence to get as many Orc units into combat as possible, and used the spell ‘Battle Rage’ to urge them forwards.
Turn 4 saw the Orc horde on the right flank beginning to make ground – the Elves had to break the enemy before all their surviving units could be brought to bear. More Orc units broke under Elven pressure, reducing Saruman’s Reputation tokens to 3, but it was not quite to be.
A nail-biting final ten minutes was ushered in by Elf Hero Lindir leading a massed charge of archers and horse archers on Saruman and his Uruk bodyguard. Surrounded and with nowhere to retreat, the Orcs fell like corn but would not be broken; Saruman ended up having to roll four Risk to Heroes dice and rolled not a single raven! It wasn’t my night!
With another Elven archer unit having been broken by Isengard, their Reputation dropped to -1. This heralded the end of the game – another turn would almost certainly have seen Saruman’s Orcs in rout, but it never happened. The Elves were out of Reputation and out of time.
This was a brilliantly close game, even if the early demise of Gildor made it an uphill struggle for the Elves. We’ll have to play it again in another setting – maybe Vikings and Anglo-Saxons?
I’ve not gamed Middle-earth for a few months, so it was nice to be able to get a game in with Pete at the club last night. Pete has been reorganising his substantial collection of GW minis into armies for my Midgard Heroic Battles rules (which are due for publication by Reisswitz Press in the future – no date yet but watch this space for updates).
On a whim, I decided to bring my much-loved Dwarf army. Their Orc opponents were kitted out as an army of Isengard from the Third Age, so our clash would not be strictly canonical, but quite suitable for a game of toy soldiers with a nod to Tolkien.
The two armies clocked in around 400 points each in Midgard; this gave the Dwarves ten units of high quality troops plus 5 Heroes, whereas the Orcish horde had roughly double this, with many poor-quality warriors and archers backed up by Uruk-Hai, Warg riders, a couple of Trolls and Saruman himself (alongside a slew of disposable Orc captains). This was definitely a quality vs quantity game, although the higher quality Isengard units – Uruk-Hai and Trolls in particular – played a critical role in the battle that was to follow.
I was testing out a new scenario called ‘Encounter in the Mist’ that actually had its origins as a Wars of the Roses Battle of Barnet game that we played last year (you can read Tom WD’s account of it on his blog here). The key principle was the same: creating confusion! We deployed the armies in three ‘battles’, then diced for each one to see what had happened to it in the fog.
I was very fortunate in that only one of the Dwarven battles deviated slightly from my planned deployment, but the Orcish left and right battles got completely lost and veered off to the far right and left of the battlefield. Better still, both groups had units in the woods, which would create further command and control problems as the game started. The Dwarves were, so far, in the pound seats and looking forward to a fast advance to crush Saruman and the Orc centre before the wings recovered. Well, that was the plan!
Terrain-wise, we used a Cigar Box mat (mine is a long pile version that is sadly no longer available) with a variety of coniferous trees that I found on eBay and rebased serving as the mountain woods. The mist is just soft toy stuffing (bought in a bag from a craft store – NOT extracted from mercilessly-hunted teddy bears!) For a bit of extra set dressing, I used a scratchbuilt watch tower from my collection as well.
Pete’s Orc army is entirely GW, with a mix of metals and plastics dating back to the early 2000s. My Dwarf army is mostly composed of Vendel Miniatures (now available from Thistle & Rose in the USA) and UK-based Conqueror Models, all sculpted by the talented Colin Patten who is now working on Ragnarok Miniatures. There are a number of other minis in my Dwarf army, which you can read about here if you want to see more. Right, that’s the endorsements out of the way, now: to battle!
Part 1 of the plan went pretty well: the well-disciplined Dwarves moved up without too much trouble, whereas the Orc captains in the woods suffered merry hell trying to get their hordes moving! (It was quite fun watching Pete cursing away). Midgard uses a very simple command test, but it becomes more complex if you have reluctant troops, especially if they’re in rough terrain. Oh yes, and the mist made it harder to pass the command test too. Laugh? The Dwarves were certainly having a chuckle in their beards.
However, the mist worked against the Dwarves as well, reducing visibility to just a single Spear Throw (the unit of game measurement). This meant that the archers had to hang back, and let the Orcs get the first charge in. I can’t blame the mist for the terrible dice the Dwarves rolled in the first round of combat, but suddenly they found themselves being driven back by a horde of Orcs.
Fortunately, quality started to tell, and the Dwarves fought back, crushing the first rank of Orcs. However, cunning Saruman had created a second line of Trolls and Uruks, who then piled into the combat-weary long beards.
Weapons clashed up and down the line; Dwarf Lord Drifir took down a goblin captain with a single blow of his hammer; and the Orcs on the flanks started to draw in, finally responding to the whips of their masters.
Turn 4 saw the mist beginning to clear (on a random dice roll) and it looked like the Dwarves might prevail, but three of their Heroes were now wounded. Noin, mighty Dwarf champion, fell fighting a huge troll.
The other Troll was weakened by a curse from the Dwarven Elder before before decked by a combination of warriors and archers in an impressive pincer movement (the Troll then fell on top of the archers, who were fortunately saved from a certain crushing by a cry from Nundir, their lord).
However, it was too little, too late. With the mist clearing, the Orcs on the right flank had finally escaped from the woods and were bearing down on the Dwarf archers who had been sent to head them off, massacring them in a vicious round of combat.
Dwarf lords Nundir and Drifir, both wounded, were still locked in combat with Saruman’s Uruks in the centre, but had failed to land a blow on the white wizard.
The loss of another unit of warriors on the left reduced the Dwarves’ reputation too far, and they broke and fled, leaving a heavily mauled force of Orcs in command of the battlefield.
This was an exceptionally fun game which swung both ways before the Dwarves finally threw in the towel – it could have easily gone either way. We’ll definitely play the scenario again. Cheers Pete!
Having had the lurgy and not having much new to show, I thought I’d pull out a battle report from what feels like the dim and distant past, but turns out to be only 2013. In this period, I was exploring WW2 in the East Africa theatre – an amazing period of history that deserves way more attention than it gets. I got fixated on the 1941 Battle of Keren and the multiple actions that took place in this gruelling contest between the British Empire and Italian East Africa. This resulted in the rather impetuous decision to build part of a mountain and tour it round various shows in Scrivs’ Mini (you can see more our Keren adventures on Mogsymakes and on Scrivsland).
Anyway, at this stage, the mountain had not yet been built, but Scrivs and I were busy testing out scenarios for the campaign in our weekly gaming sessions. I’ve got a feeling that Andy Mac also played in this one due to the presence of RSM ‘Basher’ MacTaggart on the roster, but couldn’t swear to it!
We were playing Two Fat Lardies’ I Ain’t Been Shot Mum. Last time out we’d tried a Cameron Ridge scenario using both IABSM and then Bolt Action; this time we played out a game based on the battles for Brig’s Peak, the highest peak at Keren – so called because ‘that’s the one the Brigadier wants.’ Brig’s Peak was viciously fought over and changed hands a couple of times, but the British never managed to hold onto and it remained under Italian control until the surrender in March 1941.
IABSM is one my favourite Lardy games, and we’d stripped it down for this game so that 1 card = 1 section (not 1 card = 1 platoon as in the core rules). This gave us a smaller but very fast-moving game.
The British started with 4 infantry sections, a sniper and a 2” mortar on Brig’s Peak itself – their mission was to hold off the Italians until the end of the game. They were led by RSM ‘Basher’ Mactaggart (a Level 3 Big Man) and Lance-Corporal Jones, and also had a Forward Observer who could call up the fire of a pair of 3” mortars in support. All troops were rated as Elite, although each section had to take a dice roll before the game to see if it had already suffered any casualties; I got off very lightly, only taking a few points of Shock.
The Italians had 6 infantry sections, a Fiat-Revelli MMG, and additional support from a pair of mountain guns. They were led by 3 Big Men (levels 1, 2 and 3). All were rated as Veteran.
Playing IABSM in 28mm, we simply used 1 card for each section (so the Allied Platoon 1 card meant Allied Section 1 instead), and just doubled all the distances. We also decided to deploy all units on table at the start of the game, rather than using blinds – this gave us a slightly faster playing time (2 and half hours), which was what we needed on a weekday evening with work the next day!
We also added in some extra cards: Allied Ammo Shortage; Allies & Axis Rally; Allied & Axis Heroic Leaders (there were many brave feats during the battle on both sides); and two blank cards to represent the treacherous rocky slopes which characterised the Keren battlefield (if one of these was drawn, the next section/ Big Man would be unable to move that turn.) Terrain-wise, we used a sand cloth with some rocky terrain pieces on top (not quite a vertiginous as the real terrain, but fine for a wargame!) The small peak in the centre was Brig’s Peak itself.
The battle started with a hail of fire from the Italian mountain guns deployed on the Italian right – despite the cover of Brig’s Peak, the British units took a number of hits. Not for the first time, lucky dice rolling on my part meant that casualties were minimal, and my British sniper got the gunners’ heads down with a number of Shock points caused by his sharpshooting.
The firefight continued across the battlefield and, as the turns rolled on, the Italian numbers began to tell. My section deployed on the left was in good shape and was being well-supported by the 2” mortar team at the rear of the peak and the two Big Men; however, the Italian MMG chewed up the sections holding the front of Brig’s Peak, and the Italian Tenente ordered an advance on the Italian left and centre. RSM Mactaggart was about to rush back to rally his men, when he tripped over a rock and was forced to stay put! Fortunately, the British FO had managed to call up the 3” mortars and caught an Italian unit with the first salvo, causing no damage but pinning the section.
With a few lucky cards and two Big Men leading the attack, the Italians rapidly approached the peak and drove off the defending units, now down to their last few men and heavily shocked.
At this point the Italian Heroic Leader card came up, so we allowed the Tenente an extra turn to assault the peak – the three Italian sections heroically scaled the peak and drove off the defenders with grenades. At this point I certainly thought it was game over, but the next card happened to be Allied Heroic Leader!
This allowed RSM Mactaggart to lead his final remaining rifle section in a final, desperate charge to drive the Italians off the peak. With around 10 dice vs the Italians’ 14 or so, I thought it was unlikely to succeed, so I was amazed to roll 6 kills against 2. The Italians lost by 4, and fled down the slopes, closely followed by a hail of Mills bombs and falling rocks.
With that, it was all over. The British had a close victory, although were in no state to hold the peak and would have been forced to withdraw had we played a few more turns. Lots of fun and a great chance to use a mixture of Italians, Brits and Askari models.
Here’s a couple of snaps of where the project was a year later, in 2014 – by then I’d built the mountain, and this was the game we were taking round the shows:
Tom in our group has long had a fascination with the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and we’ve all dabbled in Wars of the Roses over the years (collecting the armies twice in my case!), but when Chris (Winston Ap Rees for you social media fans) joined our merry band, this was the catalyst for our latest Partizan game.
Mortimer’s Cross is an interesting battle for a number of reasons; like Stoke Field, it featured a contingent of Irish, the Tudors fought there, and it also saw the emergence of the military legend that would become Edward IV and his famous symbol ‘the Sunne in Splendour’ (later immortalised as the title of Sharon Penman’s excellent novelisation of the Wars of the Roses).
One of the most famous tales of the battle is that, as the sun was rising through the cold morning mist on February 2nd 1461 (or 3rd – the exact day of the battle is disputed), it created the atmospheric phenomenon known as a parhelion – the appearance of a triple sun. Although the Yorkists were frightened by this, Edward (Earl of March and Duke of York, soon to be King) is said to have interpreted the vision as a sign of God’s favour. We were able to replicate this in our game by giving Edward the ‘Omens’ trait that allowed him a (randomised) chance of raising (or lowering) morale before the game. Fortuitously, Fraser (playing Edward) rolled a 5, giving the Yorkists extra tokens in their goblet of reputation, and the rest, as they say, is history.
We considered the very enjoyable Never Mind The Billhooks for rules, but my own Midgard won out because it was specifically designed for fighting large battles. We stripped out the more heroic elements by banning single combats and cutting back on some of the more mystical traits, leaving the basic game engine that, I’m pleased to report, worked very well indeed.
By combining our various collections, we were able to put around 900 28 figures on the table. Units were composed of around 36-48 infantry or 16 cavalry, depending on the various basing systems in use. Midgard usually works with a standard unit frontage of 12 cm, but for this game we doubled that to 24 cm, giving us the appearance of a big battle but without too many units to keep track of. The army lists were sorted out by Chris, juggling our collections into a possible order of battle for the two forces. We followed tradition by appointing Jasper Tudor, Owen Tudor and Edward as the main commanders, but fitted in various other models from our collections as likely sub-commanders and leaders.
After a number of discussions about the different options (the alignment of the armies has two popular variants), we plumped for the traditional one with the north-south alignment shown above. During the show, I had fascinating conversations with a member of the Battlefields Society who favoured the other alignment (east-west) but who also confirmed the finding of three stone cannon balls on the suggested battle site. Whether these are related to the battle requires further investigation, but as we’d already deployed a few cannon, that was enough for us!
Minutes later, Barry Slemmings (author of Bills, Bows and Bloodshed and the Wikipedia page on the battle) arrived to congratulate us on choosing the correct alignment! We had a lively natter and he also lent me his splendid sallet for a quick comedy photo. Barry was followed up by a self-proclaimed descendant of Richard III, reminding me what a broad and fascinating church gaming is!
Anyway, after this flurry of debate, we got stuck in to the battle proper. I’m not going to give a full blow-by-blow account, but will rather dwell on some highlights as I work through the pics. Martin posted a rather nice video of the game (plus some general highlights of the show) so do have a look at that if you get time!
It was, as ever, a fun but exhausting day out. Fortunately, with a great team of chums on board, we shared the load and enjoyed the game. The spectacle of two substantial medieval armies meant that the game had plenty of visual punch despite the understated winter terrain, and it was nice to one of several WOTR games. It’s always a pleasure meeting up with old friends and making new ones, something that Partizan always does well. After helping to pack up 900 figures, I’m now considering a small skirmish for Partizan 2023! Or not.
It’s been a while since the last post due to a combination of doing too much and just too much going on, resulting in the thrill of finishing some figures at the eleventh hour just before an event! Not done that for a while, though I was having flashbacks to the time I tried to rebase my entire Pictish army just before Salute 2005 (pulled it off but best not repeated).
I’ve been meaning to play Andy Callan’s Never Mind The Billhooks ever since it came out, but failed to do so, spending most of my medieval gaming time as an opportunity to develop my Midgard rules instead.
However, the opportunity finally came along, with Pete Harris organising the Billhooks BASH 3 event at Boards and Swords hobbies just a few miles away from me. With noted scoundrels like Mike Peters, Steve Wood and Lord Callan himself attending, it would have been remiss for me to stay home.
This also gave me the push to get some more WOTR troops completed – for Partizan on October 9th this year, my group are planning a large refight of the 1461 Battle of Mortimer’s Cross., which featured a contingent of Irish. Some Perry Miniatures swiftly arrived in the post and were fettled into shape, lining up alongside some other Irish warriors who had snuck in from my Dark Ages armies.
Suffice to say that the army only just got finished in time, but at least the PVA was dry by Saturday morning. Fellow first-time Billhooker Jan’s force was likewise barely dry but it looked splendid!
Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool Yorkist ever since my first visit to Bosworth battlefield aged around 7 or 8, I’d been persuaded to join the Lancastrian faction. I must confess that I struggled to recognise the red rose on the cards when it was my turn in the game! My force looked something like this:
Sir William Vaux of Richard’s Castle
Sir Nicholas Latimer of Buckland Newton
John Fitzgibbon of County Kilkenny
1 Men At Arms @ 24
3 Bowmen @ 36
1 Billmen @ 12
1 Gallowglasses @ 18 (as MAA but armour save = 4, 5, 6)
2 Bonnachts (Levy Billmen) @ 18
2 Kerns @ 6
So, I rolled up to Boards and Swords, a very neat shop/ gaming centre on an industrial estate on the edge of Derby which is home to the local Billhookers (and many other gamers). Despite getting distracted by various bags of flock and the superbly indulgent Rolo cookies on sale, we managed to get the games under way at a decent hour.
My first scrap had been arranged against Veteran Pete Harris so that he could teach me the rules and a great game it was too (until the dice betrayed me and my force fled). I will confess that I had already read the rules a couple of times, and watched the videos by Wargames Illustrated, but there’s nothing like actually playing the game!
Just before the pizzas arrived for lunch, it was time for the painting competition and everyone lined up their forces. There were many that caught my eye:
Somehow, my force narrowly beat Mike Peters in the painting comp – to be honest, nothing really stands up against Mike’s work (we need to get Dave Andrews or Simon Chick to drop by sometime), so I was flattered to get the public vote. Anyway, cheers!
With that, it was on with the games, and I now got to play Lord Callan himself. Andy is always a pleasure to game with and we had a most enjoyable scrap which, somehow, I won (a ferocious Irish charge was involved).
Game 3 was against the gentlemanly Jan who had themed his force around local family the Howards and driven all the way from Surrey. I confess I took only one picture as we were so absorbed in the game, which started badly and then went properly bad for me. Great fun!
I thoroughly enjoyed my first games of Billhooks: it’s very much as it is sold – fast-playing, period-themed fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Top moments for me were the manouvre phase at the start of the game, where units advance until someone starts shooting (very evocative of a medieval battle), and the interplay between combined formations of archers and billmen. The cards are also highly entertaining. Every force I played against featured a unit of light horse that were able to scuttle round the back and harass my troops with relative impunity, so I reckon I’ll need to lay in some kind of counter-measure next time (caltrops, hidden ditch or sugar lumps). Overall, a great game played in excellent company. Thanks!
If you’re interested in Billhooks, I suggest that you seek out the very active group on Facebook.
Last few shots are of the Irish taken in an impromptu (and poorly lit) session when I got home!
In the dim and distant past, I had my first encounter with Viking minis courtesy of the Citadel Norse range. The Perry Twins sculpted a characterful bunch of Scandinavians that tied in with the early Norse lists which were circulating around Warhammer Fantasy Battles (1st and 2nd edition, I think) and fired up my imagination for some Viking gaming. Once Citadel had become part of GW and historical minis were dropped, these guys found their way over into the Foundry stable, where they are still available today.
The exact provenance of these minis in my collection is hazy, as I bought some when they were released, and then added to them with various Foundry and second hand purchases (while rebasing them, I found that some had slottas and others integral bases, so it was obviously a mixed bag). When Warhammer Ancient Battles was released in 1998, I bulked out the Viking force to make a full WAB army with Gripping Beast and Essex Miniatures. My painting at the time was pretty basic with a black undercoat, single layers on most areas, limited highlighting and some interesting colour choices – I’m not sure why I thought that purple Rus trousers worn with a green-trimmed tunic was a good idea, but there you go!
In between WAB games, they also saw action in various Viking skirmishes, but have been sat in a box not doing much for the last decade. However, playing an increased amount of Norse myth games (OGAM and Midgard) got me wondering if I should get them back on the table. I also toyed with the idea of starting again with Victrix plastics, but the nostalgia won out and I decided to start reconditioning these old campaigners.
First, I removed them from their old bases and patched up any chipped areas. Skin areas had a quick wash of brown and a highlight. I painted over the worst excesses of my youthful colour choices and repainted selected areas (especially shields) to try to get back to a more limited palette. The chieftain and his raven standard bearer were finally paired on a single heroic base, as should always have been the case! (Warhammer always required singly-based minis, but there’s nothing that beats a cool leader vignette in my book).
Having touched up the metalwork, I gave them all dark bases that I hope won’t look out of place in a rocky/ snowy Norse setting. They’re not my finest work, but I hope that they will measure up to my current output a little better than they used to. It’s been fun getting them back into action – just another 70 or so to go!
These fierce warriors won several battles against the reviled Belgian Force Publique in the 1800s and adopted firearms alongside their traditional throwing spears and fearsome throwing knives. If you want to know more of the background, I can highly recommend that you get hold of a copy of Chris Peers’ The African Wars. Foundry’s Azande page also has a potted history and painting guide.
I wanted to create more than just an army to get the flavour of the Azande; fortunately, the tribe was well-recorded in photographs and drawings in the late 1800s, including this fascinating image of an Azande village. This was my jumping-off point for creating some scenic pieces to fill out my own gaming set up.
The huts were so unique that I decided to scratch build my own. They started life as small cardboard tubes with broom bristles glued around the outside for texture. Some were on stilts, which I achieved by cutting up wooden skewers and drilling them through the hut and into the base.
The main part of each hut was the roof, for which I roughly carved a piece of blue foam. The thatch was then added in layers of Milliput, into which I pressed a rough pattern. The insane pointy tops were made from yet more Milliput formed over a cocktail stick pressed into the top of the roof.
Unfortunately these are the only WIP photos that I took at the time, but hopefully you get the idea!
Spray painting was the fastest way to finish these. I gave all the models an overall coat of brown (Army Painter Leather Brown) followed by masking up the hut walls and spraying the roofs with a yellow-brown (Army Painter Desert Yellow).
When all this was dry and the fumes had cleared, I painted the huts with various black/brown washes and dry-brushed highlights.
I painted around 80 figures for the army, so I experimented with time-saving techniques. The bulk of the warriors were sprayed with Army Painter Leather Brown and then subjected to a coat of black/brown oil paint which was wiped off to leave the basic skin colour. This was really effective (even if it took five days to dry!) A few of the personality figures were instead black-undercoated and the painted traditionally using the Foundry Dusky Flesh triad.
Clothing and detail was then picked out in acrylic paints, before I got over-involved in painting the shields, at which point I was glad I’d saved all that time with the oil paints! I’ve always loved painting shields and had a brilliant time picking out the patterns on these based on various surviving examples I’d seen in books and museums.
The centrepiece of the village is the ‘tree of skulls’, adorned with shields and grisly battle trophies. This was created from a single Woodland Scenics tree armature with skulls from the old Wargames Factory (now Warlord Games) plastic skeletons and some spare Foundry Azande shields.
Although DITDC uses 60mm ‘elements’, I wanted to be able to split up the figures for skirmish gaming as well, so I bought a load of 60mm movement trays from the ever-wonderful Warbases and added 5mm neodynium magnets. The figures were all based on UK 1p pieces – the most recent kind are magnetic and therefore perfect for this kind of thing.