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New blog: mogsymakes by James Morris

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!

A Fistful of Nordic Myth

Left: Red Book of the Elf King figures (Captain and converted Chaelech Most Cruel with standard) from Lucid Eye Publications; centre: Valkyrie by Bad Squiddo Games; right: Freya riding Hildeswini by Bad Squiddo Games. The background is a printable download from Jon Hodgson Maps on Patreon.

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 Elf Captain. Standing stones are a 3d print from Thingiverse.

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.

Freya on Hildeswini by Bad Squiddo: superb sculpting, animation and casting. 10/10!

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.

Saruman at Senlac Hill: another Middle-earth / 1066 mash-up

Following on from our last couple of Middle-earth games (the Battle of Barnet reimagined as The Battle in the Mist and Stamford Bridge in Middle-earth), some wag suggested we do Hastings 1066 with Elves and Warg riders. Well, why not?

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 Battles manuscript 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.

My Warg rider collection – a mongrel mix of plastic and metal from all different manufacturers.

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.

The thin blue-and-silver line: converted Oathmark Elves.

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!

Eek! That’s a lotta Orcs.

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.

Have it! Glorfindel’s Elves charge down the Orc archers who strayed too close to the line.

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.

A nice shot down the line showing the Elves curving round on the flanks.

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.

Warg attack!

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.

The Orc front line has crumbled but Wargs are massing on both flanks.

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.

Lindir arrives with the Wood Elves: right place, right time!

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.

The Elf line is reinforced.
Glorfindel and Lord Tannatar hold the left flank against all comers.
On the Elven right, the Orcs are breaking through.

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.

Despite mounting Elf casualties, the Orcs are beaten back again.
Uruks going down fighting as Glorfindel’s bodyguard gets stuck in.
The white wizard finds himself stranded amongst a sea of Elves.

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!

Victory! Isengard’s cup is drained of Reputation, but Rivendell’s is looking healthy. Bye bye Orcs.

Hold the Ford: The 4 Rules of Rivers

The finished waterfall piece with 18mm Saxons from Wiglaf Miniatures.

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!

Orcs on the bridge! This shot clearly shows the high shine from the yacht varnish (see Rule 4 below).

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.

The ravine – equally at home in the Peak District or Middle-earth (converted Elves from my Noldor collection).

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.

Mortimer’s Cross at The Other Partizan, October 2022. The irregular river banks help to blend it into the terrain cloth.

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).

Sherpa fleece fabric (top and bottom left) and teddy bear fur (bottom right) being used alongside flock and grass tufts to cover the river banks.

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.

WIP shot from the recent refurbishment: fleece fabric is being glued down with copious quantities of wood glue. You can see the river banks formed from thin slices of cork bark.

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.

Here’s the river in its original form with light green banks to fit on my old gaming boards during my Y Gododdin game for Wargames Illustrated #300 back in 2012. The table is 6′ wide across the bottom of the pic. Having made plenty of sections meant that I could easily cover the area shown.

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.

Chris’s watermill at Partizan – I had to adapt the bank slightly to fit the building but I didn’t have to make an all-new section.

A typical river ‘straight’ – this one is just over a foot long.
More ‘straights’
And a few more…
Bends, cut to a gentle 45 degrees, just right for the games table.
Fillers! Each of these is around 3-6″(7.5 – 15cm) long. I cannot emphasize how useful these are to just make sure the river fits the table.
Crossings: stone bridge (from Ian Weekley designs) and wooden bridge (from Village Green, I think). – these have their own built in river section to get the best join. Two fords, both done by adding extra rocks and plenty of white stippling.
Orcs scampering over the Ian Weekley bridge.
Confluence, just in case I ever play a game where two rivers join. I’m not sure I’ve ever used it, but when the game comes, I’ll be ready!

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.

Ravine in its raw state. I painted it dark brown and dry brushed the various rocky outcrops before adding grass.
Sherpa fleece going on in sections with wood glue.
…and pressed into place.
Some flock and tufts are also added.
Finished!

SPECIAL SECTION #2: THE WATERFALL

Questing knight from Crusader Miniatures rides past 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.

The original waterfall in its light green state.
Refurb under way – darker paint job and sherpa fleece and flock going on.
Finished – note the large flaps of fleece either side to cover the join with the main table.
Alternative Armies Fomorians run riot around the waterfall!

Stamford Bridge in Middle-earth? An Orc invasion of Rivendell

The battle in full swing: the terrain mat is a long-pile (sadly OOP) one from Cigar Box; the river was scratch built and recently reconditioned. Rocks are made from cork and pine bark.
Elrohir son of Elrond holds the bridge. Ugluk the Uruk steps up to acceot the hero’s challenge. (Orcs and Goblins from GW; Elrohir is an old Black Tree Boromir miniature)

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.)

None shall pass!

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. 

Orcs mass on the bank, waiting for the result of the single combat.

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. 

Ugluk is wounded but Elrohir is down! (The Elf casualty is a converted model from the Perry Crusaders range)

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. 

Deployment following the death of Elrohir: Orcs (left) cross the river; two Elf ‘battles’ arrive on the right.

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. 

Ellandan of Rivendell crashes home into the first wave of Orcs.

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. 

Ellandan falls to an Orc scimitar.

Horse archers rain shafts on the Orc flank.
Mid-battle, the Orc front line is faltering, but there are still many more!

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? 

Orc archers: little **%$ers!

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).  

Gildor Inglorian rolls the double raven! (Another Perry Crusades miniature)

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.

Elf Hero Lindir (dead centre) leads a final charge to attempt to break Saruman and his Uruks.

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! 

Die, Saruman, die!

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. 

Victory for Isengard! The Elf goblet of Reputation is on -1…

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? 

Battle in the Mist: Dwarves vs Orcs in Middle-earth

The battle gets underway: scratch built watch tower, Cigar Box mat, lots of conifers and even more fluff serving as mist.

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).

Orcs sight the Dwarves, weapons drawn!

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.

A lone Orc captain gets taken down in the mist: GW Moria Goblin against Vendel and Conqueror Models Dwarves

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.

Orc Warg riders burst out of the woods next to the watch tower (all GW minis)

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.

The table after deployment – you can see how the Orcish battles have become separated (left), but the Dwarven host (admittedly smaller) is all together on the right. The goblets keep track of the two forces’ Reputation – tokens are gained and lost in battle until one cup runs empty.

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.

Massed Moria Orcs: oldies but goodies
Dwarves fighting off the Uruk-Hai: mostly Conqueror and Vendel minis, but Dwarf Lord Drifir (right) is an old Mithril mini.

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.

The Dwarf plan starts well with a coordinated advance on Saruman’s centre (top). Orcs in the woods (bottom) are having a few command and control issues thanks to the mist.

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.

The Dwarf centre goes in, with Lords Nundir and Drifir smiting the enemy. However, note the Uruk Hai and Troll lurking behind the first wave 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.

Drifir slays an Orc captain in single combat, but suffers a wound in the process.

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.

‘I fought the Troll, and the Troll won’. (Noin bites off more than he can chew).

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).

A wounded Lord Nundir and his hearthguard finally bring one of the Trolls down.
Fierce combat between Dwarven scouts and Wargs; to my surprise. the Dwarves won!

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.

On the right flank, the Dwarf scouts are closed down and destroyed by the recovering Orcs.

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.

Saruman holds out, unscathed despite being with his Uruks!

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.

The end: Saruman’s goblet (right) has no Reputation left, but the Dwarves (left) are on -3!

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!

Battle’s end: although the Orcs have been mauled, both Dwarf Lords are wounded and their losses are too great.
/

Brig’s Peak: a WW2 game in East Africa

The Keren Battlefield (actual pic, not my terrain, I hasten to add!)

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).

Brig’s Peak (centre top) with Brits occupying, Italians about to assault.

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!

Brig’s Peak on the battle map (centre). The contours don’t do the Keren battlefield justice – have a look on Google Earth if you want to get an idea of the challenging terrain!

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.

Askari LMG and Italian MMG teams line up the Brits in their sights.

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.

Italian mountain guns, crewed by Askaris, coming under fire from the Brits.

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. 

British sniper – great at inflicting Shock in IABSM!

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! 

Italians scale Brig’s Peak!

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.

RSM MacTaggart drives off the Italians!

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:

Here’s Wargames Illustrated editor Dan for scale!
This was the end point of this project – part of the Battle of Keren played on a 24″ high ‘mountain’!

The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross at The Other Partizan 2022

‘Edward of York, he’s our man, if he can’t do it, no one can!’ Eddie gets the top Hero rating in Midgard, Level 4 Legendary Hero (shown by the 4 roses). Perry Minis by Chris.

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).

Battle Oak and the unfortunate herald killed beneath it – a folk tale unearthed by Tom WD and recreated in miniature by Chris.

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.

The mill on the Lugg – fine work by Chris.

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.

This is the wonderful map by Derek Stone from the Lance and Longbow society’s Battle of Towton booklet by Pat McGill. We followed this traditional deployment for the battle (apart from the flank attack shown on the high ground)

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!

The ever genial Dr Nick pays us a visit. Yorkists are on the left (north) just in front of the village of Mortimer’s Cross; Lancastrians are on the right (south) with the River Lugg at the back of the table.

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!

[Insert caption here]

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!

Lancastrians close in on the Yorkists (top)
Sir Roger Vaughan and Sir William Hastings (mounted) prepare to defend Mortimer’s Cross.
Sir Richard Croft of Croft’s Castle gets ready to smite the Lancastrians (Perry Minis by Tom WD, tent from Magister Militum painted by me for an El Cid game in the distant past)
A York! A York! Sir William Hastings commands the right.
Baron (A)Bergavenny commands the Yorkist left.
Lord Grey of Wilton supports Baron Bergavenny in the Yorkist ranks.
Sir Roger Vaughan, Yorkist sub commander
Defend the beer, men! Tom WD’s excellent hedges line the road in the background, providing a feeling of winter.
Lord Grey of Ruthyn
Our special tribute to the Earl of Wiltshire (who had a reputation for leaving the battlefield, er, prematurely). His standard bearer is reminding him of his duty!
Irish surge forwards – Perry, Crusader and Gripping Beast minis painted by Chris and myself. If you like the Irish, there’s a load more pics here.
Ride to glory! Owen Tudor and a fine cavalry unit painted by Martin.
Sir William Vaux commands the mercenaries for Lancaster.
The Lancastrian gonnes open up
Battle is joined! Owen Tudor rides ahead of his command on the Lancastrian right while the Yorkists stand firm.
John Fitzgibbon of County Kilkenny leads the Irish home into a fearsome charge against the Yorkist billmen.
With the routing of one Irish unit, Hastings is ready to turn his attention to the Earl of Wiltshire’s retinue.
Owen Tudor’s cavalry charge causes casualties, but the archers drop back behind the men at arms who drive back the horsemen.
Jasper Tudor brings up the Lancastrian centre
Baron Bergavenny’s men defeat Owen Tudor’s knights.
Owen Tudor is knocked off his horse and captured!
Peasants gather on the safe side of the Lugg. I made the river about 30 years ago, but it had a new coat of varnish and spruced-up banks for the show.
The luckless mercenaries get shot up by the Yorkist gonnes. (I know that the figures are Burgundians, but they’re too nice not to use) – lovely painting by Chris again.
The climactic combat under the Battle Oak! Edward is wounded by Jasper Tudor’s men, but the Lancastrian reputation is crushed by the defeat of Owen Tudor by the river and the force is defeated.

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.

Billhooks Bash 3 and Medieval Irish

Perry Miniatures’ Irish burst forth from the mist. Background by Jon Hodgson Maps

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).

Lancastrian Sir Nicholas Latimer of Buckland Newton (one of the minor commanders at Mortimer’s Cross) bags the poshest tent. Perry Miniatures plastics, with a banner by Freezywater Flags and tent from Magister Militum

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.

An in-game shot from Billhooks Bash 3 as Pete Harris’s scourers harrass my billmen

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.

Irish Kern – Perry Miniatures with a couple of Crusader models added

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.

The Perry Twins are probably the greatest mini sculptors in the world, but cleaning up the metal castings is always a chore 😦
Halfords White Primer plus some acrylic black on the armour and metalwork

Wheeling out the inspiration: McBride! Metalwork is moving along with some silver drybrushing, plus skin base layer using GW Contrast Guilliaman Flesh
Various shades of yellow (ish) enacted with GW Contrast Paints: L-R Nazdreg Yellow, thinned Nazdreg Yellow, Aggaros Dunes, Skeleton Horde

The fun bit, painting the decorative panels! By this point, the clothes have also had a single acrylic highlight

Basing under way
Huzzah! The glue on those bases has about ten hours to dry!

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:

LEADERS

Sir William Vaux of Richard’s Castle

Sir Nicholas Latimer of Buckland Newton

John Fitzgibbon of County Kilkenny

Sir William Vaux of Richard’s Castle – Old Glory figures with a Freezywater banner

ENGLISH

1 Men At Arms @ 24

3 Bowmen @ 36

1 Billmen @ 12

John Fitzgibbon of County Kilkenny and some of his followers

IRISH

1 Gallowglasses @ 18 (as MAA but armour save = 4, 5, 6)

2 Bonnachts (Levy Billmen) @ 18

2 Kerns @ 6

Game 1: Pete Harris runs me through the basics of the game

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.

Game 1: Sir Nicholas Latimer gets stuck in (and fails a record number of saving throws)

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:

Steve Wood’s rather excellent force and bloody ditch, as seen in the pages of WI
Mark Taylor’s neat Lancastrians – fab paint job
Dave Gretton’s striking blue-and-yellow themed army
Mike Peters’ superb army with crazy handpainted flags and soil scraped from the field of Tewksbury (or possibly Mike’s back garden)

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!

Winning – on colour, if not tactical ability or dice rolling! My finished army lined up at Boards and Swords

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 two vs Lord Callan and the yeomen of Bingham. Send in the coo!
Game 2: Lord Callan sends in his prickers who are seen off by a very annoyed Sir Nicholas Latimer
Irish bonnachts get stuck in with their axes, led by the heroic John Fitzgibbon

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!

Game 3: another light cavalry charge in the flank!

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!

Billhooks Deluxe: we saw the banner and talked to the author, Manuscript looks awesome (I was very pleased to see a whole section on Ireland) and the modelling/painting section by Captain Blood is mint, but it’s not out yet. Keep an eye on Wargames Illustrated for updates.

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!

Old Norse

Foundry Norse warband, one careful owner, full service history! Background from Jon Hodgson Maps.

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.

Ulfhednar. L-R Gripping Beast, Essex, Foundry, GB. The GB models are certainly showing their age, being some of Colin Patten’s earliest sculpts.

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!

Foundry Vikings. Old school Perry work: big heads and weapons.

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!

Azande! 19th Century African Warriors

Inspired by the writings of Chris Peers and his rather wonderful Death in the Dark Continent rules, I spent some months back in 2013 putting together an Azande force. These lovely 28mm models are all by Mark Copplestone, sculpted between his time at Foundry and Copplestone Miniatures.

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.

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

Unfortunately these are the only WIP photos that I took at the time, but hopefully you get the idea!

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

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).


VLUU L200 / Samsung L200
VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

When all this was dry and the fumes had cleared, I painted the huts with various black/brown washes and dry-brushed highlights.

This hut got some painted decoration around the door as well.
Hut with shield!

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.

Musketmen with skin tones using an oil paint wipe-off technique

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.

Shields, I love ’em
Musket-armed king and bodyguards (the skin on these is Foundry Dusky Flesh triad)
Grim but necessary – Disorder markers for playing DITDC. There’s no specific Azande casualties in the Foundry range so I just added Azande shields.

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.

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

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.