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!
Although I’m mostly a dyed-in-the-wool 28mm gamer, I have odd lapses. When Dan Mersey announced that he was going to launch a small 15/18mm 7th century Dark Ages range, I thought ‘maybe I’ll get a few.’ Then it turned out that Mark Copplestone was sculpting…then I started getting back into the Dark Ages…then…yeah. Another odd lapse.
I’d already cracked and bought a few packs of Forged in Battle Welsh by way of experiment, which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, and was waiting for some further news on the Wiglaf Miniatures range. One day last week, I managed to leave my sandwiches at home and had to pop back from work at lunchtime. This hungry cloud had a silver lining, as I found a small but weighty jiffy bag waiting for me with some familiar handwriting. I was absolutely delighted to find I had been sent a pre-production sample of some Wiglafs by none other than Mr Mersey himself!
As you’d expect from Mark Copplestone, they are superb little sculpts (comparable, I’m told, with his fantasy Barbarica range). Indeed, they could easily be 28mm, they have so much detail. The mail, pouches, faces, seaxes, clothing and hairstyles are terrific, but my favourite part has to be the helmets for the noble warriors: Benty Grange, Coppergate and Shorwell-type helms all feature.
Named leaders are also included, wearing noted archaological finds – Raedwald of East Anglia (depicted wearing the Sutton Hoo helm) and Penda of Mercia (with the more contentious ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ reconstruction of fragments – see here for a discussion on this if you’re interested.) Whether or not his helmet is historically iffy, Penda is a splendid figure and was fun to paint (and the helmet crest could easily be removed if you didn’t want it.)
Something I’m not used to with 15/18mm figures is having to add spears; it added an extra layer of prep before painting, but really wasn’t too difficult. Swords and shields were already cast-on and the clean-up of the rest of the figures was quick and straightforward. Spears are not supplied with the figures but this was no problem as I have a large stash of North Star wire javelins. Cut down, they did the job nicely with a drop of super glue to hold them in place. Hands are cast open and took the spears without too much trouble. The standard bearer got a simple banner pole made from a spear and an offcut of wire.
I understand that cast-on spears were also considered, but that would undoubtedly have compromised on the dynamism of these models. When you see them lined up in a ‘shield wall’ – or whatever the 7th century equivalent really was – you can see how good they look.
Painting involved a white undercoat (Halfords White Primer in the UK) with similar stages to painting the Forged in Battle Welsh from a few weeks ago. Basecoats were applied with mostly GW Contrast paints and selected highlights and details. To be honest, I spent slightly longer on them than I was planning to due to the exceptional detail. I expect that future models will get done more quickly.
With the figures done, I was waiting for inspiration to strike on the banner. I was considering a raven in the style of early Saxon metalwork, but then realised that the Wiglaf Minis logo (itself a period design) would fit well on the banner pole! I quickly reduced it to an appropriate size on the printer, cut it out and added some colour before using PVA to fix it to the pole. Job done!
After painting and varnishing, Penda and his standard bearer were based up on a 2p coin with the rest of the unit on a 80x40mm 2mm MDF base from Warbases. Like the Welsh lord, I’ve arranged the unit so that Penda can join them or move separately as he likes (his base magnetises onto the unit base).
In short, these little chaps are bloody amazing. At the time of writing, they are not yet available, but keep watching the Wiglaf Miniatures website for updates. I for one cannot wait to get a full army done.
After several cancelled games over the holiday period, Matt and I were finally able to get together on Dec 31st for a final game of 2021. I’ve been getting back into the 7th Century recently and developing my Midgard heroic battle rules, so the Battle of Degsastan was an easy choice.
Degsastan was, by the standards of British battles of the time, a pretty large affair. Many of the battles of this period probably involved no more than a few hundred warriors, but Degsastan seems to have been into the thousands. The conflict came about because of the growing power of Aethelfrith, King of Northumbria in the north of Britain; nicknamed the ‘Twister’ by the Britons (presumably because of his cunning rather that his wrestling moves), Bede tells us that he ‘ravaged the Britons with more cruelty than all other English leaders.’ Aedan mac Gabhrain, King of Dal Riada, raised a coalition of Dal Riadans, Ulster Irish and Britons to put the tyrant back in check.
The battle was fought at Degsastan, ‘Degsa’s Stone’, an unknown location in Northern Britain in 603 (or possibly 604). Peter Marren’s book Battles of the Dark Ages presents the evidence for the most likely site being Dawston Rigg at Liddersdale in the Scottish Borders (there are other options but for simplicity I just followed his lead.) Guy Halsall’s article for Miniature Wargames magazine in the 1980s included a suggested map of deployment (reproduced in Peter Marren’s book), with the two opposing forces facing off across Dawston Burn, so I took this as my blueprint for the game. Historically, the battle was a mighty victory for Aethelfrith of Bernicia and paved the way for the Saxon domination of the north of England.
Terrain was simple – some sloping hills on either side, a stream running down the middle, and Degsa’s Stone itself placed near the action.
The opposing forces were as follows:
Aedan mac Gabrain, King of Dal Riada
Mael Umai, Ulster Warlord
Domingart, son of Aedan
2 units of household warriors (Aedan and Mael Umai’s bodyguards)
18 units of warriors (without armour – shields, javelins, spears and swords)
6 units of skirmishers
Aethelfrith, King of Bernicia
Theobald, brother of Aethelfrith
Hering. son of Hussa [from the sources, we know that Hering was present at the battle but it’s not clear which side he fought on. It is quite possible that he was leading an exiled group of Bernicians as part of the Dal Riadan army. I have placed him in Aethelfrith’s force.]
3 units of household warriors (bodyguards for the three leaders)
11 units of warriors (better armoured than their opponents, armed with spears, javelins and swords)
3 units of skirmishers
Having deployed the forces, I took command of the Bernicians; my friend Matt took the reigns of the Dal Riadans and their allies. I attempted a solid Saxon advance which rapidly fell apart as my command rolls were dreadful! Aethelfrith and Theobald’s men were obviously intimidated by the size of the Celtic host. As a result, I ended up with a piecemeal advance, which was to cost me dearly later.
The Dal Riadans played a waiting game, standing on their hill above the burn. The skirmishers were sent forwards along with Domingart, Aedan’s Son, who was desperate to show his prowess and strike the first blows of the battle (we were trying out a new rule which gives a Reputation bonus to the hero who leads the first charge, and Matt was determined to get it.)
After a couple of turns trying to whip the troops into order, Hering son of Hussa managed to get the Bernicia right wing to charge into combat against the Pictish and British skirmishers at the burn. Domingart got his wish and led the first charge although his unit was driven off and he rejoined his main force.
The more numerous Dal Riadan skirmishers caused problems to the Saxons up and down the line, in one case dropping arrows right in front of Aethelfrith’s own hearthguard.
Hering’s Saxons on the right wing were heavily engaged in combat with Domingart’s men across the burn. The British and Picts fought bravely, punching above their weight, but were steadily driven back by the better-equipped and armoured Bernicians. Hering, finding himself almost face-to-face with Domingart, issued a challenge to single combat and duly dispatched his opposite number.
However, in the centre, Aethelfrith’s men were making limited progress, suffering casualties from the hail of missiles coming from the Dal Riadans. Driving off the archers, the Bernician king surged forward and was met by Aedan’s forces coming off the hill, resulting in vicious fighting along the whole length of the burn as Theobald’s forces also arrived on the left flank.
The Saxons were beginning to make their quality tell as Dal Riadan casualties mounted, but the early casualties and disorder started to play against them. Aethelfrith’s command was now outnumbered and taking casualties. In an effort to help them, the victorious Hering son of Hussa (on the right) began to swing his units around to assist his king – but was charged in the rear by an unbroken British unit. Hering, although wounded, managed to drive off the attackers with a hail of javelins, but the momentum was broken and casualties were mounting.
Fighting his way through the press of bodies in the centre, Aedan decided that he would have his slice of the glory and attacked the wounded King Aethelfrith. Calling upon Christ (and quite probably the Morrigan as well), Aedan cut down ‘the Twister’ and his gesiths perished around his body. This was the end for the Saxons – with the king and his brother dead, they started to flee the field. Hering son of Hussa was last seen, wounded, fighting a desperate last stand under his raven banner.
With the final turn of the game in sight and Bernician reputation teetering on defeat, Theobald, brother of Aethelfrith, charged in on the left wing and issued a challenge to Mael Umai of Ulster. Although they should have been evenly matched, the Ulsterman made short work of the Bernician in the style of Cuchulain himself!
And so we had a complete reversal of the historical outcome! The game was great fun and Matt played with true Celtic spirit. The outcome most certainly could have been different but the piecemeal advance of the Saxons and some poor luck was most certainly a game-changer. I love this period and will be playing more very soon!
‘Tonight, the ravens croak over the head of Aethelfrith the Twister.’
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been tinkering with something that I can best describe as a ‘side project’. I have a long-standing love of the Early Medieval era, AKA ‘the Dark Ages’, and especially the 7th century in Britain. This period saw a host of colourful leaders emerge from the melting pot of Saxon, British, Irish and Pictish cultures to create the beginnings of medieval Britain. Thanks to the venerable Bede and other chroniclers, we have the skeleton of a timeline and a description of events, which have received attention from a host of talented historians to help to bring this period to life.
In deference to the great Father Ted, I’ve entitled this piece Small, Far Away. If you are reading outside the British Isles, or have yet to encounter this, I can only recommend that you watch this clip. )
Anyway, I hear you cry, let’s see some toy soldiers! Despite having collected armies for this period in 28mm, the impending release of Wiglaf Miniatures’ new Saxon range somehow got me started thinking about 15mm. I enjoyed reading Dan Mersey’s newly-released Age of Penda rules and was also thinking about creating a few units for my own Midgard rules in smaller scales. One thing led to another and, while waiting for the Wiglaf Miniatures to be released, I had a look at the Forged in Battle website and impulse-bought a couple of packs. I have a number of Andy Cooper’s characterful sculpts in 28mm in my Celtic myth, Arthurian and Wars of the Roses collections and was interested to see what he could do in this smaller scale.
A very quick turn-around saw a small jiffy bag of minis drop through my post box just a few days later. The figures (from packs 3 and 5, Welsh Teulu infantry & Welsh Skirmishers) are a pleasing 18mm tall and only required minimal clean up before undercoating. True to form with Andy’s previous work, they are highly detailed with a lot of character – the folded cloaks and moustaches are very nicely done. All the Welsh nobles are mailed, although I would have liked to have seen a few with helmets (but to be fair, we have no surviving ‘British’ helmets from this period – there’s nothing stopping me mixing in some helmeted Saxons in the future). The figures have a distinct Celtic feel to them and would probably serve perfectly well as the Scots-Irish of Dal Riada as well.
In the dim and distant past, I collected large armies of 15mm figures, and spent much too long trying to paint them with multiple washes and highlights. One of the drivers for buying these little fellas was that I was curious to see how GW’s Contrast paints would speed up the process.
After a simple spray undercoat of Halfords White Primer, I set to with the Contrasts. Following a couple of experimental models, I gave the whole batch a thinned-down coat of Wyldwood with a large brush, all over. This picked out the detail and provided the base coat for any white areas such as undyed woollen tunics. Contrasts do take a little bit of time to dry and it is important not to get impatient so that wet areas don’t bleed into each other, so I went off and tidied the loft for a bit.
Returning to the painting table, it was time for the skin tones. Guilliman Flesh is an absolute godsend for these chaps, quickly picking out the facial and hand detail in seconds as long as it is applied fairly liberally. Following this, I used a mixture of greens and browns for the clothing, leaving some white. GW Camo Green, Dark Angels Green and a drop of Warp Lightning all featured here, along with Wyldwood and Snakebite Leather.
Spears were done with a base coat of Snakebite Leather and shield backs with Gore Grunta Fur. The final basecoat stage was to touch in belts, pouches, shoes and hair with either Cygor Brown or Wyldwood. The Cygor Brown is so dark that it can serve as a base for metal work, so I also outlined the spear heads and shield bosses while I was about it.
This would have been quite adequate for a tabletop paint job, but, like many others, I have found that Contrasts are improved immeasurably by the addition of a quick highlight or dry brush. The clothing areas received a very light dry brush of Vallejo Iraqi Sand and I added a top layer of Foundry Buff Leather 7b to make the spear shafts stand out. I also used a thin line of yellow-brown to create a few suggestions of stripes on some of the cloaks for that Celtic vibe.
I’ve always felt that the bulk of Welsh shields for this period should be white (following the descriptions of ‘icy-hued’ shields in the British epic poem Y Gododdin) so I gave most of them a base coat of Foundry Canvas 6a followed by a streaky highlight of Vallejo Off-White. Some were simply brown (GW Contrast Gore-Grunta Fur with a drybrush of Vallejo Iraqi Sand), but I chose to identify the nobles with a few red shields (Miniature Paints Chestnut Brown followed by a highlight of Army Painter Pure Red). I didn’t bother with the rather fanciful spirals that I’d adorned my 28mm figures with, but I did add some rivets for interest, mostly just by neatly dotting spots of black paint in appropriate positions.
All the metal work (mail, weapons and shield bosses) was given a coat of Army Painter Gunmetal, then, when dry, the whole batch of minis was sprayed down with a can of matt varnish from my stash of Testors Dullcote. I’ve always hated the way that matt varnish kills the shine on metallics, so I tend to add a top coat of metal when the varnish is dry – in this case, a quick dab of AP Shining Silver on the edges of mail, shield bosses and spear blades.
Basing was part of the fun for this mini-project: while 40mm elements are standard for 15mm models, I fancied creating a bit more of a ‘unit’ feel and decided to go for a larger unit on a 80 x 40mm 2mm thick MDF base. Warbases delivered me some of these in their usual record time along with some frames for micro-dice which I intended to use for damage purposes (the Age of Penda rules record a ‘battle rating’ of 6 or less, my own Midgard rules need to record up to four points of ‘stamina’).
I had initially planned to use magnetic tape to magnetise the units for storage and transport, but with these small figures, I was reluctant to add the height to the base, so I drilled a 2mm hole in all four corners of the base and glued in a tiny 2 x 1.5mm rare earth magnet. I also had a plan to create a removable base for the leader model (just for flexibility) – therefore the warriors’ base also received two further magnets positioned at the top that would stick to a 20mm disc (in this case, a 1p coin). The dice tray was bevelled off with a scalpel before gluing to the base, then the whole thing had a coat of Halfords Camo Brown.
The figures had their bases painted a very dark brown to match the MDF before I fiddled around with possible arrangements of minis, creating a random scattering of skirmishers (6 models) and then a wall of Welsh teulu huddled around their leader (13 models). The Welsh hero went on a rock to look heroic, with his standard bearer squeezed on at his feet. I expect that lesser warrior units would look fine with 10-12 models per base, but I wanted to play with the visual impact of this one.
The unit base then had a thin layer of my regular basing mix – a decent dose of Burnt Umber and Black craft acrylics with a little filler and chinchilla sand added. When dry, I gave this a dry brush of AP Leather Brown and then Vallejo Iraqui Sand. The real fun was adding small amounts pf scatter, flock and tufts to build up an impression of moorland (I left off my favourite 12mm tufts this time to avoid the appearance of marching through elephant grass!)
Well, there you go. Two little units. Just a dabble or the first of many? Who knows.
Robbed by Covid of two games that I had fixed up this week with friends, I got my Saxon and Welsh armies out of the loft and set-to with a solo game. Once again, I’m still play testing my own Midgard rules. The game revolves around Reputation, represented by a pair of goblets full of tokens (one for each side). As heroic deeds are performed, Reputation is gained, but it can be lost by cowardly deeds and running from the battlefield. This time out, I was experimenting with a few extra ways to gain Reputation, with a special bonus for a hero leading the first charge of the battle. This would prove decisive in the game!
Having organised my venerable but beloved Saxon and Welsh armies onto suitable unit bases, I drew up a couple of forces for my favourite period, the 7th Century. (Midgard works on a standard 120mm frontage, although as long as both armies have roughly the same unit frontages, it doesn’t matter. Base depth is not relevant to the game.) The scenario was a raid into Mercia by Cadwaladr of Gwynedd with an attempted repulse by one of Penda’s thegns, Aethelwine, and his sidekicks, Osfrith and Ceonwulf.
The forces looked as follows:
3 x Heroes (Cadwaldr, Brochmael and Belyn of Lleyn)
2 x Teulu (Comitatus)
7 x Spearmen (lightly armoured but swift)
3 x Skirmishers with javelins and bows
3 x Heroes (Aelfwine, Ceonwulf and Osfrith)
2 x Gedriht (Comitatus)
8 x Spearmen
2 x Skirmishers with slings and bows
Having lined up both sides in a plausible battle formation (two units deep where possible as supporting units are critical in Midgard), the scenario started with a challenge to single combat. (You can turn these down in Midgard, but you lose Reputation – something neither of our warlords were ready to do, I decided.) Osfrith of Mercia and Belyn of Lleyn took up their mightiest spears and went at it hammer and tongs, blades clashing and splinters flying (well, they threw everything at it but their dice rolling was appalling! That’ll teach me to play solo.) Both heroes gained Reputation for their struggle as the armies watched eagerly.
The single combat ended with both heroes wounding each other on the third round. By this point, the commanders had had enough and Aethelwine ordered the impatient Saxons forward. Osfrith and Belyn were swept up in to their units and the battle was on!
The Saxons’ impetuousity was a disadvantage though, as poor Command tests held back the far left and right flanks. When Brochmael decided to push forward his Welsh warriors to force the issue, the Saxon left flank under Ceonwulf found itself stranded and unable to support Aethelwine in this centre. Although Brochmael himself would fall under Ceonwulf’s blade, the lack of support for the Saxon commander would later prove decisive.
In true heroic fashion, warlords Aethelwine and Cadwaldr clashed in the centre. This single combat turned out to be a lot more decisive than the one that opened the battle: Aethelwine just got the better of it, striking down the Welsh warlord on the third round. However, in a gripping turn of events, Cadwaldr got in a dying blow that mortally wounded the Saxon thegn. Both warlords dead on Turn Two!
On the left flank, Ceonwulf’s luck had just run out. Despite putting up a good fight with his warriors, the wounded Saxon thegn took a stray blow in the scrum of shields as he rolled a 1. Fortunately he had saved a Might Point to reroll it, although he lost Reputation to do so (it’s bad for the warriors’ morale to show weakness) and promptly rolled another 1…exit Ceonwulf stage left. By this point, there were only two heroes (out of the original six) remaining – quite the bloodbath.
Osfrith and Belyn now found themselves facing each other once again on the Saxon right. Belyn’s men rolled some incredible dice and held off the Saxons, killing Osfrith in the process. By now, Saxon Reputation was teetering, with the loss of all three leaders.
Although Saxon units had broken through on both flanks, the advance was piecemeal. Finally, Ceonwulf’s Gedriht were destroyed – despite their resilience, they ended up fighting virtually alone against the Welsh centre. Strength in numbers, lads.
This was the end for the Saxons – despite taking a heavy toll on the Welsh leaders, their goblet of Reputation was empty and they fled back to Mercia. Clearly Penda will need to get involved!
Well, no, not until Wargames Atlantic released their recent Goblins boxed set. I’ve had a great time kitbashing my own vision of a Tolkien Orc force over the last few years, combining the GW LotR Orcs with plenty of Oathmark goblins, Warlord Games Orcs and as many different historical plastic sprues as I can get my hands on.
However, the WA Goblins are a wonderful addition to the genre. Slightly smaller than their Oathmark counterparts, they fit nicely into the ‘classic fantasy’ mould and offer some great options. First up, the sheer range of different heads is an absolute gift for modellers like me.
There’s some really sharp detail here – including (pun intended) some great sets of teeth. Quite a few of the helmets are based on the artwork of the late, great Angus McBride for the Middle Earth Roleplaying game (MERP), giving them even more old school kudos.
There are a number of weapons provided but, for me, the stand out equipment items are the characterful bows and quivers. All the arms are bare, meaning that you don’t have to worry about matching up pairs with different sleeves. This makes them highly versatile and gives even more options than usual.
The arms have a curious pseudo ball-and-socket type joint which, for me, doesn’t quite work and can create some slightly unusual poses. Fortunately, it’s very easy to trim the ball joint on the arm to the position of your choice and I was far more happy with the poses once I had sorted this.
Although I’m not going to use them as cavalry, it’s worth mentioning that the WA kit has some of the legs posed so as to be able to sit astride a mount. A saddle is provided to fit WA’s own giant spiders. This was a rather neat touch. If using the bandy legs as infantry, you just need to make them a base from a scrap of plasticard. As the riding poses are split at the waist, this also gives you more variety if combining them with the Oathmark goblin wolf riders.
Having put together a few Orcs using the basic WA components, I tried them out mixed with other kits. The Oathmark goblin bodies are marginally bigger but work really nicely with the head and arm variants.
One of my earliest exposures to Tolkien’s work was the 1978 animated Lord of the Rings film. The massed Orcs at Helm’s Deep were depicted by live actors wearing robe-like costumes and filmed using Rotoscope. I liked the tribal image and decided to have a go at making something similar. Fortunately, a sprue of Gripping Beast Arab infantry was sat on my painting table, having been rejected for an El Cid update.
I followed my usual principle of choose a pair of weapon arms, trim them to get the right pose and then fill any gaps with some scraggly clothing created from green stuff. I’m always amazed how well all this stuff blends together with a consistent paint job, although of course it’s always a bit easier doing creatures who may be slightly disproportionate. You have to be a bit more picky with Elves and Men!
I also pulled out a Gripping Beast Saxon thegn to add to the archer unit. I’ve found the GB models convert nicely to Orcs – perhaps because of their slightly stooped posing. Being garbed in standard Dark Age kit makes them ideal for this kind of thing.
I had a few Mantic Ghoul bodies in my bits box which I discovered made a rather atmospheric hunched archer, reminding me very much of the old Asgard Miniatures range from days gone by.
Having got them stuck together (12 warriors and 8 archers for starters), I gave the models a spray undercoat using Halfords Black Primer. I long ago gave up on trying to win painting competitions and now focus on getting an army done quickly with an effective mix of painting techniques and decent basing. For the Orcs in particular, I wanted the mass effect of a horde. The late, great Chris Achilleos’s cover painting for MERP, John Howe’s painting and Ralph Bakshi’s film were all strong influences here, giving me a very monochromatic theme with teeth bared and weapons glinting.
To get this limited palette (and to get the little chaps painted quickly), I gave the black models an all-over dry brush of AP Leather Brown with a large, flat brush.
This was followed up with a more targeted dry brush of AP Gunmetal on helmets, armour and weapons, which then received a painted highlight of a streak of AP Shining Silver on any raised edges. I was initially worried that this would look too bright, but a thin line really emphasizes the weaponry and helmets of the Orcs.
With this done, I then started on the skin tones. My basic principle on these is to use a base layer and a highlight in a variety of dull tones. There’s several Foundry triads that I use, although I generally just use two of the three colours (often A and C to get maximum contrast). Dark African Flesh (better on Orcs than Africans, I feel), British Denison Brown and Dusky Flesh all feature here, but I’ve used all kinds of khaki and dull browns in the past.
As previously mentioned, I wanted teeth and tusks to be a salient feature. Although I hadn’t gone into any great detail on the faces, I re-undercoated the teeth in black and gave them a single dab of white. This really makes them stand out (and hides the speed of the bulk of the paintwork!)
Weapons and shields were also repainted in black before receiving a single highlight of Foundry Charcoal Black. This was a stylistic choice that I’d made when starting on the army. Although I could have left them in their original black with a brown dry brush, painting them this way creates a clear distinction for the woodwork. Shields are further detailed with some black dots which then have a dot of silver in the centre to represent studs (this is an old trick I picked up many years ago from Colin and Duncan Patten on the earliest Gripping Beast Saxons – it’s a great way to add interest to flat shields).
The clothing is patched together using additional layers of whatever muted colours I can get my hands on – any old browns or greys can get used here, often dry brushed on. The Orcs finish off with a light dry brush of my favourite paint – Vallejo Iraqi Sand – to lift and define surfaces and edges of clothing and shields.
I reckon each Orc takes around 10-15 minutes when painted in this way. It’s been an interesting experiment to drop my standards to create a much better mass effect than I used to do and it means that I can knock out units at appreciable speed.
It’s great to be spoiled for choice for plastic kits and even more fun to be able to mix and match. And there’s more on the horizon…Oathmark Orcs are coming up soon!
The Fir Bolg – ‘People of the Bag’ – appear in Irish mythology as the indigenous people of Eriu, who are displaced by the Tuatha de Danaan. For the classic Alternative Armies Celtic Myth range from the 1990s, sculptor Andy Cooper gave them a look that mixes elements of Neanderthal, Celt and Aztec (plus a bit of Lemmy from Motorhead).
Clubs, stone weapons and spears are the weapons of choice along with wicker shields, portraying a culture with little metal-working, which fits nicely with the concept of a Stone or Bronze Age society being supplanted by invaders wielding iron weapons. (I think an alternative portrayal could make use of the Foundry Bronze Age Europeans, but that’s a project for another day).
I wasn’t quite sure about them when they first came out but ended up acquiring a small warband second-hand over the years. They have a certain charm and I enjoyed painting up a small force for Of Gods and Mortals and Celtic gaming in general. The initial selection of models wasn’t huge – Andy only sculpted a few packs for AA – so I did some conversions for heroes and the druid, Cesar. For Cesar’s body I used another Andy Cooper sculpt (this time from his own company, Westwind). It’s a Arthurian wizard type with a head swap from another Fir Bolg.
I also added Tailtiu – an ancient fertility goddess – inspired by the entry in the Celtic supplement for OGAM by Graeme Davis. . This involved repainting a very old fantasy figure and surrounding her with corn stooks (resin from the bits box, possibly by Hovels) and new-fangled flower tufts – unavailable in the 1990s but perfect for a goddess of crops and nature! I’m not entirely sure where the figure came from. I have a vague memory she might be an old Metal Magic mini from Germany but I really can’t be sure.
Alternative Armies have just added a figure for the Fir Bolg champion Sreng to the range – an entirely new sculpt – so I look forward to adding him to the war band in the very near future.
The big push to get various frosty terrain and figures finished off was prompted by last week’s gaming fixture – a run-out of my Midgard rules at the club with old chum Kev M visiting from sunny Leeds. Tom WD had correctly pointed that, for a rules set entitled Midgard, we’d played hardly any games set in the world of Norse myth – so it was time to fix that.
We used the ‘Take the High Ground’ scenario that we’d played many times before, where a depleted force (Vikings and Dwarves in this case) tries to hold a vital hill – Thor’s Hill – against the attack of Frost Giants, wolves, Draugr and Alfar (a mixed bag drawn from our various Norse myth collections) It was a good opportunity to test out the monstrosities rules for the Frost Giants as well as some new undead rules for the Draugr and a seeress.
Kev and Paul decided to hold back Hrungnir (the giant commander) and his towering chums behind a front line of wolves, Alfar and smaller giants.
The wolves did better than expected, causing problems for the front line of Dwarves throughout the game and forcing back the front line around the critical standing stones.
We had some early excitement with our Dwarf commander, Grimnir, challenging Fenrir the Wolf to single combat. Grimnir should have been odds-on to chop up the oversized lupine, but instead fluffed his dice, took a wound and was then munched up! Not a good start for Thor’s forces.
On the Norse right, the Svenn Bloody-Blade and his Vikings were doing a sterling job of holding off the Alfar and Draugr, although Svenn ended up being cursed by the witch. Soon after, Thor himself arrived, finally getting back from the mead hall. He didn’t turn up in the best position (on the right flank, which was already secure), but hurled himself into combat, taking down Agnarr, Champion of the Alfar, in a very one-sided single combat.
However, the Frost Giants were making progress and the big boys were now grinding up the hill. Reputation see-sawed back and forth as Thor’s force nearly hit breaking point, but clawed it back through the single combat and the boost of holding the standing stones.
After six turns – the scenario limit – we reached a breathless halt. Neither side had broken (losing all their Reputation), so we checked the Goblets; incredibly, Thor’s forces had 4 Reputation tokens remaining, but the Frost Giants had 5, therefore winning by the closest possible margin!
Good fun all round and a tense ending to what had seemed like a nailed-on Frost Giant victory earlier in the evening.
One of my collections that I’ve been developing alongside the Midgard project has been forces suitable for Norse mythology. Some of these are quite specific, such as Norse gods and frost giants, others do double duty with other game settings – like my Tolkien Dwarves or Red Book of the Elf King figures.
There’s no particular reason that Norse myth games have to take place in an icy landscape, but I’ve always liked the idea (Narnia was probably an early influence as well).
Here’s some terrain and cloths for snowy settings that I made during last year’s lockdown. The mats were made using simple polar fleece fabric with some paint effects and distressing.
To match the cloths, I’ve knocked up a few movement trays to organise the figures into units. My Midgard rules require units to have similar base frontages – the standard is 120mm, so that’s what I’ve gone for here. The trays are 2mm MDF from Warbaseswith a top layer of steel paper (self adhesive flexometal) from Coritani/ Magnetic Displays.
As my figures all have magnetic bases, they stick to the tray and can be transported on them as well inside a Really Useful Box. The whole thing gets a light spray of dark brown paint (Halfords Khaki for UK readers), followed by a stippling of Army Painter Leather Brown. Finally, I used a ripped-up piece of sponge to apply white acrylic craft paint, most heavily around the edges. The idea is that my figures with neutral (non frosty) bases will match well enough with the base but blend in better with the snowy cloth – that’s the plan, anyway.
The bases were also decorated around the edges with some tufts from Gamers Grass, and also some clean cat litter painted to look like rocks. A word of warning here – if you’re having a go at these, be careful to keep the area where you want the figures to stick absolutely flat and free of texture – a single piece of grit or patch of flock can badly affect the figure’s magnetic base sticking to the tray.
My friend Mike W had kindly 3d printed me a stone circle during lockdown, but I’d never got around to painting it. I already have a stone circle for my Celtic games so I thought it’d be fun to have one for the snowy setting as well.
Having painted the pieces an appropriate colour and based them in dark brown to match the earth areas of my cloth, I added a mix of white paint, pva glue and Woodland Scenics soft snow scatter. Following the advice in Pat Smith’s excellent ‘Setting the Scene’ book about modelling winter environments, I then dunked the base in more snow flock before it dried. Once dry, some extra white paint was dry brushed around the edges to even up some of the snow. I was quite pleased with how these looked when they hit the gaming table last week.
I’ve been running games based on Tolkien’s Silmarillion for a few years, but have always had a dragon-sized gap in my collection. Glaurung – a malevolent, wingless wyrm – features heavily in the First Age of Middle-earth and there have been many great interpretations of him on the Wargaming In Middle Earth Facebook page (a fine source of inspiration.)
I remembered that Schleich, the plastic toy company, had a wide range of dragons and dinosaurs and wondered if one of them might work. A quick Internet search was all I needed to find this rather fine lava dragon. He fitted the bill for me, having a rather arrogant look about him that suits Tolkien’s creation, and looking like he’d work without his wings.The bonus of having a pre-assembled model in plastic was not lost on me, remembering trying to assemble multi-part metal dragons in the 1980s! The price was good as well, setting me back £15 – a fraction of what it would cost in resin or metal.
After arrival, his wings were even easier to remove than I had expected, being separate pieces attached with a ball and socket joint. All I had to do was pop the wings out, trim the edges of the socket and then fill in the holes with epoxy putty (Milliput in this case.) The surface of the putty was roughly sculpted to try to blend it in with the dragon’s scales. I can’t say that this was my best sculpting ever but it does the job of disguising the gaps.
The Schleich model also had a moveable jaw with a gap underneath, so I used more Milliput to seal this open and fill the crack. I wasn’t quite sure about the tail at this stage – the lava dragon is modelled with a club-like tail reminiscent of an ankylosaur – but I left it as I couldn’t be bothered to change it at the time. I did, however, bend it downwards using a heat gun so that it would fit inside my usual big monster figure storage – a 9 litre Really Useful Box. After years of doing this stuff, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s best to plan how anything big is going to be stored before painting it!
Consulting Tolkien’s only illustration of Glaurung, I couldn’t originally work out how I was going to incorporate a gold body with a green head. My friend Andy Hawes did an amazing job on his converted Mithril Miniatures Glaurung with a bold combo of yellows, greens and reds. I decided that I wanted to go with metallic gold blended into green, with a black underbelly. Exactly how I was going to achieve this I wasn’t quite sure.
I kicked off with an undercoat of Halfords grey plastic primer (my go-to product for undercoating any flexible plastics) and then tried a base layer using a coat of GW Contrast Black Templar. When dry, I started experimenting with dry brushing Glaurung’s top scales with several light layers of Vallejo Brass. Glaurung’s head received some light layers of Army Painter Army Green. This was very much trial-and-error, with me adjusting and repainting sections as I went along.
Glaurung then experienced a delay of a couple of months as I got distracted by preparing the El Cid Battle of Bairen game for the Partizan show. Upon returning him to the front of the painting table, I realised, finally, that the dino club tail had to go! He was rushed into surgery and quickly had it removed with a fresh craft knife blade, carving it to a point.
Next, I rolled up a piece of green stuff and rolled it into place around the tail. Following the advice of more skilled friends, I left it for 15 minutes until it was less sticky and then modelled some scales and texture to attempt to blend it in. I cut off the tips of the plastic spikes from the original tail (they are black in the pic below) and placed them in a line to continue the spines of the tail.
With this done, I undercoated the tail in black and set to finishing off the whole model. I continued adding dry brushed layers of Vallejo Brass, then gave the whole gold area a wash of Windsor and Newton Nut Brown ink. The scales were highlighted with Vallejo Gold and individual ones picked out. The eyes were worked up with a few layers of red, orange and yellow before adding a slitted pupil in black.
To finish off, Glaurung’s spines were repainted in black and dry-brushed with Foundry Charcoal Black to provide some definition from the rest of the body. Claws were painted with Miniature Paints MP84 Umber before highlighting up with Vallejo Iraqi Sand and Off-White.
While all this was going on, I was also working on getting the dragon’s base ready for gaming. I wanted him on an irregular base that fitted within a 120mm wide sabot base for my games of Midgard. Normally this might be a custom job, but Warbases had it covered already. In my last order, I had picked up a pack of Pond Bases. This excellent product is a variety of irregular bases, ideal for any kind of scatter terrain and vignettes. I found the right size base for Glaurung and then kept the surround as the frame for my sabot base.
Having got the layers together, I then magnetised the components of the base before assembly. I used self-adhesive 0.5mm magnetic sheet and ferro steel supplied by Magnetic Displays to make sure that the smaller base would stay in position on the larger 120 x 160mm sabot.
The base was glued together and some Milliput and pine bark texturing added, checking, of course, that the central base would still lift out!
Having sprayed the whole base with Halfords Khaki Camouflage, I then glued the finished Glaurung into position and added textured paste, dry brushed the whole thing and stuck on tufts and flock. Voila!
Within a few hours of the paint and glue drying, Glaurung was in action on the gaming table, leading my Orc host against Paul W’s Elves. As we all know, newly-painted models don’t last long, but the mighty wyrm survived until Turn 4 before being brought down by Elven archery! Ah well.
It’s now a week after Partizan on the Ground and our big El Cid Battle of Bairen game. It’s been lovely seeing all the photos circulating on the internet – despite the fact that not everyone was able to make it to the show under the circumstances (several friends of mine included), being able to go to a show and run a big game was a very life-affirming experience.
If you enjoyed the game or the blog entry, here’s a round-up of some additional material and a number of photos of individual pieces from the weekend’s gaming.
Chris Breese of Notts TV was busy on Sunday morning, filming and collecting interviews from a handful of games at the show. He put together a very positive short piece for Notts TV (Partizan features at the start and then 13-16 minutes is dedicated to the show) – see here. He also then created a longer version entirely about Partizan for his Youtube channel which you can watch here, with some great video of the Bairen game near the start. I had a good laugh at myself on camera (my daughter is now referring to me as ‘teacher by day, wargamer by night’) but was very pleased with the positive press. I’m old enough to remember some of the negative press reporting on wargames and role-playing games a few decades back (a particular episode of Central Weekend sticks in my mind) so it was a pleasure to watch this instead. It’s also good to see the recognition of the input of wargaming into the local economy and its mental health benefits.
My compadres from Morris & Chums have posted blog entries as well. Tom WD took so many photos (with a proper camera, so expect something better than my iphone snaps) that he’s had to make three blog entries out of them. If you want medieval eye candy, go here and here for the El Cid game and here for some of the other games at the show.
Martin’s blog (here) has some good shots from the Bairen game plus a number of others from the show itself. As usual, it’s impossible to see everything, especially if you are presenting yourself, so well worth a look.
Alex (Storm of Steel blog) did a video round-up of the show which is well worth a watch if you want to get an idea of the scope of the games.