My Midgard rules are still in play testing prior to publication (at some point in the future but no date yet). After several weeks of Dark Ages battles, I wanted to return to a playing a fantasy scenario including a dragon – in this case, Glaurung, the wingless wyrm from Tolkien’s Silmarillion. (The model is a Schleich toy that I converted and painted last year – see here).
Hence regular opponent Paul W and I lined up our Orcs and Noldor for a straight-up fight somewhere in the First Age of Middle-earth. Forces were 400 points per side (the Hammerhead Battle of Dunnichen game was 300, by comparison) allowing the Orcs the following troops: 3 Heroes, Glaurung, 10 units of Orc soldiers, 5 units of Orc scouts plus one each of Wargs, Warg riders and Trolls. I didn’t do an exact count of the Elves (I’m not sure Orcs can count beyond ten anyway) but they were outnumbered, taking spearmen, archers and heavy cavalry with Glorfindel and Celeborn among the leaders.
Wary of the hail of arrows that had greeted Glaurung in his first game (Paul had sportingly reduced his archery quota in the interests of play testing), I put a line of Orcs in front of the dragon in a effort to distract the pointy-eared bow fans. I eschewed my usual tactic of ‘charge them in the face’ (copyright @ Tom WD) and opted for a slower advance that wouldn’t burn up my Heroes’ limited Mighty Deeds (the key leadership mechanism in Midgard). However, I went aggressive on the left flank, sending all five units of Orc scouts up to harass the two units of Elves in position there.
The Elves consolidated their position by unleashing a hail of arrows prior to throwing everything in to a frontal attack in the centre and on my right wing. Glaurung suffered a slight wound that raised the Reputation of the Elves but the Orcs held firm despite taking multiple casualties. Learning from past experiences, I had held all my Orc commanders back in the second line (getting your head removed by an Elf in Turn 2 inhibits your ability to lead, I have found).
Although the Orc line was taking serious punishment, I was able to launch a counter attack in Turn 3 that restored the morale of Angband. Glaurung unleashed a blast of fire that fried some Noldor in front of him but suffered a wound in the melee with the Orcs and Elves just in front of him. This not only weakened him but also made him less predictable (in Midgard, he has the ‘Aloof’ trait which means that he cannot be influenced by friendly Heroes) which cost me badly in the next turn. Having dispatched the Elves in front of him, I was unable to get the great wyrm into a charge that would have helped to destroy more Noldor at this critical phase of the game. Annoying but fair!
Meanwhile, on the right flank, Elf cavalry were causing severe damage to my Orcs, held up only by a heroic unit of Trolls that just would not break!
I was forced to throw in my reserve of Wargs and Warg riders, which resulted in the only single combat of the game – Glorfindel taking on my Warg rider captain. Two rounds of Orcishly poor dice rolls later and my Hero was toast. Ah well.
It was now all to play for as we went into Turn 5. What had looked like an even match in Turn 3 now turned into an Orcish rout as the Elves pulled it out of the bag. Several units of Orcs broke and fled, followed by a devastating final round of shooting that took out Glaurung (I like to think that he turned and fled to come back for another day).
Great fun and one of the closest games I’ve played for a while!
Yesterday saw the first Hammerhead Show for two years, and a great experience it was too. I saw plenty of old friends, met some new ones and had a good time running our Battle of Dunnichen 685 game with the Morris & Chums gaming group.
We played a single, relaxed game over the course of the day, but it was a close-run contest that finally saw victory for the Picts. The strategy for Bridei Mac Bili seemed to be a combination of ‘charge them in the face’ (Tom WD’s preferred tactic) and ‘get round the flanks’ (every sensible commander in history).
We had some great conversations over the day with gamers, with several enquiries about how the Midgard rules worked, which periods they could be used for (any setting where you have heroes leading warriors armed with swords, spears and shields) and when they are likely to be published (no date yet I’m afraid – watch this space). I also managed to slip away for some shopping, acquiring the Victrix Norman Knights set (straight onto the workbench for conversion into Noldor); the Bello Ludi WW1 rules, cards and dice from Caliver Books (looking for a 28mm large skirmish set for some Battle of Arras 1917 action); more magnetic basing supplies from Coritani/ Magnetic Displays; and some metal Picts from Gripping Beast (Andy Sherwell was shocked to hear that I had a couple of gaps in my collection – now sorted!)
Next show up for us is Partizan in May, for which we have started hatching plans for a much bigger battle in this period: Degsastan 603. I managed to play this on my kitchen table over Christmas with Matt, but I’m hoping we can pull out the stops to get something momentous onto the gaming table this time out for a very large game of Midgard. See you there!
The Hammerhead wargames show is being held on Saturday 5th March at Newark Showground, UK, and, as usual, I’ve been busy preparing a game for the day. Hammerhead is unique for the UK in that every single game in the show is a participation game; it’s an inclusive and rather wonderful opportunity to go and try out new systems or learn existing ones from experienced gamers. The last Hammerhead (March 2020) was the final show before Covid hit the UK so this one will undoubtedly be something special. You can find full details if you click the link above.
If you follow the blog, you won’t have missed the fact that I’ve recently been doing lots of Dark Ages gaming, encouraged by a visit to Northumbria last year, Wiglaf Miniatures’ offerings and reading Matthew Harffy’s Bernicia Chronicles novels. Plus, it’s in the blood really; if I had to choose one period to game over all others, it would be Early Medieval.
I’ve also been busy developing my own Midgard rules which we’re going to be using for the game at the show. Midgard is probably best described as a ‘narrative heroic battle’ game, in which tactics are important but the mighty deeds of heroes make the difference between victory and defeat. Using it, we have played games ranging from Greek mythology, Tolkien-based Middle-earth and the Wars of the Roses, but it’s absolutely ideal for this period of the Dark Ages where individual leaders could – and did – lead by example and reputation.
Which conveniently brings us on to this year’s game. It’s based on the Battle of Dunnichen (also known as Nechtansmere) that occurred on May 20th, 685 CE. The simple facts are that Ecgfrith, King of Northumbria, took a raiding party into Pictish territory and was slain by the Pictish forces of his cousin, Bridei mac Bili. The details of exactly what happened have been hypothesised by many researchers and historians – was it a Pictish ambush or did the Saxons seek battle? Does the mysterious Aberlemno stone depict a Biblical event, or does it show Pictish spearmen defeating Northumbrian mounted warriors in this historic battle? Much ink (and ale) have been spilled debating these very issues, and more than one range of miniature Picts has been based on the carvings shown here, some of which you will see in the armies in play.
I have chosen a course somewhere between the two for this scenario: Ecgfrith and his Saxon vanguard have become separated from his thegn, Berct, and his hearthguard. Facing a gathering host of hostile Picts, the Northumbrians have sensibly dismounted and taken up position on the slopes of a hill while waiting for Berct to turn up.
Can the Picts storm the position and kill Ecgfrith, or will reinforcements arrive in time for the King of the Northumbrians to save his reputation and make good his escape?
If you’d like to come and play the scenario, we’ll be running the game several times during the day. Games will last around 90 minutes but could be longer with all the inevitable chatter. Multiple players per side are to be encouraged to achieve the appropriate atmosphere of heroic competition!
You can find us at GA04 inside the main hall at Hammerhead – see map below – and watch out for the black t-shirts (original, I know) with a natty Midgard scene on the front. Tom, myself and Martin look forward to seeing you there.
Being a heroic game, it’s important to know your leaders – and your enemies – before going in to battle. The opposing commanders – Ecgfrith and Bridei – were actually cousins, despite ruling different kingdoms. The Early Medieval world was far more inter-connected than you might think!
It’s been a few days since I’ve updated the blog, mostly due to being busy with work, real life stuff and editing my Midgard rules for the latest play test draft. However, I’ve been quietly basing up a load of 15mm Forged in Battle miniatures to go with my small scale Dark Ages project. My chum Matt offered to get involved so I’m busy collecting and painting full armies for both of us (it was always going to happen!)
I also received some of the Wiglaf Miniatures 18mm Saxons – actual production models this time – and was able to do some size comparison shots. It’s interesting to see that the Forged in Battle 15mm minis stand around 18-19mm tall and are only marginally smaller than the Wiglaf ones (19-20mm tall). The posing of the Wiglaf minis takes up slightly more space, largely because of the separate spears allowing more dynamic poses, but I won’t hesitate to have both of these on the gaming table at the same time. You can see more the of Wiglaf Saxons in my earlier post here.
First up we have a band of Scots-Irish warriors. While they are perhaps a little early in style for the 7th century, I picked these figures because they are very different in feel to the Saxons/ Welsh (and also Wiglaf won’t be doing Irish just yet). I’m trying to colour theme my armies to aid recognition on the tabletop, so these chaps got black shields (bit of Bernard Cornwell influence there) and a mix of yellow and white tunics with various brown and green cloaks.
Painting was carried out mostly with GW Contrast Paints using exactly the same techniques as in my previous Welsh blog post.
To distinguish my upper-class warriors, I gave each unit a flag using a print out of a Celtic pattern: once cut to shape and over-painted, these did the job nicely. They are unlikely to be authentic but look the part.
Figures were based up on 80x40mm 2mm MDF round-cornered bases from Warbases. I went for a less-organised look for the Irish, with warriors dispersed around the base; the noble units received more figures to create the impression of a chieftain’s hearthguard. As per last time, I left a space in the centre of most of the units to accommodate leader figures on round bases.
All the Irish figures were from the following packs:
WE-GS 2 Dal Riatan Mercenaries
WE-GS 3 Scots Irish Warriors
WE-GS 4 Scots Irish Levy
I also added to my Welsh warband – more units of warriors and skirmishers plus a couple of leaders, again from the Arthurian Character pack. Definitely a bit of Merlin going on!
I’ve managed to resist the ‘Oldhammer’ wave that seems to be sweeping the social media of middle-aged gamers at the moment, although I really enjoy seeing people producing much better painted versions of the old 80s and 90s miniatures. Piers Brand (better known for his incredible 20mm WW2 collections) is turning out some inspirational paint jobs of old classics right now. I happen to be a member of several Oldhammer groups and, while I have fond memories of gaming ‘McDeath’ and ‘Bloodbath at Rorke’s Drift’ as a teenager, I don’t really want to go down that particular rabbit hole at the moment – I have enough distractions already!
However, my gaming chum Paul W has managed to retain many of his original figures, including an impressive 1990s GW Elven force that frequently slays my Orcs on club nights. When Paul recently celebrated a ‘big’ birthday, I felt that the only suitable present was some vintage minis.
Hunting around on eBay, I experienced the usual emotions: “Wow, I remember that!” and ‘How much? I wish I’d kept mine.” Finally I settled on a rather nice Elf command trio from Marauder Miniatures – the side project run by Citadel’s Ali Morrison and Trish Morrison (now Carden). These 1990s veterans arrived rapidly, in great nick, and I got to work getting some original GW slottabases on them and an undercoat in place.
As per my Saxons that I posted earlier this week, I’ve been experimenting with using GW Contrast paints plus selected highlights, so this was the method I used here. Cloaks were GW Contrast Dark Angels Green with highlights from various acrylics pulled off my paint rack. The highly-stylised detail of these models really lends itself to these techniques. Some tunics and trousers were painted with GW Contrast Snakebite Leather before having Vallejo Iraqi Sand highlights. The leather work was largely done with the most excellent GW Gore Grunta Fur before having a variety of light brown highlights.
I left the metallic layers until after the matt varnish as it has a habit of killing the shine, especially as I’m still using up my stash of Testor’s Dullcote. Generally, the metal was basecoated black before painting with either Vallejo Brass or AP Gunmetal, an ink wash and a final top layer of Vallejo Gold or AP Shining Silver. Paul likes painted spear shafts in his armies, so I did these one grey with white highlights to match his current forces.
Finally, I added a flag, again copying one of Paul’s from his existing army. This is just printer paper cut to size, painted with acrylics and them glued in place with PVA. Fortunately, the birthday boy was pleased with his gift and I may now be further tempted into more ‘Oldhammer’…maybe.
With the resurgence of the Dark Ages in my gaming activity, I revisited some old models from the bits box last week. The West Wind range of Arthurian/ Dark Age miniatures was released after I had collected most of my 28mm armies, so I don’t actually have that many in my collection. This is a shame, as they are terrific sculpts and I always fancied getting some more done.
Fortuitously, I had a pack of Saxon javelin men handy, so I set to work getting these prepped and primed for painting. They have separate heads, which is great fun as you can really vary the models (my favourite is ‘Hengist the Hairy’ who is clearly in need of a barber.) These were a bit of an experiment as my original Dark Ages armies were painted with a black undercoat, base coat, wash and highlights. Recently I have converted to using a white undercoat with GW Contrast paint base coat followed by highlights, therefore cutting out one of the stages, but I wasn’t sure it would be quite right for these chaps.
I needn’t have worried as I managed to pull off something appreciably similar. Using Contrast Guilliman Flesh speeded up painting the skin areas and will certainly be something I do again. Other base colours used were Wyldwood, Gore-Grunta Fur, Snakebite Leather, Cygor Brown and Ultramarines Blue, all with various amounts of thinners. Once done, I just highlighted key areas with similar acrylic paints from my collection.
The pics here were taken against the new background from Jon Hodgson Maps, ‘Two Tree Valley’. This has distinct shades of the English Peak District but could equally be the Scottish or Welsh Borders.
My recent Battle of Degsastan game got me thinking that I should refurbish my beloved 28mm Dark Age armies. These were originally mostly based up for Warhammer Ancient Battles, with each model being on a small square base. I’ve always liked vignettes, so my later armies featured command bases on 40, 50 or 60mm round bases, but I’d never done this for my Irish and Picts.
Collecting the armies for this period was great fun, very much encouraged and enabled by two particular ranges: Gripping Beast’s Irish and Foundry’s Picts, which both trailblazed the better representation of ‘Celtic fringe’ types in 28mm wargaming. Now, of course, we have the miracle of two plastic boxed sets of Irish from GB and Wargames Atlantic, but back when these were collected, it was metal or nothing!
To create the vignettes, I went back through my units to pull out my favourite standard bearers, horn blowers and commanders and played around with arranging them on various bases. These were painted (and in some cases, repainted) over a number of years, dating back to my earliest dabblings in 28mm historicals, so you can probably see some variations in the brushwork!
Flags and shields were all done by hand, using sculptural and pictorial references. It’s unlikely that any banners were as large as these in history, but for me , the visual appeal and ease of identification on the table is just as important.
It was lovely to revisit these old fellas, so much so that I impulse-ordered a few West Wind Picts to create a new command stand for these armies. More soon!
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.