The Battle of Hastings 1066 – replayed with War & Conquest

My WAC rule book goes into action behind the Saxon line

In a break from Midgard and everything else, I took a trip down to Bristol to celebrate my old chum Rob’s birthday. As part of the festivities, Rob had laid on a day of gaming at his club venue (Bristol Big ‘Uns at Iron Acton Village Hall) where I was due to participate in a large Battle of Hastings game using his own War and Conquest rules.

Saxons face off the Normans on the slopes of Senlac Hill. Norman cavalry can be seen in the centre making a speculative attack on the English line, with archers and crossbowmen (top) peppering the shieldwall with missiles.
Harold Godwinsson’s Saxon Huscarls – a unit that I created about 25 years ago using Gripping Beast 28mm metal miniatures, but had never served at Hastings! Shame!

Now, two confessions: despite being a huge fan of the Early Medieval period, I’d never refought Hastings; and, despite having owned a copy since its release, I’d never actually played War and Conquest! I was hopeful that my knowledge of Warhammer Ancient Battles and a quick flick through the rule book would see me through.  Fortunately, all my companions for the game had all played before – and the author of the rules was on hand. As it was, it was a pretty straightforward task and great fun. 

I was joined by Jordan with his two boys on the Saxon side; we faced off against the very genial duo of Simon and Dave with their immaculately painted Normans.  Although Rob had written the scenario and provided the Godwinsson brothers from his collection, we unfortunately had a last-minute drop out so had to cobble together the rest of the Saxons from Rob’s nearly-finished Vikings.  This wasn’t too much of a problem but we lost track of the points values! In the end, we put the units out, the game looked right, and we got down to starting the battle.

It kicked off, as you’d imagine, with the Normans sending their archers and crossbowmen out to launch a hail of missiles against the Saxon line. We forgot about the shield wall rule for a couple of turns before Harold and his boys decided to form up to deflect the enemy arrows!

Norman archers ply the English line with arrows

We had just three units of 12 skirmishers each, and the Normans had at least double that in archers and crossbowmen. After a few rounds of missile fire, the Saxons had lost the shooting match and a couple of the units in the shield wall were beginning to look very battered. However, there was nothing to be gained by moving off the hill – yet.

Hit and run!

The Normans then started advancing across the line, sending several units of knights and cavalry up the hill to mount speculative ‘hit and run’ attacks against the Saxons. There is a rule in WAC called ‘Glancing Attack’ that is a special ability for troops in skirmish order, and it was absolutely tailor made for this situation. A Glancing Attack allows the skirmish unit to run in, attack with every model within 6″ (while only suffering half return attacks) and then scamper off d6″ (or 3d6″ in the case of this scenario).

Units suffering a Glancing Attack do not usually pursue, but we decided that it would be right for them to do so in this particular scenario (one of the commonly-held theories of the Battle of Hastings is, of course, that the Saxons broke ranks to pursue fleeing Normans in either a real or feigned flight). However, the discipline held until near the end of the game when one of Gyrth Godwinsson’s units on the left flank eventually chased les Normands down the hill.

The battle in progress. The terrain mat is the same sherpa fleece one that I used at Partizan in May 2022.

In what was, appropriately, a day-long game, the combination of Norman missiles and hit and run cavalry attacks seriously weakened some of the Saxon units. Worse, the Saxon left flank was in danger of being outflanked by speculative Norman advances. To counter this, I decided to send Leofwine and the units on the Saxon right in a slow advance down the slope to put some pressure on the invaders. In WAC, shieldwalls can advance 2″ per turn, so it was a slow crawl forwards, but it had the desired effect of disrupting the Norman archers and giving the cavalry less space in which to operate.

Leofwine leads the right wing down the hill to force the Normans to give ground

When we got within 8″, the Saxons were able to return fire with javelins, which proved devastating. Like Warhammer Ancient Battles, javelins in WAC do not suffer a move and shoot penalty, and my dice were rolling hot for once! Little by little, the Saxons ground down the Norman left. Bishop Odo was busily running up and down the line, keeping the troops going, but his soldiers were gradually running out of space, and the cavalry units mounting the Glancing Attacks were losing men. A unit of Norman milites managed to flank charge a large body of Saxons, but the plucky English held on until help arrived.

Plagued by Norman knights, but a stout round of dice rolling drove them off!

Although much of its Warhammer heritage is clear, WAC has a number of differences. We had a number of SIPS (Strategic Initiative Points, I think) that we could spend to influence the course of the battle. This is a lovely mechanic, but I don’t feel I can comment further as every attempted use of SIPs by the Saxons went heavily ‘Pete Tong’! On critical turns of the game, where we wanted to move first, we would throw in 2 SIPs in order to add +2 to the d6 roll-off for initiative. Of course, when you roll three consecutive ones, what can you do? 🙂

Anyway, back to the battle. On the Saxon left, Jordan had managed to fend off the Normans with a combination of refusing the flank and chucking javelins. When Gyrth’s unit broke its discipline and charged off into what should have been the jaws of death, it got lucky and put a Norman unit to flight.

Last ditch attacks by the Normans

By 4:00 pm, the Normans were struggling to make a sustained impact anywhere along the line. William threw in a final attack all along the front with his remaining spear and cavalry units, but the Saxons soaked up the charges with a combination of thrusting spears, numbers and – surprisingly good dice rolling. Now Harold’s unit of 48 Huscarls marched down the hill and created a pile of bodies as they took vengeance on the weakened Norman units. Duke William was busy trying to rally his troops, but in this case, even the Bastard had to concede it was time to head back to the ships. Bishop Odo was last seen waving his club and cursing Leofwine in French!

It was a brilliant day out and I cannot speak highly enough of the friendliness of the chaps playing our game; if that’s any indicator of the club, it may well be worth an occasional two-and-a-half hour drive to visit the Bristol Big ‘Uns. I also enjoyed War & Conquest – enough of a WAB vibe but with many neat features and modifications that made for an enjoyable game. Some of the fiddliness of WAB is still there (individual figure removal leading to a large ‘dead pile’ to sort out at the end of the game, counting up exact figures in combat and calculating casualties from mixed units), but if you can cope with that, I can thoroughly recommend WAC.

Sherpa Fleece Terrain Mat

Battle of Degsastan at Partizan 2022

There were numerous requests after the recent Partizan show for a ‘how to’ on the terrain cloth that we used for our Battle of Degsastan game, so I’ve hauled out the photos from when I made it and written a short piece.

Rocks and dolmens, of course, on my sherpa fleece cloth

I spent years as a child gaming over a plain green table tennis table, which was just fine, but I distinctly remember every time I went for a walk in the countryside thinking ‘my terrain looks nothing like this.’ And it doesn’t really matter, does it? Gaming terrain has to be practical: you have to be able to pack it away easily; miniatures need to be able to stand on it; and it needs to be portable. [Points 1 and 3 can, of course, be solved if you have a large wargames room and plenty of storage for your collection of sculpted terrain boards – but I’ve never lived like that and am unlikely to do so. ]

The Lake District, England – one of my constant inspirations for terrain.

But, y’know, to me it does matter. Gaming with miniatures is a visual hobby – we try to create our own little worlds to create an illusion where our heroes and monsters battle it out with each other for a evening. We often spend hours on individual models, swapping tips over social media about the best ways to paint mail armour, eyes or bronze helmets. When you look at a game, however, the biggest visual impact is the terrain, so I think it’s always been worth investing some time in that.

Noldor and Orcs scrap it out in Middle-earth on the sherpa fleece mat. Hills and slopes are incredibly easy to create under this material.

After the ubiquitous TSS expanded polystyrene terrain tiles of the 1980s and 90s, printed terrain cloths have been one of the huge breakthroughs of recent gaming history. Cigar Box Mats and Geek Villain (to name but two) now provide highly portable and visually stunning cloth mats. Unfortunately for me, I like making stuff, which is what led me to the sherpa fleece solution.

The sherpa fleece mat set up for for Dark Ages gaming

A few years ago, inspired by some of the stunning tables on the internet, I’d been toying around with various types of teddy bear fur fabric, trimming and painting away, but hadn’t quite found the right solution for what I had in mind. Teddy bear fur actually requires quite a lot of work to create the illusion of grass, and also, for me, conjures up a great impression of the Russian steppe or African savannah, but wasn’t quite right for the moors and valleys of the British Isles (mythical or otherwise) where my games were taking place. Eventually, a trip to Northern Ireland – surrounded by the most beautiful scenery – pushed me over the edge, and I decided to go looking for something else.

One of my holiday shots from Northern Ireland which was constantly in use while making my terrain cloth.

I’d always purchased any fabric for terrain projects direct from a market where I could physically see and feel what I was buying, but this is becoming harder to do and there’s actually a wider selection of fabrics out there online. Fortunately, many ebay sellers provide a posted sample for a nominal fee, so I decided to invest in a whole variety of these and see what came through the door. I have fond memories of the fleece that would have been ideal for making a Kermit the Frog puppet but was somewhat out of kilter for a Dark Age moorland!

Some of my Wood Elves. These GW plastic minis stand up well enough on the mat, having 25mm metal bases to weight them down, but other individual figures will struggle. Sherpa fleece is best used for units on big bases.

When the sherpa fleece sample turned up, I nearly discounted it immediately: it didn’t look like what I was after. However, once I’d started giving it a brush-through with a wire brush, it started to transform into a more grass-like texture. I experimented with all kinds of different techniques

Olive green sherpa fleece as sold on ebay

NB: before you rush out and buy some, you need to know that sherpa fleece is quite a ‘bouncy’ material; it has a fair bit of depth to it and is not ideal for single-figure based skirmish gaming. It can be shaved, trimmed and melted down to a lower level, but it is best suited for gaming using figures on large bases. (My games generally involve units on 120 x 60 mm bases and heroes on 40, 50 and 60mm round bases.) Dice trays are also useful to avoid cocked dice!

Another holiday shot of the stunning location that is NI

After a load of experimentation with my sample pieces, I decided to go for broke, working on a 12′ x 5′ cloth and recording my progress as I went along, so this is what follows.

STEP 1: Wire-brush the whole fleece to remove fluff and create texture

Wire brushing instantly changes the nature of the fleece and removes excess fluff.
Tools used for the job: the bizarre implement top right is sandpaper folded over a wooden spoon to allow me to press down large areas of fleece after heating with the hot air gun. The thick glove is for protection while pressing down any areas of heated fleece, while the respirator provides some protection from fumes in addition to working outside.

STEP 2: use scissors to trim down areas of the fleece and then a heat gun to flatten areas

Here I have trimmed and melted some patches in the sherpa fleece to break up the uniformity of the texture. This was done outdoors on a non-flammable surface (old patio tiles in my case) wearing the respirator and gloves.

STEP 3: using the heat gun to create roads. I decided that I wanted a trackway crossing my mat at an angle, so I carefully melted this in with very gentle blasts of the heat gun, flattening down each area with the sandpaper/ wooden spoon combo as I went.

STEP 4: initial painting. Using a house decorating brush, I dry-brushed the cloth in various different shades of green. All the paints were bottles of acrylic craft paint.

Craft paints can be seen at the back of the table during painting

STEP 5a: creating some longer ‘grass’. To get the mix of grass lengths that I was after, I’d decided to combine some patches of longer pile fabric made from teddy bear fur. This was prepped by wire-brushing and trimming as usual.

Trimming the teddy bear fur with pet trimmers and scissors to create an irregular finish.

STEP 5b: painting the teddy bear fur. This was a seriously messy process involving a 3″ fence brush and some green fence paint – basically slapping it on both sides of the fabric before combing it through to involve clumping.

STEP 5c: drying the teddy bear fur. Best done outside if you value your marriage/ significant relationship/ pets!

When it’s dry, sometimes it needs a bit more wire brushing to bring it back to life.

STEP 6: adding the ‘longer grass’ to the cloth. I cut irregular sections of the teddy bear fur and used them as a template to cut out slightly smaller sections of the sherpa fleece cloth. The teddy bear fur was then hot-glued into its place and very firmly pressed down.

A Northstar Celtic chieftain and his Alternative Armies wolf hounds show off the long/short grass effect

STEP 7: adding heather. I invested in a pricey (£20) but lovely sheet of fake heather from Model Scene, cut it up into small irregular patches and then stuck these on to the base cloth (again with hot glue) in strategic places. This kind of fine detail, while expensive, lifts the visual impact of the whole cloth.

Heather patches in position with an Alternative Armies Fir Bolg warrior

STEP 8: the road. A bigger road would probably have been better created as a separate ‘drop on’ piece of scenery, but in this case I wanted a winding track crossing the moor. I reckoned that I could get away with flexible frame sealant as long as it wasn’t too thick or wide, and I was right. This is cheap brown frame sealant spread thinly over the (heavily flattened) track area, which I then pressed sand into while it was still set for added texture.

Pressing in some sand for extra texture.

STEP 9: earth patches. These were created by applying patches of PVA wood glue (good quality thick stuff from a DIY shop, not the thinned down ‘craft PVA’) with sand scattered on to them.

Sandy patches prior to painting
Here;s the whole thing getting a shake down on the washing line

STEP 10: selected painting and staining. Burnt Umber craft acrylic was used to wash over the road and sandy patches to create a uniform base colour.

STEP 11: when dry, the road and soil patches were dry brushed with a light brown to bring up the detail and create contrast

STEP 12: scatter material was glued on with more PVA glue at the side of the roads and around the exposed soil patches. Various tufts and flowers were also added (these are from Gamers Grass) to create interest and variety around the cloth.

At this point, the cloth was pretty much finished. It was difficult laying the whole thing out at once on my kitchen table so I worked on sections at a time, adding tufts and scatter here and there until I was happy with it.

I rebased my Last Valley trees to fit with the table, adding matching tufts and cloth to the new bases, as well as some weighting underneath the base to help counteract the ‘bounciness’ of the sherpa fleece.

Close up of the different textures and effects

Partizan Game Report: Battle of Degsastan

The Northumbrian front line reaches Dawston Burn – a smashing shot of nearly all Gripping Beast miniatures. Photo by Pete Jenkins Photography, as are many others in this piece.

Sunday 22nd May saw an early start for the group as we all made our respective ways to the Newark Showground for the greatly-anticipated Partizan Show. I was reflecting that my first visit to Partizan was pretty much exactly 29 years ago; in 1993, my chum Jon and I caught a train to Newark Castle Station, followed by a leisurely two mile walk across the fields to get to Kelham Hall (the venue for much of Partizan’s history).

All set up and ready to go: Dal Riada on the left, Northumbria on the right

This day in ’93 was formative for me in many ways, but one memory sticks out: the Late Romans vs Picts affair being run on some of the Perry Twins’ stunning terrain boards by Jervis Johnson & co using a version of Warhammer rules – that later ended up in print as the much-loved Warhammer Ancient Battles. I remember being awed by the superbly-painted minis, the rocky crags and the ruined broch, thinking: “This is what I want to do!” (Being a skint student at the time, I bought three (individual) Foundry Picts from Dave Thomas, and that was it.)

Team photo: Martin, Paul, Chris, Pete, myself. Steve Jones’ top Battle of Freeman’s Farm game can be seen just to the right.
Set up: Scrivs adds the wilfdlife to the slopes of the battlefield

Fast-forward to a slightly older me with a slightly bigger figure collection, and that’s exactly what we were up to at Partizan 2022 – and literally next door to the Perrys running their Battle of Dorking game. As we were setting up, Michael Perry wandered in with a characteristic handshake and friendly greeting before we got on with the business of the day: toy soldiers!

While I co-ordinate the games we run and usually sort the terrain, the actual running and set-up on a show day is most definitely a team effort. All five of us present – Paul, Chris, Pete, Martin and myself – had been busy re-organising and pooling our various Saxon and Celtic miniatures to create a spectacle involving around 1,000 figures on the table. (Not forgetting Tom, who put his lovely Footsore Saxon army into the pool despite getting double-booked and missing the show.) You can also read Martin’s blog on the game and the show here.

Saxon skirmishers from Tom WD’s army of Footsore Miniatures

In addition, Martin did the graphics for the t-shirts and designed and printed the rather natty Midgard sticks that measure ‘Spear Throws’ in the game. But most importantly, everyone mucked in, talked to folk and kept the game running – unquestionably one of the hardest things to do at an incredibly busy show.

My Midgard ‘desk tidy’ featuring Martin’s 3d printed measuring sticks!

We were asked a few times about how we did the hills so here’s a few photos of the table set-up in progress. The cloth is home-made from a material called Sherpa Fleece – I may well do a blog article about this sometime if people would like to read it.

Tables from the Newark Showground were a bit rough and ready this time – fortunately I’d brought cable ties and tape to hold everything together. I’m not sure this particular table is in danger of resale (except as firewood) 🙂
Hills are placed in position and taped directly to the table. Nothing fancy, just some 25mm insulation board carved to shape.
A close up of the hills!
The large dark green cloth covers up the foam – and cleans up the table at the same time. The terrain cloth is then draped over the whole thing. As sherpa fleece is a pretty thick material with a little bot of stretch, it copes very well with this.
‘Drop on’ terrain is then placed over the cloth. I’ve weighted the tree bases so that they sink into the cloth and are harder to knock over when gaming.
More views of the British/ Dal Riadan forces
The British (Welsh) continent in the Dal Riadan battle line – Degsa’s Stone in the foreground.

I’ve already written about the Degsastan scenario that we were playing and the forces used (see here if you want to know more), so I’ll cut to the action – as best as I can remember it! The very genial Alex from Storm of Steel dropped by and filmed a short interview about the Midgard rules, which you can see (about 3 minutes in) along with a full video report of the show – watch this here.

Aethelfrith of Northumbrian in all his martial glory – Gripping Beast figures painted by Paul.

With both armies deployed for battle, the commanders carried out sacrifices in return for the favour of the gods (this is a special trait within Midgard that allows an ‘Omens’ roll at the start of the game with a random – hopefully favourable – result.) There were jeers as the Northumbrians’ sacrifed horse came up with a bunch of stinking entrails (rolling a one); across the dale, the Gaels cheered when a six was rolled and the goat sacrifice dictated a bonus of three Reputation tokens in Aedan’s goblet. Unfortunately, the priests also foretold that one of the Heroes would become Fated (this unfortunate trait means that a character is more likely to die, although hopefully in a heroic manner) – and that Fated hero was none other than Aedan himself, the King of Dal Riada.

The omens are good! (Thanks goat)
Aedan Mac Gabhran, King of Dal Riada, is carried into the fray by the biggest blokes in his army. Fated or just over confident?

With both forces deployed for battle across the Dawston Burn, Niall of the Swift Blade, champion of Dal Riada, was sent out to challenge the Northumbrians to single combat. Unwilling to lose any more face after the disastrous horse-sacrifice incident, Aethelfrith delegated Osric, one of his renowned thegns, to get out there and win some glory for Northumbria.

‘Hey! I said single combat! You’re not allowed your pets.”

However, the Saxons ended up wincing as Niall lived up to his name and sliced a chunk out of Osric’s leg to the cheers of the Gaels. Both warriors circled the other, sparks and splinters flying from board and blade as each tried to gain the decisive blow. In the end, Niall thrust his blade over Osric’s shield, but not before the Saxon landed a mortal wound on his opponent; both ended up as food for ravens!

Nonetheless, this heroic challenge had stirred the blood of the watching armies and both sides advanced, hammering spear butts and sword pommels on their shields as they did so. On the Dal Riadan right, Mael Uma, a famous warlord from Ulster, saw an opportunity to strike the first blows of the battle and surged downhill towards the Dawston Burn (in Midgard, there is a reputation bonus for leading the first charge of the game.) Unfortunately, Mael Uma’s men couldn’t quite follow at the same speed, and he ended up fighting a losing battle against Theobald’s Saxons, despite the Irish skirmishers driving off a good number of Saxon archers.

Hering, son of Hussa leads his renegade Northumbrians. Minis by Martin (front) and Chris (back)

The Irish attack on the right prompted the Saxon horsemen on the left to put the various Pictish and British riders under pressure, which they did with some alacrity. (The Saxon cavalry drew some discussion, as expected. I believe that the warriors of this era did fight mounted sometimes, but probably not in full-scale battles like this one. My scenario excuse is that this contingent turned up late on their horses and just rode straight in; the truth is that we had some nice mounted units which looked good skirmishing on the end of the line, so on they went!)

I’ll confess that the course of the battle then flowed on in the background as I ended up chatting to many lovely folk who had come over to watch the game or ask about the rules. A bit like a bard with one horn of mead too many, I noted the key events but may have missed some of the details.

‘Why are the smallest ones always at the back?”

Rather nice dice tray from Handiwork Games delivers some good rolls!
The game in full flow with battle all along the Dawston Burn

Mael Uma and Theobald clash in single combat. Mael’s regretting leaving his choice of outfit, I think.

The Saxons pushed forwards all along the line; Mael Uma was wounded in a single combat and then killed along with most of his brave Ui Neill warriors. Hering, son of Hussa – Aethelfrith’s estranged cousin, exiled from Northumbria – died in the press of bodies in the centre. But the most dramatic event occurred when King Aedan led his household warriors in a savage charge against Aethelfrith himself.

Hoping to break the Saxons in the time-honoured way of killing their leader – as well as gaining Reputation for the heroic act of charging the enemy commander – the Dal Riadan king found himself facing a hail of javelins. Rolling dice with the aplomb of a 12-year old, Paul scored an outrageous seven hits (this is a lot in Midgard), resulting in a faltering unit of Gaels. Worse, the ‘Risk to Heroes’ roll that Aedan needed to make to avoid the javelins himself ended up with a classic double one – which he could do nothing about, being Fated! (It’s possible that it was entirely his own fault for being carried around the battlefield on a shield.) Crunch.

‘No comment’

After this, it was all downhill for the Gaelic forces. The death of Aedan caused a major loss of Reputation from the goblet which was compounded by the Saxons rolling up the damaged Dal Riadan units in the centre. When the army finally broke – just twenty minutes before the end of the show – Aethelfrith had clearly won a great victory. Five of the six Gaelic commanders were dead and Aedan’s son Domingart sorely wounded.

It was a fitting result to what had been a glorious day out, albeit one that left all of the team with sore throats and aching arms and legs from reaching into the centre of the six foot table to move the minis! I’ll admit that I did consider running a skirmish game for the next show as I was repacking 19 boxes’ worth of figures and terrain, but I’ll probably forget that by October!

If you came along for a chat or to watch the game, thank you very much indeed.

And those three Foundry Picts that I bought from Dave Thomas at Kelham Hall in 1993? Well, they were on the table 29 years later.

Partizan 2022: The Battle of Degsastan

A preview of our game for the Partizan Show on May 22nd 2022

‘At this time Aethelfrith, a very brave king and most eager for glory, was ruling over the kingdom of Northumbria. He ravaged the Britons more extensively than any other English king…to him…could fittingly be applied the words…”[he] shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey and at night shall divide the spoil.” For this reason, Aedan, king of the Irish living in Britain…marched against him with an immensely strong army; but he was defeated and fled with few survivors.

Irish and Britons gather to resist Aethelfrith of Northumbria

‘Indeed, almost all his army was cut to pieces in a very famous place called Degsastan, that is the stone of Degsa. In this fight Theobald, Aethelfrith’s brother, was killed together with all his army. Aethelfrith brought this war to an end in the year of our Lord 603…From that time no Irish king in Britain has dared to make war on the English.’

So it was that the Venerable Bede recalled this battle, writing around 730 CE. Details are scanty but what is clear is that the force under Aedan Mac Gabhran, King of Dal Riada, was huge by the standards of the time: estimates run up to around 5,000 men, including Aedan’s allies from Ulster and Northern Britain. The force of Aethelfrith was smaller but highly motivated and led by a dynamic and successful warlord who had already shown his ruthlessness and leadership in battle.

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.

Sunday’s game is a run-out for my own Midgard rules which are due to be published by Reisswitz Press (Too Fat Lardies) at some point in the future. Our standard unit sizes for the game are around 10-12 miniatures on a 12cm wide base, but for the sake of spectacle – and the fun of getting all the toys on the table – we’ll be playing with extra large units on Sunday. It means that we’ll be doubling all the usual measurements but hopefully we’ll be able to crack through the game during the day.

Four standard Midgard units making up one giant unit for demo game purposes
How to find us at the Partizan show – no, I can’t read the text either, but you don’t need to. Straight through the main doors and turn right to find Morris & Chums!

We’re hoping to have around 1,000 miniatures on the table, ranging from the earliest Gripping Beast releases to the latest plastics. Our various collections feature large numbers of Gripping Beast and Foundry metals, along with various castings from Footsore, Crusader, Black Tree and others. It’s been a great pleasure getting these out again and back into action.

Single combat action in our play test game – Saxon by Footsore Miniatures, Irish by Gripping Beast and Black Tree.

Here’s our order of battle for the game – some commanders are historically-based, others are fictional. Each force includes six Heroes to give us plenty of opportunity for heroic deeds and single combats.


Aethelfrith, King of Northumbria (Legendary Hero)

Theobald, brother of Aethelfrith (Major Hero)

Eanfrith, brother of Aethelfrith (Major Hero) [NB: Eanfrith is mentioned in the Irish Annals but not in the Anglo-Saxon sources – this may be a confusion with Theobald, but I have used his name here for a possible Saxon commander and otherwise unknown brother of Aethelfrith]

Cerdic, thegn of Bernicia (Minor Hero)

Wiglaf, Northumbrian thegn (Champion)

Osric, Northumbrian thegn (Champion)

3 x Gedriht (Saxon hearthguard)

7 x Saxon warriors

3 x Saxon skirmishers with bows and slings

2 x Saxon mounted warriors


Aedan mac Gabhrain, King of Dal Riada (Mighty Hero)

Mael Uma, Ui Neill warlord (Mighty Hero)

Hering, Son of Hussa – exiled thegn of Bernicia, cousin of Aethelfrith (Minor Hero)

Domingart mac Aedan (Minor Hero)

Niall of the Swift Blade (Champion)

Culach, British chieftain (Champion)

2 x Household Warriors (Aedan, Mael Uma)

2 x Saxon Spearmen (Hering, son of Hussa)

6 x Irish/ British / Pictish warriors

4 x Skirmishers with bows and slings

4 x Mounted Warriors

Hope to see some of you at the show! Cheers.

Partizan 2022 warm-up game: Battle of Degsastan 603 CE

With two weeks to go to the Partizan show in Newark, Scrivs kindly hosted a warm-up game for us in his lovely sunny conservatory. It’s a variant of the Battle of Degsastan game that I first played with Matt M back in in December – you can read all about that here. Since then, I’ve been busy developing the Midgard rules and putting together an ambitious scenario for Partizan, where you’ll be able to find us just inside the main door on the right (Stand DG13, Morris & Chums).

One of the key features of Midgard is that, as long as units have roughly the same frontage, you can play as big or as small a game as you like. One of our play testers is using 6mm models on 2.5cm unit bases, another is using 15mm WoFun flats on 4cm bases, and most of my games have been using 28mm miniatures on 12cm bases. However, the combined Dark Ages collections of our group are somewhat numerous so I came up with a plan: how about using double-sized units for Partizan? This would allow us to field an impressive display but still get the game finished in a few hours.

Four normal unit bases will make up one large infantry unit for our Partizan game.

With units double the normal width and depth, we’ll be using quadruple the usual number of figures per unit (around 40 rather than 10). By my calculations, this will give us over a thousand figures on the table, and hopefully the game will crack along as well.

Anyway, Scrivs’ usual 6 x 5′ table didn’t allow for such extravagance, so we played with a simple layout using our usual 12cm units. We combined forces to field units from all four of the players’ collections and compared notes on manufacturers and figures we’d not seen before: Gripping Beast (metals and plastics) formed a large part of the collection, with more by Footsore, Warlord, Foundry and Black Tree amongst others. Terrain mat is by Geek Villain, with trees from Last Valley and a converted stream from S & A Scenics. We’ll run the Partizan layout on a slightly fancier set-up but this was fine for a run-through.

Chris and Scrivs chew over the knotty problem of how to beat the Dal Riadans (in between munching on authentic Northumbrian orange Club biscuits)

Scrivs and Chris (Winston ap Rees) took the role of Aethelfrith of Northumbria and his Saxons, trying to lay down the law with Aedan Mac Gabhran, King of Dal Riada (played by myself and Tom WD). The standard ‘charge them in the face’ tactic was slightly obstructed by having to cross the burn in the centre of the table, which resulted in some javelin-hurling across the water, causing some casualties amongst the Northumbrians. The Dal Riadans hurled themselves forwards with Saxon exile Hering, Son of Hussa* and his comitatus going straight for Aethelfrith himself.

[*We know that Hering was killed at Degsastan, but not which side he was fighting for! I have taken the line for this scenario that he had been exiled and was therefore fighting for Aedan Mac Gabhran – JM]

Hering, son of Hussa (blue tunic, centre) challenges his arch enemy Aethelfrith (red banner) – both sculpts by Soapy for Gripping Beast.

Despite his bold move, Hering was cut down by the warlord Aethelfrith in single combat. Battle was now raging all along the burn.

Over the course of the next two hours, the Northumbrians attacked all along the valley. Aethelfrith broke through the exiled Saxons, driving them back with his fearsome reputation and skill in sword-play.

Degsa’s Stone (centre)
Aethelfrith’s brother Theobald gets out his legendary blade
Hering and Aethelfrith square up

However, the Dal Riadan army experienced success on both flanks, especially with Mael Uma’s Ulstermen. The shieldwall battle had broken down into a number of separate intense combats, with neither side able to gain the upper hand until Cerdic, thegn of Northumbria, took down Aedan Mac Gabhran – King of Dal Riada – in single combat. Aedan’s son Domingart followed soon after, and suddenly the Dal Riadans were almost leaderless. Only Mael Uma remained of the commanders.

Now the Northumbrians were able to push their advantage, driving back the demoralised Dal Riadans, Picts, Irish and Britons. Finally, Mael Uma himself fell fighting yet another single combat. The British horsemen pulled out a charge on the Saxons but it was too late – Aethelfrith was master of the field, having pulled off an even greater victory than the historical one.

This well-executed front and rear attack by the Britons was too late to save the game!
Northumbrian thegn Theobald finally brings down Irish warlord Mael Uma in single combat.

An excellent fun game that could have gone either way! Look forward to playing it again at Partizan.

Man of the Match award went to these Saxon slingers (bottom) who single-handedly destroyed a Dal Riadan warband over the course of the entire game, firstly with shooting and then in an incredibly lucky combat. Respect!

Amazons and Greek Myth

Athena by North Star alongside the Lucid Eye Amazons

I’ve recently been looking to increase the quota of female warriors in my fantasy and mythological collection, so when Lucid Eye announced their Spring sale in March, I was straight over to their site. I think that their Amazons are the nicest on the market and had been also eyeing up some of the other minis in the fabulous Ziggurat range of fantasy ancients.

Amazon spearwoman takes on a horde of skeletons (plastics by Wargames Atlantic)

Rather like a visit to Ikea, I’d gone in with a list (maybe a couple of units of Amazon infantry and one or two heroes) but ended up leaving with rather more. The Amazon Battle Clan deal was too good to pass up – I mean, I like chariots, yeah, and there were a few new Red Book of the Elf King minis, and a rather cool centaur…

The order took a while to arrive (one month including having to email LE to check on progress), but last week a hefty box rolled up and I was able to unwrap the contents and sort the pieces. For me, Steve Saleh is one of the best sculptors out there – superb animation and detail – and I wasn’t disappointed with the sculpts.

Archer takes on some Harpies (3d prints designed by Artizan Workshop, purchased from Etsy)

Some of the Amazon characters, in particular, are stunning. However, a few of the castings – specifically the horses – had more flash than I was expecting. This is, of course, nothing that can’t be solved with a scalpel and file, and is pretty routine when you’ve been collecting metal models as long as I have. That said, LE minis have quite a high price point (normally £12 for 3 infantry or 2 cavalry in the Amazon range) and I guess I’d say that I felt that the overall quality control didn’t quite match the standards of the sculpting.

Nice horses but quite a lot of flash by today’s standards.

Anyway, I was left with a very exciting project in front of me. Unfortunately, I had some other minis higher up the priority list, but I couldn’t resist painting up a few trial Amazons. Selecting an archer, swordswoman and spear-armed warrior, I set to work assembling and undercoating.

The first two figures were simple to clean up and prepare; the spear-armed warrior was slightly more fiddly. Like some of the Red Book of the Elf King companions, the Amazons have been designed with a separate cast spear with the hand already moulded on. This fixes onto the (very slim) wrist, the idea being that you have a second point of contact where the spear rests on the shield. As others have mentioned in reviews of these minis, I would have preferred a solid fist that could be drilled out for a wire spear (as seen on Footsore Miniatures, among others). As it is, the separate hand is virtually impossible to drill out, so I settled for using the spear as is, accepting that every so often it may require bending back into shape. Once glued in position, however, the spear absolutely looks the part.

Assembly gripes over, it was on to painting, which was a complete joy. After a quick undercoat of Halfords white spray primer, I went in with what is becoming my standard technique at the moment: base layers of GW Contrast Paints followed by some selected highlights with various acrylics. As usual, it’s important to give Contrast Paints sufficient drying time to avoid neighbouring colours from bleeding into each other, so I alternated Amazons with a Frost Giant and cleaning up the new Footsore Welsh. I don’t try to painting to a competition-winning standard – I try to develop techniques that allow me to get a good-looking force onto the table – though occasionally I spend longer than I should on some little detail or other!

If you’re interested, colours used were:

Skin: GW Contrast Guilliman Flesh/ Gore Grunta Fur mix + a highlight of Flames of War Flat Flesh

Clothes & Helmet Crests:.

GW Contrast Skeleton Horde, Ultramarines Blue, Talassar Blue, thinned-down Wyldwood. These were highlighted in various acrylics.

Spear, Bow, Quiver, Shield Backs: Wyldwood

Hair: Wyldwood or Black Templar

Shield Fronts: Acrylic black + highlights of Miniature Paints 84 Umber and 83 Chocolate Brown; Vallejo Iraqi Sand + highlights of Vallejo Off-White

Metallic areas were base coated in black.

Next opponent: a plastic 1/72 Cyclops from Dark Alliance

Following all these, I gave the models two light coats of matt spray varnish, and then set to on the metallics (I have taken to painting the metallics after varnishing to avoid killing the shine).

Bronze areas: Vallejo Brass with a wash of Winsor & Newton Nut Brown ink + a highlight of Vallejo Gold.

Iron areas: Army Painter Gun Metal with a wash of thinned down GW Contrast Black Templar + a highlight of Army Painter Shining Silver.

The sandy basing has set off the blue and white colour scheme a treat. I was contemplating trying some of these in red, but I think I like this one so much I’ll run with it.

When the current Dark Ages project is done, I’ll be delighted to return to these and get the whole force finished!

‘Put it away, Herc!’ Hercules by North Star from the Of Gods and Mortals range.

And there were giants in the earth in those days: Slaine, Crom Cruach and other Monstrosities

Slough Throt summons Crom Cruach to tackle a warped Slaine. I predict bloodshed!

As a big 2000 AD fan in my teenage years, I got very excited when I heard that Warlord Games were producing a miniatures game based on the Slaine stories. Upon getting my grubby hands on some of the models ten days ago, I couldn’t wait to get them painted up for some Celtic gaming. This also turned out to be the catalyst that got two other Celtic beasties on my painting table finished off as well – Crom Cruach and a giant…

‘Ill put you in a way you’ll murder no more!” Slaine breaks up the Fomorian tax-collecting party. Plastic Slaine from Warlord; metal Fomorians from Alternative Armies

Having a birthday last week, I was fortunate enough to receive the Slaine boxed set, which contains a fair chunk of minis to get started with: Slaine, Warped Slaine, Ukko the Dwarf, Nest the Priestess, Slough Throt, a Drune priest, a Weirdstone and three Skull Swords. The figures are cast using Siocast (AKA ‘Warlord Resin’), a flexible and highly detailed plastic. It’s notoriously hard to clean up mould lines on Siocast figures – fortunately I was very pleasantly surprised with these, finding only a tiny amount of cleaning up was required – easily done with a fresh scalpel blade. Good job, Warlord!

Drune priest and Slough Throt sacrifice at the Weirdstone

The minis are on the tall side – as you can see from my pics below, they are around the 32-35mm mark. However, they are not unduly chunky and seem to fit well enough with my existing Celtic myth collection, which includes many metal Alternative Armies miniatures.

If you’ve not come across them, the AA Erin range includes over 85 different minis, including some Fomorians who are very much inspired by some of Simon Bisley’s art in Slaine: The Horned God (unlike the Warlord Fomorians, who are very much Glenn Fabry in style). Well worth a look!

Metal Fomorians by Alternative Armies
Skull Swords, the soldiers of the Drune Lords

Close up of Warped Slaine!

All the figures are one-piece castings apart from Slaine, who required his arms to be superglued into position. This was much easier than expected thanks to the clean fit of the parts – unexpected but very welcome! I then glued them all to a strip of card for painting and gave them two light spray undercoats – firstly, Halfords Plastic Primer (my absolute go-to for any work on potentially flexible plastic) followed by Halfords Matt White.

These models are oozing with detail – ideal for any washes or, in my case, a base coat of GW Contrast paint. Basic colours used were:

Skin – Guilliman Flesh/ Gore-Grunta Fur (in various mixes)

Shield backs, weapon hafts, dark clothing, furs – Wyldwood

Boots, leatherwork, hair – Snakebite Leather/ Wyldwood/ Black Templar

Light clothing – Skeleton Horde

Slaine’s clothing – Dark Angels Green

Following these layers drying, I gave most parts of the models a top highlight of standard acrylic paint (various lighter shades that complemented the base Contrast layer). A very light drybrush of Vallejo Iraqi Sand was used to bring up the detail, especially on cloaks and hair. Metalwork was given a base of black acrylic before the whole model was sprayed with two light coats of matt varnish to protect the minis from handling (Contrast paint is particularly prone to rubbing off and needs sealing in).

Ukko and Nest from the Warlord Games Slaine starter set

Following this, it was time to do the metallics. I’ve taken to leaving these till after the matt varnish coat to avoid killing the shine. Over the black base, these were done as follows:

Iron – Army Painter Gunmetal with a wash of thinned down GW Contrast Black Templar (this has a blue-black hue and is perfect for this job); finished off with a painted highlight of Army Painter Shining Silver.

Bronze – Vallejo Brass with a was of Army Painter Strong Tone ink; finished off with a painted highlight of Vallejo Gold.

Slaine pictured with a Fomorian from Northstar

Bases were textured with my usual mix – a paste of burnt umber craft acrylic, filler and sand before drybrushing and decorating with a mix of static grass and tufts by Gamers Grass.

Additional metal Fomorians from Northstar
Slaine goes for Crom Cruach
Slaine takes on a bunch of Alternative Armies Fomorians while Ukko adjusts his underwear

While I was about it, I worked on a giant that I’d bought to fit in with my Celtic myth stuff. This huge fella is one of the ridiculously good value creatures from Reaper Bones – a 13cm tall, 5 part plastic kit that cost me a whole £8.49 including delivery! (Golan, Hill Giant is his official title). Preparation was much the same as the Slaine models apart from giving it a thorough wash before assembly.

The giant received a similar paint job – base coats of Contrasts followed by highlights and some swirly tattoos to make him feel a bit more Celtic. Doubtless he’ll get an arrow in the head in his first game this week but he’s a cool model.

Crom! I was kindly gifted a D&D Purple Worm mini by a friend at the club a couple of years back, intending to turn it into the mighty worm god Crom Cruach….and never finished it. Armed with Contrast Paints and a renewed sense of purpose, I set to.

After the Halfords White Primer, I simply gave it an overall heavy base coat of GW Contrast Guilliman Flesh. When this was dry, I thinned down some Creed Camo to get a putrid effect on the lower body. The mouth was neatly filled with Blood Angels Red. The effect of these three colours was impressive on such a highly detailed casting.

After that, it was a case of adding a few extra highlights, dotting on the teeth and then simply making a good job of the base.

Painting the Picts

All figures in this shot are Gripping Beast, apart from the three on the right, who are all West Wind Productions

In the midst of my current Dark Ages resurgence, I decided that I really wanted to get a couple of units of 28mm Pictish nobles together. I’ve been using my Scots-Irish nobles as stand-ins for games of Midgard, but there was a Pictish itch that I really needed to scratch.

Pictish nobles stand defiant! All Gripping Beast miniatures apart from the horn blower at left (West Wind)
Lovely dynamic running poses sculpted by Soapy for Gripping Beast
Family photo! Three new units of Picts on my scratch built terrain; stones by Scotia Grendel; background by Jon Hodgson Maps

I had some Picts that had been sitting in the bits box for 15 years and augmented these with some reinforcements from Gripping Beast and West Wind Productions. After cleaning up the figures and gluing on shields and spears (and separate heads in the case of the West Wind minis), I plumped for a white undercoat. All my previous Dark Ages minis had been done with a black undercoat, layer, wash and highlight, but this time out I wanted to see if I could achieve similar – and faster – effects with the GW Contrast Paints.

A unit of Pictish warriors – all figures by Gripping Beast apart from the long-robed noble at the back, who is a Black Tree miniature.

As it turned out, I was able to achieve a result that I was more than happy with. Most areas of the figures had a base coat of a Contrast paint followed by a highlight or light dry brush of another colour. Colours like Skeleton Horde and Aggaros Dunes made an excellent base for linen tunics and robes; Dark Angels Green, Wyldwood and Nazrdreg Yellow were also used as base colours.

GW Contrast Skeleton Horde used as a base layer with a highlight of Vallejo Dark Sand

Painting skin always used to be a time-consuming process with a base of chestnut brown, a brown ink wash and then a highlight or two of flesh colour; this time out I experimented with Contrast Guilliman Flesh and Gore Grunta Fur, using different mixes for different areas of the figure. These had a few selected highlights, but I reckon overall that this new technique produced very similar results in about half the time that I used to spend on painting flesh.

Here’s a short gallery showing the figures in progress on the painting table.

Tunics, robes and cloaks were given a highlight in an appropriate acrylic, mostly applied in horizontal lines to suggest coarsely-woven fabric. A few selected cloaks had a simple plaid pattern painted on with a light yellow-brown.

Some simple plaid details

A trio of Gripping Beast Picts. The one in the centre has had his shield replaced with a slightly fanciful (but ace) design from Northstar’s Celtic myth range.

After painting all the matt colours, I gave the figures two coats of spray varnish (I’m still using Testor’s Dullcote as I have some in store, but I’m told that Windsor and Newton Professional Matt is just as good). Metal areas were painted AFTER the varnish for two reasons: (1) the varnish kills the shine and (2) my experience has been that metal areas are less likely to chip with handling, and if they do, it is less visible than when a chip appears on hair or clothing.

Painting metallics after the matt varnish preserves the gleam of iron!

Whatever the case, a good varnish is essential when working with Contrast paints as they are very susceptible to rubbing off with handling.

Jon Hodgson’s Patreon site with over 25 miniature backdrops already available

At this point, I’m going to give a quick plug to Jon Hodgson Maps. Jon runs Handiwork Games but is also well-known for his artwork on games such as The One Ring, Dragon Warriors and Warhammer Ancient Battles. I often find photo backgrounds used with miniatures to be slightly jarring – I don’t really want my minis to inhabit a hyper-realistic world. To me, they are characters in a narrative; I want them to feel at home in the illustrations of Angus McBride, Johan Egerkrans or Arthur Rackham, and to that end, a painted background is a far more atmospheric solution for me.

This particular Hodgson background is a fine match for my terrain!

Jon offers his miniature backgrounds as part of his Patreon site: for a few dollars a month, you can join up and download all the available backgrounds (25+ and counting at the time of writing) and then have them printed to the size of your choice. I simply get mine colour copied onto A3 paper at the local copy shop and then blu-tack them to some Really Useful Boxes behind my terrain board.

Setting up for photos in the loft: terrain board, two daylight craft lamps and a Hodgson background behind.

Anyway, on with more Pict pics…

This shot tickled me. Halfway through taking it, I realised that the Pictish symbol I’d used on the banner is replicated on the stone to the left! I can imagine these chaps growling, “Get off our land.”

The banners were made of standard 80 gsm printer paper. I measured out the dimensions, sketched out some designs taken from Pictish stones and them painted them in using a variety of acrylics. Of course, we have no idea if the Picts used these designs on banners – or indeed if they had banners at all – but I enjoy using them to identify my units.

I have many books on the Picts for reference, but one of my favorites is ‘Surviving in Symbols: a Visit to the Pictish Nation’ by renowned archaeologist Martin Carver and published by Historic Scotland.

This is a brilliant little Osprey-sized book full of information, evidence and reconstructions, thankfully devoid of the fantasy that inhabits some depictions of the Picts. (Note that the artist has even included trousers for these guys – a great discussion point). It also contains a very helpful guide to the Pictish symbols which I copied directly for the banners.

Rear shot of a command stand showing some of the plaid and embroidery designs.

I like to have my minis in a mixture of single and multi-bases, organised into units of around 10-12 figures on a 120 x 60mm base. Each figure has a 20 x 25mm base with magnetic sheet underneath that sticks onto a movement tray topped with steel paper and embellished around the edges with tufts and flock.

It was, as ever, a great pleasure to get these finished off and onto bases. My full Pictish army should be making an appearance at the Partizan show in May – where I expect it will roll atrocious dice, being newly-painted! Hope to see some of you there.

Wales 1, Pictland 0: a Midgard battle report

I’ve been busy developing my Midgard set of wargames rules over the last few months and my chum Pete, who has recently taken up gaming again, expressed an interest in collecting a Welsh force for the 7th century. While he was busy getting the new Gripping Beast plastics on to the painting table, I pulled out my metal collection for a game with him. Seeing as it was designed as an introductory game, I thought it’d also make a good battle report if you’re interested in Midgard.

Picts line up for battle opposite the Welsh. The vast majority of my collection are Gripping Beast and Foundry Miniatures. The mat is an OOP deep pile type from Cigar Box Mats.

While we often play historical scenarios, this game was a straightforward battle. I put together two forces – Welsh and Picts – with a total of just over 300 points apiece, adding a dash of mysticism with both forces containing a wise woman and bard for inspirational purposes (you can play Midgard on a scale anywhere between ‘straight historical’ and ‘high fantasy’ by choice of units and traits). This gave us the following armies:

Prince Cadwaladr leads from the front


5 x Heroes (Prince Cadwaladr – Army Commander and Major Hero; Brochmael and Belyn of Lleyn – Minor Heroes; Marchlew – Champion; Gwenyfach – Wise Woman)

2 x Teulu (Welsh nobles on foot)

1 x Mounted Teulu (Cadwaladr’s bodyguard)

6 x Welsh Spearmen

1 x Skirmishers with Bows

Spearmen clash at the height of the battle


4 x Heroes (King Bridei – Army Commander and Major Hero; Talorcan – Minor Hero; Drust – Champion; Brianna of Skye – Wise Woman)

2 x Mounted Nobles

1 x Pictish Nobles on Foot

5 x Pictish Spearmen

3 x Skirmishers with Bows

These are about the minimum size armies for a game of Midgard (10 or 11 units apiece) – while you can play smaller, it’s designed as a battle game where having a supporting line of warriors is critical, so just playing with five or six units won’t give that experience. Recommended number of Heroes is around 3-5, and these are rated from Champion (Level 1) up to Legendary Hero (Level 4), which means that you can model different armies by levels of leadership. My Middle-earth Orc army often takes to the field with just one strong army commander and a couple of low-level ones, meaning that it will have lots of troops but struggle with overall command and control. By comparison, its Noldor opponents are fielded with a very high level commander (often Legendary Hero, Level 4) and a good number of strong subordinate Elf lords to provide leadership across the battle line.

Anyway, enough about Middle-earth, we’re here for some Dark Ages hacking, so on with the battle report….

At the borders of the Pictish lands, marked by a standing stone, Cadwaladr (Pete) deployed his Welsh to block the invaders. Seeing that a battle was now inevitable, Bridei sent out his personal battle-smiter, Drust, to issue a challenge to the enemy. Despite being no more than a champion, Drust was known as the deadliest blade in Pictland, carrying his grandfather’s sword from the time of Magnus Maximus. The challenge was immediately taken up by Brochmael of Gwynedd. The armies watched in fascination, expecting a mighty duel, but it was brutal and short; aided by my appalling dice roll rolling, Brochmael took Drust’s head off with a single swing of his sword. This boosted the morale of the Welsh no end as they gained more Reputation tokens in their goblet. Battle was on!

‘I am Drust, Battle-Smiter to Bridei of Pictland, the mightiest blade north of Gwynedd, – ERK!’

With the Welsh starting on the front foot, I decided to go aggressive with my Pictish archers who I had clumped together on the left flank for the express reason of peppering the enemy unit opposite with arrows. Skirmishers in Midgard are allowed to evade enemy charging them as long as they pass a Command Test – I reckoned that I would get in a shot or two at the approaching Welsh before scampering away. Lo and behold, the Welsh warriors advanced faster than expected (with Pete passing all his Command Tests) and my archers failed to flee as they were charged. Farewell, Picts.

After this second blow, Bridei put his (slightly desperate) cunning plan into action: ride round to the right flank and attempt to get round the rear of the Welsh line. Marchlew, the Welsh champion on this flank, quickly drew off two spear units to counter this. The Welsh line was now fragmenting into three different directions, but could the Picts exploit this?

The Pictish centre holds back, waiting for the Welsh to be disrupted by the flank attacks…er…not.

Bridei’s nobles weren’t too keen on this new tactic and lagged behind, failing to make as much ground as they were capable of (they failed a number of Command Tests despite Bridei’s encouragement). Faced with his sullen hearth guard and seeing the poor state of his left wing, the Pictish king opted for a calculated risk – charging the nearest Welsh spear unit. This also raised the morale of the troops as Reputation tokens are awarded when Heroes lead their warriors into combat, and even more when the army commander is at the head of the charge. Unsupported, both sides took casualties in the ensuing combat, but the Welsh held on.

Help! Despite inflicting some damage on Belyn of Lleyn’s Welshmen, the last Pictish archers have run out of space and are run down.
Brochmael takes down a second Pict hero in single combat!

Meanwhile, in the centre, Brochmael’s Welshmen and Talorcan’s Picts came to blows next to the boundary stone. Brochmael, the hero of the duel at the start of the game, now challenged Pictish chief Talorcan to a second single combat. Reputation can be lost if Heroes turn down a challenge, so Talorcan pulled out his spear and charged! This was a longer combat, but Talorcan took an early blow (presumably in the foot – some of these Picts just don’t like shoes) which wounded him. Both sides gained Reputation as sparks flew from the heroes’ file-hard blades and in the final round, Brochmael and Talorcan wounded each other, the Pict dying in the process. The twice-victorious Brochmael rejoined the ranks of his Teulu as the two units closed for more spear-work, but the Picts were now outclassed by the Welsh nobles.

Now the other half of the Welsh centre advanced and was met by the Pictish noble warriors. Surely these battle-hardened northerners could blunt the flashing blades of the Welsh? Well…

Pictish dice (left), Welsh dice (right)….nuff said!

Battle was now joined all across the centre and the Pictish nobles weren’t doing too well. Pete was making great use of his wise woman and accompanying bard, using the ‘Inspiring’ trait to keep his units in the fight. That said, one of the Welsh units broke and fled, closely followed by the heroic Brochmael who took a javelin in the neck during the fight and succumbed to his injuries.

Welsh bard and wise woman, inspiring the troops at the key points of the game. Both miniatures by Gripping Beast, the standing stone is from Scotia Grendel

Then, disaster struck for the Welsh. Prince Cadwaladr, leading his mounted Teulu from the front, crashed into a Pictish spear unit. Using all his ‘Mighty Deeds’ (the silver markers that you can see in the pics which allow Heroes to do…er…mighty deeds in the game) to attack, he had nothing left to save himself when he rolled a double one for his ‘Risk to Heroes’ roll following the combat. Down he went, and the Reputation poured out of the Welsh goblet! The combrogi were finally teetering on the edge of defeat.

Cadwaladr throws caution to the wind and gets decked for his troubles.

However, it was not to be. Even as Cadwaladr fell, the Welsh broke two more Pictish units.

By the end of the turn, the Welsh goblet had only one Reputation token remaining, but the Picts had been reduced to zero – signifying defeat. King Bridei took his surviving warriors and rode back to Pictland, leaving the Welsh to bury their dead prince.

This was a cracking game – the Welsh had the best of it throughout, but the slaying of Prince Cadwaladr gave us a very tight finish.

Bridei and his Picts (right) flee the field

Near, Far Away Part 4: More Wiglaf Saxons

So, despite the fact that I’m busy painting my backlog of 28mm Picts at the moment, I’ve been quietly working away on some extra troops for the 15/18mm Dark Ages project at the same time! I’ve had some more of the 18mm Wiglaf Saxons on the workbench, aiming for a quick paint job using mostly GW Contrast Paints.

While the Wiglaf Minis are a nominal 18mm, they size up pretty well with Forged in Battle 15mm that form the remainder of my forces.

Wiglaf Saxons (left) vs Forged in Battle Welsh (right)

I’ve gone for 80 x 40mm round-cornered bases from the ever-reliable Warbases with a small dice frame on the back left corner to track damage for gaming. The plan is to try out the Age of Penda rules when time allows.

As advised by ‘Wiglaf Dan’, the models are cast in a fairly pliable metal, so I was able to vary some of the poses with some simple bending of arms. This was most useful with the archers which have two head variants in the same pose, but I think I managed to vary them sufficiently to create an all-archer skirmish unit.

Archers with bent arms to vary the poses.

Moody stuff as Raedwald marches his men north. Top quality background bu Jon Hodgson Maps.

Wiglaf currently have Mark Copplestone working on some additional figures for the range – next up are Vendel-style warriors and more command groups, including a hornblower – exciting stuff if you like the 7th Century as much as I do!