Although I’ve resisted getting a 3d printer myself, I’ve been very aware of the explosion in STL files and Patreons, and none more so than the most recent work of Spanish-based Caballero Miniatures. Sculptor and owner Marcos has been hard at work on a project that happens to be a shared passion – the age of El Cid and Medieval Spain.
My friend James at Fenland Miniatures printed off some of the Spanish caballeros (knights) for me. I was expecting to be impressed, but the quality of these blew me away. The phrase ‘extraordinary levels of detail and animation’ feels barely adequate to describe these incredible models.
As an experiment, I thought I’d pick two identical knights and paint them up; one as an 11th century Spaniard, and the other a First Age Noldor Elf from Middle-earth.
The minis arrived printed in grey resin with an intricate network of supports which was removed with warm water and a pair of clippers. As James warned, there is some really fine detail on the models and I accidentally broke off several of the tassels on the Elf’s saddle (which is why he hasn’t got any – not because he wouldn’t like some!) I trimmed a few areas with a scalpel and added Northstar wire spears for lances. It was an extraordinary experience after years of drilling out hands to take spears to find that there was no need – the precision of 3d printing had left a perfect hole to glue the lance into!
Having decided to convert one rider to a Noldor, I removed the original head and swapped it for a plastic one from the Oathmark Elves boxed set from Northstar/ Osprey. A cloak was added from green stuff along with an appropriate shield and some feather plumes, also from the Oathmark kit.
Riders, shields and horses are all separate pieces but were straightforward to put together using superglue. However, none of the minis came with bases (I understand this is usual with 3d prints) so I had to cut my own from plastic card.
I won’t go through the painting process in detail but currently I’m using GW Contrasts over a white undercoat and then highlighting them up with acrylics. I decided to go for different colour schemes to emphasize the different cultures, so it was white for the Elven horse (GW Contrast Apothecary White) and blue/ black / grey for the rider; the Spanish horse went chestnut (GW Contrast Gore-Grunta Fur) with green and black clothing.
Having got our caballero painted, it was time to see how he measured up to his companions in my El Cid army. Being mostly collected 20 years ago, my force is entirely metal. On the left you can see a Perry Miniatures knight (from the First Crusade range) and on the right, a Gripping Beast Spanish knight (from the El Cid range) with original GB horse.
The finished Noldor is due to join a unit with my other converted First Age cavalry, made from Gripping Beast plastic Arab heavy cavalry with Oathmark bodies, arms and heads. I was very pleased with the match between these – they are easily similar enough to mix. I guess the big question is whether I expand the Elven cavalry using more plastics or more 3d prints? A difficult question!
At the end of last year, I penned a short article on painting World War One French in their mid-late war horizon blue uniforms, and it has recently seen print in Wargames Illustrated magazine (Issue 403, July 2021). The theme of the issue is ‘Vive La France’ and has a wide range of articles about wargaming with French armies from various periods of history.
I’m not going to do a step-by-step painting article here, as that’s available in the magazine, but I will say that the key ingredient in painting these poilus was Army Painter Wolf Grey, available in both dropper bottles and spray cans (handy for doing whole platoons, as I was doing a few years back at the height of my WW1 gaming).
Getting the article done has reminded me that my WW1 project is unfinished business – I have a small bag of soil from Ypres that is just waiting to be used for basing up the next phase of this! More soon, I hope.
It’s fair to say that Paul W and I are enjoying playing big battles again at the moment. This week’s excursion took us back to the Second Age of Middle-earth with a scenario inspired by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. As Gil-Galad and the Noldor march south towards Mordor, their path has been blocked by an Orc host: they need to break through as quickly as possible!
Left: full-on Orc vs Elf scrappage. Orc army by me, Elves by Paul W
We were, once again, playing my own Midgard rules. The scenario was ‘Take the High Ground’ which was inspired by the Battle of Hastings; in this case, the Orcs had the advantage of the hill (a 4 foot long slope under the cloth, hopefully visible in the pics) but had one quarter of their forces arriving late to the party. The Noldor, meanwhile, had to get up there and take the position in short order. There were three salient points (marked by standing stones) on the crest of the hill which would grant extra Reputation (the factor in Midgard by which battles are won and lost) each turn after Turn 3 in order to emphasize the importance of the slope.
Having placed a solid double line of Orc warriors on the hill, reinforced by some Trolls at centre right, the Elves went for a mixed formation of spearmen and archers in the centre and cavalry on both flanks. Predictable so far!
I decided to break the routine by sending a forlorn hope of Orcs down the hill on both flanks to meet the Noldor riders. This wasn’t executed with quite the alacrity I was hoping for (the Orcs were lacking decent quality Heroes to keep them moving) but it did force the Elves to raise a few eyebrows.
Thus the battle began to break off into three zones, with the Elves peeling off troops to the right and left to deal with the Orcs racing, sorry, limping towards them.
My lucky Orcs on the right managed a charge against Celeborn and his elf cavalry, doing surprisingly well and holding their ground. Unfortunately for them, Celeborn’s trait was to be able to rally a destroyed section; as a result, the renewed Noldor escaped destruction and drove the Orcs back. Boo!
And then it was time for the centres to clash! I pushed my Orcs forwards to take the fight to the Elves and we had a fair old melee raging across the crest of the hill. The Orcs held on despite heavy casualties from the Elven onslaught; with the advantage of the hill plus extra units in support, they were able to weather the storm – for the time being, at least.
With luck on our side, the forlorn hope of Orcs on the right actually wounded Celeborn (he was lucky to survive, having rolled a double one, but had a spare Might Point to help save himself). However, it was clear that a gap was about to open up with the approaching demise of the front line of Orcs, so Akdar sent in the Trolls. I’d been holding these back to avoid the inevitable hail of Elven arrows but hopefully now they could do some damage!
At this point, we had reached Turn 4, which meant that the Orc late arrivals turned up. A random roll indicated that they were going to arrive on the Orcish left flank, hopefully just in time to save it from the Elf flank attack.
By now, the Orc centre was taking serious casualties and Reputation was teetering. The Wargs tore into the Elf cavalry, but more was needed. Orc Commander Orgul the Swift rode up to the crest of the hill and pitched into combat against Elrond’s Elves. Midgard is designed for heroic deeds and so I chose to challenge Lord Elrond to single combat. Paul accepted and the fight was on!
Elrond was a tougher Hero than Orgul, but I threw in both of Orgul’s Might Points in an effort to take down the Noldor Lord in the first round – sadly to no avail, as Elrond won the round and wounded the Orc captain, gaining a point of Reputation. However, the next round luck was with me and the Heroes drew, sparks flying from their blades – both gaining Reputation this time for their heroic display. The final round was too much though – both Orgul and Elrond wounded each other – with Orgul dying as a result. It could have gone either way!
Now the Elves had the upper hand and pressed the Orcs in the centre. With Orc Reputation at zero, I had to hold on to at least one of the salient points to continue the game. The Trolls rushed up but took heavy casualties in their melee with the Elves and were left with a single model in the unit holding the ridge. Unfortunately for him, he was facing two Elven units with bows who took him down in the final shooting phase of the turn. The Orcs fled, hotly pursued by the surviving Elf cavalry: victory to Lord Elrond!
This was a really tight game with plenty of opportunities for both sides to win it. I had probably been quite impetuous in rushing my Orcs down the slope and could perhaps have changed the outcome in holding back, but where’s the fun in that? Orcs gotta Orc! I was pleased with the scenario and the latest rules tweaks are working well. More soon.
Following on from my recent Punic Wars gaming, I found myself stuck at home having to self-isolate. Tom WD suggested a Zoom game to cheer me up so I got organising. Of course, this meant that I’d just have to use my own collection, so I plumped for the fascinating campaigns of Viriathus.
Left: Viriathus and his bodyguard cavalry fight a losing battle against the Principes.
Viriathus (Viriato in Spain and Portugal) was a charismatic Lusitanian warrior who caused serious problems for the Romans during their occupation of Hispania in the 2nd Century BCE. He comprehensively defeated a Roman force under Praetor Caius Vetilius at the Battle of Tribola (we gamed this in 2017 at the Hereward Wargames Show in Peterborough using Simon Miller’s To The Strongest rules – game report, historical background and photos from this one can be found here: https://mogsymakes.net/the-battle-of-tribola-147-bce/ ).
I set up a simple scenario based around the Tribola battle, with the Romans attacking a Lusitanian force in the open but with some of the Iberian warbands being concealed on the flanking hillsides and appearing later on during the game. Tom WD messaged me his deployments for the Spanish, while James D (playing the Romans) just adopted a standard triplex acies formation as Vetilius deployed his troops for battle. He was aware that it was hostile territory so kept the cavalry and Triarii handy to cover any sudden appearances!
We were playing my own Midgard rules again (still testing out ideas) and were experimenting with a couple of new concepts for this game. I’d reduced the Spanish warriors’ attach dice but increased their speed to create a slightly different dynamic to the warbands given their reputation for guerilla warfare, and the ‘Replacement’ trait for Roman manipular formation was also due for another run-out. However, I imposed a penalty on the Triarii to simulate the fact that, if they got into combat, the Roman army would be in trouble. The game uses Reputation to record victory and defeat, and I decided that the Romans would forfeit a Reputation token if the Triarii got into combat, or double that if the combat occurred before any of the Hastati and Principes in the legion had seen action.
I don’t think that James was particularly surprised when some Lusitanian warbands and caetrati under the command of warleader Ambon appeared on the hillside. Marcus promptly wheeled part of his legion to the left to cover this flank, which was an easy manouvre thanks to the Romans’ drilled trait.
The flank attack on the Roman left stalled due to poor leadership, with units not carrying out their orders and Ambon (only a Level 1 Hero) unable to do much about it. This resulted in a combat on Roman terms, with casualties on both sides. Ambon was killed by a Roman pilum and the warbands started to sense defeat.
At this point, the second Spanish ambush (on the Romans’ right flank) was unveiled – two units of slingers emerging from the rocks and trees. Vetilius despatched a pair of units of Velites to deal with them.
Tom committed Viriathus to the fight, hoping to break his way through Marcus’s legions to the Triarii. However, the Lusitanian cavalry suffered badly and were cut down to a man. Viriathus survived, losing a point of Reputation for having his guard killed around him!
The big fight in the centre continued apace, with the Romans beating back the Spanish. The flank attacks had failed to create the disorder that Viriathus needed for a breakthrough and his men were now being ground down by Roman pressure.
With teatime being called in all our houses (between Suffolk and Nottingham), we had to call it a day. The Romans had won a clear victory, killing warleader Ambon and retaining 6 Reputation tokens to the Lusitanians’ 1. Had we played another turn, there is no doubt that Viriathus’s army would have broken.
The new rules had worked pretty well. The replacements trait was used on a couple of occasions to shore up the Romans trying to hold off the left flank attack and was instrumental in pulling damaged units out of the line and replacing them with fresh ones. As Viriathus tried to break through. Marcus sent a unit of Triarii in to replace a damaged one of Principes and was justified in doing so – despite the loss of Reputation, the veteran warriors saw off the Spanish in short order.
After an absence of a few months, Paul W and I pulled out our Elf and Orc armies for Middle-earth and set up another game loosely set in the First Age.
Paul has been really helpful with ideas for developing my Midgard battle rules (still in playtesting) and had pretty much memorised my Noldor army list and points values which made life much easier! I cobbled together a somewhat mixed Orc force with some help from my nine-year old son who had decided to join us for the evening’s game (and, probably not unrelated, a cheeseburger).
Left: Orcs and Elves scrap it out over the ancient watchtower.
I decided to put my scratchbuilt watchtower model in as the objective for the game, propped up on a rocky outcrop that would offer some advantages to anyone defending it. We placed a wood on the left flank, but otherwise the battlefield was clear The Orcs were led by a Balrog with a Werewolf, Troll and Orc Captain as lieutenants in command of Orc soldiers, archers and warg riders. The Elves had a goodly number of heroes with the usual mix of spearmen and archers and a sizeable wing of heavy and light cavalry.
The Orcs tried to rush forward towards the Elves but were hampered by some disorder in the ranks; this played into the manicured hands of the Noldor, who unleashed a couple of nasty volleys of arrows against the Werewolf and his Orcish guard, who were pretty much destroyed. The Werewolf survived without a scratch but decided to jump ship to a fresh unit.
The main Orcish advance didn’t go to plan, but the attack on the tower was much better. Paul got a Noldor spearmen unit in position which was shot at by the Orc scouts before taking a full-on charge from Akdar the Troll and his soldiers. This should have been a more even fight, but the Troll Captain crushed the Elves and drove the survivors back off the hill (with some assistance from Paul’s shocking dice rolling).
In the centre, though, Paul was rolling some awesome dice for Elven shooting which put some big holes in the Orc ranks.
The Elves eventually had to stand and fight, coming off worse across the line.
Over on the right flank, next to the watchtower, things got really interesting. Orgul the Swift led a couple of units of warg riders in an effort to hold up the Elves. Outnumbered two to one by enemy horsemen, Orgul opted to draw his scimitar and challenge the Noldor leader to single combat. Despite some heroic dice rolls, Orgul took a wound and then succumbed on the second blow to the Elven blade. Unsurprisingly, the remaining warg riders beat a hasty retreat.
Akdar continued to beat the Elves off the hill. With his trait Fearsome, Akdar’s opponents had to retreat double the usual distance after losing a melee. Unfortunately, the Orcs’ impressive advance took them off the other side of the hill and opened them up to a flank charge from the rearmost Elven cavalry. Ouch.
In this final turn, the Orcs lost several units in the centre and had their right flank pretty much rolled up. With the loss of Orgul the Swift, the army’s reputation dropped to 0 and they fled the field, Akdar trying to fight his way out as the sun set.
A good fun game as usual – I’ve tweaked a few areas of the rules recently which streamlined the action. As was my original intent in designing Midgard, we played a game with around 15 units and 4 heroes a side to a decisive conclusion in around two hours, including the heroics of a single combat. My son picked up the rules (and a pink inflatable flamingo) pretty quickly and didn’t object to getting beaten by the Elves! Win-win.
Following my rediscovery of Punic Wars gaming last month, I pulled the ‘Ancients in progress’ box off the shelf in the painting cupboard, where it had sat unopened for four years. Inside were some half-painted Roman cavalry which demanded finishing off!
Once that was done, I decided to get a few photos of the new cavalry alongside my mini-legion that I’d completed a few years back, so here they are.#
Left: Principes. 28mm plastics by Victrix with an Agema metal character model on the right with green shield.
Obviously, it’s debatable whether you can call these small groups a ‘legion’ at all, but if you’re happy to accept that it’s seriously scaled-down, then it does the job. Scrivs, Martin and I collected one of these each a few years back, basing the Hastati, Principes and Triarii on smaller 80 x 60mm unit bases. The initial plan was to play Hail Caesar with these as ‘small units’ but since then we’ve used them for To The Strongest and Midgard. I’m slightly kicking myself for not using sabot bases now that Saga: Age of Hannibal is available, but hey, I’ll just paint some more for skirmishing!
When I painted this force, I was experimenting with coloured undercoats. This has all been done with Army Painter Fur Brown, which has been left/ washed/ highlighted for the skin, spear shafts and shield backs. If I was doing another legion (never say never) I’d be going with the GW Contrast paints all the way.
Seeing as the cavalry have just been finished, let’s review these first. I confess that these are not actual ‘Roman cavalry’ figures. When Victrix released the Iberian Cavalry set, I snapped one up, despite already owning…errr….substantial numbers of Spanish cavalry in metal. There weren’t yet any Roman cavalry available at that point, so I converted 8 of the Spanish to try to look like allied Romans who had been locally equipped. Martin provided me with some allied Roman heads and I added round shields from the Velites – then painted them red. I think they just about work!
The horses were sprayed with Army Painter coloured undercoats (Desert Yellow and Leather Brown) before being painted with oil paints and then wiped off. This can take a few days to dry but gets horses done quick! In this case, I left the horses for (checks notes) 4 years before doing the rest of the painting. The oils were nicely dry at this point.
Coming back to the riders (who had not seen any paint in their previous life), I quickly sprayed them with Halford’s white primer and blocked them in with GW Contrast paints. These received a bit of highlighting and drybrushing before I called it done.
Seeing as we’re working from the rear of the army, let’s have a look at the Triarii next. These fine fellows are (like the rest of the legion) Victrix plastics apart from a couple of Warlord Games Caesarian Romans that I snuck in for a bit of movement. While not as animated as some of the more recent sets (e.g. Vikings), these fellows DO have chunky spears that won’t snap easily. Bonus..
Now we move on to the main fighting line composed of Principes and Hastati. The red/ white / green of the shields is mostly influenced by the artwork of Peter Connolly, although perhaps there is a subconscious nod to the Italian tricolore there as well?
And now it’s the turn of those lucky teenagers in the front line, the Velites…
I did something sensible with these and created sabot movement trays so I could use them for skirmishing. The figures are based on 2p coins and magnetised into the tray so they stay in pretty well during play. There’s also a nice dynamic about a plastic model based on a metal coin or washer, in that it’s very hard to knock them over during gaming!
Two games of Saga: Age of Hannibal with Sam had got my Ancient Spanish army out of its boxes and into action; the Iberian battle board is great fun, but I wanted to play something bigger. And so I threw together an encounter battle pitting my Republican Romans* against Sam’s growing Carthaginian force backed up by a substantial number of Spanish.
*For reasons of disclosure, these also included Scrivs’s Romans that have been living in my loft for the last five years. They threw dreadful dice!
Left: Carthaginians (left) try to hold off the Romans (right) from breaking through and taking the pass.
I had thought about using To The Strongest (Simon Miller’s fine set of card-driven big battle rules), but resorted instead to my own Midgard rules (still in playtesting, whenever real life allows. See the linked page on my site here: https://mogsymakes.net/midgard/ ). Midgard is designed to play fast-moving big battles with Heroes driving the action and actually worked pretty well for this game, although we dropped the rules for single combats, as it seemed out of scale with Punic Wars big scraps.
Under their commander Khemmitsbaal and two sub-commanders, the Carthaginians mustered:
1 x elephant and attendants
6 x Iberian warbands
4 x African spearmen
4 x Iberian skirmishers
2 x Greek archers
3 x Heavy cavalry
Right: African spearmen muster with the elephant in the centre
Facing off against them were Consul Vetilius and his two sub-commanders, Marcus and Metillius, with:
4 x Velites
4 x Hastati
4 x Principes
2 x Triarii
4 x Light Spanish Cavalry
The Romans were able to be arranged in a manipular formation due to the support rules in Midgard (having friendly units around you is critical to winning sustained combats) and some extra traits thrown in, allowing a fresh unit to replace a worn one. These kept the Romans in the game but the legions took quite a hammering nonetheless!
The game opened with the Romans making their advance in the centre and on the left, hoping to break through there with the legions, while Marcus and the Spanish Light Cavalry took on a delaying role on the right. The drilled trait that the legions had ensured that the fresh Roman units were able to keep up the pace and get quickly into position for the attack.
A full-on battle developed in the centre as the Roman legions came to grips with the Carthaginians. Some rough Roman dice rolling resulted in several of the Hastati units struggling to get the breakthrough I had hoped for!
With some serious scraping going on around the centre, I was very much hoping to be able to break through. Alas, it was not to be. I had foregone my lucky green Welsh dice for the night and things went against my Romans in short order!
However, there was one lucky break; in combat with my Hastati against the mighty Iberian warband, Sam decided to commit Khemmitsbaal. With the Iberians taking some damage, Khemmitsbaal had to make a ‘Risk to Heroes’ check and ended up with a double 1 (you don’t need to know much about my rules to know that this is a BAD THING). Fortunately he was able to use his final remaining Might Point to reroll one of these dice. Less fortunately, he managed to roll a 1 (again) and was left being carried out of the melee with a pilum wedged through his lungs. Nasty!
Alas, Sam got wise to my delaying tactics and pushed forward with all the skirmishers and cavalry on my right flank. Marcus’ Spanish Light Cavalry got somewhat thrashed, with Marcus narrowly making his escape.
This hastened the urgency of the Roman main attack, but the dice just wouldn’t come right and it was driven back.
The Carthaginian Heavy Cavalry on my left flank fought heroically and just would not crumble, leaving my battered Romans pinned against the rocks. With the clock on two hours exactly, we decided to call it. Neither side had broken but the Romans had only 4 Reputation Tokens left against the Carthaginians’ 7, giving the Africans a solid victory. Had Khemmitsbaal not gotten a bit bloodthirsty in the earlier combat, the Carthaginians would have had an even greater margin of victory.
This was terrific fun and the rules worked very well indeed. I was pleased that my tweaks allowed the manipular system to be modelled to a limited extent and that the command and control felt pretty much just right for the period. Predicatably, I went straight home and pulled out the box of half-painted Punic Wars models that have been sat there since 2017 – we will most definitely be back for more!
Many years ago, Big Red Bat guru Simon Miller asked me why I didn’t have a blog to support the various games that I took around wargames shows. “Why would I want a blog?” I asked him. “You’ll get followers,” came the reply. I laughed.
I don’t really do this to get followers, but I love swapping ideas and photos with other gamers around the world. I seem to post on social media every week or so, only then to find myself unable to find my own pictures, battle reports or words of advice just a few weeks later. Questions like this crop up all the time: “Have you got any size comparison pictures with different manufacturers?” “What was the paint recipe you used on your wolves?” “Has anyone had a go at converting Elf cavalry/ Cretan gendarmes/ Sikh sappers?” “How does Muskets & Tomahawks II play?” And often, I say, “Yes, but…just let me find it…” Hopefully mogsymakes will go some way towards helping out with these senior moments of social media.
My chum Scrivs claims that one of his main reasons for having a blog is to be able to find his paint recipes several years down the line; I can confirm this, having used several of his colour schemes after looking them up online! I’ve gone for something in between a blog and a website, in that I have different pages and sections where I will hopefully archive posts to make them easier to find. It is still very much in its infancy, so any helpful suggestions about improving access and layout will be quite welcome.
And so, I find myself following Simon’s sage advice: get a blog. I hope you enjoy it!