Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dux Britanniarum



I was in Orc's Nest today and picked up the new Dux Britanniarum rules by the appallingly named Too Fat Lardies.  They also had the new Osprey Dux Bellorum rules as well but I only noticed those in the window after I had left the shop. It seems odd that two Arthurian period sets of rules should appear so close together and with such similar names.  The games look fundamentally different, however. Lets try to get our Dux in a row. 

Dux Bell (as we shall call it) is an element based game for larger battles from the period, based on the same author's well thought of Glutter of Ravens (which I have not played).  Now, I don't like element based games as I always mount my figures individually so this counts against it quite heavily.  Armies have six to twelve units so this sounds like it contemplates quite a lot of figures which is not good for someone like me.

Dux Brit, however, looks much more my sort of game, in that figures are individually based and formed into very small units of around six figures.  Indeed, the initial starting forces for the game are around forty figures per side, which is reasonably achievable for me.  It's very much based around a campaign system with quite a lot of non-table elements that need resolving before and after a game.  All of these look quite interesting and allow for quite a lot of period flavour (often literally - one option is to provide mead or ale to your force in advance of battle!).   Combat also involves the use of two types of cards (included with the game) which affect combat, morale and other things.  

The idea of the game is basically to conquer or defend your chosen part of Britain depending on whether you are a Saxon or Romano-British leader.  Characters are very important in the game and there is quite a lot of dicing for characteristics.  Warbands progress during the campaign and can add (or lose) troops depending on how well they do.  

It's hard to get a feel for it without playing it but, given that the progression and improvement of forces from game to game is similar to The Lord of the Rings Battle Companies rules, I am hoping to persuade my son Guy to have a go at it.  Terrain is placed randomly but I do at least have some Dark Ages buildings and our normal terrain pieces will work for the period.  The only thing that I don't have is a river but I might see if I can get something at Colours in a couple of weeks.

The rules are a full colour paperback, printed on very glossy paper but they don't have the production values of, say, Warlord Games offerings.  There are only four small photographs of figures in the 92 page rule book but there are many, rather basic, diagrams illustrating different aspects of the rules which are probably more useful, if less inspirational.  There are also quite a few typos and mis-indexed pages.  Nice maps, however and the summary play sheet is on the back cover, which is a good idea.

So, lets look at the forces I will need to play a game of Dux Brittaniarum.

A Saxon force starts with four characters: A lord, two nobles and a champion (there are significant rules for individual combat between army champions). Next you have two units of six Gedridht elite warriors and three groups of six Geoguth or Duguth (the rules do not distinguish between the two for the Saxons) ordinary warriors.  In addition there are four missile troops who have to be archers.  So this means a total of 38 figures.  Other types of figure such as a shaman or light cavalry may be added as the campaign progresses.


Some of my Musketeer Gedridht


Now, looking at the Musketeer Miniatures Early Saxons I have painted I can see that I already have enough figures for the three units of six warriors.  I also have one and a half units of elite Gedridht painted.  So to complete my main Saxon warrior force I need to paint three more Gedridht.  I don't have any archers but Musketeer conveniently sell them four to a pack.  Something else to look out for at Colours.  I have a figure that can serve as a champion but need three more characters to be my lord and nobles.  


My standard bearer can become a noble

Somewhere I have a figure for the lord as he came with the standard bearer which I have painted (there is no role for standards in the rules but I may make one of the other nobles a standard bearer). Bill Thornhill, Musketeer's sculptor, has been working on some marvellous characters for this period so, hopefully, these will appear shortly and will solve the missing noble problem.


My Gripping Beast Romano-British


For the Romano-British I did paint some of Gripping Beast's Arthurians (very much based on characters from Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles) but some of them  look a bit crude today.  Musketeer have some superb new Late Romans which should certainly provide the elite troops and Artizan have a small range which includes some very nice levy types (I think I might even have a pack or two somewhere).  The initial British force consists of a tribune, two Decurions and a champion, like the Saxons.  The warriors are different, however, with three units of six Numeri (levy), two units of six Milites (warriors) and one unit of Comanipulares (elite).  The four missile troops can be archers or slingers.  Forty four figures altogether. Neither Artizan nor Musketeer make slingers for the Romano-British but Musketeers Saxon slingers are largely clean shaven (compared with their very beardy warriors) so will easily pass as British.  I think I have four which I have started somewhere.  

I have been wanting to play Arthurian wargames for many years; ever since I bought the old range of Gripping Beast figures from their short-lived shop in Richmond, Surrey.  This set of rules could make that a real possibility!  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Dark Ages "armies". Too many of course!

Some Gripping Beast Saxons: some of the first metal figures I painted, about ten years ago and not up to my current (however low that is) standard


The very first metal 28mm figures I painted were some Gripping Beast Vikings. I also painted some Saxons  and both have seen service in my early days at Guildford Wargames Club.  I recently discovered half a dozen of these early Saxons (technically, of course, late Saxons!) and they look very poor indeed.  I was hoping to touch them up a bit with static grass bases but they need much more than that and there is nothing more tedious than repainting figures!

Dark Ages figures are some of the most time consuming to paint because of their literal lack of uniformity.  There are armies which are worse, high medieaval and Celts, for example, but what with random colours and seperate spears and shields it is hard, for me anyway, to do a lot at a time. Added to this, other than Normans and Carolingians, the points value (in WAB at least) of many of the troops means you need large numbers of them.  So why do I keep buying them?

Partly the reason came out of a long interest in Vikings due, in large part, to my part Scandinavian heritage; one of my great grandparents came from Malmö. Partly, I was seduced by the splendid displays of beautifully lit Dark Ages figures I saw on the Gripping Beast stand at my first Salute.  Mostly, however, it was the appearance of the various WAB supplements: Shieldwall, Age of Arthur, EL Cid, Fall of the West and Byzantium: Beyond the Golden Gate.  All of these were full of lovely painted miniatures which I have been unable to resist. 

The number of WAB armies I am concurrently painting is a running joke with Mike Lewis (who owns Black Hat Miniatures) at the club and was my main opponent for Dark Ages games.  I've decided to list the ones I am working on just to try to sort out where I need to put in some more effort to progress, however, slowly, some more units.  Part of my problem stems from the fact that I always want to paint both armies; at least in the Dark Ages.

So, chronologically let's see where we are:

Late Romans

I bought some surprisingly nice figures from Black Tree Designs (their figures are very variable) some years ago and have painted, er, none (although I have started a few).  Part of the reason for this was that I was looking for a suitable opponent and didn't fancy Persians.  This has now been solved with Musketeer Miniatures lovely new Goths.

Goths

I bought a couple of packs of these from Musketeer when they first came out but have no idea where they are (I take all my figures out of their packs immediately and put them in boxes).


Gripping Beast Romano-British.  The first figures I based with static grass.  I had to hand paint the shields; no LBM then!


Romano British

The purchase of these was heavily influenced by my reading of the Bernard Cornwell Arthur novels and, of course, Gripping Beast's range is based on these, even including characters from the books.  I got these directly from Gripping Beast's shop when they had their brief stint in Richmond upon Thames a few years ago.  It was very exciting to be able to actually go into a shop and buy historical figures.  Even more exciting was the fact that I had an ex-girlfirend who lived just over the river in St Margarets.  Trips to Richmond were doubly fulfilling, therefore.  I have also bought some of Artizan's Romano British and am now tempted by the new Musketeer Late/Roman/Romano British/Early Byzantine figures.


Musketeer Early Saxons

 
Early Saxons

I also bought some of Gripping Beast's Arthurian period Saxons (not very inspiring) but then of course the Musketeer ones arrived and I bought quite a few of these.  I have actually painted a whole unit of these and, like all Musketeer figures, they are lovely to paint so it wouldn't take much persuading for me to do some more.  Whilst taking some pictures for this post I discovered I had also finished half of this unit of Musketeer Early Saxons, which I had completely forgotten about. I know I have the other half unit somewhere!

Gripping Beast Saxons, painted  a long time ago.

Mid Saxons

I read the first couple of Bernard Cornwall's novels set in the period of Alfred so I started picking up a variety of Saxons from a number of manufacturers but none of them were really satisfactory.  Surprisingly, the recent Foundry figures are very nice but it's an expensive way to buy a mass army.


A mixture of Gripping Best, Foundry and Artizan Vikings


Vikings

I bought Gripping Beast of course but many of their figures are not really compatible with each other as regards size.  I bought some of the Foundry ones, despite them being a bit "fantasy" and also quite a few Artizan ones which go well with the Foundry ones and aren't quite so fantasy-looking.  Despite all this I can only field two units of them.  Vikings are a useful Dark Ages army, though, because of their multiple opponents (including each other).  I have about 75 painted. Incidentally, the medieaval history tutor of one of my ex-girlfriends at Oxford insisted it should be pronounced "Vikkings" with a short "i"!



Carolingians

When these Artizan figure came out I bought quite a few thinking they would make a good opponent for the Vikings.  I have only painted a dozen though, although I do like them as figures.  The cavalry are lovely but the spearmen just won't rank up as they are waving their spears around at funny angles.  I will need to re-base them and maybe try to bend their arms a bit.



Andalusians

I bought and painted eight crossbowmen in a week for a game we were having at the club but then I was ill on the day and they never got used.  I'd like to do some more and recently watched El Cid on DVD which led me to buying a pack of four spearman at Colours last month.  I actually based them this week so may get them done soon.  Very nice figures indeed!

Late Saxons

Fortunately you can use the Middle Saxons for these with the addition of some axe wielding Huscarls and the odd kite shield.  The big problem remains the unexciting Saxon ranges around. Still, I have around fifty painted figures.

Irish
I have a few of these Crusader figures somewhere but in WAB you neeed buckets of them as their points value is so low.




Normans

I was never that keen on Normans, as I thought they were a bit stolid and colourless, until my poor Saxons took a pasting at Guildford from someone's Norman milites.  I think I bought the first pack of Crusader figures at a big discount at one of the shows prompted by my son doing the Battle of Hastings at school.  I finished my first unit this week, have done some archers and some mounted milites.  The new Conquest Games plastic mounted figures are very nice and, apparently, foot figures are on the way. These are gradually building into what could be a functional army and they can be used, of course, to bolster El Cid Spanish (except I haven't got any yet).




Turcomen

Guildford were participating in the Society of Ancients games day when they did Dorylaeum.  I painted 30 Perry Miniatures Turcomen horse archers as my contribution but never made the game (although my figures did) as I had to fly to Los Angeles on the day. This is my biggest cavalry unit from any period and I am often tempted to use it as the basis of a full army.


Perry peasants


Crusaders

Of course I would then need some Crusaders and I painted a few peasants for the SoA game. I would love to buy some more of the Perry figures but that would mean, essentially, collecting two Norman armies at the smae time.  I wouldn't mix the manufacturers as their proportions are so different and I paint the bases different colours.  Can't have European muddy bases in the Holy Land! 


Crusader Byzantine archers


Byzantines

This was going to be a great project and I even set up a seperate blog for them but I got frustrated with the quality of the figures available; particularly unsatisfactory cataphracts (nothing worse, of course).  I painted a few and keep wondering about going back to these.  The new Musketeer figures are from a much earlier period but at present they have only done infantry and what are really needed are bow-armed cavalry with lances.  Unless these come out I'm not setting off down that route.


Early Gripping Beast Early Saxon (as opposed to the more recent range)


So that's 14 armies (13 if we amalgamate the mid and late Saxons).  None of them can yet be fielded as a stand alone wargames army although I have enough Vikings and Saxons to contribute a small force to a bigger game.  Of course if I had just stuck to one or even two armies I could have fielded a proper army by now but that would be boring! I'd like to do another unit of Dark Ages figures, having finished the Norman unit recently, but am not sure whether to do more Normans, some Vikings or some Early Saxons.  I have quite a lot of based Normans on my workbench at present but think I will put the Norman spearmen away and perhaps do a unit of eight crossbowmen who should be quicker to do as they have no spears and shields.  There, I have talked myself into it which is what these blogs are for really, to help me think about what to paint next!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Another Carolingian Knight



The file box I keep my Normans in also contains my very small collection of painted Carolingians from Artizan. I noticed that I had painted five mounted figures so knew there was another one around somewhere.  After a bit of digging around in my "Dark Ages under way" box I found him and finished him off today. Like their successors, the Normans, the Carolingians need a lot of heavy cavalry. Artizan make one more pack of heavy cavalry and I just realised that it is Colours at Newbury next week so maybe I will be able to find it there.


All my Carolingian milites so far


Carolingians had distinctive winged spears so I use the Gripping Beast cast spears, drill a hole in it and insert a cross-piece from thinner brass rod.  A bit of a fiddle but worth it, I think.  Like all Artizan figures that I have bought they are very nice to paint and so if I find them I will probably put them in the pile of Normans I have underway at present.  I think I may have some more infantry somewhere too. 


Artwork for The Song of Roland from Look and Learn, 1971


Key opponents for the Carolingians, from my point of view, were Vikings and Spanish Moors although I am not certain of the differences between the uniforms and equipment of the 11th century and the 9th century for the latter armies.  When, for example did the helmet with the nasal piece appear in Europe?  I first became aware of the Carolingians from a picture series in Look and Learn magazine depicting The Song of Roland.  They are an unusual and distinctive Dark Ages army and, like the Normans, I will continue to work away at them.


More Carolingians from Look and Learn

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Norman Knights

Two Crusader Miniatures figures flank a Conquest Games figure


I've just finished a trio of Norman Knights and, enthused, have based up some more infantry and Bishop Odo today.

I never intended building a Norman army; mainly as several other people at the club already have one, but I continue to paint the occasional figure when I want a break from something else. One of the main advantages of them is that they are quick to paint, especially if you are using Crusader Miniatures chunky figures. On the whole I don’t like the increasingly old-fashioned looking squat appearance but in this case it makes the Normans very purposeful looking.

I have painted quite a few Anglo-Saxons (mainly Gripping Beast) and have always fancied doing Hastings and Stamford Bridge but Normans have a lot more uses than that. They are, of course good for the First Crusade and even the Spanish Reconquista as well as actions in Italy.

The problem I have with the Crusades (and I have thirty Perry Turcoman horse archers painted which I did for a Society of Ancients battle day) is that the Perry figures are so nice but really wouldn’t mix with the Crusader ones. So I would feel that I have to buy the Perries crusader cavalry which would be crazy given I am painting virtually identical figures for Hastings (except the bases would be the wrong colour for the Holy Land). So I am in the position where I am contemplating painting two separate Norman type armies. Madness!

One thing which may come to my rescue are the Conquest Games plastic Norman knights. I have just finished my first one of these and have some more on the way. These look much more compatible with the Perry figures I have so I would be able to mix them in much easier with theirs.



Conquest figure with added shield boss


The only fault the Conquest figures have is that, for some reason, they didn’t put a shield boss on the kite shields. This is easily remedied, however, as they include an equal number of round shields which do have bosses. It is straightforward to cut of the boss from a round shield and glue it onto the kite shield as I did for this one. The treatment of chainmail is not at all bad for plastic, given it’s about the hardest thing to do in this medium, and whilst not as crisp as metal figures is quite adequate.  I have to say that I enjoyed painting this figure, which is something I rarely say for plastics, although filling the seam where the head and neck of the horse joins the body wasn't easy (and in fact I didn't bother on the first one).


Crusader, Conquest, Crusader


Although the horses are noticeably more slender than the Crusader figures I wouldn’t hesitate about putting them in the same unit. The option to have some round shields will be useful as I vaguely recall reading somewhere that some of the Frankish cavalry in the Crusades (the Provencal contingent?) had round not kite shields. Even if there is no evidence for this it is a good way to differentiate them from the Normans. I might do the same with Bretons at Hastings.


Perilously close to being a unit! Conquest figure in the centre.


So I will definitely be buying some more of these Conquest plastics for use in Britain, the Mediterranean and the Holy Land.  Next I hope to have Bishop Odo done.  here I have gone for the recent Foundry figure rather than the Crusader one which I will explain next time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Conquest Games Plastic Normans: 1


I picked up a box of these at Warfare last weekend. It wasn't really an impluse buy as I have been steadily painting small groups of Crusader Normans for some time. I'm usually not too bothered about the price differential between plastic and metal but for a Norman army, where you need a lot of cavalry, 12 figures for £18 looks pretty good compared with the Crusader cost of £34 for the same number of figures.


I hope to assemble some at the weekend but first thought I would see what is in the box. The box itself is servicable (certainly not up to Immortal standards!) but, not that it really matters, the cover painting is a bit weak. The back of the box shows some painted figures done with the dreaded Army Painter but at least it gives me a target!

Inside there are four sprues of figures (three identical rank and file and one command) plus a sprue of bases.


The bases are 2.5 cm x 5cm for the four singles and 5cm x 5cm for the six doubles (so you get enough bases for 16 mounted figures). One of the double bases would take the casualty figure as well. I use just this size for my bases but never have multiple figure stands (partly because I don't like them and partly because I base my figures first and then paint them - with multi figure stands you need to paint first and then base). I probably won't use the double bases.



Standard Sprue

The standard sprue contains:

Four bodies (without legs). Three in chainmail (two identical) and one unarmoured. All with integral saddles.

Six horse halves. Three left, three right of which there are two of each half with one other; meaning two designs of left and two of right -this would make it possible to build four different horses as each half fits with any other.

Three different horses heads. This gives, then, the opportunity to build 12 different horses, given the four different horses.

Six different helmeted heads. Four with chainmail coifs, one with a cloth coif and one with no coif. So you have choices for the four bodies.

Three kite shields. Two have arms attached. None of them have shield bosses (unlike the Crusader ones)

Three round shields. Two have arms attached. All have shield bosses.

Three right arms holding spears. Two overarm grip, one underarm.

Three right arms holding swords.

One right arm with an open hand.

One left arm. For attaching to a shield.


Command Sprue

This is largely identicl to the standard sprue as regards horses, weapons and shields. However the top section is different and contains:

A one part casting of a fallen knight on a dead horse.

Three bodies. Two identical in quilted armour and one in scale armour.

One head (identical to one on the main sprue).

One right arm holding a lance with a pennon.

One right arm holding a horn.

One right arm holding a club.

One sword.


I have to say that they have really thought about the contents of these sprues. Apart from the fact that you can field twelve different horses you also have the option to field 12 figures in mail as well as having some other non-armoured or different armour options. Also you can give evryone a lance if you wish and everyone either a kite of round shield. Too often you find that there aren't enough components to equip your troops in a uniform way (Warlord Games celts spring to mind). If you are building a big unit you also have enough components to just build rank and file troops as you have enough bodies that you don't need to use the command figure components.

Next time I will assemble a figure, look at the quality and see how it compares with my Crusader ones. So far, however, I am impressed!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gripping Beast Plastic Vikings



The words "Gripping Beast plastic Vikings" were, for me, the wargaming equivalent of the words "Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz in lesbian love scene" for the cinema. Gripping Beast Vikings were the first 28mm metal figures I ever bought. They were also the first metal 28mm figures I actually had a game with. So they were, therfore, the one "must buy" from Salute. Sadly, like the aformentioned Johansson/Cruz scene, they have proved to be something of a disappointment. I have built several and painted one and have the following thoughts.

Four sprues of ten figures each

The standard sprue

Firstly, what do you get in the box? Four identical sprues with each. Each sprue also contains:
10 bodies all in chainmail (five different types; 2 of which have left arms attached)
10 shields (plus one with attached spears)
6 swords in scabbards
2 double handed axes
2 single handed axes
6 scram knives
4 pouches with attached scrams
14 helmeted heads (10 different)
4 right arms holding a sword
2 right arms holding single handed axes
5 right arms with spears
4 hands holding swords
4 hands holding single handed axes
2 arms designed to hold a double handed axe
5 left arms

Detail of the main sprue

This sound like a good varied selection but I have a few issues:

I would have liked a few more left arms: as four have them attached to the figures and you get only five more then it means that one of your figures per sprue has to be a double handed axeman.
Only five spears per ten figures and no seperate spears. Vikings fought primaily with spears in a shieldwall; I find that two many swords and axes make it more a sort of Warhammer look.
There are no swords which either aren't in scabbards or have hands attached. The idea is that you cut a hand off an arm holding an axe and replace it with ahand holding a sword (and vice versa). I have done this and it works Ok but you have to make sure you cut at exactly 90 degrees.

Command sprue (x2)
Next there are two identical command sprues these contain:

2 bodies in chainmail (the same as two of the figures on the main sprue)
2 heads. these are different from the main sprue: one in ahelmet, one bareheaded.
2 shields.
1 right arm holding a horn.
1 left arm holding a sword.
1 right arm holding a sword.
2 swords in scabbards.
One cloak with an animal skin on it.

My issues with this are:
It's a shame that they couldn't have done some new bodies.
There are only two left arms and one is holding a sword so you can't have your hornist holding a shield as there aren't enough left arms.
Overall I would have liked to see: more variation in bodies, more bare-head options, more spears and more left arms. So, the set is not as flexible as it could have been.
Also included is a brief set of instructions (mainly concerned with the assembling of the two handed axemen and some (rather small) paper flags.
First painted plastic. Its is quite tricky to dry brush the rather shallow plastic chainmail detail

The figures go together quite well, although gaps between the arms and torsos can't be filled because of the pattern of the chainmail. I did find on some arms that I had to trim off some of the arm to get it to fit properly. There is only one real assembly problem and that is to do with the scabbards. Most of the sleeves come down so low that there is no room to fit a scabbard (especially if it includes the sword's grip). A number of the figures are depicted with over the chest belts from which swords would have hung but getting them in place is a real problem; you have to make them stick out at odd angles.


One of the few arm/body combinations that permit the scabbard to hang correctly

If the sword hilt is attached you have to angle the scabbard like this

Couldn't get a scabbard in at all on this one as the sleeve comes down too low

L to R: old Gripping Beast metal, New Gripping Beast plastic, Artizan Designs and Foundry

Sizewise, they are smaller than many of my old Gripping Beast figures but are similar to the Artizan and Foundry ones which make up the bulk of my army. Certainly you could mix them in with no problem. Two things I don't like: the spears are very fat (compared with, for example, the Immortal Miniatures plastic Greeks spears) and are fatter than the Gripping Beast cast spears I have used on my other Vikings. Secondly, they definitely have a slight case of big head syndrome (some more than others) which is a shame as most plastics are edging towards more normal proportions (Perry, Immortal). In short they are rather more cartoony than I would have expected from the Gripping Beast of old. To be fair I need to get some more painted up and see what they look like en masse but I would give the whole box a slightly disappointing 6/10.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dark Ages Size Comparison 2


Left to right: Early GB Viking, 2nd incarnation GB Viking, 3rd incarnation GB Viking, Artizan Viking, Crusader Norman, Foundry Viking, 4th Incarnation GB Viking.

The one on the right is a character (Harald Hardrada) who was a strapping chap so you would expect a bigger figure but he is 32mm foot to eye.