Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Undead army for Warband Fantasy

OMG! The figures are getting smaller!

My latest completed project is something I started planning last year, but it got sidelined by other things, mainly my Saga 2 Late Romans. Still, I managed to get the delayed project completed in a couple of days recently while waiting for a parcel delivery that eventually turned up a day late.

Last year, some of us at the club got talking about Warband, the fantasy ruleset published by Pendraken, which uses 10mm figures, also produced by Pendraken. I thought that I'd get a project going to produce a single army that I could play a few games with. It seemed to me that the quickest one to paint would be the Undead, and this turned out to be the case. I bought the basic army deal, plus some extra packs of figures to allow me some variations in my army, and also to add extra figures to the various stands of units.

In Warband, units are mounted on 10 cm x 5 cm bases, and damage is recorded on a D6, which should ideally be included on the base, so I bought some suitable dice and little dice holder squares at the same time as the minis. You can see these in the pictures. First, a command stand (with the banners), plus three stands of Skeleton Warriors;

Next two stands of Skeleton Riders;

Here are the ranged units, Skeleton Archers and stone-throwing catapults, plus a unit of Zombies with a purple-robed necromancer using dark powers to send them shambling into battle;

And finally, the magical attack force, comprising a stand of Wraiths and Spirits, being conjured from the Beyond by another Necromancer, plus a stand of Necromatic Wizards with their defensive entourage of Warriors and a couple of magical altars;

These were all remarkably easy to paint and, for their size, rather nicely detailed figures. Everything was glued to the MDF bases (dice holders having already been glued on) and then sprayed with Army Painter Skeleton Bone primer. Then, the parts that needed to be coloured, weapons, shields, robes etc were painted, everything was dry-brushed and then inked using W&N ink. I used green and yellow inks on the Wraiths to give them a ghostly tinge (influenced by Ghostbusters, obviously) and a brown ink to bring out the details on everything else.

I'm not sure that I would want to paint up figures as small as this with a colour scheme that required a lot of detail, hums for example, but I suppose that it is a challenge I might rise to at some point in the future.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Trouble in the bocage - a Chain of Command AAR

This was a recent game of Chain of Command at the club. I commanded the Germans, and Brian was in charge of the Americans. The scenario was Attack and Defend, with a Zug of Heer regulars defending a hamlet against a US Armoured Rifle platoon. The Amis had 6 points of support, which was spent on a pre-game barrage and a FOO with a battery of 81mm mortars. I had seven points of support, which I used to get a tripod-mounted MG42, two lengths of barbed wire and a minefield. I did contemplate blowing the lot on a StuG IIIG but I was worried that it might get taken out by US bazookas. As things turned out, there weren't any.

Here are two views of the table before we deployed. I saw this as being somewhere in the more rolling bocage country south of the Cotentin peninsula, between Saint-Lô and Mortain.

The Americans would mainly arrive from a JoP towards the top left in the second photo and a second JoP in the woods in the centre, while the German JoPs were all concentrated around the houses and cornfields.

I have to say that I was rather worried about the massive firepower (a squad of two tripod-mounted MGs) available to the Americans, as well as the sheer number of senior and junior leaders they had.

The pre-game barrage didn't disrupt my deployment too much and soon one of my squads was tactically deployed in a coppice on a low hill, firing and causing casualties and shock on one of the US rifle sections trying to work its way around my right flank.

Effectively, early on I'd neutralised this threat, which included pinning them and wounding an attached SL.

However, elsewhere, the Americans swiftly moved to occupy the lane lined on one side with bocage.

I deployed a section in a cornfield on the outskirts of the hamlet and placed them on overwatch. I also deployed my tripod MG42 team upstairs in the larger house.

The Americans began to reinforce their central position and got their MG squad into action quickly. These pesky MGs made short work of my third section, causing so many casualties and shock that before long the survivors broke and ran off. Oops. 

The section that cut and ran was the one on the left of the above photo. However, the section in the coppice continued to rain fire down on the pinned US rifles, slowly whittling the squad down. Despite my losses, I was hopeful of holding my position.

My MG42 in the house began to hit the US MG squad. slowly causing casualties and shock.

Below you can see the big gap caused by the demise of my central rifle section. Only the minefield, and the threat of my tripod MG42 was keeping the Americans behind the line of bocage.

At this point, the US FOO called in a mortar barrage. This was off-target but he managed to correct this and the German SL and MG team in the house made a rapid exit and headed away from the zone of the mortar barrage.

The US MG squad suffered a major setback when my lefthand section emerged from the cornfield and its MG42 team opened fire, before long blowing the Amis away, including a JL. The rifle squad also came under fire and made a hasty withdrawal. Without any MG support and no BARs available to the Armoured Rifle platoon, the position became untenable. US morale was now plummeting and Brian was rolling fewer command dice. At this point he was down to two or three.

Once the bocage-lined lane was free from Americans, my Germans were able to start targeting the US HQ squad and the attached FOO. Things had really turned around for me. US morale was hovering precariously at One.

I turned my attention back to my right flank now that my centre was safe and finally caused the US squad there to rout, following the elimination of the attached SL. At this point US morale hit a big fat Zero.

So, a decent win for the Heer. It was touch-and-go for a while, but as long as I could keep the Americans stuck behind the bocage in the lane, I felt confident that I'd be able to keep on inflicting casualties. Eliminating the MG squad was always my main aim and luckily, it worked out for me. Also, the firepower of the section MG42s was crucial, especially when it was being directed by the JL. It really shows the importance of the MG42 team in each German rifle section. It is a real killer weapon and it pays to keep the JL with the MG team.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Gripping Beast slingers for my Late Romans

I didn't get these finished in time for my photos of my Romans, but I don't think that matters too much. They are Gripping Beast 28mm plastics again, from the Dark Age Warriors box set. I got them finished off yesterday while waiting for a parcel to be delivered, which didn't actually turn up. Annoyed was a mild word for my mood, but at least the day wasn't completely wasted.

The GB Dark Age Warriors box is a pretty useful set. You can make them up as spearmen, swordsmen or axemen, or arm them with javelins straight out of the box, but you also have the option of turning some of them into slingers. You do this by cutting off right hands that are holding other weapons and glueing on hands with slings, of which there are a huge number (32) on the sprues. This isn't exactly difficult and there is plenty of variety possible when it comes to poses. Because they aren't supposed to get into hand-to-hand combat, they don't really need shields, but I suppose you could stick some on if you wanted to. I think that they look better without, personally.

These slingers would do for pretty much any army from Late Antiquity and the Early Mediaeval, but for me, they are going to be levies for Saga and skirmishing light infantry for my Late Roman Sword and Spear project.

I decided to paint them with a fairly muted colour palette, after all these aren't elite troops, they are peasant levies, foederati or limitanei (i.e. defensive garrison troops, literally "the men on the limes" that is, the borders). There has been much discussion over the years about the difference between the limitanei and the comitatenses or field units, who are often referred to as being "mobile", which is a bit misleading because all armies were limited to movement at the speed of the slowest components, which were the foot troops and the baggage train. It is often also suggested that the limitanei were somehow inferior troops, less well trained or poorly equipped and somehow lacking in fighting spirit, but this is also misleading, certainly during the early Dominate period. At first, the only real difference between the two types was their role. The limitanei were there to defend the limes (borders) against incursions and were locally recruited (and therefore likely to fight doggedly to protect their homes and communities) whereas the comitatenses were units held centrally and used to create field armies designed to fight larger battles and act as a reserve. It is certainly the case that among the comitatenses there were more "elite" units, the scholae and auxilia palatina for example, but limitanei units could also be attached to field armies and these were then referred to as pseudocomitatensesThe Notitia Dignitatum lists out the names of many comitatensis units, as well as a huge number and range of imperial administrative offices from those associated with the imperial court to provincial ones.

However, the limitanei were apparently paid less than comitatenses and scholae units and their status certainly declined over time until they were pretty much just local militia by the 6th century, by which time the western provinces of the empire were gone, replaced by Romano-Germanic successor "kingdoms" across western mainland Europe and by a patchwork of competing small British and Germanic ones across the former Roman Britannia. When we look at post-Roman Britain we should consider that most, if not all units would have been classed as limitanei or, in the case of Germanic troops recruited to fight against Pictish and other incursions as foederati.

Monday, 4 June 2018

The Romans Are Coming

After playing a couple of games of Saga yesterday, I took the opportunity to use some of the club scenery to act as a backdrop for some photos of all my Gripping Beast plastic Romans, well all the finished ones anyway because I have a lot more in the pipeline to stick together, as well as a load that are made up but need to be undercoated. These are unarmoured Roman spearmen and archers, plus some Dark Age infantry with spears and slingers.

I also have another box of Roman armoured cavalry to do and a box of Dark Ages cavalry who I will make up as light cavalry with javelins (to be skirmishers). I also have more Dark Age infantry, who I will probably make up as spearmen and a box of Saxon Thegns. Both of these who will be deployed as Germanic foederati heavy and medium infantry, and I will also be using a few of the Saxons as Roman armoured infantry with head and shield swaps. By the time I've finished, I think that I'll have a pretty large army to field in games of Sword and Spear. I am also thinking about using a set of the newly announced Gripping Beast metal Roman Cataphracts as elite cavalry.

Even without all the extra figures, what I have at the moment looks pretty impressive en masse and they will only look better when there are even more of them.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Hyborian cavalry reinforcements

I think (hope?) that I've finally finished my 15mm Hyborian Barbarian horde for Sword and Spear Fantasy games. The final additions are the rest of the cavalry. Here they are en masse, charging against some hapless enemy foot.

The front unit is one of Cavalry, as defined in the S&SF rules. They are a single unit, sized 8 cm x 3 cm. They will join my existing two units of Cavalry. They are supported by two units of Light Horse.

The next two units are the Light Horse, based on 4 cm square bases to give them a looser formation. Each unit is therefore 8 cm x 4 cm.

Obviously, they are all just the same excellent Copplestone figures, so the only way to distinguish between them is the base sizes.

I think that the last thing I need to do is photograph the entire horde, which should look pretty impressive.

Then, all that is left is to actually get them onto the table for a few games.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Late Roman unarmoured cavalry

Having completed the heavy cavalry, I went back and finished off the Late Roman light cavalry that I'd started a while ago. These are based on the Gripping Beast "Dark Age Cavalry" plastic box set, with a few head swaps to make them look a bit more Roman. Also, the majority have been given oval shields and all of them have Roman-style designs (from LBMS) on them.

The main thing that I wanted to do here was create some degree of standardisation in how the unit looks, but also keep some variation in their dress. I've discussed the lack of an absolute uniform appearance in Late Roman troops in a previous post, so I used a similar approach to the one I used on the infantry figures, i.e.using a range of fairly muted colours that suggest natural undyed wool or linen. However, I wanted to tie the troops together so I painted "Roman style" embellishments on the tunics in a mixture of red or light blue tunic edging and other designs such as the roundels and shoulder panels seen on Late Roman tunics.

I decided to use a standard red shield design with a yellow Chi Rho for eight of the riders, plus four riders with different shield designs. I did this so that I have a degree of flexibility in how I combine my various cavalry figures for tabletop deployment.

My main idea about these guys is that they can easily represent post-Roman British cavalry or also Germanic auxiliaries in the Roman army, such as those used in both the Eastern and Western halves of the empire from the late third century onwards.

Anyway, here are some more views of the latest recruits to my growing Late Roman army.

These last four figures, who I think of as the unit's "characters", really suggest post-Roman Britons to me. 

Friday, 25 May 2018

Late Roman armoured cavalry

I bought a box of the new Gripping Beast Late Roman armoured cavalry as soon as they were available. I was already working on a box of the Dark Ages cavalry to use as Roman light cavalry, but what I really wanted was some armoured riders to boost my Saga Late Roman warband, use as Romano-British "Arthurians" and also to enable me to field a warband as Last Romans as described in the Age of Vikings book for Saga 2. These guys would work as part of a warband from the 6th or 7th century, i.e. the period between Justinian the Great and Heraclius, but don't look right as troops from one of the Tagmata or Thematic units that made up later Roman armies from the 8th-10th centuries.

Anyway, although I'd started the light cavalry, these armoured riders jumped the queue and have been finished first. Here is the complete unit of 12 cavalrymen. Note that there is one rider with a different shield design (n.b. all the shield designs are LBMS transfers). More on him later.

There are six figures armed with spears;

And five with swords;

Now, here is the chap with the different shield design;

Notice that I've put him on a larger round base. This enables me to field him as the leader of my warband, as well as including him as just another member of a unit. Here he is from his open side;

I have to admit that when I was painting these I had a real crisis of confidence over how they would turn out, partly because I really do not like painting horses at all, but also because I was finding it hard to visualise how they would look once they were inked. This was because I wasn't sure that I'd picked the right colour scheme for them. However, I think that they have turned out fine.

Regarding the actual models, I am quite impressed with them. There are plenty of head variants, allowing you to create figures that are not all identical, plus the usual different weapons options. There is also a vexilla included, which I didn't use, but which would work fine, with a bit of cutting and glueing of one of the spear arms in the box. I did find, though, that once I'd assembled and undercoated the horses that the body halves hadn't gone together perfectly and needed a bit of Milliput to fill the rather visible gaps in the alignment. I expect that this was down to my assembly rather than any actual defects in the mouldings themselves. Anyway, I've already bought another box to paint up so that I have extra armoured cavalry for my Late Roman Sword and Spear army.