Thursday, December 29, 2011

Whimsical Forest Dwellers 0 - Sons of Odin 1

Thanks to the Duchess looking after the kids for the afternoon I had the rare opportunity today to get a couple of games in with Dr Hotspur.

For our first game, we playtested one of the scenarios from Hotspur's upcoming second edition of his Irregular Wars - a fun set of rules for small actions between 1519 and 1641. The scenario we tried out was the 'Reive and Retrieve' game, setting my Lowland Scots on a sheep stealing raid against Hotspur's Royal English.

Holding off the English horse on their left flank, the Scots make a grab for the livestock.

The game worked well - particularly well for me! Although my force took heavy losses I managed to drive half the English sheep off my end of the board, leaving the Scots survivors full of mutton and the English looking sheepish.

The Scots captain and another company of horse escape with their ovine plunder.

For our second game, we played Song of Blades and Heroes (great game!), setting my Vikings against Pan, a flock of satyrs and a dryad named Phoebe.

Check out the bizarre terrain!

Although Phoebe scored an early success by entangling one of my warriors and setting him up to be finished off by Pan, my hero Harald the Hard Bastard waded in and sorted her out, rapidly dispatching her with a gruesome kill. This unnerved a couple of the satyrs, who ran away, allowing me to concentrate Harald, a berserker and the rest of my warriors against Pan and a satyr with a strong stomach. Despite Olaf the Unsteady being knocked over at one point by Pan, pragmatic Norse steel soon prevailed. Of the satyrs who legged it, one returned just in time to get axed, the sight of which again appalled the survivor to the extent that he took to his little goaty heels. I must confess to feeling a certain amount of guilt about the dryad.

Thanks to Hotspur for a fun afternoon, and for designing a great set of rules in Irregular Wars.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Welsh Levies for Saga

Here's the next unit completed for my Welsh Saga warband. 12 bow-armed levies from Gripping Beast. Enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Seasons Greetings

I am currently away in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, enjoying Christmas with the Duchess' family, so nothing much is happening on the hobby front. But I would like to wish all of you who read my humble blog a very happy and safe Christmas. I have really appreciated all your interest and encouraging comments during the year. It has been a tough year in a lot of ways, and would have been tougher without the sense of community fostered by the Interwebby. In particular, my thoughts go out to the great band of wargamers and hobbyists in Christchurch, who have just endured another earthquake after an already shocking year. Stay safe - I hope you find something to celebrate with loved ones over the next few days, and may 2012 be brighter for you all.

Best wishes from the Dux.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wargaming the Italian Wars in 1/72 Scale - Spanish Infantry

This is a project I was working on at the beginning of the year, until other things grabbed my attention.

After painting up some 1/72 Landsknechts and Renaissance Knights from Dark Dream studio (which have already appeared on the blog) I set out to find other figures that could be used for the Italian Wars of the early 16th Century. A more sensible person would look to the many beautiful 28mm or 15mm figures that are available, but I was interested in testing out my ability to convert 1/72 scale figures to fill the lack of Italian Wars stuff in that scale.

So, what did I have to work with? The best resource for making Spanish and Italian infantry and jinetes cavalry are the boxes of Conquistadores from Caesar and Revell. The Revell figures are sadly our of production, although poorly pirated copies of most of the Revell set are available from Mars.

The Caesar figures are quite nice, but there are no pikemen in the set. Lots of pikes are obviously essential for Italian Wars, so I messed around converting sword and buckler-armed Spanish into pikemen. The good news is that the plastic Caesar use is quite soft, and it is easy to carve things like bucklers away with a sharp knife.

Basically, I cut away the swords and bucklers, then twisted the arms of the figures into plausible positions for holding pikes by sticking a pin through their hands. From what I've been able to find out, there was no formalised pike drill in the 1520s, so it is easy to have the pikes in various positions, in contrast to soldiers of the 17th century. To make this easier I cut some slits at points like elbows and armpits. I then dunked the figure into boiling water, while wearing rubber gloves. The Caesar plastic goes instantly very rubbery when you do this. Then I dunked the figures into a bowl of cold water to set them in their new position.

After getting the arms into position, I used greenstuff to fill in gaps at the armpits etc, and also added some variety to the pikemen by giving some of them bases (military skirts) or slashed clothing.

I also changed some of the heads for variety, and particularly had to swap any heads wearing morion helmets. These are incorrect for the 1520s, so I replaced them with more suitable cabassets and even some sallets from a set of 15th century figures from Miniart. The pikes are broom bristles.

Now that I've based them, I'm reasonably happy with how they turned out. They were a lot of work, but it was challenging and fun trying to imagine figures in different poses - not something you can do with metal figures! I might do some more at some stage, but I do wish someone would decide to put out lots of lovely 1/72 figures for this period.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Making Spears and Pikes - the Dux Homunculorum Way

There has been a bit of discussion over on the Saga forum about how to avoid metal spears breaking and bending on our beloved miniatures. Swords can become ploughshares, but broom bristles can become spears. Here's how:

1. Buy a patio broom. Endure the strange looks you will get in the hardware shop as you gaze closely at the bristles of different brooms, checking them for scale thickness. I bought this one at a local IGA.

2. Inform all your family members that the broom you bring home is absolutely not to be used for sweeping as it is a valuable hobby resource. Rise above the satirical comments directed your way.

3. 'Harvest' the bristles as you need them.

4. Gently squeeze the end of the bristle flat, using flat pliers or suchlike.

5. Use a hobby knife to cut the flattened end into the desired shape.

That's it. You now have a massive supply of flexible plastic rods that can be easily transformed into spears, pikes, arrows, even swords etc with a little care, and they have cost you next to nothing.

Epic Game of Zombies!

Last Thursday night saw an epic game of Zombies with the Duchess, Duxette and Uncle Antonius. Great game that came down to an unseemly scramble for the helipad when the tile finally came up. It looked like the Duxette was going to win, before Antonius sent her back to the Town Square, where she sulked for the final turns. Still anybody's game, Antonius finally made it to the finish line. None of this will make any sense to you if you haven't played Zombies! , but it is a fun 'beer and pretzels' sort of game, enhanced by making zombie noises.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saga Welsh Warband

Here is the first unit of 8 warriors for my Welsh Saga warband. All figures are from Gripping Beast.

The Danish perspective...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Montrose Irish Brigade in 1/72 Scale

These are some experimental figures I did up some time ago to see whether it was feasible to make Montrose's Irish in 1/72 scale. The figures are mainly conversions from A Call to Arms Parliamentarian and Royalist infantry, although the well-fed ensign is a Tumbling Dice Covenanter. The Beautiful flag is from the talented chaps at the Project Auldearn blog. I'm pretty happy with how they turned out, and it is tempting to do some more work on the 1/72 ECW project. But then again, those 28mm ECW figures do look nice. Either way (or both!) ECW will hopefully be a big focus for 2012, along with more dark ages stuff and 1/72 Napoleonics for Lasalle.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Rant About an Awful Movie

Last night the Duchess and I curled up on the sofa with a big bowl of Eton mess to watch The Eagle, the 2011 movie version of Roseary Sutcliff's novel The Eagle of the Ninth, starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell.

Now, to put my reaction in context, The Eagle of the Ninth was one of the best things that ever happened to me as a young Dux. I was completely transported back to the world of the Roman Empire by the book, and by the old TV series that annoyingly has never been released on DVD. It is no exaggeration to say that it, and other books by Rosemary Sutcliff such as Frontier Wolf probably shaped my love of history, and thus the whole direction of my personal and professional life. It is a great regret of mine that I never wrote to Sutcliff before her death to tell her how much her books meant to me.

So, obviously any film was going to have to work hard to meet such powerful childhood associations. Nevertheless, I'd like to think that the Dux is a magnanimous viewer, happy to take a film on its own merits. For example, I largely liked the movie Centurion, which owed an obvious debt to Sutcliff's novels. And there were certainly things to like in The Eagle. The first half hour certainly evoked something of the isolation of a Roman frontier fort and the professionalism of the Roman army. Much of the photography was beautiful.

But here's the thing. I understand that anyone writing a screenplay needs to simplify novels to make them work as a film. Heck - Peter Jackson's The Two Towers arguably improved aspects of Tolkein's story. What I fail to understand is why anyone would wantonly stuff around with aspects of a story for no apparent reason other than to make the story more stupid and illogical. For example, in Sutcliff's novel, Marcus Aquila heads off North of Hadrian's Wall to find the eagle of his father's legion disguised as a travelling Greek eye doctor. This makes sense - it explains his foreigness in the eyes of the Picts he and his slave Esca meet, it allows him to travel widely and makes him valuable to the peoples he meets. This would hardly have been difficult to include in the film, but instead we just have Esca insisting on doing all the talking, while Marcus sits on his horse in the background looking Roman. As the Duchess asked, what on earth was Esca saying in all these encounters with random Picts? Presumably something like 'oi mate, we're looking for a Roman legion that disappeared here about 20 years ago. Have you seen it at all? No? Ok, thanks anyway. Romans? Us? No, no.' Ultimately of course we find out that Esca knew all about the site of the last stand of the Ninth Legion because his people, the Brigantes, implausibly travelled the length of Britain to take part in it. In fairness, I will point out that the overgrown battlefield they find with fragments of skeletons looked fantastic.

But enough of being fair. When they finally met the Seal People who buggered off with the Legion's Eagle, I nearly choked on my Eton Mess. What were the costume people thinking? Actually, the probably drunken meeting where they decided what they should look like is all too easy to reconstruct. 'In the book they're called the Seal People, yeah? Seals are, what, grey and that? So how about they have grey skin, you know, like seals? And because they are supposed to be dead hard, lets make them look like punks with mohawks. Actually, I saw Last of the Mohicans last week. How about we make them look like the Hurons or whatever from that, but grey, and wearing skulls on top of their heads. And camouflage jackets. Yeah, why not? Another pint? Go on then, I've only had eight.'

As bizarre as this was, the butchery the screenwriter made of the climax to the film eclipsed even whatever the Seal People did to the Ninth Legion. As Esca and Marcus escape with the Eagle, Marcus is finally unable to go on. Not to worry, Esca heads off and returns with a bunch of beardy old Roman survivors from the Ninth Legion, who fortunately have all kept their Roman shields and armour, so they can all give up their lives at last defending the Legion's Eagle and regain their lost honour. In the book, the chase reaches an altogether more satisfying and plausible climax as Marcus and Esca defend an abandoned watchtower. In the final, rushed, scene of the film, the two men, now friends, present the procurator of Britain with the Eagle, and he effectively promises Marcus that the legion will be reformed and he'll be given command of it! The conclusion to the book, which I won't give away, is infinitely superior.

Anyway, end of rant. I think I will read the book again as a form of ritual cleansing. As though having George Lucas to contend with wasn't enough.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Thank you to everyone who follows my humble blog. There are now 100 of you! Who would have thought, 20 years ago, that we would be able to share our niche hobbies with friends all around the world. I hugely enjoy seeing the inspiring work you all do. A special hello to my visitors from Slovenia, where my blog seems to be strangely popular.

In view of this momentous occasion the homunculi threw a little party (shown above), and asked me to pass on their thanks as well.