Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Byzantines are coming!

My immediate miniature and wargaming projects are to finish some Viking warlord stands this weekend.  After that, I plan to transition from a few units of Varangians into a small Byzantine army and a scratch built fortress.  Fielding strong cavalry and missile troops, the Byzantines fought Viking raiders from the Black Sea, and more significantly, Normans in Italy and Greece.  They should eventually become an official SAGA faction, but until that happens, I will work on one of my own.

Most of the abilities are adapted from other units, where I saw some sort of historical or functional analogue.  I am not sure about balancing, and will try to play test it in a few days.  The main concept I tried to convey was of a better trained warband capable of hitting hard and fast early in a match, but more challenged in a sustained fight against a very determined or lucky foe.

Legendary warlords will probably be Basil II and Alexios Komnenos and the Varangians would be an obvious special unit.

Suggestions for revisions are welcome.  I will put a revised version up in May after some testing.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Raiding a Saxon Church

     Here are some photos from a recent match up of Vikings against Saxons.  I took the Saxons and a friend of mine whose gotten the Saga bug took the Saxons.  The scenario was a raid, Vikings wanted the gold candlesticks and silver plates in a Saxon Church.  Here the two sides have spotted each other across the field.  Some taunting is probably going on.

The Saxons advance.

Here a unit of Berserkers has just decimated some Saxon Huscarls.  Sixteen attack dice can do that.  

The Viking and Saxon warlords face off with their warriors.

The Saxons eventually won the day.  After losing outside, the Saxon warlord made it inside the church and through divine providence, and good dice rolls, proved impossible to dislodge.  After losing half their men, my Vikings figured the small church wasn't worth their effort.  The fact that it was 11:30 PM also didn't help my resolve very much either.  

Figures are mostly plastic Wargames Factory and Gripping Beast.  The church was built from Hirst Arts blocks.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Norse Women and Gunnar's Daughter

  Painting civillians is fun, but their usefulness in gaming is limited.  I intend to build and photograph some diorama scenes but that keeps getting delayed behind a pile of unpainted metal and plastic.  Anyway, here's two of Gripping Beast's female civillians sculpted and painted in Norse style clothing, probably as wives of well-off farmers.

Mega Minatures on Ebay sells a line of fantasy townsfolk.  Here's two that are being drafted into service as female thralls on a Norse farm.

From Gripping Beast, a higher born Norse woman, perhaps the wife of a jarl:

And here she is with a servant tending to her child:

     Finding a story about women in the Viking age is difficult. To be sure, there are plenty of Viking romance novels to be found, but there is little in that market that seems to have much substance.  A rarity is Gunnar's Daughter, the first published work (1909) by the future nobel prize winner Sigrid Undset, who was then only 26 years old.

Gunnar's Daughter is a fictional companion piece to the Icelandic sagas. Those sagas in particular, show how minor insults and altercations could spin out of control and turn into bloody feuds.  The lives of farmers, important landowners and their servants are the focus rather than the kings and lords of the Norwegian sagas.  Written in a faux saga style, a enough common affectation now, but probably pioneering for its time, Undset's novel is a hauntingly simple story.  Set in early eleventh century Norway, the daughter of a well-off landowner is raped by a suitor, forever changing both of their lives.  A single violent act perpetuates further violence, culminating almost twenty years later.  

     Like the sagas it emulates, the prose is stark; the physical environment is not ponderously described, and the action and conflict progresses quickly. While it is stylistically similar to the sagas, the thematic differences outnumber the similarities.  Women feature prominently in a number of the Icelandic sagas, but the impact of violence against them is rarely a central concern as it is in Gunnar's Daughter.  Complex and  riveting, Undset illustrates the high cost of love, honor, revenge and faith.

Gripping Beast miniatures purchased from Architects of War.

Gunnar's Daughter at