Sunday, August 26, 2012

Norman Infantry Review and Conversions

I have had a box of Conquest Games' new Norman Infantry for about a week.  A quick review: if you have their cavalry, buy this box. You will have more than enough troops for a SAGA warband, and you're more than halfway there for a decent sized non-skirmish game. I am currently leaning towards Clash of Empires - haven't tried Hail Caesar, though.  For about $30 USD, you get eight sprues with five bodies. Three bodies are unarmored, one is in a gambeson and one is in knee length chain mail.  Two command sprues contain a leader in chain and an unarmored musician/standard bearer, and a dead knight.  The models are crisp and well molded with a minimal amount of flash.  The line of flash going up the leg wrappings can be difficult to smoothly remove.

I have two small criticisms with the set.  Overall, the sculpting is excellent, though I do not really care for unarmored fellow who is in an awkward half-run pose.  He doesn't make a good spearman and with a sword in his hand he looks like he is about to trip.  And while the set contains plenty of weapon options (spears, swords, two handed axes, kite shields and round shields), it contains no bows or crossbows.  As levies are the weakest SAGA troops, it can painful to pay metal prices for 12 archers when there are plastic options available for warriors and hearthguard.  It's a disincentive to adding levy units to your warband.

My solution was to add in arms and bows from some bits left over from a box of Wargames Factory Saxons. Here are four Conquest Games infantry converted into archers, and given a black wash to highlight details.

The posing is not ideal for archers, but they might fill out the ranks behind a good set of dedicated metal Norman archers. Neither of those critiques should bar one from buying a box or two if a Norman army is your desire.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Woodland Indians update

The Gripping Beast Skraeling army is almost completed - only a unit of warriors and the War Chief remain.  They will propbably put on hold, a box of plastic Normans awaits.

Non-Fiction Reading Recommendations

For further research on the Indians of the southeast, the best survey is Charles Hudson's The Southeastern Indians (1976).  It is a comprehensive look at the peoples of the southeast from the Paleolithic Era to the Cherokees.  The wargamer and military historian might better enjoy that same author's Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun (1997).  It is a well researched scholarly work about DeSoto's journey through the southeast, but its also a gripping narrative of the encounter between the Old and New Worlds at the end of the Middle Ages.  Centuries before, the steel swords of the Vikings were not enough to make colonization of the Americas tenable; later the guns, germs and steel of the Europeans made conquest almost inevitable.  However, in this brief moment, both sides faced each other with an equal share of advantages and disadvantages.  As DeSoto and his band haphazardly wandered across the south, they were also torn apart by their lust for gold and internal jealousies.

Historical Fiction 

People of the Weeping Eye
People of the Masks 

The First American series of books by Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear can be an uneven lot.  Most books contain a liberal amount of New Age mysticism, but overall the authors avoid idealized depictions of harmonious first peoples.  They depict a complex, yet deeply tribal group of peoples, who build, destroy, scheme, love, fight, and trade.  It should also be noted that the authors engage in what fantasy writers would call world building.  No matter how archaeologically informed and researched, the authors do have to re-create the intricacies of social institutions without any documentation. In The People of the Weeping Eye warfare erupts as one tribe challenges the hegemony of another among the mound builders of Mississippi and Alabama.  For those interested in the Viking/Indian encounter, a more relevant book might be People of the Masks, about the early Iroquois, builders of the longhouses.

Dice Decal Giveaway

I have made a big pile of custom dice lately, and ended up with some extra sheets of decals.  Therefore, as a way of both saying thanks and avoiding waste, I am giving away six sets (three Byzantine, three Skraeling) on a first come, first serve basis.  Each sheet has enough decals to make 4 dice, blank dice not included.

Just be a subscriber to  my blog, and post a comment indicating which one you prefer.  I will respond back by email to get addresses.  I will probably be creating some new decals in a couple of months, so expect another giveaway of extras then.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Woodland Indians and Mound Builders

I've finally started painting my box set of Gripping Beast's Skraelings.  Here are the first eight.

Due to a strong local connection to the Etowah Mounds, I am depicting my figures as eastern Moundbuilders of the Mississippi period.  According to some sources, they developed and used many dyes on their fabrics, favoring reds, yellows and black.

While the time frame of the Viking settlement of Vinland does coincide with the Mississippi culture, it is very unlikely that they were the Skraelings so described.  Nonetheless, the trade networks established by the great moundbuilding cities like Cahokia, extended north to Canada and the Great Lakes region, south all the way to Meso-America and west to the Rocky Mountains.

Pictures from the Etowah Mounds in Cartersville, Georgia.

Defensive ditch surrounding the village

View of the second mound from atop the highest mound.
The Etowah  River is behind the stand of trees in the background.

View across the Plaza, where ceremonies and civic activities occurred

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I just finished a unit of eight Breton warriors from SAGA.  In the few games that I played as a Welsh, I don't really think I found the full potential of the "run and shoot" style of play.  The Bretons are a bit more flexible than the Welsh, so I may supplement these with some Normans for a Breton army.

All of the figures are Conquest Games plastic Normans with some minor modifications - spears were shortened to a throwing length and extra javelins were clutched under the shield.

Playing around with the photo editor on the pic above reminds me of a silent era costume drama with a "cast of thousands"