Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Vikings are bigger than your Vikings

On my last post about Black Tree Design Vikings, there were some comments and questions about their relative size and scale, specifically the fur clad Vikings.

The photo below is a sampling of my various BTD Vikings.  Even without drawing a reference line, the bald guy with the axe is noticeably (but not excessively) taller than the rest of the warriors.  The archers were, I think, the slightest of all the BTD Vikings.

Vikings are perhaps the most ubiquitous ancient/medieval range of miniatures.  They offer a lot of reward for collectors who like variation in their painting routine.  Plus, they can often do double duty in fantasy gaming.  That may explain why there are so many Viking manufacturers out there. 

Here is a size comparison of the BTD Vikings with some other popular manufacturers.  From left to right: Gripping Beast plastic hirdman, Gripping Beast metal (?), BTD and Crusader hirdman,  Again, the barbarian Viking comes out the tallest.  

On the last big Black Tree sale, I also purchased a few packs of Dark Age/Viking villagers. Below, a group of Viking elders (DA1011).  It offers a nice social cross section, from a poor thrall to a well off village elder. The wealthy beardless gent on the right would make a more than passable Njal from the great Icelandic Saga.

The pack (DA1070) shown below is the only one to offer a female figure, and it was out of stock for quite awhile.  Apparently, a mold was lost, but it is now available.  

Finally, mixed pics from a couple of other packs that I have multiple copies.  Useful for populating your village with artisans and workers.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Vikings from Black Tree

This past summer, Black Tree Designs had one of their massive 50% off sales. I hardly needed anymore Vikings (as if "need" is a word any wargamers ever needs to utter) but I really liked the look of some of their packs.

I've been rereading some of the Icelandic Sagas lately and these Vikings seem to fit into the aesthetic of those tales. Survival was more precarious in Iceland, and minor transgressions could be a cause for murder. With their furs and axes, these Vikings seem more like men out to settle a feud rather than hop on a longship.



The unit below will be fielded as Norse-Gael hearthguard in SAGA, which I hope to focus on in the future. Their Challenge mechanic is interesting, but I've not played them enough to make the most of that faction's abilities. 


I also purchased three packs of the Viking villager packs that should be finished soon.

Reading Recommendations

Any of the Viking Sagas are recommended. On one hand, many can be tough to read, for they contain genealogical lists and side stories that are tangent to the narrative. Overall though, the sagas are a fascinating look the social values of the Norse people in the dark ages - as viewed through the lens of the thirteenth century Christians who wrote down the sagas.  Two of the best (and most violent) are Egil's Saga and Njal's Saga. 

I have previously recommended Finn Gall by James Nelson . The second book in that series Dubh-linn continues the story of Thorgrim, a dour Viking and his son Harald. Tired of raiding, Thorgrim is stuck in Ireland without a way home and becomes caught once again between Vikings jarls and Irish kings and princesses. The books bear some resemblance to George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series with its multiple POV characters and political machinations for control of a throne. However, Nelson's books are fast moving and efficiently-told tales that have come out twice in two years.  Sorry, George.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Khitans in SAGA

I've seen the Steppe Tribes faction do some pretty nasty stuff in SAGA and have been thinking it would be fun to give them a try. Where to begin, though? "Steppe Nomad" is very broad and nonspecific compared to, say "Norman" or "Welsh."

Nonetheless, warfare in late Antiquity and early medieval was similar across the Eurasian plains. It's just a matter of picking which variety of horse warrior you prefer or can find.

As it turned out, I came across a sizeable number of Khitan, Chinese and Tibetan figures on closeout this summer. Here is the first completed set from that purchase.

The Warlord - This Khitan commander with his falcon is a really nice sculpt. Hunting birds should be seen more in character minis, given their popularity in both Europe and Asia.

The banner was lifted from the Osprey book on Medieval Chinese Armies. Steppe armies, both pre and post Mongol era used color names for the divisions of their armies.

Hearthguard - The Noble Cavalry shown here here are heavy cataphracts. The Khitan's control of northern Chinese towns gave them access to artisans and markets. With this, their weaponry and armor was of better quality than most steppe armies.

Warriors -or Ordo, were free warriors who served for honor, status and plunder. They were expected to provide their own horses and weaponry. 

Here are 3 points of light horse I've posted before. They are a mix of Khitan and Jurchen warriors from Essex.

Levy - for the Khitans, skirmishing troops were drawn from tribal archers to Chinese and other conscripts. 

These six representative archer figures are a mix of Khitan, Chinese and Tibetan ranges.

Far East SAGA

This is the first of three Asian forces I'm putting together for SAGA. No custom battle boards this time, because I will use existing battle boards that are most analagous.  The Khitans will obviously use the Steppe Tribes board, and I have some ideas about China and Tibet.  The goal is the end of the year.

Later this week, more Vikings!