Monday, August 3, 2020

Andalusian Cavalry for my Saga Moorish Army

Four of my first batch of eight Andalusian cavalrymen -- 28mm Gripping Beast figures
For the longest time, I had a "standard" way that I painted horses. I had black horses, dark brown, medium brown, tan, dun, white, light gray, and dark gray. I usually gave them "socks" white coloring near their hooves and a splotch of white on their foreheads. All the horses I painted for my various armies had the same basic coloring. Then I saw a colorful, cartoonish chart on the internet that showed various colorings simplified - dappled grays, buckskin, black "blue" roans, and more. There were more than 70 varieties depicted.
The cartoonish color guide I found on the internet and use for painting horses - feel free to download!
I decided to experiment and try to use the chart as a guide for my color choices. I was VERY happy with how they came out. So, when it came time to paint the cavalry for my Andalusian army for Saga, I found the chart again and swore to myself I would not take a shortcut and paint my old standard way of doing horses. This batch is the first of three batches of mounted Andalusian troops for my Saga army. I'm very happy with not only how the horses came out, but also the troopers atop them. In fact, the richly colored robes kind of overshadow the poor mounts and you have to pay attention to notice the markings on the horses. Hopefully, the two complement each other rather than detract from the other's effect.
All eight of the cavalrymen lined up and ready for battle
I was a little disappointed that most of the riders have the closed fists that you need to drill out to place spears or other weapons into. I prefer the open hand that Gripping Beast used for the Moorish infantry I'd painted already for this army. However, most of my drilling attempts worked out with only a few misaligned holes resulting in the hand being half open, half drilled. I took the worst of those mistakes and widened it with an X-acto blade to place swords instead of spears in their hands. But that is getting ahead of myself!
Close up of the other four Andalusian cavalrymen for my Saga Moorish army
I actually began with the horses, and painted all eight of them completely before beginning the riders. I even had them based and flocked before the riders had anything more than primer on them. This was a change in my methods, as well. Normally, I epoxy the figure to the horse before priming. However, with the patterns on the robes being so intricate, I thought it might be better to paint the riders separately and then epoxy them to the horses after completed. It did make turning the riders around, sideways, and upside down easier, which allowed me to execute the patterns with a minimum of struggle. Wait a I getting ahead of myself again??
The dappled gray - I honestly feel the rider overshadows the mount with his fancy shield and dotted headdress
Back to the horses! So, after cleaning up the very minimal flash on the miniatures (I am becoming more and more of a fan of Gripping Beast metal miniatures), I attached the horses to cardboard squares with white glue. Next, I brush-primed them with white acrylic craft paint. Then, I grabbed the chart and wrote onto the cardboard square which type of coloring I would use for each horse. One of my favorite 28mm horses that I have ever painted is a dappled gray in my Welsh army, so of course I would try one of those! Now, before anyone comments at the end of my blog that a particular marking I chose was not around in Andalusia during the Middle Ages, I want them to know I realize that is a possibility. I am trying to make my horses look more realistic than my cookie-cutter method I used before.
I really like using this chart for my horse coloring -- it really makes the mounts "pop" and look more realistic
The horse coloring was done first, and it actually made painting horses more enjoyable doing it this way. Normally, I look at horses as drudgery and focus my enthusiasm on the riders and infantry. However, I like how these look, and it is inspiring to see them begin to look lifelike while painting. That said, there was a lot of horse equipment -- each mount had some sort of saddle blanket, as well as reins, bridle, saddle, straps -- you name it! Quite a few even had tassels. I decided that I would make the horse blankets colorful and indulged my creativity with patterns, stripes, borders, and swirls.
This was the only shield I painted Arabic calligraphy on -- which matches the horse coloring, too (lucky accident!)
As mentioned earlier, once the horses were done, I went ahead and based and flocked them, too. I use 1"x2" rectangles for my horses (infantry are 1" squares). I actually use two of those infantry bases epoxied to a 1"x2" piece of styrene plastic. So, the cavalry bases are a fraction taller than the infantry ones, and if you look you can see the separation of the two bases. Yes, I could probably order some Litko 1"x2" bases, but I haven't painted cavalry in so long that I didn't see the need.  Anyway, I also added in a larger stone on each base (coarse buff talus from Woodland Scenics), as well as the usual scatter of small rocks (medium buff talus). I washed the larger stones with a black wash to give them more depth. I really like how the basing turned it on this batch of cavalry!
One of the riders that was given a spare 28mm sword I had instead of a wire spear
Once I was finished with the horses, I set them aside and began work on the riders. First, I attached their weapons -- North Star wire spears trimmed to appropriate length for six of the riders and 28mm swords for the other two. No weapons were included for the cavalry in the bagged army I had purchased at last year's Advance the Colors dealer room. So, I had to supply my own swords from my dwindling supply (though I recently ordered a restock of 80 wire spears from Brigade Games-- that should last me awhile!).

When I Googled Andalusian shields I saw a leopard skin one, so I HAD to paint one this way -- I like it!
I decided to attach the riders to squares of cardboard like the mounts had been. This is kind of tricky depending on the pose. I essentially leaned them up against something heavy, put a blob of glue on the sole of each foot and placed them upright on the cardboard, leaning against their chosen object. I did have two figures pop off the cardboard during the painting process. Once they were completely done except for their shoes, I popped them off their square. I held onto them with my hands, painting the shoe, and later while drybrushing the shoe and detailing the leather stirrups. Once the riders were completed, I matched them up against the horses, picking out a mount for each. I didn't want them to match perfectly, but I wanted the coloring of each to complement each other.
The double almond shaped shields seemed to be a common Andalusian motif...and tassels, too, I guess
They were attached by scraping off a bit of paint on the horse's saddle and the underside of the rider. This would hopefully give a metal on metal bond with the epoxy. We'll see if I have a problem with riders popping off as time progresses -- hopefully not! Oh, and I guess I lied. The riders weren't completely done when epoxied onto their mounts. I did the black and brown wash on the riders after they sat atop their horse. My system for washing this army is somewhat complex. The lightest flesh tone of the three I am using gets a brown wash. The darker two tones get a black wash. For equipment and clothes, if it is in the white/yellow/tan tonal range, that part of the figure receives a brown wash. If any other color (red, brown, blue, etc.), it gets a black wash. For some reason, brown washes don't seem to show up on the greens and reds and so on.
The pattern on this robe turned out to be my favorite -- that of the horse blanket came out not too shabby either!
I added in a couple new patterns for my robes this time, too. My favorite new one consists of 7 dots - a central dot and 6 around it. I will definitely be using this one, again. I may try to do a light dots on a darker robe color with this pattern next time. The three-tier, two-color floral pattern didn't come out as nicely, though. At least it is not my favorite. All in all, I was very happy with how the robes look on these riders. I'm so glad I went out and bought additional colors when doing my second batch of Andalusian infantry. I think the variety of subtle shades really add to the look of the army.
Trying to balance things, this rider got a simple border for his robe since I knew I would be doing something for his cloak
For the shields, I did a lot of Googling images, looking at Gripping Beast's web page, and of course the one I've mentioned before, Joe/Neldoreth from An Hour of Wolves and Shattered Shields. His artistry is something I can aspire to, but never achieve. Before planning out what I will do for the robes or the shields for each batch, I look through every single one of the images of his al-Andalus gallery on his site. I can only hope that others see these pages of Lead Legionaries and it gives them an idea or two to try for their own tables!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Ten Warlords Clash at August Saga Game Day

Adrian's Irish at bottom emerge from the terrain to advance upon Dave's Romans, who await them
We're growing -- that's encouraging news. We had 10 players attend our August Saga Game Day at the Guardtower East in Columbus, OH. This was up from the eight we had play in July, which I hope foretells continued growth. The store requires masks while up and about in the store, but are optional while seated and playing. Our group has adopted a courtesy approach to add to that: if your opponent feels more comfortable remaining masked, then please keep it on while playing, too. Nearly everyone wore their masks the entire time, taking it off only for refreshments, it seemed to me.
All players wore masks and respected their opponents, which allowed us to enjoy our Saga Game Days once again
I know there are gamers out there who refuse to attend events where masks are required, but considering how we were completely closed out of game stores for months, I think it is a small burden to bear to allow us to play miniature wargames in stores, again. Besides, some of us (myself included), have continuing close contact with elderly parents who are at extreme risk. It is a chivalrous gesture to those gamers to endure the discomfort of a mask for a few hours so that they can have peace of mind and increase the likelihood of their family remaining safe. I know others may have different opinions, but this is my blog. Please don't use the comments section as a venue to attack my point of view. Show respect.
A close up of the crazies in Adrian's Irish army as they prepare to throw themselves on their Roman foes
Politics aside, as we had 10 warlords sending in RSVPs, I set the matchups so that no one played the same opponent as they did last month. We had 2 Viking warbands, 2 Irish, 1 Jomsviking, 1 Anglo-Saxon, 1 Norman, 1 Pict (Scots from Age of Vikings), 1 Crusader,  and 1 Roman. Several players were getting their first crack at running a new army, including Bob with his Crusaders and Andy with his Anglo-Saxons. Unfortunately, we had an abbreviated second round -- only two players were able to stay for a second game. I apologize to my opponent Jim, as our game ran so long he wasn't able to get in a second. I still am not sure how tournament games finish in 1 hour and 45 minutes (or whatever it is they run). I seem unable to get my games done in less than two hours. Of course, I *do* get up a lot to take pictures of other games for this blog!

My nobles and archers on my army's right would play a key role in our slugfest with Jim's Jomsviking army
Jim and I set up a Clash of Warlords game. He was running Jomsviking, which I had played once before. There were two large woods, one on either flank, and three smaller patches of terrain spread across the board. Jim was probably placing so much terrain to impede my Levy archers, as his army was entirely hearthguard -- 24 figures (2 units of six, 3 units of four, and his warlord). My rank and file doubled his numbers, with 32 warriors split into units of 12, 10, 100, 1 unit of 12 Levy Bow, 1 unit of 4 mounted hearthguard, and a foot warlord. We rolled the "Deployment C" which means no unit can be within a Medium distance of another friendly unit.
My wall of spears closes in the center while the nobles and archers get in position to launch their coordinated attacks
I deployed my largest spear block -- with a new twist, a war banner -- on the far left, facing off against one of Jim's 6-man hearthguard units. I joked that my Picts felt they were the equal of his Vikings (technically, each unit was 1.5 Saga points...haha!), so weren't scared. My two smaller spear units were in the center, backed up by the warlord in the center and the Levy Bow and mounted nobles on the right. I opened the game moving my archers into the large woods to slow down any possible attack from his small hearthguard unit on that flank. The nobles moved up to support them, which caused the Vikings to back off towards the center, surprisingly.
On my far left, one unit of spearmen and Jomsviking hearthguards clobber each other to a stalemate the entire battle
Jim opened the battle up on my far left, marching the large hearthguard unit towards my unit with the  warbanner. He also used on of what I consider a very dangerous weapons they had on my spear: Nordic Tempest. This advanced Saga ability on the Jomsviking battle board allows them to launch a 3-dice attack on any enemy unit anywhere on the board. I felt relieved he was targeting my largest unit, not so relieved that for his first three turns he rolled 8 of 9 hits (on a 50% chance to hit). My saves were not nearly as good, and my unit was down to 8 figures when his Jomsvikings hurled themselves towards our line of spearpoints.
My spearmen and warlord's attempt to use 'Reach' was shot down by the Jomsviking's 'Punishment' ability
This opening melee would be the game in a microcosm. My Picts closed ranks and used a couple of defensive abilities to negate their hits. We killed one of their number, so they recoiled back, surprised. Jim admitted he was surprised by how doughty and durable the Picts were in melee. In turn, I was surprised by how many times their units could hurl themselves at an enemy in the same turn. One unit even charged three times in one turn. They have abilities that allow them to remove fatigue, plus Fury of the Pagans allows three units to move for one Saga die. Time and again, the Jomsvikings would charge. We would throw them back, each of us losing a figure or two. And then, they would come on again, relentlessly. It was impressive.
Here they come! Advancing to use Reach put us within the charge range of many ferocious Jomsviking hearthguards
I gained a further appreciation for the Jomsviking battle board when I closed to within a Medium move with all three spear units and my Warlord, planning to use Reach. This allows them to "shoot"out to javelin range, though I rationalize it as representing a dash forward with our Pictish long spears, jabbing at them, then falling back. Jim cancelled the action with the Punishment advanced Saga ability. I could have in turn canceled his Punishment by allowing him to take 4 Wrath tokens, but I have learned that things are best if you don't rise the "wrath" of the Jomsvikings. This unique feature of their board allows opponents to cancel out their advanced abilities, but at the cost of allowing them to accumulate Wrath, which (in general) makes their attacks more vicious. Over the course of six turns, I let him accumulate only three Wrath tokens, which he ended up being unable to use.
The nobles arrive and ride down one unit of hearthguard, while my spear line and warlord are steadily driven back
I knew what was next, though. We had closed within a Medium all across the board. His hearthguard were going to charge again and again. As they did, though, my right wing began to get into the game. My archers fired at the Vikings again and again, beginning to wear them down. My mounted nobles circled the woods on the right and closed in on their center. In the end, I attribute our eventual success to these two units -- plus the stalwart defense of my Pictish spearmen. My archers whittled one hearthguard unit down to 1 figure. Then the nobles would follow charge that unit and destroy it. We did this three times, using the fatigue they'd accumulated in fighting my spearmen to make it difficult or impossible to do damage to my horsemen.
The nobles save the day, charging hearthguard units whittled down to one figure and eliminating them
I thought this would be the way the game ended when my nobles galloped down onto his Warlord, who had two fatigues already. Poor dice rolling (and equally poor shooting by the archers beforehand) meant he gamely drove off my horsemen. Of all the crazy heroes in Jim's Jomsvikings, his warlord was the craziest of them all. On the very last turn, he launched two charges against my own Warlord. My dice were wavering, though, and I could not manage enough hits to finish off his warlord. Twice, though his warlord rolled spectacularly, scoring five rolls of "6" on 11 dice. It was too much for Nechtan Mac Fergus, who went down under his blows, sorely wounded.
Jim, on right, commanded an excellent game and is the first opponent to destroy my army's warlord!
That proved to be the final stroke of the game, but it did not secure the Jomsvikings victory. Their losses proved to be greater, and I edged out Jim 22-18 in final points. It was a truly epic slugest between an offensive powerhouse and a doughty, defensive foe. I think both of us came away with new respect for the opponent's army. Jim did a great job as general of the Jomsvikings and boldly kept up the pressure -- never afraid to even throw his warlord into the fight or the hurl the same unit against my spear wall multiple times. Fun game!
Anthony's Norman cavalry and archers advance towards their Vikings foes in their Round 1 game
Meanwhile, the other four games had all finished by the time we did. The results were:
  • Jenny's Vikings duplicated our score and defeated Anthony's Normans 22-18 in Clash of Warlords.
  • Joe's Vikings spoiled the debut of Bob's Crusaders 34-17 in Clash of Warlords.
  • Tyler's Irish similarly defeated Andy's Anglo-Saxons in their first battle in Feasting & Pillaging, 28-25.
  • Adrian's Irish defeated Dave's Romans in another Clash of Warlords (I believe -- I forgot to ask and they did not add up the final score).
As the army of Normans comes closer, the Viking Levy archers find a safe spot in the woods
Once again, I felt bad that our game ran long and Jim was not able to get in a second round game. He and Adrian drove over from Dayton and had to get back. Others peeled off for various reasons, leaving only Bob's Romans and Jenny's Vikings to square off. Bob was trying to get revenge for last month's defeat while learning to play the Crusader battle board and his new army. He was using a legendary commander, Godfrey of Bouillon, which costs two points (when normally your warlord is free in Saga). Looking over Godfrey's abilities, I think he's a bit over-costed. He DOES generate two Saga dice (instead of one), but otherwise he seemed little better than a free warlord.
Jenny's berserkers hurl themselves upon the Crusader warrior crossbowmen, who are eliminated to a man
By the time I got my stuff put away and the tables put back the way we found them when we arrived, their game was half over (and more than half their troops dead already!). I showed up just as Jenny's berserkers killed Bob's warrior crossbowmen to a man, losing all but one of their own figures in the process. Bob counter-attacked with his small mounted hearthguard unit into the flank of Jenny's Levy archers, chasing them into the woods but not eliminating them. Jenny counter-punched with her Shield Maidens -- warriors who love to test their mettle against enemy hearthguard. Although the Crusaders drove them off, they were being whittled down. Her warlord charged him to eliminate the last knights still standing.
Bravely, the Crusader knights charge into the Viking force, killing many archers and sending the survivors fleeing
Bob was having command and control problems as Godfrey had fallen earlier in the battle. His two remaining warrior units were unable to move and strike back. This allowed Jenny to assemble her attack, stack her battle board with Thor, Loki, and all of the other nasty Viking abilities and wade into the largest remaining warrior unit. Weary from slaughter, both armies staggered through the final phase, their ranks horribly depleted. Counting up the points, Jenny's Vikings triumphed again, 29-22. The Crusaders retired to bind their wounds, and reconsider their strategies when facing these equally fearsome opponents from the north.
Bob's Crusaders stream towards their first round foe, more Vikings, this time commanded by Joe
Although they look unstoppable, the Crusaders ran afoul of the deadly Viking battleboard abilities like 'Thor' & 'Loki'
Another view of Anthony's Normans and Jenny's Vikings battling it out in Round 1

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Count Drogo's Franks Drive Off Viking Raid

Count Drogo waves his banner, urging his Carolingian warband to attack the raiding Viking force
Jenny wanted to get some more practice with her new Viking Saga army, so we decided to take advantage of a Saturday evening with no plans and get in a game. I had been interested in playing Carolingians, so what better matchup for Vikings than their favorite punching bag on the continent? I had been close to buying figures for a Carolingian Saga army a couple times, but hadn't pulled the trigger. Maybe this would make me want to finally make the purchase...or not!
The Viking army deploys for battle, with its deadly 6-man hearthguard units in the center
I studied the battle board and read the Age of Vikings section on the army. The most unusual thing about this army is the Proelium aspect of its board. You can have 0-3 Saga dice in this section (one of each of the three faces of the dice -- common, uncommon, and/or rare). They remain there until you either play Combat Bonus (when you lose one) or play Vides, which allows you roll them and place them on your battle board. I never used Vides, which I see as a last-ditch attempt to repopulate the board before a potentially calamitous opponent turn. By turn 2, I had three dice in the Proelium section, and they remained there until the final turn when I used Combat Bonus and dropped to two.
Count Drogo plans an advance on the right headed by the warrior bows, while his center and left will echelon back
So what that means is your are playing with fewer command and control dice -- five instead of eight. However, it is worth it, I think, simply by the Ardor ability -- which allows you to move or shoot as many units as you have Proelium dice...and these activations DON'T cause fatigue. This would be a crucial part of my strategy in the upcoming game. I played Ardor all but one turn (the first), which means those three Proelium dice gave me three movement or shooting activations every turn. It seemed a fair tradeoff to me!
The Carolingian right wing - a unit of warrior bows in the woods, supported by a unit of foot warriors
Seeing how I needed to stock the Proelium quickly, I decided to go with small, standard sized units. I chose two 4-man mounted hearthguard units, two 8-man foot warrior units, and two 8-man warrior bow units, along with my warlord, Count Drogo. Why foot bows -- and especially two of them? Two advanced abilities on the Carolingian board, besides Ardor, jumped out at me immediately: Vinco and Potentia. Vinco allows you to inflict a number of automatic hits in either shooting or melee equal to half your Proelium (3 dice = 2 hits). Potentia allows you to reroll a number of attack dice in shooting or melee equal to twice your Proelium. Although some may see the potential devastation in hand-to-hand, I saw the potential for it to be very deadly with missile fire.
The Viking Levy prove resilient, and cause far more casualties (and take fewer) than Count Drogo had expected
What's more, the Domine ability allows the Carolingian player to trigger any Shooting, Melee, or Shooting Reaction advanced Saga ability a second time. So, yes, you can hit somebody with Vinco and two automatic hits -- in addition to what you roll -- a second time. What's more, since Ardor's actions don't generate fatigue, you can shoot the same unit twice and end the turn with zero fatigue! Now, perhaps you see why I chose not one, but TWO foot bow units. The question was -- would my tactic work? I had never used foot bows in Saga, and in fact, always scoffed at players who chose them. Eight guys that fire with only four dice? What a waste! Take Levy that fire with six dice for the same points, right?
Things begin to unravel on the right as the Viking hearthguard exact revenge on the depleted warrior unit
Jenny and I were playing Clash of Warlords, and I deployed first. Our battlefield had two medium sized woods on either flank, a gentle hill in Jenny's half of the central sector, and a farmer's field with crops in between the center and right. I concentrated my two bow units on the right where her own Levy archers were located hoping to overwhelm them and drive them off. My foot warriors were placed in support of their bow brethren, and the mounted hearthguards in the rear in reserve.
Things aren't much better in the center where another Viking hearthguard unit has killed half of the supporting warriors
We began a slow advance on the right, while keeping back our center and left in echelon. My archers on the far right entered the woods for cover from Jenny's levy bowfire. Jenny took the first shot and it was a good one -- killing two of the warrior bow in the woods. Our return fire on the next turn did little, even with tossing in Vinco and Potentia. She had lost only about four figures out of 12 -- hardly devastating. My backup plan was for a foot warrior unit to charge the levy, who had moved into the field for cover from our archery. The warriors charged and drove the Viking archers out of the field, but at a stiff cost -- we lost three figures. She lost only another four figures, and my depleted warrior unit was in danger of being countercharged by one of her large, 6-man hearthguard units.
The Viking hearthguard appears unstoppable, slaughtering Frankish warriors and chasing the Carolingian bow
Jenny saw the opportunity and took it, slaughtering the remaining warriors to a man. Things were beginning to unravel on the right where I was attacking in force! I have learned that in Saga, the dice are fickle. Momentum shifts. Don't be discouraged -- if one method of attack is not working, try another! Jenny brought up here other 6-man hearthguard unit and charged my second warrior unit which had advanced in the center to support the archery. Luckily, we lost only four of eight this time, so the depleted unit was still generating a Saga die. However, this left the Viking hearthguard exposed in the center of the battlefield. My archers concentrated on them, with my full strength unit taking two shots and the one in the woods one shot.
But perhaps not! Archery fire depletes the center warrior unit, who are then ridden down by the Carolingian nobles
The Viking Huscarles had lost one of their number in the battle against my spear. They lost three more to the archery, leaving them with just two. That was enough to tempt the Carolingian nobles to charge. They galloped around the archers and smashed into the side of the remaining Viking hearthguard, eliminating them to a man. Perhaps Jenny had baited me just as I baited her with the foot warriors. She double timed her Shield Maiden unit into my mounted hearthguard, tossing in Thor, Loki, and a Combat Bonus Saga abilities into the melee. It was a bloody battle, but in the end, two of the maidens stood tall, while the four Carolingian mounted nobles lay dead at her feet.
The Shield Maidens charge, slaughtering the Carolingian nobles. It look grim, but can our archery save the day?
Jenny could have guessed what was coming next, though. More Carolingian archery, and soon the last of the lady warriors lay bleeding on the ground, pin-cushioned by arrows. Undeterred, she advanced her remaining hearthguard unit which had destroyed my warriors. However, I used their fatigue to shorten their move which meant their charge fell short of my bow unit in the woods. Half of the hearthguard unit protruded from the woods. Once again, Lord Drogo ordered his archers to loose their hailstorm of arrows and soon all of the Viking elite warriors lay dead.
Had this charge struck home, the answer probably would have been no, but a fatigue caused them to fall short
At this stage, Jenny was left with only one 8-man warrior unit, two Levy archers, and her warlord. I had two units of warrior archers (13 figures total), one unit of 4 warriors, one unit of 4 mounted hearthguard, and my warlord, Lord Drogo. She decided that the day was lost, and withdrew her troops back to the far side of the hill. The Franks cheered at the departure of the raiders - they held the field and had driven off the feared Northmen!
Two turns of devastating Carolingian archery and all the Viking hearthguard and shield maidens lay dead -- victory!
We counted up the points and though it looked one-sided, 23-13, the score did not reflect how the Vikings were winning through the early part of the game. If her Shield Maidens and remaining hearthguard unit had been able to shrug off our archery, things would have ended fairly differently. Did my strategy work? Definitely. Ardor more than makes up for keeping three of my Saga dice in the Proelium. The deadliness of Vinco and Potentia ensured my archery fire was effective. All in all, I feel the Carolingian list is a very deadly one. Now, I admit things would have been different if Jenny had used the Odin ability on her Saga board. She chose not to do so on the first turn, and then didn't roll the proper symbols on the second turn. By the third turn, she was seeing the need for melee abilities to follow up her successes. By the fourth turn, she had lost too many units, and couldn't afford to use Odin, or didn't have the rolls. So, we were fortunate with how it worked out. A forewarned opponent may not be so obliging at letting the Carolingians riddle them with arrow storms. Still, I look forward to having Count Drogo ride forward into battle again, and see if we can follow up our initial success.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Banners and Bases

A new banner created for a preivously-painted Pictish spearman
While I continue to paint my first Andalusian mounted unit for my Saga Moorish army, I thought I'd do a quick blog post on some other banners I recently made and my new flocking scheme for the Moors. I have to admit that I have had a variety of flocking schemes ever since I stepped past the "paint the base brown and put green flocking on it" stage.
Here's the latest. Step one is to paint the base and its edges with a craft paint from Folk Art called 939 Butter Pecan. I wanted a color that reflected the arid land of southern Spain, but could also not look out of place for "desert" troops (since these are essentially Arab figures, after all). I know some may wonder why I bother to paint the base after seeing all the layers that are going to go on top of it, but I feel this prevents any base material from somehow escaping and peeking through when it is all finished!
Step two is to glue small rock piles in two places. I use Woodland Scenics Medium Buff Talus. I will dab the area with some white (PVA) glue with an old paint brush, and then use that glue-soaked brush to "pick" up 2-4 pieces of the tallus and move it to the base. I use the brush to arrange the rocks how I like and dab more glue some the pile is completely surrounded.
After the glue has dried, step three involves painting the base (but not the rock piles) with white glue. I then use a small plastic spoon to pour Super Fine Basing Grit (picked up at the local hobby shop) all over the base, tapping off the excess by flicking the bottom of the base with my finger.
After Step 4, with the Citadel Sand added -- not the rock pile at rear of base
Once this is dried, I paint the basing grit with white glue in step four -- once again, trying not to cover the rocks. If you get a little along the edges, though, it is fine. It makes the rocks look like they've been exposed by erosion and are peeking through the soil. Here is where readers can help me. I am looking for a new container of my next flocking material as this one is almost empty. Yes, I know it is old, but it is Citadel Sand. If anyone knows where I can get more of this, please let me know. Or if you have a spare container, I'd be willing to buy it off of you. Like with the basing grit, I pour this over the white glue with a small plastic spoon, tapping off the excess. It is usually after this stage that I do my first spray of clearcoat -- I prefer Testors Dullcoate.
After Step 5 with the grass and tufts added
Step five once more involves white glue -- seeing a trend here? I paint two irregular shapes on the base on opposite sides, covering anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 the base. I then sprinkle Woodland Scenics Blended Green Grass onto the base, tapping off the excess, again. While that is still wet, I apply two tufts to the base of foot figures (I will use more for the upcoming mounted figures). One tuft is a darker, mottled gray green like you would see in plants in an arid climate. The other is a brownish-red tuft of dried out vegetation. There are so many different makers of tufts and I have them from several sources, so if you are following my method, use which ones you have available.
One of my Moorish spearmen with his base completely flocked and Dullcoated
Once the tufts and green grass is dry, I apply one final coat of Dullcoate. Believe it or not, I am not actually done at this stage. The final step, six, involves me trimming the tufts with small sharp scissors. Sometimes "hairs" of the tufts are sprouting off in wild directions or are too long. I trim these to give it a more uniform appearance. One final tap and blowing on the base to dislodge those trimmed hairs and the flocking is finally complete!
My Pictish spear unit's banner created in Photoshop
I created two new banners in Photoshop when I was doing the banners for the second batch of Andalusian spearmen (see my previous entry). I create these by finding images with Google searches to use as my base. I usually add the word "clipart" to the search, so for the Pictish banner I used "Pictish" + "symbols" + "clipart." I thought it would be fun to use a Pictish deer because in Saga, the rare side of the command dice (the "six", so to speak) is a stag. I paste the image into a new photoshop document set at 300dpi and with a transparent background. I then use the Quick Select Tool (sometimes called the "magic wand") to select white or black areas of it. I change the color of those areas in Photoshop to color the banner. Once the banner is done, I copy it, paste it into a new document and "Flip Horizontal." This gives a reverse image of the original, and I combine the two together into a new banner.
Shield maiden with banner by me, figure painted by Ted Bender, shield done using decals, I believe...
I had decided to add a banner to one of my large Pictish spear units because I saw how useful they could be playing against Jenny's Shield Maidens in her Viking army. Since none of the six figures in the unit had a banner, she chose a likely spear-armed one and I created this banner for it using Photoshop. I probably should have made it larger, but I was going by her specifications. I will include the base images in case anyone wants to use them.
My banner for Jenny's shield maidens -- yes, the Viking runes say "Woman Power!"