Thursday, March 25, 2021

First Batch of Carolingian Warriors Finished

    My Carolingian army grows, with nine 28mm Gripping Beast foot warriors joining the ranks
My next Saga army continues to march along on my painting desk. There were 16 foot warriors in the Gripping Beast 4-point starter set that I'm using as the base for my army. However, 9 of them had wrist stumps which needed to have separate fists holding either a sword or axe glued on. Actually, the box came with only 8 matching weapons and fists, but luckily I had a spare left over from my Moorish army. The remaining 7 foot warrior figures had closed fists meant to be drilled out, presumably for spears. Normally, I would do 16 miniatures in two batches of eight, but I decided to do them by the weapons. So, my first Carolingian warriors would be a batch of nine!

    Closeup of three warriors - the yellow and green border on the right was my favorite
I tend to be all thumbs when it comes to using superglue, and prefer 5-minute, two-part epoxy. However, I found when working on my Moors that I could actually handle the wrist stump and fist combination with Gorilla Glue superglue. These axe and sword hands went in equally smoothly, much to my relief. That was all I had to glue as the shields come cast on to the figure. Woo-hoo! That much less to glue! So, the "assembly" portion of these warriors was over quickly, and it was on to priming and choosing the colors for the tunics, cloaks, pants, and more.

    I was happy with how the fists with axe/sword glued onto the wrist stump easily and look natural
One of the reasons that I am a big fan of inexpensive craft acrylic paints (Ceramcoat is my #1 choice) is how affordable it is to purchase a wide variety of shades in various colors. I like to have a range from dark to light when it comes to all of the main colors -- greens, reds, blues, etc. For Dark Ages figures, I like to use the brighter tones for the richer or more noble figures (hearthguard in Saga terms). For poorer figures (warriors and levy in Saga), I like to select more faded colors. For example, I may use a medium or dark blue for a noble, but for the poor troops I would use a faded, grayish blue (like Ceramcoat Wedgewood Blue). Of course, I mix in grays and tans, especially for the pants or leggings.

    The last three of this batch of Carolingian warriors -- I really like these Gripping Beast poses!
Probably the most difficult part of painting this batch of miniatures was the leather cross-hatching on the leggings. I compounded this difficulty by doing my usual two-tone (darker base coat highlighted with a lighter tone) on the leather. It's interesting how painting some parts or equipment of the miniatures is more enjoyable than others. One of my least favorite stages of painting a miniature is the "leather equipment" -- belts, sheaths, etc. Why? I honestly don't know. It just seems that this is more of a chore than the tunics, pants, hair, and other parts. For this warband, I am continuing to favor greens and reds in attempting to go with a "theme" (which I plan to repeat on the warlord figure himself, of course). I don't want it to be the extent of, say, a medieval retinue. However, I am attempting to see with these Carolingians how a hint of a common color theme running through the irregularity of choices turns out.

    A look at the nine shields I hand-painted for these Carolingian warriors - the middle guy is my fave
Four of the figures have cloaks, so I wanted to make sure they had some sort of border or pattern. I decided on the previous batch of four mounted nobles that I would go with a thicker contrasting border on the bottom of the cloak (rather than the pattern running along all four edges). I decided this -- in all honesty -- because bottom edge was the easiest and most accessible on the miniatures. However, I also did a narrow line as an accent color on the edge of all of the warrior's tunics, too. This should give more subtle visual interest to the models than if they were all one plain color.

For the helmets, I kept my theme of bronze and steel that I began with the mounted nobles. This idea of a theme was suggested by Rodge and Monty on the Saga Thorsday blog. This is quite the shift for me because originally I was painting my Dark Ages figures so they could be generic and used across multiple armies. Now here I go making them more tailored! I guess with this being my sixth Saga army, coupled with my plans to have each army using unique and not shared figures, there is nothing preventing me from individualizing armies anymore.

    My two points' worth of Carolingians done -- I'll try to do a "army so far" group pic each update
The next splash of color consideration was, of course, the shields. As always, I did my Google and source research to see what common shield patterns would have been at the time. I admit that a common image that pops up in my searches nowadays are the commercially-available transfers by Little Big Men Studios and others. I rarely copy them exactly, but take themes from them, such as the swirls, crosses, and other devices that seem to be what the Carolingian army used. Once again, I tried to use various shades of reds and greens more than average. Since these are warriors, I could have just gone with plain one or two color shields. However, since Saga armies are so small, I decided to splurge with detail and do individual patterns inspired by my online research. I was definitely happy with how they turned out. 

What's next? The first point of warrior bows (8 figures) has begun its march to being finished, too. These are actually a mix of figures from different manufacturers that I had in my unpainted bin. Hopefully, they'll mix well with the Gripping Beast. Stay tuned for more updates as the army of Charlemagne's empire continues to grow!

Monday, March 8, 2021

New Painting Project: Carolingians for Saga

    The first batch of my 28mm Carolingian army -- Charlemagne's Franks
I'd been planning to get started on these guys for awhile, but had been putting them off to finish a few miscellaneous batches of Dark Ages figures. The intermission is over, though, and it is time to begin painting a new Saga army. The core of my Carolingian army is a 4-point Gripping Beast starter box. The box contains no bow-armed warriors, though, and my planned build calls for two unit's worth of them. Luckily, I have a lot of miscellaneous 28mm Dark Age archers in my unpainted bin. I sorted out 16 suitable looking figures and added them to my round metal tin where I'd dumped the Gripping Box figs into.

    Closeup of two of the riders showing the two-tone helmets and the iron scale armor
Where to start, though? I like to paint in batches of 6-8 figures, but a batch of 8 mounted is simply too large for my sakes. So, I broke the box's 8 troopers into two batches of four. Interestingly, exactly half of the riders are wearing scale armor and the other half chainmail. I chose to paint the scale armored guys, since it would be a change of pace. I did some research trying to decide whether the scales would be bronze or iron/steel. I saw images of both online, and ended up deciding to go with iron/steel. However, I remembered from my 15mm Ancients days how much I liked the look of Republican Roman legionaries who had bronze helmets but steel chainmail. I decided to recapture some of that look by painting their helmets as a bronze bowl with steel reinforcing sections.

    My dappled gray and brindle brown horses, taken from the online horse coloring guide I'd found
I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Lately, for mounted figures I have been actually epoxying the figure to the horse before priming them. And I begin my painting with the horses, finishing them completely before starting on the riders. So, I looked at my chart of horse colorings that I'd found online and picked out four to paint. The chart is kind of cartoonish, but that's not really that bad of a thing considering we are doing a miniature adaption of horse colors. I picked out a nice looking one I'd never done before - brownish "brindle" color (yep, like dogs!), a really nice red bay, a dappled, gray "Chubari Spots," and a lighter brown "Red Dun." I have found that I like how my horses come out so much better since I started actually researching horse colorings online!

    The brighter colored noble cavalry of the Carolingian army in their red & green coloring
For the riders, I went with brighter colors than I would normally do otherwise for Dark Ages figures. These are the hearthguard -- the wealthiest of the warriors -- and should look the part of upper class Franks. Two of them had cloaks, which I painted a Yew Green and faded Red. Monty and Rodge of Saga Thorsday fame talk a lot about a common coloring system running through their excellently painted armies. For irregular Dark Age folks, that's not something I have done. However, with the Carolingians, we see the beginnings of a more professional army. So, I have decided that red and green will be the common colors running through the warband. By no means will every figure be in those colors. Instead, I will just shoot for more reds and greens than the others. For example, one of these riders is in blue, two in green, and the third is the faded red.

I lined their tunics and cloaks in contrasting colors and gave them suitably Frankish looking shields, I felt. I keep telling myself that "next" army I will follow the crowd and give shield decals a try. I have never successfully been able to use them, though I admit the only time I tried was long ago and in 15mm. So, for now, I will continue to hand-paint my shield designs. When flocking the figures, I decided I would do another "common look" bit to tie the army together (as Monty and Rodge would say). I'm going to put flower tufts on the bases of this army. I actually decided that as I was finishing up when I thought the bases looked a little plain. I'd put rocks and pebbles on the Moorish cavalry bases, so I thought I'd give the Carolingians a bouquet of flowers or two!

Hope you guys like them -- feel free to leave comments below (or follow my blog - it has pitifully few followers...ha, ha!). Next up? A point of Frankish infantry warriors! I actually just put the base coat on their tunics tonight, so who knows? Maybe they will follow these guys onto the field relatively quickly.