The Cavalry painting challenge #1

Good day,  I hate painting horses. I should probably have acted upon this knowledge before buying 50+ cavalrymen for my Muslims and Byzantines.

I have to do something about this, so I got this idea. Each month I will  paint at least two horsemen to completion and document the results here. I probably won’t be posting this every month, but skipping a post doesn’t mean skipping painting. You can follow this journey along and shame me when I fail and cheer when I succeed.

Here are the two I finished or October. A berber horseman and a Seljuk horse archer both from the Gripping Beast range. I did a small conversion on the Seljuk hat, an important item the plastic kit weirdly lacks. The plastic kit also has some serious gaps that need to be fixed.

 

And here are the next WIPs.

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More of the same but I also added a baggage train.

 

Wish me luck.

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Pax in Nomine Domini! – Crusaders vs. Franks [SAGA battlereport]

Hello and welcome back for another SAGA showdown, this time between my Crusaders and Herman’s Frankish force using 6pt warbands! After having played several of the standard scenarios, like ‘Sacred Ground’, ‘Champions of God’, and the Challenge’, we decided that it was about time we stirred things up a bit. So, after a short discussion we settled on playing ‘the Last Stand!’ from the Crescent and the Cross rulebook, which is a challenging scenario for both defender and attacker alike.Read More »

Byzantium invades Malmö (SAGA Tournament Report)

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The Byzantines assembled and ready to crush barbarians.

Took the Byzantines out to their 4th SAGA tournament. I’ve been playing the Moors a lot in our Age of the Wolf campaign, but external circumstances forced my hand to pick the Romans. This AAR will describe my army, the scenarios we played, how the battles went, with focus on the important tactical decisions I remember. Lastly, a short evaluation of the tournament and my army will be presented. The initial strategy behind my army selection was to use Turcoman mercenaries and switch them with Javelin Levy. I totally failed to paint this as I needed  more practice games. I ended up with:Read More »

Brand Nubian(s)

Trigger warning: This post contains shitty references to 90s hiphop. 

Another wave of recruits for the Moors arrives to shake the funk in our Age of the Wolf campaign. Had a good time painting these fellows. Tried for a mix of clothing here, a couple of veterans “acquired” flaunty Moorish dress but the new recruits from Africa came with plain clothes. My only regret is giving them those long ass spears. It looks cool but they tend to impale scenery on the gaming table and are a bitch to pack. Models are from Gripping Beast and are on the bigger side of 28 mm.

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Until next time, stay beautiful, black and bold.

Moors versus Jomsvikings (SAGA Age of the Wolf)

Our SAGA campaign steams on and here’s a short battle report of Moorish volounteer warriors facing the illustrious Jomsviking brotherhood. This battle took place in the third campaign turn (out of six possible). Since we were both raiding this turn,  Battle at the Ford was rolled as the scenario.

The Jomsvikings were lead by the infamous King Fury who took over the reigns once the previous leader was killed. Driven into the fray by his lust for riches, the Jomsviking leader had many scars from previous battles represented by the Trollhide ability, requiring two wounds to be slain. The force consisted of:

Warlord
5 Hearthguard
4 Hearthguard
5 Warriors
6 Warriors

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The Jomsviking assembled for glorious battle.

My Moorish Warband is led by a tough Sub-Saharan former merchant calling himself al-Battal Ghazi, who sold as all his property and took up the Jihad of the Sword. While lacking serious religious credentials, few can doubt that he doesn’t receive what he asks from Allah. His sense for business and logistics has led to the employment of northerners with various faiths, despite grumblings from his more puritan warriors.

The Moorish warlord has the Son of Odin (heh), Eye of the God, Scout and the Great Special Rules. In game it means he is requires two unsaved hits to die, Levys generate SAGA dice, the post game progression table can be rerolled (very useful this one) and up to 7 SAGA dice can be rolled each turn. He’s a total beast in the game. The Moorish Warband had:

1 Warlord
1 Bard (Christian nobleman)
9 Levy Archers
11 Warriors
7 Warriors
8 Warriors (saxons)

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The Moors together with some Saxons. Because of our house rules, my Warband had a Bard in this game, represented by the Christian nobleman on the armored horse. To get some sweet post-battle effects, it was paramount he survived.
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The Jomsvikings deploy in a tight formation on the left flank. In this way, they would avoid the nasty abilities of the Moorish board. But this allowed my Saxons to advance unopposed over the bridge. I need to secure the left flank quickly though.

Early Turns

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The Jomsviking dreng, eager for battle, are the first unit to cross the bridge. My opponent also played the Northern Tempest the first turn. This time, I really wanted my levies to fire off 5 shots so I gave him the Wrath.
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Saelred the Saxon, preferring to fight for the Charred Men from the south over the ferocious viking pagans, leads his men dutifully across the bridge and secures the other side.  The rest of the Moorish Warband scrambles left to challenge the fearsome northern mercenaries.
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The Moorish volounteer warriors steel themselves before the coming storm. As my opponent usually has the activation blocking Punishment up, I can’t use Song of Drums to activate everything. However, the fact that I roll 7 dice and have a bard allow the Moors to move quickly.
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The Levy close in to fire at the bridge while the rest of the Moorish Warriors move in as a reserve.
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But even with 7 dice is not enough to move the Warband and stack up abilities to fight in combat. I decide to wait for my opponent to make the first assault.
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My opponent doesn’t engage yet but moves up his Warband further up. The Moorish Archers shower the Jomsvikings with arrows but fail to make a dent.
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Since the jomsvikings have some Wrath up, they get access to their powerful rightmost column. However, my Moorish phalanx is prepared with dice on all the combat abilities. My opponent plays Dance of Steel a lot this game,  granting the Jomsvikings extra armor. He then shouts praises to Odin and attacks.
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And it is a disaster for the Jomsviking drenge. The muslims fight with skill and faith, but also by rolling very good attack and defense dice gained by the Fury of Swords ability. A strong melee ability to play on large units of spear men.
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The Jomsviking hearthguard are a lot tougher and force the Moors back. With Dance of Spears played, I reduce our casualties. Being true to their Viking tradition, the Jomsvikings easily remove fatigue gained from combat. Any counter attack will be costly.
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I roll two 6s and decide to play the Betrayal ability first time ever. If I took over the Dreng, I could crash them into his hearthguard nearby. Of course my opponent opts to put 3 fatigues on King Fury, the Jomsviking Warlord. My other dice are spent on defensive abilities and resting.

Late Turns

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My Moorish spear men and the Jomsviking hearthguard fight again. I deny my opponent some activations, giving him more wrath. Hopefully, I would be able to destroy the Jomsviking vanguard before it is reinforced.
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My Moorish Spear men crash into his weakened warrior unit and cuts them down. Al Battal Ghazi unsheathes his sword and charges the fatigued Jomsviking hearthguard on his own. I even bought an extra attack dice. But this time he is an african’t and does little damage.
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The Moors are attacked again by the Jomsviking Hearthguard. My Levies dropped one of them before, but they still slay 5 of my men.
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The fearsome Jomsviking assault leaves my 11 man warrior unit with only 2 fighters left. However, my opponent suffers from some terrible luck here as my 2 fighters survive another round of combat. The Jomsviking Hearthguard are angry enough to sit on +1 armor in their turns, but my dice are rolling a lot of sweet 6s.
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The Moorish archers aim more carefully this time and bring one of the Hearthguard units down. The bard has fallen behind way down to be of any use.
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And a final charge from the righteous believers finishes the last Jomsviking Hearthguard. King Fury shouts insults on the bridge before he turns back. Unfazed, Al Battal Ghazi offers a silent prayer as his victorious forces control both bridges.

Some finishing thoughts

The Moors had a stronger Warband in this game, and together with some above average dice rolling, they were able to reel in a victory. With few losses too. I really shouldn’t have played Betrayal though. A weak ability to play on Jomsvikings who can easily remove 3 fatigues from their Warlord with a common dice and free rest.

My Jomsviking opponent didn’t blame his dice. He found his plan flawed as he expected to move my men out of the way with Jomsborg, but this ability could only be played in my turn. He told me he could have played more cool, there was no need to rush into battle.

Post battle, the Jomsvikings faced another revolt at home, as the inhabitants of Jomsborg expect victories. Al Battal Ghazi gained some additional warriors and levies were bulked up to full strength.

I am surprised to like Age of the Wolf as it has the faults of classical British game design. These are characterized by eccentric rules married with random charts, where rolling double ones can totally ruin your life. But unlike my experience Flames of War and Warhammer 40k, where the campaigns are basically marketing ploys requiring  huge amount of product to play, Age of the Wolf offers interesting games and characterful Warband development. Just don’t expect it to be fair.

I would recommend fans of SAGA to try it out but consider two things before hand. Firstly, roster management is a huge part of the campaign and there needs to be a way to update it easily and keep them accessible to other players. For gaming balance reasons, the roster management is quite complicated so prepare to dumb it down a bit.

Secondly, try to figure out some way players can get more games in regardless of their chosen campaign actions. Now, back to painting.

Revolting, sharp sticks and clan pride – SAGA Scots on the rise

A new saga begins!
After having painted and played a few games with my Norman/Crusader warband for SAGA, I’ve found myself gazing sideways for new ideas and playstyles to take on. The Crusaders are a lot of fun and can switch between both strong offensive and defensive (well, mostly offensive) abilities to tackle different situations. However, seeing how my mates push around their Anglo-Danes and Byzantines I’m really longing for an army heavily based around infantry, with abilities that require a sense for synergy and tactics to survive the grind of battle. Out of a handful of choices the Scots really stood out as a challenging yet rock hard force to master. Let me introduce you to my new force of choice: the revolting clan Meic Uilleim! In this article I will introduce you to my thoughts on starting a Scots warband for SAGA, and give a brief historical account on the setting in which my warband will carve out their adventures.

Between scots and scots
Before we kick off there are a couple of things that needs to be addressed. Lots of medieval Scots miniatures seems to be either early Pictish warriors stemming from the ancient kingdoms of Dál Riata or Pictland (now modern day Scotland), or warriors representative of the time of the first kings of Alba. Two of these, Cináed mac Ailpín (Kenneth MacAlpin) and Mac Bethad mac Findlaích (Macbeth MacFinley), are playable as Heroes of the Viking Age within the SAGA ruleset. Although I have no personal issues with either of these historical periods, my main interest has always been the high and late middle ages. I will therefore tweak the narrative a bit as an excuse for me to buy other miniatures of my taste. 

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An early map of Scotland, Matthew Paris, c. 1250.

Claymore Castings is currently making a wonderful range of 14th century (English, French,) Scots, as well as Islemen. I know what you’re saying: 14th century is waaay to late for SAGA, but stay with me on this it will be good! Advances in armor smithing, the development of new weapons such as blackpowder, together with the social impacts of the black plague changed the arts of war during the thirteen hundreds in ways that doesn’t translate to the battlefields of the SAGA setting very well. However medieval Scotland, much like the kingdom of Sweden, was not a very rich nation thanks to it’s demographic situation and geographical location. Being a somewhat old-fangled kingdom geographically remote from the rest of the European continent, many historians claim that medieval Sweden was lagging behind about 100 years in terms of both arms and armor culture. The most tragical evidence of this is perhaps the remains of some 25 coat-of-plates, about 100 maille coifs, and various parts of gauntles found in the mass graves outside Visby, where an army of peasants and lesser nobles were slaughtered by an army of veteran mercenaries in 1361 – who either didn’t care or saw any value in looting the bodies before burrying them. I’m no expert on Scottish history, but after digging into the litterature on medieval Scottish society I think it is at least somewhat plausible to make the same claim for parts of medieval Scotland. In conclusion, if I stick to the Claymore Castings miniatures that doesn’t scream late 14th century with full plate leg armor or visored bacinets, some models should fit the warriors of the early twelve hundreds, namely around the time of the Scottish kings William I “the Lion” and Alexander II. Plus, Claymore Castings’ Ribaulds (effectively meaning ‘scoundrels’ or highwaymen) will make awesome Scottish Warriors and Levy with their bare feet, hoods, and spears! Together with some minor headswaps and clever shield conversions this project is manageable…

Political context: cultural “Normanization” and the native discontent
Throughout the reign of king David I (1124-1153) the region of Scotia underwent several reforms that would reshape Scottish society and and bring it more in line with it’s neighbouring medieval states. This period is called the ‘Davidian revolution‘ which, aside from religous reforms, the founding of towns and castles, in practice meant a redistribution of land in favour of Anglo-Norman knights that had settled in the north after the Norman conquest. Feudalism and the notion that the king not only acted as lord and lawmaker, but also had divine claims to the ownership of the whole land through his Frankish kinship and a noble upbringing (in more regio – in royal manner), wasn’t always greeted with open arms by the native nobility. Revolts and armed conflicts within the nobility were recurrent as some of the native clans were very unhappy (to say the least) with the loss of (and redistribution of) land ownership, resulting in a series of uprisings that plagued the north. Since it it possible to field the Islamic caliph of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn  (Saladdin) from the mid eleven hundreds in the Crescent & the Cross-Rulebook, I find it more that fitting to also field characters from the Scottish nobility around the year 1200 without contributing to too much of a push of anachronistic encounters. Enter the Meic Uilleim or MacWilliams. 

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The seal of king David I as a warrior knight in Norman fashioned armor.

The MacWilliams first revolted in 1181 during the rule of William I “the Lion” as a certain Domnall Meic Uilleim claimed his right to the ancient northern region of Mormaerdom (or Kingdom of Moray). It took the Scottish king some 21 years and a series of costly campaigns to fully quell the MacWilliam rebellions as both the son Adam, and the grandson Goffraid Meic Uilleim continued their family quest. Furthermore, as William I’s son Alexander II inherrited the throne in 1214 the MacWilliam bloodline once again gathered strength to take up arms and start what is known as “the great northern rising” in Scottish history. We get a first hand glimpse of these events through the Chronicle of Melrose (c. 1270) whose authors describe how Domnall Bán MacUilleim (Donald MacWilliam) together with his allies Kenneth MacHeth and “a certain king of Ireland” as well as a “band of malignants” had invaded the region of Moray. The chronicle is however short on the matter, and who this mysterious Irish king was is a mystery still not known to historians. Nevertheless it seems that the MacWilliams had a network of powerful men that either supported their claim to the righteous ownership of the Moray region, or at least had personal interests in the rebellion. The invasion was quickly disrupted as the revolteurs were defeated in battle and executed for treason. It is said that the heads of the MacWilliam clansmen were sent to king Alexander II as a token of the rebellion’s defeat. The last heir of the MacWilliam bloodline, an infant daughter, was also executed in public at the Burgh of Forfar in 1229 or 1230.

In the next article, I will do a product review of the Claymore Castings miniatures that I intend to use for my Scots warband as well as talk about the equipment that would (or would not) have been used by the rebels around the end of the 12th century.

If you have any comments or questions regarding this article please don’t hesitate to leave a little comment below! Cheers!
F.

The following litterature have been used as references to this article:

Barrow, G.W.S, Scotland and its Neighbours in the Middle Ages, The Hambledon Press, 1992.

Broun, Dauvit, Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain, EU Press, 2007.

Oram, Richard, Alexander II: King of Scots 1214-1249, Birlinn Limited, 2012.