Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Making Flags for my Wars of the Roses Lancastrians.

I love flags! One reason why I spend so much time painting troops is that I love that moment when the flag gets attached to the flag pole and the standard bearer takes his place at the heart of the unit; it's what gives the unit its identity.

You can, of course, buy your flags from a range of manufacturers these days and they range from reasonably priced but of questionable quality, to the beautifully produced but well beyond most people's wargames budget.

At the moment I have a mix of bought and home produced flags for my Wars of the Roses Lancastrians. I probably spend way too much time designing flags and, if I committed that time to painting, I'd probably double my output of completed figures.
To make my flags, I use Serif's Page Plus X2 to produce the basic background and any geometrical elements of the design. Any more complicated things like animals or flowers are obtained by endless trawling of the Internet. There are a couple of really good free heraldic design web sites available, but be warned, they don't have search facilities and you will have to click through page after page to find the design you need.
The one I use most is titled "Heraldry Clipart" and does exactly what it says on the tin. Most of the images are monochrome, which is brilliant, as you can add exactly the colours you wish to have. The heraldic clip art can be found at:
Once I have produced the basic flag design, adding any charges to the geometric shapes produced in Page Plus, I then save it to a folder on my hard drive and fire up Adobe Photoshop Elements for the fun bit of the process.
My copy of Photoshop is version 8 and was downloaded for free. When you open up the flag design in Photoshop, you can start to bring it life by adding colour and brushing out any un-wanted lines from the Page Plus part of the process.
 The three images above are a fairly simple example of the process in action. Sir Robert Knolly's flag was made by creating the field with a chevron in Page Plus. The red field was added in Photoshop and the flag was then re-opened in Page Plus for the roses to be added. Back then to Photoshop, where the overlapping part of the rose image was painted red to create the finished article.
Another example shows two stages in the process of making a flag for Sir Thomas Cruwys; the elements are put together in Page Plus, then everything is blended together in Photoshop, using the paintbucket and paintbrush tools to leave the flag ready for the final construction back in Page Plus.
 The original design is only one half of the flag. This is copied and reversed to make the 'back' of the flag and a simple rectangle is added between the two to allow for wrapping around the flag pole.
Incidentally, I tend to save the completed flags as a PDF before printing as this appears to give a better quality finish.

One final example of the process in action, shows two stages of work in making a flag for Sir Humphrey Audley. At the Page Plus stage, the design is simply a set of overlapping lines, but once the image has been developed in Photoshop, this has become a knot with the lines weaving over and under ready to be added to the completed design as shown below:

 As I said at the beginning, it takes up a lot of valuable painting time to create your own flags, so why bother?
Firstly, you can place your figures on the wargames table, stand back and say, with pride, "I made those flags!" That is much better than simply using bought ones that someone else has mass produced and lots of other people will have. It's unique!
 Sir Nicholas Hervey, part of the Duke of Somerset's command. His arms are; Gules, on a bend argent, three trefoils vert.
Secondly, you can personalise them to suit your particular situation. If you need a smaller flag to fit a shorter pole, no problem. Or, if you're like me and you like to see massive flags flying above your troops, then you can print them larger than life and they look wonderful!
Sir John Langstrother, Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, part of Edward, Prince of Wales' command.
Sir John's position as Prior of the order created a really useful alternative to the normal coat of arms or livery badge. The flag shows the badge of the order rather than his personal coat of arms and I think is quite striking.
Just a final word on making your own flags, it does allow you to use your own imagination on what might have appeared on the battlefields of the Wars of the Roses. The flag below combines the coat of arms of the Marquis of Dorset with a livery badge of the Beaufort family...

 And this is how my livery banner for Edward of Westminster was put together:
 After all, who can state with any degree of certainty that such banners weren't carried by the standard bearers of the Wars of the Roses?
As an afterthought, I should point out that I, in no way, claim that any of my flags are historically accurate. I thought I'd better add this post script after entering into a 'handbags at dawn' episode, many years ago, with the proprietor of a well know historical book emporium, over an English Civil War flag I posted on the Internet. Hi Dave!!!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Somerset's Contingent, 1471

The first contingent for my 1471 Lancastrians is now complete. It's taken a long time, with simultaneously painting figures for my Saga army, but I'm hopeful that things will begin to move along a bit more swiftly from now on.

The figures are from various boxes of Perry Miniatures plastic 28mm boxed sets. This particular livery banner is from Freezywater, which are available from Vexillia Miniatures these days. To be honest, I find the paper that Freezywater flags are printed on could be much better quality, which is why I produce and print a lot of my flags myself. Once you start to put folds in their flags, the ink tends to crack and makes the flag look shabby. The banner above was painted to cover up the imperfections!

The contingent is made up of 4 bands, each of 3 figures. As they are Retinue men, there are 3 archers on each of the two archer bands. In 'A Coat of Steel', Retinue are differentiated from Shire Levies, by the number of figures to a band. I'm also trying to make sure that Retinue men are wearing some kind of livery, be it a jacket, hat or nice fluffy feathers!

I re-arranged the figures on this base, so that the Duke is now giving orders to his musician, while the standard bearer looks on in the background. The livery standard is taken from those contained in the Wars of the Roses bills and bows set. They are much better quality than the Freezywater ones and they are huge, which I think is a vital criteria for wargames flags.

The bases I am using for my Lancastrians are laser cut MDF board from East Riding Miniatures. They are absolute top quality, accurately cut and I would recommend them, whether you are basing individual figures or multiples. Compared to other materials I've tried, they take the basing medium I use superbly well and are thick enough to ensure that there is no warping or misshaping of any kind.

As you would expect from the Perrys, their Wars of the Roses plastics range are really top quality. The two infantry sets, bills and bows and mercenaries are completely interchangeable and give a wide range of options when putting the figures together. The mercenary set has proved particularly useful, as most of my senior commanders had been in exile on the continent prior to the war of 1471, so they certainly would have brought European soldiers with them, or, indeed, have adopted a more continental style of dress themselves.
Although they don't quite score a maximum ten; they require a bit too much green stuff around the joints for that, they are wonderfully created figures and enable the building of a great looking Wars of the Roses army relatively cheaply. If you want medieval artillery in your army, and let's face it, who doesn't, then you will have to resort to metal and the associated higher cost. That part of the project lays some way off in the distance at the moment but, based on the pictures I've seen, I can't wait to get at least one of those guns supporting my retinues.
Coming next ...

The Great Fyrd Arrive at the Muster.

A second unit of warriors for my Saga army have finally been completed. I finished the painting and varnishing about six weeks ago, but they have been sat on the shelf waiting to be based ever since. I like to give the varnish on my troops plenty of time to dry before basing, having had previous experience of the consequences of being in too much of a hurry! Six weeks is a bit excessive though.

These eight warriors all come from the Dark Age Warriors set and boast no armour at all. Somehow it doesn't seem quite right having one unit with all the figures wearing mail coats and another with none. Way back, when I painted a 15mm Anglo-Saxon army, the Fyrd were fielded in units of two ranks; the front rank armoured and the rear rank not. I think my Saga warrior units would 'feel' better if they were half armoured and half not, but the Saga rules state that all the figures in a unit should be armoured in the same way! If anyone out there has painted an Anglo-Danish army and mixed figures that would be classed as 'Select' and 'Great' Fyrd, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

The main thing to say about these figures is how quick and simple they are to prepare and paint. How much time and effort is spent on preparation is, of course, a matter of personal preference, but with these figures, all you need to do is run a craft knife over the casting lines and then give them a good wash in detergent. Painting is just as straight forward; paint the flesh, block in the tunic, paint in the leather bits and the weapon! Ink washing and varnishing adds extra time, but the whole paint job is really quick, compared to many other figure ranges I can think of.





Bjorn again!

Saturday, 12 October 2013


Undoubtedly, the most (and probably only) really annoying thing about modelling with the new fantastic ranges of plastic 28mm figures available these days, is the difficulty you have holding on to all the fiddly little bits!

I'm not in the first flush of youth anymore and I tend to drop even the largest of objects; plates, keys, mobile phone etc., so those tiny little heads, swords and shields frequently end up slipping from my aged grasp and disappearing onto the garage floor, never to be seen again. Getting older really can be a bit of a bugger when you participate in a hobby like ours; not only do you drop stuff with increasing regularity, but then your eyesight is so bad that you can't find what you've dropped either.

On my last visit to Kelham Hall for the 'Other Partizan', I finally capitulated and purchased a box of Victrix Athenian hoplites. I'd got as far as hovering over the 'purchase' button on several different web sites before, but seeing the box in the flesh, as it were, proved way too much and I succumbed to the temptation, although only after comparing them with a box of Warlord Games hoplites.

Once I had arrived back at my workbench in the back of the garage, I started cleaning up a few of the hoplites, even though I just don't have time to fit any great number of them in, between painting up my Anglo-Danes for Saga and my Lancastrians for 'A Coat of Steel'. As usual, I immediately went for a musician and a command figure; I like to think that the others will arrive to join the commander to form a new regiment! I love the musician and I was really excited as the bits for the officer came off the sprue (yes... I'm 53!). I chose a nice head with its helmet tipped back for the officer, imagining him contemplating his next move before issuing some tactically brilliant order which would swing the battle finally in my favour. As the craft knife deftly removed the mould line from across the top of the helmet, the head pinged out of my fingers and, despite several frantically desperate grabs, fell into the murky abyss somewhere by my feet.

Two other things about being a 53 year old wargamer could be mentioned at this point:
a) there is a certain lack of dignity involved in crawling around on a garage floor, amongst the dust and cobwebs. Indeed, I'm pretty certain there are mice in there somewhere and they are not renowned for their ability to control their bladders!
b) you don't give up because loosing that head means that you can only make 47 hoplites instead of 48 and the wife is not going to sanction the purchase of a second box just to replace one lost head.

The search wasn't entirely fruitless; I did discover two previously lost Warlord Games Roman legionary heads, a Redoubt Enterprises English Civil War head (haven't done any of those since 1994!) and a random undercoated right arm with a javelin attached, but not even a glimpse of my hoplite officer's head.

I spent quite a long time being completely gutted at the prospect of not having enough heads to complete the two 24 figure regiments I was planning for some point in the future and even sent an e-mail to Victrix to vent my spleen vis-a-vis the fact that the lost head meant that a complete figure could not be made. To be fair, I received a very nice reply from Steve at Victrix offering me replacement heads, which was far more than I deserved. He also pointed out that their subsequent hoplite sets do indeed have spare heads, so don't be put off buying them if you also suffer from aged wargamer's inoperable gripping finger syndrome.

I often wish that I wasn't one of those people who just has to have several different projects on the go at the same time, but, on this occasion, it proved to be the factor which offset the loss of the hoplite head! Sitting on the shelf in front of me was a sprue from the Gripping Beast Dark Age Warriors set, including a spare head of my favourite baldy guy.

On closer inspection, the Dark Age warrior head had nothing about it which made it period specific and there seemed to be no reason why I couldn't put it on the body of my Athenian commander. The Victrix sprue has a left arm holding a crested helmet, which would fit nicely with the Gripping Beast head which was... just a head! Gosh! I was beginning to feel pretty darn daring at this point and cleaned up the Beastie head and attached it to the Athenian body. It looked a little odd to begin with, but I think that was because I was used to seeing it attached to several of my Anglo-Danish Saga troops. Once painted, I reckon he actually looks just the part; the beard makes him look like an experienced warrior, while the bald pate gives him that wise philosophical look, as though he has just leaped out of the bath shouting, "Eureka!" 

These two warriors may have lived some 1300 years apart, but the common head seems to work quite nicely. In future, perhaps I'll not be quite so gutted when that plastic head shoots across the garage floor to join the growing gang of dust gathering domes.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Farewell Sweet Beast!

The dewy early morning silence was shattered by the anguished cries of a heartbroken parent. The day had finally arrived when this wretched and miserable parting could be deferred no longer. Fate, cruel, foul fate, thou hast weaved such a web of sorrow. No man shouldst ever feel such grief and misery, yet here we are, the time has come. I brought you into this world with such tender loving care; the craft knife, the plastic cement, the green stuff, the acrylic paint and the Quickshade dip. Oh the desolation, the anguish, brought on by the application of the bubble wrap and the heart-rending screech of the parcel tape! Oh e-bay! Thou dost rip asunder, thou dost rent apart, thou dost cause such excruciating tears of lamentation.

Farewell, sweet beast…
The Troll Drummer...
Created Summer 2009

Sold on e-bay, August 27th 2013!

Rest In Hampshire!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Levies Arrive at the Muster!

It seems to have been a long time coming, but the levies have finally arrived! Armed with bow or sling, each according to his own means, the lowly geburs of Northanhymbre have gathered to serve their noble warlord.

Below are a set of shots of the levies in all their glory! I only hope they perform on the battlefield in a way which reflects the time and effort which has gone into putting them together. Based on past experience, probably not!

This figure turned out almost exactly like his bow armed counterpart, even though the archers had been put away in their storage case while the slingers were being done!
 This fellow reminds me of my late father. It's the moustache and the left arm; he looks like he's leaning towards the bar to pick up a pint of Stones' bitter, just before last orders on a Saturday night!
 What a proud looking bunch! Who could possibly stand up to these brave chaps? Well, apart from...
 Archer and slinger working in tandem... the good citizens of Northanhymbre can sleep soundly in their beds tonight.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Making a set of Saga Dice and saving a few quid to boot!

The one major criticism I have of the Saga wargames rules system is the huge amount of cash you have to layout to get the stuff you need! The rule set is £25 and, if you don’t want to game with Vikings, Anglo-Danish, Normans or Welsh, you don’t even get the battleboards that you need included with the game.  Of course, there is no point having your battleboard without a set of Saga Dice to roll. A set of eight Saga Dice will cost you an unbelievable £12 if you buy them direct from Gripping Beast, not to mention the minimum £2.50 postage and packing charge.

Thankfully, we wargamers are notorious for our ability to get round things like paying over the odds for the equipment we need to game with. For a much smaller outlay of cash and a bit of time cutting and sticking at the dining room table, it is possible to make your own set of Saga Dice for a fraction of the cost of a proper set.

You could, of course, use any old six sided dice that you happen to have lying around; the rule book does tell you how to use an ordinary D6 in place of a proper Saga Dice, but if you want dice with the same symbols that appear on your battleboard, then constructing your own using blank D6s is something you might want to consider.

I decided to buy a set of 8 blank dice from ‘The Dice Shop’. If you haven’t visited their web store yet, then take a few minutes to do so. They have dice of every shape, colour and material you could possibly imagine (apart from dodecahedral, purple, rice pudding!). I ordered two sets of dice, as I’m ultimately aiming to put two Saga warbands together. The dice are 18mm 6 sided and cost £0.35 each, giving a total outlay of £2.80 for an 8 dice set. Postage varies according to how many dice you order, but I think the postage on my two sets of 8 dice came to £1.39. You can buy dice of different sizes, but I found that 18mm was just the right size to fit the printed symbols I had.

The printed symbols will cost you nothing, apart from a sheet of paper and the ink in your printer. I got my set of symbols from the Armoury section of the Saga discussion group, which can be found at:

Note: the above address has changed since I first published this post. To get the PDF document with the symbols, you will need to log in to the forum and click on the link to "The Armoury".
The symbols are available as a PDF document to download and include symbols for the armies included in the rule set and a set for Scottish warbands. All you do is print the document and cut out the set that you require. It’s a bit of a fiddly job, but if you work to a system, can be completed in twenty minutes or so. Once the symbols have been cut out, you just need to glue them carefully to the blank dice. I did one side of each of the 8 dice at a time and then rotated all the dice to do the next face; half an hour of brushing on glue and sticking to dice later, the job was done.

A final job, which I shall do in few days time, when the glue has had plenty of time to dry, will be to apply a coat of varnish to each of the dice, just to make sure the edges of the symbols stay down and to add a little extra protection, with all that future rolling to do.

This is what my set of Saga dice look like… I could have found the money to buy an official set I suppose, but for an hour or so doing a bit of crafting, I’m hoping the Gods of the Dice will smile more kindly upon me when my Saga dice clatter across the gaming table.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Slowly... very slowly... but getting there!

My painting schedule continues very slowly, but with each finished figure, each of my projects inches closer to completion. I've been trying to get back on track with my Wars of the Roses army this week, while plodding onwards with my Northanhymbre warband for Saga.

The last four slingers of the Levy unit are well underway and the two figures I decided to include as command have arrived at the gathering...

Firstly, the guy giving the orders. Standard figure, straight out of the Dark Age Infantry box, with a scabbard added so he has somewhere to store that blade in less dramatic times. Even with a somewhat 'Bee-Gee' looking hair do, I think he should do a pretty good job of leading the Levies into action.

Transmitting those all important orders across the mayhem of the battlefield is a vital task and with a horn that size, this guy should be heard from one end to the other. 
With the Levies nearing completion, it's time to start on the huscarls, so they can take their place on the battlefield, selflessly sacrificing themselves to protect the warlord, to whom they have sworn blood oaths of devotion.
Can't believe that I have actually bought metal figures from Gripping Beast to create my hearthguard! I think the deciding factor was simply the longer mail coat. As much as I like the plastic thegns from Gripping Beast, those shorter mail coats just don't measure up for an eleventh century huscarl.