Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Warriors of Germania?

If you have ever watched Russel Crowe in the opening battle sequence in the movie 'Gladiator', you will appreciate how easy it is to become completely fascinated by the drama of the wars between the tribes of Germany and the legions of Rome. Although 'Gladiator' depicts a full scale pitched battle, the appealing thing me is that most of the fighting between Germans and Romans was probably of the skirmish and ambush variety and skirmishing means an exciting tactical battle with a manageable number of figures, rather than having to paint entire legions and enough Germans to outnumber them sufficiently to create a balanced game!

To populate a skirmish game between Germanic warriors and Romans, you can not do better than turn to Warlord Games, as they provide figures for both sides which fulfil my primary criteria these days in that they are made mostly of hard plastic.
For the Germans I found a box of Warlord Tribesmen of Germania on e-bay, for a couple of quid less than you pay from the Warlord store. I've painted Germans on several occasions previously and have always loved them for their character, big beards, bare chests and nice simple geometric shield designs. I have to confess to being somewhat disappointed with the Warlord set, however, for three basic reasons:

1) When you have a bit of a passion for a particular wargames army, you expect to buy figures that are designed specifically for your army. In the past, I've bought my German warriors from Black Tree Design, and, indeed, I have a dozen or so of their wonderful Germans waiting on the painting bench to add to my current warband. However, what you get with the Warlord Warriors of Germania box is actually a re-packaging of their Celtic warriors. In fact, you get four plastic sprues of Celtic warriors with a bag full of metal bits thrown in to make them look a bit more Germanic! The figures are wonderful, indeed I've painted many Warlord Celtic figures in the past and they paint up very nicely, BUT, when you want to paint up a Germanic army, it's a bit of a kick in the shins to open up the box and find a load of Celts in there. I think what compounds the disappointment, is that Warlord make no mention of this on the website; you get the usual product description, but no mention of the fact that the set is made up largely of Celtic warrior sprues. It just seems a bit underhand really!

2) The metal parts you get in the box are very good, particularly the heads which look very similar to the heads of Black Tree's Germans, so I suspect that they will look very good together on the wargames table. However, the torsos that you are supposed to attach to the Celtic plastic legs are all bare chested. The problem with this is, the plastic legs come in three basic types; some are modelled with the bottom part of a mail hauberk, some with the bottom part of a shirt and some with just trousers. Obviously, the metal bare torsos will only attach to the legs which are cast with just trousers, which means you don't have enough legs for all the bare chested figures in the box. A bit naughty this one Warlord, because it clearly states on the box front that you can make 43 figures from the set, but, unless you are prepared to hack the mail or shirt casting from the legs of some of the figures, some of your bare chested warriors are going to look pretty silly having a bit of mail hauberk or shirt dangling from their belts! In addition to this, is the slightly annoying fact that you can't use your plastic adhesive to attach the metal torso to the plastic legs; super glue is the only adhesive that will do the job.

3) Associated with the above problem, is the fact that attaching the metal torso to the plastic legs makes the resulting warrior somewhat top heavy. This isn't really an issue if you are basing your figures on multiple bases, but if, like me, you want to use the figures for skirmish gaming, and you attach them to round plastic single bases, some of them have a tendency to topple over. Again, this isn't an insurmountable problem, but it does mean you have to think carefully about how you do your bases. At the moment, I'm thinking of adding 'rocks' to the bases of the most unstable figures to see if that helps to balance them out.
A very top heavy German! The plastic bases will need extra weight to add stability!
Having said all this, I already feel really attached to my German warband as, once the paint goes on, they cease to be Celtic cast offs and become proud and somewhat terrifying warriors of the frozen wastelands of the Barbaricum! When you add bits and bobs of captured Roman equipment and a smattering of severed heads, they very nicely portray the mighty and formidable enemies of Rome that they clearly were over a long period of time. It would be good if Warlord would address the issues which beset their Tribesmen of Germania boxed set, but as annoying as the problems are, it has to be said that the figures do paint up well and the variety of poses you can construct make them look like a really wild, ragged and ferocious warband. All in all, I like what the figures become with a little work with craft knife and paintbrush and will definitely add more in the future to build a massive horde of woolly barbarians.

You get lots of variety in the box, so no two warriors need be the same.