Sunday, 11 September 2016

Sir Henry Percy, Captain for my Sword & Spear Feudal English Host.

Sir Henry Percy, the first of my two Captains for my Sword & Spear Feudal English army, is now complete and ready to take his place along side the Bishop of Durham against the Scots or French or whoever dares to stand against them!
Sir Henry and his standard bearer are both figures from the Fireforge Games mounted range, with bits taken from the men-at-arms and Templar Knights boxes.
Sir Henry is my second attempt at using the heraldic transfer sets sold by Citadel Six. I think I may just about be getting the hang of using these transfers! It appears that there are certain key elements to the instruction sheet that, if you follow carefully, produce a transfer that will touch up and look pretty good on your figure. The important points are:
i) use a craft knife blade, that you don't use for anything else, to cut through the carrier film. Cut at a very slight angle and always cut towards yourself;
ii) varnish the area of the figure to which the transfer is going to be applied and give it a good twenty-four hours to dry;
iii) have plenty of washing up liquid in the lukewarm water you soak the transfer in;
iv) coat the area on the figure with Micro Sol before you apply the transfer and have Micro Sol on the brush you use to position the transfer;
v) be prepared to touch up the transfer with a coat or two of paint after it has been applied. The inks used in making the transfers are not as good quality as others on the market and will rub off with the slightest handling, which means that you will be left with areas of white around the edge of the transfer and, possibly, on the body of the transfer itself, but, with some careful brush work, all can be restored and a decent finished product achieved.
With careful painting, the transfers blend in really well and the Micro Sol helps them to conform to all the crests and hollows in the casting.

The transfer used on the standard bearer's shield is from the Battleflag transfer range and is really intended for use on an infantry shield. There was a spare blue lion in the Citadel set, but it seemed a bit disrespectful to give the standard bearer the same shield as his lord and master and I'd completely stressed myself out doing Sir Henry's by then! The flag is one of my usual home made paper printed jobs, again, with some careful over painting to ensure the ink didn't run when the coat of varnish was applied.

Even the smaller tabard transfers went on without too much hassle!
The Fireforge trappers have an awkward flapping bit at the front, which looks spectacular, but makes the job of applying the transfer that bit more complicated. A fiddly method of getting round this is to trace round the transfer onto a piece of greaseproof or tracing paper. This template can then be cut to shape around the flapping trapper and used as a guide to help you cut the transfer to the right shape to fit!
All in all, I'm quite pleased with the way Sir Henry and his standard bearer have turned out and I just have one more command piece to do to have all three commanders ready for action. In the meantime, there are lots more archers and spearmen to complete and I'm even thinking of putting a unit of Irish mercenaries together to add an extra bit of flavour to my feudal host!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sword & Spear Feudal English Update...

My Sword & Spear Feudal English host is now about a quarter of the way to completion, so I thought I'd post some shots of the latest additions to the Bishop of Durham's forces.
Sir William Roos, Commander of the first unit of Knights to join the army.

Piers de Mauley, John de Segrave, a standard bearer, John de Eivill and Adam de Creeting make up the rest of the unit.

Close up of Sir Piers.

Sir John de Eivill complete with trapper and shield made from homemade paper heraldic designs!

A unit of spearmen supplied by the Bishop, flying a standard depicting an icon of the Virgin Mary.

The Bishop's spearmen are commanded by Sir Reginald Utterthwaite, but the presence of Brother Mungo could be a little distracting, not to mention downright dangerous, with that flailing weapon!

A unit of dreaded longbowmen.

Close up of the Captain... "Nock... Mark... Draw... Loose..." Not sure the two bowmen in the background are keeping up with the boss!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham. A Medieval Warrior Priest!

Anthony Bek was one of those characters peculiar to the medieval world, who combined the roles of warrior knight, politician and bishop of the Catholic church. He was born into a family of Lincolnshire knights and, after attending Oxford University and joining the clergy, he came to the attention of the heir to King Henry III, Prince Edward. As part of Edward's entourage, he rapidly rose through the ranks of the Church and accompanied the Prince when he went on crusade in 1270.   As one of Edward's councillors, he was sent on political missions to Wales, Germany and Aragon and played an important role in the negotiations which resulted in John Balliol being enthroned as King of Scotland in 1292. In 1298, he led one of the divisions in Edward's army at the Battle of Falkirk. Later in Edward's reign, Bek was involved in a series of disputes with the Prior and Cathedral Chapter of Durham, which rumbled on for a number of years but he was supported
by Pope Clement V, who ultimately appointed him Patriarch of Jerusalem. In 1307, Bek officiated at the funeral of Edward I and received the support of Edward II in his dispute with the Prior of Durham. When he died in 1310, he was honoured by burial in Durham Cathedral. He was massively wealthy and lived a life of great splendour and extravagance, keeping a huge retinue which travelled with him on all his political missions. Bek was also renowned for his bravery and chastity and was, without doubt, one of the outstanding personalities of his age.
My Bishop of Durham is from a set produced by Curteys Miniatures, which includes the bishop, a standard bearer and a musician for £9. He comes armed to the teeth and bedecked with religious paraphernalia, which perfectly reflects the character of Anthony Bek himself. Curteys' horses are chunky and easy to paint, with most of the great beast covered by the caparison. For the heraldry, I decided to have a go with one of the transfer sets produced by Citadel Six Custom Design. I had tried to use some of their livery badge transfers on some Wars of the Roses figures I was painting last year and failed so miserably that I just gave up, so I was a little apprehensive about using them for this project. As you can see from the finished  figure, the transfers
appear to have worked pretty well. However, I should point out that using Citadel Six transfers is not something to be attempted lightly. When you open the transfer pack and take out the instructions, you know that using them is not going to be straightforward! When you only have one instruction to follow, only one thing can go wrong, when you have this
many instructions to follow... In summary, I found the transfers to be incredibly unstable, with the slightest touch causing the ink to disintegrate. The instructions are a little bit like reading a brain surgery manual, but you really do need to follow them to the letter and, even then, be prepared for things to go disastrously wrong. What you get at the end of a stressed filled session with these transfers very much depends on luck and an ability to cover up the gaping wounds in the transfer where the ink has disappeared. You do get more transfers than you need and there is a very good reason for that... my second attempt ended up in a crumpled heap fit only for the bin! If you are going to have a go, make sure you put plenty of washing up liquid in your lukewarm water, use a really sharp blade to cut round the transfer and don't panic when the colour starts to disappear; you can rescue them with some judicious painting later on. If you don't have any Micro Sol transfer softener, then I would definitely acquire some before you have a go with these transfers. Incidentally, I applied my Citadel Six transfers on Assumption of Mary Day, which I think may have worked in my favour!
In spite of all of this, I'm pretty pleased with the way the Bishop has turned out; the heraldry does look good, even though the transfers intended for the front half of the trapper were way too big, so I had to use the ones intended for the rider's jupon instead! If my Bishop is half as successful as the original then I'll be pretty happy. I also, by the way, bought a set of Citadel Six transfers for my Henry Percy figure... now do I wait for next year's Assumption of Mary Day before I tackle that little job?

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Saint Cuthbert's Banner.

When you play Sword & Spear, you need a general and a couple of commanders to lead your forces into battle. I decided to depict my general as Antony Bek, the renowned warrior Prince Bishop of Durham, after all, with God on your side, those action dice are bound to roll sixes!

While I was searching for information about Bek's heraldry, I came across references to a sacred, corporeal cloth, which was attached to a spear and carried by the English forces which defeated the Scots and captured King David at the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346. Although this was too late for the army I am building, a little extra reading lead to further information about this 'corporeal cloth', in particular, that it was a banner dedicated to the northern divinity, Saint Cuthbert. A Banner of Saint Cuthbert, not the one carried at Neville's Cross, was mentioned in sources dating back to the time of Edgar Aethling in 1097, so it seemed likely that such a banner would not be out of place in my English host of the late 13th century. Thus it came to be, that the holy Banner of Saint Cuthbert came to be the army standard for my Sword & Spear English host.

The banner itself was simple enough to construct using Page Plus and Gimp2 and I decided to make it into a hangar attached to a cross pole which, in turn, would be attached to a spear carried by the standard bearer.

The only other decision to make, was to whom should the honour of carrying Saint Cuthbert's Banner be given? While I was at Partizan earlier this year, I picked up a pack of figures from Curteys Miniatures, which included the figure I was going to use as the Prince Bishop, along with a standard bearer and a musician.

Battleflag, who produce wonderful transfers for all sorts of historical periods, make sets of heraldic transfers which are specifically designed for Curteys barded horses, so I decided to obtain a set and make up a standard bearer using their transfers. Of the sets available, I most liked the look of Sir Philip Darcy's heraldry, so he was duly appointed to carry the sacred banner!

When it came to putting the figure together, the Curteys standard bearer seemed a bit wooden for the scene I wanted to create, so I used a figure from the various Fireforge Miniatures mounted men-at-arms sets I have tucked away in my cupboard. I'm convinced that the Fireforge figure looks much better, but I hadn't realized that Curteys cast their saddles on the knight, but Fireforge cast theirs on the horse! This resulted in my Sir Philip Darcy going into battle without a saddle, which wasn't really acceptable, so the missing parts had to be created using Green Stuff.

The composite figure painted up very nicely, but I wasn't as impressed with the Battleflag transfers as I had been with the Roman legionary shield designs I bought from them last year. The transfers for the horse barding split when I applied them to the horse and the translucence of the transfer made it stick out like the proverbial sore thumb!

It takes a lot of work to blend the transfers in with the background colour of the miniature, as several coats of paint are required and the brush work has to be particularly carefully done. However, once the transfers have been touched up, they do look pretty good and they are certainly better than I could achieve by freehand brush work!

Sir Philip still needs a coat of varnish or two before he'll be ready to join the fray, but, all in all, I've been quite pleased with the way he turned out. Eventually, he'll appear with the Prince Bishop and an infantry standard bearer carrying the personal banner of Antony Bek.

Sunday, 5 June 2016


Conquest Games Miniatures have done the wargaming world a massive favour by putting out this boxed set of 28mm plastic figures. For £20 you get 28 multi part figures, that's a touch over 70p per figure, but you get so much more than that in this little box of delights!

In the box you get four sprues containing six figures each, each figure representing an archer in a variety of basic shooting, loading and standing poses. To go with the torsos are a plethora of arms to give all sorts of different actions and, best of all, the left arms come in duplicate wielding a choice of short or longbow!

You also get some very nicely designed quivers, although they are all identical, and some sheathed daggers which you can attach to the lovely chunky belts worn by the archers. Each sprue contains lots of heads which can be used to represent any historical period from around the 11th century up to the early part of the 14th century. With a little work with a craft knife, all the heads can easily be converted to suit your own personal taste.  

I found some of the assembly a little odd to begin with and there are no instructions or guidelines contained within the box. The arms appear, at first glance, to be cast the wrong way round to fit in the arm sockets on the torsos, but once you have a go, they actually fit together in a very lifelike way. A definite bonus is the inclusion of a bow being held in the right hand, which gives you the opportunity to have an archer pointing or holding a standard or sword in the left. The torsos are topped off with a flat neck, which I wasn't too keen on to begin with, but, again, when you've played around fitting a few figures together, they do build up very well indeed. 

 One thing to be aware of with these figures is that they are wearing quite a lot of layers and I found it a little perplexing trying to find where each layer began and ended! Having said that, they do have some wonderful details, like the lasing on the wrist guard and the quiver and the tunics have very deep folds which make shading an absolute delight.

Apart from the archer sprues, you also get two 'accessories' sprues, which each contain an extra torso and various additional arms and weapons, and a Norman infantry command sprue, which contains the officer figure above, a standard bearer and a poor unfortunate chap who is a casualty before he even gets off the sprue!

All in all, you get plenty for your money in this box from Conquest Miniatures and there are plenty of opportunities for conversion; my officer figure now has a bow in his left hand to make him into a captain of archers. At 8 figures a unit, I can make 3 longbow units from this box and still have some left over! I've used the officer and standard bearer in my first unit, so I'm going to have to think about using the accessory sprues to build some command for the other two units, but that is all part of the fun of wargaming with figures such as these. You can, of course, purchase separate sprues from the Conquest web site.

If, like me, you have experienced the frustration of trying to find a set of plastic 28mm archers, then this set is the one you want. It could be said that Conquest have tried to cover too many bases by making set useable for such a long period of history, but I suspect that fashions didn't change too rapidly in the middle ages and I think I'm going to use some of the more Scandinavian looking heads in my next longbow unit, to reflect the Nordic influences, which must have prevailed in the north of England long after the last Viking conquerors arrived in the area.

I'm reluctant to give the set ten out of ten, because that gives Conquest Miniatures no incentive to make their next set even better, but nine out of ten would indeed be well earned! This is a brilliant and much needed addition to the Medieval wargames armoury and well done Conquest for seeing the niche in the market and filling it so wonderfully.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Ride north Sir Henry and quell the heathen Scots!

Warfare was endemic along the Scottish border throughout the Middle Ages, which is lucky for me, because it gives me the opportunity to paint up some of the lovely medieval figures currently being marketed by Fireforge Games and Conquest Games Miniatures!

My first attempts, portraying a unit of spearmen belonging to Sir Henry Percy, are just about complete and consists of a dozen figures from the Fireforge foot sergeants set. I have not used any specific command figures, choosing instead to cobble an officer and a standard bearer together from the figures included in the box. The unit is based in a way that could be used for a range of currently available rule sets, although I'm hoping to use them with Sword and Spear, which is full of interesting and innovative mechanisms.

The Fireforge figures are pretty straightforward to construct, although they are a tad confusing to paint, until you've spent some time putting on the colours to see what works where. There are no instructions or guidelines included in the box, so you need to play around to see which bits work best with which other bits! Because I wanted to provide all the figures in the unit with the same shield designs, I had a go at producing my own, using printed paper designs glued onto the plastic shields and given a coat of paint to make them look as though I'd painted the whole thing myself!

I think Sir Henry adopted the blue lion rampant around 1294, which just about fits in with the timing of the army I'm attempting to create. I'm assuming that, having dropped the old blazon of azure, five fusils in fess or, in favour of the lion rampant, Sir Henry would be keen to show off his new status symbol and thus plastered it on as many shields as possible for his followers to carry!


As much as I like the Fireforge spearmen and, of course, you can build them as crossbowmen, which I intend to do for one unit in this army, spearmen only made up a portion of the army's footmen. By the last decade of the 13th century, Edward I was employing ever greater numbers of longbowmen in his armies, which is where the latest release from Conquest Miniatures comes into play. Conquest have developed a very neat box of European archers, which can be put together to make all sorts of Medieval period bowmen. One of the options is to equip the troops with a longbow, an eight figure unit of which will be the next to arrive in support of Sir Henry in his quest to quell the heathen Scots.

These two handsome chaps are the first of the Conquest longbowmen to roll off the painting bench.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Batavians are Revolting!

A little add on to my previous post; I've been out making the most of the Spring sunshine this morning and snapped a few more shots of my latest Auxiliary cohort. While I was there, I dusted off my earlier attempts and started to get an idea of how they are going to look on the battlefield.

This is the first time I've had all three cohorts out of the box at the same time. Given that there are only four basic figures in the box, I'm quite pleased that each cohort looks a little different from the others. The Wargames Factory cavalry don't look too out of place along side the Warlords as well.

A slightly better shot of the IX Cohort command...
And a wider shot with, what looks like, a pantomime horse in the mist in the background! Behind you...
The blokes on the end of the line keeping an eye on unfolding events to secure that vulnerable right flank...
Cushy number down the other end of the line with shields to protect that flank...

Not sure the wailing women will ever find themselves out in front of the line once the army take the field for real.
That's it for Batavian Auxiliaries for the time being, as I'm going to be applying the brushes to some Warlord cavalry, a camp and more Roman legionaries. I've said it before, but this definitely is an army that keeps you interested, with lots of different troop types to paint.