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.