Wednesday, 25 December 2019


Never in a hundred years would I have thought of doing something like this! In fact, I didn't even realise that you could get miniatures like these.

This is me, as depicted by my son and created on the Hero Forge Custom Miniatures web site! Everything on there has some symbolic meaning, from the apron that I wear when I'm pouring stuff out of bottles and tins, which I refer to as "cooking", to the frying pan, which was my favourite weapon carried by Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings.

On the Hero Forge web site, you can create your own unique miniatures by selecting from hundreds of different options and combining them together for the Hero Forge people to cast in your chosen material, which can be plastic, steel or bronze. The range of options is absolutely massive, with loads of alternatives for type of race, head, body, clothing and endless extras.

My Christmas present consisted of a complete family set for me to paint up. This is how my good lady wife sees herself; a guitar playing archer with feline companion!

This young man clearly enjoys a swig of rum and is armed with a very deadly looking star fish!

And finally, this is my other son, looking very dapper as a cross between Professor Quirrell, Dick Turpin and Ebenezer Scrooge, with a monocle just to add that little touch of class. The big stick probably represents his management style at work.

The quality of these figures is fabulous and I can't see any casting lines at all to clean up, so I intend to get straight on with applying the paint. The figures have to be imported from the United States and I gather they are not cheap to buy. Have a go at creating your own miniature at Hero Forge Custom Miniatures Even if you don't go ahead and purchase the miniature, it's brilliant fun just playing around with the figure creator... Enjoy!

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Eagerly Awaiting A Clash of Spears.

Roman officer from Victrix Miniatures - Based and ready for Clash of Spears.
If you are a fan of ancient period skirmish rules, then the last ten years has been like waiting for the proverbial bus... absolutely nothing happens for ages and then three come all at once!
Couple of Victrix Roman Velites.
I bought a copy of Warlord's S.P.Q.R. back in the Summer and, although there was a lot about it that I wasn't keen on, it was a case of making the best of a bad lot and loading up the painting bench with a load of Victrix's delicious Celts and starting to create a warband to use with the rule set. However, the more I read and re-read the rules and the more videos of games I saw, the more I struggled with the concepts underpinning the game. There seemed to be too much of that same thing that has put me off playing Bolt Action, which has grown into an arms race of 'my tank is bigger than your tank'. S.P.Q.R. appears to be about giving your warriors as many advantages as possible, only to have them cancelled out by your opponent doing the same thing based on their army list! You end up rolling loads of dice, which is great for you, but then your opponent has some clever trick up his sleeve which means you just have to re-roll them all over again. Although I was loving painting my Victrix Celts, I wasn't really looking forward to putting them onto an S.P.Q.R. battlefield.
Victrix Iberian Scutarii. 
But then, like a bolt out of the blue, while I was watching one of those S.P.Q.R. play test videos, one of the players quite incidentally mentioned that he had heard about an alternative set of rules that were somewhere in some pipeline or other, called Clash of Spears.
Celtic Warriors. These can be used as elements of a Carthaginian army or as warriors in one of two Celtic lists.
A hurried search on Google turned up some interesting results, one of which was a video of a game of Clash of Spears being played by the two authors themselves. I'm going to be honest here and say that it was literally love at first sight! (with the game, not the authors!) At the start of the game, there were no units on the table, just markers to indicate that there were units of some kind heading menacingly towards you. This initial phase developed with the markers moving around the battlefield and measuring checks being made to see if a unit had been identified... when they were, the marker was replaced by the unit itself. Right from the start, I loved this idea and the shock or delight that might arise from suddenly discovering just exactly what that unit of figures is! How do you react when that unidentified unit turns out to be a mob of archers about to unleash hell upon your painstakingly painted Roman Hastati!
I'm going to paint lots of Celts!
Clash of Spears has loads of clever features, designed to enhance game play, enjoyability and challenge. Rather than attempt to describe something that I haven't actually seen and is still a couple of months away from being released, have a look at the game played by Alvaro and Francisco and see what you think of the way the game plays.
The icing on the cake for me is that the producers of Clash of Spears have gone into partnership with Victrix and the intention is to produce boxed sets which include the rules and the figures you need to play the game.
Only one horseman painted so far!
These armoured Celts will, I think, be classed as Soldurii in Clash of Spears.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Dux Done!

Sound drums and trumpets. Farewell sour annoy! For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy!

My Late Romans for Dux Britanniarum have spent their final day upon the painting bench and henceforward they will trod the dour battlefield in search of glory!

Well, It's been a little while coming, but this weekend I got my Late Roman Levies based and completed the four slingers I needed to put the finishing touches to my first Dux Britanniarum army. There are only 48 figures in all, including the sidekicks I added to the bases of the nobles, but I think that is just about the level I can manage these days. 
The slingers were supposed to be youngsters, too young to take their place in the shieldwall, but they have turned out to be something more "Last of the Summer Wine". As it goes, I'm perfectly happy to have a bit of experience behind those nasty missiles to be honest. It's comforting to know that you can rely on experience out there in the skirmishing zone.
The Centre of the Levy, including Usainius, the Veteran Leader.
The Left Flank of the Levy.
The Right Flank of the Levy.
Building and painting the Levy was probably the most enjoyable part of creating this army. I wanted a unit with character, who looked as though many of them had fought with the Legions or the Auxilia in the past and were now picking up spear and shield again to defend their homes and farms from the dreaded Saxon invaders. The bodies are all from the Gripping Beast Dark Age Infantry box, but their heads come from a variety of sources. Many are straight from the box, while others are metal from the SHS range produced by West Wind and one or two are just randomly picked from sprues I have in my big box of spares.
So, onwards to glory for the Late Romans, or Romano-British forces and, just in case I can not find any opposition for them, I've already made a small and tentative start on an army of Early Saxons to keep them on their toes and ready for battle at a moment's notice.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Recycling for S.P.Q.R.

A while ago I posted on this blog asking the question, "Where are the Ancient Period Skirmish rules?" At the time there was nothing on the market, so I started painting my Soviet army for Bolt Action and followed that project up with my latest venture, a Romano-British army for the absolutely brilliant Dux Britanniarum rules by the Two Fat Lardies. While all this was going on, Warlord started putting out their teasers for a new set of Ancient Skirmish rules called S.P.Q.R. and my pre-order was sent in without any knowledge of how the mechanics of the game would work... after all, a set of skirmish rules is a set of skirmish rules!
My set of rules arrived and just a cursory glance made it obvious that they involved rolling huge numbers of dice and that an attempt to give each different army unique characteristics would make the mechanics of the game rather convoluted. In spite of this, I have decided that the minimal number of figures required to play the game makes it definitely worth while painting up a couple of armies and giving it a go.

Tucked away in the drawers where I keep all my spare plastic left over from previous projects, I have a couple of sprues of Victrix Iberians and some of their mail clad Roman Republicans. Game on! So, with just four Romano-British slingers left to paint to complete my first Dux Britanniarum army, I've started putting some paint on the re-cycled Victrix figures to build a couple of skirmish forces for S.P.Q.R. - Iberians versus Republican Romans at no extra cost and certainly no requirement to spend money on the somewhat over-priced box sets that Warlord have put on the market to support the release of their new rules.

Just a couple of experimental figures done so far, both of which will probably play the role of 'hero' in their respective army.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Creating Characters in Dux Britanniarum.

The Magnificent 7... Well, 8 actually!
Having managed to stay focussed on my Levies long enough to get 12 out of the 18 figures painted, I, somehow, allowed myself to get side-tracked into painting the figures I needed to make up all the commanders. One of the many enjoyable facets of Dux Britanniarum is the requirement to generate a degree of personality and background for the nobles who are going to command your forces.

Apart from the Champion, I had already decided to base my leaders as small vignettes, rather than just individual figures. So, now that they are all painted and based, it's time to bring them to life by assigning their characteristics, as outlined in the rule book on pages 7 to 11. The Lardies didn't bother personalising the Champion for their example army, but I decided I would, because these characters often play significant roles in the stories of the people they served.

Character generation is dealt with by the rolling of various combinations of dice and begins with Age and continues on through Physique, Reputation, Character Attributes and then Background, which is influenced by whether your character is Saxon, British or Romano-British.  Finally, the Lord has a die roll to determine his Wealth.

As I like to take short cuts with things like this, I've started work on a spreadsheet which creates randomly generated numbers to replace all that tedious dice rolling!

My first practice test run with the spreadsheet turned out these results for my characters. The Champion appears to be very much a man shrouded in mystery; not that this was generated by random numbers, but that every photograph I took of him came out blurred and completely un-useable. This one is the best of the many!

Octavianus, The Champion
His name is Octavianus, which came from one of the many web sites out there which seem to be designed for people wanting to choose names for soon to be arriving infants! You simply select the category you want, in this case "Arthurian Boys Names(!)", count how many options there are and then generate an appropriate number range on the spreadsheet. There is a PDF that you can download from the DB web site which has a grid of randomly generatable British and Saxon names.

However, on with Octavianus… his age was generated as 31 years, his physique as Average, he is honourable and the Son of a Warlord. The roll for Reputation resulted in him not having yet acquired a soubriquet which, when combined with his age and his average build, perhaps suggests some other reason why he has been given the honour of being selected as the Lord's Champion!

Next on the character generation game, was the first of my two Nobles. This turned out to be Lucanus, aged 27 years, Tall & Strong, Lustful and an Exile.
Lucanus, clearly a man who likes the cut of his own jib.

So, ladies of Romano-Britain, look out! With the background of "Exile", Lucanus was presumably the son of a significant character from a kingdom possibly over run by an earlier incursion of Saxon invaders. He has now managed to use his high born status to acquire influence at the court of his adopted kingdom.

Next on the list then is the companion Noble to Lucanus.
This turned out to be Aetius, 32 years old, Tall & Strong, Flatulent, Honourable and the Son of a Warlord! We can forgive Aetius his suffering with irritable bowel syndrome, that is just something which catches up with all of us when we reach a certain age; that "certain age" just came a little earlier in times of yore. To roll two honourable sons of a warlord, just a year apart in age, was too much of a coincidence to be a simple coincidence! I suspect Aetius and Octavianus are products of the same loins and this may answer the earlier question as to how Octavianus became the Lord's Champion... it's not what you know, it's who you know!

Incidentally, painting Aetius gave me an opportunity to use up one of the many spare LBMS transfers that I had acquired for my Late Roman army. I decided to have a go at applying one of the transfers to the back of his shield, and it turned out quite well! Now Aetius goes into battle quite literally looking into the face of the Mother of Divine Grace! I just wish I'd thought of this earlier and I wouldn't have so many left over transfers!

Finally then, came the roll for the man himself... the Lord and commander of the King's army to face the Saxon invaders.
This set of random numbers threw up yet another crazy coincidence and I now believe that my Lord and Lucanus the Lustful must also be brothers!
The Lord of the Host, turned out to be Theodosious, 3 years older than his brother Lucanus, at 30 years of age. He is of Average physique, so possibly more intelligent than his strapping sibling, he has the reputation for being a Confessor, an Athlete and, again like Lucanus, an Exile. As the Lord, Theodosious had to roll for Wealth and, fittingly, he came up with A Beggar's Bowl.
As we can see, Theodosious has arrived in the kingdom, with his younger brother in tow, and his intelligence, athleticism and ability to listen to the troubles of others and give good advice based upon the Holy Gospels(!) have seen him climb through the ranks to attain the lofty position of Commander of the Army. Although he surrounds himself with good council, I wonder how many local nobles he may have angered on his meteoric climb to the top!

I haven't played a single game of Dux Britanniarum yet, but already, just generating the characters has provided endless fun. Now I need to get on with those other 6 Levy spearmen and the final four skirmishers, so that Theodosious and his Nobles can lead the army into battle against the Saxons, whilst just keeping one eye open on those he has supplanted in his quest for power.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Late Roman Warriors for Dux Britanniarum.

My Late Roman army for Dux Britanniarum reached another milestone today, with the completion of the Warrior unit.

Warriors in Dux Britanniarum are fielded in units of twelve figures. They don't wear armour like the Elite unit but they have a helmet and carry the large oval shield for protection. They are armed with long spears and swords.

The warriors are all built from the sprues in the Gripping Beast Late Roman Infantry set which means you have fairly limited options for introducing some variety into the unit.

As you can see, the two basic choices are the figure standing holding the spear upright or the more aggressive thrusting the spear past the shield. 

Extra variety can be achieved by embarking on a little craft knife work on the archer figures included in the box. The figures above and below have had their quivers removed and with some slightly laborious cleaning up, you get a figure holding his shield high in a defensive anti-incoming missile pose.

At first, I wasn't sure about including officer and standard bearer figures in Dux units but, when I received my first pack of LBMS shield transfers and realised that they included a transfer for the vexillium standard, those doubts pretty quickly evaporated. The transfer needs 'painting in' once it has been applied, but it looks gorgeous once it is all in place. It's just a shame that the standard bearer doesn't look a bit happier about being given the honour of carrying it into battle!

The only other option to add variety to this unit, is to give a figure who would be wielding a spear overarm, a sword instead. I decided to make this figure some kind of unit commander such as a centenarius.

The final shot of my warrior unit is from behind, as they bravely march ahead into the uncertainty of battle. 

With the warriors completed, it's onto the third unit of the army; the Levy. There are 18 figures in this unit, so I'm almost a third of the way through. I think I'm really going to enjoy modelling and painting these as they are built from all sorts of bits and bobs, although largely based upon figures from the Gripping Beast Dark Age Warriors set.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Dux Britanniarum!

Tenebris Aetas Brexitus
After spending the whole of last Autumn and Winter solely focussed on painting up Soviets to use with Bolt Action, I felt that I needed a change of scene. I was definitely intrigued by the arrival of  'Cruel Seas' from Warlord and that will certainly have a slot on the painting bench over the coming months, but what has really caught my imagination was stumbling across 'Dux Britanniarum' by those Two Fat Lardies!
The splendidly Romanesque cover... how could one resist?
Dux Britanniarum is a guide to running a campaign set in the British Isles in the chaotic and often very violent years known to history as the 'Dark Ages', or 'Post Roman Britain', or, as it says on the cover, 'The Age of Arthur'!

To help you organise your campaign, you get a wonderful map, depicting Britain in the years following the withdrawal of the last of the regular Roman Army and that epoch making event, known as 'The groans of the Britons' or 'gemitus Britannorum', where our ancestors desperately tried to remain part of Europe, by appealing to the Roman General, Flavius Aetius, for assistance against the ghastly, and not very civilised, Picts and Scots. 

In an age where battles could be won and kingdoms forged by the prowess and personality of individual warriors, the book also contains all you need to create the characters who will bravely, or otherwise, lead your forces into the fray. A series of die rolls generates everything you need to know about the commander and his subordinates, including age, name, origins and those all important personality traits that define the nature and disposition of the man who may one day become dux britanniarum

The main rule book centres around a campaign, featuring a Late Roman or Post Roman warlord valiantly defending our islands from the villainous and downright barbarian Saxons, over here to steal our jobs, girlfriends and housing benefits. If the grubby Saxons aren't your thing, then you can purchase an additional booklet giving you all you need to know to build an army of those other raiders of the age, the Picts, the Scots and the Irish. 

The campaign system is absolutely wonderful, and I could spend all day just rolling dice and creating characters, but what attracted me when I first encountered Dux Britanniarum was the table top battle rules. It is, when all said and done, the outcomes of the battles that are the events which drive the campaign forward and determine the fate of the characters that your dice rolling has created. 

Armies in the game are relatively small and ideal for 28mm figures. As a British warlord, you will only need 44 figures to get you started and that drops to 38 if you want to be a nasty Saxon. Most infantry figures are grouped into multiples of six and are either elite, warriors or levies. Missile troops are fielded as individuals, as are your commanders. Each army also has a 'champion' who performs acts of great valour and daring do and, more importantly, adds bonuses to dice scores during the heat of the battle. 

Six Elite Late Romans... armoured, wearing helmets and carrying those large shields.

Having got completely hooked on the random activation system used in Bolt Action, I'm glad to say that the Lardies have adopted the same principle in Dux Britanniarum. Activation is triggered by the draw of a card, so you never, well hardly ever, know which noble is going to be next to come under the spotlight. Each of your nobles has a certain number of Initiative Points, which he can use to do things like move, activate some of his troops or buy a card from the Fate Deck, which can be used to influence events during the battle. If you have ever used a randomised activation system, you will know just how much this adds to the tension and, sometimes, immense frustration when trying to execute your meticulously thought out battle plan. 

Combat involves loads of dice and the noble can play cards to influence the outcome, usually by adding even more dice. Players role to hit the opposition and then again for the effect of those hits. If the Gods of the Dice are with you, your enemy can have troops killed or their unit can accumulate points of Shock, which will impact upon their performance in subsequent actions.

At the time of writing, the basic rule set costs about £20 for a nice glossy, 90 odd page hard copy, including the map, but is available for less in PDF format. Bundles, including the card deck can be purchased for a discounted rate and all of this is available to buy direct from the Two Fat Lardies web site. As mentioned earlier, lists and card decks are also available for other raiding armies, so you can pit your wits against slightly less gruesome foes than the Saxons. In terms of figures, there are loads available for this fabulous period of history. The arrow fodder for my army are exclusively and pretty cheaply made up from the Gripping Beast Late Roman Infantry and Dark Age Infantry plastic boxed sets. The more heroic elements are from the magnificent Footsore Miniatures, which are metal and therefore somewhat more expensive, but definitely worth the expense. A feature of this period is the brightly coloured shield designs and loads of these are available from Stephen Hales at LBMS.
The next unit is underway... 12 warriors with helmet, shield and long spear.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Putting the Finishing Touches to my Bolt Action Soviet Reinforced Infantry Platoon.

After completing my three squads of infantry and the two armoured vehicles, it was time to turn my attention to the support troops who, hopefully, would give my Soviets the edge over the hordes of Germanic invaders.

The first of these support troops was a sniper. My sniper is well covered by a stone wall and is based on one of the long bases which come with the Soviet Infantry boxed set for basing prone figures. There were many famous snipers at work in the Soviet army; the most famous of them probably being Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev, sometimes known as Jude Law, who reputedly bagged 225 German soldiers, mostly during the Battle of Stalingrad. 

My son Tom bought me this lovely piece of kit for Christmas. It is a 45mm Anti-Tank Gun and comes with a crew of three figures. I really like this gun because it fits in perfectly with what I was trying to achieve with my Soviet platoon. There were more powerful anti-tank guns, like the Zis-2 57mm for example, but this one makes commanding the Soviets just a little bit more of a challenge.

With a penetration value of +4, the 45mm gun is a lot more potent than my anti-tank rifle team, but you need to be prepared to see its shells harmlessly ricocheting into the undergrowth when firing at some of the better armoured German tanks. I'm not quite sure what's going on with the gun commander, who appears to be blowing a kiss at some random passer-by or maybe whistling 'The Red Flag' to inspire the rightly nervous gunners. 

All of these Warlord kits that back up your basic infantry units are metal castings and I find painting them a bit of a chore, compared to the plastics. Personally, I find that my acrylic black undercoat tends to rub off when you start to put the colours on, which is a tad frustrating, but they look good once the paint and varnish are put on.

My absolute favourite Soviet weapon is this Maxim medium machine gun. Again, it comes with a crew of three and a gun shield which gives you a bit of extra cover when being fired at. Like the anti-tank gun, it is an all metal kit, so you can't do much in the way of personalising and your Maxim will look pretty much the same as anybody elses! There is something nice and antiquated about the Maxim, compared to the deadly MG42 for example, but it is a pretty effective weapon on the Bolt Action battlefield.

The final battlefield toy I added to my reinforced platoon was this 82mm Medium Mortar Team. The mortar is a fabulous bit of kit to have, particularly if you are good at rolling 6s, as it gradually zeroes in on opposition forces who insist on staying in same place. You can quickly build up a lot of pin markers on an enemy unit with a mortar, but the one thing I wish had done before my first engagement, was to paint up an observer. The observer makes a massive difference to your ability to hit the enemy while keeping your precious bit of hardware out of sight and free from retaliatory fire.

I've about done for now painting for Bolt Action, but I do need to come back to it pretty soon with some important additions still requiring to be added. One of my squads has been converted to a Rifle Squad, which I now field as the free 'green' squad which Soviet armies are allowed to have, so I need to paint up another LMG Squad and, as mentioned above, an essential job for the near future is to paint up an observer for my medium mortar team.