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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mentality

I'm not normally given to impulsive acts and I like to believe that I live my life with at least a modicum of self-control. I have a successful career, parental responsibilities and a healthy network of friends and family I've largely retained for many decades. So, what is it about my mentality which forever sparks off with ever blooming ideas for new and diverse wargaming projects?
We've all said it many times - many of us are compulsive schizophrenics. I've got more wargaming projects on the go than any normal man should and I run four blogs - albeit my specific blogs incur frequent bouts or dormancy. I wonder if anyone can relate to how these new ideas start and grow.
I was given a book on the Templars by my daughters for Christmas - Dan Jones: The Templars. I have a couple of others but it's years since I read on the Crusades and its not particularly my bailiwick even though the medieval period most certainly is. Being posted overseas; however, I have few books to hand and out of love and appreciation that my daughters think of me and give me a gift of any kind I read anything they provide so I'm in the middle of it now.
Well I find my mind a curious thing. How's yours? I get inspired all the time and have a broad fascination for all things historical and particularly military history spanning thousands of years. Last year I was reading Bernard Cornwell's Harlequin and for a time I was getting serious about a mid-Hundred Years War army but I think I'm past that now - it's all under control. Similarly I have cultivated a repeated fascination with bronze age Assyrians but in spite of two active periods of research it hasn't broken out into purchases - yet.

Now if you'd be guessing by this stage that I'm now going to build a Templar army you'd be forgiven but mistaken. You'd be close. An oblique reference to the Knights of St. John (the Hospitallers) eighty odd pages into the book and my imagination started popping off on a tangent. I hearken back to an older issue of Osprey I've had for many years - the Knights of Christ and the following image has always resonated with me.
To me this is the epitome of sinister-cool. There's something perversely attractive in wargaming terms for these warrior-monks. As far as I am concerned they were in many ways unattractive - brutal, callous, pious, self-sacrificing and bloody-minded fanatics in the main whose entire raison d'ĂȘtre is largely abhorrent to my  modern sensibilities and philosophy. As a war machine; however, they were the organised, professional and a medieval equivalent in many ways to the Spartans, French Foreign Legion or the SS. What's perhaps most important to me is they will make a great looking little army of toy soldiers.
So, now I'm indulging in what comes next - research and thinking about the possibilities. I don't want a big army because they couldn't really field one - not on their own anyway. I also want to do the other side - an Ayyubid Syrian raiding force. I also want to build a little castle and for this base of operations I have chosen the Red Fort - the Chastel Rouge (Qual'at Yahmur) located in the North West Syrian county of Tripoli which was gifted to and occupied by the Hospitallers in the early 13th century.


So, I'm thinking a small collection spanning both protagonists for a skirmish game using Osprey: Lion Rampant rules. I'm thinking a dozen brother knights and sergeants (1 knight for every three sergeants mounted and dismounted options) with another 12 Turcoples, a dozen spear and a dozen crossbow for the Hospitallers. For the Saracens I'll need 12 heavy cavalry, 12 horse archers, a dozen spear and a dozen archers. The lists need work.
I'm also looking to represent the first decade of the 13th century. 
This seems to be a bit of an obscure period for most wargamers and the figure availability for the Hospitallers is interesting and limited. For the brother knights we are in the transition phase between the face mask to the great helm. I'm starting to favour the old Curtery's Miniatures range distributed by First Corps.

I've already started looking at figure ranges and saving a new series of favourites on my Firefox page. Once the lists are researched and written up (and balanced) then I'll start buying figures unless I calm down and stop this distraction from my work on the current active lists for 2019.
So, does this sound familiar to you? Is this your process or are you disciplined to finish what you've started before adding to the mania? A common saying is the first step to a cure is diagnosis. Well I know my issues ... but it doesn't seem to be helping.
 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Caesarean Testudo: Part 1

Well this is the start of it coming together but it really all began with a discussion on the Lead Adventure Forum. Nobody makes a 28mm Caesarean period (Marian reform) testudo formation model. There are several for the later Imperial period but none for the civil wars era. So, if you want one you have to build it yourself.
Photo by and of Tyrianhalfman's model used for reference.
During the forum discussion a fellow wargamer and gentleman whose handle is Tyrianhalfman contacted me and sent me a number of images he had made of his Caesarean testudo project. They were superbly helpful. He'd put a lot of thought into how to construct it and his macro photogrpahy gave be something to aim for and emulate. I referred to his model and progress shots throughout my build and whilst I have departed from his concept to a limited extent, I could not have achieved my results half as easily without his guidance. Figuratively speaking, he breached the walls and I stormed through.
One of Tyrianhalfman's centre ranks using all figures to represent a 24 figure tesduo.

My overall approach was to build a testudo model using as few figures as I could. My thoughts were that the visuals are dominated by shields and behind that cube of shields are mainly shadows. Tyrianhalfman's approach was to use one figure for every shield whereas I wanted to compromise and economize in figure usage. To be blunt, I want several testudos for my army and wanted to squeeze out as many as I could per box of plastic soldiers.
Tyrianhalfman's complete 24 figure testudo.

At the very least, I assumed (mostly correctly) that most figures used would be the outside of what is essentially a box formation.
I did have difficulty in imagining where the economies could me made. The model is 4x4 with 4 shields to the front and on both flanks and 12 shields on top - none to the rear. This nicely represents my standard 24 figure cohorts. As you may discern from the first image at the top of this posting the only figures I was sure I didn't need was the third rank centre figures who would have held up four shields. So I started by building 20 figures for my 24 man testudo ... not much of a reduction.
This testudo model is made from the now redundant Wargames Factory set primarily because I'm not as fond of them as the Warlord Games figures and they come with both arms separate which allowed me to swap arms and raise them to hold up shields when needed.

Immediately after assembling the figures, I constructed the shield canopy. I always knew this was how I wanted to roof my testudos and using the shields from the Wargames Factory set I glued the four three-shield files end on end with a slight overlap. I then fixed the files together on strips of plastic card which made for a one-piece shield-roof section.

I then determined to lay the figures out, fixing them to a piece of paper which I drew the base dimensions on (estimated). This proved helpful as I could square up the model as a whole as I built it from the front rank going back. There was a bit of trial and error here. I fixed the figures to the paper using blue-tack.
The trickiest part of building this model so far is getting the front corners of the formation right. Whilst the formation is four figures wide, the shields on their flanks have to overlap the fighting men in the front - the shields must meet in the corners. If you were to base the ranks of this model together, these corner shield bearers would need to be based with the front rank. The carved off arms and as much of the bases as I could to squeeze the miniatures as close together as possible.
Normally I paint my figures on individual stands but I want to minimize how much painting I apply to this model. So much of it will be unseen behind the shield walls. I intend therefore, to paint them in strips - one for each side of the box. I'll undercoat from the outside only to the depths that can be seen and that will be the boundry of the subsequent paint job.
Temporarily fixing the formation as I went, I realized I couldn't squeeze in the fourth rear shield-bearer. When I placed the shield canopy onto the model they didn't align well with the shields. Then I realised that what did it really matter? How often is anyone (including myself) going to peer that closely into the back of this model. In the interests of 'representation' I decided to thin the rear rank further and reduced the centre shield-holders to just two - and I think it looks fine.
They now better align with the shields. The space necessitated including sword arms for the two end shield-bearers. I just need to imagine that the outside roof shields are held by legionaries standing in front of the rear side shield-bearers. As the model was assembled I then realised another happy coincidence.

The shield canopy extends to the helmets of the front rank, completely obscuring the second rank in shadow. I am thus content that I don't even need the centre shield-bearers for the second rank either. I intend to glue the underside of the shield canopy to the heads and upheld arms of the rear centre shield bearers but will stabilize the roof with a centre pillar fixing the roof to the base. It will remain hidden from view.
So, the final count of figures needed for how I will represent a 24 figure cohort is only 14 figures. Using the legacy Wargames Factory 48 figure box-set I should be able to make a maximum of three testudos per box. I may attempt to make one from a Warlord Games box set which might prove more useful to others given their ready availability.
 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Caesarian Romans: Cohort V

For this cohort I have included two figures from Aventine Miniatures – the Cornicern and the Centurion (RR24 Cohort Command Set).

Whilst from an earlier republican range, one of the Aventine command sets translate well into this late republican period and gives me further variety.
The sculpts are beautiful and a pleasure to paint. As most of my Romans are Warlord Games miniatures I have painted near 160 of them and tire a little of looking at the same range of faces so it’s a relief of sorts to stare at a divergent sculpt.
The Signifer is Warlord Games but I have replaced the bull with a horse I carved myself from plastic card. I also added my usual awards and a tuft from Green-Stuff.
The following group shots are at +30% brightness filter due to poor light conditions. Well it is the rainy season in the Pacific.