1/50 Revell Viking Ship – Waterline Build

The Revell Viking ship is 1/50 so should be a good match for 28mm Saga gaming.  On land it could run as a large building but that would most realistically need to be placed near a water feature or board edge.  Within the ‘Age of Vikings’ book it could run with the Vikings, Norse Gael, Rus, Anglo-Dane (see the Saga of Olaf Haraldson chapter 168 for Cnut’s fleet) and Normans.   The model is probably based on the Gokstad ship; it includes the same number (64) shields as Gokstad although the prow ornaments are missing on the original.

The Revell ship has a full hull so could be built ‘as is’ propped up on wooden supports on land as a ship being built or dragged out of water for repairs.  The alternate build is to slice off the bottom of the hull and model it in the water.  Other gamers have followed the same plan, how hard can it be? Evidence from the Gokstad original suggests that it sat low in the water with the decking only just above the waterline.  The build approach is to waterline the model and build it with sail furled, oars stored and without shields hung, which should cut down some of the work.

The hull construction involves 4 parts, only 3 of which are significant to the waterline.

The instructions are all images and icons, reminiscent of those from Ikea.  Luckily it is pretty evident where most of the big parts go.  The rigging details are less clear.  This built model gives a good set of images showing it all goes together.  The shields are attached with little pegs but were tied onto the Gokstad ship so with no shields the pegs will need to be shaved off.

A dry fit gives a good idea of where the decking lies.

Laying the decking in place and spraying black picks out the deck line.  Unfortunately the deck does not follow the full length of the hull so there are gaps that need to be guessed at either end.

Masking tape was used to mark a line 5mm below the deck level.  There is a challenge at either end as the bow and stern curve up so do not follow a straight line.  There are also sections of the bottom of the boat that have planking detail and could be seen on the completed boat.  If built as a waterline model these sections would be below the water surface and below the absolute level of the new base of the boat.  A lesson learnt here, the cut away parts at the hull and strern need to curve down towards the hull.  This is because the 2 ends bend up when glued together pulling the base of the ship up.

Trimming is relatively easy with a Dremal and cutting blade attachement.  The stern section has a separate deck section that was jammed into place. The bow should show the bottom timbers of the boat.  A new planking section has been built out of some of the plastic trimmed of the bottom of the boat.

Here are the major boat bits put together with the bottom of the hull filled out with Milliput.  There has been some warping of the base where the Milliput has pulled the base up rather than the hull down.


The problem was partly solved by cutting out the shape of the hull bottom in the base and fixing the model in the gap.  There has also been some building up with greenstuff at the bow and stern.  Looking straight on some bending can still be seen but looking down on the table it could be acceptable.  A few reeds have been added and some Scot have come to visit showing off the model size.


To put the boat in context here it is with Caliver books resin ‘Battlefield Buildings’ terrain and the Renedra wattle outbuilding.  Part of a pack of 2 sprues of Renedra wattle fencing has been fixed around the outbuilding to make it a better size for a Saga small building.  The remainder of the fence pack makes 4 sides of a field, 2 fence strips to a side.


A Saga small building can hold 8 figures.  This top down shot shows the fit in the buildings and ship.


In retrospect the model would have been best built with a full hull but modelled with supporting posts to represent it under construction or repair.  This would allow the ship to be placed as terrain away from a river or marsh and avoided the need for the mast and rigging.


Saga: Scots or Picts

The Scots are in the ‘Age of Vikings’ Saga book although at this time the words Scot or Scotland might not be the best way to describe what we are looking at.  In Welsh Scotland is still Yr Alban and a Scot an Albanwr (plural Albanwyr).  Some English texts use Alba to describe the nation at the core of modern Scotland at the time.   The Saga Scots list should be considered the original Pictish kingdom before and after it merged with the Gaelic Irish Kingdom of Dalriada in the 9th Century.   The Dalriada Scots are the Irish list in Saga.

In Saga terms the boundary of modern Scotland would also have included the Welsh Kingdom of Strathclyde, Viking settlements which evolve into Norse Gael together with Irish in the West and Anglo Danes to the South (previously Anglo-Saxon).  Even the Scottish boundary is not as we know it.  Carlisle was conquered by the Normans in 1092.  Berwick changed hands many times being most recently retaken by England in 1482 (ignoring the Scottish army occupying Berwick during the English Civil War).

The Osprey book ‘Pictish Warrior AD 297-841’ has a good selection of images of period material as well as the ubiquitous and less trustworthy colour plates.   On the other hand there is a lot of filler in the text bulking out the more solid evidence.  Although Pictish and early Scottish history is rather vague we have a fair idea of the general appearance of the Picts albeit over a time period of several centuries.

Pictish or Alban dress for the period is reasonably well evidenced by a number of ‘Pictish’ stones.  There is a good though not complete reference to existing found stones at warfare.gq.  From looking at the details it can be seen that although the stones are dated from the 7th through 11th centuries there is a lot of similarity between them.  The vast majority have been found relatively recently not historically present in a single spot with a clear record of when they were put up.  So any dating is a combination of material found nearby to a stone or looking at the architectural style between stones or from other sources such as ‘The Book of Kells’.  A possible exception is ‘Sueno’s Stone‘ which is referenced on a map of 1590.  The stone is badly weathered, exactly what it shows is not known but there are a lot of soldiers on it.  Dates have been suggested between the 9th and 11th centuries.

There is some written evidence relating to the Picts and early Alba although much of it is little more than lists outlining events or names of Kings.  The Chronicles of the Picts is included in the 1867 volume ‘Chronicles of the Scots and other early memorials of Scottish History’ by W. F. Skene at archive.org.  The Chronicles section starts at page 405 in the pdf version.  There is an extensive English preface to the book and the Chronicles of the Picts is shown in English translation but many of the other early texts are not translated.

The Book of Deer a 9th century (with 11th century additions) gospel book does include some illustrations of people, the rectangular style being reminiscent to the Lewis chessmen.  These do give clues as to decorations on period dress.

‘Eithni’ is a site partly aimed at the re-enactor.  It includes a summary of  Pictish life and history with further references.  Also a study of  Pictish costume including images of stones and surviving pieces.  Senchus is another blog with a number of interesting posts on the archaeology of the Picts.

Using the images on stones for a Saga force we are looking at both infantry and cavalry.  A long tunic or shirt, bare legs, possibly with shoes.  Cloaks with or without hoods are possible, helmets are very rare.  Shields could be square but round buckler type shields are also common.  Spears (sometimes used 2-handed) and bows are shown, there is also a clear depiction of a crossbowman.  Within the various 28mm ranges there are plenty of suitable figures, often labelled as Picts or Irish.  A slight issue is that some figures in these ranges have cloth wrapped around their chests like a blanket roll.  This could be the case of a cloak rolled to offer some protection in battle.  The figure designers may be trying to depict cloth plaids typical of the later highlanders but which are out of place in this period.  There is also no need to consider tartans.  A length of cloth could be woven as a grid of checked lines as easily as a plain piece of cloth but the modern tartan system lies far in the future.  Creating a checkerboard effect would involve a lot of work with the looms available at the time or a lot of embroidery on or off the loom; so would be a ‘high end’ item if used.  Clothing could be embellished by sewn on bands from tablet looms or direct embroidery.  These might be detailed close up but would be seen as lines at 28mm scale.

The Saga Scots army allows mounted Hearthguard, Hearthguard or Warriors without special weapons and missile armed levy.  There are no crossbows although the Arthur & Aetius book Picts do get them.  Picking the available types to match the battle board would lead to a mass of spear armed Warriors or Heathguard.  There is no specific bonus for the spears but the wording on some of the advanced Saga abilities fits best for spear armed troops.  There is some benefit to running cavalry but some advanced melee abilities are not available to them as these specify infantry or require ‘close ranks’, which mounted are not allowed to do,

The Saga Scots board has a number of advanced abilities that are not so strong on their own but clearly stack up with each one benefiting the next.  This does require the Scots to load several dice onto advanced abilities limiting those left over to move the army around.

  • ‘Long spears’: Covert 1/2 attack dice to defense dice (does not work for missiles or cavalry).
  • ‘Hold at bay’: Gain 3 defense dice.
  • ‘Beyond the wall’: +1 bonus to defense rolls if you have more defense than attack dice or ‘Counter-attack’ (needs 2 saga dice) gain 2 attack dice for each defense dice.

As a bonus ‘No Respite’ costs 1 rare die to roll 3 more (including the spent die) in the opponent’s orders phase and put these onto their own board.  This enables the Scots to partly re-fill abilities that they had recently spent in their own turn.

On the modelling front here are Picts from Newline, Footsore, 1st Corps and BlackTree.  Any distinctive square shields have been replaced with round to give a look of a later Pict or early Albanwyr army.  The Newline is not up to the standards of the other manufacturers; on the other had they are significantly cheaper.  The BlackTree Pict range was quite acceptable but has recently been removed from their website.

For cavalry here are armoured and unarmoured Footsore models.  These could equally well show up in Irish or Welsh armies.

Here is the army of Alba lined up as an infantry only force.  2 units of Hearthguard, 3 Warriors and 1 Levy.


They are up against the Irish in the ‘Catch them all’ scenario from ‘Book of Battles’.   The Irish list is the same as in their last 2 blog battles.  Victory points are only earned for escorting livestock off the table or near to each sides’ entry corner. Although not specified in the rules livestock were treated as emeny units for the purpose of limiting manoevre moves in this game.

Until livestock come close to a player’s units they will move under random control so chance could see all 6 livestock units wandering towards one player.  In this game their wandering has been quite ambivalent to both sides.  Starting forces are squeezed into opposite corners of the table with a good proportion of both sides starting off-table.  At the end of both first turns all the units are on the board.  The Irish have captured some sheep and the Albanwr Warlord controls a set of cows.


The Irish shuffle up, one brace of sheep is sent back and another secured.


The Albanwyr line secures cows, sheep and pigs.  Only a the cow with chickens remains uncontrolled.  With movement being key use is made of spending fatigue to slow movement to short by both sides.


The Irish press on securing the cow and chickens.


The Albanwyr press the Warlord and a unit of Hearthguard ahead to contest the cow and chickens.  Their other 3 bases of livestock are passed back towards their exit corner.


As control of livestock is the key and 5 of these elements making their way towards exiting the board the lone cow and its chicken friends become the focus of the game.  The Irish move to secure this booty.


The Albanwr Warlord moves in to contest the cow.  He cannot charge the nearby Irish Warriors because his pride would force him to charge his Warlord opposite number.


The Irish remove the Albanwyr Hearthguard but are unable to defeat their Warlord.


The Albanwyr shuffle about to protect the cow and chickens as best they can.


The game could run for another pair of turns but neither side would be able to get any points out of the cow and hens.  The Irish have 2 sets of livestock off-board.  The Albanwyr have 1 off-board and should be able to shuttle another out with a 3rd in their area of control on their final turn so the came can be called as a victory for Yr Alban.


In this game the Irish army worked as a blob, keeping units together for maximum support.  The Albanwyr pushed forward in a thin line.  This proved the best tactic for moving up to the livestock and passing them back.  Less dice were tied up in movement and although one unit of Hearthguard was lost and another played no part in the combat losses played no part in the victory.

The scenario could work out quite differently if one or both participants went cavalry heavy.  This would open the option of moving past the opposition to cut off livestock from being driven off-board.  Spending the opponent’s fatigue to slow movement or cancel activations would be some counter to wide sweeping actions.  Regardless of the armies it is a good exercise in juggling position and activation to get the troops forward and the animals backward without units blocking each other from moving or shooting.