Plastic Achaemenid Persians for Saga

The Achaemenid empire flourished for over 200 years and during that time there will have been changes in costume and styles of warfare. To keep matters simple this exercise will concentrate on the later empire that would have faced Macedonian pike phalanxes of Alexander III or Philip II. The Empire was pretty much shattered by Macedon although the satrapy of Cappadocia was bypassed and survived long enough to become a Seleucid, Pergamine then Roman client state and finally a Roman province in AD 17. The Gallic migrations that led to the establishment of Galatia occurred about 40 years after the death of Alexander. After that time Cappadocia came under Gallic influence. Livy (writing about 35 BC but probably with older sources to hand) describes the Cappadocians at the battle of Magnesia in 190 BC.

On the left flank, next the phalangitae, were posted fifteen hundred Galatian infantry and two thousand Cappadocians similarly armed —they had been sent to the king by Ariarathes;

Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, Book 37 Ch 39

Some of the other Persian types could crop up as allies or levy in Successor armies also with increasing Greek influence over time.

For general ‘army building’ reading we have various Osprey titles, WRG’s Armies and Enemies and Duncan Head’s Achaemenid Persian army. Useful original coloured images are obviously less common although there are at least 2 good examples.

Below is a colourised view of the sarcophagus of King Abdalonimus [Ἀβδαλώνιμος] who was awarded the throne of Sidon by Alexander the Great. In some scenes (not the battle below) Persian and Greek figures are hunting animals together. The original colours have faded but were recorded when the object was first unearthed. Thank you to Dick Osseman who has hosted some good images of the original on the web.

Colourised rendition of the Abdalonimus sarcophagus hosted by D Osseman
This is the Alexander or Issus mosaic. Although dating to many years after our period it is assumed to be an accurate copy of a near contemporary picture.

From these and other sources we can look to Persians in trousers and bright patterned clothes. Greeks on the other hand will be bare legged although not necessarily in the buff.

The thifty gamer should go for Wargames Atlantic infantry and Victrix cavalry. The cavalry come in 12s so a general will need to be sourced from elsewhere. Armoured and unarmoured cavalry come as separate sets. An economical solution is to give 4 cloaks and make them the Hearthguard leaving 8 as Warriors.

The Victrix armoured cavalry sprue. The horses that come with it are not armoured.

The Wargames Atlantic sprue. 40 figures in a box allows 3 sets of 8 Warriors, 1 group of 12 Levy and 4 spare for spares, conversions or possible elephant crew.

These models match in size with the Victrix. Only the crescent shields fit with our period. The big squares and figure of eight styles are from an earlier date. The poses are middling but the variety is good. To get armoured and unarmoured spear and archer poses would require 4 different Victrix sets. Buying individual Victrix sprues would get round this if a supplier is found with all the variants in stock. The Wargames Atlantic heads are poor compared to Victrix except for the useful bareheaded Wargames Atlantic head. Fortunately the Victrix heads fit on these bodies better than those provided by Wargames Atlantic. The ‘bowl’ hatted heads are, however, most useful as that type of hat can be seen in 19th century photographs so can be used for generic Eastern levy after the end of the Achaemenid empire.

Here are the 4 Victrix armoured cavalry variants. There are bow cases for all the models but no arms with bows and no shields. The ‘no shield and javelins’ loadout below is probable for late Achaemenids.

Now the 4 or 5 Wargames Atlantic infantry; some may have Victrix heads. The round hoplon shields are Victrix spares as there are none on the sprue. Victrix spear infantry does come with the hoplon shields included. There are 2 figures with quilted jackets but the only difference is that 1 has a cast on left arm and the other does not. The unarmoured guy with no arms is the most useful as he can be made up as a spearman or archer. The archer with cast on bow could be sliced up and made into a spearman but the pose is not ideal for that. Enough bow cases are provided for all the infantry but only 1 in 5 has a moulded on bow. So there are not enough to model all infantry with bows (sheathed or in use). Luckily the Vicrix cavalry have ample spares.

With any Persian model there will be some tradeoff in details in the embroidery and making the patterns blocky enough to give a feel for a pattern at arm’s length. True scale decoration would just show up as tiny dots.

Frostgrave with Dungeons and Lasers

Dungeons and Lasers is a hard plastic modular building system from Archon Studio in Poland. Sets to build dungeon layouts are available direct from Archon. In the UK their distributor is Warcradle Studios. A much wider range of Archon’s products have been sold through Kickstarter and Gamefound. These are only available while the various pledges are live. UK delivery will be subject to VAT, shipping fees and the vagaries of International deliveries. Items from previous campaigns do, however, show up on eBay.

The common floor structure is a block of 4 squares each of 3cm sides. With 28mm figures that would be about 2m each making a single block 4m x 4m, a good sized room in a real house. It is still a bit of a squeeze with 28mm models partly due to their integral bases. It would also be a tight place for a fight if the usual 3-seater settee, bookcases and coffee tables were in place. The Dungeons and Lasers room boxes are of 9 floor block equivalents (3 doubles and 3 singles) with enough sides for some inner walls as well as round the edges. There are 2 dungeon base sets. The core set only comes with the Gamefound campaigns and has an equivalent of 42 floor sections. The starter set is available at retail with 21 floors and a selection of props to dress the rooms and corridors. The core set (in the Gamefound campaigns) costs less than the starter making the core the smart buy. Multiple starters will load up on the extras but there is a limit to how many statues, chests and the like that anyone might want. The dungeon rooms come with door archways but no doors. It is no surprise that they have no windows. In the above ground rooms every wall has a window so to make up larger building rooms some of the dungeon walls and floors might be re-purposed for interior use.

There are too many room, roof and pavement options for anyone to realistically collect the lot so the question crops up as to how many sets are really needed? A single starter could be used by a role-play dungeon master to create 1 or 2 rooms on the fly. It is not nearly enough for even a small skirmish game. The set up below for our Frostgrave game proved adequate and was made from 2 1/2 core sets and 2 standard rooms.

The pieces come in a dark grey plastic that could pass for stone but lacks depth of colour. Some of the rooms above were primed then painted with GW Contrast paints. This worked but was expensive. A core set used up roughly 1 can of spray paint and 1 1/2 pots of Contrast. Here is the cheap solution. Prime then hit with a dip made from wood stain. Apply liberally so the stain soaks into the cracks then wipe off excess stain. The walls are supported on the connectors supplied for assembling the rooms. They are then painted and left to dry vertically. The stain will then drip down the walls creating staining just like damp going down a real wall.

The exact mix of the stain or dip is varnish and water in about the consistency of milk together with enough acrylic paint to darken the final colour. The varnish needs to be water not oil based. It should also be satin or matt not gloss and the darkest base stain available. The end results can be glossy at best but with a gloss base can verge on the dazzling. The picture illustrates that this is a messy process. The water-based stain will just about come out of clothes if washed quickly in hot water but best wear old clothes and not do this in the front room.

Here are the results. These are not as glossy as they appear in the photo but having a stash of matt varnish to hand is helpful in case of overly shiny results. The torches and mirrors here came with the starter set and were also part of the original Kickstarter stretch goals. There is a conflict between gluing decorations to the wall sections and leaving them loose. If these extra bits are loose it will be easier to stack and store the walls but it will take more time to set up the rooms. Having tried it out the best approach seems to be glue any wall decorations in place. This provides some variety in walls that would otherwise all be remarkably similar and avoids the bits falling over during a game. Obvious room scatter such as chests and traps can be kept separate and placed as required for the game.

The Frostgrave setup has rooms with Contrast paint and dip alone. There are 3 colours of grey undercoat partly explaining the difference in room colour and the sheer volume of paint needed get several sets ready. The drop in quality when not using Contrast is easily outweighed by the time and effort saved.

After all this we got a 5-player game of Frostgrave in action at the club. Each player started at a separate entrance with the aim of picking up as much treasure as possible then getting out through the portal at the far end of the dungeon. Frostgrave is a simple system; it has been further developed into Stargrave and Silver Bayonet. There are several Frostgrave books, one is specifically aimed at dungeon battles but it is not really required to play. There is not enough difference between Frostgrave 1st and 2nd editions to make buying the newer edition essential. The game did lend itself to players holding place at key junctions so they could move forwards and grab more loot while those held back were losing time and money. The wall spell is especially effective in dungeons although we did increase the chance of it dissipating. The game came to a conclusion when the first player escaped the dungeon. We then counted up loot and experience points. From a decision making point of view it was closer to moving toys around on the living room carpet than chess but it got the dungeon out, looked good and entertained the troops for the evening.

Victrix – Age of Hannibal or Clash of Spears

The skirmish rules Saga Age of Hannibal and Clash of Spears cover the same time and geographical setting. They are skirmish rules based around the armies and enemies of the Roman republic at the time of Polybius.

Polybius writings of around 150 BC includes detailed descriptions of the Roman army at the time. He was a Greek noble who spent years in Rome as a high ranking hostage and accompanied the Roman army during the 3rd Punic War so we can be confident about what he describes. For the Roman army his accounts should hold true up to the Marian reforms of 107 BC. Moving back in time the Polybian model could stretch to a less exact circa 300 BC. With only a little artistic license the same Roman figures can run throughout this 200 year timespan including Pyrrhus (right at the period start) and all 3 Punic Wars.

The Victrix path was the 3rd set of Macedonian and Punic Wars armies built up by your author. The 1st was of 6mm Irregular Miniatures some time in the 1980s and was used for home brew rules before being sold off at a bring and buy. Much later numerous boxes of Zvezda and Hat soft plastic models were built into bases of 1-4 to replace the wooden blocks of the board game Command and Colors Ancients. These images are from a time of lower resolution cameras but show that a fair effect can be achieved with little effort.

Zvezda/Hat Plastics

These definitely looked the business but using the original wooden blocks was less effort and the painted plastics went off on eBay.

Command and Colors

3rd time out and taking a punt at hard plastics. Victrix offer a range of sets for the Macedonian and Punic Wars period. Although cheaper per model than metal alternatives the sprue and packing structure means that models may need to be bought that are not essential to build up skirmish armies. There is also the issue of assembly. Some of the Victrix parts are on the thin side for gaming. Spears and pila are not too bad but some javelins broke on removal from the sprue or during the painting process (during the essential ‘dropped on the floor’ stage). Compared to similar plastic offerings Gripping Beast are the chunkiest, Fireforge relatively solid, Crusader pushing the limits and Victrix going a step too far in flimsiness. There were noticeable flash lines on some of the models. These came off well with a very sharp knife but soon took the edge off the blade making removing awkward slivers of plastic a tricky and time consuming job.

To start off the Roman infantry boxes are a no-brainer. There are 3 boxes with different armour load outs. The Allied Legions and Legions of the Republic II are similar enough to mix in the same unit. Legions of the Republic I are in mail not bronze chest armour so would be the best choice if buying 2 Roman armies and have them fighting each other or running towards the end of this time period. All 3 boxes have 60 models that will run nicely in Saga as foot Warlord, 12 Levy (Velites), 12 Triarii (Huscarls with spear) and 24 Hastati (Warriors with pila) making 7 points. This leaves 6 light infantry left over which could be converted to just about anything with the right heads and shields and some less useful command figures with wolf skin headwear.

Velite, Hastatus, Triarius

The Carthaginian choice is not quite so simple. The Warriors of Carthage mixed bag will work although all the troops would count as citizen not contingent troops in Saga. The 14 light troops will build as 12 Levy with 2 spare. There are 21 Libyan hoplites, not enough for 3 units of Warriors but one of the standard bearers and both horn players from the command sprue can be converted to hoplites. There are 24 veterans in Roman mail and shields. 12 is more than enough as 3 units of Hearthguard. The remaining 12 could be fielded as Triarii, defecting Roman allies or as Roman extraordinarii. With a suitable swap of shields, arms and heads the basic figures could run as just about any heavy infantry of the period. Their dress does assume that they have been equipped from Roman stocks making them most useful for later wars.

Libyan spear, veteran and skirmishes

Some Victrix cavalry boxes come in 12s, others in 16s. The Macedonian Greek Successor cavalry box is of 12. 8 could be used as Carthaginian Hearthguard cavalry or Roman equites or allied Warriors leaving 4 models to stand in as sundry mounted Warlords.

Successor cavalry

Another Carthaginian approach is to build an Iberian (or Gallic or Numidian) army and add a single Carthaginian citizen unit as required. Either the Macedonian cavalry or the citizen infantry pack would work. The Iberian cavalry come in 12s and could run as Hearthguard or Warriors. The figures could be run as 4 Hearthguard and 8 Warriors but they all have similar armour so will need some easy means of distinguishing which is which. Some models could be given cloaks or equipped with spears (which are only slightly longer than the javelins). To make it absolutely clear these Huscarl candidates have been painted in red with white borders and the Warriors in white with red borders.

Iberian cavalry

The Iberian infantry come in bags of 40 armoured or unarmoured but with the same pose and weapon load out in each. A mix of both sprues would be ideal but they are not packed that way. The infantry sprues come with an equal mix of large and small shields allowing all to be built as Saga Warrior or Levy. The weapon layout is not quite so useful if all the scutati are to be built with large shields and throwing spears and the caetrati with small shields and javelins. There are too many javelins and too few good sized spears, one of which would be best used as a thrusting spear. The surplus of javelins is not entirely bad as these are susceptable to breaking. Saga does not differentiate between thrusting and throwing spears but these are different weapon types in Clash of Spears. Some scutati can be modelled with swords or assumed to be keeping their javelins for short range use.

Clash of Spears allows armoured or armoured Spanish ‘Warriors’ but their ‘Levy’ are assumed to be unarmoured. The Spanish armour consists of small bronze plates so even the armoured models would be best described as in partial armour. Any spare Libyan or Velite light infantry can be mixed amongst the Iberians with new heads and shields as unarmoured models. The Carthaginian and Roman bodies are less animated than the Iberian bodies but it does break up the 6 (and 2 command) body outlines of a single box. There are no slings with the Iberian packs but Victrix produce 3 other packs containing slingers. Converting 8 of the Iberian infantry to slingers is achievable.

Iberian infantry, far left Roman conversion

The full line up of Carthaginian, Roman and Iberian armies in ‘Really Useful’ boxes with ferrous paper liners.

Romans, Libyans
Carthaginian veterans and Iberians

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

Blood and Plunder: All at Sea

Another potential 18th century ship courtesy of eBay and £6.50. This is a Simba toy in the Playmobil style but a little less robust. This particular model is more commonly seen in pale blue as Sponge Bob Square-pants’ ship. It is unlikely to have any collectible value. Some parts are missing but the core ship structure is all there. The plastic hull is thinner than the Playmobil model but is still robust and should be slightly easier to cut away.

The image shows the basic ship with original fittings stripped off. The core ship deck measures 35cm by 13cm.

A line up of the new ship, Playmobil conversion and Pressman Pirate game model

A close up of the deck. A good height for the 28mm sailor but something will need to be done to create a gun port. The rear area will either need the deck building up or the sides cutting down.

With this being the 3rd toy ship conversion for 28mm here are some lessons learnt.

  • You don’t need to start with complete toys, damaged models are a lot cheaper.  A complete hull and deck are the essentials.   Playmobil hulls are one piece but some Mega Block hulls come in sections so you could end up with some disappointing gaps.
  • If the deck can be saved do so.  Building up a new deck is a jigsaw where you have to cut the pieces up yourself.
  • Some bits are worth saving for structural integrity at a cost of ‘realism’.  Replacement masts are unlikely to be as strong as the plastic originals.  This makes the multi-mast toy ships particularly desirable.
  • Do any serious drilling and cutting (such as gun ports) before gluing on any new parts (such as decking) as the drilling and cutting may vibrate the glued bits onto the void that is the floor.
  • The final result may fall short of the commercial resin models but those are crazy expensive.  Never mind the quality look at the width.

This is the final result, relying on the original but extended mast and rear sail structure.  The original sails were present but boasted implausible jagged edges and massive skull and cross-bone motifs.  The cannon are oversized but make good use of the plastic cannon from the Pressman game.

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Although the crew fit onto the toy ships there is not much space left over to show who is doing what.  In Blood and Plunder the brigantine has 3 deck sections and the sloop 2.   Units move from section to section in 1 move either within 1 ship or onto an adjacent grappled ship.  2 units can exist on a section and the size of a unit depends on the points value of a game.  So in a strict rules interpretation the same ship could hold more crew in a larger point game.  This is a 200 point game and there is space for more than 1 unit in a section but it is not easy to see who is doing what or who has or has not been activated.  Possible solutions are to place the models in dense blobs, work out a marker system or use a paper plan.

The toy sloop has plenty of deck space but because it is not the official layout the space within the raised stern deck is a bit of a crush.  6 sailors and 4 soldiers aft together with 2 units of 6 soldiers forward (3 on each of the 3 medium guns).

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The brig still has plenty of space to swing a cat. 6 sailors and 6 soldiers aft, 8 muskets midships ( 2 for each of the light guns), 6 sailors forward.

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Setting up a basic battle of the 2 toy ships on a 3′ square table shows that there is not a lot of spare ocean real estate.  Luckily if it is all open sea the ships can slide along the table keeping their relative distance and simulating endless sea.  In this scenario the bottom edge is blocked but the ships can sail anywhere off the remaining 3 edges.

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Turns 1 to 3 see some maneuvering of the ships.  Cannon are shot but with limited effect.  The sloop might have got off a devastating volley at the end of turn 3 but unfortunately  their starboard guns were unloaded. It took  a few advanced manoeuvre die rolls to swing the brig round into the wind like that but needing a 5+ for the test and picking the best of 2 dice this was not a major issue.  The sloop is now within grappling range of the brig and with a first move card either ship could attempt to grapple and board.

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The brigantine goes first with 2 actions, grapples then charges in with the soldiers in the stern.  This does not go well as they are hit hard with defensive fire then wiped out by the counter-attack from the sloop soldiers.  With no soldiers on board the enemy vessel the brigantine does better by firing a broadside into it.

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The battle continues back and forth on the sloop deck with units jumping across and a gradual wearing down of both sides. Moving models from ship to ship, avoiding the rigging and deck clutter required care and attention. The English on the brigantine started and ended with more men so end up in control of both ships.  Some of the French sailors are still holding out but the writing is on the wall.

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Playmobil Pirate Ship Converted to 28mm

There are several suppliers of resin pirate boats and 3D printing files are available.  These resin ships are expensive especially for the more serious naval vessels.  Some models however do come with cannon which could be a considerable extra if bought separately.  £2.64 each for a deck cannon and £1.32 for a swivel from Irregular Miniatures (admittedly probably a heavier weight than needed for our ship sizes).  The Firelock sloop comes with 6 deck cannons and 6 swivels included.

For those without access to a 3D printer the toy brands of Playmobil and Mega Blocks provide possible alternatives.  Blocks pirate ships are becoming rare and commanding high prices.  The various Playmobil solutions are a more affordable solution.  All these toys vary in size from row boats to truly massive affairs. In all cases the historical inspiration is sketchy at best.

Here are some tidy, accurate, period pieces to set the scene of what to aim for.

boston

A prospect of ye Great Town of Boston in New England in America (1744), from the Boston Public Library (Creative Commons License).  This shows several single masted sloops.  The one at left above the rowing boat and just in front of the brigantine being the best detailed.

sloop

 

A view of Boston Lighthouse, 1729, William Burgis.  The sloop illustrates its ‘height’ in the water and the crew figures give a good indication of its size.  There are 5 guns clearly visible.

Keeping the maths simple, if we see the top 1m of the figures in the bow the ship is 21 times that distance long (ignoring the bow spit and stern detailing).  A 21m ship at 1/56 is 37.5cm long.  There is no way to work out the width from the image above.  Turning to a real ship, the 38 gun frigate HMS Trincomalee (1817), moored in Hartlepool, she is 46m long 12m wide (the beam).   In scale that is 82cm by 22cm, not room for many of them on a gaming table.

There are several ship details and plans in ‘Historic ship plans by Fredrik Henrik at Chapman, Architectura Navalis Mercatoria, 1768′.  This is available at archive.org but the scans are very poor and the key images unreadable.  The ship dimensions are handily summarised on this model ship site.  Unfortunately the index to plates does not work as the Stockholm ship museum hosting those images has re-organised its own site.  Still if we look for a sloop to closely match up with the Burgis ship there is a Privateer sloop 18m long and 6.25m wide; a 1/56 scaling to 32cm by 11cm.  About 3 times as long as it is wide. This ship carried 10 guns (8 x 3 pounders on deck, 2 x 6 pounders fore and aft) had a crew of 50 and 7 pairs of oars.  This is image No’ 13 below, the 4 big square holes would be the gun ports, the smaller squares for the oars.  Some of the lines to the top of the diagram are part of another ship (a 70′ schooner) on the same original plate.

sloopSide

Sloop rigging is number 12 in the Mercatoria.  The similar rigging in number 13 is Chalke rigging.

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Brigantine rigging involves more than 1 mast and is no’ 4 of the same plate.

??

Moving onto the guns a 3 pounder is not that big, smaller than a grown man (stood on its end) but considerably heavier.  If you have the cash you can still buy one from castcannons.   Their example is about 1.5m long but weighs a hefty 220Kg and another 60Kg for the carriage.

There is a mass of compiled data on ship types, armament, crew and service during the age of sail.  At ‘Three Decks‘ you can search for all of these criteria.   Emulating an historical example is a little ambitious, the aim is to get a result that is not too goofy. Based on what was available on eBay we start with the Playmobil 5950.  A single mast ship which in the language of the time makes it a sloop.  The build is taking place in a time of lockdown so supplies are limited.  A trip to a well stocked craft shop is sorely missed.

Here is the base hull with a 28mm Redoubt model for scale. He is going to have difficulty seeing over the side of the ship so the deck area will need to be built up.

The toy ship is roughly 40cm by 16cm. At 1/56 that would be 22.5 long and 8.5m wide. That is 2.6 times as long as wide, our toy boat is overly tubby.  Other obvious faults being the lack of gun ports and the toy rigging being solid but less than entirely accurate.  The rigging and sails could be re-done from scratch.  The gun ports  require cutting some serious holes in that thick ‘kiddy proof’ outer shell.

Comparing to the Firelock Games ‘Blood and Plunder’ ships their sloop is 27cm by 10cm, the brigantine 30cm by 11cm and the frigate 33cm by 13cm.  Looking at the ‘Blood and Plunder’ stats this particular model would be best used as a brigantine with those rules.  Their sloop being a ‘size 2’ and brigantine a ‘size 3’.  The size affects how many guns can be put on board and how many sections the deck is divided into.  To do a ‘proper’ brigantine will need another mast towards the pointy end.

First step was to build up the deck using foam board. 2 sheets of 5mm A4 board went into this. The slightly over scale cannon now peeks over the side.

The new deck has been built out of lollipop sticks, about 75 of them.  In retrospect this could have gone better.  Trimming the sticks to fit along the curved edges of the ship was not a success.  The effect looks OK from a distance but not so good close up.

After deciding that 2 masts would look better than 1 and taking a layer of foam board filler off the middle deck (the new deck having been built up too high).

Guns came from Firelock Games.  The pack of six 4 pounders also comes with 6 half barrels. Square holes were scraped in the hull and the half-cannons pinned in.  For the open deck mounted guns holes were drilled in the side of the ship and ‘ground out’ to make the holes appear less round.

The deck did not help here as it is less than even and the final gun ports had to be at a level to have the guns poke through rather than dangle out the ports.  The rigging is thick sewing thread and the sails 2mm foam craft sheets.  The arrangement of masts, rigging and sails is loosely based on the Firelock games Brigantine.  The semi-official crew capacity for that in Blood and Plunder is 17 in the pointy end, 20 with 4 cannon in the middle and 19 in the stern.  This sees the models jammed in pretty solidly.  A good sprinkling of boxes, crates and other scatter would fill up the Playmobil deck, reduce the crew space to game compatible levels and make the planking look less of a bodge job.

Here is the ship again with a plastic ship from the Pressman pirate game for scale.

28mm: Weapons & Warriors Pirate Battle Game

Weapons & Warriors Pirate Battle Game is or was a game in the ‘Crossbows & Catapults’ genre where you shoot missiles and knock things over.  Lacking any originality your author noted that several gamers had converted the bits to 28mm gaming.  There are 4 ships, cannon, a watchtower and several palm trees in the box so it was worth a punt.  Dressing the Lines shows the watchtower and larger (albeit still pretty small) ship splendidly presented amongst a mass of quality models. The NDC Wargames blog illustrates the larger ship modeled with a single mast as a sloop.  Considering the small size of the model this seems the way to go to best justify her size. A Reaper forum post shows the basic ship models.  Unfortunately the images are hosted on Photobucket and consequently watermarked and hard to see.

Although long out of print used sets still turn up.  This set cost £18 with a few parts missing (but all the bits a gamer needs) from eBay.  The same set can also be found branded as ‘Peter Pan Blackbeard’s Treasure’ so it made sense to search for both titles. This price is in line with recent eBay sold items.  Postage is the big hit.  Hoping to get 2 working ships out of it the cost works out about half that of the smaller ‘Gears of War’ and ‘Blood and Plunder’ ships.  The ‘Blood and Plunder’ ships are a better price than it appears as they come supplied with cannon.

Here are the most useful bits having had parts to support the game pieces cut away and the holes filled in. A 28mm Redoubt figure illustrates the scale.

For some idea of game size comparison the small Blood and Plunder ‘Bark’ vessel is;  24cm by 9cm.  The Games of War ‘Sea Dog’ is 23cm by 8cm.  These plastic models are 20cm by 9cm. The ships are now ‘rigged up’ with the same figure for scale. They probably would not make it once round the boating lake with those sails but hopefully they convey the right idea.  Consider that the commercial ships come with rigging bits but no sails building up one of those would not have been less of a ‘Heath-Robinson’ affair.

Amongst the other bits. The little boats will fill up with 3 or 4 28mm figures. The watchtower is a lot less useless than expected. The 4 wooden stockade corners are too small to make a fort but can stand in as gun redoubt.

The cannon have a gap between the gun and carriage. This can be filled or the sides cut off and put back close to the barrel with the rough bits filled in. This plan does work but is possibly too much trouble for the return. Especially with the risk of losing bits on the floor as they fly off when cut away. The chests are on the fancy side but not entirely useless.

The rest of the parts are not obviously adaptable. The figures are just about 28mm but there are only 2 poses. The yellow pirate is best. The palm trees are too small for 28mm but could work for 15mm. 4 huge canon (used to shoot balls at the ships) might find a place in a steampunk setting.

Here are the pirates painted up with some simple conversions, the bases still need to be done.

 

Lledo Horse Drawn Models For 28mm

We have already looked at the use of toy motor vehicles for gaming.  There are also opportunities within the Lledo line for horse drawn transport.  The models are box scale which means that just about anything goes yet some examples are a close fit to 1/56th.  This article covers similar ground to a ‘Fiends in Waistcoats‘ page.  Unfortunately the Photobucket images on that post tend to be blurred out.  The Lledo models come with 1 or 2 horses using a limited variety of model sculpts but a wide choice of signage, most of which is not period specific.  The models do not fit into an exact time frame.  The best guess would be 1890 through 1914.  Those with pneumatic types being more useful in later periods.  In the UK horse drawn vehicles would be likely if uncommon up to the 1970s.  The comedy drama ‘Steptoe and Son’ being an example of horses used in the rag and bone trade.

The Lledo horses come in at least 2 sculpts and seem too small for 28mm.  This comparison with a Crusader Miniatures 28mm cavalry sculpt shows that they are not far off.  The problem being that one would expect a heavily built draft horse to be larger than one allocated for riding.

The Lledo models are inexpensive if bought as job lots from eBay.  Individual purchases are inflated by the postage cost.   Two good suppliers of horses are Northumbrian Painting Services (who run Reiver) and Warbases.  Here is a Reiver team used to pull a limber.  Note the smaller breastplate on the harness of the inner team.  Only the lead pair have a full collar.  The actual limber provided with the team is a small wheeled 18th century type.  Reiver swapped the wheels at no additional cost and the box limber was made out spare  parts.  At the time of writing the cost to buy a team and limber is 25p more than the cost of the horses.  An insignificant extra cost for 2 wheels and an axle even if they go straight to the spares box.

This a Warbases horse with Lledo cart.  The Lledo draught horse is a little smaller and less bulky than the Reiver.  The Reiver horses also have thicker bases that will need to be cut down or the cart platform built up to prevent the horse standing above the ground level of the cart.

Choosing Reiver,  Warbases or other suppliers is a case of swings and roundabouts.  If making up a postal order the other goods both companies supply might come in useful.  Reiver have some unusual 28mm equipment in their Chinese, Japanese and VBCW ranges.  They also have some splendid basic metal and resin carts.  Warbases have drivers (also available from Reiver), excellent animals and some nice resin cobbled bases for your carts.  Their own carts are MDF, an option that works best where there are no thin fancy bits involved.

These are Reiver horses with a removals van sprayed and painted over blue for a possible role as a police ‘Black Maria’.  The built up carriage base could do with less building up.

A brewer’s dray with the original Lledo driver.

The top down shot shows the vehicle space compared to a Lledo motor vehicle that has been calculated as true 1/56.

The fire engine is a lovely model but perhaps a little small. The 1/56 scale Fiat pick up gives an idea of relative size.  The engines were made in different capacities so perhaps we can get away with it.  There exists a low quality but useful video of the same builder’s Shand Mason fire engine.  The example in the video was in front line use until 1913, then put into storage but pulled back out as static water pump during World War 2.

The figures that come with the various Lledo models are not entirely useless.  Most models have no figures and even those that do may not follow this guide on Plastic Soldier Review.   Here they stand by an Artisan 28mm.  The guy with the dog is of limited use but the dog is a keeper.

More examples, these would work for the 30s or 40s.  Some figures are aimed at the early 20th century.  Many are too small to be of any use.

Batman: Knight vs Gotham City Chronicles

Batman is a very well known genre.  He has been about since the 1940s and DC have not been shy of promoting and marketing the Batman brand.  Alongside a possible 52 different simultaneous comic titles set within the Batman multiverse there have been films, TV, games and toys.  All this adds up to it being highly unlikely that any gamer has not heard of Batman.  Batman has evolved since the 1940s and the whole setting has been rebooted several times. Bruce Wayne is a constant but Batman is not always Bruce Wayne.  Batman has gone through several Robins and some named characters have taken on different roles.  Dick Grayson, for example, might be Robin, Batman or Nightwing.  For the villains the logic is easier to follow.  Most characters are either masked or mutated.  If a villain is defeated another can take over the role, the new recruit is probably insane and not even aware that they are not the original.  Even in cases where a key player is clearly dead DC have the ‘Lazarus Pit’ to sort it all out.

The Batman City Chronicles game by Monolith is currently not on retail sale.  It can be ordered through Kickstarter and copies are relatively common on eBay.  At the time of writing these copies are selling for less than new Kickstarter orders (accounting for postage and currency transfer fees).  The sales pitch is that everything comes in the 2 basic boxes but expansions are available that include more of everything. To keep comparisons simple this article will only consider the base Monolith game.

The figures in the boxes are sold unpainted.  With most characters being made up of a few simple colours it is not too much effort to get them all painted up.  These are the heroes. They include some characters that might be described as neutral rather than good such as Catwoman.

They are supported by various police types.  Due to the corrupt nature of Gotham some of these models could end up supporting the bad guys.

Speaking of which:

They too have supporting henchmen and thugs.  Note that while key characters are unique sculpts the goons are in sets of 4 identical poses.

Some characters have more than 1 model.   Each has differing powers in the game and represent different stages of the DC timeline.  Here are the 4 Batmen:

These miniatures are used to provide a variety of play scenarios.  There is no campaign or official design your own but no real impediment to heading down that route.  The equipment needed for play is relatively small.  The scenario below is one of the smallest in the game and has Batman trying to prevent Two-Face from polluting Gotham’s water supply. A standard Knight models game would need a board twice this size. Unfortunately although Monolith include 2 double sided boards these cannot be easily matched into a double board as is possible with their similar Conan game.

Batman Gotham City Chronicles was not the first kid on the Batman block.  It has aspects in common with Knight Miniatures Batman Miniature Game and the Heroclix brand which began with DC Heroclix.  All 3 models are of much the same size and build.  Here is a Knight, Gotham and Heroclix joker, all roughly ‘man’ sized.  The Heroclix pre-paint is not too bad.  Some skill would be needed to paint the eyes and eyebrow, the Robin model has the ‘R’ inside his badge.  The colour scheme of many of the Heroclix models is less good but in many cases a touch up rather than a full repaint is in order.  An exception is that many Batman characters fall in the 4 categories of male costume, no cape, male costume cape and female, cape or none.  A full repaint will convert most of the likely suspects within these 4 sets.

The larger models work less well in Heroclix as they are designed to fit within a single size pack regardless of the potential size of what they are modelling.  These 3 models are all Solomon Grundy.

Marketing ruins what would be a cheap Heroclix solution.  They are in sealed packs and address numerous themes.  They are often sold off in bulk on eBay but sourcing a particular mini is probably not worth the trouble. Heroclix really have pushed the DC franchise with models for many of the comic characters, not counting Marvel, 2000AD and Hellboy, although some models may now be out of print. Knight include models that are DC but not strictly Batman. Speedsters such as The Flash have an important though optional section of the rules. Monolith on the other hand are broadly restricted to Batman and his pals.

The Knight models were metal but are moving to resin.  The sculpts are a similar style in both.  Some of the metal minis need pinning and the resin models need careful cutting back with a sharp knife as they often have some remaining sprue stubs.  They are better sculpts than the Monolith models but not massively so and model for model Knight are considerably more expensive.

To decide on what models are needed where and the degree of crossover the game-play of the systems needs to be considered.  The Knight models game is based around all action happening at night.  Not unreasonable given the bat theme and the usual Batman story lines.   Game set up requires placing 6 lamp and 6 sewer cover models.  The sewer covers allow limited movement from 1 entrance to another.  The lamps provide a fixed area of illumination everything else is pitch dark.  Buildings are recommended but models will not usually enter them.  Batman can leap up and down from buildings and many villains will also be looking for grappling rope equipment to do the same.

The restricted light sources effect what can be seen and severely clamp down on shooting.  There is also a strict ammo limit so a lot of the action revolves around manoeuvre and close combat, Batman can see in the dark so is at a big advantage. Games are point based with a cost per figure as well as an equipment cost. Firearms really eat into that equipment budget so a gang will be unlikely to have many guns, all of which will be of limited use due to the darkness and restricted ammo allowances. Victory is a case of controlling or capturing objectives some of which give additional benefits such as ammo caches. Key players such as Batman and The Arrow are especially powerful but many games will be between more balanced forces, often with both sides being villains, a possible turf war scramble.

This Joker gang is the set from the old Suicide Squad starter box. It is 348 points and 1700 funding, 200 over the standard gang funding allowance but the Joker has 300 bonus funding to spend so there is still 100 to spend on the gang.

The base Monolith game is scenario based with the good guys attempting to succeed in some goal within a time limit. The bad guys tend to have some way to stop this in addition to knocking all the heroes out of the game. Monolith and Knight depend on allocating resources to figures before the figure acts. In both games wounds can reduce the pool of resources available. Fighting, shooting and movement are as might be expected. Monolith also include allocations for manipulation and thought. It is these categories that are often required to win a scenario. The Knight system has all resources allocated before a turn begins. One side will have an advantage being able to see their opponent’s allocations before they make their own. With Monolith resources are allocated as required and in any order. An action can be made and later on resources spent to re-roll the dice needed for an attempt. Up to certain limits the re-roll can be paid for several times, after each roll is seen. The problem is that any action has a fixed limit on the number of times it can be performed and only a small number of the full resource limit (usually 2 points ) can be regained at the end of each turn ready for the next. In Knight models resources may be lost due to wounds, otherwise the whole allocation limit is recovered at the end of each turn.

These are the stat cards for incarnations of Batman from both games. The Knight model has 8 points to allocate each turn but could get them all back. The Monolith model has 11 to spend but will only get 2 back unless he rests and can then recover 6. The various boxes indicate the limits that can be spent on each activity. Both games have a range of bonus skills which will need to be learnt or looked up during the game. Monolith use symbols, Knight key words but the principle is the same. In both systems additional gadgets will grant further skills.

In tournament play Knight insist that only their own models are used, even for the street lamps.  For friendly games the Monolith miniatures provide a competitively priced alternative except that the gamer has to load up on minis not just get the ones they might need.  In the Knight models game almost every miniature must be unique, each with its own stat card.  The cards have changed from the metal models to the more recent resin models and some individuals will have more than 1 model and hence stat card but all the cards should work with the rules.  The latest version of these rules and the stat cards for all the available models are free downloads from the Knight models site.  The stat cards are accessed from the sales page of the associated mini so do take a little tracking down.  When building a Knight models gang with Monolith figures there will be plenty of leaders but a limitation on basic goons as many of the Monolith goons have guns wheras guns are an expensive and risky option in the Knight game.

To summarise both games have a lot in common. Monolith players would be foolish not to at least look at the Knight rules and cards. Players of the Knight game could make use of the Monolith materials. The base box would be a hefty investment for a single player but a group or club might make substantial savings. The Heroclix models are good enough should they show up at the right price.

Spanish Civil War Improvised Armour – Tiznaos

Tiznaos (note that a tiznao is also a sort of fish stew) are the various armoured lorries of the Spanish Civil War.  Contemporary photographs illustrate a range of models with designs ranging from from entirely haphazard to streamlined planning.  The slogans illustrate that the vast majority belong to the Republic.  The majority of builds are unique and relying on the number of different models shown in photographs there must have been several dozen tiznao in use during the Spanish Civil War.  They have more of a role in the initial stages of the conflict with columns attempting to establish areas of control or in pacification actions behind the lines.  Their limited armour and mobility probably made them a liability to aircraft attack as the war intensified.  There is a scene in the Nationalist colour film Defenders of the Faith (about 48 minutes in) that shows a knocked out and burnt AAC-37 (with T26 turret, best guess based on lack of additional road wheels) or Ba6.  Nevertheless Bilbao armoured cars were still in service in Spain after the war.  The tiznao concept could be seen as the origins of the UNL35 and AAC-37 armoured cars; a mix of commercial chassis and Soviet armoured car design.  A column of UNL35s was amongst the Republican force that sought refuge in France as the war drew to a close.  These vehicles saw service in the French and later the German armies.

The film ‘Libertarias‘ illustrates a plausible use of a tiznao in street fighting; with mixed end results.  It does show the problem of getting a tiznao into combat.  On flat good roads it might make good going but with a road blocked, trenches and bridges blown moving the tiznao past an existing front line to exploit a breakthrough is not an easy task.

Vehiculos blindados de la guerra civil is a good starting point for details on tiznaos including a page hosting videos where some vehicles are shown in motion.  While the clips are original not reconstructions many are sourced from recent documentaries so the context of the use of the vehicles cannot be completely trusted.  Even contemporary newsreels would use stock footage if they could get away with it.  The key aspect is what can be deduced from the scene in which vehicles appear not any shots from immediately prior or afterwards?  Complete contemporary films are available on YouTube.  A good start is to search for ‘AGUILUCHOS DE LA FAI POR TIERRAS DE ARAGÓN’ one of a series of films by SUEP (Sindicato Único de Espectáculos Públicos).  In part 1 we see the Durruti column with a varied selection of transport including 2 civilian tractors (with the pair hitched up to pull a corporation bus off-road) and a tiznao.  The tiznao moves off-road under its own power and is parked perpendicular to the carriageway to protect the road.

For those with a modelling bent there are some card Tiznao plans that could be adapted or used ‘as is’.  This project attempted to re-size the card model around a Lledo truck.

It proved easier to start from scratch but salvage some of the cardboard outlines such as the doors.

Empress have a number of models in 28mm but tacking some card (or better still modelling clay painted as mattresses) to the sides and front of a Ledo truck would be a workable solution.

Wargaming3D is working up to be a ‘go to’ source for 3D printing images for gaming.  The difficulty is that these are images only and need access to a printer.  The images are not for commercial use so the people who deal in printed 3D models won’t print them up for you.  Your author had a spot of luck and convinced a fellow at a local club to run some off.

The Constructora field car is the recommended choice for first to print.  It is a beast of a model, bigger than most tanks.  The streamlined body shell is easy to clean up with the 3D ridges from printing scrubbing down to a gradual curve.  Gentle sanding with the dremel at low speed and a thin smoothing of liquid green stuff doing the job.  There were several real-world variants of this model.  Not all boast the gun turret but with the model being hollow this would not be easy to remove from the finished item.  Someone with knowledge of the printing files could probably remove it from the original.

Their tiznao is harder work to build up.  There is a chassis, platform and armoured load as 3 separate pieces as well as wheels and gun.  The platform needs shaving to get the load seated level and some decisions need to be made about what detail to shave off in an area of the model that will hardly be seen when it is assembled.

The Bilbao armoured car is not strictly a tiznao, having been commercially produced before the war.  The front of this model needs a fair bit of work to clear the area behind the front wheels.  The riveted construction is perfectly accurate but hinders shaving down the model to minimise 3D print ridges along the vehicle sides.  The front radiator grill might also be better ‘dug out’ but at a risk of damaging the grill itself.

Reiver are now part of Northumbrian Painting Service.  Their VBCW range has some vehicles that might do as tiznaos.  The ‘Tyneside armoured car’  is a big block of resin but easy to put together.  Stick the wheels on, add the gun and you are done.  The VBCW infantry are nice but notably smaller that Empress or Warlord.  They do, however, have some very nice carts and a limber at a very fair price.

There is no one Bolt Action interpretation for tiznaos.  In the Spanish language Bolt Action lists a Tiznao is treated like a FT17 with the option of 1 or more machine guns and the possibility of acting as a transport.  This interpretation is more than generous.  Wargaming 3D have point-outs for their models.  As a fall back treating the models as transport lorries with machine guns would work, ignoring their added armour.  Chain of Command has a reference for a range of tiznaos in the Espana book.  This is best used as a guide and the actual load out being based on each model.  In all cases the troop carrying capacity, even if overloaded in Chain of Command terms,  is much lower than could be carried in these vehicles.   An additional opportunity is to use the tiznao as a jump off point in Chain of Command or simply as a piece of terrain.  A poorly armoured box with limited exterior vision is probably not the best place to be when the going hots up.