Thursday, 24 March 2016

'The Mammoth Post' or 'why I never want to paint another blue and yellow shield again'

Warning: this post contains copious amounts of history. You have been warned. 

Evening all (at time of writing, anyway)! 

First part of this post is just a short bit of housekeeping; stick around for this, then you can feel free to leave before reading Part Two if you prefer. It's all about that history nonsense I keep trying to force down everyone's throats. 

Been a slight delay in uploading posts recently, for which I do apologise. This is due sadly to the fact that real life is a thing; PhD theses unfortunately do not write themselves, much to my chagrin. 
However, I have managed to secure myself a shiny new laptop. This means I can take work with me when travelling, and significantly cuts down on the pressure I have to bash out as much work as possible before leaving my PC, thus freeing up time to write more about toy soldiers and bore honest gamers to death with my petty notions of 'historical accuracy' and 'true to realism gameplay' bollocks. 

As such, I've proposed (as much for myself as for anything else) a new schedule that I shall do my gosh-darn best to stick to unless something particularly heinous gets in the way of uploading posts. 

TUESDAYS will be the day upon which I upload a slightly longer post; usually this will cover games I've played that week plus my thoughts, an in-depth hobby based post, something that's a longer discussion such as commentary on rules updates or model releases, or anything else that fits on more than a single page of A4 paper. Today is the one exception to this (obviously).

SATURDAYS will be the day I put up a slightly shorter post. These will cover quick one-off topics like product reviews for small items (dice, for instance), a quick thought of the week if something pressing has occurred, or generally anything else that can be discussed in a single page. 

Hope that works out well. Like I said above, this is all subject to the limitations of real life but I think the addition of a written-down schedule will make it easier for me to keep to the commitment of regular uploads.

The second point of note is that I've begun to realise the inherent problems of the Blogger layout. It's becoming a pain to try and do posts with multiple images; there is very little control over what you can do and edit with posts, and the layout itself is somewhat lackluster. As such, I will be investigating the possibility of switching the blog over to Wordpress (or a site hosting Wordpress) in the near future. This will hopefully also assist regular postings, as I will feel more enthusiastic about writing and editing my posts. More on this to come, and I will only make the shift when I know I can (a) preserve my existing posts and (b) guarantee that Wordpress will fix the problems I have with Blogger at the moment.

Anyway, on to the fun part of this post; 

A few weeks ago, around this time last month in fact, I posted describing my experiences at the York Wargames Festival, Vapnartak. 

Those of you who remember, or who quickly skipped back to double check, will recall that the game played by our group was a niche little medieval skirmish game called 'Lion Rampant' with the backdrop and premise of a Crusades-era battle between the forces of Richard I (Lionheart) and his erstwhile enemy Saladin. The battle was loosely based on the historical Battle of Arsuf, one of the most important battles of Richard I's career as the decisive victory achieved by the crusaders cemented his position as a highly skilled military commander, having successfully bested the man who had terrorised Christian territory since the previous crusade's culmination in defeat chiefly at his hands. 

Our version of the battle featured Richard's advance party trying to make their way through the gates of a nearby city, Christian in origin but currently under the iron fist of Saladin and his subjects. On our side were crusaders of generic flavour, troops from Richard's personal household and representatives from the two military orders of notable presence during the third crusade; the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller.

For the battle, each participant painting up models aligned themselves to one of these factions. I myself chose to go down the "generic crusaders" route, with a retinue based around disciplined infantry and fanatical crusading knights. To reflect this, I chose to paint my foot knights in the vein of travelling crusaders; each man wore their own colours, but clothing was predominantly a mixture of earthy greens, reds, browns and mustard yellows - knights making pilgrimage from Europe to the Holy Land being more likely to wear cheaper clothing they didn't mind getting too dirty, rather than the medieval equivalent of Sunday Best.

The travelling knights sporting plain-looking clothes, complimented by shields that bore either the crusader cross or simple, geometric patterns that were atypical of the period

Shield designs were simple geometrics, rather than anything overly-complex. Heraldry during the 12th and 13th Centuries was minimal to say the least; even the royal coat-of-arms was first introduced during this period, as such the concept of knightly heraldry and the images we are so familiar with from popular culture ('A Knight's Tale' being a stellar example) were not to be seen for a good two centuries at the earliest. 

For this project, the most appropriate source for shield designs were found on the Bayeaux Tapestry. 
My knights therefore took to the field in a wide array of shield designs, as can be seen above. Foot sergeants and knights belonging to the leader's household were treated slightly differently. As discussed earlier, household heraldry was not really a thing during the early middle ages. Colours and simplistic shapes were therefore my "go-to" choice for representing uniforms. To do up in my colours of choice (I went for a simple four-checked pattern of blue and yellow) I had twelve foot sergeants, six foot knights and some mounted men at arms. Photos of these gents are below:

Mounted knights by Perry Miniatures, foot sergeants by Fireforge Games and Godfrey of Bouillon by Gripping Beast

As you can tell from the images and description of my force composition, I elected to go for a much more 'elite and dangerous' route over a large mass of smelly peasants or untrained foot sergeants. 
I chose to represent a force of troops from a crusader state who either had access to more advanced wargear, improved tactics or simply more combat experience. 

My warlord I chose to have represent Richard de Camville, an English crusader and friend of Richard I Lionheart. The historical de Camville actually died at the Siege of Acre prior to the Battle of Arsuf, however our group's planned game already twisted the history somewhat - as such, I felt no qualms representing de Camville and a contingent of crusaders brought from his holdings in England or picked up along the way in France. This explains the large amount of household colours on display upon the shields and uniforms of the foot sergeant unit, as well as the household guards (represented by the mounted Men-At-Arms). 

And there we have it, a historical force complete and ready for the tabletop. I really enjoyed painting these up, as historical miniatures have a unique take on them that sci-fi and fantasy don't. Also, my colour palette tends to be very dark and muted, which means I get on a little better with historicals than fantasy miniatures. 

Thanks for sticking with if you've read this far. 
Catch you in the next one!
I'll leave you with a pair of WIP shots of Richard for the road...