Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A musical interlude

Another of the vignettes I did for the "Mayhem in the Med., c.1565" game for the Wargamer Show was a group of musicians to bolster Turkish morale. Music was a big part of their armed forces, with crashing cymbals, banging drums, horns, pipes, "jingling johnnies" and other such paraphernalia all present, the ensuing cacophony designed to both embolden the Turks and demoralise their enemies.

So here is my little Mehterhane group, made up of Old Glory musicians from their Ottoman spearmen and archers packs (you get six assorted command in these packs along with 24 spearmen or archers, or at least, I did!) plus a Gripping Beast Arab.

In the game, they were going to give a morale re-roll or similar to troops within a certain range, but we were so keen to get the combat troops into action that we left the band at the back!


Old Glory drummer figure

The imposter in the group is this Gripping Beast Arab.

And another Old Glory figure, this time with bugle/ trumpet/ similar. I imagine the trio as a sort of jazz combo.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Turkish Command

I have painted numerous command figures for the Turkish/ North African alliance, covering officers, standard bearers and musicians. I decided, however, that I wanted something a little more than battalion/ orta/ mob leaders, so created this mini-vignette to show someone a bit higher up the chain of command.

The figures are all Old Glory, from different packs I cannot now be certain of identifying accurately, with the addition of a flag from one of the "By Fire & Sword" 15mm Ottoman sets (Feudal Spahis I think) and a plastic shield from the Gripping Beast Arab plastic boxed set.

Together, they represent my attempt at a Janissary Aga and a Bey of some sort or other. I hope you like the little group.

In the actual game, I see them making everything within 6" unbreakable or something, or giving a morale re-roll. We will see.


Cheering on the boys. (I have no idea what the writing on the banner means).

One thing I realised is that I did not really know what Muslim shields of this (or any!!!) era were likely to appear like. This example is based on a pattern from a tile!

I wonder if they are feeling confident of success...

Saturday, 6 December 2014


"Hero" is surely one of the most over-used terms in the English language. I guess the problem is that it means different things to different people.

Scoring the winner in a major final? Saving a child from danger? Charging the guns at a crucial point in a battle? This is just the tip of the iceberg.

But one character I would proffer as a true "Hero" is the guy I have depicted here, painted specifically for the "Mayhem in the Med., c.1565" game we Wyrley Retinuers are taking around a few shows this year, Jean Parisot de la Valette.

Finished just a couple of days before last Sunday's Wargamer show (photos to follow of that event when I can download them!), this small piece of metal alloy is a miniature version of the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, who led the Christian defence of Malta when the Turkish attack came. That a chap in his seventies could lead a Military Order was one thing, but he was no shrinking violet or desk-jockey during the siege and assaults, being wounded in combat at one point. This was an old fella with the fire of youth still burning strongly in his bones! When the besieged towns of Birgu and Senglea were rebuilt after the successful defence of the island against the Turks and North Africans, they were renamed Valetta in his honour, and that is the name they still bear to this day, a lasting testimony. He inspired respect in his contemporaries, awe in his enemies and his judgement during the siege was spot on.

And if that is not enough, when his "mini-me" got into combat last Sunday, he took all before him and promptly threw the assault back single-handedly. But that is a story for another time...


An Old Glory figure from their "Wars of Religion" range, his shield is my interpretation of a drawing in George Gush's "Renaissance Armies" book, published by PSL.

This is the drawing from page 31 of Gush's book that is the inspiration for Valette's shield. I have coloured it how I think, so my interpretation is a little conjectural.

His base is a 40mm Gale Force 9 magnetic one. As he is destined to feature probably solely in the "Malta" game, I am not concerned with him having such a large and non-generic base. The other troops I have for the game are almost all based on 20mm squares, so I can place them together within a movement tray for more conventional games.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Wargamer Show, 30th November

Hello again.

I have been busy,busy,busy with the finishing touches for the inaugural outing of our Siege of Malta-inspired game ready for the Wargamer Show to be held at Leasowes Sports Centre, Leasowes High School, Halesowen, B62 8PJ. Note the change of venue!

I still have loads to do - I am part way through building a Renaissance galley, have only undercoated the two boats I want to finish, have only undercoated the sailing ship I want to finish, still have the ladders to paint and stick on my siege tower, etc, but their is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind!!!

I have painted all the figures I wanted to do (except Jean Parisot de a Valette, who is, yes, you've guessed it, undercoated!), have varnished them and textured the bases, and am half way through the base dark wash and then set to move onto the drybrushing and grass/ tuft/ foliage application. That is well over 300 figures "done" in about nine months, not to mention an Ottoman army for "By Fire & Sword", so I am quite pleased with that.

Anyway, we have not played the game yet, I have not seen the terrain (being built by Nephews Nick and Paul - it had better be up to scratch fellas, not to mention finished...) and we do not have an official title for our outing, but I am going with "Mayhem in the Med., c.1565" until something better presents itself.......

........who said we are courting trouble?

Anyway, it you are anywhere near Central England, specifcally Halesowen, on 30th November, do come along, spend some money, enjoy a few hours of wargaming atmosphere and banter and, above all, say "Hello!" to our little band. We will be the stressed-looking ones trying to work out why we did not work any of the issues out earlier!


Sunday, 5 October 2014

The guys with the ladders

October already???

Less than a couple of months to get the Malta project "finished"...

So here are the (almost) finished shots of the Saracen Home Improvements Ltd team I previewed last time. Just the usual basing to go to properly finish these off, but, as regular readers may know, I tend to leave this till last on any project so I can maintain consistency of colour and finish.

Like a Formula 1 pit crew, I gather these guys have been working out and practising hard for their role in the forthcoming game. Noises from the Man Cave (aka the family conservatory) in the dead of night can mean only this.....or my Border Collie is dreaming rather vigorously again. Do dogs have nightmares???


In case you missed the original post, these are Gripping Beast plastic Arabs holding ladders cut from the rigging of a cheap pirate ship toy.

I have tried to do a "new wood" look to the ladders. Most of the time, siege equipment was made in situ although with the general lack of trees on Malta, I suspect these would have been made from spare ships.

Not having tried it for myself, I wonder how difficult it is to carry both a large ladder and a spear, but these men are obviously made of stronger stuff than I.

I am always a little shy of painting patterns on clothing, as I feel they usually look scruffy and out of kilter, but I think I am getting better at it with practice. I might get quite good in a decade or so...

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Saracen Home Improvements Ltd

Hello again.

The next Wyrley Retinue game on the show circuit, as many of you will know, is to be based loosely (very, very loosely!) on the Siege of Malta in 1565. I have posted numerous pictures of North Africans, Turks and various Christian types, but the game is supposed to be a siege, so I got to thinking about a few specialist types who could get involved.

I did a few conversions a while back with fire pots to throw at an unsuspecting enemy, but how were the Turks supposed to get over/ under/ through any stout, city walls???

Cue the find in a dark cupboard in my house of an old pirate ship toy. Now, first thoughts went towards deciding if I could nab the hull for a galley, but the length vs width was way out for a sleek Mediterranean galley. Access to the crow's nest, however, was via some plastic lattice assemblies, which, at six inches high, were high enough to reach the top of our planned town walls. The angle of assault might be a tad sharp against the required minimum 30 degrees, but I did not expect a visit from the Health and Safety Taliban. If they did visit, however, I am sure they would be more interested in the multitude of sharp objects, trip hazards and general attempts to maim and kill than the exact angle at which a ladder was leaning against a wall.

But you never know...

Further thoughts have stretched to some Turkish musician vignettes, perhaps a torture scene similar to the flaying of the Governor of Famagusta or Heraklion, some captives being led off to the galley oars, a line of citizens with buckets trying to douse a fire, some unfortunate caught in a fire hoop, etc.

Firstly, however, here are the "Ladder Bearers" (sort of like Persian Applebearers from the time of the Achaemenid Dynasty, only less glamorous, less well-known and definitely NOT Immortal {geddit?})


Gripping Beast Arabs with cheap toy ladders. Job done (apart from painting...)

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

That ignominious defeat...


I did the photo feature on the 1st UK "By Fire & Sword" Championships, but posted no photos of the final game against those Poles.

Here goes the good bit - it all started so well...


It all started so promisingly as I smashed the Polish left, smashed the Polish right and broke through the centre. Then the Pancerni at the far side of the Polish square wheeled about...That's your lot!

1st UK "By Fire & Sword" Championships

Hello again.

The 6th and 7th September saw a dozen gamers from all over the place meet at Stafford Games to participate in the first ever UK "By Fire & Sword" Championships. When I say all over, we had players from Wessex (Dorset, I think, to be specific), Yorkshire (as in Halifax, centre of the universe), Sweden (via Nottingham), Poland (via nowhere in particular...) and Australia! (Anyone else fancy a weekend of wargaming whilst visiting the "Old Country"?)

Up for grabs were three rather splendid trophies and sundry goodies for all participants, as well as food laid on for both days.

Now, I need just one hand to count the number of touries in which I have participated in 30+ years of "proper" wargaming and, with just three games under my belt, trepidation was the word as I entered the hall on Saturday morning. I need not have bothered, as complete strangers came up and shook my hand, introducing themselves in the process. What did I hope to get from it all? Well, just one win would have been nice, four good games would be great and a top half placing would be a visit to hospital with shock...

Game 1:
My Ottoman Turks vs Swedish "Invincibles" played by Anders, the Swede from Nottingham. The scenario was patrol, I vastly outnumbered him, but his quality level was much higher. I had three distinct pieces of good luck that helped me here. One: I rolled five saves exactly when I needed to to win a combat. Two: Anders failed some saves and promptly got his commander killed in a crucial melee, routing a very tough Swedish cavalry unit in the process. Three: I shot at a Swedish cavalry unit that had broken through my lines and threatened serious pain, caused it t take a morale check and it promptly failed, despite having a 70% chance of success!!! A massacre ensued and I won handsomely!!! The best bit of the game, however, was my decision to have some Spahis charge a unit in the flank. Great idea you might say, but this unit was BEHIND me, so the Spahis could not see it! A classic case of the omniscient wargamer...the unit promptly charged right across the table to my left flank, through some rough terrain and were murdered by Anders' sole remaining unit!!!!!

Game 2:
Me vs Prussians played by Big John (once of Yorkshire, now of Stafford). The scenario was "Capture the Crossing", which John was stoutly defending. I forged my way across the bridge I had to capture, only to be forced back again. I forced my way across the ford at the other end of the river, only to be forced back again, but then my flank-marching Delis came on table, routed the unit of Prussian cavalry near the ford and I made it across, though could not quite bring pressure to bear at the bridge with my flank units before the three hour window was reached. A draw.

At the end of Day One, I was scoring 7 Large Points and 5 Small Points. I was in the top half!!!

Game 3:
Me vs current tournament leader, Steve Hymas from Halifax, a blue on blue clash as Steve's light cavalry based Turks took on my Spahi based Turks. Steve outnumbered me slightly and the sceario was again "Patrol". This was one tight affar throughout. Steve's typical shabby Yorkshire trick of about-facing when I charged him in the second turn came to nought as I managed to keep hold of my army, despite the failed charge, and I managed to break open his centre and left flank. However, he held three objectives and me just two, so casualties would be the making or breaking of my cause. The end result was 3 large and 1 Small Point to Steve and 3 and 0 to me - a draw.

Game 4:
Me vs co-leader Mike Webb and his Poles. I was heavily outpointed, so chose the scenario (Ambush) and got a free reinforcement unit, basically the first to flee would come back on. It started well (except for my best unit of Spahis who suddenly could not hit a barn door and were routed by Cossacks), but then the Pancerni got involved...
I had used up my dice luck against Anders, I think, so could not really grumble as the Poles promptly wasted me. Two units did all the damage and, even though most of the Polish army was dead or had fled, I was left with one disorganised unit of light cavalry hiding behind a hill at the end. I scored 2 Large and 0 Small Points though, and the result was merely a "Tactical Defeat" and not the Massacre I thought it would be...

So who won overall?

There was just one small point between first and second and the final analysis was...

1st - Steve from Halifax
2nd - Mike Webb with those infernal Pancerni
3rd - Piotr from Poland with his Tartars

I came 6th!!!! RESULT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks to all involved for a great couple of days and playing the top two players meant I had been in the top few for at least a couple of rounds!


Game 1 in motion, as the horde of Turks advances on the small but elite Swedish troops.

A section from Anders' Swedes advance bravely to confront the men from the Porte.

Death of a general? No, as this Swede saw another day, but this is the unit that failed its morale check after a couple of paltry bowshots.

Set up for Game 2, with John defending his bridgehead.

Set up for the titanic Game 3. In order to combat Steve's superiority in light cavalry, I obliqued my right flank, with a view to smashing his centre and swinging right to claim that far wod, the third objective. Just one more turn would have seen me there, but a draw was a good result against the eventual winner.

Two big units of Spahis with which I planned to steamroller Steve's centre.

A view down the line from my left flank.

The First Place Trophy, a wonderful Winged Hussar figurine.
Third Place Trophy - a Streltsi, I think. I did photograph the Second Place Trophy too, but the camera does not want to share it with me now...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Fanatical converts

Hot on the heels of the last few conversions comes another few conversions.

Perry Mahdists again for the most part, with a solitary Perry ACW Zouave thrown in for good measure, obtained free with a copy of WI several months back.

Two of the figures have clay fire pots, inspired by a scene in Simon Scarrow's "Sword & Scimitar" novel set during the siege of Malta. A good read if you are interested, but ignore references to Janissaries with musket rests...

Good naval combat stuff before we get to the siege though! I may yet get around to a galiot, lanterna or similar for the demo game!

I have been painting proper troops recently, namely more Old Glory Turks, without a conversion in sight (well, apart from the one whose mace I broke off accidently so he ended up with a spear instead). I will post these soon for anyone who is interested. Just three and a half months to go before this lot take the stage for their first planned outing at Wargamer, so must crack on. Only about another 160 figures to do.
(I wonder how nephews P & N are getting on with the terrain...)


Four Mahdists and a Zouave may seem like the title of a Hugh Grant film set in a toy soldier shop, but is also exactly what we have here.

The Firepot Fellas. The shields are drawing pins. The pots are cut down from the ends of spears and flag poles to leave a round pot piece out of which protrudes something I hope looks at least a little bit like a smoking fuse. Who said "Comedy bomb?"

More drawing pin shields on otherwise conventional Mahdists masquerading as 16th Century North Africans.

The zouave, with another drawing pin shield.

And again. How nice of those French and Americans to use a North African model for their soldiery.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Busy with the plastic

Hot on the heels of the horseflesh come yet more of my attempts to do something a little different, with yet more conversions.

As before, these sniper-types are based on Perry Mahdists from the boxed set of that ilk. I have little or no interest in the Sudan Wars, but was readily gripped by the opportunity I thought these figures could present to assist with this very project. However, the rifles contained in the box are very obviously NOT Renaissance, but Remingtons or similar, no doubt taken from some unsuspecting Egyptian infantryman before the Gordon Relief Expedition or something.

So, where to source something approaching a suitable firearm?

Cue the Warlord Firelock Musketeers...

Overlooking the obviously incorrect mechanism, which I could have rectified with a length of wire or cotton, what I was after was a long firearm and that is exactly what I got! Not only that, but the firelocks had the advantage of having the arms attached, so I did not have to carve other arms to suit. The addition of powder horns from small lengths of curved plastic, bags and pouches from Wargames Factory WoSS figures and similar sets and straps from greenstuff finished the basic figure to my satisfaction.

I based them on round bases as I wanted skirmishing, sniper types, not figures to stand in units at a later date, and they can also match up with my existing Arabian pirate figures who are also on round bases.

And that is basically that!


The entire 11 figures I made to fulfil the sniper remit.

The long firearms shown to effect (albeit firelocks rather than matchlocks).

A close up of one of the scratchbuilt powder horns. Very technical!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Not just infantry

The town of Mdina, in Malta's interior, was entirely unmolested by the Turks during the Great Siege of 1565, so much so that the garrison there went about their business pretty much as they pleased whilst the Turks busied themselves against first Fort St Elmo and then Birgu and Senglea.

This major error was brought to light when the Turks, finally making some headway in yet another assault on the Christian defences, made a hasty retreat when cavalry from Mdina attacked the Turkish camp. So, the Christians had cavalry and we had to follow suit!

A unit of six figures is not really a unit to the purist, perhaps, but does constitue a unit of regular cavalry (or two elite ones!) under the "Donnybrook" rules we may use for our demo game, with suitable modifications. The figures are Border Reivers I bought many years ago from a Partizan show and dug out of the lead mountain when I started this project. When they have finished in Malta, they may take up sheep rustling at a croft near you, alongside some of their erstwhile/ future Maltese colleagues on foot. At least half of these cavalry figures are Vendel, but I cannot remember where I sourced the others from...


The Armstrongs, sorry, Armigeri, in all their finery

The boss. I can also see him and his colleagues chasing Kern around some bog in deepest Ireland at some point

Friday, 25 July 2014

Conversions for "Malta"

I see this fellow as leading a band of Barbary Corsairs out of Tunis or Algiers.

Another Perry Mahdist figure, this time with a "By Fire & Sword" flag as supplied with their 15mm Ottoman Turkish sets. I made a hash of sticking it round the pole straight, so had to try and blend the edges to hide the white glare. Can you tell?

This one started life as a Perry Zouave I got free with WI magazine several months back. The head is from the Mahdists set.

The shield is a drawing pin, with the pin cut down and the whole thing stuck into a pre-drilled hole in his back. IA tip for the crescents for anyone who wants to try - find a small, round thing of some description, hold it on the flag, paint gently round three-quarters of the circumference and then fill in the middle bit. This is the only way I could have painted these quite so neatly short of using transfers!

Another Mahdist with a Turkish-inspired flag. Stars, stripes, crescents - all suitable material for Moslem flags

And this one will lead a bunch of fanatics in the assault on the Christian lines. Another Mahdist, his right hand simply drilled through to accept a brass wire spear. The falg is again a computer label.
It is not necessarily one of the stranger quirks of being a wargamer, but surely most of us risk the structural integrity of our humble abode with not a care by constantly buying more and more for our respective lead mountains. Reaching ever upwards towards the heavens as we pile more and more new offerings on the pyre of unpainted, anatomical loveliness, the mountain never grows smaller for long, no matter how long we quarry with size 1 sable and acrylic medium. Even wholesale clearouts of supposedly unwanted aspects of the mountain are only of partial help, as the regenerative powers of our personal edifice see growth renewed in short order.

What is perhaps rather quirky, however, especially in wargamers like me who spend a fair amount each year on new stuff we know we will get around too soon (...), is the desire to not just buy more, but convert so we not only have more but we have that something unique. We may not be good at conversions, but we do it anyway. We may be able to buy something very much like what we end up building, but we cut and carve away, stick on non-standard parts and still head off with more hope than skill to achieve that somethign different.

So here we have some of my recent efforts, all built from Perry-originating plastics, built simply to satusfy a desire to provide somethign a little different.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

More Turks

Just to prove that I do actually paint patterned clothing once in a while, though I have so far baulked at the thought of 28mm Celts...

Five-sixths of the entire spearmen I have painted for this unit, Old Glory figures with brass spears from Vendel

Close up of the left

And the right

The side my opponents will not be seeing (?)

And again. I enjoy the colour of these figures, even though they are lowly types rather than Spahis, Janissaries and the like.

Cozy Mehmet

Or perhaps Collins Pasha