Well, it's been a while between posts, so I hope you are all going very well, had a fantastic Christmas and 2014 is puttering along nicely.
The last few months have been very eventful in the world of Ben. Following my last AAR, I popped down to MOAB in south Sydney to put on a demonstration game of Chain of Command. It was a great day, and you can find out all about it over on the TooFatLardies blog here. Speaking of the Lardies, i've also written an article on using Chain of Command to game the mammoth Battle of Hannut, between the French tanks and dragoons of the Cavalry Corps and the German 3rd and 4th Panzer divisions in 1940. This appeared in the latest TooFatLardies Christmas Special, an excellent collection of thought provoking articles, scenarios, and gaming ideas which, while coming out of the Lardy stable, easily translate into many other rulesets. The mini campaign in my article could easily be used with Bolt Action for example. You can grab it here for the very reasonable price of £6.00.
As I mentioned in some previous updates, I finished my studies in November 2013. After four years of study, it's a little surreal to wave goodbye the the world of University - at least for the time being. I had
embarked on my degree with an aim to going on to complete pro-graduate studies, however the school which I completed my 10 week internship in has changed that. It's a local junior campus of a larger college, serving over 1200 year 7 to year 10 students. The kids, staff and the executive are all fantastic, and it was a really rewarding and fun place to do my internship. Fourth term last year, I was in almost every day with casual work - very nice to be paid, even if it was a little challenging to teach mathematics, cooking, and even needlework. I've been offered, and accepted, a full year long contract to teach History and Geography for 2014. This is doubly exciting as in Australia we have a new national curriculum rolling out, with a much less insular and more global slant, and i've been able to create a major unit for year 9 covering the First and Second World Wars, and area which I find fascinating and very relevant. Consequently, i've built up a unit based not on badly out of date text books but rather loads of contemporary accounts, sources and fresh and new resources and documentaries. I've even got a film study in there, based around building historical empathy and using the superb 'Joyeux Noël.' I'm looking forward to getting a chance to try it out, and we're due to kick off around the middle of first term.
So, perhaps that goes some way to explain, if not excuse, my sabbatical from this blog. However, despite the paucity of posts, I have been painting away in my spare moments, and have finished a few projects. My plan for this year is to do shorter, but more regular updates on this blog. The occasional essay-lengt AAR will still be in there, however for the most part they'll be a bit shorter.
When I'm painting, I usually listen to either podcasts such as the excellent Meeples and Miniatures and In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, or to audiobooks. I've been listening to Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories series. If you haven't read/listened to them, they're Cornwell at his fun-if-predictable best. As a result of this, and chatting with some blokes at the local gaming group, I decided to dip my toe into Tomahawk Studio's greatly lauded SAGA ruleset. I picked up a Viking and Norman starter army, along with a set of the rules, a copy of Robert Ferguson's excellent and comprehensive Hammer and the Cross and some MDF odds and sods from War Bases.
I've always had a fascination with the Viking era, and my visit to the Historiska Museet in Stockholm did little to suffuse this, especially when parts of the collection seemed to follow me to upside-down land, what with the Sydney Maritime Museum hosting an exhibition including a reconstruction of the Gokstadt Ship. An excellent part of this exhibition concerned textiles and dying techniques, including some examples of cloth coloured with traditional methods. I leaned heavily on this, along with Jenny Dean's excellent site, when deciding on the colour schemes for high and low status warriors. I do like painting dark ages figures, as choosing colour schemes requires a mix of creativity and historical research which I really do enjoy.
So without further ado, here are some pictures of my SAGA Vikings.
First off, the warlord, a superb sculpt from the lads at Gripping Beast Towers. As I was reading Njal's Saga while painting him, I imagined him as Kári Sölmundarson, hirdmann of the Hebridean Jarl Sigmund, mercenary, avenger of Njal's hall burning, lethal warrior basically all-around viking hero. Add to that the fact he is one of the only survivors in one of the most famous of the icelandic Sagas, and I think it's very fitting that Kári leads my SAGA war band! According with a warrior of such renown, he's dressed in the best of 10th century fashion, with a rare and exquisite red dyed tunic and some fancy striped trews. His helmet and armour is highly polished, and his shield is decorated with one of the most intricate of the excellent Little Big Man Studios shield transfers, and the shattered shield of a vanquished foe lies below his feet. Speaking of which, i've tried something different with the basing. I've gone for a cold Northern European autumn look, with moss covered stones and fallen leaves over damp, soggy ground - think Northumbria, Scotland, the Orkneys, Ireland, the Hebrides or even Iceland.
Next up, the berserkir. These feral warriors fought sans armour and with great ferocity, feared by foe and friend alike. While their historicity is not solid, individual berserkr do appear in the sagas, and there was an excellent article in a recent issue of Medieval Warfare magazine. These guys all got striped trews, as they're high-status (if violent and insane) warriors. Shields are hand painted, and this is my first attempt at larger areas of flesh. I tried to avoid the 'skeleton' look which can be the result of my usual layering approach to painting. More layers and a more gradual colour transition than i'm used to seems to have avoided this - to my eye at least. I armed these guys with short and long handed axes, as I imagine that the battle-crazed berserkir could wield such heavy weapons with comparative ease.
These lads are the hirdmenn, plastic figures from the beasties. As with the warlord, colour selections tend towards the rarer high status dyes. A mix of axes and swords for these lads, and they're all well equipped with mail and helmet, even if the mail is not quite as shining and the helmets a little more battered than those of their fearless leader. Shield designs are LBMS transfers.
Finally, here are two units of bondir, the warrior types. This lot are less well equipped than the other warriors, no mail and helmets are rare. To counter this in the SAGA rules they usually operate in larger groups. My war band does not as yet have any thralls, levy archers of even lower status and who fight in even larger units. For the bondir I chose to use a muted palate of mostly lower status dyes, browns, yellows, muddy greens, with a few splashes of colour here and there. Shields are again from LBMS.
So, that's it for the vikings. I've got another unit of hirdmen and and have plans to grab a pack of thrall archers which will take the group up to 6 points. Incidentally, they've yet to be 'blooded', but one of the local gaming groups run a fair bit of SAGA so I plan to take them down next month and see how the rules run. Going by the way my freshly painted units usually perform, i'm not holding out high hopes.
The Norman warband are undercoated and waiting in line while I finish off what i'm currently working on, 1940 French and German troops for Chain of Command... but more on them later :)
I'll pop up another few posts in the next few days, including an update of my plans for 2014 and some pictures of my British Parachute platoon who were glimpsed in the last Chain of Command AAR.
Till then, keep painting and gaming!