Daily Archives: March 11, 2014

Dark Ages On The (Comparatively) Cheap – Part 2

Von Greg

In part one of the story, I set about to build up a 28mm, SAGA-compatible, all-metal warband that would still provide enough troop variety to flesh out either Battle Troll or Song of Blades and Heroes games. With HMGS Cold Wars Convention approaching, I did the research and the math and thought I had a pretty good handle on what the market had to offer.

Hitting the dealer’s hall when it opened on Friday at noon, I made a B Line over to the Age of Glory stand and started combing through the Crusader miniatures rack. Going through the SAGA rules, I decided that the Anglo-Saxons or the Scots matched my playing style the best, but after mentioning my Norman ancestry (Willy’s my 28th great grandfather) the dealer gave me a look and asked why the heck I wasn’t going with the Normans.

As luck would have it, Steve from Age of Glory had worked up some special SAGA sets composed of the Crusader lines that matched the Gripping Beast boxed sets almost exactly and the Normans were marked down from $76 to $67. Since it was nearly twenty bucks less than the comparable Gripping Beast Pack, I grabbed an additional 8 pack of Normans with Crossbows  (DAN005) too.

So what’s in the box?

8 mounted milites (hearthguard) built from sets DAN100, DAN101, and DAN105


1 mounted warlord (the sword wielding bloke from DAN105)


8 dismounted spearmen in chainmail (warriors)  built from a mix of DAN001 and DAN002


12 Unarmoured archers (levy) built from DAN006


So the normal “butcher’s bill” for a force (minus the crossbowmen)  this size would be around $79 (still a good price vs GB), but getting it at a discount made it a complete steal.

Tales from the basement:

Quite pleased with myself, I returned to the HAWKs roost in the Lancaster Host’s Paradise Room and thinking my mission complete, waited for Wally’s Basement’s flea market to open…this is where the insanity ensued:

On my first visit, I ran across someone selling four packs of Black Tree Designs Normans, two 12 packs of the unarmored slingers and two 12 packs of the unarmored archers and while it would give me way more peasant levy troops than I would ever need, I couldn’t pass up the price of $30 for the lot.


If that weren’t enough, on my Saturday morning visit, ran across a pack of Crusader 8 Norman Spearmen in Quilted Armour (DAN003) and a pack of 8 Unarmored Norman Spearmen (DAN004) and snatched the lot of them up for $12.


What next?

I will definitely tackle the Crusader miniatures before moving onto the Black Tree. i will probably draft the flea market find Quilted Armor guys as my primary dismounted warriors with the unarmored guys as back up and leave the chainmail for the rare occasions my milites have to dismount or use them as “counts-as” Flemish Mercenaries to assist with the rather gallopy-shooty Normans’ lack of ground staying power. The crossbowmen will fill another warrior slot for the time being.

As for as the peasant levy, i will obviously paint up the Crusader ones first so I can be all matchy-matchy. the slingers can’t be fielded by the Normans in SAGA, but will be great as throw-away troops in “Song” or “Battle Troll” or I could loop them into a future Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Danish army as young-uns who haven’t grown beards.

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Dark Ages On The (Comparatively) Cheap – Part 1

Von Greg

Vikings vs Welsh during the HAWKs February Dark Age Derby

I recently hosted a day of Dark Age battles for the HAWks club in order to play-test several popular rulesets for the period. The results were inconclusive as to which was “the best”, but it reawakened my long term interest in the genre enough to go out and build up my own army.

Since SAGA is the most particular of the bunch, I set out to create a force that could count for at least 4 points in that system, while still being diverse enough to provide a variety of troop types for use in the other two.


Dark Age Gaelic skirmishers converted from Wargames Factory Vikings and Numidians

I attempted some kitbashing with a few backlog Wargames Factory Vikings and Numidians, but the CAD-produced sculpting left the detail less than desirable and while cheap, it really drove me batty trying to assemble them, so plastic was out and metal was in.

If you are going the plastic route, you have to check out SAGA Tapestry’s excellent guide for making the most out of the Gripping Beast and Conquest Miniatures plastic box sets.

With HMGS Cold Wars fast approaching, I threw myself into doing my research and tried to figure out what would be the best way to get the most bang for my buck, without having to resort to figures that either looked bad, or we so fiddly to assemble, that I’d quickly lose interest as I had in the past. That being said, here were my results:

Gripping Beast:

As the publishers of the SAGA rules, this is the go to place for those who want the right-out-of-the-box forces. I have mixed feelings about the sculpts, since the older items that get mixed into the packs seem to be suffering from an all-body case of fluid retention bloat, but the newer items are really nice.

In the States, my convention favorite, Architects of War sells $53.00 for a metal starter army of 25 foot troops  which comes out to around $2.12 a figure

Wargames Foundry:

While they lapsed into the Bugatti Veyron price range for a good part of the last decade, Foundry has recently lowered their prices back to something that us mere mortals can afford. Their old Dark Ages line has a nice selection, but they are old (Perry?) sculpts and can be a bit on the “wee” side. The newer Vikings are very nice, if not for the odd inaccurate horned helmet, and would be great for your showcase figures such as Warlords or champions (hearthguard for you SAGAmites). As an added bonus, they have a decent selection of civilians and lady vikings, not all of which are scantily clad if you’re looking for your Lagertha!

Currently listed on their site as $18.00 for 6 infantry, they still tip the scales at $3.00 a figure, but if only used for your “set piece” troops, that’s still relatively reasonable. The older range is $18.00 for 8 infantry which would be $2.25 a piece.

Crusader Miniatures:

Age of Glory, one of my other favorite retailers stock the entire line of these and  I really prefer the crisper poses over the “official” SAGA line. With a few exceptions, they have all the options you would need for most of the SAGA factions, even odd ones like the Irish dog handlers.

$14.00 for 8 foot troops so we’re now talking $1.75 a figure

Black Tree Design:

Successor to the Harlequin miniatures line, Black Tree does have a small, but decent Dark Ages line and you might even be able to use certain packs from their ancient Picts to supplement your Gaelic armies of the Dark Ages. This line goes on sale quite often, and the extent of the discount can make these prices vary greatly.

Typically, if you are signed up for their free email club, a minimally discounted army like the Normans will sell for around $7.23 for 4 minis, bringing their individual infantry miniature price in at $1.81, just above Crusader, and just below Gripping Beast.

Saxons are slashed to 25% off right now ($6.23 for 4) making them quite a bargain at $1.55 per mini so you could kit out a 4 point SAGA force for under $40, and if you buy the Saxon Kings set and use the armoured guy as your Warlord, you also have the harp playing figure that can easily pass as the “Wandering Bard” special character.

Old Glory:

This has always been the wargamers go to choice for cheap metal, with the caveat of some really dodgy sculpting at times and they also tend to be on the smaller size of the 28/25mm spectrum so you have to some visual inspection before throwing down the cash.

I’ve dealt with the main line of Normans/Vikings/Saxons and they are pretty bad.Too many “Hey Steve!” pointing command figures and rigor-contorted poses turned me off from finishing an army decades ago. On the other hand, their newer “Somerled the Viking Slayer” line shows some promise, especially if you are aiming to do a Scots or Irish force.

Usually, you’ll get 30 infantry for around $35 and you can order directly or pick them up at one of the many HMGS East cons. Each troop will cost you a mere $1.16. Add in the 40% Old Glory Army discount (which will cost you $50 annually) and that drops to paltry $0.70.

Tune in next time, and see if the research survives an encounter with the dealer hall!

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Grave Wraith: Figure 70 of 265

Chris Palmer

This week, as I revealed in last Monday’s post, I painted the green translucent Grave Wraith from the Haunts set.  Unfortunately,  one of the worst head colds I have ever had set in last week, and kept me from going to Cold Wars; as I was just too sick.  I was, however, able to finish painting the Grave Wraith.
     As usual, I began by washing the figure in a bowl of water with a little dish soap added.  I then rinse it and let it dry.  Afterwards, I glued it to a black-primed 1.5 inch fender washer using white tacky glue, and then I glued the washer to a tongue depressor with a couple drops of plain white glue.

  I began by giving the whole figure a wash with very thinned Iron Wind Metals “Dark Green Ink”.  I then painted the “face” as well as the sword and hand, and gravestone and base, with black paint.

Next I drybrushed the gravestone with Folk Art “Medium Gray”, and painted the blade of the sword with Folk At “Metallic Emerald Green”.  I ended up giving the blade three coats of the green to make it really brilliant. You can see the difference in the blade in the photo below with one coat, and the photo that follows it with the three coats.

 My next step was to do a lighter drybrush on the gravestone with Americana “Dove Grey” , and then I painted the hilt of the sword with Ceramcoat “Bronze”. This was followed with doing light highlights on the fingers of the sword hand with GW “Shadow Grey”

I finished up by going over the hilt of the sword and adding heavy highlights with Ceramcoat “14K Gold”. I then painted the rune details on the sword with GW “Golden Yellow”, then I went over them again and added a bit of “Apple Barrel “Yellow” in the center of each rune. Lastly, I painted the skull by the gravestone with Americana “Buttermilk”, followed by heavy highlighting with plain white.
     When everything was dry, I gave the figure a coat of Ceramcoat “Matt Varnish”.   When this was dry, I flocked the base.  Lastly, I sprayed the figure with Testor’s Dullcoat.

As usual, photographing these translucents is a bugger. However, I am pleased with how this one came out, and in general I think the photo gives you the idea of what I was going for.  Also, as you can see, the blade on this figure was miscast, missing a section at the top.  That didn’t bother me too much, as being the weapon of a dead warrior, I can easily imagine that it was broken in battle.

Figure 70 of 265: Complete

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Cold Wars 2014

Norman Dean It’s been a busy few months for things not gaming-related, but I am still alive. (And in fact, I have managed to get a certain amount of painting done—I hope to get a post on that done sometime before the end of the month…)

Anyway, Cold Wars report time! On account of my brother’s class schedule, he and I did not make it up to the convention until Saturday morning, by which time it appears that the parking situation is pretty dire. We do find a spot eventually, and head over to registration, where I am thankful that I have a game to run, as the line for gamemasters is basically nonexistent, whereas the line for general admission is a figurative mile long.

My game is not until 2:00, so I have a couple of hours to spare—not enough time to play much of anything, but plenty of time for Dad and I to look through the flea market and dealer’s area. The only thing that grabs my attention is a set of something called “CastleBlocks,” pretty much like the one shown here. Dad notices it as well, and after a little discussion we decide that we can probably find something to do with it, especially for just $10. (More on my plans for this later.)

Over in dealer’s hall, I pick up a box of Orion Cossacks, as I’d been thinking of restarting my “With Fire and Sword” project. Unfortunately, when I open them up later, I find that there has apparently been an error—despite the box art, it actually contains Orion Basmachi, and a number of the horse legs are broken. Fortunately, I was able to get back down to the dealer’s hall and get a refund before it closed for the day. So it appears the Cossacks will have to wait for another day.

Anyway, I head back up to our club’s room and set up my game—a Bronze Age battle, using my N.U.R.D. rules, basically a repeat of the one I ran at Historicon. A few people wander by and comment on the figures, which generally make a pretty favorable impression. I’m still not sure why I don’t see more 20mm plastic stuff being played at conventions. By 2:00 I have my six players all lined up, and we get started.

Everyone seems to catch on to the rules pretty quickly, and by the time the game ends the players seem to be handling most of it themselves, which I usually take to be a good sign. Now that I’ve run this a few times, I’m starting to contemplate a minor overhaul of the rules, but that’s a topic for another time.

As far as the battle itself, it ends up being a very tight Egyptian victory. The Hittite allied light chariots over on their right started by charging straight at the Sea Peoples mercenaries on the Egyptian left, who I think may have been a tougher target than they expected. The maryannu chariots did a fair amount of damage, especially to some of the lighter units on that side, but were unable to crack the elite Sea Peoples. (Presaging the historical end of the Bronze Age, perhaps…)

In the center, the Hittites fared somewhat better—the Hittite commander there managed to keep periodically pulling back and rallying his units, which left him with a fairly intact force by the late game, and probably helped him grind down the Egyptian chariots opposing him.

The Egyptian chariots fared much better on their right against the Hittite left—the Egyptian commander there kept his chariots together and used them to punch through several units of Hittite foot, while his own infantry did a somewhat better job of keeping the Hittite chariots tied up.

Table set up pre-battle

The Hittite players confer.

The young Pharaoh is advised by his commanders.

View from the Egyptian side.

Chariots advance.

View from the Hittite right.

After putting everything away, I had some time to stroll around and watch other games, and to find some dinner. (This was also about when I discovered the issue with the not-Cossacks.) William and I had signed up for a naval game in the evening, so we headed over there. We found the table all set up, but the allotted time came and went and there was no sign of the gamemaster or any other players. At last we decided to go see if any of the H.A.W.Ks needed spare players, and so it was that we found ourselves in the seedy 25th-century space bar aboard the Space Station Accipitor, the site of many a dastardly plot against Buck Rogers and innocent bystanders.

As the villainous Killer Kane, I had demanded a ransom for the release of Buck’s lady-friend Wilma Deering—except that Wilma had actually been kidnapped by my somewhat unstable compatriot Princess Ardalla. (Who had plans for winning Buck Rogers’ heart by bisecting the helpless Wilma with a ray-saw.) Anyway, for once everything went off without a hitch—the gullible good guys came right up and handed me the ransom money, then dashed off to rescue Wilma while I slipped away up the elevator. Even my Tigerman minions managed to escape unscathed—a vanishingly rare occurrence  in a game of Blood & Swash.

Princess Ardalla and her trussed-up captive.

Blue and Green Tieko-men don’t much care for each other…
Wilma narrowly avoids the ray-saw.

A Depth-man who tries to stop me gets zapped into smoky fish-sticks.
All in all, a fun convention, and I’m looking forward to doing more miniatures stuff in the near future. Hopefully I’ll be posting again soon with a painting rounds up and my plans for those “CastleBlocks”…

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War Horse IV Con Gaming Day

Chris Palmer Two Saturdays ago, a bunch of the HAWKs went up to War Horse Con, a gaming day hosted by Sam and Kathy Fuson at their place near Gettyburg, PA.  Sam invited a bunch of his friends over, and along with a crew from the HAWKs, we had a fun day of gaming.  This time we had four games in Sam’s spacious basement; in the morning Sam’s friend Ed Duffy ran a modern skirmish featuring US forces vs Terrorists using his own homegrown rules (unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of it), while in the next room, Dave Wood and Buck Surdu ran a Napoleonic game using “Fate of Battle” rules on a large “L” shaped table. This game was a scenario of the Battle of La Rotheire in February of 1814, and was a playtest of a game they were going to do at Cold Wars.

Buck and Dave setting up their Napoleonic game.
A shot of the French defenders on the right end of the line.

A look at the left wing of the battle

After a quick lunch break, we reconvened for the afternoon session.  Sam ran a fun Sherlock Holmes inspired GASLIGHT game that had some cool innovations in it; such as searching for, and finding “clues” that were either Scrabble tiles or puzzle pieces. The players then had to assemble the tiles into correct words or assemble the puzzle pieces to reveal messages written on the back.  This was his first time GM-ing a GASLIGHT game, and he did great.
    In the other room, Duncan Adams ran a WWI Look, Sarge, No Charts game.

Sherlock Holmes investigates the Castle door, while his associates wait nearby.  Meanwhile the gangsters in castle open fire.
An overview of the table.
The Baker Street Gang interrogates some of the locals.
The Villain makes his escape.

Here’s some shots of the WWI game.

Duncan’s WWI game.  German defenders dug in on the outskirts of a town.
An overview of the WWI battle
French forces advance towards the town at the top of the picture.

All in all it was a fun day of gaming, and I look forward to the next one!

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