Monday, 1 July 2019

Steel Fist Light Cavalry

Following on from the completed Steel Fist Gendarmes here are some photos of their recently released Italian Wars light cavalry, They are really useful figures and could be used to represent the lighter armoured "archers" that supported the French Gendarme Companies, Maximilian style light cavalrymen, English Demilancers, even Border Horse or Jinetes with some conversions and additions. It all depends on how you decide to paint and build them. The miniatures come open handed and with lots of different head options which adds to their versatility. I have used all of the different sallet wearing heads that the figures come with along with some other Steel Fist heads, some Perry Miniatures Plastic ones and one from the Warlord Games plastic Landsknecht. All of the dozen figures shown here have different headgear.

I try to be as versatile as possible with my collection so mine have been painted up as fairly generic spear armed light cavalry that can be used for all sorts of different armies depending on a simple flag change. I did toy with the idea of doing them as English mounted archers but I think I will see what Steel Fist make next before working out how to convert a unit of them. Those who have read the inane ramblings of this blog for a while may recall that Italian Wars light cavalry in various forms have been something I have focused on a few times with Jinetes, , Mounted Crossbowmen, and lighter armoured riders similar to these chaps,, all being figures I have converted in an attempt to get more accurate representations of them for the tabletop.

Steel Fist Early 16th Century Light Cavalry.

The Light Horse from behind.

What is great about these figures is how the armour styles and the long "base" coats really evoke the feel of the early 1500s. I have posted examples of contemporary artwork showing light cavalry before, have a look at the links above to the Mounted Crossbowmen and Lighter Armoured Cavalry for some period images that show how these horsemen would have looked. Of course I couldn't resist posting up some more examples of these "lighter" (some are still fairly heavily armoured!) cavalry. I feel the horsemen with the sallets and unbarded horses in the depicition of the Duke of Lorraine, below, are particularly close to these miniatures. The "Schweizerkrieg" image I have posted before but again if you have a close look at it the riders are all in sallets and are a good match to these figures. The third contemporary image is of a much lighter armoured rider, I have posted the more famous Dürer image of a rider in a sallet before but I thought it would be of more interest to post up an image seen less often. Any excuse to shoehorn another Dürer image into a blog post!

Early 16th Century depiction of Rene II Duke of Lorraine at the Battle of Nancy - Pierre de Blarru 

Detail from the Schweizerkrieg c.1500 depicting Armoured Horsemen

A light cavalryman 1502 - Albrecht Dürer, this chap is less armoured than the rider in the more famous 1498 Dürer picture.

Steel Fist Gendarmes and Light Cavalry combined.

The Gendarmes form the front rank with the Light Horse behind them.

Finally some of you may like to see how the light cavalry rank up with their wealthier comrades, the Gendarmes. I think the two sets of figures complement each other really well. I have swapped out the metal lances for wire spears on the lighter horsemen but it would be interesting to see how they worked if they were all armed with lances. In terms of matching with other manufacturers these are big figures that are larger than the Wargames Foundry, Eureka or Assault Group mounted figures for this era. They do match really well with the Perry Late Medieval Plastics, as demonstrated in the photos below, and this opens up the possibilty of some great potential conversions or part swapping between the different sets. I am keen to see what comes next from Steel Fist for the Italian Wars range.

The Light Horse mixed with Perry Miniatures plastic Late Medieval Cavalry.

The Light Cavalry mixed with converted Perry Miniatures plastic Men-at-Arms.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Command and Casualty Bases - Maximilian I and a flock of sheep

This blog has had some pretty awful post titles over the years, this could certainly be one of the top contenders! Over the past couple of weeks I have been working on a few bits and pieces that I have been meaning to get around to for ages. Some are figures left over from the great rebasing a few years back while others were odd figures I had been meaning to use or simply little ideas that I wanted to put into practice. The collection has also been in need of a few more casualty markers, specifically generic ones that could be used for anything from the Italian Wars through to the Gaelic Irish.

The first of these is a command base using the Warlord Games, formally Pro Gloria Miniatures, Maximilian I. This miniature was left unbased following the "Great Rebasing of 2015" as was the page figure by The Assault Group, to Maximilian's left shown below. The remaining Landsknecht are all Wargames Foundry figures and the helmet that the page is holding is a Steel Fist piece. The Maximilian figure is a great sculpt, and also a pretty good likeness to the aging Maximilian. I have included Dürer's characterful painting of the Holy Roman Emperor in his last year to show this. The style of harness he is wearing is also consistent with his age. When he was a young man the late 15th Century Gothic Style was the fashion, the harness he is depicted in here is in the 16th century style of his later years. This base could also simply be used to represent an older Landsknecht Captain.

Maximilian I and retinue. 

Dürer's portrait of Maximilian at the end of his life, the miniature shown above and below is a fairly good likeness.

Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, and his Landsknecht.

The next command base uses a captive figure made by Eureka Miniatures. I picked him up years ago and have been meaning to do a command base like this for ages. It is inspired by a base that Pete of Pete's Flags,, had in his old Italian Wars collection which had some Landsknecht and a Gendarme with a prisoner. Instead of Landsknecht I have gone for generic early 16th Century Infantry and a Captain in a Maximilian harness. The Captain is a Steel Fist Miniature and the soldiers are all Assault Group figures with head swaps. The Eureka figure has a minor conversion so that he is wearing shoes and hose rather than bare legged. As the flag is interchangeable this is a really useful base and could depict a French, Spanish, Scottish or English Captain from c.1500 up to the 1520s depending on the flag. In the images below the figures are shown as Frenchmen.

A French Captain in Maximilian harness interrogates and enemy captive.

The prisoner is brought before the captain.

Moving onto the casualty or artillery markers I have painted up another five really simple ones. Rather than depicting casualties they could all be used as markers for lots of different things. From left to right the chest, jug and barrel are most obviously of use as an artillery marker and the man with his head in his hands in despair is probably the closest to a casualty but the priests or friars and the dog could be used as markers for all sorts of stuff. I have found that in games when there are heavy casualties on a lot of units we can run out of suitable markers so these will be great as generic ones in such situations. As long as they are evocative of the period I think they can really add to the battlefield. In fact I would argue that the monks, friars or priests of the various religious orders that would have accompanied armies are underepresented on the table top so the ecclesiastical chaps should be really useful. I may do some more in the future.

A set of markers - these could be used for casualty markers or artillery markers.

The other casualty base is a little more specific, representing a man at arms receiving a new lance from his squire. This is an idea I pinched from a collection in an old article in Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy. I think it was the one that covered the Italian Wars and Pavia. We have a Wargames Foundry Gendarme receiving his lance from an Assault Group figure. As with the markers above while it may not depict an actual casualty it certainly shows the kind of thing that would be going on during an engagement. It's always great to have little details like this on the field. Maybe the squire himself should be mounted as well but for the sake of this base we will have to assume he has dismounted to help his master.

A Cavalry casualty marker - a page hands the Man at Arms a replacement lance.

Gendarme casualty marker.

Finally when I took part in the Stoke event at the Wargames Foundry last year I picked up a couple of packs of their sheep, and here they are on two bases to form a flock. Always useful for table dressing or as tokens in a particular scenario it's just getting round to painting them that is an issue. All the little details in these pieces should really help to add flavour to future wargames. I still have some more little bits and pieces that I want to do as well as revisiting some of my terrain but a few more units are on the workbench at the moment.

A flock of sheep from Wargames Foundry.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Mid 16th Century Armies - Imperialists and 1540s English

With the completion of the Mid 16th Century Landsknecht block at the start of this year, followed by the Steel Fist Gendarmes and a couple of command bases the 1540s side project is finished. Well for now at least! Of course in the tradition of this blog I couldn't resist setting up the entire 1540s collection and getting some photos. In the first set the figures are representing a Habsburg force of Charles V. It contains Lansknecht Pike and Shot, Gendarmes, Mounted Arquebusiers, Artillery and more generic Pike and Shot which I would use as Spanish or Italians in this army. I have little doubt that the Spanish and Italian infantry would have distinct styles of dress during this period but at least these figures are all in clearly Mid 16th Century armour and clothing.

This army would be suitable for the later Habsburg Valois Wars the scale of which had grown enormously by the middle of the century, with huge armies being raised by the French and Imperialists to fight in Italy and Northern Europe. Most of the figures would be fine for the campaigns up into the 1550s, the only caveat I would add is that in the Mid 1550s the "pluderhosen" started to be worn by the Landsknecht and their style and appearance changed radically very quickly. As the flags are interchangeable this army can be switched into a French one for this period. In fact the majority of the figures used to make it are from The Assault Group's excellent Valois French range.

Landsknecht Pike and Shot in the foreground with the Spanish Infantry beyond them.

The Spanish Infantry and the Imperialist Guns.

Imperialist Gendarmes.

Mid 16th Century Pike and Shot.

Another view of the Mid 16th Century Landsknecht.

Charles V's Imperialists 1530s-1540s.

Imperialist Mounted Arquebusiers.

Of course if the Imperialist army can be converted into a French one then they are going to need some opponents and who better than the 1540s English. It was the fact that The Assault Group made these Mid Tudor figures that got this side project started in the first place back in 2014: . Of course, as with many of my wargaming projects, the scale of this particular collection has slowly increased. I still need some Border Horse for this English Army, my other ones are too early for this collection, so maybe it isn't finished at all!

The English army shown below uses many of the same figures as the Imperialist one, such as the Gendarmes, Mounted Arquebusiers and Landsknecht. This was a period when Henry VIII was flush with cash from the Dissolution of the Monasteries and other Ecclesiastical sites in England and as such he could afford, briefly, to spend large amounts on foreign mercenaries to use in Scotland and  France. For the English use of Mounted Arquebusiers see my earlier post here: . The 1540s were also a decade that saw the English employing Irish Kern in their French and Scottish Campaigns, their raiding skills being particularly useful in the "small war" of longer campaigns. As such a unit of these is included in this particular set up.

Being largely made up of figures by The Assault Group, only the Gendarmes, Irish Kern and a few of the Landsknecht aren't by them, this collection has a slightly more uniform look from the earlier 1500-1520s stuff which is made up of a whole host of manufacturers. I felt that if a manufacturer was going to tackle 16th Century Armies that hadn't really been done in depth before I had to support them. I am of course keeping a close eye on what comes next for their Dutch Revolt range. Of course there is some cross over with my other collections. The Gendarmes would be fine for the Italian Wars in the 1520s and the 1540s English will make great opponents for my Gaelic Irish collection, yet another reason to get some more Border Horse on the go!

Henry VIII's Tudor Army - 1540s.

A 1540s Tudor Army with Irish Kern and Habsburg Landsknecht mercenaries.

Mercenary Mounted Arquebusiers and English Heavy Cavalry (English Heavy Horse were few in number but they were used in France and Scotland in the 1540s).

English Infantry 1540s, a mixture of Arquebusiers and Archers. The Arquebusiers may well be Italian or Spanish mercenaries.

An English Command group. These figures are all from The Assault Group Tudor range.

English Bow and Bill, note the Irish Kern at the top of the photo.

Tudor Infantry, 1540s. The officer carries a sword and "target" or large buckler.

A close up of the Landsknecht.

1540s Tudor Army.

Tudor Infantry of the 1540s.

The whole English Army.

 As a final note I thought some of you would be interested in my recent trip to Southern France where I was lucky enough to visit the Fortress of Salses. The fortress was built following the destruction by the French of the older castle and village guarding the border, this area being Spanish in the Fifteenth Century. It was designed by Ramiro Lopez, a Spanish Engineer, with work commencing in 1497. Whilst being constructed the fortress absorbed 20% of Ferdinand and Isabella's total income, so was enormously expensive. It managed to withstand a French siege in 1503 before it was even complete, although, after changing hands several times, it was finally captured and held by the French in 1642.

I am sure any of you who are interested in the development of fortifications will have heard of this particular fortress as it always makes it's way into books on the subject. In the 17th Century Henry de Campion, who took part in the French Campaigns in this area and recorded them in his memoires, wrote of Salses "Salses is built in the flat country of Roussillon, out of cannon shot from the mountains. In any case its ramparts are proof against artillery, for they are thirty six feet thick, and the parapets sixteen. At the four corners there are four towers of the same thickness, as well as a donjon or redoubt between two of these towers. The whole is countermined. The dry brick-revetted ditch is extremely wide and deep, and there is an excellent counterscarp. In short, as all-masonry fortresses go, I beleive it is the best in Europe."

Having visited many castles around Europe I don't think I have ever seen a 15th Century one so specifically designed to withstand artillery, although granted it was started in the very late 15th Century. The whole fortress squats low in a very wide and deep dry ditch so that very little of it would be exposed to artillery shot. It's squat position also means that it's own guns could have a clean field of fire, at ground level, over the surrounding area. The fortress has it's own spring which is cleverly used as a water system within the fort and cools certain areas and also forms pools in the towers which apparently absorbed lots of the gun smoke when the guns were fired! Inside there are underground stables to hold the garrison's horses and allow the garrison to take an offensive role and command the local area. There is a large barracks and a "cow shed", kitchen and dairy. There is even a bathhouse in there. The outworks are reached through underground tunnels which would protect the garrison moving to and from them.

I also had the pleasure of visiting the vertigo inducing Cathar Castles of Queribus, and Peyrepertuse , Whilst these were equally awe inspiring in their own right and had truly spectacular views, when compared to Salses it really brings home how much things did change during the late 15th to early 16th Century in terms of effective fortifications. After reading about somewhere like Salses for years it was a real treat to actually visit it and see the vast thick walls and the massive ditch with my own eyes.

Salse's Gatehouse.

A view from the glacis - note how little of the fortress is actually exposed to any shot from outside, the keep in the centre is the only part that really stands out, most of the walls being sunk deep into the dry ditch.

The courtyard of Salses.

One of the underground Stables. These were originally built with small Spanish "jinete" horses in mind.

A view from inside the ditch. The castle has it's own water system which flows through it. This helped to water the livestock held inside, it has it's own large stables and a "cow shed", as well as cool down the kitchen and dairy and remove the smoke from the towers when they were in action. 

These are fortified tunnels leading to one of the outworks.

One of the outworks within the dry ditch. Again not the watercourse from inside the fortress and the fortified tunnel leading to the outwork, this time covered with turf.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Mid 16th Century Command Bases

Amidst the recent battle reports I have had time to finish two more bases for my Mid 16th Century Collection. In fact with the completion of these command bases, the guns, the Steel Fist Gendarmes and the 1540s Landsknecht block this collection is really starting to come together. A full array of the 1540s army should be on its way soon. Of course I still want to add more, particularly some of The Assault Group mounted and dismounted border horse so that gaming the 1540s "Rough Wooing" becomes an option but for now this can wait.

The two bases are both made up of the excellent Valois and Tudor figures from The Assault Group, all be it with a few minor conversions. The dog on the mounted command base is from Steel Fist Miniatures. The flags are from Pete's excellent range of renaissance flags. The figures have a really great mid century feel about them. On the base of infantry I have given the main commander a simple baton and one of the guards (or is he possibly a noble volunteer?) a sword and buckler. This helps to add to the "ancient" style that much of the arms and armour seems to be harking back to in the 1530s-1560s. While the late 15th Century onwards is often labelled as the start of the Renaissance, with regard to the style of the arms and armour, it seems the Mid 16th Century was perhaps the time when the greatest attempt was made to echo the Greeks and Romans of Classical antiquity.

As always I have a few larger projects lined up but before diving into one of them I am going to take the time to sort out a few bits and pieces. More command and casualty bases, using figures that I always mean to paint but never get round to and maybe some more livestock and artillery.

Mid 16th Century Commander and Standard Bearer under a Hapsburg banner.

1540s Commander, the two riders are from The Assault Group while the dog is from Steel Fist Miniatures.

1540s commander and entourage.

Mid 16th Century Commander with baton under a Hapsburg banner.

The command group from the side, note the sword and buckler armed member of the retinue.