Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Northern European Castle

I know I have done a few posts of various castles/town walls recently but collecting and painting up these buildings quickly became a big side project over the summer. Building them is quite addictive as when I think I am finished I always find some other piece that I want to add. My last two fortification related posts showed Italian or Southern European style fortifications. The following pictures are of a more Northern European style. At a glance it probably looks like I have largely used the same pieces which is to an extent true. The large square and pentagonal towers have another outing as do the walls and towers with wooden hoardings, these are all really useful pieces. However the Keep, round towers, uncovered walls and Gatehouse are all different. I did a similar set up to this a few years ago using an old Citadel Mighty Fortress, , but I am sure you will agree swapping out the Games Workshop pieces and adding the resin Battleground pieces from Magister Militum really makes a big difference in terms of realism.
A big inspiration for this castle was the great artwork of the 1500s. Maximilian's Weisskunig has loads of dramatic battle scenes which more often than not feature fortifications. I included a few of these images in my original "Northern Fortress" post and indeed the Camisado Blog header is one of these images but I couldn't resist including a few more as they really help set the scene I am trying to create. I have also included a more realistic image by Albrecht Dürer of Innsbruck in 1495. I love the way various spires and towers jut out from these towns, they have an almost organic look to them. I am still on the look out for some buildings with spires to add to my collection so this is probably not the last you have seen of these walls!

Albrecht Durer's Innsbruck c.1495

Vicious melee from the Wiesskunig with a fortress in the background

Lansknechts assault a fortress in the Wiesskunig
One of the big problems I have when painting up these sets is what colour to go for? I want some of the pieces from the two sets, Southern and Northern style, to be interchangeable, which I am aware is probably already a compromise as the colours would undoubtedly have been very different. I think my favourite set of 28mm fortifications I have seen is Simon's beautifully converted Hudson and Allen pieces; and , these pieces look like they have come straight out of a 15th century manuscript! More recently these pieces by TM Terrain have also really impressed me; . The plastered walls are certainly authentic, and look fantastic, but I have not got the talent or time to plaster the pieces I have. Saying that the walls I used did have arrow slits in them which I thought was odd as they were only on one side of the walls and the walls are certainly not thick enough for some one to stand in them and still be of any use defensively so I filled these in.
In defence of the unplastered stone walls it seems many castle and town walls were often in a terrible state of repairs and would not have looked as spectacular or impressive as we may imagine. I am currently reading Jonathan Sumption's excellent epic narrative of the Hundred Years War (these are huge books but they are a joy to read) and it seems in the 1340s and 1350s many of the castles and walls of French towns were in a terrible state. For example in the Duchy of Aquitaine the walls of the town of Blaye were inspected in 1337 which "revealed rotting gateways, crumbling masonry, collapsing roofwork, trenches eroded by goats, moats non-existent or filled up with rubbish". Similarly when discussing the walled towns of the provinces of south-western France in the 1340s he describes how "Their walls usually dated from the twelfth century, the last period in which the region had suffered from persistent warfare. In most places the defences followed an irregular course around the circuit of the town, with sharp angles and blind corners. Gaps pierced for paths, chicken runs and houses were hastily blocked up with rubble. The watchman's view was liable to be obstructed by suburban buildings and vegetation, while access to the walls from within could be difficult and slow as the lanes were narrow and blocked by carts, animals and rubbish". While I am well aware that these examples are from a couple of hundred years before the period covered here I do feel they illustrate how easily the fortifications could fall into disrepair, that this was in the 14th century in fact demonstrates the point even more clearly of how walls and towers could be derelict or in need of repair by the 1500s! Certainly by the early 16th century fortifications were often a mix of towers or walls that were centuries old and in various states of repair combined with more modern and up to date additions and renovations. In times of danger suburbs were pulled down, moats cleared and walls patched up, but this would not always mean they looked very good. I have read how as gunpowder weapons came to dominate, crenellations and stone walls would be covered with bedding, sacking and other padded materials in an attempt to stop the lethal hail of shrapnel that could be showered on the defenders when cannon balls struck the stone or brick defences.
So here is the North European castle in its current state. The different crenellations on the walls and rounded Gatehouse, Keep and towers clearly take this out of Italy and more into Northern France, the Low Countries or Germany. The Gatehouse is an impressive, chunky piece of resin and looks suitably formidable. I particularly like the tiled rooves of the two round towers. In fact I am tempted to get tiled rooves scratch built for the Keep, Gatehouse and square towers as well. Please let me know if you have any recommendations or would be interesting in doing this for a suitable fee as I would love to have rooves made for the whole thing, it would really make it look the part. 
It's a relatively peaceful scene of some wagons and a guard of light horsemen arriving at an Imperialist Castle which is held by a garrison on Landsknechts. The garrison captains talk with the horsemen from the Gatehouse roof as they prepare to open the gates. The buildings inside are all scratchbuilt ones I bought off Ebay years ago. I think they go nicely inside the walls. The Keep is from Hudson and Allen, round towers, tall rooves, Gatehouse and walls are by Battleground and the hoarded towers and walls were off Ebay. Of course the tricky question now is how on earth do I convincingly model a moat?

The gatehouse in profile

Gatehouse from above

The Landsknecht garrison adress a troop of Imperial Light Horse

The horsemen outside the castle

Castle interior with the rear window of the gatehouse

The castle from the other side

A large round tower

A large round tower

The courtyard

Farming outside the castle walls

The complete castle

Monday, 1 September 2014

Ruvo 1503

 Following on from my post showing the Italian style fortifications I have been working on here they are representing part of an Italian walled town at the start of the 1500s. I am particularly keen on collecting the forces that took part in the War for Naples, 1499-1504, as I love the mix of late medieval and early renaissance clothing and armour from this era. I thought it would be interesting to set these up to represent the assault Gonzalo de Cordoba led on the town of Ruvo during this war in February 1503.
I would love to know more about this battle as it sounds fascinating but information seems rather scarce. Outnumbered by the French, under Louis d'Armagnac Duke of Nemours, in southern Italy, Gonzalo de Cordoba had retreated into Barletta while he awaited reinforcements. As his supplies dwindled Gonzalo took advantage of Nemours punitive action against the town of Castallaneta whose people had attempted to surrender the town to the Spanish, being incensed by the conduct of the French garrison imposed on them.
Learning of Nemours absence Gonzalo marched by night from Barletta to Ruvo. After a short cannonade he breached the walls of the town and two columns, one under himself and one under Diego Garcia de Paredes, assaulted the town. The French, under Jacques de La Palice put up stiff resistance, defending houses and streets, but they were eventually forced to surrender.
Around 800 of the French were taken prisoner, as well as La Palice and 150 of his knights. The Spanish also captured a large quantity of supplies, essential for them maintaining their foothold in Italy. Reinforced these troops would later march out of Barletta in April and defeat the French at Cerignola, where Nemours was killed.
The photos below show a Spanish storm party of rodeleros, arquebusiers and dismounted men at arms assaulting one of the breaches in Ruvo. I don't know what type of troops La Palice had under his command in the town but there were obviously gendarmes if he and 150 of his knights were captured. To represent this there are gendarmes who have had time to mount counterattacking on one side and some dismounted ones under La Palice leading an assault down the other street. The rest of the French defence is made of French and Italian crossbowmen with a few arquebusiers and small artillery pieces.
I think the resin pieces make quite a convincing little town, well a corner of one! I could probably do with a few more town buildings but I imagine everyone thinks that when they try and do these kind of set ups. I like the breached wall section, its a very handy piece. At some point I would like to do a really big siege scene with the heavy artillery behind gabions and earthworks on one side and a fortified town on the other. I have my Tudor Archers to continue working on for now.

The Spanish pour through the breach

The Spanish assault

Spanish Rodeleros and Arquebusiers lead the assault

French Gendarmes and Crossbowmen attempt to stop the attack

Fighting on the Ramparts

The Spanish Pikemen support the storm party 
French defenders on the walls

The Gendarnes charge the attackers down the streets

The French defenders rally using wagons as barricades

The Spanish attackers

French crossbowmen in a lofty tower

Another tower defended by the French

Jacques de La Palice attempts to rally his forces

The Spanish storm in against the hastily made French barricade

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Imperialist Pike

After what seems an eternity, in fact 3 months, I have finally finished The Assault Group Pikemen I started work on in May. They are fantastic figures, my favourite out of the Tudor range the Assault Group have done. They are also the most versatile as they are not in the mid Tudor Uniforms like the Billmen and Arquebusiers I have already completed. For this reason I have not painted the red cross of St George on them but have left them as generic pike. At a pinch these figures could be used from around 1535 up to the 1570s, and could represent Italian, English, Spanish or French troops. With an eye to what The Assault Group have on the way in terms of the French mid 16th Century stuff these could be the start of a collection that will represent the later Hapsburg Valois wars, the fighting in Northern France and Italy that Blaise de Monluc was so involved in. I could also see them being great for the Siege of Malta in 1565 or the Venetians defending Cyprus in 1571. It's an era that, apart from Redoubt Enterprises a long time ago, no one has really done figures for in 28mm so its great to see these.
For some reason I have this idea that as the 16th century wore on the colours become more muted and the troops less flamboyant. As Landsknechts were still very much on the scene I am not really sure where I got this from but I do know that black was the fashionable colour of the European nobility at this time. As a result of this you will notice these chaps are a bit more toned down in colour than the other 1540s figures I have done. I feel this will help them to fit more easily into the 1560s and 1570s. This also lets their harnesses stand out more and TAG have done a fantastic job on the armour. The arm straps, ties on the pauldrons and buckles are all clearly sculpted as is the detailing of the armour itself. The ridges and lines on some of the harnesses are brilliantly done. I would love to see the sculptor who did these do some full Maximilian suits for the earlier 16th century. I have included a picture below of 4 of the pikemen to show closely how detailed the sculpting on the armour is.
The pictures below show the Pike as Imperialists under a simple Hapsburg Saltire and then as Tudor troops with an English flag. You will also notice that an old Redoubt Enterprises figure has snuck into the TAG ranks as the Ensign. The range he is from is pretty old now and a bit hit and miss to be honest but there are a few gems in it and this figure is one of them. He is quite large but fits in well as the Imperial ensign brandishing a pistol which at this time was still a very new weapon. I have removed the St Georges Cross from the Tudor drummer and added on old wargames foundry buckler to one of the Tudor officers to create a more generic command group which is shown below, although the ensign in the English uniform is obviously specifically English.
I now have the English Archers to complete, I have only done one so far, with another 31 plus command to do. I am keen to see what the whole group, Archers, Pike, Arquesbusiers and Billmen, look like as a whole when completed though. I am hoping the mix of some in Tudor Uniform Coats and others in their own versions of these or just in their armour will create a more realistic look than all of them being in the white and red uniforms.

Imperial Pike, mid 16th century

Tudor Pikemen, 1540s

Redoubt Enterprises Ensign

Detail of the pikemens harnesses

Tudor Command Figures, 1540s, by The Assault Group

Monday, 14 July 2014

An Italian Castle

I blame impulse buying at Salute 2014 for this post. I have had quite a few pieces from Magister Militum's Battleground scenery range in my collection for ages, they regulary make appearances in my posts in the background. When I was looking around Salute this year some more of their towers immediately caught my eye and I fell for the dreaded impulse buy! It also meant I had to carry some very heavy blocks of resin home on the tube.
Once I had these this slowly led me onto the net and I picked up a really tall tower from them and a couple more of their Italian style walls so I had enough to make a complete castle. The Battleground stuff is quite old now, perhaps a bit rough and ready, but I like it. I think it gives a really good feel for the period when combined with the figures. The walls and towers are made of that kind of resin that needs to be washed in detergent and then have a few coats of paint as it resists the paint sticking, it's definitely better to use big art style bottles of acrylic and mix up the colours rather than to try and use regular miniatures paints on them. I don't think the models are bad value either, the really tall tower in the first picture below is £30 and it is really tall! It could easily be used as a stand alone fortification for the Border Reivers or Tudor wars in Ireland.
Once I had picked up these pieces I had a look online for other suitable stuff and picked up the Spanish Villa and Tower from Grand Manner as they had a sale on. Their stuff is beautifully made and detailed, there is interior detail in both the buildings I bought. It is expensive though. I don't think I would have bought from them unless they had had the sale on.
Below is the resulting castle made from these new pieces along with my older stuff, some buildings from Hovels and a couple of towers, the ones with the hoardings on top, from Ebay. I am really pleased with the result, although I am aware it probably would have been better to have the castle walls in a different colour from the buildings inside and that I should have differentiated between the brickwork and plaster. The towers do look like giant blocks of cheese when on their own but I like the effect of it all together. The castle is made of quite a mish mash of manufacturers so painting all the buildings and walls the same colour brings it together but also keeps that feeling that bits have been built at different stages which is common in most medieval fortifications.
So below are some pictures of a relatively peaceful scene. The garrison of a Venetian castle prepare to escort some wagons to their destination. A final sack is loaded onto the wagon as they ready to set off under the eyes of the garrison commander and castles priest. The first couple of photos show the tall tower from Magister Militum.

The Tall Tower with the Venetian Flag on the top

Another view of the Tall Tower from above.

Mounted Arquebusiers prepare to accompany the wagons.

The photo below gives a clear picture of the tower from Grand Manners Spanish Napoleonic range. I am very impressed with this piece, there is a bell tower extension that goes with it that I am tempted to pick up in the future so I haven't glued the roof onto it yet. To the left of this is a pentagonal tower from Magister Militum, its a great piece, especially if you want to angle the walls from it rather than having them continue straight or turn at a right angle. Its also a very heavy piece of resin and would be lethal if thrown from any real castle walls itself!

The Pentagonal Tower and Italian style tower behind.

Loading the wagon with the Italian Tower to the left.

The final pictures of the castle courtyard show the Grand Manner Spanish Villa from a few angles, again it's a very detailed piece with internal details and lift off rooves. Although its shown here as part of the castle it makes an great stand alone item of scenery. I have also taken some photos of the pieces being used to show part of an Italian town in a slighty more battle ready scene which I will post up soon.

Courtyard of the castle with a good view of the villa from Grand Manner.

Another Courtyard shot from above.

The villa from Grand Manner being used as the internal buildings of the castle.

The Italian Tower and Pentaganol Tower from above.

Vines being tended to outside the castle walls.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Papal Men-at-Arms and the Liebster Award

A rather strange title to this post I have to admit, but I wanted to do a response to the Liebster Award I have very kindly been nominated for by Hendrid over at ALBAtwo Warblog and Jonas M at A Conflict of Interests . I was also nominated a few years back by Stuart at Army Royal, but didn't realise at the time I was meant to nominate fellow bloggers for the award! There seem to be a variety of rules concerning the Liebster, often working around the number 11, but I am going to follow Jonas's example and just follow the bits I like.

Before I get to that though, this being a blog focusing on the 16th Century I never like to post anything without some sort of 1500s relevance so here are a few pictures of all my early gendarmes or Men-at-Arms combined. The group is a combination of the old Wargames Foundry Figures I have recently been working on, riding horses by The Assault Group, combined with the Spanish and Italian Cavalry from The Assault Groups Neopolitan range. One Eureka Miniatures standard bearer has also snuck into the ranks. The banners, as always, are from Pete's great renaissance range of cloth flags, apart from one which is from Freezywater. They are for troops in the service of the Warrior Pope, Julius II, who ruled from 1503 to 1513. I think the different manufacturers work really well together and also capture that feeling of professional condottieri. They are not overly flamboyant and some are in older styles of harness which seem to still have been in use in the early 1500s. In fact the Gothic suits in evidence here were the height of fashion in 1490-1495 anyway.

Papal Cavalry of Pope Julius II

Papal Men-at-Arms

Papal Men-at-Arms under banners of Pope Julius II

With regard to the Liebster Award I gather the etiquette is to nominate blogs with under 200 followers. I am going to go with 5 nominations.  Pete's flags have helped make my collection, and even shaped the way it has developed. My armies can now march under beautifully hand painted designs I could only previously have dreamed of and his research is painstaking as well. A fantastic blog! Chris is a superb miniature painter and he has the same love of the late medieval/early renaissance period as me. It was also Chris who I nicked the idea of swapping the Old Glory Swiss heads with Perry ones from for my Reisläufer. Miguel's blog has been around for years now and his renaissance armies are spectacular. The conversion work on the stuff he is doing for the Fall of Granada is beautiful and I cannot wait to see his completed 28mm renaissance galley. I have found Jim's articles on Duchess Marie's War fascinated, something I always wanted to know about but could find very little info on. Well written and very informative. I have to admit I love the Oldhammer or 80s Warhammer blogs. This was the stuff that obsessed me as a geeky teenager and Lee's collection of old warhammer figures is just astounding, I never knew so many Slann could exist in one collection!

Hendrid has asked 11 questions which I will have a go at answering:

1. What got you into wargaming?
Unfortunately I am not sure I was ever really free of the bug. As a kid I would set up airfix figures and play games with them. I remember my dad taking me to the local model shop where I would buy a box of airfix or Italeri 1/72 figures. In fact I still love this site today: . Then along came Heroquest, followed by Blood Bowl, then Warhammer, then 40K. The GW bug finally lifted when I was around 16 but the miniature painting and collecting could never be stopped!
2. What's your favourite wargaming period/genre? 
Historical - 15th and 16th century Europe, if this blog doesn't give that away!
3. What's the last book you've read and finished?
The Soldier in Later Medieval England, Adrian R. Bell, Anne Curry, Andy King, and David Simpkin, it's fascinating.
4. Who is your favourite miniature sculptor?
With the Citadel heritage, the amazing historical stuff they have done and the fact they are also 15th century reenanctors it has to be the Perrys.
5. If you were sentenced to death by firing squad, who would you want staked out next to you and why?
Definitely Magneto.
6. What has been you most unforgettable wargaming moment?
A game of Rogue Trader many years ago when my friend spent his entire points on an orbital barrage that his 2 figures on the table then failed to successfully call up.
7. Who would you like to write your epitaph and why?
8. What's your most proud of model and why?
Probably this one, Richard III's standard bearer by Front Rank, Sir Percival Thirlwall. He was killed with Richard, allegedly still holding the standard with both his legs gone! I painted him and the flag when I was about 21 and was so proud of it. I sold it on ebay a year ago.

Sir Percival Thirlwall

9. If you could have your own flag what would be on it?
No idea, but perhaps a Wars of the Roses style standard like the one above with beer bottles and pizzas as the livery badges.
10. Why is a Raven like a writing Desk?
I haven't the slightest idea.
11. If you were a character from Lord of the Rings, who would you be and why?
My diminutive stature and rather large feet has often lead to me being called Bilbo, Frodo or simply Hobbit on too many occasions so I think I will draw a veil over this one, haha.

A big thank you for my nominations. I hope to have my Mid-Sixteenth Century pikemen ready in a few weeks for my next post.