Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Well, I reached my goal of having painted 10,000 figures by Jan. 1 2010, and now have a small Early German army with which to challenge my Celts and Romans. (One of the warbands is pictured above).

The actual total now stands at 10,006 figures finished. While I'm happy to have achieved the goal, I won't be setting any similar targets in the near future. It became just a little too much of a high pressure race near the end.

I do still have lots of painting to do, but I'll proceed at a more leaisurely pace from here. Also, I want to devote some of my free time to battles and maybe even some campaigns.

I'll have to see what 2010 can bring.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Unit of Russian Streltsi Done

I was hoping to get three of these done before the end of the year, but with the (mostly) gloomy days now closing in fast, I doubt I will accomplish that - which means my Russian army from the early 1600s won't be ready in time to fight a campaign against my Swedes as my first "event" of 2010.

These pics don't show the lace on the front of their coats - lots of fiddly detail on these guys, which is why I need good light for painting. I'm using blue, black and white as the main colors for these guys as it gives kind of "icy" look, which goes well with the cold climte they often fought in - especially against the Swedes.

(With these guys done, the count is now 9,930 painted - only 70 more figures to do to reach the 10,000!)

As far as the history behind the unit is concerned......

The streltsi were created by Ivan “The Terrible” in 1550, and were Muscovy’s first standing army. They first saw combat at the Seige of Kazan in 1552.

Initially, they were only 3,000 strong, but grew in numbers and proved themselves effective on the battlefield, quickly becoming an elite force. At their peak, they were the backbone of the Russian armies that fought the Poles, Swedes and Turks, amongst others. As time passed however, they became more concerned with their prestige and influence than military prowess, and by the late 1600s, did not perform well in combat.

Streltsi regiments were divided into companies (sotnia) of 100 and desyatki of 10, with a regiment (prikaz prior to 1681 and later polk) varying in size from 600 to 1,000 men strong, at least in the 1670s. The regiments were named after their colonel (“Chief of prikazi”), and colonels and officers of higher rank had to be nobles, appointed by the government.

(My units will comprise 45 figures, which, using a scale of 1 figure = 20 real men, gives a regimental strength of 900 men, which fits nicely.)

They wore no armour except helmets, while their issued clothing was semi-uniform from an early stage, with regiments wearing different colours, including red, blue and green. Their name meant “musketeer”, and they were armed with the flintlock musket, which remained in use until the end of the 17th century, when it was phased out. They also carried a sabre, and an axe with a crescent blade (bardiche) which also served as a rest for the musket.

In addition to their participation in military operations, streltsi performed general guard duty, and also carried out general police and fire-brigade functions.

The streltsi became a very conservative body, and soon drew the contempt of Tsar Peter “the Great”, who used their attempted revolt in 1698 to massively reduce their numbers and power. By 1710, they barely existed as a force within the Russian army.

Although they existed for over 150 years their appearance did not change greatly for most of that time. They wore a traditional costume of a heavy kaftan-coat with lacing on the chest, plus a fur-trimmed cap and long boots. Over the left shoulder they had a leather belt (berendeyka) which supported the small wooden containers full of powder, plus another powder flask on the right hip. Finally they also had a bullet bag and spare match cord. The officers would be more finely attired, as you might expect.

Between these guys and all the Russian horsemen I've painted up this year, I'm looking forward to seeing how they perform on the battle field - when they finally do make it there!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ugh - So Slow!

Gradually making progress with my painting, but it's going very slowly.

Currently, 9,880 done, with 45 Russians (streltsi - the first of three such units I want for my 1600s Russian army) just needing finishing touches. I was hoping to do that today, but with such a gloomy day, there wasn't enough light, even right up at the window, to see what I was doing.

If we can get a few more days like Saturday, I might be able to finish my Russian army. If the days are gloomy like today though, I'll probably concentrate on my remaining Celts, and other barbarian nations. (Not so much fine detail required with them!)

Either way, I think I can make 10,000 in time for 2010!

Whether I start the New Year with a Celtic-themed campaign or a 1600s era Russia Vs Sweden will depend on what I finish the year painting.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Some Progress Over The Weekend!

My Celtic village is growing with the addition of two food storage sheds, one of which is slightly raised off the ground, although it doesn't show so much in the picture because the legs of the horses are in the way. The scene depicts two Celtic warriors leaving home for war and being waved goodbye by the lady of the house (who is standing in the doorway of the house if you're having trouble finding her).

Also, my Russian army of the 1600s now has a Sons of Boyars unit. These were formed by Ivan III (1462-1505), and as far as I can tell served as part of the army until Peter "The Great" reorganized the Russian army more along European lines during the Great Northern War (against Sweden) around 1705-ish.

It's a mad rush to get my Russians finished before the end of the year so I can start 2010 with a Sweden Vs Russia campaign from the early 1600s - "The Time of Troubles" which led to the Romanov family providing the Tsar (which they did until the 1917 Revolution).

Painted figure count now creeps over 9,870 - also pushing towards 10,000 before 2010! Just have to keep the momentum going!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Celtic House

A Celtic couple (far right) welcome the visit of a visiting noblewoman, her armed escort and an accompanying druid to their round house.

I've discovered buildings by a company named Hovels, available through Michigan Toy Soldier, that can provide domestic settings for several of my armies. Once I've finished a small Celtic village (over the winter months) I hope to start on a Japanese village (for my Japanese Civil War figures to fight over) and they also have a middle eastern range that could be suitable for either my New Kingdom Egyptians or possibly even Arabs.

My early Russian village is also progressing well too.

Still plenty of unpainted soldiers waiting to be done too of course! Don't think I will ever catch up.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I HAVE been busy - honest!

Despite the lack of posts recently, I have been busy. (Computer problems have been part of the problem).

I've got several projects "half finished". Especially my second (Republican era) Roman army, a couple of Russian armies (different periods) and the Ottoman Turks.

Hopefully I'll get some of them finally done before too much longer and can put some new pics up!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Collectors' Show Pics - Post 2 of 2

A couple of close-ups. Unfortunately I didn't think to take pics of the town, or the forest. I was too preoccupied with the castle (and my brain was still on vacation!)

The top picture is of my Russian general with his bodyguard outside the castle wall. The bottom pic shows the town militia, again outside the main gate, with the general behind urging them on.

On the walls you can just see a couple of archers hiding behind the parapets, and of course, the local ruler and sergeant of the gate in the tower above the gate watching goings-on.

Pics from the Collectors Show - Post 1 of 2

Everything went real well. We had a steady stream of people coming through all evening, so while the hall was never over-crowded, we still had a pretty decent turnout. There were 38 collectors with various items - last year, the number was around 32.

These first couple of pics (one from each end of the table) are of my overall display. The pics would have looked better if I could have taken out the background stuff (especially the trash can). I got a couple of really good close-ups though, which will be in the next post.
The top pic is taken from the village end, looking towards the castle, while the bottom pic is from behind the castle walls.

This is part of my early Russian army, prior to the Mongol Conquest. Oh, and in case you are wondering (one visitor did ask) I didn't do a "back wall" for the castle as I was trying to create an image of "depth". There would have been a town behind this wall, and the back wall further back, off the table).

(I've had a request - from one of the other collectors - for an early Polish army for next year, which will provide the excuse I need to get stuck into the Polish Winged Hussars I have waiting to be painted and also the rest of my Ottoman Turks and Russians, both of whom fought the Poles! He said the terrain in Poland is very similar to Wisconsin, so maybe I will have to visit up there to get some ideas for scenic layout.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Last Minute Panic Before the Show

Just a little over 24 hours until show time.

I won't be doing a full scale siege as I didn't make as much progress as I had hoped with the equipment an attacking army would use, and when I started packing the major bits I did finish, it was pretty clear they wouldn't fare too well under the rigors of travel (even for just a short distance). Given I won't have long for set up and take down, I can't afford to be spending a lot of time on repairs, so I'm just going with the sturdier stuff.

I will still have a pretty cool looking castle scene, with the defenders hurrying to prepare for the arrival of an approaching enemy army.

I threw myself into a mini-panic Saturday when I realised that all my hills have a nice "grassy green" surface totally unsuitable for the steppes of Russia. I was tempted to change the scene to a 100 Years War battle between England and France, but I'm going to stick with Russia - if all I'm missing is a couple of hills, it won't be too bad.

I hope to see you at the show Monday evening!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Preparing for Monday's Collector's Show (Post #2)

The inner keep (with the king looking over proceedings from his battlements) and some other shots.
My medieval Russians will be defending the castle, and most early Russian towns and cities were built alongside a river, with rivers playing at least as big a role as roads in the transportation system. (My understanding is that rivers were used more than roads, but I stand to be corrected by someone more knowledgable. Certainly, the early Rus often transported their armies by boat, only disembarking for combat when they were near the scene of the attack).

The river was therefore a vital part of life, and a hub of commercial activity. In the third and fourth pictures, local peasants load their carts with goods from a riverboat docked at the town's jetty. (I LOVE the two houses in this picture - the easiest kitsets I've ever assembled and they look GREAT! I'll be getting a lot more of them for the future. Two different houses in the one kit, so it's very easy to make up a small village, and they fit for any European period from Medieval to late 1800s. I think they would also be okay for American rural settings too up to late 1800s).
I've moved the houses inside the castle for the last picture, which shows what I have built so far. To say I'm real happy with the way the castle is turning out would be an understatement.
Monday's final design will depend on how much table space they give me (the castle is modular, so I can easily change it around) but after the show I'm going to keep working on this and building it into a big "long term" display in my spare bedroom.
I hope you can make it to the show. (See the previous post for details).

Preparing For Monday's Collector's Show (Post #1)

Next Monday is the Wells County Historical Society's Collector's Show and once again (our second year) my soldiers and I will be making an appearance.

If I can get it finished, I'm going to show a siege of a medieval castle. Unfortnuately, while I thought of the idea almosta full year ago, I only started work on it last Sunday. Luckily, this is my week of vacation, so I am making some progress.
As you can see from the photos, I've been working on the castle.
I haven't settled on the full final design yet. A lot will depend on what I actually get finished. But this will give you some idea of what you will see at the show.
The three pics with this post focus on the gate house, which is the entry point to the castle, at least from this direction. The sergeant-of-the-gate (standing with one hand raised) will ask anyone approaching the gate to stop and explain their reason for entry, and maybe his assistant will search them. On the walls are archers ready to shoot anyone who tries to force their way in, and above the gate, two figures operate a pot of boiling oil, which they may also pour down on anyone trying to force entry - the burns inflicted when the oil touched skin usually killed! (Yes, two of the archers on the walls are women!)

Don't forget, if you are near Bluffton, Indiana between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Monday, we'll be at the elementary school on East Spring Street. Last year there were well over 30 different collectors with all sorts of hobbies, and this year should be similar. So even if your family members aren't into toy soldiers, they might be interested in some of the other displays.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ottoman Heavy Cavalry Finished (finally!)

It took me longer than I expected, but I finally finished the heavy cavalry portion of my Ottoman Turkish army over the weekend. A very colorful bunch indeed, and will make a sharp contrast to their Austrian, Polish, Russian and Swedish foes.
It's kind of hard to see in the photo, but the front rank has their lances down, charging home.

I still have light cavalry and infantrymen to do, so this is only about 25% of the full army.

I still have to get on to building my castle. Only about a month to go now to the Historical Society's Collector's Show. Definitely the wrong time for me to drop into slow motion mode!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Ottoman Turkish Army Grows!

My Ottoman Turkish army grew from just the three command figures (see previous post) to almost 30 figures over the weekend as I (almost) finished 24 sipahi. (As you can see in the second photo, I still have to finish their bases!)

These were the Ottoman equivalent of the medieval knight, although they didn't wear all the heavy armor - in the Turkish climate, that would have been pretty much intolerable. They all wore their own colored costumes, and there were a lot of bright colors among them, so this should end up being one of my more colorful armies.

Sipahi were a part of the Ottoman armies from the early 1300s through to the 1800s. Looking at the weapons the infantry figures I have waiting to be painted though, I think my finished army will be most suitable for maybe 1400s to 1600s period, around the time of the introduction of gunpowder to the battle field.

That will work perfectly for me, as (when I have painted all the figures) I will also have Russian, Swedish, Polish and Austrian armies from the same period, and they all fought each other historically.
Next weekend I'm planning to paint some more sipahi, and then I will start work on the infantry soldiers - the janissaries - who provided the firepower for the army.

The final army should have about 150-200 figures.

Monday, July 6, 2009

First Ottoman Turks Painted Up

Yes, I SHOULD be concentrating on building my castle for the collector's show, but once again I find myself distracted!

I was in the mood to paint horses again so I made a start on my Ottoman Turks. The Ottomans ruled Turkey from around 1299 to 1918, and my army will be from the earliest period, possibly usable up to around 1700 (although I haven't done all the reasearch yet, so that might be a little optimistic).

These are just the command figures - standard bearer on the left, the agha of sipahis in the center, and a cavalry drummer on the right. (Once again, I still have some tidying up to do on the figures).

It should be a really colorful army when it is finished. I'm finding it difficult to research and plan though - each different unit seemed to have a vastly different organizational structure, which is really weird. I'm used to eastern armies being totally decimal (units of 10, 100, 1000 etc), which makes it all easy to figure.

Such apparent randomness is very unusual, so I must be missing something!

Anyway, my Mongols, Arabs, Teutonic Knights and early Russians are all very eager to get a piece of these guys, so there is certainly not going to be any shortage of fights for them to get stuck into.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

100 Years War Mounted Knights

When I was doing them I wasn't sure about the color scheme, but they turned out okay.  They should look great amongst a large medieval army, all with different color combos.  

Want to finish(?) my longbow men this weekend then make a fresh start on an early period Ottoman Turkish army in July.  Probably about 250 figures in that (50 horsemen and the rest on foot) which should take me close to 10,000 figures in total. 

Also looking to start a campaign in July which you can follow on this site.     

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Arab General

The new commanding general for my Arab Conquest army, both alone and with some of his friends.  (I just "finished" him over the weekend.)

The camera picked up a couple of minor painting errors that I couldn't see with my naked eye, so it seems I still have a little touching up to do, but finally my Arabs have a general of their own.  (I had been using a spare Mongol figure previously, and I'm sure he will be happy to go home to his own people.)    

This was a little bit of a distraction, as I'm supposed to be working on my medieval knights at the moment.  Just felt like painting a horse or two over the weekend though, so I got him done, and also most of the work on some more mounted knights.  (Hopefully they will be finished mid-week and the photo will be ready for posting towards the end of the week.) 

Lots of longbow men still to do, and of course, the castle (plus catapults, and a battering ram that needs finishing!)

I want to get started on my Ottoman Turks in July - something will have to give!

Carthaginian Elephants

Some Carthaginian elephants trudge along the route looking for a guy named Hannibal and some Alps to cross.
These elephants were a different and smaller (and also now extinct) breed to the modern day African elephant.  They were driven by Numidian (black tribesmen) while the lighter-skinned Carthaginians (who were originally descended from the Phoenicians) provided the soldiers who rode in the tower on the elephant's back. 

Hannibal of Carthage took a bunch of these animals across the Alps into Italy when he started the Second Punic War, but they didn't survive long, and weren't replaced. (Carthage was located in Northern Africa, across the bay from modern day Tunis.)

Note the differences between these and the Indian elephants of a previous post.      

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Early Medieval Gun - still under construction!

No, I haven't been lazy - just overworked! Too much crazy hours at my day job at the moment.

This model isn't finished yet. It should have only taken one day to build but due to all the crazy hours we are working (even when I'm not at work, I'm tired!), I'm into my second week working with it. There are still a couple of men to be attached, and also extras such as spare cannonballs, buckets etc. I'll probably put one or maybe even two of my spare wagons with it too.

The idea is that this will be the centre-piece of my attacking army for the castle siege I am planning for the Collector's Show in August (if I can get the whole thing finished in time!) It is an early medieval heavy gun, shown from:

1: the front ground view, just showing the barrel of the gun between the wooden shield (designed to protect the crew from enemy fire) and the ground.

2: the front view, slightly higher up, so you can see some of the men working with it.

3: the side view which shows what is behind the shields. The two guys down in the pits are controlling a rope, use to lower the front-center shield when the gun isn't firing, and raise it when it is ready to fire. The rope pieces didn't come with the model so I had to unweave a piece of string and use two of the strands for the ropes. If you get up real close to the model you can see they are only glued onto the back, rather than hooked through a hole in the top of the shield.

I also had a lot of trouble getting the two guys carrying the bag on a stick hooked up right, and again if you get up real close, you can see their stick is bent, and one of them doesn't really have it cleanly in his hands. I was a little annoyed with that, as a very similar grouping that was part of my Japanese Civil War collection fit together perfectly.

Those are just minor niggles though. Overall I'm pretty happy with the way it is turning out. Just have to find time to finish the thing!

What I'm really hoping to be able to do is start a medieval campaign in the first week of July, with the commentary on this site, so you can get an idea of what goes in to the battles behind the scenes. All going well, and IF the timing works out right, the campaign should lead up to a siege just in time for the Collector's Show, and it will all fit into a nice little story line that comes to life here in Bluffton on the night!

(Collector's Show now only just over two months away, and I haven't even started building my castle, much less the other houses I want as part of the display! Then, of course, there is the czmpaign to start up, and all the paperwork that will entail. Aaaarrrrrgggghhhhh!)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Teutonic Knights - Grand Master and Bretheren Knights

The Teutonic Knights were one of the religious orders formed during the crusades, by a group of Germans serving in the Holy Land.

After the defeat of the western nations during the crusades, they eventually set up base in the region which eventually grew into the Kingdom of Prussia. Although they seem to have started off with reasonably good intentions, as time went by they followed the path of most of the other religious fighting orders of the day and became more a band of armed thugs throwing their weight around and trying to build their own little empire, than the "upholders of Christianity" they were supposed to be.

The knights were pretty much dealt to on July 10, 1410 at Tannenburg by an Eastern European alliance, and although the order continued, they had lost their power. The knights themselves were never great in number, with only about 350 kinghts at their peak. But they owned vast lands, and hired those out to tennant knights, who then fought for their cause.
Their "black cross on a white background" was the forerunner of the German "Iron Cross" during World War II, and indeed, when the Germans fought the Russians at Tannenburg in WWII, many Germans looked on the battle as "revenge for 1410!".

In the photos above, the Teutonic Grand Master leads some of his Bretheren Knights onto the attack. When I first painted up my Grand Master I was really pleased with the way he turned out, although now, comparing him against my Russian and Mongol generals, he looks very ordinary.

A funny story about this lot. When I first had them ready for battle, I had a system of "chance events" in my wargames rules, which called for "unusual" things (out of left field, that COULD happen, but you wouldn't expect it). Basically on each turn I rolled two dice, and if a "double" came up, one unit (decided by another dice throw) then performed one of a number of actions (again decided by another dice throw).

In each of their first three battles, my Teutonic Knights managed to find a cellar full of alcohol in a nearby town/farm house and stopped fighting to go on a drinking binge! They didn't just do it ONCE - they did it THREE times, which really pushed the laws of probability.

Needless to say I was not impressed! They have improved, but not yet to the point that they are my star performers. We'll see if they can do any better next time out!

Monday, May 25, 2009

An Extra Since I Haven't Posted in a Couple of Days!

I would never field all these troops at once, but behold my Achaemenid Persian army!

Or at least as much as the camera lens would fit! (The table was two feet wide and four feet long and it was packed solid!)

The Persians themselves are in the center with their mercenaries and subject nations troops out towards the flanks (including some of the Indian elephants that I did an earlier post on!) I get to pick and choose who fights depending on the era and the opponent.

Nearly 500 figures in this lot. It's not my biggest army though. I have 641 Napoleonic French, with about 200 infantry still to do! Total figures painted has now topped 9,500 - still hoping for 10,000 before Jan. 1, 2010.

Alexander "The Great" Rides Again?

I was hoping to have some French 100 Years' War infantry finished by the end of the weekend, but at 4 p.m. Monday and I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen. I'm a little over 2/3 way done.

Hopefully I can finish them next weekend. I like the way they are turning out, and I'm sure once they get in amongst my English, it will look very colorful!

In the meantime, a photo from last year of some of my Macedonians from around the era of Alexander "The Great" and his conquest of Persia (around 330BC), although they can really be used for any of the Successor armies after Alexander's death also.

The general on the white horse in front is actually designed using a painting of Alexander, and is supposed to represent him (and could if I was doing an historical refight), but once the army is finished I will be creating my own Macedonian commander for him to represent. The figures following the general are his Companion cavalry, which formed his bodyguard, and usually deployed on the right hand flank of the army. The infantry in the center would push forward and try to open a gap in the enemy line, and the cavalry would rush forward and exploit the opening.

Still got a way to go with my infantry figures though. I'm planning on working on them (and hopefully finishing them off so this army is ready for use next year) in September.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Elephants In Battle

Many ancient Asian and even African nations used elephants in battle, with the most famous usage being Hannibal of Carthage when he crossed the Alps into Rome in 218BC, starting the Second Punic War.

The inhabitants of Carthage (just across the bay from modern day Tunis) where the descendants of the Phoenicians, and were often referred to as the "Phoeni", as distinguished from the other races that inhabited North Africa at the time, and it is from that term that the "Punic" Wars derived. Hannibal's elephants were from Africa, but they were a smaller species than the African elephant we know today. They apparently became extinct not long after Hannibal's era - possibly due to their use (and losses) on the battle field.

The elephants pictured above are actually Indian elephants, specifically designed for use in the era of the Persian and Greek Wars. After Alexander "The Great" conquered Persia and started using Indian elephants, his successors tended to put more heavy armor on the animals for further protection. Indian leaders were still using elephants in battle in the 1700s when the British and French fought for control of India, but most other nations had stopped using them by Julius Caesar's era.

(Caesar actually took some elephants, driven by dark-skinned African natives with him when he invaded Britain in 54BC. The Celts, who had never before seen either elephants or such dark skinned humans, believed them to be devils).

While they look intimidating, elephants aren't really that dangerous (to a clever enemy) in battle. They are very easily frightened, and ancient generals were very conscious of the risk they would be chased back onto their own troops, causing more damage to their friends than their enemies.

The big "edge" elephants have, however, (and yes, my wargames rules cater for this) is their smell!

Horses are terrified of it, and become much more difficult for their riders to control when they catch wind of it. So if you have elephants, and you are facing an army that has lots of horses in it, you should try to put your elephants in their way.

If you are really observant, you may niotice a painting error in the photo. (I didn't pick it up when I painted the figures, but it stood out like a sore thumb when I took the photo). When I first painted the drivers of the two elephants on the left, I forgot to paint their beards!

I have since corrected the mistake - I just need to update the photo.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Video Action - The French Attack!

This video gives an impression of what it would have looked like to be a French knight charging the English position.   

I tried to use the zoom on the lens to simulate the forward movement, but it stopped just short of the English position.  Maybe you have to assume that is the point when the knight got shot down by the English longbow men!  

Although the experiment didn't quite work perfectly, it does look as though I can use the video camera to give a close up view of what it was like to be fighting in these ancient wars though, so I'm really excited about what I can do when I start shooting some video of my battles with just a little more practice!

French Knights of the 100 Years War

The cornerstone of French armies of the 100 Years War was the mounted knight.

Mounted on his sturdy warhorse, well protected with his armor (and early on, also a shield) the knight was an intimidating foe to face as he charged at you, and when a large army of several thousand knights assembled, standing in their way wasn't usually a good idea.

The French of this era were also very class-oriented, which bought an unhealthy amount of snobbery to their battlefield tactics. The knights were generally of noble birth - peasants simply couldn't afford a horse, much less armor and quality weapons.

Their "elitism" demanded that they occupy the first line of battle, with the "lesser" ranks of society forming up behind, and following up to clean up any remaining resistance.

Against armies that were intimidated by the sight of the knights, this worked well. But the English longbow men proved equal to the challenge.

Their arrows were able to penetrate the French armor, and the inability of the French to alter their tactics to counter the power of this weapon meant that in battle after battle, thousands of French nobles died pointlessly in stupid frontal attacks, when perhaps a more considered approach, and better use of the "less noble" archers and infantrymen, might have yielded a result.

English Longbow men

The longbow proved to be the dominant weapon throughout the 100 Years War and its effectiveness helped the English defeat much larger French armies at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt, as well as numerous other battles.

As much as 80 percent of an English army of this period could have been longbow men, although without support from more heavily-armed men-at-arms and cavalry, they were vulnerable if an enemy could get up close. They didn't carry a shield, and like most archers (whose role was more that of skirmishing than heavy combat duty), wore little or no armor.

French armies of this period usually consisted mainly of heavily armored knights on horseback. The longbow men therefore frequently dug wooden stakes into the ground immediately in front of their position. The stakes were tilted, pointing upward towards the stomach of any approaching horse, giving the longbow men similar defensive power against the initial approach of the French knights to a man armed with a long spear or pike.

As the French approached, the longbow men would fire a constant stream of arrows, bringing down as many men and horses as they could.

Even if the French did breach the English lines, discipline amongst the knights often prevented them from taking advantage. More than one battle saw the French snatch defeat from almost certain victory because rather than stick around and finish off the English infantry, they continued on to loot the English camp at the rear of the position. This allowed the English time to regroup, deal with isolated pockets of Frenchmen who did stick around to fight, and then counter-attack.

Monday, May 18, 2009

English Hundred Years War Army

This has been my latest project, with the last of the figures in this photo just finished over the weekend just gone. It isn't my full English army by any means, but it is the "core" of the army.

From the time of William of Normandy's conquest of England in 1066, the kings of England maintained lands in what is today regarded as France, and through conquest and political marriage, they acquired even more territory.

In 1338 King Edward III decided to take things a step further, and pressed his claim to the title of King of France. The following year he led an army into France, beginning what became to be known as the 100 Years War. Probably the best known personality from this war for most "non-military" people is Joan of Arc, however she played only a very minor role 1428-1430. From a military stand-point, the power of the English longbow, which delivered decisive victories against great numerical odds to the English at Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415), and the political feuding between the Burgundians and the Armagnac ruling family in France which broke out in 1417 were far more significant.

By 1435 the Burgundians had rejoined the French camp, and together they began to drive the English off the continent. By 1454, only Calais remained in English hands, and English attention turned to the "War of the Roses" btween the rival houses of Lancaster and York for the throne of England.

Pictured above is a typical English army, with longbow men in front, protected by stakes to deter enemy horses from approaching too close. Behind the longbow men are two units of men-at-arms, who provided the "muscle" when the enemy did get close enough to go toe-to-toe. At the rear are the mounted knights, waiting for their chance to counter-attack the weakened enemy after the foot soldiers have driven them off.

Over the next day or two I will post some closer up photos of each group, and also a video which I hope you will enjoy.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Some Early Picts - from Scotland!

The Picts were one of the older peoples of Scotland, dating to pre-Roman times, but remained a real headache for the English (and Romans) up until 839AD. In that year, while putting down a rebellion by the Scotti (who gave their name to Scotland) under their king, Alpin, when a large army of Norsemen (Viking) came up on their rear, and pretty much destroyed the Pictish army, killing their king Eoghann.

The Picts ruled the north, east and most of central Scotland. Originally they were a coastal people, but as they mixed with other cultures, they assimilated into the general population.

Unfortunately, they left no written language, so not a lot is known about them for certain, although some artwork etc has been discovered. They appear to have been a very cultured people, despite the Roman portrayals of them as wild savages intent on destroying the Roman province in Britain.

Their line of descendancy was through the female line rather than the male.

I'm not quite artistic enough to get complicated tartan-style colors on the cloaks, or the blue body-paint that the warriors used to decorate themselves with for battle. So they're not quite as colorful as their real-life counterparts.

Like most Celtic peoples, they fought in loose formations, so even though their warbands might contain large numbers of troops, they are not much good in a hard toe-to-toe dust-up. They are better in wooded or hilly areas, where it is hard for disciplined troops (such as the Roman legions) to keep their formation, and where they might be able to "divide and conquer" their enemy through a series of ambushes.

The pics show, from top:

1: Pictish queen "hyping up" her men folk by showing them the severed head of a recently killed enemy. (The guy in the white shirt standing in front of her is the driver of the chariot!)

2: Pictish warriors waiting to start fighting.

3: Pictish crossbowmen looking for someone to shoot at.

Throughout the coming week I'll be putting up pics of the English 100 Years War figures I've been painting over the past month or so, and hopefully also, some video!!!! (The video looks okay on the camera - its justa matter of what it will look like on the computer!)

Fingers crossed! (I'm REALLY hoping the video turns out well as this will be great for showing battles on the site!)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Meet Prince Vasiliev Nikolaivitch - (Post Mongol Conquest Rus)

The early Rus were effectively first cousins of the Vikings, and their armies reflected this, being mainly infantry, who travelled by rivers and other inland waterays by boat to reach their destination, then disembarked to ravage the countryside and fight whatever battles needed to be fought.

As trade took place with the Arab nations to the south, and then especially after the Mongol invasions and conquest that began around 1230AD, Rus armies began to use the horse more frequently. By the time the Mongol Empire declined to the point it lost control of the Rus lands, Rus armies were often all, or at least mostly, horsemen.

This Later Rus army I only started building earlier this year, and it hasn't actually fought yet. Its initial commander will be Prince Vasiliev Nikolaivitch, who actually strikes quite an impressive pose! (I was REALLY pleased with the way he came out after being painted!)

My Later Rus army can in fact be used to provide key elements of Russian armies from 1,450AD (when the Rus broke free from the Mongol Empire) through to 1,710 (when Peter "The Great" reformed the army) although from the early 1600s on, the cavalry will only be a portion of the army, as the famous/notorious streltsi units (which I haven't yet painted up) became a force at that time.

Oh, one final note. These generals I have in charge of my armies are fictional characters, but named and given personalities very much in line with their historical counterparts. For each of my personality figures I have created a family, as well as individual personalities etc which will affect the way they lead their armies in battle. As younger members of their families come of age, I might allocate them junior roles within the army, or diplomatic tasks within a particular campaign, all of which allows me to study the nation a little more thoroughly than just from a military stand point.

And when I get campaigns going of course, the family goings-on can create an interesting backdrop to the military action! When I start writing about my battles you will start seeing this come through!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Meet Amorges of Persia (and some notes about Persian chariots)

Amorges (top photo) is the Commanding General of my Achaemenid Persian army, which some of you may have seen on display at either last year's Wells County Historical Society Collectors' Show in August, or at the county museum during December.

The Achaemenid Dynasty essentially built the Persian Empire, emerging as vassals of the Medes at the time of the breakup of the Assyrian Empire between 625-609BC, and then winning their independence from the Medes in 552BC, under King Cyrus II ("The Great"). The Achaemenid Persian Empire lasted until Alexander "The Great" conquered it in his campaign of 334-331BC.

From a military standpoint, the Empire began to decline following the unsuccessful invasion of Greece in 480-479BC. This invasion was "highlighted" by the battles of Thermopylae (which was the theme behind the movie "300") and Plataea, which effectively destroyed the Persian invasion plans.

I'm going to throw this next bit of background in, as westerners tend to overlook it, just focussing on the Persian invasion of Greece, and casting the Persians simply as the "bad guys". (The Persians after all were the ancestors of the Iranians, who aren't exactly "flavor of the month" these days politically in the west.)

In fact, the first real act of the Greek/Persian Wars occurred in 498 when the Athenians sent troops to help Greek settlements in the Persian province of Ionia revolt, and embarked on a particularly destructive rampage. The unsuccessful (or perhaps simply aborted, depending on your sympathies) Persian expedition against Athens in 490BC was an initial reprisal for this action, with the full scale invasion mentioned above becoming the "repayment" in the light of this failure.

If, therfore, you look at the Greek action of 498BC as an olden day 9/11, then perhaps the Persians weren't quite so unjustified in seeking retribution with their subsequent invasion attempts?

The Persians used heavy chariots, pulled by four horses, in two ways. They could be a mobile command post for their King (or his appointed general), which Amorges is doing in the top photo, or as an early version of today's "suicide bomber". The chariots had sharp scythes extending from the wheels, and also the horses harnesses, which you can see better in the second photo.

They would line a group of chariots up in a line opposite the most densely packed formation in the enemy army, and then just charge at top speed. If the enemy soldiers avoided being trampled by the horses, then they were cut to pieces by the scythes. When the impact occurred of course, it was pretty devastating for the chariot (and horses and men also, and unless the driver jumped off before the point of impact - which wasn't exactly the safest thing to do either - he would probably be killed in the collision, in the same way you would be if you drove a car into a brick wall.)

The chariot charge would be followed up by either horsemen or foot soldiers, who would then use the chaos caused by the crash to catch the enemy troops unprepared for another fight. They can do a lot of damage if you use them correctly, but you only get one shot with them!

Cyrus II is reputed to have fielded as many of 300 chariots in one of his battles. They were not taken on the invasions of Greece, as they required flat open ground on which they could build up speed during the charge, and Greece is very hilly. Also the space they occupied on either a boat, or even in an army marching over land was considerable.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Meet Makbai Khan - The Leader Of My Mongols

Makbai Khan (center, on the white horse) and his general staff survey the scene as they prepare for another campaign!

Prior to 1204AD the Mongols were a disparate band of nomadic clans, and spent too much time warring amongst each other to be a real threat to their neighbors. In that year however, a young warrior named Temujin defeated the last of his rivals to unify the nation and become "Great Khan" . Temujin is perhaps better known today as Genghis Khan.

Mongol armies were highly organized, on a decimal basis, and mostly mounted on horses, which meant they could travel long distances in rapid periods of time. At its peak, the Mongol army consisted of 40 tumen (a "group" of 10,000 men). Each tumen comprised 10 minghan (1,000 men each) made up of 10 jagun (100 men) made up of 10 arbun (10 men).

Each year, representatives of each of the Mongol clans would gather at the annual kuriltai (sort of like an annual general meeting if you like) and the Great Khan would assign campaigns and other tasks for the coming year.

Makbai Khan is really hoping that the Great Khan will ask him to lead his forces against the Rus (who occupied the land now known as Russia) at the next kuriltai. That is still a few months away yet though, so we will see how that turns out then.

Welcome To My World!

Welcome to my (new) Web site dedicated to my collection of toy soldiers.

At the time of writing, I currently have 9,550 figures painted from a variety of periods back as far as New Kingdom Egypt, through to American Civil War. Most are plastic, all about an inch tall, and all painted by me. I'm the first to admit I'm not as good as some of the real artists whose work adorns the various magazines dedicated to the hobby, but I can do a good enough job to make me happy, and that's the most important bit!

(The above photo gives a good idea of the size - all figures pictured are from around the time of Alexander the Great - from left to right, a Greek Hoplite, an Indian elephant, and Alexander himself!)

When time permits I fight battles with them, using rules that I have written.

As this site becomes more established, you will get to meet some of my key figures, (hopefully) learn a little about the history behind the armies they belong to, and join in the fun as they embark on the various campaigns that I have in mind for them.

Who needs a television set for entertainment when you can ride alongside Napoleon at Austerlitz, or Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great they conquer Asia?

I hope you enjoy the site!