Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Further Test Games (1490 – 1515)

To explore conflicts outside the Italian peninsula I began with the Spanish invasion of Portugal. This will be followed by a number of nations bordering the Baltic Sea, such as Poland, Livonia, Lithuania, Muscovy. This should be interesting.

The Portuguese vs. the Spanish

Fast and furious can best describe the six matches. The Portuguese infantry are all classed as ‘fast’ (3Pk + 3Bd + Ps) which gave them an edge, whereas the Spanish were mindful of their pike block of four elements. Both sides ended their tests scoring three victories each.

Later Polish (IV/66) vs. Livonia (Teutonic Order IV/30)

Wooded landscape did not deter the Sword Brothers from trouncing the Polish in the opening game (4 – 2). The Polish countered enveloping both Livonian flanks earning a 4 – 0 victory. Livonia bounced back to winning game three, however, the best is yet to come. Bizarre can best describe game four as the Polish Hetman fell in turn two. Most of the Polish units were engaged leaving a column of Hungarian horse archers to fall on an exposed Livonian flank initiating a chain reaction to include the death of the Livonian Landmeister and the collapse of the entire army (5 – 2). The town militia (8Cb) were exchanged for war waggons in the last two games. The WWg earned their keep by supporting a third and fourth win for the Later Polish. In retrospect all were great games.

Muscovy (IV/44b) vs. Finland (Swedish list IV/54d)

The Swedes held an advantageous position between two woods leaving only half their army exposed. Muscovy failed to lure the Swedish out of their position and seeing their indecision the Swedes moved their archers forward to disrupt their formation. Taking advantage of the chaos, the Leidang closed on the Boyars to scatter the Muscovites (4 – 1). The Muscovites came close to winning game three with well-coordinated attacks by boyar and tartar horse archers, but this was not to be. The Muscovites lost all six test games mainly to cavalry lines falling in disarray by archers leaving surviving boyar to confront Leidang blade.

Tudor English (IV/83a) vs. Scots Common (IV/16)

Like Flodden Field both commanders dismounted, leaving the Border pickers the only mounted unit for these tests. Simulating Landsknecht pike tactics, the Scots handily won the opening test (5 – 1). However, a second win was not to be as the English blade fell on an open flank of a pike column to tip the scales in their favour (4 – 3). In the following test, the Scots held favourable terrain however, it also offered the English an opportunity to chip away at the pike blocks of the Scots earning a 5 – 1 victory. Game four was long and tenacious, both commanders locked in personal combat, however the deafening yells and shrill of Highland bagpipes signalled the defeat of the English left flank earning the Scots another victory (5 – 4). The next game is better described as a brawl than a battle, the Scots won a narrow victory (4 – 3) again through the effort of the Highland rabble. The final game was nearly a repeat of game four, long and tenacious struggles with both sides incurring even losses. An unlucky pike column sealed the fate of the Scots and England held the field with a 5 – 3 victory.


Of the three tests, the army of Ivan the Mis-understood was disappointing. Their composition is not unlike the early Byzantine which have proved successful in the past. Yet in contrast, the Swedes, well supported by their archers, were not averse to taking the battle to the Muscovites. The test games between the Scots and English were a nice surprise. All games were close with the artillery of both sides doing excellent work.  

After the completion of eight test matches of six games each there are not many more left to do. Between matches, I had time to rebase a few figures to make sword and buckler men, fast pikes and jinetes for the Spanish and Portuguese. After the final test matches, I can determine which armies I would focus on. This will mean some repainting to correct livery and of course adding flags.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Revisiting the Renaissance (1490 – 1515)

To asses which armies to focus on I decided to test a number of historical pairings that were involved in the Italian Wars, principally, the French Ordonnance, the Medieval German and the Italian Condotta. Standard size armies were used in the test but the primary goal is to build double size armies. 

Six games were played with each pairing as this would generate enough variation in deployment, terrain and combat opportunities. This generated some surprising results.

French Ordonnance vs. Italian Condotta
All six games were quick lasting an average of three or four turns (25 min.). Both sides made use of their mounted arm and artillery to score three victories. There were a few games where infantry played more that a support role and launched their own assaults. Doing so, they frequently prohibited the artillery to be fully employed. Condotta crossbowmen were 4Cb and not DBE in these tests. 

French Ordonnance vs. Medieval German
Surprisingly most were one sided games, the French scored five devastating victories. The last two games, the German swapped their 3Bd for a knight to help their mounted force. This produced a better match in game five forcing the French to earn their victory. The German sole win caught the French Ordonnance in an imperfect deployment. The lack lustre performance of the Germans might change by doubling their command size. 

Medieval German vs. Italian Condotta
The Imperial side won the first match followed by three defeats including the loss of a general in game four. The combination of Condotta artillery and crossbow played havoc with the Imperialist shredding their pike block. Game five, the Imperialist, amassing all their cavalry in one division surprised the Condotta to squeak by with a narrow victory. To repeat their success, the Imperial troops used the same deployment, but the Condotta countered this by neutralising Imperial support troops with artillery and crossbow leaving the Italian mounted to win a decisive victory. One the whole, matches required double the amount of time (50 min.) to reach a decision. 

After 18 games, I paused for a day and searched the internet for other conflicts set in the years 1490 to 1515. This next match was very interesting. 

Kalmar Union vs. Swedish
Like the French and the Condotta, these were brisk and fun games. Both sides had equal number of mounted troops (three elements), but infantry compositions had slight differences to make each game interesting. The Danes had artillery, pike, spear and fast blade to meet the blade and crossbow of the Swedes. Tight games with many troops locked in combat for several bounds with the victor edging the opponent out by one.

Further testing will continue with Poland, Lithuania, Muscovy, Livonia in the east and Portugal and Spain in the west. Certainly after another week of test I should have a better idea of which armies I should focus on and paint up flags. 

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Refurbishing the Late Medieval collection (new project).

Back in 2012 I began actively collecting a number of high medieval or renaissance armies and those postings can be found by clicking on the Index scrolling down to the year 1400. Unfortunately, DBA 2.0 and 2.2 did not work well leading to a collapse in interest for the period. The collection was subsequently sold as many other ancient armies.

Playtesting DBA 3 three years later did rekindle my interest for the ancient period, but less so for the later medieval era. Introduced to the Witcher series of books, that opinion changed as I could visualise doing the campaigns between Nilfgaard and the Northern Kingdoms. Pursuing the idea further I bought figures for the period, developed a set of campaign rules, designed maps and playtested. Unfortunately club members had not a clue what the Witcher was about, so the project was shelved. 

Two examples, Redania

Having completed the refurbishment of the Arab armies and further the conversion of the Colonial Sudanese more Muslim armies I began looking at other possible projects within the collection.

It was during this time I had viewed a 10-part presentation of the Italian Wars on the internet. This was interesting as all the participants in the war I could assemble from the dormant collection. Looking at the clothing colours, all were generic and could pass for any Western European army. Excluding the elves and dwarves I had 155 elements to play with, but now a decision had to be made, which armies? 

Next post, the solution.  

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

The Tuareg 1000 AD

The Tuareg are the latest addition to the collection of Muslim armies and like the others this also of double size (24 elements). Camelry and infantry are conversions from the collection of Colonial Sudanese and the ansar provide the majority of figures with a small number of Fuzzy to represent Iklan skirmishers (negro serfs).

The DBA 3.0 army list for the Tuareg (III/70) has been revised such that a larger number of mountain tribesmen (3Wb) can be fielded in larger numbers as an option to an all mounted force.  This worked well as I could stretch the number of camel mounted figures to build two commands.

In addition to the usual filing and repositioning of weapons all the figures required veils. These were made with Milliput as were the saddle cloths and tassels for the noble lancers. Two such elements were done for the Almoravid and are pictured below. Photo one displays the effort so far and the next step is to fix the figures to plinths.

At the time of writing, all the figures are painted, but shields are needed for all the infantry figures and these will be made with Milliput. Check the link to view examples of Tuareg shields.

A few test shields were made laying each shield flat to be shaped and scored on non-stick paper. I will need about 30 shields. 


The shields took longer than expected as many needed trimming to reduce their size. These were given to the hill tribesmen that fought with the Tuareg and both commands consist of an equal number of camel mounted and tribesmen. The additional elements represent the slave troops that fought along side the camel warriors.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

North Africa and Sicily (9th – 11th century)

Next on my list of conversions are the North African and Sicilian Muslim army. Like the Andalusian and Almoravid armies, figures for the North African are conversions of the Colonial Sudanese and for the most part this will require repositioning of weapons, new paint and rebasing.

You can see an overview of the figures in photo number one; these will cover all the options for army list III/33. The Sudanese ‘ansar’ figures all lack shields and a recent order on Donnington with their great selection of shield types will rectify this.

After an hour and a half you can see in the second photo the result of figures separated from their old bases, cleaned and bagged. Figures such as the generals, their bodyguard and lancers, will be worked on first as these have shields and can be later rebased.

Aside from repositioning their lances, all the cavalry horses have their tails shortened to allow better placement on their new bases. These should take a few days to paint and rebase, then I can move on to batch number two, the Berber light horse.  

Photo one  

Photo two  

Photo three


Shields arrived recently and completion of the Muslim North African collection moved into high gear. Painting the infantry in varied colours was helped with the use of a guide showing the alternating pattern between tunic and turban. The light horse followed a similar pattern.

Painting guide

Photo front

Photo back  

What remains of the former Colonial Sudanese army is being parcelled out into future medieval Muslim armies, but more on that at a later date.  

Sunday, 7 June 2020

A Disputed Succession (1027 AD).

Following the death of the old Duke of Normandy, Richard III, Robert I ascension to the throne of Normandy (1027) was contested by his younger brother Richard suggesting their father had not died by natural means. Failing an amicable resolution, both sides rallied their forces and met on the fields near Argentan. Augmented by cavalry from Brittany, Robert had a slight advantage in mounted troops to face Richard’s greater number and better-quality infantry supported by a large number of archers.

The field, less than ideal, offered barely enough ground for Robert to deploy his force in two contingents. Richard had less problem and could extend his line to overlap that of Robert and as a cautionary move placed a reserve formation of milites behind the centre contingent.

Perplexed by his brother’s idleness (low pips), Richard sent his left-wing infantry to seize the woods and threaten Robert’s right. Taking possession of the wood, Richard’s archers showered Robert’s knights with arrows. Stung into action Robert moved his battle line forward.

The advance was not without mishap as Robert’s harassed line of milites were struck by a well-timed charge by Richard’s knights gaining an advantage.

Demonstrating more skill, Robert launched a series of charges placing Richard’s knights off balance while denying them room to manoeuvre. It was not long before Richard discovered all his troops were now committed.

The general melee that followed became so desperate only the cry of “Robert, Duke of Normandy’ could acknowledge friend from foe. 

The battle ended with a third of Richard’s army dead or wounded and Richard’s subsequent capture meant the ascension of Robert to the throne would no longer be contested. Offered a monastic life, which was refused, Richard accepted exile to Italy.  

Game resolved in five turns with a score of 4 – 1.

Robert’s Forces
1 x General (3Kn), 6 x Milites (3Kn), 2 x Breton (Cv), 2 x spearmen (Sp), 1 x archers (3Bw).

Richard’s Forces
1 x General (3Kn), 6 x Milites (3Kn), 2 x swordsmen (4Bd), 2 x archers (3Bw), 1 x javelinmen (Ps).

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Islamic Berber (III/75)

I began refurbishing the collection of Muslim armies by first reducing the ten to four double sized collections. The two months work produced the Tulunid, the Fatamid, the Bedouin Dynastic and lastly, the Abbasid (here).

The latter included four elements of Zanj which were converted Colonial Sudanese. The ease with which the conversion was done prompted me to convert more to build a Zanj army (here). From the first photo on that page you have an idea as to the quantity Colonial Sudanese that remain.

The creativity moved to full steam as more colonial Sudanese were culled to begin work on the next army, the Andalusians. It took about a week to paint the figures and banners, but photos of the completed army will have to wait as they lack shields. These should arrive this week from Donnington.

Keeping the momentum, I selected more colonial figures to build the another collection, the Islamic Berber or Almoravid. These past weeks I have been converting and painting the ‘veiled ones’. Conversion included freeing weapons that were held across torsos or head and repositioning them. In addition, Milliput was used for the veils of all the figures, saddlecloths and decorative trappings for horses and camels.

Painting the Almoravid has reached its final stage. All figures have dark blue or indigo turban and veils and include the clothing for the majority. Others are painted beige or cream colour to represent the number of vassals included in the Almoravid armies. Banners will be dark coloured, most likely dark blue to bring uniformity to the army.  

15 – 06 – 2020

The Almoravid are of similar strength; two commands strong, but have minor differences between the two. All have blue turbans and veils with blue robed figures representing the core group of Sanhaja mixed with the off white of vassal tribes, such as the Guddala and Massufa. A speculative decision on my part, but the other colours do break up an otherwise a sea of blue.

As mentioned earlier, excepting the archers (Essex), all figures have been salvaged from the large Colonial Sudan war army, principally the Ansar infantry, cavalry and camelry. Milliput was used to enlarge the saddle cloths, add veils and wool trappings for the camelry. Shields were supplied from Donnington and they have a fine range of North African and Spanish types.

My experience with Milliput has improved over the past year with the construction of buildings, camps and the odd fur cap. This video by Marco Frisoni very helpful bringing my skill level up a notch, “How To Use Milliput To Fix Everything”