Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Maximus the Usurper

On an open plain near the Drava River in Pannonia, Theodosius planned to end the usurpation of Magnus Maximus. Maximus had other ideas and with loyal units from the west, he enrolled the aid of Rugian mercenaries to meet Theodosius and his reconstituted eastern army that now included Goths, Huns and Alans.  

The battlefield.

The road to Poetovium, flanked by rain sodden fields and woods offers a relatively open plain. 


Maximus deployed the majority of his cavalry on the right intending to envelop the enemy line while his centre and left would hold the enemy at bay. The battle opened with the Rugian mercenaries positioned on the left.

Theodosius seeing the overwhelming number of cavalry facing his left, decided to send his light horse to delay their approach, the main assault would take place in the centre.  To support the infantry, Theodosius positioned the clibanarii on their right with orders to keep pace with the infantry line.

The infantry lines clashed and the legions of Maximus gained the initial advantage. Elsewhere, the cavalry of Maximus had a difficult time of dispersing the enemy light horse, despite their superiority of number.

Driving the Imperial centre further back, the legions of Maximus were confronted by a second line with the Imperial banner among their ranks. Theodosius moved his second line forward to meet the enemy legions. On the Imperial right, the clibanarii destroyed the Rugian mercenaries. Maximus’ fate was sealed as Imperial archers put to flight a unit of auxilia and were now facing Maximus and his guard. It was time to leave..

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Tropical foliage

During the period of making terrain mats, terrain pieces that were not up to the new standard were disposed of. The new terrain items fit better in their boxes which means fewer boxes are pulled out for a game; a big plus. 

The tropical scenic posed a challenge; these were very large pieces filled with palm trees and undergrowth, nice looking but impossible for troops to move through. Rather than toss these into the bin, I salvaged the palm trees and undergrowth, pictured below.

The palm trees have no vegetation fixed to their base so these can be used for either tropical or desert games. During my excavation, I found plastic Christmas wreaths purchased 15 years ago, and one with leafy ferns proved suitable for tropical foliage.

Using a general-purpose glue, two fern pieces were tied together with string to make each tree. Tightly winding the string will create a trunk. Let this dry longer than usual as the curvature of the branches will offer some tension.

Clip with scissors and glue the pair to a suitable base. An ‘A’ frame support was constructed to hold the trees upright while bonding. 

Spread Milliput around the base to disguise the trunk, this will also add weight and further secure the tree to its base. Paint the trunk and base to taste and spray with a mat varnish.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

The final terrain mat

Three terrain mats (160cm x 80cm) are now complete, one sea, an arid and one for Mediterranean lands. Work on temperate terrain mat will begin next week; its use should cater to all the conflicts north of the Alps. Ground colour and grass flocking will differ from the Mediterranean and the first step is to do a test on an old unused DBA size board. 

I painted white the underside, as this will negate any possible curling, followed by a day later, the top. Next, an earth colour was mixed using Burnt Sienna and Green with a touch of black. From the photo you will note the test sheet displaying before and after adding black. 

A day later, I sponged a darker shade to simulate undulating ground. This step required the use of two sponges; one rough, to apply the paint, the other, a feathered sponge to soften the edges.

Next, spray diluted white glue over most of the surface and sprinkle grass flocking, Busch 7114, autumn shade. Let this thoroughly dry before tapping the excess off.

 Spray diluted white glue over the entire surface and sprinkle with a darker shade of grass. I used Busch 7111, labelled May Green. 

Tapping the excess grass off displays the final result. 

I would recommend a coat of diluted white glue to seal the work, but then the movement of troops and tumbling dice would expose more earth which might be realistic.


Update 05-01-2022

The large Temperate mat is complete as are the terrain pieces to be used with this. Photo one illustrates the ground colour, Burnt Sienna and Black were mix, later Green was added to reach an earth colour. The large mat had an undercoat of white which made painting easier. When dry, the mottled effect was applied using a feathered sponge and diluted Burnt Sienna and Black. The lighter areas are the result of rigorous action with sponge technique.

Application of grass was done in two stages; stage one used a colour grass of a darker shade, followed three hours later with a lighter shade. The following morning, excess grass was tapped off revealing the final result.

I am pleased with the large game mat and the terrain pieces. Finishing ahead of schedule has earned a few days to relax before travelling this weekend.


Thursday, 30 December 2021

Taifa of Cueta

The Hammadid meet the Almoravid

The breakup of the Caliphate of Cordoba in the early 11th centuryb had local governors forming independent entities, that would be known as Taifas. Their number would nearly reach thirty, but many smaller realms would later bend the knee to the eventual eleven strongest on the Iberian peninsula. Taifa independence did not last long as Al Andalus would become later unified under Almoravid rule. Across the strait in North Africa, the Taifa of Cueta, would be the first to encounter the rising power of the Almoravid. 

The forces

The year is 1062, governor of Ceuta, Buluggin ibn Muhammad, assembled an army to meet Yusuf ibn Tashufinin and his Almoravid host near the hilly region to the east of Fes. The North African Muslim list is to be used for the Army of Ceuta and the Islamic Berber for the Almoravid replacing the Tuareg camel rider for Ghuzz horse archers.  


Using the standard game

A thin line, bristling with spears, formed the army of Cueta. In support, the majority of cavalry formed its second line with difficult hills protecting both flanks. Facing them, the Almoravid line stretched beyond the Ceutan line, clearly intent on a flanking manoeuvre.

Both infantry lines clashed, giving little ground, and on the Almoravid right, light cavalry probed the Ceutan left for any weaknesses.

An over zealous Arab cavalry where caught and put to flight, exposing the entire Ceutan left wing, giving the Arab general no option but to leave the field. Almoravid victory, 4 – 3.


Uping the stakes (double size command)

Both armies mirrored the other’s deployment, even positioning light horse on the right flank to flank the enemy’s line.

The Ceutan army opened the battle with an advance in right echelon bringing the Arab spearmen to make first contact. Adding the the clash of spear point on shield, Ceutan light cavalry attacked the Almoravid left from the shoreline.

The Arab left now joined the battle, bringing both sides in a general slugging match. The pushing and shoving generated a few casualties, but both lines remained unbroken after an hour of fighting (4 turns).

Desperate to reach a decision, the Ceutan commander sent his uncommitted light troops to seize the hill on the Almoravid right. From their new position, they could harass the enemy rear from aiding the battle.

Unfortunately, the order to move forward came too late as exhausting overcame the Ceutan army as both flanks collapsed exposing the army to a potential encirclement. A general retreat was called, giving the Almoravid a second victory, 9 – 5.  

Thursday, 16 December 2021

The large terrain mat

The small mat served well as a test, but before tackling the larger mat, I have selected 26 terrain pieces to be used with the Mediterranean style mat; these are roads, hills, waterway and templates for BUA and rough ground. 

These were given a similar treatment like the test mat, but not flocked, that would be done with the large terrain mat. 

Clearing the old grass from the 120cm x 80cm mat proved more work than I anticipated, requiring an extra day. The underside was painted first to prevent curling, this proved effective as the topside remained flat after its primer coat. The end result was appropriate for Christmas and was left overnight to dry before applying earth tones.

The topside was painted Warm Grey and left overnight to thoroughly dry. This was to ensure subsequent colours (diluted) would not “lift” the previous coat of paint. The work was checked before moving to the final step, the flocking.

Terrain pieces were flocked first, as these required precise work, beginning first with the BUA and rough ground templates. To develop some practice the strainer, I spread the flocking first without glue. Satisfied, I sprayed the diluted white glue, two or three pieces at a time, after drying, the loose grass was tapped off exposing the actual coverage. 

After all the pieces and terrain map have been treated, a second layer of grass can be added where needed. 

All the terrain pieces are done which leaves the large mat as the final step. This has been a fruitful exercise and there are plans developing to redo the 'arid' terrain mat in the same technique but with lighter colours. This will also require new terrain pieces (hills, roads, rivers, etc.) to match the re-newed terrain mat.  


Here is a photo of the completed terrain mat. 

Amazing how little time is spent applying the grass flocking as compared to the preparation and clean up afterwards. I am tempted to begin work with a second terrain (arid) mat, but I miss the dice and measuring sticks enough that I will make a start on a few scenarios.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Timeline - Charles Martel


Charles is born to the second wife of Pepin, Alpaida, unfortunately, there are no records of his early activities before 714. Pepin’s eldest son, Drogo, died in 707, leaving the next eldest, Grimoald, Mayor of the Palace of Neustria, to continue with his responsibilities. Grimoald would die in the same year as his father in 714.  


On his deathbed, Theudoald is named Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia by Pepin of Herstal and in Neustria, King Dagobert III, names Penfriend as mayor the death of Grimoald, thereby initiating a period of crisis.  


The crisis escalates as King Dagobert III dies and is succeeded by Chilperic II, igniting a civil war between Theudoald of Austrasia and Chilperic II. At the Battle at Compiègne, Theudoald is defeated and flees to Cologne. Chilperic II pursuit gathers allies en route to Cologne.


Chilperic II and his newly reinstated mayor, Raganfrid, besiege Cologne while Frisian allies engage and defeat Charles Martel, forcing him to retreat. Charles rebounds, gathering a new force to pursue the army of Neustria. 


The Battle of Vincy, near Malmedy, was a major victory for Charles and returning back to Cologne begins consolidating his power. 


Chilperic II and Raganfrid create an alliance with Odo of Aquitania, together they met Charles near Soissons. This ended in disaster for the coalition and concluded the civil war. Chilperic II, Raganfrid and Odo make peace with Charles, now the undisputed Dux Francorum. 


Radbod I dies, leaving Frisian resistance against the Franks fragmented. Bodda (Poppa) succeeds his father and is quickly attacked by the Franks, advancing as far as Lake Flevo, leaving Poppa no other option but to conclude a truce with Charles. 


The campaign in Frisia now concluded, Charles marches against Duc Aldgisl of the Saxons, near the headwaters of the Ruhr and Lippe rivers. The year 720, also marks the initiation of missionary activity in the region. 


Campaigning in Bavaria, to reassert Frankish suzerainty over independent Agilolfing dukes, a revolt in Neustria forced Charles must to turn his attention west. 


The revolt in Neustria, led by Raganfrid, the late mayor of Chilperic II, is quickly concluded and hostages are taken. Charles resumes his campaign in Bavaria, passing through Swabia he gathers troops to join in the campaign. 


Another Saracen raid in central eastern France, led by Anbasa ibn Suhaym Al-Kaibi, defeats the local forces of Bishop Emilien and sacks Autun.   


After a campaign of three years, Duc Hukbert of Bavaria submits to Charles and relinquishes hostages.


Alarmed at the subjugation of Bavaria, Duc Lantfrid of Swabia rebels, but is slain in battle. A successor is not named by Charles so it might easily be amalgamated with neighbouring districts.  


In the spring, Abd al-Rahman ravages Aquitania taking Bordeaux and defeats Eudes (Odo). Charles interrupts his northern campaign to aide Eudes against the Saracen incursion and together, they defeat the Muslims at Poitiers recapturing all the plundered wealth of Aquitania. Bordeaux is retaken, but the Saracens still retain territories in Septimania holding it for another thirty years. 

After Poitiers, Charles reforms the military, creating a class of warrior able to fight mounted, thus replacing the previous reliance on county militia. This was made possible through a re-distribution of land, seeding a ‘fiefdom’ loyal to Charles. The county militia did not disappear, but remained as a reserve force. 


Charles is forced to resume his fight against the Frisians and at the Battle of Boarn, he kills Poppa, leaving a disorganised Frisia at the mercy of the Franks. 


The Muslims resume their offensive and from Narbonne (Arbuna) march toward Provence, seizing Arles and Avignon. Burgundy is also pillaged. In the same year, Eudes of Aquitaine dies and his son Hunald I is named successor. 


An expedition to Provence, Charles receives the submission of Mauronte, Duc of Provence. Charles descends the Rhone valley to lay siege to Avignon, and Muslim reinforcements sent to aid the besieged are defeated at the Battle of La Berre. 

Theuderic IV dies leaving the throne vacant for the next seven years. Charles is now maior domus and principes et dux Francorum. His remaining four years are relatively peaceful. 


Allied to Charles, Liutprand, king of the Lombard, retakes Provence and those who collaborated with the Saracens have their lands forfeit. The Muslims retain only Narbonne which eventually falls to Pippin the Younger. 


Charles Martel dies on 22 October and is buried in Saint Denis Basilica in Paris. Continuing the tradition, the kingdom is divided among his three sons; Carloman receiving Austrasia, Alemannia and Thuringia; Pippin the Younger, Neustria, Burgundy, Provence, Metz and Trier; and Grito is given several lands throughout the kingdom. 

Cette image provient de la Bibliothèque en ligne Gallica sous l'identifiant ARK btv1b55013869k/f149, Domaine public, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8999821

Compiled from the following:

Philippe Contamine, War in the Middle Ages.

Charles Oman, The Dark Ages, 476 – 918,

Timothy Reuter, Germany in the Early Middle Ages, 800 – 1056.

Ian Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450 – 751.

Hugh Kennedy, Muslim Spain and Portugal.

Slingshot 273, 274, 276, 279, 280

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Another upgrade project.

Renewing a number of ancient, medieval and fantasy collections has kept me quite busy these past eighteen months, on the plus side, it did rein in any expenditure for new figures. Time now to bring the same attention to the terrain. 

The four terrain mats, which vary in size and type, have worked well in the past, but for Christmas I decided to gift myself a new one from Baueda of Italy. This will take a few months before it arrives, then I realised the need to upgrade the current terrain collection to match that of Baueda, see their selection at their webpage

Practice makes perfect.

To test the steps required to reach the colour variation of a Mediterranean style mat, I used an old mat (24 in. x 24 in.) to experiment with. From the photo, you will see much of the electrostatic grass has disappeared leaving the ground colour exposed. 


Step by step.

Step one, I covered the entire mat, including the grass, with a coat of acrylic White household paint, covering the grass would add texture on what would otherwise be a smooth surface.

Step two, using a roller, I applied a coat of Warm Grey over the entire surface, though labelled warm grey it dries a nice earth tone.

Step three, Yellow Ochre (thinned with water) is applied with assorted sponges covering about 20 – 30 percent of the mat.

Step four, next Burnt Sienna (thinned with water) was applied sparingly using the same sponge technique as before. Before doing this, I tested the colour on white paper, gradually adding water to reach a suitable tone. Applied in parallel lines, this should suggest undulating ground. The final effect looked ragged with sharp edges and to correct this, I used Warm Grey to soften the edges.

Step five, mixing Warm Grey with Black, this was applied with a sponge to bring depth and variation of the ground before the last step.

Step six, as an experiment, I sprayed diluted white glue over the mat. This was followed by a light sprinkling of electrostatic grass covering about 30 – 50% of the mat. When thoroughly dry, a second thin coat of diluted white glue was sprayed to fix the grass in place. No need for the grass to stand upright, as the mat will be rolled and stored after use.

Test mat is complete, now everything is ready next week for the larger (120cm x 80cm) mat.   

Some thoughts.

After each application of colour, I let this dry a full day. This was done to ensure each subsequent application of diluted paint would not loosen the previous day’s work. White paper was used to test the quality and consistency before application. 

I found step three, Yellow Ochre, as not really necessary. Using Warm Grey, Burnt Sienna and the mix Warm Grey and Black would be sufficient for the final mat.