Sunday, 31 January 2016

French Crossbowmen - Aventuriers (1)

I always intended to have some light infantry crossbowmen for my French Army so I could use it for the earlier Italian Wars. I got as far as buying some Table Top Games figures many years ago and, a bit later, some from Gladiator (now Black Hat Miniatures) but never actually painted them. Partly I stopped because I wanted more variety of figures in the unit but then I dropped out of wargaming and they sat in a cupboard for a long time. When I re-started and decided to complete my small 16th C collection as an Italian Wars, French army for FOG-R, the problem of getting enough variety in the unit, whilst maintaining a reasonably homogenous look, remained. I bought various other crossbow-armed figures so I had the variety but several looked too early and every crossbow was different and incompatible and so they remained in the cupboard while I painted other units.

From left to right: TTG, Gladiator, Naismith, Naismith, Essex, 4 from Old Glory, 2 from Venexia

Now I have almost got a 900 point army finished, I just need 8-12 bases of Adventurier crossbowmen for my early army and 4 bases of mounted arquebus for my late option. Either will involve some substantial modification work so I have finally made a serious start.

From experience with my Swiss, Landsknechts and Gendarmes, I think quite large differences in figure size and style look OK as long as the weapons are fairly uniform. Achieving that was easy with pikes, quite easy with heavy lances but a bit more of a challenge with crossbows.

The cast crossbows vary in length from 9mm (Venexia) to 14 mm (TTG / Altuos) and in span from 8 mm (Venexia and Old Glory) to 11.5 mm (Essex). There is also a lot of variation in shape of the bow - whilst contemporary crossbows seem to be mostly thin steel, these were all quite think with the TTG bow apparently 1.2 mm in diameter - like a scaled down 5" fence post. Even worse, the Old Glory figures come with a solid mass of metal filling in between the bow and the string.

I decided to cut the longest bows down in length and replace all the actual bows with flattened, shaped (with a needle file) and bent pieces of 0.7 mm brass rod to give a pre-bend span of 8-9 mm. This isn't quite as fiddly as it sounds but it is much more of a faff than just replacing cast pikes.

After cutting the bows (and string and fill-in metal) of the first couple of Old Glory figures, I found I could get quite a reasonable effect by drilling out the filled-in area then cutting and filing away to just leave the thinned bow and the string. It isn't quite the same as the brass bows but I think it looks OK and matches in reasonably. It does raise the question though of whether I should string all the others.

The second issue is that some of the figures are very medieval looking. Also the hats on the Old Glory figures don't look very French to me.

I have been following Stuart's blog about converting 28mm 15th Century figures to represent early 16th C French. Fantastic work with a lot of original research and far beyond my abilities but he shows how to put together some great French skirmishers with crossbows and arquebus and I decided to try something similar with these smaller scale figures. I have chosen what I think are the most suitable figures - 4 each of 6 different ones for my 12 bases - and started modifying them by filing and adding Milliput. There's a long way to go with this but I am quite encouraged so far.

This shows the brass replacement bow v cutting away on the Old Glory figures. The three OG  figures will get new hats made from Milliput, as I did with my French arquebusiers. The other three figure types I chose are the Venexia figure with a helmet, the Naismith figure winching and either one of the OG firing figures or the other Naismith figure or maybe two of each.


  1. That's a big range of sizes and styles, I wish you well, I'm better of in 28mm I think although I won't be doing the conversions Stuart has for my french crossbow men!
    Best Iain

  2. Thanks. The last photo is a bit misleading on size - the OG figures are leaning forwards so appear foreshortened - really, apart from the standing Roundway figure, the others are pretty similar in stature.

    I have made quite a lot of progress since then and have 20 figures complete or nearly so with new bows and hats, modified sleeves and tunic skirts (and general 16th Centurification). I spent a bit of time today adding strings to the crossbows - not quite as fiddly as it sounds. I'll try to take some photos tomorrow to post. Then I just need to choose 4 more standing, firing figures to complete the 24 - at the moment, OG are the favourite.