Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Petulantes Seniores, Auxilium Palatinum

The the use of armour in battle - or lack of it - for auxilia is another area where WRG Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome book, the reference for my 1980s nostalgia figures, differs from current thinking. The book has them un-armoured apart from helmets and shields.

An obstacle to making a unit of these was that I didn't actually have enough infantryman figures - only two packs of 8 when I needed 20 (plus the 3 command.) I did however have a pack of what the book (and therefore Minifigs) labelled as Lanciarius 4th C with a smaller shield than the legionaries and auxiliaries and slightly more dynamic pose than the auxiliaries - on the right in the photo below.

I made larger shields for these and re-purposed them as auxiliaries. Several figures had lost their rather fragile spears so I replaced them all with brass rod at slightly different angles adding more variation. I also trimmed the crests off some figures and reshaped them with a small file to leave an unadorned ridge helmet.

The trumpeter's trumpet was mis-cast so I replaced it with brass rod and miliput. My understanding is that infantry in this period used the almost circular cornu or buccina whilst the cavalry used the straight tuba. However Minifigs went for the straight tuba for everybody and, in the spirit of 80s nostalgia, as well as the spirit of re-modelling some figures to cary a cornu being beyond my abilities, I've stuck with that. The officer (also with a new, larger, shield) and draconarius are from Gladiator Miniatures.

Some fantastic late Roman shield transfers are available now from Little Big Men but unfortunately these are specifically sized and shaped for Khurasan or Legio Heroica and considerably bigger than the Minifigs shields so I would have to hand paint the shields again. I chose the Petulantes Seniores on the basis of being a simple design, using blue - so clearly different to my earlier two units and having a lot of yellow. 1980s 'rules' for late Roman crests were very simple - red for legionaries and yellow for auxiliaries. More recently I've read it wasn't so clear and, if there was any logic at all, maybe it was that crests matched or picked out a colour from the shield design. Choosing the Petulantes Seniories keeps both theories happy.

I wanted to get some variety of appearance despite using 1980s mono-posed figures (OK, 16 identical plus 4 in a marginally different pose). In addition to the previously mentioned crest / no crest mix and variation in spear angle, I used three slightly  different triads for the off-white tunics as well as varying the blue pattern shapes on the tunics and the colour of the leggings.

That's three infantry units complete now - so half way through the legions and auxilia. I have another unit's worth of old Minifigs Legionaries, which I have already started, then the other two will be modern Legio Heroica armoured infantry. Also loads of cavalry, generals, ballista and some infantry archers. Lots still to go but I feel I'm making progress.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Classical ruins

One of my biggest impressions from holidays in Italy is that physical reminders of the past, especially Ancient Rome, are everywhere so I thought my Italian Wars scenery should include some classical ruins. My idea was to do these, like most of my other scenery, as marker pieces to be placed on an area, in this case to be classed as broken ground.

I looked out for a suitable model - ideally not very big or expensive - for quite a while. There seemed to be a lot in 28mm, and some brilliant but large and expensive complete models but nothing small and cheap for 15mm. By chance, I then stumbled across some resin cast pillars at a Wargames show. I think they were on the Magnetic Displays stand, though I can't now find them on their website. With 2 x 55mm high fluted columns for a pound, they were perfect for my purposes and I bought a couple of packs. 

The pillars were sculpted as though made from three pieces and without plinths and capitals. To avoid having all four identical heights and appearances and make them go further, I cut up two of them - the top tier off one and the top and middle of the other then cut two of these pieces lengthways at an angle so I could place them to give the appearance of half-buried pieces. I made the plinths and capitals from card, foam-board and 2mm mdf. After sanding the sawn ends flat, I distressed them and the exposed mdf of the plinths and capitals to give a worn and weathered effect - probably more than is realistic but sometimes wrong looks right.

The foam-board for the plinths was a bad idea as it is a weak point that I can easily imagine breaking at the slightest rough handling. I'm not sure whether to reinforce them now with a screw from the base (and risk damaging them) or see if they do actually break.

The base boards are 2mm mdf and I marked it out in 10mm squares to get the thin card paving slabs (9.5mm squares) and column plinths spaced evenly.

The next step was to cover the bare mdf parts of the boards with filler to represent the build up of debris over and around the ruins in the thousand years or so between the end of the Roman Empire and the Italian Wars. At this stage, I also attached a few small rectangles of foam-board to represent fallen blocks of masonry.

I left a couple of areas of bare mdf on top of the high points to give a good surface to attach the cypress trees.

I then covered around the roots and textured the filler with sharp sand and small stones. The whole thing (apart from the trees!) was given a coat of brown emulsion, decanted from a big pot I bought as and end of line item some years ago.

For the temple stonework, I used a wash of Humbrol black enamel paint in white spirit. When that was completely dry, I gave it a heavy dry brush of Vallejo 987 Medium Stone. Dulux Bleached Lichen 1, which I have in my scenery paints box and use for roads,  looks virtually the same and would have been cheaper.

When that was fully dry - overnight - I applied a thin wash of a medium green in the cracks, recesses and around the base before dry brushing again with Dulux Bleached Lichen 2 and a final light dry brush of Dulux Bleached Lichen 2 mixed with about white. 

The 'earth' areas are my usual basing / scenery ground recipe: dry brush yellow ochre then yellow ochre + white with static grass and tufts applied with PVA. I also added some dark green clump foliage and a bit of foliage net to represent a climbing plant growing up one of the columns. 

Friday, 12 June 2020

More Italian Wars French Crossbowmen - Aventuriers

Although I started my French Crossbowmen / Aventuriers in early 2016 and finished the first group of 12 in June 2016, for some reason the second group of 12 stuck. I got distracted into other areas and every time I looked at them languishing in the incomplete painting tray of shame, there seemed to be something more urgent or at least more interesting to do.

With the extra leisure time at home enforced by the Covid-19 restrictions, after spending a lot of time on a 1/1250 model of HMS Queen Elizabeth, I finally got round to completing them. This gives me an early and late option of either 12 bases of crossbowmen in skirmish order or 12 bases of arquebus is loose order.

The new group is at the front. 
I still have plans for some more units for my French Italian Wars army: at least one unit of archers (the heavy cavalry type), a full 6 of Landsknetch skirmishing arquebus and some more clearly French artillery now the new range from Khurasan is available. 

I have the figures for two more pike keils - one Swiss, one Landsketch and more Gendarmes (with Venexia figures) but these will have to wait until I've completed my Romans and a load of WW2 figures. Even then, I'm not sure I can face another two 14 base pike keils!