Saturday, 28 January 2017

Early Tudor pike unit complete

I started work on this unit back in November and posted a brief WIP that you can view here to see more detail on the conversion process as well as an overview of what I believe to be first adoption of home raised pikemen in the Tudor period.

Since then I have created some sculpted conversions of figures without armour as well as the command. I also decided to paint the unit to represent some of the 900 English pikemen present in the retinue of Charles Brandon Lord Lisle during the French campaign of 1513.

Here are some group photographs prior to basing;

1. The heavies

As mentioned you can see how I converted these pieces in the post linked above. They were fairly straightforward to paint being mostly armour though I did paint field signs on the breast plates of two of the figures as was common throughout the Western European armies at that time. I particularly like the way the face turned out on the figure second from the left as well as the St. George badge on his cap. As is my formula for figures in caps the head is from the Perry Miniatures Ansar box with hair cut away and the top of the head cut for the sculpting of hair and a cap thereafter. They're really nice heads and worth getting a box just for this process, there are quite a few useful arms in there too and I have also used some of the bodies for other sculpts.

2. Light / no armour

These were all sculpted conversions to represent the Tudor base coat, and in two cases I have added a breastplate. It's not clear in this photograph but they each bear a lions head livery badge of the Duke of Suffolk on their left shoulder which you can see on the command figures below. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photograph of the completed sculpting prior to painting but you can see the same process on the figure below;

Essentially I use the Perry figure as a dolly and sculpt the coat on top, the process took me a while to master but once I developed a technique I've found I'm able to turn them out at a reasonable pace.

3. Standard bearer and musician

These figures were enjoyable to put together and an opportunity for some interesting details. I opted to model the musician with a sleeved jacket rather than a base coat for a bit of variety and painted a Tudor Rose badge on both sides of the drum. The head is from the Ansar box converted as mentioned above.

The banner bearer carries Brandon's swallow tailed livery banner, my first use of a flag from Pete's Flags range of Tudor flags and banners. Quite a good feeling as I helped Peter put this range together and through that I hope it's helped to spread this early Tudor obsession of mine. The detail on this is excellent and printed to a very high standard, apart from anything else it was quite a relief not to spend a couple of days hand painting a flag !

As with the lighter armoured figures in base coats each of these bear the lions head with ducal coronet livery badge of Charles Brandon. These also feature on the banner and were adornments throughout Brandon's household such as the terracotta fragment below from his residence at Suffolk Place, now in the V&A collection described as;

'This relief fragment in cream coloured terracotta formed part of a decorative frieze at Suffolk Place, Southwark, the palace of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, brother in law to Henry VIII. This and other reliefs were excavated on the site of the house in 1937.

Suffolk Place was a vast house built between 1518 and 1522 by Charles Brandon for his wife Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. It is the earliest example of a Tudor courtyard house known to have carried this type of extensive terracotta decoration. This use of terracotta quickly became fashionable and appeared on other buildings commissioned by Henry VIII's courtiers, including Cardinal Wolsey's York Place (later Whitehall) and Hampton Court Palace.

The relief is made of moulded clay that was dried and fired to create terracotta (literally 'cooked earth'), a material suitable for use as external decoration. Although building projects such as Suffolk Place were on a vast scale, by using a cheap raw material and a reproductive method of manufacture the buildings could be decorated economically and speedily.'

(c) V&A collection

4. Mercenary Captain and noble

I think I had the most fun creating these two as a mini vignette within the unit. As this unit was unique I reasoned that a Burgundian or Flemish mercenary captain may have been employed to maintain formation and pike drill. Here he converses with an enthusiastic noble on the use of the weapon.

The Captain figure was rather tricky, it's a fairly straightforward assembly using the parts in the mercenaries box with the addition of sculpted puffed and slashed arms and a bellows visor (a press mould from a Wargames Foundry gendarme). It was quite hard to get the arms both looking to be of the same cut, the left arm in particular had 2 or 3 attempts.

The noble was an interesting conversion. I wanted to represent him in the latest Flemish armour with a skirted coat. To begin I started with a figure from the Foot Knights pack as a dolly for the coat which required quite a lot of filing and cutting prior to sculpting. For the arms I trimmed down pieces from the Foot Knights and WOTR command frame.

The right arm proved to be a test of my ability as I had to cut away the forefingers of the gauntlet and re-model it so that it held the pike. In doing this I also modelled Maximilian style fluting on this and the other gauntlet as well as on the corselet where it meets the helm, hopefully these additions are easier to see in this photograph prior to painting.

The helm is from the Steel Fist range of mounted early Renaissance knights, these packs come with a variety of separate heads and I couldn't resist using one of them. Lastly I remodelled the feet as contemporary bear paw style sabatons;

I painted the noble fairly plain settling for him representing part of Brandon's household rather than Brandon himself who I hope to model on horseback at some point.

Charles Brandon, painted by Johannes Corvus 1510-1530

Charles was Henry VIII's brother in law and perhaps his closest personal friend. He was the son of William Brandon, standard bearer of Henry VII, who was personally slain by Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field 1485.

Charles distinguished himself at the sieges of Theouranne and Tournai where he served as high marshall (deputy commander) as well as having charge of 3200 men within the middleward of the King.

He later served as Commander in Chief during the campaigns of 1522 and 1523. You can read more about his life here.

To close, this unit represents a continuation of the modernisation of my existing Tudor army in replacing existing figures with those in more contemporary dress now that I'm able to do it. It's a slow process and in some ways seems a bit futile as I get a zero net gain (I'll sell the units I replace) but the results speak for themselves and give a much better look - I hope.

So my stretch goal this year will be to at least replace the bill in my army and work on the archers next year. I may keep some of the older figures to represent troops from poorer magnates but this is the format my Tudor projects will take for the foreseeable. I think another two bases of pike would be good to bulk these out a bit though as things stand they're right in terms of the proportions of the army.

I will of course keep on with the French, I think I'll alternate between the two to ensure I've got forces to fight against as this project enters the wait for it.... ninth year !

All the best


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Landsknechts in French service II

As the title suggests here we have the second instalment of the Landsknechts in French service that I have been working on over the last few months. Together with the last I can now field a modest pike block to support my Growing French forces.

As with my Imperialist Landsknechts my collection is made up on a model where the upright pikes have banners and appropriate field signs which can then be supported / interchanged with my existing bases of levelled pikes that don't have banners or field signs to create a larger unit with some menace.

Here they are in support of French infantry;

Below are some individual images of the figures prior to basing. I explore my approach and source material for Landsknechts serving the French crown in the previous Landsknecht post which you can read here.

Further to my observations there the banners were taken from examples in both the Marignano and Pavia painting / tapestries. The banner on the red background tends to be used as a bit of a generic catch all for French troops in quite a lot of sources so I was a bit reluctant to use it at first however I considered the unit would look a bit more balanced with a plain and striped banner - the dilemmas of composition !

Anyway, I'm really pleased with the way the red banner complements the figure and I'm quite glad I opted against the figure being entirely in red. This technique of a predominant anchor colour with complimentary striped or alternative colours is my standard formula for painting Landsknechts, you can read more on that and many other techniques over on my Painting Landsknechts blog.

I generally paint Landsknecht command figures in a bit of a riot of colour and stripes to reflect their wealth and to help them stand out from the rank and file figures.

The pikemen are then approached as being either fairly plain - which tend to be in the side or rear ranks (remember that some at going to be obscured somewhat) or a bit more adventurous.

Even with the more colourful figures there are still formulas to use to get an authentic look which I have applied for this unit;
  • You can use a limited palette so blue and yellow stripes as with the centre figure above or the just plain green and white as below.
  • Another approach is to use a base colour anchor as mentioned above which is accompanied by stripes in a complimentary colour as per the two figures on the right below.

Here endeth the current chapter of Landsknechts. I tend to do at least one unit per year to build them up slowly in support of my Tudor and French armies or indeed to serve as a force in their own right. Of all the ranges this is a firm favourite and I don't get bored with them. I think I shall add some more arquebusiers in future as I only have 3 units at present.

That's all for now and a colourful post to end 2016.

All the best for the forthcoming year


Sunday, 18 December 2016

Lion Rampant AAR

Having played Lion Rampant a few times I liked the ease and flexibility of the game and thought it could be a good platform build upon to extend it into the early 1500's. In fact my very first experience of the game was along with Simon Chick in putting on a demo game with a Tudor scenario which I very much enjoyed. This time I have used the standard troop listings as a basis to create some bespoke Tudor and French rosters as well as introducing a few special rules to embody the unique character of their respective armies.

Armed with these rudimentary scribblings I hosted a couple of games with gaming buddies Jeff and Keith, here's how things unfolded in the first game which used 'the fugitive' scenario as a basis. My kitchen was the setting for the violence on the table, being winter the light wasn't too great but I made the best of it with longer exposures on the camera.

Keen on a bit of impromptu hunting a Landsknecht paymaster finds himself a little too close to the enemy lines, wary of a mutiny and keen to avoid the French having the opportunity to offer him more money Henry orders a hastily assembled Tudor relief force to rescue him. The French must prevent the escape.


1 unit of Garrison Billmen
2 units of Shire Longbowmen
2 units of Border Horse
1 unit of Demilancers


1 unit of Crossbowmen

1 unit of Landsknecht Arquebusiers

1 unit of Men at Arms

1 unit of Gendarmes

1 unit of Stradiots

All figures are from my collection and are based in groups / units rather than individually, whilst not quite how LR is intended the number of figures on the table is the same.

The boards and city walls were expertly made by David Marshall of TM Terrain and the buildings in the centre are from 4ground.

Here's the initial set up (I'm very tall and on a step ladder !) with Tudors on the left and French on the right. There are six possible hiding places for the fugitive; each of the three buildings, either of the two hedgerows or the earthwork ditch in front of the city walls. Upon reaching a hiding place a D6 is rolled uncovering the fugitive on a 6 at the first hiding place, 5 or 6 at the second and so on.

The French began the action with a general advance with the exception of the Landsknecht arquebusiers who failed their activation role. The men at arms just reaching the edges of the abandoned village whilst the crossbowmen covered their left flank advancing through ploughed fields.

The Border Horse on the Tudor right flank spurred into action and reconnoitred the hedgerow to their front and though they startle a hare the hounds do not pick up the scent. Meanwhile the Demilancers advanced toward the abandoned village falling just short of it with infantry in support following a little behind. Over on the left flank the Border Horse reach the ditch and fail to locate the Landsknecht hunter, gingerly aware of their opposing Stradiots and Gendarmes.

With a little encouragement the Landsknechts make their move toward the hedgerow while this time the crossbowmen were distracted by the opportunity for foraging in the field. The French men at arms in the centre moved cautiously around the edge of the village whilst the Gendarmes and Stradiots moved ominously forward.

With the garrison billmen moving up to cover his flank the Earl of Essex dismounts, sword in hand and kicks open the door of the house in front but no paymaster in sight. Over on the right flank the dogs are put to work scouring the second hedgerow, their excited barks and some impromptu teutonic cursing herald their quarry and trumpets are blown. This excitement draws the attention of the adventuriers to their front who send off a quarrel of bolts but somewhat unhelpfully the cover of the thickset hiding place absorbs the damage.

The men at arms realise the cacophony must be ominous and advance to try and block the retreat crashing into the garrison bill holding the edge of the village.

Unfortunately the bill were prepared and after clash of arms and casualties either side they hold their ground forcing the men at arms to retire.

Meanwhile the Stradiots skirmish with their Border Horse counterparts and with bad dice come off worse, falling back battered.

Essex hears the trumpets and feels the ground trembling as the Gendarmes close in on his left flank sensing that perhaps it's time for discretion he bids good cheer to the men of the Calais garrison and retires toward the longbowmen to his rear. To hold their front the Longbowmen loose their arrows ineffectually into the advancing Gendarmes.

The Landsknechts immediately test the cheer of the garrison men and pepper them with a volley whilst with the centre held the Border Horse quickly take their objective back toward the safety of the English camp with Essex hot on their heels to take the credit.

It's now looking a bit lonely for the remaining Tudor infantry as they edge back but the French blood is up and they throw their Gendarmes into the Longbowmen who infuriatingly manage to hold the line.

Back in the centre the game draws to a close as the garrison bill save some extra time for Essex' escape by stubbornly resisting the men at arms to their front.

All in all a good game, Keith with his French hat on had bad luck at some crucial points, particularly in attempting to get the left flank of Landsknechts and Adventuriers to move much to the delight of Jeff in his cloth cap who made good his escape.

I felt the initial adjustments to the rosters helped add a period feel, for example the Gendarmes had a fairly high move value but has the wild charge special rule so whilst they wouldn't always do what you wanted they were ominous and somewhat unpredictable. The Stradiots and Border Horse were evenly matched each with skirmish and evade functions and the Landsknecht shot had a shorter range but packed a punch effecting a -1 armour on their targets.

We played a second game with a culverin on the French side and Organ gun on the English which had quite a few in game tweaks to get it right which distracted me somewhat and I took no photographs. Another game is in order to put that right.

There's still some tweaks to make which I hope to play test further but once I'm satisfied I'll put them up so that you can enjoy a bit of Renaissance skirmishing. I haven't thought of a name yet though as Louis XII's badge was a Porcupine how about Porcupine Rampant?.... suggestions welcome !

All the best to you and yours this Christmas


Friday, 16 December 2016

French Infantry

I'm pleased to present the latest batch of converted French Infantry, in the making since August but worth the while I hope.

These are sculpted conversions using the Perry Mercenaries set as dollies, you can see the initial conversion stages and source information in this earlier post.

Not wanting to repeat anything from that post but as with the recent Tudor conversions I think I've arrived at a point that I'm satisfied with and will work upon as a general theme for any forthcoming French infantry. With the figures in skirted coats and jackets I was very much applying a procedure and finished them comparatively quickly. As for the others it's still somewhat experimental to get the sleeves and hose right but the painting really adds another dimension and is in some respects forgiving of the errors that no doubt only I can see.

Here's a closer look at the painted figures prior to basing.

I have used a loose palette along a blue, red and yellow theme to give these a unit identity. Rather than adventuriers which were used more on the Italian front these are intended to represent the Franc Archers more typical of the infantry raised around Picardy. If you're interested to know more about the recruitment and organisation of these troops you can read my short study on an older post here.

These troops were required to present for muster with the necessary equipment for war and were to wear hocquetons (sleeveless coats) in the liveries of their Captains. Perhaps coincidentally the livery of Therouanne, Louis XII and Sieur Heilly (one of the captains during the siege of Therouanne) is red and yellow so this made things easier.

Of particular note for the siege of Therouanne is the surrender of the garrison to whom upon marching out of the city were noted in Tudor records as being in livery and having either 'Sercus, Heilly or Bournonville upon their chest'. Each of these were the names of captains from noble families of Picardy, I keep meaning to do this but it's a very small area in which to try and paint in one case quite a long word but I will try it one day. I'll have to double check the source as saying that it could just be a livery badge.

Another perhaps national livery is the blue and white as can be seen in two of the coats, the remainder of the figures have variations on that theme but are essentially in their own clothes and wear a sewn on white cross of St. Denis for identification.

The two figures in the middle of the last two photographs above are intended to be Swiss as a small number of these bolstered the defence of the town in 1513, I wanted them to be distinct from the Landsknechts in French service so they're in slightly more plain dress but distinct from their French colleagues.

Here they are based and ready for action.

As with the other missile foot they are in a loose formation engaged in fire and manoeuvre.

Finally, here they are with the rest of the missile foot in my collection from which I think it's evident that my ability has increased somewhat but they're good figures nonetheless.

As luck would have it these will be used in a game of Lion Rampant tomorrow which if I pull my finger out I'll take a few photographs and maybe do an after action report in time for Christmas.

All the best


Monday, 5 December 2016

German / Swiss Light Cavalry part 1

I've been getting quite involved with sculpting conversions lately and was keen to keep going while the inspiration was there. Following on from my latest rounds of infantry conversions I thought I'd make up some cavalry and as a somewhat flamboyant change what better subject to represent than some mounted German / Swiss crossbowmen.

These have tested my ability in the extreme but it's all a learning curve and I've definitely picked up a couple of techniques along the way.

I had no particular sources of inspiration other than a few woodcuts similar to that above. In the main these were upper body conversions using the Perry light horse figures as dollies. In trying out uncovered ground each figure has had a number of incarnations as I attempted then scrapped things along the way. There's still a little bit more to do with these but I'm fairly happy with them and they'll be a good universal addition to my Tudor & French collection.

Both of these were fairly straightforward builds though they each had to be tweaked / re-done along the way. I had a German influence in mind for the chap in the burgonet and a Swiss for his companion.

I wasn't sure initially about leaving the brigandine and plackart on the German as I don't think I've seen a source showing a Landsknecht armed in this fashion but it worked out well and looked convincing once the arms were on - plus brigandines were in use in Western Europe right through to the 1580's so why not.

The head was a press mould of a Wargames Foundry Landsknecht, it wasn't easy to do and this was the fourth attempt but well worth it. The arms were a real leap for me though I had partially tried the technique previously on a French arquebusier. Basically this involved sculpting the general shape of the arm then lightly scoring the horizontal slash with the side of a pin and the vertical slash very lightly using a scalpel. After that I then teased each vertical slash out with a sculpting tool.

As for the Swiss looking chap I wanted the arms to be of voluminous material which just meant getting the shape and folds right though I did have to file the arms rather closely to get the desired under-shape to push green stuff onto. For the body I sculpted additions to make it look like a leather doublet for which this particular torso then didn't need any heavy cutting or filing preparation.
The head was from a box of Empire archers, it's slightly larger than 28mm but seems to work OK here.

These builds followed a similar format to the above though the figure with the Landsknecht head was rather more complicated to get right. I had a press moulded breast plate that I was keen to use so I cut away the torso to accommodate it and then found I had to cut it a lot more to enable the rider to sit in the saddle - quite a bit of swearing was involved.

Under that I went for a leather doublet covering the chest and thighs. The arms were difficult to appear similar, this was attempt 4 so I'm just going with it but not too bad all round.

Looking at the Swiss trumpeter I think I may re-do the arms or possibly the whole thing. I was particularly inspired by the image below as it required no alteration to the torso though the arms just don't look right so I think I shall return my efforts to this.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this latest tangent, I've been slowly painting figures in the interim periods so hopefully there should be a completed in the not too distant future.

All the best