Monday, January 10, 2011

Retinue Liveries

Continuing my Wars of the Roses revision, I have decided to overhaul the painting-scheme and make it far more organised. Research into the different colours used for various nobles' retinues has been awkward, as I've only found isolated snippets of data here and there. The only book I think is of potential use is the Osprey guide to the wars, but it is currently listed as out of stock on their website. The whole thing is complicated a little more by the fact that records are incomplete and far from reliable, so it may just be wrong to start with! No matter, I suppose - I am going to press on as best as I'm able.

I have been pondering my basing system, and for a bit I was tempted to mix up the bases a little, with the figures displaying a more 'mixed' set-up within a base. I pondered putting an armoured Captain in the middle to represent the relevant Noble in charge, surround him with about 2 or 3 figures in livery to represent his retinue, and then complete the base with around six or seven local levies surrounding them, as the men the noble had brought along through his Commission of Array. I'm not entirely decided however, and may opt for a straight interpretation and just have ten archers on a base for a force of longbowmen, for example. As I am keeping the individual basing system, I suppose I can pick and choose as I want.

For all the attention, the liveried retainers will be making up only around half of the force I paint. They seem to have made up potentially far more of a historical force, but nobody seems really sure of just how much or what they would've looked like. As the retinues are the focal points of the armies I shall be giving them increased prominence for gaming and practical reasons. Leaders shall be individually based, and I have the notion of attaching the leader figures (possibly with an accompanying man holding their personal standard) to whichever base I want to mark as containing a Ward Commander.

So, who to do? The campaign game I'm planning on using (Columbia Games' Richard III) has counters for a grand total of 32 magnates of various rank, so it is impossible for me to represent each one with a dedicated stand! However, 32 nobles doesn't mean 32 different liveries, thankfully. Colour-combinations were limited, and a few well-chosen livery colours seem able to represent several nobles - once fielded and given a banner, the plastic figures should be able to represent everybody with passable accuracy. After researching about on the internet and plundering the books on the period I do own, I have managed to get colours for many of the nobles and made an educated guess for the remainder (basically I usually go for the two most prominent colours on their personal heraldry, and this seems to be a generally accepted 'guesstimate' in use by others, as well!) My resulting break-down of colours is as follows:

Blue & Red (or Blue & Murrey) can represent March, Gloucester, Clarence, Rutland, Hastings, & Herbert. It is also handy through most of the period as the default 'Yorkist' colour-scheme.

Blue & White can represent Henry VI, York, Somerset, Stanley & Fauconberg. It can also serve as the default 'Lancastrian' colour-scheme as it covers both Somerset and the king himself.

Black & Red can represent Buckingham, Northumberland, Shrewsbury, and Prince Edward. A good one for the Percy family, should a bit of the Percy-Neville feud turn up on the field.

Green & White can represent Richmond, Rivers & Pembroke. (Henry VII's colours, basically.)

Blue & Yellow can represent Norfolk, Suffolk, Beaumont & Wiltshire.

Red can represent Warwick & Oxford (Kingmaker Warwick himself.)

Red & Yellow can represent Devon, Salisbury, Arundel, Worcester & Clifford (quite a popular colour-scheme on coats of arms, it appears! Correspondingly, it turns up a lot on liveries when I indulge in guess-work.)

Red & White can represent Exeter, Essex & Westmoreland.

Through the number of nobles that could use the colours, plus the general usefulness of each, I have weighted the number of bases I will paint with each. The initial plan from my calculation is:

4 Blue & Red/Murrey bases

3 Blue & White bases

2 Black & Red bases

1 Green & White base

2 Blue & Yellow bases

2 Red bases

2 Red & Yellow bases

1 Red & White base

15 un-liveried bases. Mostly Commission of Array Levy bases, but also includes 4 'Dismounted Nobles' bases (in the typical 'white armour' of the day, with no specific markings, and therefore interchangeable with no difficulty.)

I'm sure I've got some errors and false assumptions in there, but I believe the plan is a good starting point. I hope the explanation of how I've worked out the markings for maximum flexibility is of interest to other gamers out there struggling with the same problems as me!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wars of the Roses Recruiting

Happy New Year and all that! With the rumours all confirmed and 2011 now starting after 2010 (as was planned, I imagine) I have found myself taking stock of the hobby landscape from my perspective. Although I never expected it when starting out, my activity seems to have ended up focussed on two main areas: The Wars of the Roses (WOTR,) and WW2 in the Desert. Following my recent completion of the Eighth Army, I have decided to give it a breather before tackling the DAK & Italians. For a bit of variety, I have swung back to my WOTR campaign and I have decided to give the army a bit of a revamp.

It was actually this time last year I started out with it, getting a 'Retinue Deal' of four boxes of Perry Plastic Miniatures off the Warlord Games website. It's done good service, and I have decided to once more throw some of my Xmas cash at swelling the ranks of Merrie Olde England's finest nobility (and nobility-killing commoners.) With perfect timing, the Perrys have also produced a new plastic box set for Mercenaries, bringing the variety of Pikemen, Crossbowmen and Handgunners to the fray.

I've splashed out and bought yet another Retinue Deal to double my numbers at a stroke, also got a Mercenaries box to add some variety, and I have also sent off to the Perrys direct for some Foot Command personalities for each side. Combined with my existing figures of the retinues (plus the Cannon and 4 crew I got last summer,) this takes my total collection size from an initial 160 figures to a fearsome total of 376!

With all this re-stocking, I wanted to bring some revamping efforts to the rules in use. Previously I have been using the Perfect Captain's excellent set A Coat of Steel (ACOS) but the token-heavy setup plus the large numbers of card-draws and table-consulting for combat proved a serious handicap for me personally - with my limited time and space available at present, I found I was spending far longer preparing to play a game than actually playing one! I need a new rule set, and after much pondering around I have wound up revisiting Basic Impetus.

I initially disliked Basic Impetus because of the way that it used small armies of 7 or 8 bases, but decided to separate them into broad classes like 'Dismounted Nobles' as if every noble in the army would band together to form some kind of elite foot unit. This was especially bad in comparison to ACOS, where each unit was made up of the more historically accurate mix of all-sorts bunched together because of the feudal ties that dictated they fight with their Lord's retinue. I've come round, however - largely due to a bit of tinkering with scales.

By using a generous 10 figures per base, I could field two armies of 16+ units each, which means the presence of bases like 'Dismounted Nobles' is far less intrusive and fits into the overall scheme. I was initially pondering doing little 10-figure dioramas for the bases at first, as the Impetus website does such a brilliant job of showcasing, but I decided against it in the end. The flexibility of individually based figures seemed wisest, at least until I decided I was irretrievably in love with Basic Impetus. Plus, after a quick flip through my old copy of Warhammer Fantasy Battle (from the 1980s – Old School!) I decided that it would be perfectly good for use as well, should the mood take me. I will just use the Impetus bases as movement trays for now, and a quick internet search has brought up the two sites that can supply MDF bases pre-cut to the right size - East Riding Miniatures and Warbases (both just their names with “” if you're interested) both sell suitable bases of 12cm by 6cm, so I shall shortly buy from one or the other.

As for campaign games, I have recently bought a copy of Columbia Games' block boardgame of the period: Richard III. I heard this reviewed a few months back on the Meeples & Miniatures podcast, and as I have played several other of their games (East Front, incidentally, is superb) I decided to get it. I will post a review shortly, to pass on info on it to other interested parties.

Right, that's quite the ramble! I'll shut up there, and hopefully post soon. By way of illustration, the picture with this post shows my current 16 bases of miniatures set out as they would be for Impetus - in other words, roughly under half the ultimate force I will be able to eventually assemble. I'm aiming big, as you can tell!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Eighth Army Finished

The British Eighth Army is now ready for the desert and battle. Dipped miniatures have been sprayed down with a matt finish and the bases have had a fine layer of sand glued on to finish them up. Not bad, if I do say so myself (well, certainly by my own standards...) I have not painted 10mm before, and the 'dip' painting method works really well - not too big to make painting them take ages, but large enough for the detail to be visible. I'm very happy with the result!

"Off on more of these exercises, eh chaps? Keep up with the tanks."

"Is the tea ready yet, Timpkins?"

"Out on the gun-line, ready to give Jerry what for!"

"Hundreds of miles of nothing, yet we still get a traffic jam!"

"Thirsty work, all this shelling. Any more tea?"

The whole collection, in it's storage box (looking rather abstract from above!)