Thursday 31 August 2017

The Return of the Unfinishables: Wood Elf, Chaos Thug, Man-at-Arms and Mindflayer

Over the years I have held a theory that certain miniatures conspire against the enthusiast to ensure that they remain unpainted. Perhaps the feel of warm acrylic makes their leaden skin itch? And hence they resist all attempts of completion, standing alone and disregarded in some forgotten corner of your leadpile. Miniatures such as these have a name, you know. A Miniature Moriarty

Over the years I have been guilty of squirrelling quite a large number of these away and from time to time (roughly two years) I grow tired of looking at their blotchy, smeary faces and dribbly bodies and commit myself to the task of breaking them in. With a paint brush mind, not a whip - I am not Chico! Despite my uncompromising approach, all four of these models attempted one final flight to freedom and slipped from my carrying tray as I was transporting them for photography. They scattered across the hard oak floorboards but, perhaps due to my unbending will, suffered no damage. As I type these miniature miscreants have been finally caged; lined up at the rear end of my modelling cabinet on a lead and water diet. 


Considering the amount of whinging we did in Bryan Ansell's ear to cast up some of his unreleased wizards, you would have thought I would have painted the entire Time Warped Wizards set by now, but this one slipped the net - perhaps because it was never intended to be a wizard at all. But a wood elf in fact. His chunky gait and over-proportioned size makes me wonder about his origin, but as with all the figures in this release, their origins are lost in the fog and spilt beer of yesteryear. He certainly wasn't a classic '80s elf at any rate. 

Orginally painted in a series of greens, I found that the colour combinations just didn't look right once the highlights had been added. So he was condemened to lanquish amongst the unfinishables while I worked out just what to do with him. After a few futile attempts at correcting the green, I washed the enitre figure in a nice brown ink and just started again. I have always thought that wood elves work best if you stick to the colours of the seasons; spring greens and yellows; the deep greens of summer; orange, brown and dark reds for autumn... I have never really considered during a 'winter' wood elf, reserving that colour theory for the Dark Elves instead. 

Choosing an auntumnal look, I gave precedent to browns and reds for the bulk of the clothing, opting to do some stripy pirate trousers to break up the monotony. With my elf now sporting a dashing blonde hairdo I decided to tie this in with his chunky bow and leave blue and green as spot colours. All in all, I am now pleased with the result and just need to complete the final wizard in the set (my original was miscast, and Marcus Ansell gave me a replacement quite recently) and that particular project is complete. 

I hope you like him - looking at him now, I detect a whiff of Jason Connery about him aka Robin of Sherwood. Rrrrrroooooobinnnnn the Hooded Mannnnnnnn - dun dun! 

This Chaos Thug has a rather different tale to tell. He was an impulse eBay buy due to his really low price and hideous paint-job. He had been so badly treated by his previous owner that I lacked the will to clean him down with the mighty Dettol. So I thought, why don't I just paint over the top of the previous effort.

So I did. 

As you can see he looks great, despite his rather strange propositions and pose. Is he carrying that morning star to the local carboot sale? And what on earth is he doing with his head, looking in the opposite direction his is walking in? I guess that is just life in the chaos wastes, and having actually been there (see here) I can sympathise with him. 

I was pleased with the way his hood came out, as getting white right can be arduous. I used a grey base coat to start with, adding progressively larger amounts of paint as I highlighted. He wears some kind of tattered leather jacket and so I used him as a opportunity to paint up some orangey leather. It is amazing how a chestnut ink glaze brings out the richness of the colour! Try it! Thoroughly tired of limiting the amount of colours on my models, I gave him a nifty pair of red/blue trousers and highlighted them in my usual fashion, simply adding the lightest tone of Foundry's Boneyard to the basecoat. The rest then just slipped into place; the black of the shoes matched his funny visor thing, though I found that highlighting this just looked odd so I left it matt black. The rope was really easy to do; just an undercoat of the darked Foundry Boneyard followed by an orange wash. I just highlight up with the remaining shades in the Boneyard triad. A little gold and silver drybrushing and he was ready to join my Khorne army. 

Disliking painting platemail as I do, this guy was abandoned due to being boring in the extreme to paint and frustrating to complete. Unlike the other models which were lavished with around two hours of painting time, this guy was knocked off in about forty minutes - does he look like it? I just rehighlighted all of my original painting and changed the colour of his padded jacket from white to blue to give him a little colour interest. The red scabbard also helped in this respect. I found using a blue glaze over the armour helped breathe a little life into him too. Far from my finest work, but perfect for the rank and file. 

Finally, Stuart's Mindflayer. He chided me the other day that I had had this model on the painting station for two years, so I was determined to complete him. Like the thug, he had already been painted (this time by me) but I was never happy with the result, hence him being transported to the Moriarty pile. In the end, I realised that there was nothing wrong with my painting at all, it was just the colour scheme didn't suit the model. Originally, he had an orange skintone and purple robes you see. 

Considering Stuart is now painting up a far few Nurgle models, and I had completed a few models in this project for him in the past, I used similar tones to those employed before and the gribbly chap just seemed to paint himself in just over an hour. Having just two colours and a bit of gold to work up helped with the timing. I am pleased with the way he turned out and I hope Stuart appreciates him now. 


Wednesday 30 August 2017

Marcus Ansell's Glorious Battlefield Full Of Glorious Classic Models And Scenery. Huzzah!

Marcus Ansell's meritorious posting of these wonderful photographs on Facebook late last night no doubt caused many an eminent and distingusihed enthusiast to sit up swiftly and exclaim, '%*@£', as their spouse looked on in startled bemusement. After all, as every adherent to Old School Citadel will know, photographs such as these are invariably packed with an abundant array of classic miniatures and scenery pieces, and are as rare as fallen snow in midsummer. 
Despite the miserable afflictions of August here in England, it seems that the sun does shine in Stoke upon a field of battle once again. No bodies of slain English and Irish would be strung up this time however, rather the gangly green forces of an orc warlord and the vulgar, ill-bred soliders of the Empire. 
Images such as these are best left to speak for themselves and I thought it prudent to post them here for those many Oldhammerers who don't use Facebook, or indeed those who do who, due to the unfavourable algorithims of social media, may find this superb collection of photographs lost to them. 
Thanks must go to Marcus for (no doubt) arranging, photographing and sharing this pictures for Old School Citadel fans to enjoy the world over. He went on to state that all of the figures you see here are from the old Games Workshop lines and are owned by Bryan Ansell - I am sure that you will recognise many of them from arcane and ancient publications of yesteryear. The main set of buildings, walls and temple ruins were built by Dave Andrews and Phil Lewis, many as part of the popular scenery articles published in White Dwarf from the late 1980s. 
The Jolly Coachman, Armoury, Apothecary and Castle were constructed by Rick Priestley and Richard Halliwell. Two of the oldest buildings were built by Bryan himself. 

Monday 21 August 2017

WFRP'd: Eureka!

We return, after a fairly long absence, to the world of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, to once again tred the dangerous paths of the Old World. This adventure was originally published in White Dwarf 93 (alongside a little game called Rogue Trader) and doesn't come chronologically (publication-wise) after my last post in the series, The Night of Blood, for reasons I will explain.

Between issue 88 and 92, Games Workshop pumped out a plethora of random articles in support of their new fangled roleplaying game; 'Hand of Destiny' concerned itself with fate points; 'Onwards and Upwards' chronicled character advancement; 'Practice Makes Perfect' dealt with careers in more detail; 'Ooops' combat fumbles; 'Nobelese' explained how to roleplay noble and royal characters; 'No Psychos Needed' proved rules for racial psychology and a 'Fistful of Misprints' cleared up the clutter from the rulebook itself. 

Quite a jumble of ideas and themes that I guess just couldn't fit inside the main rulebook. I have decided to bypass this little collection of articles as the nitty gritty and fine tuning of rules just doesn't interest your author. For me, WFRP was (and is) all about the narrative and the opportunities the story provides for good, old fashioned roleplaying. Hence our sudden skip to this adventure, that doesn't mean I won't one day return to these articles, as long time readers will no doubt know. 

During my Games Mastering days, this adventure passed me by as I never managed to get a copy of it. Apart from its original publication, it also saw the light of day as part of the Restless Dead campaign - and incidentally Graeme Davis has written a short piece about this book on his blog here - and getting your hands on a copy in the pre-eBay days was practically impossible. In fact, even when I re-collected my White Dwarf stash back in the early 2000s, I never actually read through this adventure and it resided in my mind as the 'one with the funny inventions'. 

So today, I will be reading through the adventure for the first time and sharing my thoughts with you lot. How lucky you are, eh? Now before I do that I will point out that the material that follows WILL contain a large number of spoilers, so if you are a WFRP fan or player and want to do justice to this rarer adventure - stop reading now! 

Have you stopped? 

Good. Now I imagine that if you are reading these words you are already familar with the adventure or never plan to play in through as a PC. Or you are a power-roleplayer (do these people even exist?) drunk on victory and the need to feel superior over your fellow players. I'll leave it up to you to assign exactly who you are. Thanks to the singular Matt Kay (whoever he is) we have the entire adventure published on scribd in a handy article. Here it is for your reading pleasure... oh and there is a second edition version available also, if you are unfortunate enough to use second edition - poor souls. 

WFRP1 - White Dwarf 93 - Eureka - An Inventive Adventure for WFRP by Matt Kay on Scribd

The adventure kicks off, like a great number before or since, under the boughs of the Deutz Elm in Nuln. The beginning of the adventure suggests we see our PCs in their natural state - unemployed and lacking in cash and lingering around looking for adventuring work. As always, the GM needs do no more than give them a gentle push towards an advertisment among many nailed to its trunk. It reads 'Capable persons needed to protect valuables. Well paid, food and board supplied. Contact Uwe the Barman at the Misthaufen Tavern.'

Anyone with a smattering of German will no doubt blanch at the chance of visiting a inn named after a dung heap, but our PCs are no doubt desperate and will have no qualms at all about lowering their standards to such a degree. A fairly swift session of roleplaying will see our players standing at the threshold of the establishment (a shabby little beershop located down one of the city's many insalubrious back streets) asking to be introduced to Uwe. This fat, good natured man could be played several ways by the GM. Over generous and genuflecting (he does, after all, offer them free beers) or a shady and underhand individual - the choice is most definitely yours, depending on how you want the players to feel. It won't be long until they discover that Uwe is just a go-between for another client, and it will be this individual who is after the capable persons and will have their mits on the purse strings. 

Depending on how you want to play the interaction between the contact and the PCs, our players will soon be wandering down Gummisteifelstrasse (Rubber Boots Street?) looking for a house named Der Gerflugesalat (Chicken Salad? Oh, those WFRP witticisms!) under instructions to tell whoever they meet that 'Uwe sent them'. Soon our players will have the pleasure of Fatboy's company (the proprietor of the house's cook and general housekeeper) and the chance for more amusing roleplaying. After a little kerfuffle, depending on how the PCs play it, they will be standing before their mysterious would-be benefactor, Wolfgang Kugelschreiber (ballpoint-pen?), undoubted genius and inventor. I would imagine that this part of the scenario would be great fun to GM, as the PCs learn that the valuable objects are not infact precious metals, arcane magical items or sacks full of cash, but the rather shabby looking Fatboy and his erstwhile master. They are to be hired as mere bodyguards, as a gang of roughs have been hassling Kugelschreiber recently over whether or not he is willing to be part of a protection racket. Clearly not it seems by our players sudden employment and promise of 100GCs each. 

This entire scene is set in one of those cliched 'mad professor' laboratory stroke dungeon rooms and can be played for laughs if you so wish. Hargreaves' text plays with a cod-German accent reminisce of nearly every episode of 'Allo 'Allo, that seminal 1980s favourite. Alas, there is no 'Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies' here, just a dramatic unveiling of his new invention; the Old World's first submersible, only Kugelschreiber hasn't considered how he will be able to remove it from his workshop! 

So far so good. We have seen plenty of scope for humourous character interaction between the players and the GM. At this point, they will have little choice but to carry out whatever bizarre and perculiar orders Kugelschreiber may have, and the sadist GM might well use this opportunity to have some fun, setting up the PCs for long, fruitful nights guarding the house as Fatboy and Kugelschreiber snooze with impunity until launching the 'storm episode'. As you see, once the thunder and lightning begins to strike, Kugelschreiber declares the perfect opportunity has arisen to experiment with the elements in the perfect pastiche to Mary Shelley's famous novel. He will disappear into his laboratory and the PCs can either give up for the night, observe or patrol the house. At some point, Helmut Weishund the government spy will arrive to carry out a fruitless, and ultimately fatal, attempt to steal secrets from the inventor. 

Hargreaves provides a lovely little scenario where the PCs need to pursue the spy onto the gothic roof of Der Gerflugesalat, amid the lashing rain, lightning strikes and rolling peals of thunder. With a 50% chance of slipping from the roof it is almost certain that a PC will fall off and injure themselves, especially considering there is a 15% chance of being hit by lightning too. For Helmut, alas, the fates are much, much unkinder, as we see him falling to his death at the GMs discretion, no doubt at the most dramatic point. 

This is a wonderful little loop-plot scene, and could be used as a hook for further homebrew adventures if the GM is creative enough. Whatever, this episode is merely a false alarm of the red herring variety, though it serves well to keep the players on their toes. Searching Helmut's body could be a risky business, what with him dying of a lighning strike and his body will electrocute anyone foolish enough to handle it. A rummage of his pockets will reveal next to nothing of course, and leave our players wondering. I was always a fan of unexplained loose ends when I was GMing, as I found that explaining every detail never fed that sense of awe and wonder essential to any roleplaying game.

More opportunities for roleplaying will present themselves in the morning, as the PCs are gently lifted from their slumbers by the delicious smells of bacon and eggs frying. Fatboy will provide them with a hearty break to their fast and Kugelschreiber will offer to stitch, bind and generally tend to anyone's wounds. The rest of the day can be spent indulging in the highlight of this adventure - Kugelschreiber's zany inventions.

Take a look...

With the whole day empty of incident, the GM can give their players a little time to explore the  Kugelschreiber's bizarre inventions or head out into the city for a little shopping. Whatever they choose to do shouldn't be too dramatic in my opinion, as the real fun will begin as soon as it grows dark. At an opportune moment (perhaps as the PCs settle down for their evening fare) an aggressive banging will be heard from the front door. Reminded of the importance for not fighting inside the property, the PCs watch as Fatboy gingerly opens the front door to admit a brace of rather perculiar looking rogues, brandishing a motley array of weapondry.

With the players able to do little beyond posture in a (hopefully) nonchalant way,  Kugelschreiber will hand over a pouch containing 75GCs and forbid any violence in his home. Such restrictions are essential to the plot of the adventure, though encouraging the PCs out into the night to follow them should be easy enough. And so starts the 'main 'event' of this scenario; a long, tensioned filled exerice in tracking the evildoers through the streets, and if I was GMing the game, practical use of the cardstock buildings from my beloved Warhammer Townscape would help manage and set this scene wonderfully. 

I am sure that creative players will devise all manner of cunning plans to keep on the trail of the local thugs, though whether or not these turn out to be fruitful should be down to the GMs discretion, and I am thinking that Baldrick would be a better template for the player's successes than Hannibal Barca. However the GM runs this episode, or indeed the players too, the eventual discovery that our villains are no more than a group of corrupt City Watchmen on the take will come as a shock, and will probably prevent sensible players from launching a full scale assault. 

Whatever they decide, the adventure suggests the result of any actions against the ne'er-do-wells should result in a chase. Preferably a high octane and dramatic one, and having the Watch in hot pursuit was a regular and popular occurance for my adventurers when I ran WFRP campaigns. This would make a perfect companion piece to the slower paced stalk through the night's streets, and again would be an excellent opportunity to field those lovely card buildings. Sadly, this is where 'Eureka' begins to suffer, especially if run straight off the page, as the ending of the adventure is more than a little week. 

Kugelschreiber and Fatboy will seek to escape the Watch in the submersible, despite it being constructed in a laboratory well away from the river. There is a suggestion that they would use gunpowder to blast through the laboratory's walls, but Hargreaves gives us little in terms of action. And quite why would they wish to escape anyway - they didn't commit any crime against the Watch, beyond employing the PCs! Perhaps we should just accept guilty by association, but then again, these are corrupt City Watchmen! 

Instead 'Eureka' leads the adventurers to succeed where Daedalus failed, and encourages them to escape from the highest point of Der Gerflugesalat on homemade handgliders, providing a quick and neat ending to the adventure but one that just doesn't satisfy. Personally, if I were running this adventure I'd have tweaked the submersible description and allowed the PCs to enter it, using Kugelschreiber as the captain of the vessel, fatboy as the first mate and the adventuerers as the hapless able (or not so able) seamen, busting their guts out keeping the ramshackle device afloat. Only after the mad, yet dramatic, plan of blowing up the walls and launching the submersible into the depths of Nuln's sewers had come into play, of course. And who knows what dangers lurk in the nether-regions of Nuln? 

They would certainly be safe from the Watch down there. 

To conclude, Paul Hargreaves' adventure (did he do anything else?) has a great deal going for it. Amusing characters, silly inventions and lots of opportunities for narrative roleplaying. Of course, it is dreadfully linear and is perhaps suited to entry level PCs and inexperienced GMs if used in its published form. For the more ambitious and creative GMs however, there is a great deal of useful material here to help craft a memorable and rewarding adventure for any group. 

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Games Workshop's Lost Games: Chivalry rediscovered!

From time to time, we have the opportunity to glimpse something that could have been. Unreleased models, artwork and occassionally whole games themselves. Some of these games survive as mere mentions, ghosts on the page, such as Richard Halliwell's Lustria campaign or Blood for the Blood God supplement for Warhammer. Others have lain lanquished and forgotten, only to be rediscovered and enjoyed once more, as with the Bolt Thrower or Bust game I blogged about last year. 

Chivalry was one of those lost games, only one that existed as a simple card game published in White Dwarf 130 in October 1990. There were always rumours and suspicions of more, especially when the enthusiast reads back through the original article, and I quote: "As some of you will know, we have been working on a new Warhammer game called Chivalry. It is quite a departure for us because, rather than being set in our own game universe of the Warhammer World, it takes place in the wholly historical setting of the fourteenth century, complete with knights, retainers, peasants and all the bloody trappings of medieval warfare." 

Flicking through copies of White Dwarf from this era, it is obvious that something was certainly afoot. The Perry's produced a stunning range of medieval miniatures (labelled Bretonians, though clearly purely historical models) which saw considerable coverage in the magazine, with painting and iconography guides being published. Several works of art appeared baring a discernibly historical tone and a couple of beautiful Pery dioramas captured our imaginations with their gritty realism and bright, intricate heraldry. As David Frost used to say on 'Through the Key Hole' - "the clues are there!" 

Over the years, former Games Workshop illuminati have also briefly mentioned Chivalry and shared what they could remember of the project. 

Graeme Davis: I remember the Chivalry card game, though nothing really beyond the fact of its existence. I also remember that someone (the Perrys, I think) was working on a jousting game at some point between 1986 and 1989, but nothing beyond that. I don't think the game got any further than Bob Naismith's Tower of Screaming Death. I'm pretty sure that was Nigel Stillman's Bretonnia book, so Bretonnia wasn't really on the radar at the Design Studio at that time. 
Quoted from comment made on RoC80s in November 2014

Rick Priestley: The Chivalry game was actually written up and developed by Nigel Stillman - based on an idea from Bryan Ansell - and utilising a range of models developed by the Perrys. So, yes Alan and Michael were involved - and did contribute to the game - but it was Nigel who worked up the game and Bryan had the 'vision' for it. In fact it was many games interlocked - with an overarching dynasty building game behind it - as I remember. There was a jousting system I think - and a man to man combat game that was based on cards - which I think I had a hand in. I remember playing it with the Perrys on the train down to Salute! 

Just one of the very many things that were worked on and adandoned back in the day. 
Taken from a Facebook conversation about the game 'Chivalry'. March 2015

The card game is well known, and I have blogged about its several times. I too, have pleasant memories of playing the game on long journeys (to and from school) and incorporating it into a WFRP campaign, complete with the PCs mimmicking the poses with plastic swords everytime a combat was played out. Very entertaining I can tell you! Over the years, I have met many an enthusiast who has fond memories of the game, with most of them recalling the more amusing 'distract' and 'boot' cards with oblivious relish. In 2013 some Oldhammer chaps utilised the card system in a Robin Hood inspired game and the Grognard's Grognard, Harry Howells, shared his thoughts about their implications. 

Harry Howells: Everytime any two characters got into a fight we used the cards to resolve it. It played pretty well, although sometimes it could drag on a bit waiting for someone to get the upper hand. But a perfect bit of fun to add to a narrative game. We didn't worry about the weapons they were actually using. I always thought it looked good... it took me all these years to make any use of it, but I was really glad I gave it a go. It made the character fights between Robin and Guy more 'cinematic' as the advantage passed backwards and forwards and there were lots of opportunities for Errol Flynn style banter... "Not so fast, Guy!" and "Take that you saxon scum!" 

This would have otherwise have been lost in a simple roll of a dice. I would certainly use it again. 

Now, if you have got to this point in this article and you are thinking - what on earth are these Chivalry cards everyone keeps banging on about? Let me illuminate you with a couple of photographs. If you are looking for some scans of the cards themselves, then look here for some slightly blurry examples that are fairly straightforwards to print out, trim and get into the action with. 

What we have covered so far is all that was published for the Chivalry game, and for some 'was' the Chivalry game, but for years I'd been fascinated by what the rest of the game would have been like. Last month, I was chatting to Bryan Ansell and Tony Ackland at the fifth Oldhammer Weekend when out of the corner of my eye I saw a battered, plastic boxfile wedged under several pieces of original GW artwork. It was unremarkable and unassuming really, just another piece of stationary save for the word 'CHIVALRY' scrawled in permanent pen across the front. 

You can imagine my excitement was palpable when I asked them about it! I was even more jibilant when Bryan told me it was all that was left of the Chivalry project and that I was free to borrow it for further study! By now you have probably realised that the image I began this artcile with is a conceit. I crafted it on my computer but it is funny how that old 'Bretonian' painting that appeared in White Dwarf seems to make the perfect frontispiece for a rulebook - it makes me wonder if this image was indeed intended to grace the cover of Chivalry. 

Obviously, the game was never published and Bryan's manuscript is very much a manuscript, complete with scrawled and slightly illegible annotations in blue pencil. 

Here's the front page.

The historical background to the fourteenth sets the perfect stage for everything from small scale raids and skirmishes, to pitched battles as well as the proving grounds of the melee and joust. The overview to Chivalry explains Feudal obligation and uses as a context to hang a campaign on, including the role of the king attempting to prevent any single baron becoming too powerful. There are a huge number of different ideas here, far too many to cover in a single post like this, and some of the content is fragmentary at best. As Bryan explained; 'we never finished it'. But a great deal of material has survived, including detailed rules for tournaments and baronial conflict. 

Though art is mentioned in the manuscript, much of it is obviously missing - with some of it no doubt making it into the pages of White Dwarf. On other pages are some wonderful illustrations of mounted knights, though whether any of these were intended for publication I do not yet know. However, it is clear that the campaign game was a card based affair and that 'Chivalry' can be best described as a series of games within a game, miniature wargaming being just a part, just as Rick Priestley recalled. 

The campaign seems to have had a strong RPG flavour with a number of components indicating that the baronial characters would have experienced positive and negative events in life, including marriage - which I guess can go either way! Flicking through the pages that survive gives me the impression that character progression would have been a considerable part of the game and can well imagine the fun you would have leading a lowly knight from the tournaments to wielding considerable power along the way. With a multiplayer campaign, there would have been plenty of scope for skullduggery and deception too. 

Some of the cards were printed to become test pieces, like these campaign maps that appear similar in style to Mighty Empires. If you look closely you will notice a few admendments made in tipex or some other white out material - a relic of the time before desktop publishing was a breeze. The cards are interchangable and can be used to make inumerable combinations for play. 

A question now needs to be asked. What can be done with a 'used' unpublished game? I am lucky enough to be custodian of the document for a while, and will return it to the Ansell family archive in October when I take part in Night of the Living Lead. Between then and now I intend to scan the entire document in high definition for posterity but I am really tempted to do more... 

Perhaps, even have a go at finishing the game and trying it out at next year's Oldhammer Weekend! Looking at what survives in the document, I can imagine a project like this would consist of three phases:

1) Tweaking the Chivalry card game rules to develop a narrative based tournement ruleset for battling knights, including some additional campaign rules - think Chaos Warbands aka Slaves to Darkness only for knights. 

2) Complete the Chivalry card game rules for jousting, which are sadly mostly missing. This could eventually be incorporated into the Melee game in phase 1. 

3) Edit and play the full campaign game in a series of events to simulate baronial conflict circa AD 1300, recruiting some suitably bloodthirsty Oldhammerers to slug it out to victory. This would include a Mighty Empires style map, cards and small and large scale battles. 

Expect to see more about this discovery in the coming weeks, and some of my progress on Phase 1 of this project. I just need to get hold of a couple of suitable knights, real and miniature. 


Monday 14 August 2017

A Historical Interlude: Bronze Age people by Michael Perry

Two additional figures from the Wargames Foundry range - an older woman and a young man - note the 'pageboy' hair cut and the hairnet!
A few weeks ago, I published a post about my love for the Foundry's European Bronze Age range and discussed how the 1921 discovery of the Egtved Girl came to inspire Michael Perry's sculpting. She certainly inspired me too, and I have continued to work on this seemingly unpopular, but excellent range, as you can see! 

This time we are going to have a closer look at the garments worn by people in North West Europe around 1600 BC, as illustrated by these two wonderful character figures. I like to think that these represent the Egtved girl's family; perhaps her parents or siblings and that they inhabit the same village or environment. Roleplaying is possible in Europe's distant past, see? Though as we will find, these two additional figures may be more closely matched to each other than I originally thought. 

So what do we know of the people who inhabited this sceptred isle three and a half millenia ago? The first thing you need to forget is the concept of the nation state. Modern views of nationality and regional identification didn't really develop into the form we recognise today until the end of the 18th century. People were tribal for sure, but where one tribe began and another ended is now largely lost to us. 

Here, in what would one day be called England, population density seems to increase significantly from the Neolithic period, with smaller family clans gradually morphing into settled, larger communities. Some scholars have even suggested that the total population of the British Isles (that includes Eire, remember modern geo-politics don't apply here) could have reached 1,000,000 by 2000 BC. 

Image result for bronze age clothes denmark
Ye Olde illustration of Bronze Age costume inspired by the Danish oak coffin finds. Again, note the hairnet and rounded hats, both present on Michael Perry's models. 
The reasons behind this population increase are hotly debated by prehistorians to this day, but the general consensus is that farming practices developed rapidly and this resulted in a more substainable food source. As the population grew, there were more people to work the land and in turn generate further produce. Environmental archaeology, particularly the discipline of palaeoethnobotany, has provided evidence to suggest that these growing populations cleared large areas of forest to develop the first field systems. Occasionally, these fields were enclosed with boundries, using earthworks, wooden pallisades or drystone walling, such as at the Dartmoor Reaves. Much of the woodland remained as a managed resource, with scholars arguing that around fifty-percent of forest growth had survived by the Middle Bronze age. Ancient versions of barley and wheat (remember, our crops are the result of thousands of years of manipulation: GM produce being nothing new) were harvested, alongside hay and straw to aid in animal husbandry, thatching and many other purposes, such as bedding. Malt was also cultivated, as alcoholic drinks were fermented and no doubt enjoyed in copious quanities- just like today! 

Climatology surveys suggest that the weather was probably slightly warmer in the Bronze Age, with a two degree difference on average to modern times, and this obviously effected agricultural land use, as arable farming was able to spread to moorland and upland environments. By the later Bronze Age, this weather pattern changed into the cooler, wetter variety the inhabitants of these islands are famous for enduring, and so many of these upland farms were abandoned. 

With food production no longer a day to day necessity for all, some people began to specialise in skilled activities. Evidence for metal workers, shipwrights, leather tanners and so on suggest a varied cabal of craftsmen operating throughout the Bronze Age. Despite having the name 'Bronze' in this period, stone tools were still used extensively, though their production lack the artistic finess of the Neolithic or Mesolithic periods, and any modern day search of freshly ploughed land, or even your own back gardens here in Europe, can result in the discovery of these stone relics if you know what you are looking for.

Image may contain: food
Bronze Age stone tool, discovered by the author in his garden. 
As we learnt from the Egtved Girl's teeth, travel around the European continent seemed to be a common enough occurance three and half millenia ago. Archaeological excavation has proven time and time again that there were strong trade links between the British Isles and the continent even then, with metalwork and ore (particularly tin) being shipped out and amber, jade and such being imported, and that these links were probably already well established by the Neolithic. Exotic or unusual items would have been seen as status symbols and the relative 'worth' of a item needs careful examination and avoidance of modern bias. A good contemporary example of this can be found in Ancient Egypt, where silver was deemed of greater value than gold, something that was beyond the ken of our Victorian antiquarian forebears. 

If we now return to the subject of clothing, we can understand that there is a good likelihood that textiles would have been traded and may have seen specialised production, though if we look at comparative societies in the Iron Age and Medieval periods, the production of textile was an activity carried out by women and sometimes children. Though I very much doubt that the production of textiles was a 'women-only' pastime, sewing was a skill of great importance for thousands of years, and it didn't matter if you were a queen or a milkmaid, you still spent some of your time at the loom and needlecraft was a highly valued skill. 

Though we can never know who actually made clothing in the Bronze Age, at least we have a few glimpses of how clothing was made and what these outfits looked like, largely thanks to the Danish Oak Coffin burials we touched on last time. The Egtved girl being one of the twenty so far unearthed. Hopefully, the ongoing investigations at Must Farm (nicknamed Britain's Pompeii) will reveal more in future about clothing in what would one day become England. What we do know is that clothing was mostly wool based, with a variety of weaves and more sophisticated that the animal hides worn during the Stone Age. As natural dyes were used to colour clothing, we can expect fairly drepressing shades of brown, green and dark red to have been the norm. Leather was plentiful during the Bronze Age and was probebly used extensively in clothing, and elsewhere. A shoe dated to 1420-1260 BC was found by accident in Norway in 2006, thawed from an icefield in the Jotunheimen mountains, and was found to be an equivalent size to a UK size seven. One of the shoe's seems was very well preserved and there was some indication that shoelaces were used to fasten the garment. 

Interestingly, the simple design remained in use until around AD 1600! 

Bronze Age clothes
A great reconstruction for Bronze Age clothing found at Ancient Craft, though not exactly like the outfits worn on our miniatures. 
The male miniature seems to have been based on male clothing excavated as part of a suspected family group found at Borum Eshøj. First discovered in 1871, these burials were uncovered inside a large barrow situated near Århus, the second largest city in Denmark, and weren't fully recovered until 1875. Sadly, both excavation and preservation techniques were primitive at best, with local visitors recorded as poking and proding the bodies after their removal. 

The excavations of 1871 resulted in the discover of a single grave with the body incased in a oak coffin, similar in many ways to the Egtved Girl's. Inside, lay the remains of an elderly woman. During more extensive fieldwork four years later, two further coffins were discovered and were found to contain the bodies of two men - one considerably older than the other. It has been suggested that the barrow itself was originally raised over the body of the older man, and the subsequent two further burials were added later. Dendrochronology provided a date of roughly 1350 BC for the oak coffins used, so about twenty to forty years after the Egtved Girl. 

Careful analysis of the skeletal remains, suggests that the older man had reached later middle age when he died, around fifty to sixty years while the younger male was around twenty years when he was buried. The female's age was estimated at being similar to the older man. 

The primary inhumation was very well preserved and had to be dismembered for transport to Copenhagan, as the sinews and muscles were still holding the skeleton together. His nails were well manicured and his face newly shaven, perhaps suggesting that he had been cleaned up after death as some people still do today. Like the Egtved Girl, he lay on a cow hide and was covered by a woollen blanket. He wore a wool hat, its crown round in shape, a kidney-shaped cloak, a kilt, two foot cloths and and belt. As far as I could gather, the only other item of clothing in the grave was a wooden needle, which may have been used to fasten the cloak around the neck. 

The female had a short but stocky build, and the preserved traces of muscle on her bones suggests she carried out a great deal of hard physical work. Again, her clothes are well preserved and were more numerous. A dress made from several rectangular pieces of cloth made up her dress, along with a blouse, hairnet, cap and two belts, all made from wool. She was clearly a wealthy individual, and this is reflected in the many grave-goods associated with her burial; a bronze belt plate (similar to Egtved Girl); two tutuli (ornamental bronze plates in case you were wondering), a neck ring, arm rings, spiral finger rings and a clothes pin. A ceramic vessel, a wooden box, a bronze dagger and a horn comb were also found in her coffin. 

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The preserved clothing of the older male found at Borum Eshøj is practically identical to our wargames miniature's.
The younger man most closely resembles the figure shown here. He was twenty years old when he died, and again his body was well enough preserved that his muscles and other tissues were still attached to much of the skeletal remains. His hair was also very well preserved and could be described as being in the modern 'pageboy' style popular in the 1970s and with George Lucas' leading boys ever since, just check out Jake Lloyd in the Phantom Menace and you will get the general idea. Like the older man, he wore a kilt of woven wool and a kidney-shaped cloak with the obligatory belt to hold it all in. If you return to the Foundry figure you can see he is wearing one of the rounded hats on his head, similar to the elder male individual. It is clear that the male burials at Borum Eshøj inspired Michael Perry with this model. In fact, there is an elderly man with a walking stick in the set which I suspect is based on the older individual - I just haven't painted him yet!

It is tempting to state that these burials must represent a family group, with two elderly parents being interred with their son. The dendrochronology certainly suggests this, with the initial burial being dated at 1351 BC while the latest is dated at 1345 BC. I couldn't find any record of a DNA analysis having been carried out on the bodies, but I suspect that such an investigation would be hazardous, considering the amount of contamination the bodies have suffered since burial, but I would love to be corrected. 

Though the female burial at Borum Eshøj shared some of the clothing items with our Foundry figure, she doesn't closely match her in the same way as the male figure matches the younger burial. In fact, I couldn't find a really close match for her at all. The female at Borum Eshøj was buried with a hairnet of singular type, though today she doesn't have any hair left on her skull, thanks to the rummaging hands of local farmers during her discovery, and beyond a simple illustration made during the excavation we have no idea what her hair style was like. Thankfully, we know more about ladies' hairstyles and their hairnets thanks to a more recent discovery (1935) in a burial mound not far from Skrydstrup, in Southern Jutland. 

This reconstruction of the Skrydstrup Woman is very similar to Michale Perry's figure, note the embroidary on the sleeves and the pleated top to the dress. 
The so-called Skrydstrup woman was around 18 when she died and was laid in a oak coffin wearing a short sleeved blouse of woven wool with embroideries on the sleeves. Dated to around 1300 BC, she too was laid in a oak coffin wearing a large piece of textile fashioned into a long skirt. Her hair was finished in an unusual style in which all of her hair was combed forwards over a hair pad. A woollen cord was afterwards bound around her hair, which was plaited across the forehead, temple to temple like a wreath of flowers might be incorporrated into the hair. Finally, a hairnet was used to cover the elaborate style, crafted from horse hair, though a woollen 'cap' constructed using the 'sprang' technique was also placed alongside her in the grave. Large, golden earrings lay by both ears and a horn comb was attached to her belt. 

Sprang technique hairnets or caps
There seems to be a nod to both the hairnet and the sprang constructed caps on the female figure. Looking at the sculpting I was unsure how to procreed as the band around her forehead seemed to suggest a textile. In the end I compromised, giving the top of her had the plaited hair look and the band a woven, woollen tone.

A modern reconstruction of the Skrydstrup's woman elaborate hairstyle. 
Looking at the modern reconstruction, hair was clearly just as big thing for women then as it is today. I could imagine my wife spending and hour or two plaiting such a design into my own daughter's hair and there must have been quite a few tears, not to mention a harsh word to two if such a design was intended to be worn by a child. The fact that both razor blades and tweezers have been found in Bronze Age burials just goes to show that these ancient people took personal grooming just as seriously as we moderns, and that fashion and 'looking right' was clearly part of death, so it must have been part of everyday life. 

Before I depart I would like to talk about the colours I chose for the models. On the whole I took Nigel Stillman's advice (published on the Foundry website) and kept the colours very natural and subdued. Browns, greys, greens and dark reds seem to be very much the order of the day when talking about Bronze Age clothing. But as I said in my last post, the very special enivronment that ensured these garments survival also affected them over the years, often tanning them a rather turgid brown in tone. Recent investigations into the fabric of another preserved individual, Huldremose Woman, has revealed a start difference between what her clothing looks like now and how it might have appeared when she lived during the Iron Age. Of course, there is a thousand years between this individual and our Bronze Age people, but who's to say that the same vivid colour counldn't have been possible three and a half thousand years ago?


It certainly gets the miniature painter considering the possibilities, doesn't it? In the end, I opted for a much muted colour pallette for my figures and though I am deeply satisfied with their appearence, I think I might well pick up a second set one day and attempt something more imaginative with their paint schemes, perhaps something patterened as can be seen in these images. 

Right, before I go I really must point out a blog post by a fellow enthusiast, Red Orc, who wrote a wonderful opinion piece entitled 'In Defence of Ritual' after I gently mocked this most controversial of archaeological habits. It is well worth and read, so please go visit.