Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Unpacking the Sea Peoples

So, unpacking the Sea Peoples.  Don`t get excited... I mean literally unpacking.  Go back a couple of years when I was teaching Shakespeare to kids who were, mostly, never going to understand it anyway, the word unpacking had a different meaning.  It seems to me that just about every historian who ever looked at the Sea Peoples came up with a different theory about them, and most are so fence sitting and non committal that they should never have wasted their time unpacking them in the first place.  

After my Sea Peoples somewhat interesting encounter with airport security, I finally reached home in Cyprus and began to sort them out.  Well over 120 shiny new 28mm figures, from three different manufacturers, the weight was quite startling.  When I add 20mm washers for bases as well as flock and paint they will weigh a damn sight more.  The flock came through security pretty much unmentioned by the way, as did several tubes of Vallego paint.

Bearing in mind that I left the Egyptians and Libyans in Durham I reckon my Bronze age project is pretty much on track.

Firstly this huge pile of metal is not just my Sea Peoples.  There are three Canaanite chariots and a couple of packs of Syrian spearmen in there too.  My reasoning is that I may need someone to raid, and that I wanted to have a go at the Canaanites too.

The Sea Peoples are divided into horned helmet wearers, reed circlet style helmet wearers and a group of guys in wrap around turbans who will be filler for any shortfall in the two main groups.

I`ve also brought three packs of "Civilians" over.  Most of these are Foundry, but I also bought some Newline.  The slave trader with his human property will make a nice vignette, as will the Peleset baggage wagon with an ox and crew.  Please don`t let Phil Barker know but this is not a war wagon, just a baggage element! 

Lastly I have "Old Nestor," in his chariot, with a gang of streakers as my Acheans.  

The Sea Peoples in helmets are my Sherden.  I have some issues with this helmet as portrayed on some of these figures.  My commander (Uriah as it happens) wears a helmet interpreted from the Egyptian reliefs.  It seems to be a bronze pot helmet style with bronze horns and an insignia disk above.  Egyptian scribes were exact, and the colouring of these on the reliefs is almost always light yellow, interpreted as meaning bronze.  

Examples of similar shaped helmets have been found around the Mediterranean, (but not of bronze) and not of this exact type.  They have not been found in Egypt.  Evidence has been based on the Warrior Vase, the Medinet Habu reliefs, and the "Ingot God" from Enkomi, down the coast from me here in Cyprus.  That disk has been interpreted as denoting the Shardana in Egyptian service, differentiating their "mercenary" status from the enemy.  That is of course supposition.  To be honest we don`t even know if it was a disk or a ball since one of these has never been found.  It has been interpreted as an "eye of Ra," or just a sun god disk, but we can`t really be sure of it`s significance at all. 

These three figures are three sculptor's interpretation of the Sherden. (they are probably the sculptor's interpretation of Angus McBrides's interpretation but there you go...)  Since only Egyptian Royalty or Maryannu would wear helmets, and the Minoan and "Greek" archaeology finds seem to point to largely non metallic helmets being worn by foot troops, its interesting to see that the central figure (Wargames Foundry) is much more detailed, and may even be an interpretation of a boars tusk helmet, although some Greek examples are decorated bronze.  His scale armour also indicates that this figure is not in Egyptian service.  Although I haven`t cleaned the casting up yet it`s still easy to see why I am such a fan of Foundry.  This little guy has animation, leaning into a run.  

The Northstar figure on the right, aside from being much taller, is dressed in Egyptian fashion and wears the helmet disk. The Newline figure on the left is less well detailed but also seems to be in Egyptian service.  I think that I can live with the less crisp detail in the interests of mixing different poses into my Sherden warband. 

I have a lot of painting to do.    

Monday, 21 November 2016

A Visit to the Wargames Club

For some years the other members of the Marshal Petain Gentlemen's Club have shared their allegiance with an organisation known as Durham Wargames Club.   Now as a predominantly solo wargamer my experience of this sort of thing is limited to say the least.  Nevertheless I took up the invitation of the others to trundle along as a guest, not really knowing what to expect.

At the venue, which I have been to a few times for conventions and the like, I was met with smiles and a brew.  The place was busy.  It was also fun.   

There was some diversity in the games being run.  A group of board gamers, some WW2 and some horse and musket all going on.  Here's the surprising thing, I even got a game in.  It turned out that Captain the Hon Q, had painted up some Picts.  Tasty art work they are too. Borrowing these I had a game against Secretary Quilp’s Romano British (I always feel suspicious at the presence of an 'o' in Romano. Sounds foreign to me!  Why not Roman British?)  

The game was Dux Brit, and although this was obviously not part of the ongoing campaign we settled on a raid.

These particular Roman-Brits are led by a general of less than heroic stature, a Tyrion Lanister-esque dwarf, apparently named Maximus Minimus (although I'm not sure if that was just me throwing out nicknames)  The Picts were lead by Pictish Lord and Pictish Leader One.  Not really good enough.  The only Pictish name I ever remember is pulp 1930s author Robert E Howard's Bran Mac Morn, so I christened the Pictish Lord "Bran Mac Flakes," and his sidekick Picty-Mac-Pict-Face.

Dux Brit is a fairly recent Toofatlardies game.  Not one I've had much to do with actually, but it is a game that has some possibilities for conversion to the Bronze Age project that I'm currently working on.  As such I was after an idea of how it worked.  

The terrain layout and army entry points work well, but the concept of a raid is less sucessful for a pick-up game like this.  I observed a nearby game where the raiders were bottled up by the terrain, only to withdraw.  Great for a campaign, but I wanted some fighting so that I could revisit these rules. Subtlety set aside I charged up the table length as fast as I could, baying for Roman blood.

The Pictish horsemen were something of a distraction, not really useful except as skirmishers.   I used them to bottle up the Roman-Brits in their own deployment zone.  I even managed to get some of my archers into the shed I was raiding (or church if you want to be pedantic)  my warbands had a fair chance against the Roman shield wall, indeed but for the shield wall rule they would have won.  The Pict horse were mincemeat to the Roman cavalry of Minimus.  (Does he have a really high voice I wonder?)

Half the morale dice remaining and no real prospect of staying much longer I threw in my hand, literally since the cards are another part of the game where luck deserted me.  The traditional time to close things down and go for a drink had arrived anyway.

So, after a couple of pints, and a discussion of Sherden helmet forms (of which I still think I was right, but didn't explain myself properly... well drinking Moretti leaves me fuddled...)  It was time to go.

Sitting on the plane, heading home to Cyprus, I am quite convinced that the boys are onto something with this wargames club business.  I'm still a soloist, but really enjoyed it, and I extend my thanks to all who made me so welcome.  It was a lot of fun.  I'm not sure if those guys realise it but their games are punctuated by the sound of laughter and joking.  It's an experience I hope to repeat.

Indeed I feel I must record here that a challenge was issued and accepted at the end of the night.  I have undertaken to ready my Sea Peoples to fight Dr Pea's Bronze Age Achaeans.  That probably means I'll paint up the Karians, to defend the Hittite satellite states around the Aegean, and so I have just had to explain away several kilograms of miniatures in my hand luggage going though security in Newcastle Airport, I'll have to repeat the process in April on my return journey!

Monday, 14 November 2016

SERENDIPITY (or my first tranchette)

Right then chaps, before I begin, does anyone know why we've gone all 'brown'? It's bloomin' 'orrible!
Now with that off my chest I shall proceed.

In the last post I looked at the evolution of Mycenaean spearmen and started to think about ‘the look’ that is most appropriate for my Bronze Age project. If the Trojan War has any basis in fact it was probably set near the end of the Mycenaean period; so the classic image of Minoan / early Mycenaean spearmen armed with long spears and body shields can be discounted. Other than that, for the moment, I don’t want to be too prescriptive as I am necessarily restricted by the available figure ranges. So it’s back to the figure catalogues to see if anything matches ‘the look’.
I thought I’d start with Warlord, as they proffer unarmoured Achaeans, in both early and late versions. As luck would have it, they had free shipping on offer and naturally I was compelled to purchase a sample pack of the late Achaeans (oh the power of marketing!).
At the time I was a bit tired and couldn’t be bothered to register an account so opted to pay through PayPal instead. Much to my surprise, it automatically generated a Warlord account anyway and also seems to have signed me up to the Warlord newsletter to boot. Despite the notification that some orders may need to be specially cast and could take up to 15 working days (which is fine) the figures were actually dispatched the next day. On dispatch I received a confirmation email; followed an hour later by the Warlord newsletter, which announced the release of both armoured Achaeans and armoured Sea Peoples! As the free postage offer was about to expire I couldn’t resist ordering a couple of packs of these as well.
So let’s have a look at my first tranche – good word tranche, should use it more often. Actually my humble purchase is a mere nothing compared to Uriah’s mighty tranche; now that’s a tranche. Perhaps this ought to be a tranchette?
So my first tranchette looks like this:

1 pack Later Achaean Spearmen
1 pack Later Achaean Armoured Spearmen
1 pack Sea People Armoured Warriors II

Although this was only meant to be a sample, it does equate to 24 figures; 4 units at Dux Brit scale or 2 units for Chariot Rampant.
The figures came nicely packed in blisters ensconced in a suitably padded cardboard box for shipping. As for the figures themselves, they are excellent; cleanly cast with the realistic proportions that I personally prefer.
Size wise they are also a good fit with Foundry figures (apologies for the photo quality; I really need some better lighting). The photo shows an Achaean next to an old Foundry Roman that I happened to have; I’ve sized the latter up against Uriah’s Libyans and they match perfectly. Also included are a couple of other items from my painting table for reference: a Gripping Beast early Saxon and a Perry Miniatures plastic Napoleonic infantryman.

From this we can see that the Cutting Edge Miniatures are pretty much 28mm from foot to eye. They also seem to be a good fit with some of the early Foundry ranges and surprisingly don’t look too bad alongside my QT Models chariot.

My only criticism is with the poses for the unarmoured spearmen; they are holding their shields at a really awkward angle so that the shield does not actually cover the body. I had hoped to be able to bend the arms but sadly the shields are moulded to the body; however, this can be obviated, at least for some of the poses, by a suitable orientation of the figure. A shame as otherwise these are really nice figures, although the problem only applies to the unarmoured Achaeans and the other packs are fine.

So how do these fit in with that elusive ‘look’?
The unarmoured spearmen have a mixture of boar tusk and horned helmets and are attired in either kilt or tunic; all very plausible looking at the available evidence. The only thing really missing is any form of greaves; a feature which is almost standard on the palace frescoes. The armoured equivalents look to be a fair interpretation of the figures from the Mycenaean ‘Warrior Vase’ and whilst experts might quibble over individual details, to me the overall impression is spot on.
The Sea People not only appear to be a faithful rendition of the Egyptian carvings but complement the Achaeans in horned helmets quite nicely.
All in all I’m really pleased with these so will be sticking with Warlord / Cutting Edge as much as possible. The original Cutting Edge website had archers, slingers and command figures listed as ‘coming soon’, so I guess I may have to wait awhile for these options. Also there is no mention of chariots but there are versions available for the Sea Peoples.
Now that I have the beginnings of my Achaean force I need to give some thought to the tricky subject of the Trojans…………….