martedì 16 maggio 2017

A wargamer in Stockholm

Some months ago I was looking for a destination for a late spring travel when I saw on a Facebook group a post about a wargaming exhibition in a museum in Stockholm, so I got in touch with Dalauppror, asking for more informations. You can read the results of that conversation in this post.


To Stockholm!

Sweden was a crucial country for the history of European warfare at least from 17th to 19th century. Its capital, Stockholm, hosts various testimonials of the country's past deeds.
Its capital Stockholm has plenty of monuments and museums emphasizing the glorious military past of the country, and it's pretty easy find something a wargamer or warfare lover could enjoy.

I will only focus on wargaming related places I visited, of course there is a lot more to see in this amazing city!

I suggest starting your tour at the Armémuseum. The exhibition will lead you throughout six centuries of warfare in Sweden, providing an excellent introduction for the various wars the country fought during its history. Dioramas, 1:1 soldiers mannequins, paintings and weapons allow the visitors to imagine the world who those soldiers lived in. Rather interestingly, the museum doesn't simply focus on the warfare, but explain also in details the everyday struggle for survival soldiers and civilians had to fight during wars (and peace, often). Of course weapons lovers won't be disappointed, modern to contemporary section is particularly well represented by a wide display, ranging from sub-machine guns, to pistols and a complete UAV!

Soldiers must eat, too

Yes, there is also a Goliath!


If you can manage to visit Stockholm before 7th January 2018 you can also visit the temporary exhibition War Games. An amazing journey from the birth of gaming (chess, chaturanga, go) to contemporary wargame rulesets, passing through Prussian kriegsspiel and '70 boardgames. A must for any wargamer and boardgamer. It's quite a unique chance to see Black Powder or Bolt Action behind the cabinet of a museum! (and in the museum shop!)

 
Kriegsspiel (my forbidden dream is a double blind game)


The second place I suggest you to visit is Livrustkammeren (Royal Armoury). Its entrance is exactly on the side of Royal Palace, in the very centre of Stockholm. The museum itself is located in the cellars of the Palace! There is a well assorted collection of armours and weapons of course, but the most important pieces in its collection areprobably the flag and the robes Gustavus Adolphus was wearing at Lützen before his death.



A temporary exhibition about Katanas was also held in the museum during our visit. Small, but interesting, though.

In both the two temporary exhibitions, several references to present days are made, through games, or movies. We realised that in Sweden museums aren't something just preserving the past, but actively trying to set a link to everyday world.

Both Armémuseum and Livrustkammeren admission are free of charge, so no excuse!

If happen to pass near the city centre at about 12 AM, don't lose the changing of the guard. It's held in front of the Royal Palace and it lasts about one hour. You can observe both ceremonial uniforms and real serving regiments uniforms, and a musical band performs amazing marches and songs.

Were we talking about Gustavus Adolphus' death? Well, if you want to see his grave, take a short walk (just 5 minutes from the Palace) and visit Riddarholmskyrkan, where many Swedish kings are buried. Of course the Lion of the North lays between them.


Medeltidsmuset is a small museum, hidden under a bridge (literally), which allows the visitors to dive into middle ages' everyday life in Stockholm, while not strictly about warfare, I nonetheless found it fascinating (did someone say "free admission"?).



Vasamuset. A well preserved (and restored) huge galley, exhibited in a 6 floor museum, it's something out of ordinary. It's also the story of one of the biggest fail in naval engineering, due to a mix of political meddling/ingerence and poor calcualtions, this ship, intended to become the admiral of the fleet, sunk during its maiden voyage, probably one of the shortest in history for a galley, lasting nly 120 meters. You can see the ship externally from different levels, under the keel and up to the mast. The lateral exhibition give an insight on the history of the ship and about the life of the sailors, what they ate, how they fought and so on.. A small section analyses the bodies found inside during salvations and speculate about their stories. The entrance is not cheap, but it's decisely worth the money!



If you are willing to do some shopping in Stockholm I can suggest to start here:
  • The science fiction bookshop, offers a wide choice of books (of course) and GW miniatures, some boardgames and interesting gadgets. 
  • Alphaspel (I didn't visited it, but its website looks interesting)
  • Probably there is also a GW shop, but since I'm not really into GW, so I didn't check.

Of course I did not forgot to contact Dalauppror, And...we managed to get a game of The Pikeman Lament! I could bother you with the AAR of the game, but he's already written about it in its blog, so just read here.



So, it's everything from Stockholm. As travel suggestions: low cost flights are aivalable and (from Europe) reasonably priced, I have no special advice, since people are kind and they all speak an awesome English, so I never had any difficulty in my trip. Just remember that the weather can get quit cold, so be prepared both for sun and for snow!


~ My thanks to Fabio for reviewing this post ~

domenica 23 aprile 2017

A game with Ronin and some thoughts about it





After some months since our last game, yesterday Marco and I played Ronin, a skirmish game by the Osprey wargaming series, written by Craig Woodfield and set during the Sengoku Jidai, litteraly the “Age of warring states”, i.e. the “feudal Japan” or “the age of Samurai”!


It was a project we started last year and we quickly painted up our forces (the started warband, or buntai) can be made up using about five models. Marco chose Samurai, I chose Sohei Warrior Monks, Stefano, Alberto and Edoardo also went Samurai. All our models are from Perry miniatures, except on Reaper Ronin (which is currently having issues with his sword).
For a good review about mechanics read this blog: they explain the game very well.

The two buntai (warbands) (150 points) in our game were: Bushi (i.e. Samurai Faction) and Sohei (Warrior Monks).

Marco's Bushi buntai approching!

Bushi
2 Ashigaru with yari
1 Ashigaru with Yumi
1 Ashigaru with Teppo
1 Samurai with Katana, Intuition, Kenjutsu
1 Hatamoto mounted on Warhorse, Kenjutsu, Bujutsu

Sohei
1 Initiate with Naginata
1 Initiate with Yumi
1 Initiate with Teppo
2 Sohei with Naginata, Naginatajutsu
1 Senior Sohei with Tetsubo, Fast, Poweful




I arrived late at the club, so we could play just 6 turns out of 12.  It was quite a long time since we last played Ronin, so resolving shooting and combat took a bit more time than usual.

We chose a skirmish scenario, and rolled for weather and time of the day heavy mist and night. They both reduce LOS to 12”, so shooting had a small impact in this game, which quickly degenerated into a massive melee in the middle of the battlefield.



A consideration I did when chosing the scenario is that, even if there are 7 scenarios included in the rulebook, but 2 (duel and tournament) are of small interest to me, and another (assassination), though interesting, involves a ninja buntai, with its own special rules and, although historically correct, is to be considered a “special” scenario. So, the basic scenarios for “normal” buntai reduce (to me) to encounter battle, capture and objective, defend an objective, raid/defend a village. I will probably check En Garde! to gain further inspiration.
We also wanted to try how mounted combat works and so spent some time checking on the rules the exact mechanic. Our opinion is that, although the differences between mounted and normal combat are small, they flow elegantly in the general combat mechanic determined by combat pool. The mounted models may perform ride through attack, which at the expense of halving the combat pool of both fighters, allows the riders to move in the combat phase (before and after resolving combat). This add a completely new layer of strategy to the game. Another very lovely nuance is the possibility for assaulted models to choose to attack the horse or the rider.


My general impression is that this set of rules provides some occasions of strategic thinking, sometimes very chess like, but with the random element of the dice rolling. Using more than the basic 100 points, will, however, led to a game not so quick as other skirmish game. We would probably have needed at least a total of 3 hours to end the game with ease. Probably with more experience this time could be considerably reduced (maybe to 2 hours). 

The game was suspended at the middle of the action, but Marco’s retinue lost two models, and I had to models seriously wounded, so any possibility was still open, and for this reason I decided not to have a complete description of the game. I will do one when I’ll have a complete game to describe in detail (excuse the pun).
 

We had a debate during the game: do the stunned counters and light/grievius wounds initiative malus stack or not? It's clearly stated that stunned counters are cumulative, but the model just suffer a -1 for the initiative roll. Any idea? My thought was that yes, they stack, Marco didn't think so.

mercoledì 12 aprile 2017

Pikeman's lament unit cards

As I discussed here, we found summary cards for LR units' stats very useful both for our games and for conventions to illustrate the game to newbies. They contain all the information any player with some knowledge of the rules can require to play the game smoothly. Also they're quite inspiring and aesthetically better than roster sheets. Inspired by Tim Charzinski LR unit cards I decided to realise cards or The Pikeman's Lament, too (PL from now on).



PL is a game wrote by Daniel Mersey and Michael Leck set during the age of...pikemen, of course, exactly Pike and Shot, thus meaning approximately the 17th century, an age of costant wars, the English Civil War, The Thirty Years War, The Eight Years War, and continuous fighting along the borders of Europe, involving Ottoman, Polish, Russian, Venetians, Spanish against Berbers and many others. (check Desperta Ferro for Spanish Tercio in North Arfrica).

Lion Rampant cards use the same flag in the background for all factions (and it couldn't be otherwise: too many Nations, Kingdoms, Caliphates, Emirates, Signorie, Duchy, Empires during Middle Ages). I decided to characterize some Nations with a different background flag, of course the list is incomplete, but we can work on some more with time.

I decided not to follow always the most historical flag, I preferred to have a quickly identifiable one, based on the assumption the flags will be printed on black and white, so the various crosses would all have looked the same (Swede, Denmark for example). I know the heraldic lion rampant for Sweden isn't the most correct choice, but it seemed to me the less time consuming option.

Here is the link to the cards!

The starter set includes:
  • Sweden (can use also for Scotland)
  • Holy Roman Empire (or Austrians Asburg)
  • France
  • Royalist (can be used as England during TYW)
  • Parlamentarian 
Will follow soon:
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Most Serene Republic of Venice
  • Catholic League 
  • Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

We are looking for in-period heraldic for:
  • United Province (we cannot use the three banded flag, would look awful)
  • Russian? 
  • Moghul?

Working on the cards with Davide!

Since I'm barely able to use Paint I ask a friend, who recently got his Master in Computer Graphic and he's starting his business. If you ever need a graphic help, may contact him via LinkedIn.
(that is my way to thank him for the help, hope this small advertisement doesn't bother you)

martedì 11 aprile 2017

Lion Rampant - Armies on the cheap #3 Late Middle Ages


After the Hundred Years War, in Western Europe the armies were largely homologate. French kings issued Ordnance to regulate the earlier feudal armies, the first step toward professional armies. The Burgundian duke Charles the Bold, followed this trend. An other factor of uniformity was the availability of large bodies of troops, left unemployed by the end of the war. Some of them became mercenaries, giving birth to the "Free Companies". English longbowmen could so be found all across the continent, together with the Swiss and Flamish pikemen. During this period the transition toward the prominency of infantry in the battlefield is almost concluded, with increasingly larger blocks of pikes opposing the heavy cavarly. Nevertheless the latter still had an importantant role.

In Italy the fighting cities (now became Signorie), massively employed mercenary Condotta, led by Condottiere, usally a minor noble (or not in the line of succession) devoted to warfare to gain glory and wealth. There was a core of heavy and light cavalry, but included also many infantrymen. Sometimes more infantry was provided by the countries who hired them.

The last big conflict of the medieval age were the Wars of the Roses: a dinastic war between Lancaster and York for the throne of England lasting between 1455 and 1487.



We own to this conflict the wealth of 28mm plastic miniatures we can use to represent almost any war in western Europe during the second half of 15th century. This time I'll deal only with one manifacturer: Perry Miniatures. Let's see what their range offers. In Italic the description taken from their website. The boxes cost 20£ each, and can be found here.


Plastic Wars of the Roses Infantry 1450-1500, bows and bills (40 figures). You can build up to 30 bowmen, up to 18 billmen and includes 4 fully armoured command.
The most specific "English" set, especially for the billmen. Anyway, as I stated Longbowmen could be found as mercenaries all across Europe.

'Mercenaries', European Infantry 1450-1500, pikemen, crossbowmen and handgunners (40 figures). You can build up to 12 crossbowmen (with pavises), up to 12 handgunners, up to 18 pikemen (12 of which can be converted to polearms) and includes 4 command figures.
The most useful - generic armies: using this box you can depict almost any infantry for any army of the period.

Mounted Men at Arms 1450-1500
This box contains 12 mounted Men at Arms that can be used for most European armies. There is seperate horse armour for mounts if needed and 7 different horse heads (25 in total). The Men at Arms have 14 right arm options and 12 head options (per 4 riders). There are also lance,sword,mace, warhammer,axe and standard pole/spear options.
Here you must play attention to the heads: there are at least two style of helms: one is well suited for Italian armies, the other for German knights, which include a wealth of mercenaries employed in Bohemia, Hungary, Germany (of course), Baltic states, Transylvania and East Europe in general. They can also be split between Knights and Sergeants, if you decide to place armour only on some horses.
  
Foot Knights 1450-1500
The box contains 38 multi-part plastic figures, 17 flags, unit bases and infomation sheet.
 This box is a little tricky: I don't think many players need so many Foot knights, at least if you're not playing WotR. Especially if you consider Lion Rampant, in which the Foot Men at arms are depicted as units of 6 models. Of course, some could be deployed as particularly armoured billmen, but my suggestion is to split this box between two or three gamers.

Light Cavalry
The box contains 12 plastic horsemen that can be assembled with light lances, crossbows or as mounted archers. It also contains parts for command figures, banners and historical infomation.
It's a very useful box, suitable as Mounted Yeomen or Mounted Sergeants. As the knight box the usefulness is increasesd by the fact exactly that exactly 2 units may be made from this box.

Sprues
Even if the majority of the boxes allows us to make 40 miniatures, where most Lion Rampant armies would need 42 or 48, the Perry twin allow us to buy single sprue from the WotR range (only the infantry commands) allowing us to round up many units.

Luca's Italian Condotta Infantry from European Mercenaries box

Example List

Condottieri
2 Mounted MAA @12 points
1 Foot Sergeants @4 points
2 Foot Crossbowmen @8 points

This list for example needs just two box: European Mercenaries and Mounted Knights. They can represent a fairly generic Italian Condotta.

My Colleoni Mounted  MAA from mounted knights box
Swiss
3 Foot Sergeants @12 points
2 Crossbowmen @8 points
2 Bidowers @4 points

Here you would need 2 European Mercenary boxes.

"Split list" 

Done splitting the boxes between two players.

War of the Roses (or Free Company)
1 Foot MAA/Mounted MAA @ 6points
1 Expert Sergeants @6 points
2 Expert Archers @12 points

If you have a friend and buy 2 Wars of the Roses Infantry and 1 Mounted/Foot Knight boxes, you can each field one of this army.

Alternatively you can field them with one Wars of the Roses Infantry, plus the command tow left over and one single sprue of commands.

German Armies
1 Mounted MAA @ 6 points
1 Mounted Sergeants ± Crossbow @ 4 points 
2 Foot Sergeants @ 8 points
1 Crossbowmen + pavises @ 6 points

Needed: 2 European Mercenaries (1 per player), 1 Mounted Knight, 1 Light Cavalry.
Germany was divided into a number of cities, leagues and feudal entities, often at war between them, against the enemies at the borders as Hungarians, Danish, Burgundians, Flemish (can use the Swiss list), French.


More list will follow...


giovedì 30 marzo 2017

Lion Rampant - Armies on the cheap #2 Feudal Age


Hi again! This is the second "on the cheap" post. Today I'll focus on the Feudal Age, a period between 1066 and the start of HYW (arbitrary decision).

Plastic brands and boxes

Conquest Games Norman Knights (15 for 20£),  Norman Infantry (44 for 20£) and Medevial Archers (28 for 20£). 
Of course Norman type soldiers represent the "standard" knights for 1000-1100 AD, so they can be used for Imperial Germans and Early Crusader (1st Crusade for sure), just to name two. Both Infantry and Archers offers (especially the latter, they have a good choice of hedgears) a good add on for dark age figure types listed here.
Conquest Games also sells some resin converting kits, heads and shields allowing you to field your Norman Knights as Sicilian Norman or Andalusian Norman. The latter could easily work for early Crusader or Western Byzantine mercenaries. One kit costs 5£ for 6 heads or 6 shields. I think for Sicilian Norman 6 heads + 6 shields could suffice for a conversion.
This producer offers discount on multiple boxes purchase.

Hät Miniatures they are often overlooked, but they produce a small (by any means) range of 28mm labeled miniatures. They are very small, more 25mm, though, so I wouldn't mix them with any other producer. The mounted troops seems to be pretty fair on scale (still both have definitely more human like proportions, so they look "strange"). The details are of lower quality too, still their cost is so low they should be took into account. Their Napoleonic are way better, I have some and I appreciate them. The ranges of our interest are from El Cid Series: Spanish heavy and light infantry, Andalusian and Almoravid heavy and light infantry and cavalry. Spanish command and cavalry are under construction. I won't analyse each box, but the infatry one usually consists of 32 models, the cavalry ones 12 models, both with some variety, but they are casted in one piece (less the weapons and shields for infantry). The cost should be around 13-16€ per box. So if you don't need big deep details to sculpt and are prepared to wait for Spanish Cavalry and have smaller figures with about 40€ you should have plenty of figures for each army. (See my lists below)

Gripping Beast in their plastic range we found three boxes of Arab figures: 
Arab Spearmen and Archers: 40 models (up to 16 archers, 16 javelinemen or 40 spearmen) - 22£
Arab Heavy Cavalry: 12 models - 22£
Arab Light Cavalry: 12 models  - 22 £
These models could go from the Arab invasion to the late crusades, could work as mamelukes against the Ottoman (the Heavy Cavalry) and for the Ottoman itself, the Light Cavalry and the Spearmen and Archers. So 10/10 for usefulness. Maybe they could even represent Andalusians (instead of using Hat models, but I'm not enough into Reconquista Spain for this). The Arab Light Cavalry box allow you to field the models also as Turcoman, I think they could be used until 19th century Turkish army or Russian (Tatars?).

Eccentric miniatures (just for knowledge) have some old school plastic foot knights (16$ for 16 miniatures) and longbowmen (10$ for 8 archers). A lot of pieces for any single soldier. Interestingly they offer separate torsos, legs, weapons, all casted in plastic.

Fireforge Miniatures is the winner brand for Feudal Age, lets see their range (in plastic):
Teutonic and Templar order (specular): they both feature an Infantry and a cavalry box. The first is 24 foot (spearmen and crossbowmen) for 27€, the latter 12 knights for 27€.
Men at Arms: the "generic" western medieval soldiers for 1200-1350 (Communal wars anyone? Later Crusaders). Here you can find Foot Sergeants (awesome mix of 48 crossbowmen and spearmen) for 39€, 24 medieval archers for 27€ and two boxes of knights/sergeants (main difference the horse barded or unbarded).
Mongols see here, useful in a lot of roles, and essential to confront your Teutonic knights.
Russians: the only plastic box is for the infantry: 25 soldiers (mixed weapon, axes, spears, bows, swords) for 27€. Closing an eye could be used as Byzantine in the 11th century. It's a real pity the rest of the range is casted in resin.
Scandinavian: the last release from Fireforge involves these fantastic post Viking Scandinavian Infantry 25 models (as usual spearmen and bowmen can both be built) for the usual 27€. This are armoured models, more suitable to represent Leidang mixed formations of heavy infantry and archers provided by commoners/free farmers to their ruler.

Perry Miniatures they offer a nice HYW range and one from WoTR. I'm going to analyse the latter on a separate post. For HYW there are three boxes(20£ each):
English Army 1415-1429 (36 models, for 12 foot men at arms and 24 longbowmen)
Agincourt French Infantry (36 infantrymen with spears, polexes, swords, crossbows and 6 dismounted knights)
Agincourt Knights (36 dismounted knights/men at arms, 18 English and 18 French, but entirely interchangeable for most Western ountries of the period).
Bear in mind this range is slimmer and a tad smaller than Fireforge range, so I advice caution in mixing infantry from this two manifacturers in the same unit.


Norman

1 Mounted MAA @6 points
1 Mounted Sergeants @4 points
2 Foot Sergeants @8points
1 Archers @4points
1 Bidowers@2 points

Conquest Games, one box per type (knight, infantry and archers) is all you need.3 boxes.

Norman Sicilian

2 Mounted MAA @12 points ->one Conquest Games Norman knight box
2 Yeomen + mixed weapon @10 points -> GB Arab Infantry (Arab Subjects)
1 Bidower @2points -> GB Arab Infantry (Arab Subjects)

+Conquest Games converting heads (5£, if you wish)

Crusaders

2 Mounted MAA @12 points
1 Mounted Sergeants @4points
1 Foot Sergeants @4points
1 Crossbowmen @4 points

Here you can go either with Conquest Games Norman for early Crusader, or with Fireforge for later. Of course Holy Orders are also aivalable.

Arab (Seljuk and Fatimid)


One box per type of GB plastic arab and you can do almost anything :)

El Cid Spanish

1 Mounted MAA @6points
2 Mounted Yeomen+Javelins @6 points (Jinetes)*
2 Foot Sergeants @8points
2 Bidowers @4 points

For the knights and the sergeants use Conquest Normans. The Norman Infantry will provide the heads (attention there are not extra heads in the box!) for converting the GB Arab Light Cavalry into Spanish Jinetes. You need to swap the head with an occidental like one and to replace some shields with adargas (TAG sells packs of 10 for 4£, you need at least 6). For the bidowers use whatever you like, GB dark age with javelins, GB dark age archers, Conquest Medieval Archers. You might also find suitable heads  for Jinetes. I wouldn't bother with Hät Spanish infantry, it's very similar to Conquest Norman and decisively small.

Andalusian

1 Mounted Sergeants* @4 points
2 Mounted Yeomen+javelins @6 points
2 Foot Yeomen @6 points
1 Archers @ 4points
2 Bidowers @6 points 

If you want to give Hät a try, it's the perfect list. Historically they're more accurate than GB.
Otherwise you could use just their cavarly (which is slim, but almost correct sized) and GB Arab infantry.

Berber (Almuravid)

1 Mounted Sergeants* @4 points
1 Mounted Yeomen+javelins @3 points
3 Foot Yeomen @9 points
1 Fierce Foot @4 points
1 Archers @ 4points

Same. I need a brave reader who tries out Hät miniatures and post them here!! (Possibly comparing them to GB infantry).

Communal Italian Army

1 Mounted MAA @6 points
1 Mounted Sergeants@4 points
2 Foot Sergeants @8points
1 Crossbowmen + pavises @6 points

Here you can achieve one army with just two Fireforge Boxes: Sergeants at Arms and Foot Sergeants. With small changes (Mounted Sergeants + crossbows) you can probably represent an Imperial Army as well. 

HYW English

2 Foot MAA @12 points
2 Expert Archers @12 points

This is the famous one box army, can be made using exactly one Perry's English Army box.

HYW French

2 Mounted MAA @ 12points
2 Foot Sergeants @ 8points
1 Crossbowmen @ 4points

Here one Fireforge Mounted Sergeants (barded horses) and one Perry Angicourt French Infantry or Fireforge Sergeants would suffice.

...other ideas could be Mongol (from Fireforge boxes), Russian (you lack appropriate cavalry, but you could try converting Conquest Norman with Fireforge Russian bits + dark age archers from GB).



The following lists have been kindly suggested by Dalauppror and offer a different taste of the period and a good way to use the new Fireforge Post Viking Scandinavian Box.

Swedish ledung army ca 1100-1250

1 foot men at arms @ 6 points (hird of the leader) 
3 foot serjants with mixed weapons @ 18 points

 Total 42 minis. I.e. exactly 2 boxes of Fireforge Post Viking Scandinavians.

Danish ca 1100-1250

The Danish mounted serjants would have crossbow and the Danes would not have as much mixed formations like the Swedes. During this period in the Danish Army there was a great use of German mercenaries.

1 mounted/foot men att arms @ 6 points (knights/noble men) 
1 mounted Sergeants + Crossbowmen @ 4 points (germans) 
1 Crossbowmen @ 4 points (germans) 
1 foot serjants @ 4 points (germans) 
1 foot serjants with mixed weapons @ 6 points ( Danish ledung) 

For German mercenaries Fireforge Men at Arm series boxes should provide suitable models, so you need one Foot Sergeants Box, One Mounted Sergeants and one Post Viking Scandinavian box.

lunedì 27 marzo 2017

Lion Rampant - Armies on the cheap #1 Dark Age


Today I'm starting a new series of article: Armies on the cheap.

It will discuss mainly about the chance of recruiting a new army without spending too much. Of course whenever possible the armies will be done using plastic miniatures, because they're cheaper and provide great chance for conversions. (I warn you, I'm not a fanatical historician, so I'll sometimes proxy miniatures, where historically correct alternative are not aivalable).
 
I'll focus mainly on Lion Rampant retinue, but you can feel free to exploit my considerations for whethever ruleset you desire.

As general rule of thumb I'm going to make an overview of the plastic miniatures aivalable on the market, then I'll speculate about what you can actually build using them.

First issue: Dark Age. The excuse is the publishing of Gripping Beasts plastic dark age archers



GRIPPING BEASTS

Dark Age Archer, here (18£): 30 archers suitable for almost anything western army from 4th to 10th century. Fantastic for formed archers and skirmishers. Can be found in a pack of six for 8.5£.

Dark Age Warriors, here (22£): 40 not armoured warriors, with round shields. They looks barbaric, so you can use them for barbarian people from the Barbaric Invasion to the late 10th century (as levy), through all Europe (included very early feudal Spain, Carolingians and Lombards), and British Islands, at least until 1066.

Saxon Thegns, here (22£): 40 armoured saxon warriors, upper class. They represent the nobilty of the Saxons. I feel they can be appropriate to represent the nobles either of the Barbarian invaders of the Roman Empire or the Saxon at Hastings 1066. They should work for Ostrogoths, Lombards and all the others barbarian kingdom during those centuries: the archeological evidence is so poor, any attempt to differentiate the various barbarian warriors is extremely hypotetic. With some regards, they could work as Italian Lombards of the IX century or Merovingian French (I hope I'm not being too heretic here).

Vikings Hirdmen, here (22£): 40 fully armoured Vikings. Ok here it's easy. Vikings noble. Mix with the Saxon Thegns for variety, just pay attention to some helms and weapons typically Vikings. (any horned helm, anyway). Good for fighting Skraeling, too.

Late Roman Infatry, here (22£): 44 late Roman (Eastern and Western) auxilliary or legionary infantrymen. 16 Archers, 16 Unarmored Spearmen, 8 Armoured Spearmen, 4 Commands.


Please notice also that: GB offers a discount for three plastic boxes deals (60£ instead than 66£), and
LBMS provide decals for all the plastic GB dark age boxes (3.5£ for 12 decals sheet).


FIREFORGE

Mongol Horse Archers, here (27€) : 12 horse archers: they should work fine for any Steppe horsemen from Hunnic to Mongol Invasions. So I'd field them as Huns in 5th century, as Avars, Cumans, Pechenegs and so on.

Steppe Warriors, here (27€): 24 steppe warriors, well, see above.



As some of the readers may have noted, there is pratically any option for Dark Age Cavalry in plastic.

Roaming the net, I found an interesting conversion possibility. I must thank Bob's blog (specifically this entry) for the idea. He basically suggest to convert the Conquest Games Norman Knights plastic box (here, 20£ for 15 knights) into Saxon heavy cavarly.

Judging from the result that could work. If you're not so picky, you can obtain, sacrificing some miniatures, basically heads and shields: Late Roman cavarlymen, Saxons (or Goths) Noble cavalry. I know it's not much, but better than no options. 

So let's see which fantastic list we can build with those awesome miniatures! I will take into account the chance to divide the sprues between two gamers/armies. So the cost is effective per sprue. If you are alone (or your club mate don't need an other army), Lead Forum offers a topic to discuss about sharing sprues. I use as reference, the author (Dan Mersey) post on Dark Age armies for Lion Rampant, as well as Field of Glory Companions: Legions Triumphant, Wolves from the sea and Decline and Fall.


Lists (reference)  

To convert Conquest Games Norman Knights (a) you would require helmtet wearing heads and shields from Saxon Thegns or Viking Hirdmens, for (b) from Late Roman Infantry.

 

1. Vikings 

2 Foot Companions* @ 12 points -> 12 models, from Vikings Hirdmen
2 Upper Class Spearmen @ 8 points -> 24 models, from Vikings Hirdmen
1 Archers @ 4 points -> 12 models, from Dark Age archers

My own version, I changed the Warriors, i.e. Berserk, with Archers, because there is no suitable model for Viking Berserk in plastic, unless you recicle some Hirdmen. Of course you can throw in some Saxon Thegns or Dark Age Warriors for more variety, but here I'm focusing on being cheap.

2. Anglo-Saxon 

2 Foot Companions* @ 12 points -> 12 models, from Saxon Thegns
1 Upper Class Spearmen @ 4 points ->12 models mix of Dark Age Warriors and Saxon Thegns
2 Lower Class Spearmen @ 6 points -> 24 models from Dark Age Warriors
1 Skirmishers @ 2 points -> 6 models, from Dark Age archers

3. Generic Barbarian People of Migrations (Saxons, Juti, Angli, Goths, Franks)

2 Mounted Companions* @8 points -> 12 models converted Conquest Norman Knights (a)
1 Upper Class Spearmen @4 points -> 12 models from Saxon Thegns
2 Lower Class Spearmen @6 points -> 24 models from Dark Age Warriors
1 Archers @4 points -> 12 models from Dark Age Archers
1 Skirmishers @2 points -> 6 models from Dark Age Archers

Ok this is a very generic list, so feel free to play with it: upgrade or downgrade the spearmen, drop a Mounted Companion unit for more archers or mixed formations of archers and lower spearmend (suggested for 6th century Italian Ostrogoths), add a unit of mercenary Huns horse archers (Raiders@4 points->6models, using Fireforge Mongols).

4. Late Romans (West)

1 Mounted Companions* @6 points -> 6 models, converted Conquest Norman Knights (b)
2 Lower Class Spearmen Mixed Weapons @10 points ->24 models from Late Roman Infantry
1 Archers @4 points ->12 models from Late Roman Infantry
1 Skirmishers@2 points ->6 models from Late Roman Infantry

The mixed weapons represent the Auxiliary mixed formations with archers behind the spearmen, the  Upper Class the Legionary Comitatenses. Feel free to add Barbarian Mercenaries, either as Upper or Lower class spearmen, or as Cavalry or as Horse Archers.

5. Huns

2 Expert Raiders*@12 points ->12 models, from Mongol Horse Archers
1 Mounted Companions@4 points-> 6 models, converted Conquest Norman Knights (a)
2 Lower Spearmen@6 points->24 models, from Dark Age Warriors
1 Skirmisher @2 points ->6 models, from Dark Age archers

The Germanic type here represent the subjected people the Huns lead in battles. You can use Steppe Warriors, instead, but I feel this would be more appropriate.






So, final considerations. Most of the armies can be made by 2 to 3 boxes, and a lot of variety can be achieved sharing the sprues. For example the Norman Knights to convert can be easily divided between two armies, and also the Mongol horse archers for variety. You would rarely need all of them. So 2-3 boxes, means an army for 40-60£. Can be done in lead? Of course. Can be done better? Probably. Can be cheaper? I don't think so (I haven't checked, to be honest). By the way 3 boxes is what you need to have some discount from GB, and the option of purchasing just 6 archers for the skirmisher unit it's really handful.

Well, I hope I gave you enough things to reflect upon! Let me know what comes to your mind about this topic, and if you buy a new army I'll like to see it!

Next issue: Early Feudal Armies! Stay tuned, because some units will be usable also for the lists I imagined in this post.

PS. I made a mistake. I knew Warlord Games took rhe rights over the Wargames Factory plastic boxes and didn't released them. I didn't realised they had some suitable plastic. They're branded for an earlier period, but could be a nice addition to any Barbarian (or semi Barbarian, for late Romans) force. It will also enable you to field  mounted and foot skirmisher armed with javelin. Could provide also viable models for Viking Berserkers!!! I'll had them there:

WARLORD GAMES


Ancient Celts Cavalry (here, 22£) -> 10 cavarly, useful for lighty armoured raiders (javelins, at least!)
Tribesmen of Germania (here, 22£)-> 43 early German infantrymen (bare chested warriors for berserkers!)
Ancient Britons (here, 22£) ->40 early Britons, could do as Pict?
Others (Dacian Falxmen and Noble, Ancient Celts Infantry here)


So the new list aivalable (straightly from Mersey's blog) could be:

Pictish and Scottish

·      2 Riders with Javelins* @ 6 points ->12 models, Ancient Celts Cavalry
·      3 Lower Class Spearmen with Javelins @ 12 points ->36 models, Ancient Britons
    3 Skirmishers @ 6 points ->18 models, mix archers and javelinemen