Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Having looked at what is out there the choice for figures is going to be between Gripping Beast http://www.grippingbeast.com/shop.php?CatID=138 and Crusader http://www.crusaderminiatures.com/catalog_frames.asp?sub_range=DA . In order to decide which ones to go for I need to analyse their respective ranges. I don’t believe that the two are really compatible in size but I need to order a couple of packs to check. I have also heard via The Miniatures Page that the later GB figures are a different size from the earlier ones: an annoying habit of figure manufacturers which puts me right off!
First off I will look at the Varangians as they are likely to be the first unit I build as I love Norsemen and the only figure I currently own is Harald Hardrada as a Varangian officer which was a free gift with Beyond the Golden Gate. This figure was sculpted by Mark Sims of Crusader and is very nice. If all his Byzantine range is like this then it could be a good bet.
Gripping Beast offer 4 packs of Varangians:
BYZ01 Command (2 officers) a musician and standard bearer
BYZ02 Warriors (spearmen)
BYZ03 Palace Guard
So sixteen different figures. Technically the palace guard wouldn’t fight in their full dress uniforms but I will need some for the Emperor’s retinue.
Crusader currently only offer 2 packs of Varangians:
DAB006 Varangian Guard with spears
DAB007 Varangian guard in parade dress.
However I believe that their will be 1 or 2 more packs of Varangians as DAB008 and 009 have not been allocated yet.
The GB spearmen figures are much more animated than the Crusader ones who are standing with spears upright. The poses of the Palace/parade dress figures are much more similar and one is identical ,based as they are on and Angus McBride illustration from the Osprey book Byzantine Armies 886-1118. The GB axemen are all in mid-swing but I have to say I don’t think that they are as nice as the GB Viking Double Handed axemen. These figures were much more anatomically correct than the more recent GB figures (Byzantine included) which are tending towards the dreaded (by me anyway) “big head syndrome”. I don’t think the current GB sculptors are a patch on the Pattens. I think I will pick up a unit of the GB axemen and the Crusader parade dress figures at Warfare in Reading in 10 days time and compare them for size. I suspect GB will be considerably taller.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
I had been interested in doing a Byzantine Army since the recent new Gripping Beast and Crusader figures started to come out. When I bought the Warhammer Ancient Battles Byzantium: Beyond the Golden Gate supplement (very much the best of these, in my opinion) I realised that it was all more complicated than I thought and I would need to decide which period Byzantine Army would be best, as the troops look very different in different periods.
I was also inspired by several novels I have read recently. The first are Tom Harper's two books (The Mosaic of Shadows and the Knights of the Cross) set around the time of the First Crusade (around 1095) and featuring a "detective" from Constantinople and his Varangian associates. There is not much military action in the first one (although it does give a good feeling for Constantinople) but the second features the siege of Antioch and while more appropriate to building a First Crusades Army does have the Varagnians in action. The third in the trilogy, Siege of Heaven, is due out in February 2006 (not long to wait!) and will focus on the siege of Jerusalem.
The second book is Tim Severin's recently published conclusion to his Viking Trilogy (Viking: King's Man) which features a section set during the Byzantine campaign against the Saracens in Sicily (around 1040 I reckon). I have been vacillating over what sort of Byzantine army I should build for some time. In many ways a Justinian army would suit me better as I am planning to build a Sassanid army to take on my A&A 3rd Centry Romans, and this would provide an extra opponent. The only really suitable figures, however, are Old Glory, which I don't like (due to the variable quality and requirement to buy large bags) and Chiltern Miniatures (ex-Whitecross) figures. These are better but a little on the small side and lacking in variety of poses.
The passage in Tim Severin's book where regular Byzantine troops, including cataphracts and menaulatoi combine with Norman mounted mercenaries and Varangians to take on the Saracens at Syracuse has decided me, however. I now plan to prduce a Thematic army for the first half of the 11th century.