Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Egil's Band: Swords for Hire for Saga: The Dark Ages

Egil's band (yes I know I am one Viking short)
I am someone who gave up history at school at the first opportunity (I put this down to the disinterest of my teacher at the time, and the way the National Curriculum handles the Tudors and Stuarts). No regrets :-)

 It is therefore a positive joy to be able to enjoy history (albeit very selectively) through the wonderful hobby of wargaming. And over the last few years the game of Saga has inspired me to read actual Viking sagas. So after reading Egil's Saga how could I not add him to my growing Saga collection?

The description of Egil Skallagrimsson on his Saga rules card as "everyone's favourite psychotic poet" is a really good summary of his character. Egil is a man who repeatedly makes unexpected and often incomprehensible and violent decisions that often lead to the deaths of others, and then apparently puts the situation right afterwards by reciting lines of verse. You feel you must be missing something when you read about his exploits, especially given the quality of his poetry. He is, nevertheless, psychopathically endearing.

In Saga, Egil leads a band of Vikings that can be fielded as a mercenary unit in any Dark Age Saga faction other than Vikings (though in Egil's Saga, he wasn't quite so fussy about who he fought for). You can download his special rules from the Studio Tomahawk pages. His focus is almost always on plunder for personal gain. I therefore made up his band from a mixture of odd Viking figures, some of which I modified, all of which are very much heroic 28mm - i.e. on the large side - which seems to fit my impression of Egil's band being made up of men picked for their strength and fighting prowess.

I've detailed the men in Egil's band below (and at the same time given them some names that I think match the figures concerned. All names randomly generated using my Random Viking Warband Generator, which I promise to include in a short future blog post!)

Egil Skallagrimsson

This is Gripping Beast's Egil figure. Never mind that in Egil's Saga Egil almost exclusively fights with a sword and a spear, this is a superb figure with some great detail and a mighty axe*. The detail on the casting is lovely with some very nice touches such as the horn and bear claws on his fur cloak. Lovely.

*If you wanted to be more accurate, you could use this figure to represent the Viking hero Grettir Asmundarson "The Strong" (unsurprisingly, the hero of Grettir's saga - more recommended reading) who really did regularly fight with an axe. Grettir was also a big bloke and a psychopath, but his poetry doesn't seem to have been quite so well received as Egil's.

Viking #1 (sword and shield) THORVALD

This is I believe a Wargames Foundry Viking, but I could very well be wrong so please email me to correct me if you know better. That applies to all these figures, which have been out of their boxes so long I've forgotten where they came from. Many apologies to any of the manufacturers concerned for any errors. Anyway, it's a sharp casting with very little flash, a sword held like he means it and a shield as thick as a barn door. He has a relatively straightforward painting scheme that makes the most of the look of his chainmail. As with all the Vikings in Egil's band other than the big man himself, I've tended to use more gunmetal than brass paint on the metallics, so as not to give the impression that they aren't in need of the loot they are plundering. I gave him a simple cross and circle shield design.

Viking #2 (axe and shield) HJALDI of BJARFJORD

I think this is another Foundry Viking, this time with a separately cast shield, even thicker than Viking #2's. He's wielding a pretty hefty hand axe. Again he was given quite a simple painting scheme with the emphasis on the armour, and a straightforward shield design in black and red. I added lines to his cloak to give an impression of woven cloth.

Viking #3 (Dane axe) BJORVAR

Foundry again, I believe. An armoured Viking with a heavy Dane axe held in both hands.

Viking #4 (standing with sword) ULF

Now I think this is a Viking from Artizan Design, but as above I could easily be wrong. Because this chap is wearing a coat over his armour it was a lot more difficult to decide how he should be painted and as a result he ended up with rather a more complicated paint job than I had originally envisaged. He wears a chequered tunic below a woven cloak, and presumably is keeping himself warm while he waits for an opportunity to fight.

Viking #5 (pillaging, with sack and barrel) GRUNNIM

I think this was another Artizan Design Viking , who I converted to become a pillaging Viking by bending one of his arms around a small Renedra plastic barrel and adding a Milliput sack across the opposite shoulder. His priorities are clearly directed towards his stomach.

Viking #6 (pillaging, with captive) SKUNDAL the DEVIOUS

A lovely figure that I again think is from Artizan Design, in the act of pillaging, captive (presumably fainted) woman slung over his shoulder. He seems to me to have a slightly manic grin on his face, though perhaps that's just my imagination. I'm very pleased with the result, but I found this figure particularly difficult to paint. Making a clear differentiation between the Viking and his captive was surprisingly difficult but by giving her very simple clothing and a contrasting hair tone seemed to do the trick.

Viking #7 (?)

Yes, I appreciate that Egil's band is made up of either Egil +3 Hearthguard or Egil +7, so for the time being the last space in Egil's band will have to be taken up by someone unexpected. Like in the Magnificent Seven, the Thirteenth Warrior, possibly even The Lord of the Rings. I'll find the right figure eventually and then update this post!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Norse Gaels for Saga: The Dark Ages

Small but perfectly formed (maybe): Brodir of Man's Norse Gael army
This is an army I have assembled over the last few years by buying odd packs of figures and which has been sitting around waiting to be painted for far, far too long. But, at last, they made it to the painting table this year. The original intent was that they would have been my fourth Saga army after Anglo-Danes, Vikings and Irish but my giving priority to The Crescent & The Cross has meant they've ended up being the sixth.

Army List

Norse Gaels have the unique capability of having warriors armed with Dane axes so I started out with one unit of these. I added both spear and Dane axe armed Hearthguard and Gripping Beast's Brodir of Man figure as a Warlord. I could expand this core as needed with Vikings that I had already painted previously, or my Sons of Death.

So my go to 6-point list is:

3 x 4 Hearthguard (Dane Axe)
2 x 4 Hearthguard (Spears)
1 x 8 Warriors (Dane Axe)

The intent is that the warriors provide ablative shielding for the Warlord, as well as a reserve to be thrown in when necessary. The Dane axes will make them effective but quite vulnerable, so they will need to choose their opponents well and time their attack carefully. One 8-man spear armed Hearthguard unit will be the workhorse of the army. Three 4-man Dane axe armed Hearthguard units will be there for brave and suicidal charges into the enemy's finest - and hopefully will wipe them out in the process. All theoretical at this stage of course but the idea is that they operate similarly to my Mutatawwi'a. You never know, it might work!

If I field Brodir of Man, I'd use this same list but without the Warriors (and charge).


The Dane axe armed Warriors and spear armed Hearthguard are Gripping Beast Norse Gaels. The Dane axe armed Hearthguard are a mix of Gripping Beast Norse Gaels and Irish Fianna figures. Brodir is of course the Gripping Beast figure. I made his traditional opponent, Brian Boru, for my Irish,  using the Crusader Miniatures dismounted Brian Boru figure, and also converted an old favourite axe-armed fantasy figure that needed a repaint as an alternative Warlord should I not wish to field Brodir of Man.

Painting Scheme

To give a more Gaelic feel to these Norsemen, I chose to paint them with homespun designs similar to tartans and chequered patterns. I took each figure in turn and decided the colour scheme that would work for each of them. Shield designs were Viking in style, but tending to favour beasts and spirals and avoid crosses. I like to think my Norse Gaels embrace their Celtic roots and pagan heritage.

Warriors with Dane axes, painted in relatively muted colours, without shields, helmets or armour
More Dane axe armed Warriors
Spear armed Hearthguard - armoured and shielded with some helmets, and more bling than the Warriors
More spear-armed Hearthguard
Dane axe armed Hearthguard

More Dane Axe armed Hearthguard

And more of them
Brodir of Man (front and back views)
The broken cross on Brodir's base is made of Das Modelling Clay. If I made another one, I would use Milliput instead having discovered just how truly horrible Das is to work with.

Brian Boru, with added chair and refreshment (made from Milliput)
My alternative Warlord
This is a very old fantasy figure of mine, that I converted by lifting his left leg to rest on the body of a Viking victim (plastic Wargames Factory "Hammer of the Gods" Viking Huscarl, pose modified and cape added with the use of some green stuff). This has always been one of my favourite figures (though I have no idea of who the original manufacturer is) and after so many years of of good D&D service it is great to be able to give him a fresh coat of paint and a new lease of life as a Saga Warlord.