Thursday, 28 January 2016

Saracens for Saga: The Crescent & The Cross

The completed army
It was my inability to resist the temptation of Gripping Beast's beautiful plastic Arab Cavalry that led me to building a Saracen army. I'd intended to get my Crusaders finished first but my enthusiasm to get these guys on the table top gave them priority. And as I've suffered at the hands of Saracens more than a few times there was also some added enthusiasm to see the fight from their point of view.

The Saracen army I have constructed is founded on its heavy cavalry core. Its doctrine is based on the strength of massed Hearthguard shooting. This will be the function of a unit of 12 bow armed mounted Hearthguard, one of whom will be a banner bearer.

In order to maximise the number of Saga dice available to this unit on any one turn my Warlord is likely to be an Enlightened Priest. I'll support this with two smaller units of Hearthguard (mounted, with lance) to defend the warlord and threaten weakened enemy troops, and one unit of Dailami for use against those pesky opponents who try to make use of terrain, especially those that hide their foot archers in rocky ground.

12 x Hearthguard (mounted, bows) one of whom carries a war banner - this is the principle attacking unit of the army. I intend to throw multiple dice at it to get it to annihilate enemy from a distance. With 11 dice shooting each activation, plus rest activations, this ought to cause some opponents a lot of pain. The Saracen battle board allows for activation pool dice so chances of getting to a large enough number of dice to be really effective are reasonably good.

These Hearthguard models are constructed from a box of the Gripping Beast Arab Heavy Cavalry. The banner is a pole made from 1mm brass rod with a paper flag with printed design which I have overpainted  and then set into position with PVA glue.

Lots of shooting power here
Painting Saracens

For the most part Saracens are pretty straightforward to paint. They have relatively few shields and those that they do have are easy to find pretty simple designs for. The trouble is that according to most illustrations they seem to have a fondness for fine fabrics with intricate designs.

Robes - in stark contrast to the very one-dimensional colour scheme I adopted for the robes of my Mutatawii'a (black/black grey) I decided that my Saracens would be highly colourful and each of them would be unique. My technique for achieving this was to paint each robe in a solid base colour to which I added a pattern comprised of either a vertical stripe design or a pattern based on spots. Choosing which figure should have what, and what colour I should paint it, was determined randomly (yes, really) using an Excel spreadsheet created specifically for the purpose. I like to take as much active decision-making as possible out of the painting process!

I started with four basic design concepts, which evolved through the painting process for each figure. The design concepts were:

Vertical stripes: black vertical stripes painted onto the base colour. Another colour then added within the black stripes.

Diamonds: a pattern of diamond shapes in a contrasting colour, painted onto the base colour. This would then be later embellished by adding other colours inside the diamonds, along the lines between diamonds, or both.

Cross-shape: essentially a central dot with four small strokes around, arranged in a repeating pattern.

Four-spot pattern
Triangle/square/flower: created by painting spots in a contrasting colour onto the base colour, then adding three, four or more dots of a different colour around the outside of the spots. This might then be even further embellished by adding further spots, for example.

Every figure was painted with one of these initial conceptual designs, and embellished further in due course.

Armour - to give a highly decorated effect to armour, I applied gunmetal and brass paint over a black base coat to armoured areas. Contrast and shadows were enhanced by judicial application of Windsor & Newton Peat Brown ink, and then very fine details highlighted a bit more.

Close-up of bow
Bows - I appreciate that the bows used by the Hearthguard are not intended to be composite bows but painting them a simple solid beige brown was a bit boring and in my opinion  didn't look particularly good. So I've painted the ends of the bows as if they are made of horn (in the same manner as the composite bows of the Steppe Tribesmen accompanying my Rus Princes. Maybe they're not accurate, but I think they look a lot better this way.

Standard bearer
Standard Bearer - The standard is printed on paper to size, but I have overpainted the design to make it blend in better with my painting scheme (i.e. so as not to look so accurate!) Very pleased with the finished result.

Dailami warriors
8 x Dailami - troops to clear out or occupy hard cover, or at the least deter enemy from using it to hide their bow armed troops in.

After a review of available figures I didn't found any I liked so I have made this unit out of Gripping Beast Plastic Arabs. To give them a distinct look I selected heads with mostly pointed helmets and gave all the figures large teardrop shields from which I removed the cast-on bosses. I also removed their cast-on belts, weapons and pouches and replaced them with a wider waist sash made of green stuff. Finally, instead of normal spears, I gave them zupins made from 1mm brass rod.   The zupin is a short fighting spear with a point at either end. It was a weapon particularly associated with the Dailami (see Lev, Y: Infantry in Muslim Armies during the Crusades in: Pryor, J (Ed.) Logistics of Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, Ashgate, 2006)

Shields in close-up
Dailami shields - I wanted a uniform design, but with some variety between figures, so I settled on shields of varied base colour, each of which would bear a slogan in Arabic on a painted lighted band across the centre. As this is a comparatively irregular unit I opted for different slogans on each shield - all very well but finding eight different Arabic slogans was not easy. Apologies to anyone reading this if the slogans I have chosen are inappropriate in any way - I have no idea at all, sorry - they are simply chosen for their overall look.

Hearthguard with lances
Hearthguard with hand weapons
8 x Hearthguard (mounted, lance) - this is basically two points of useful filler. Their primary purpose will be to generate additional Saga dice - but they will also probably be useful in defending the Warlord and attacking enemy that have already been softened up by shooting. At least, that's the idea.

These figures are eight very nice Perry Miniatures Saracen cavalry that I had bought a long time before because they were pretty. As these figures were really a bunch of odds and ends I assembled them into two easily distinguished groups of four, one equipped with lances (made from 1mm brass rod) and one with a selection of hand weapons. In converting two of those figures I managed to break their hands, so replaced the hands (and the weapons) with spares from the Plastic Arab Heavy Cavalry box.

Saracen shields - the shields supplied with the Perry figures and Saladin are very nicely modelled and really don't warrant detailed painted designs. I painted them entirely brass, to which I applied an ink wash followed by selected highlighting.

Saracen warlord and friend
Warlord - this is another Perry Miniatures Saracen. His sword has been replaced with a (slightly oversized) one from the Plastic Arab Heavy Cavalry box. The horse is bent to a slightly more dramatic pose, further emphasised by being raised a few extra mm in height by adding some pieces of plastic to the Renedra base. I also added a dead Templar to the base for decoration, made from odd bits from the Fireforge Plastic Foot Sergeants set put together into a suitably dead-looking pose with green stuff. The shield he is lying on is an odd Gripping Beast metal one from the bit box.

Saladin - I couldn't resist buying Gripping Beast's Saladin figures as it is gorgeous, so this army has an extra Warlord. It's just a lovely figure.

Really looking forward to getting these chaps on the tabletop!