Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Even MORE Romans!

Another stand of Roman infantry completed. This one is again mostly Italeri figures with a couple of Miniart ring-ins, all using the shields from the Italeri set for consistency.

I also indulged in a little surgery to convert one of the ridiculous poses Italeri have a penchant for, to something a little more realistic and useable in a shield-wall formation. I also repositioned the head of the figure 2nd from the left in the front row so he's actually looking ahead at the approaching enemy and not off to the side as he was originally sculpted.

Stupid pose just inviting a javelin to the chest!
Same pose with a little surgery to turn the arm  around

The whole formation with the converted arm figure front row, closest to camera.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book Review - Empires and Barbarians

I recently finished this tome which could be considered the companion piece for the author's other title reviewed here, The Fall of the Roman Empire.

This book focuses on the reasons why the movements of barbarians happened in the first place and how these movements of large groups affected the status quo of Europe.

The author uses modern theories of migration as his starting point and then using them as a framework, interprets existing literary and archaeological evidence to expound his own theories. He also describes previous academic historical interpretations of this period and critiques them in light of his own theory. While not dismissing these theories completely out of hand, he offers a more nuanced and seemingly realistic interpretation of the old Volkerwanderung story.

He is more of the opinion that the pull of economic factors were more responsible for the attraction of barbarian peoples to the Empire, rather than the push factors of political upheaval such as occurred with the advent of the Huns. As happens today, the lure of the developed world is the primary factor for migration, especially from the under-developed world. Heather argues that similar factors were at play then. The tribes along the border were integrated into the Roman economic system by trading with the garrisons, providing auxiliary troops in return for payment as well as being paid subsidies by the Empire in return for peaceful relations in a kind of divide and rule policy. Those tribes outside this periphery, while sometimes supplying raw materials like amber and iron or controlling the trade routes of these commodities, could see that it was much more economically rewarding to be in the inner circle receiving the subsidies and directly trading with the Empire. So, periodically, these groups would raid the established Roman allies and even the Empire itself.

In their previous entities, Germanic tribes weren't large enough to do more than raid, so the next step in political development was for these tribes to organise enough muscle to be able to take over the position of most favoured nation status from those who already had it. Previous tribal groupings involved retinues of a couple of hundred warriors who followed one leader, supported by the rest of the lower status members of the tribe who grew the crops and farmed the animals. Even the amalgamation of these warbands under an overlord still didn't really offer enough muscle. The truly innovative and new behaviour most clearly seen in the rise of the Goths, was the wholesale recruitment of all males in the tribe to join in the warband. Not only did the nobles and their freemen fight, but the next layer down or the freedmen or lower status food producers were required to fight as well. This meant that in order for the whole community to survive the loss of manpower, everyone would in turn have to follow, transplanting their whole community wherever the warbands conquered. As farming technology and techniques meant that these tribal communities had to move every generation or so once the soil had been exhausted, it wasn't such an upheaval as might be expected otherwise. Once the precedence had been set, then the likelihood of further moves increased.

Rather than ready-made nations on the move, as the 19th and 20th century nationalist interpretations would have us believe, these were groupings of peoples (not necessarily even ethnically related) who banded together to extract the wealth of the Roman Empire for their own benefit. Once they'd displaced those on the fringes of the Empire, the next step was to demand access to the Empire for themselves to become integral parts of it. The Goth, Vandals, Suevi, Alans ands Burgundians all were attempting to get a slice of the action rather than to actively destroy the Empire. The survival of Roman practices and latinate languages especially in western Europe point to the adaptation of life to the new rulers (or the other way around!). In Britain, the large number of smaller groups of Germanic tribes who appeared over a longer period indicate the lack of resistance they faced and the logistical difficulties of sea-borne travel. As a result, more smaller kingdoms appeared than were usual on the Continent. Also, as there were more wealthier, higher status members of these bands compared to the Continental groups, there was more seizure of British estates than in Europe which allowed the invaders' language to become the dominant tongue.

The book follows all the main migrations right up until the year 1000 including the spread of the Slavs and Vikings as well. All were related and all had major impacts on the political landscape of Europe, laying the foundations of the states that in turn became the nations of Europe as we know them today.

I found it a heavy read, which took me a long time to plough through, but it was highly rewarding in the end. Not your usual narrative history, but provides a lot of food for thought, and clearly makes the case for the Dark Ages just being a continuum between the Roman Empire and the Medieval world. Fascinating stuff.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

More Romans

Here's my first use of Italeri Late Romans. I''ve mixed them with a couple of Miniart figures and replaced the heads of a couple with Italeri heads. There's also a mix of shields from both, too.

Barbarian Horde!

Here's the first base of Germanic types to oppose the Romans. These chaps are formed up as shock infantry according to the Comitatus rules; they aren't in serried ranks, but in a rough wedge following a leader. 3 or more of these stands grouped together form one unit that can be ordered in a cuneus, or attack wedge, or column.

The shield patterns are all speculative and are not based on anything historical, so all complaints can be addressed to the management!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Comitatus arrives!

Huzzah! I received my full-colour rule-book in the post a couple of days ago as a belated birthday gift from my father. We were both expecting it to take a lot longer, but it arrived only a couple of days after my birthday.

It's basically the same beast as the free pdf download that used to be available, but with the added bonus of lots of lovely full colour diagrams and photos to illustrate troop types, formations and combat procedures. It has a handy-dandy quick reference sheet, too, which will be useful in the heat of battle!

I'm really looking forward to giving the rules a go. They seem straightforward enough, but not too generic. I'll have to get used to the pre-firearms period: no artillery, no muskets, just good old fashioned biffo!

Now to hurry up and finish my armies....

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hairy, Scary Barbarians!

I got myself a box of Strelets Ancient Germans recently and decided to take a break from painting Romans.

They are probably historically too early for the late Roman period as their shields include ones with Celtic-style spined bosses, but what the hey, I think they'll do.

I love the poses on these fellas; they're all in aggressive fighting stances, none of the wishy-washy Italeri poses, although there is a preponderance of swords, when spears would be more common. All of those not wearing helmets (the majority) wear their hair in either top-knots or Suebian knots, which is a nice touch, too.

Not sure what the last chap is wearing on his head, whether it's supposed to be a Sioux-style feather headdress, or if they should be oak-leaves. I've gone for feathers.


I've also done a swap with Conrad Kinch over at Joy and Forgetfulness and will be getting a swag more of these chaps as well as a few more sprues of the Miniart Germanic figures (in exchange for some tanks), so my Romans will be set for enemies!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Italeri Late Roman Archer Stand

This is the first of my Roman archer stands. Both figures are from the Italeri Late Roman set. The next archer stand will be using the figures from the Miniart set.

I chose to make the stand the usual width, but gave it half the depth as I figured that archers wouldn't be formed up in depth like the infantry.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Experiments with Archers

Rather than have archers using bows with no bowstrings (maybe they just shout "twang!" and chuck their arrows?), I've experimented using a technique I've seen on various other blogs and fora, namely using a length of plastic bristle from a kitchen floor brush and pan set.

The bristle was cut in half and one length was glued from the archer's fist to both ends of the bow, then trimmed once the glue had set. I think I'll need to be a little more skillful with the glue, as there seems to be rather a large blob around his chin and shoulder.

1st bristle added

Once he 1st bristle had dried, I added the 2nd.

Bristles trimmed and then painted.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Here's my first stand of Roman skirmishers to go with the infantry; 2 javelin throwers and 1 slinger.

All 3 are Miniart again and suffer from the same defects; fine poses, but terrible production qualities. The mold lines down the faces and legs are terrible, likewise the flash around the shields and javelins. I did my best with trying to de-flash them, but didn't want to spoil any of the detail there is on these figures.

I like the animation in these figures. They all look like they are in the act of winding up to launch a barrage of missiles at the enemy.

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Acquisitions

Click images for PSR reviews

My latest acquisitions for my late Roman / Germanic barbarian project are HaT's late Roman Light Cavalry and Italeri's 'Gothian' Cavalry.

The first was an internet purchase from the Drum & Flag ebay shop while the second was an impulse purchase while killing some time in the city last week, not expecting to find anything remotely related to my preferred periods. I'd actually gone into the Victorian Hobby Centre looking to buy some paint, but decided to check the 1/72nd figures shelves just in case. Previously, this shop had a very limited selection catering mainly to the WWII collector. The shop historically was dedicated to the aeroplane and railway modeler, but with a change in management and refurbishment, they seem to have expanded their range, including even the much loved (by me anyway!) HaT French Infantry 1808-1812 set 8095!

The HaT set is just brilliant with crisply moulded figures with no flash. They aren't as detailed as say Zvezda or Italeri, but the sculpting is historically accurate and reasonable, withou the odd poses that spoil Italeri figures.

As I already mentioned, Italeri always spoil their otherwise brilliant production values with some clunky poses or just outright stupid mistakes and the Gothian cavalry is no exception. While the figures are useable for my purposes, anachronistic mistakes like giving the riders stirrups would make the stickler think twice. The figure brandishing his sword looks like he's threatening his enemies with a table knife, so he'll be a candidate for conversion. The figures' spears are all spear-like, but as some are supposed to be flinging javelins, they'll have to be shortened to make them more javelin-like.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Newline Legion

I've been a bit quiet on the Roman front, what with all my attention devoted to the Royal Navy over on the other blog. I've been chipping away gradually, and here's the result!

I've got another of these stands to go and am planning a mixed Italeri/Miniart stand as well. While I quite like the detail of the Newlines, I'm used to the variety of poses you get with plastics. These look like a group of robots in comparison!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Newline Romans

I've started on the second line of Newline Designs Roman infantry, painting them up in red tunics as the unarmoured second row of the second unit of Roman infantry.

I've also bought a set of Italeri Late Roman infantry to bolster the ranks. I find that despite the lovely production values, the sculpting of Italeri figures leave me a little cold; out of at least a dozen poses, I find only a handful are any good. The rest are awkward, or down-right silly! I'm planning to distribute a few Italeri figures amongst the Miniart ones and have even experimented in swapping the heads from some of the more stupid Italeri poses with the bodies of the Miniart figures with the apocryphal Attic style helmets.

Newline unarmoured infantry

l to r, Miniart, Newline, Italeri

Stupid Italeri pose

New use for stupid Italeri pose figure's heads!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

First Newline figure

This is the first of the metal Newline Designs figures assembled and painted. I've painted up 2 more, but this is the only one with shield and spear attached.

Compared to the Miniart plastics, this was a dream to paint; the details are crisp and precise, not like the plastic figures where detail disappears and you're left to fill in the blanks, especially around the faces.