Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Horde from the East

 Incursions into Europe by the people of the great Eurasian steppes had been happening since before the end of the Roman Empire. The Kingdom of Hungary traced its roots to the Magyars who settled in the Carpathian basin in the 10th century. Cumans, the western part of the Kipchak group, arrived in Hungary and the Balkans in the early part of the 13th century. They were refugees, fleeing a threat from the East.

 The meteoric rise of the Mongol Empire is covered by many websites. Their own account can be read in the Secret History. In short, a combination of absorption through alliance and conquest created a force which was strong enough to take on a succession of settled empires. The Xi Xia, of what is now Western China, were one of the first to feel the strength of Ghengis's force. They fought a series of wars against the Mongols. They eventually submitted but did not send forces to aid the Mongols when called upon. Further war resulted - Ghengis died during the final war of conquest.  The Jin dynasty of northern China was also under attack during this early period and although losses in territory and life were huge, the resistance was sufficient for the Jin to retain some of their lands until after the death of the Khan. 

Ogedei, Ghengis's successor, continued the process of conquest. There was something of a pattern - Mongol emissaries or traders in various places seem to have got themselves killed by the local authorities and an army was sent to wreak terrible vengeance. The Song dynasty, rulers of Southern China, managed to incur the wrath of Ogedei while allied with the Mongols against the Jin. The Song forces tried to retake land which had been lost a century or so earlier and killed a Mongol emissary who presumably voiced the Khan's displeasure.

To the west, a series of campaigns conquered the Islamic lands - eventually conquering as far as Mesopotamia with incursions into Syria. The impact on Central Asia was immense and may well have caused a permanent decline in the economy of the area through the destruction of cities and even the grazing of huge numbers of horses. In this campaign, and others, locals were driven in advance of the Mongols as a human shield - especially during sieges. Catapults of various sorts were used extensively. During the campaigns in the Islamic region, the Mongols seems to have acquired the means to build counterweight catapults - the hui hui pao.

A relatively small force was sent to conquer the Kipchaks in what is now Russia - this expedition continued through the various Rus lands forcing them to become vassals of the Khan. Again, it continued to the west. It split into three, one part defeating a Polish/German army at Liegnitz - the involvement of Teutonic Knights at this battle was probably minimal and may have been non-existant despite many claims to the contrary. Even today the city of Krakow commemorates the attack of the 'Tartars' with a midday bugle call which cuts off short, as if the musician has been hit by an arrow.

The main part of the army confronted the Hungarians as a punishment for the King allowing the Cuman refugees to enter the country. Ironically tensions between Hungarians and Cumans led to the death of the Cuman king, most of the Cumans fleeing to the south.
The Hungarians met the Mongols at Mohi. The battle was hard fought but it resulted in the destruction of the Hungarian army and the death of much of the royal family and nobility. The Mongols pillaged the country though guerilla tactics by the populace meant that the kingdom remained unpacified.

These forces left Europe on hearing of the death of Ogedei. Tradition meant that the new khan should be chosen by the whole army. Further attacks on Hungary occurred but, importantly, they tended to lack the same ability to conquer cities.

The campaign against the Song dynasty proceeded in stages - again the death of a khan resulted in a hiatus. The nature of these wars was far more of a slog, characterised by long sieges, compared to the campaign in Russia and the rest of Europe. Even the succession of sieges in the Islamic areas were short by comparison. There is an essay about one of the longest here. It also gives some insight into the Song dynasty and its army. I'll post some more about the Song fairly soon.

I used Old Glory figures for my Mongols.

These are some of their Heavy Cavalry with Melee weapons. There are certainly references to Mongols with shields but there is debate as to whether they would use them on horseback. Portrayals of earlier troops in this area do lack shields, so I decided to cut away the ones moulded onto the figures. This was not quite as daunting as it seems and it was possible to create the arm  fairly easily from the remains of the shield.

These are a mix of the heavy cavalry and medium cavalry archers. The main difference is really that the heavy cavalry are slightly bulkier figures, including the horses.

These are the Old Glory light cavalry with bows. I did these around the same time as the Turcoman cavalry and again I've overdone it when it comes to making them look as if they are firing sideways. It makes it confusing in the table-top!

The Mongol armies was made up of troops from a number of origins. Overtime, the appearance probably showed increasing degrees of homogeneity but I still have some which preserve the differences.

I use these as Jurchen cavalry. They are from the Outpost Manchu range. This is actually designed for a period about 400 years after the one I want, which shows mostly in the bowcases. At least some of the Jurchen had armoured horses - I may well use some of the Outpost Turkish horses which I have sitting around as the armour is pretty suitable. I could have just used the same figures as the Mongols but it lets me see which are which more easily and I liked the figures!
About half of the Outpost range are wearing the fabric covered 'brigandine' armour which became popular especially during the Manchu period. However, some seems to have been worn during the Mongol Yuan period. Even so, I asked Outpost to just send figures in lamellar armour after my initial order and I've even made some of the fabric covered armour into lamellar using milliput.

These are Black Hat light cavalry - a mix of Cumans, Hungarians and the occasional Lithuanian.

They mix pretty well with the Old Glory figures though the horses are smaller

The 'human shield' figures  are a mix of Donnington and Alain Touller figures. The AT packs come complete with a Mongol 'herder'. The Touller range looks pretty nice and I might well have gone with them if I hadn't already bought OG15s. The ponies do look very small compared to other companies' figures. This may well be accurate but the difference may be offputting. Since I bought mine, the horses have been redesigned so could be larger. I did buy the Korean infantry from Touller, which are based on the figures from the Invasion Scrolls. These may actually be Southern Chinese rather than Korean but either way they will find a place in my Yuan Dynasty army once they are painted. (edit: - they may even be Northern Chinese. The Yuan hadn't conquered the Song at the time of the first invasion of Japan. However, apparently some Southern Chinese troops had transferred to the Mongols even at this point, so it is hard to be sure who they are!)

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Schild en Vriend

The title of this post is a shibboleth, a phrase which Flemish revolters against the King of France demanded that those they encountered said - if they couldn't pronounce the words correctly they would be taken to be French and killed.
This happened as part of the Flemish revolt against the rule of Philip IV 'the fair' of France.

The build up to the revolt is fairly complex but in a nutshell the King had placed Flanders under his personal rule due to a dispute with the Count. The royal appointee in charge of Bruges made himself unpopular through such matters as tax and eventually this led to the outbreak of open war. Not all of the cities of Flanders were initially involved and some, such as Ghent, had some history of loyalty to the French crown.

The first major battle was outside Kortrijk/Courtrai. It bacame known as the Battle of the Golden Spurs. This is covered in depth at the excellent Liebaart site (Liebaart being a nickname for the anti-French party). The battle is also covered in various levels of detail by a number of books including Verbruggen's and Fegley's. See also the account from the Annals of Ghent. The battle is a major part of Flemish culture, commemorated at a museum in Kortrijk
 The war continued with some more minor battles, the next major one being at Mons en Pevele. More cities sent their troops here, with Ghent's contribution being greater than at Kortrijk. The battle is an interesting contrast with Kortrijk as it shows the Flemish pikemen taking the offensive. The battle was a victory for the French but was a close run thing, with Philip being nearly killed or captured.
 A peace treaty was signed soon which showed  how close the French thought the battle  - some cities remained under French rule but the majority of Flanders achieved de facto independence.

The Flemish revolt is often seen as being part of a major change in warfare in Western Europe with infantry achieving greater success on the battlefield. This also helped to alter the political balance between nobility and commoner. To see it as a peasants revolt is probably overstating the case - the equipment used by the Flemish infantry was expensive, representing many months wages of a skilled craftsmen. Most of the men were organised by guild, representing the various crafts and trades within the cities. They distinguished themselves by wearing uniform liveries and by carrying guild flags - more on this later. The weapons were less uniform though this may have been deliberate - one of the accounts describes how the men were placed so that a pikeman was alongside a goedendag wielder.

I won't enter into the debate about the nature of the goedendag - you can read more here. The illustrations are taken from the Kortrijk Chest which can be seen on the same website. I think it is likely that, while the common term for the weapon was a 'gepinde staf' or 'plancon a picot', a chronicler picked up on a nickname for the same weapon and referred to it in his history.

Here is another illustration, taken from the French Grande Chroniques. The way in which the plancon can be wielded as a club is obvious, while the spike allows it to poked as a short spear.

There are times when a spontaneous purchase can lead you to spending a lot of time and money on something you hadn't intended! As I mentioned in some previous posts, I liked the look of Donnington's new era figures and bought a few. I originally thought I'd just use a few of the Low Countries figures in German or French armies, but with a bit of reading I decided to take the plunge and start another new army. I already have some knights painted as Flemish since these appear in various other armies- though going by the Kortrijk Chest I really ought to have knights wearing cone topped helms and ailettes.
  I originally only bought a few plancon wielders as, in the DBM list, these are separated out as Blade(X). However, after reading the various acounts where the majority of these troops were side by side with the pikemen I decided to mix them in. I did a couple of bases as an experiment and liked the look. The Chest also shows some with falchion and buckler, so I mixed some of these in too.
 The mixing had the benefit of increasing the variety on each base. I also found that the  plancon wielders can easily be converted to using pikes. The figure carrying his weapon over the shoulder can be fitted with a pike at various angles. The other, with his plancon horizontal, can have his hand drilled out to give another pikeman at the ready. The left hand is a bit ill-defined to look as if it holding a pike, but I decided not to bother adding any milliput.
 I used the figures with vertical spears as flag bearers and I'll also use some if I want a fourth rank of pikes, though the Flemish don't seem to have used their pikes in as great a depth as some. For the third rank, it is a mix of plancon wielders, some refitted with pikes, and swordsmen. I still wanted more variety. I had bought some of the figures using their spears overarm so I experimented with bending these to look as if they were holding a vertical pike. I liked the result, so added these into the mix. I also had some Alain Touller spearmen which were a bit big to mix with Black Hat figures and I found that they mixed nicely with the Donnington figures. I decided against putting any Mirliton spearmen into the mix - I wanted the pikemen to all have surcoats and most of the Mirliton ones don't have them.
 The othe minor conversion I've made is to round off the helmets of figures wearing bascinets to give the appearance of an earlier helmet. The figures are designed for the mid 14th century and the bascinets match this period well. I'd have preferred to have seen more of the figures in these rather than kettle hats though, as the Chest and Leeguemeete paintings show a lot of uniformity in the headgear.
  The majority of figures and reacreations I've seen of placon wielders have been based on the Ian Heath pictures in Armies of Medieval Europe v.1. He based his on the Leugemeete paintings of Ghentish militia. When I looked at these, the shields all seem to be carried by men with spears, not plancons, so I left the shields off. I don't know how possible it was to use a shield with a spear like this, but I put a few on pikemen at the ready. They'd probably be more accurate if they were hanging on their backs, like some re-enactors I've seen.

 I painted my first few bases using a yellow and blue livery mentioned by Heath (from Froissart's mid 14th century description). Rune's description of the Flemish guild flags mentioned the use of de Vigne's book. When I read a review of this, it mentioned that it had colour versions of the Leugemeete paintings, so I bought it. It does have some great plates - though none of the guildsmen are in yellow and blue. The liveries are either red, white, red and white or red and yellow. However, the text mentions that various other colours were worn by various guilds and cities and the availability of cloth seems to have been a factor. The shield of the vieux wariers guild (basically second hand clothes dealers!) shows a tunic in yellow and blue, so I gave the figures I'd already painted a flag based on the shield.

Apart from the blue and yellow livery , the others are based on the paintings. De Vigne identifies one with a damaged flag as the butchers, based on the cleavers which some carry instead of spears or plancons.

I made the flags by drawing free hand a much larger version, scanning and colouring using Corel. I used a texture to give the effect of creases in the material, though I still need to play with the settings to get the highlights rights.
Rune has doem some very nice flags on the Krigsspil site but I wanted to include some guilds he hasn't covered and so for consistency I decided not to use any of his.
Note that at this earlier period the flags are still much taller than they are wide. Within a generation or so they became more or less square.

For the generals on foot, I am going to use some of Mirltons dismounted knights. These are wearing either coifs or a cervelliere which fits the look on the Chest nicely. I've added a milliput cervelliere over the coif of one which took very little time. So far, I've also convereted two of them to carry plancons. I cut away the swords, drilled out the hands and put a pin in place. The point of the pin forms the spike of the plancon and then I built up the body of the weapon with milliput and much cursing. I'm pleased with the result, giving a similar pose to the one in the illumination above. I'll post a photo when I've painted them. I may do some more when I start painting the bases which just have plancon wielding Bd(X).

One of the slightly disappointing things about this army is the heraldry of the commanders. I looked at who commanded the various sections of the army at Mons and then looked up their heraldry. They were very closely related and their heraldry shows it - most have the lion of Flanders with some kind of distinguishing label.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Syria and the Turks

The period I'm covering saw the last gasp of the Crusades in Egypt and Syria, with later efforts being concentrated elsewhere such as Spain and Prussia.

Part of the reason why the remanants of the Crusader states lasted for as long as they did was that their Muslim opponents could be as fractious as their European counterparts. After Saladin's death his territories were divided amongst his sons and other family members. At various times, one of these coud claim to be the overall leader but conflict between the cities was frequent. One result of this internecine warfare was the hiring of Khwarizmians, refugees from the Mongol Conquest. These were employed by first one side and then another in the wars between the Ayyubid Sultan in Egypt and his uncle and others. While crossing Palestine, the Khwarizmians took Jerusalem from the Christians, resulting in Muslim rule of the city for the next 7 centuries.

As might be expected for a 14th century Christian, Dante consigned Muhammed and Ali to one of the lower regions of the Inferno. Saladin is also in the Inferno, but on the first level, the region for those who
"did not sin; and yet, though they have merits,
that's not enough, because they lacked baptism,
the portal of the faith that you embrace.
And if they lived before Christianity,
they did not worship God in fitting ways;"
Saladin is notable as the others are almost all Classical figures, ranging from heroes of the Trojan Wars , through the philosphers and writers of Greece to renowned figures of Ancient Rome. Indeed, Saladin is noted as standing slightly apart from the others.

These are some 15mm Old Glory figures which I use as Ayyubid Syrians. They are a mix including not only their Syrian figures but also some OG Seljuks. Spears have been replaced by wire - the last few ranges from OG have seen them switch to very thin lances instead of the open hands on other ranges.
 This OG range has some nice figures but others are nowhere near as good. The size of riders and horses varies greatly and details such as bowcases and quivers are often far too small. I think the Syrians and Bedouins are probably the best of this range. The Seljuk range is generally much more consistent and better detailed.

These are Outpost Ghilman (with and Old Glory drummer - the Outpost one is very big).
The horse of the man with the mace has had a bard made of a J-cloth added.
When I first got the Outpost figures they seemed much smaller than most ranges but placed side by side the difference is due to the more natural proportions. Some of the horses are very nice, others aren't quite so good.

Turcoman cavalry - Outpost on the left, Old Glory on the right.
I tried for a dynamic basing with the OG figures, with most of them looking as if they are charging across the opponents front, firing as they go. Trouble is, it gets confusing as to which way they are actually facing, despite the base width and depth being different. I may well rebase these.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The Fateful Land

In wargaming there tends to be a payoff between terrain which is attractive and that which is practical for the moving of based figures acoss it. I try to reach a happy medium though this can take a bit of trial and error. Some of my hills are far too steep and troops slide down them like sinners into the inferno :)

I like to try to use some terrain features which are distinctive for an area. This is often the style of building being used. A certain amount of licence can be necessary since manufacturers do not necessarily make houses which exactly match a particular region or time period. Chimneys and windows can often show a building to be from a later period, but beggars can't be choosers.

For Italy I initially went for 10mm Timecast buildings. They are nicely made and based on real examples. I used 10mm because terrain scale is so far out of figure scale that accurately sized buildings for 15mm can be very big, especially churches. 10mm gives a good compromise, allowing a size which isn't too far away from figure scale but which lets you put enough buildings on the table to look like a small built up area.

A common feature of Tuscany and surroundinga areas is the hill top settlement. This shows my attempt at one
The tower was scratchbuilt using textured card from Slaters. The roof was made by texturing some milliput - this took ages!
The hill was made from extruded polystyrene. This is much tougher than the white expanded polystyrene and carves well.
I may well make another at some point, with one side vertical to allow the hill to be placed against the table edge as a part of a larger city. This will also allow a larger area on top for the placement of more buildings with even more levels.
I'm still not sure I like the green building, though I based the colour on a 14th century picture by Fra Angelico.
One reason I'd like to have more area for buildings is that I bought quite a few JR Miniatures buildings from Magister Militum . These are 15mm but, as with many ranges of buildings, they are slightly underscale - especially when most '15mm' figures are now larger.
They fit in very well with the 10mm Timecast buildings:
The three buildings on the left are JR Miniatures. The block on the right is from Timecast.
Another key feature of this landscape is the olive grove. I bought some trees from Realistic Modelling Services.
 As with the buildings, I bought ones which are underscale. This emphasises the difference in height between the olive trees and ones in woods - like most people I use trees which are substantially undersized at perhaps 5 time the height of a figure rather than a more realistic 10 or 20 times taller. I have some poplar trees too, from the model tree shop though I haven't yet based these.
 I scratchbuilt some vines.
These are based on 'tongue depressor' style sticks. I drilled a number of holes along the length and put in some thick wire uprights. Wooden poles would have worked too but I wanted something fairly thin and strong. I then used some Woodland Scenics Fine Leaf Foliage. This comes on twiggy material which can be selected for the most vine like strands. A couple of pieces of this placed horizontally give good cover. I made half a dozen or so of these in about an hour and had loads of the foliage left over. I put them on a piece of painted and textured MDF to show the extent of the vineyard. Sometime I may make some hills with terraces onto which I can put some narrower versions of these strips.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Spear Comparison updated

I've added some photos of some more spearmen to my earlier entry.

Awake the Iron! - the Almughavars

A notable feature of the Aragonese and, to some extent, the other Iberian armies was their use of the almughavars (or almogavars). These were infantry who, despite a lack of armour, soon gained a reputation for their fighting ability. They formed part of the armies used in the conquest of Valencia and were a major component of the Aragonese forces in Sicily. After the treaty of Caltabellota, a large number left Sicily and became the Catalan Company, working for various employers in and around Greece. Eventually they carved out their own state. Not all almughavars joined the Company though - some, for example, seem to have been part of della Ratta's mercenaries in Florence. These were paid for by their old enemy, the Angevin king in Naples.
 The 13th century chronicles have a great deal of detail about the Almughavars, especially Muntaner's Chronicle.
A pretty modern good summary of their career is here, with many sources listed. There is also a more general review of Spanish tactics which includes the almughavars here.

In wargaming terms they are difficult to portray since their lack of armour would make them very vunerable in many sets of rules. Sometimes they are categorised as if they were more protected to give them a chance of standing up to knights as they did on occasion such as the Battle of Falconaria. The circumstances in which they fought may also have helped, so it makes for much discussion.
As I write this, the DBMM lists which covers the Sicilians and the Catalan Company are being looked at before the publication later this year.. In the armies with Almughavars which have been published they have been categorised as superior auxilia. There has been discussion about them being fast blades in the new list, which may mean a change to the Book 3 almughavars.
In 15mm, the companies which make almughavars that I know of are Essex, Eureka, Irregular and Touller. I only have the first two - there are various pics of the Touller ones around such as here.
This is a comparison shot of my Essex (on the left) and Eureka figures. There are, I think, 3 variations in the Essex range and an impressive 18 or so in the Eureka range. The Essex ones are perfectly decent but are a bit two-dimensional. Some of my figures have had arms bent so that the upright spears in particular are at more varied angles.
Some of the Eureka figures are a bit taller than the others but nothing which can't be explained by normal height differences.
Both ranges have the cap as the dominant headgear, as in the Heath books. This is mentioned in a description by Desclot as being leather, possibly red despite my painting. Other descriptions mention a sort of net for the hair which may have been metal. Some of the Eureka figures have this.

 The flags carried by the Catalan Company are described in Muntaner (p.409 in the edition linked to above). He mentions that the foot carried 'pennons' of the King of Aragon and King Fadrique - i.e. the King of Sicily. I haven't looked to see what the original Catalan word translated as pennons was, but it is likely pendon which had a pretty broad meaning rather than just the small triangular flags.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A Siege and Relief game

I've posted a few pics of this game before, but here are some more.
You'll need to click on them to see the whole view.

The rationale behind the game was that Henry VII didn't die but received the Sicilian reinforcements (which were actually on their way when he died) and returned to besiege Florence.

Florentine forces protected the city while the Pope led Roman and Tuscan relief forces. In reality, by this point the Pope was based in Avignon, but we took some artistic licence.

The total size was around 800 AP per side, bigger than a normal DBMM battle.

This is a scratch built siege tower - WWg(S) in DBMM terms. The perrier on the tower is also scratch built. (Click on the photo to see it). I'll have to add some figures to these sometime.

Angevin paid French and Almughavar mercenaries take on the Emperor and Veronese supporters.

The figure with the ladder arms is based on Cangrande della Scala, ruler of Verona. The figure to the right of him bears the Montecchi coat of arms. This may have been the family on which the Montagues of 'Romeo and Juliet' was based.

The Pope under pressure from Aragonese Sicilian knights. Most of his guard crumbled rather quickly (despite being Sp(S)) and, with the Roman knights already eliminated, his command broke and fled soon after this picture was taken..

Luckily for the Guelphs, the Emperor was also in trouble - this was his final turn.

The battle was close all the way through and in the end a Florentine general who had sallied forth managed to survive two flanked combats while a Sicilian general survived one flanked combat but lost the second, breaking his command and the rest of the Ghibbeliine forces.

We intend doing something similar again. I'm currently trying to make some resin towers which look more Italian, though it has been quite a learning curve.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Just a quick post today.

I went to Caliver a couple of days ago and picked up some books from the period. Two of them I hadn't seen before, though I have some others in the same series. These have both been published in the last 12 months.

One was about the Almughavars:

And the other covers the conquest of Valencia by James I of Aragon.

Both are in Spanish with some nice Osprey style plates. There are a fair few black and white photos of original sources although, as with Osprey, there are also several pictures from later periods (e.g. 19th century) which aren't so useful. Most of the primary source pictures are ones I've seen online but some are new to me and it saves looking for them if you haven't already found them.
I can't read Spanish, but as with other non-English books I've bought the specialist vocabulary can be picked up quite quickly, making captions reasonably straightforward to translate. Online translators also help, as long as you take the translation with a sizeable handful of salt.
The publisher's website is here.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Figure Comparisons: 15mm Spearmen and Donnington Review

Yesterday I bought some of the 'New Era' figures from Donnington. I'd looked at them before but had assumed that they wouldn't be suitable for the period I wanted. The cavalry are certainly designed for the mid to late 14th century and beyond bit there turned out to be quite a few figures which would be suitable for my period.

The website is pretty good and representative figures are shown although I think there are a couple of misplaced pictures. The useful thing to know for many of us is how well they mix with other brands, particularly if, like me, you are going to get other troop types from different manufacturers.

From the left - Black Hat, Donnington, Mirliton, Touller. I've already based all my Essex and Legio Heroica figures, so they'll have to wait until I do some photos of based figures. The LH figures are a bit taller than the others (as with the crossbowmen). They'll look fine next to other makes but I don't think they'd look right in the same base. I shall keep mine as separate 'units'.

This Touller figure is a bit taller than the others - it isn't just the way his base isn't quite lined up. The other Feudal spearmen I have from Touller are just a bit shorter and are about the same size as Black Hat. I've put a few of these taller figures in with Black Hat figures and they don't stand out. All four companies could mix well although the ones with cast on shields may not look right next to the ones with separate shields.
The Donnington and Mirliton figures are very similar in size and style. Even the bases are similar shapes.

The figures are generally designed with the mid 14th century in mind. This does mean that not all are suitable for the late 13th century - leg armour and helmets in particular. The range includes some plancon bearers for the Low Countries, and these are the best I have seen so far. They are in kettle hat, which is fine for Courtrai/Kortrijk, or in bascinet which is better for the mid 14th century. However, a bit of filing should make a nice cervelliere as worn by the figures in the Kortrijk chest. The shields are separate on these which is useful - depite Heath's illustartion in Armies of the Middle ages, the three primary source pictures I know of which show this weapon show the wielders without shields.

In some cases the only noticeable bit of the leg armour just looks to be knee protectors - poleyns. These could probably be filed off or painted over. This gives then gives a nice range of polearms wielding figures in active poses.
LCF 8, LCF 10 and HYF 20 and probably some others will be particularly useful for 'Auxillia' types - there aren't many figures around which are suitable for these.

I like these figures and will be getting some more. It might even tempt me to do a DBA Low Countries army although this tends to start me on the slippery slope of a full DBMM army. At least Rune has already done the flags!

Here are some Alain Touller Spanish spearmen:
Only the ones with the mail coif are sold as Spanish and have the distinctive round bottomed shield. The others have a more pointed shield. Since I wanted a bit of variety of headgear but all with the same shield, I used a file to round off the points. It was pretty quick to do this.

Here is a comparison of, from the left, Mirliton, Alain Touller and Legio Heroica:
The Touller figures are more simiar in height to Mirliton than the unpainted example above. The Legio Heroica figures are a bit taller than the others but don't look out of place. 

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Spain: Royalty and Flags

This is my 15mm King of Aragon. The figures are Alain Touller with two Mirliton horses.

James I - the Conqueror, was king of Aragon through most of the 13th century. Much of his fighting was against various Muslim states, including the conquest of Mallorca and campaigning in Murcia. His life is covered by a chronicle which he authored (no doubt with the aid of a ghost writer). This is an excellent read. It is available on-line here.

He was succeeded by Peter III - the Great. He fought against rebellions at home and then led an expedition to reinstate Aragonese suzerainty over Tunis. From there, he led his army to Sicily to fight against Charles of Anjou. Peter was given a large sum of money by the Byzantine Emperor to assist this endeavour - Charles had set his sights on taking Constantinople to re-establish the Latin Empire.

At one point the two kings agreed to end the war by a duel in Bordeaux, though only Peter turned up.

The Pope excommunicated Peter for his invasion of Sicily and, declaring him deposed, a Crusade was called. This involved a huge French invasion of Peter's territory. Initially successful, the Crusade collapsed into a rout due to disease and the defeat of the French fleet.

On Peter's death, he left his Spanish possessions to his son Alfonso III and Sicily to another son, James.

Peter and Charles of Anjou are both placed by Dante outside Purgatory, singing in harmony.

Alfonso conquered Mallorca from his uncle (another James) and then Minorca from its Muslim ruler. His six year reign ended with his death at the age of 27. Dante placed him at the foot of the mountain of Purgatory with the inefficient rulers.

James of Sicily inherited the Kingdom of Aragon. In order to achieve peace with the Angevin Charles II, James agreed to give Sicily to Charles. The Sicilians disagreed and made James' brother, Frederick, king. James briefly made war on his brother which largely took the form of naval actions - James was even appointed Captain-General of the Papacy. As a further inducement, James was given Corsica and Sardinia - even though these were not in the Pope's control.

Dante is not complimentary about the Aragonese kings of Sicily

That book will show the greed and cowardice
of him who oversees the Isle of Fire,
on which Anchises ended his long life;

and to make plain his paltriness, the letters
that register his deeds will be contracted,
to note much pettiness in little space.

And all shall see the filthiness of both 
his uncle and his brother, who dishonored
a family so famous—and two crowns.
Paradiso, 19
Ferdinand IV is also criticised in the book of bad deeds, for his "life of treachery and ease."

Various chronicles cover the reigns of Peter and James. The most complete one available in English online was by Muntaner, available here. It is also a valuable source for the Catalan Company which campaigned in Byzantine lands. Others include ones by Desclot and San Juan de la Pena, though I don't know of any complete English versions of these online.

This is my representation of Don Enrique of Castile. Figures are Alain Touller.

He was a younger son of Fernando III of Castile. He fought against his brother, Alfonso X, and although initially successful he was forced into exile in England. After three years he had to leave and went to Aragon. He conquered the small Moorish Kingdom of Niebla but was again induced to leave Spain. He worked as a mercenary for the King of Tunis and then went to Italy.

There seems some disagreement as to whether he joined Charles of Anjou in time for the battle of Benevento. He certainly received the post of Senator of Rome. He considered this insufficient repayment for his support of Charles and joined Conradin's invasion, providing Spanish and Roman forces. He was in the successful van at Tagliocozzo but fled when the apparently victorious army was defeated.

He spent the next 23 years in prison and may have written the poem 'Amadis'.

For wargaming he is a most useful figure, being suitable for Castillian, Aragonese, Hafsid Berber, Medieval German and possibly Charles of Anjou's French armies.

I found his arms using Wikipedia, so I hope they are accurate! I used the same style of arranging the quarters as on this picture of Alfonso X

(Picture from here)
Note the purplish hue to the lions and the cross on Enrique's flag. Even the modern Spanish arms should have a lion in purpure but they are often shown in red. The actual original colour of purpure is debateable and even the above picture probably shows a change due to time. A pruplish red is probably the safest bet, though I've used a more (probably inaccurate) lilac colour on Enrique's flag
I have also painted a Castilian king but the photo is too blurred to use. Another time perhaps!

The following pictures show a variety of types of flags in use by Spanish forces. All are 13th century.

Fresco from here

From a fresco depicting the conquest of Mallorca. The senyera - the Catalan flag - is fairly unusual in that the bars are horizontal on the flag but vertical on shields. This shape is also unusual. A similarly shaped flag from the period still exists in Valencia. The description says that the yellowing is due to age, which seems odd when so many flags are depicted with a yellow field. The conquest pennon has probaly lost a longer tail as on the above picture.
The most common, and traditional, portrayal of the flag is with 4 red pales but as can be seen this was not always adhered to.

A nice picture which not only shows flags and bards of Castilian knights but also some early jinetes. I'm planning to get some suitable figures by Essex at the weekend.

(EDIT: Seems these are actually Muslims who are fighting alongside the Christians - the two were allied at the battle depicted. They may still be a guide to how early jinetes looked if raised from e.g. mozarabs).

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


The Iberian peninsula was divided between various kingdoms and other states, some Christian and some Muslim. Through this period there was conflict between most of the states at some time or other.

My initial interest in the Spanish armies was because of the involvement of the King of Aragon in Sicily, a conflict known as the War of the Sicilian Vespers. In brief, once Charles of Anjou defeated Manfred he gained control of the Kingdom of Sicily which included the island and the southern part of Italy as far as the Papal states. He had his eyes set on building a Mediterranean empire - I'll post something about this another time.

Peter III of Aragon had invaded the lands of Tunis to re-establish the suzerainty over Tunis that his father had imposed. While he was there, he was visited by emissaires from Sicily, inviting him to take over the kingdom from Charles. Peter had a claim on the Kingdom of Sicily through his wife and in his own right, and accepted the invitation. There is speculation that the journey to Tunis was actually a smokescreen and that it was only ever intended as a stepping stone to Sicily. The best book I've read on the background is Runciman's "The Sicilian Vespers" though I've included a link to an even older free download book in the sidebar.

The actual number of land battles in this war suitable for a wargame is small - most of the major actions were naval. The final land battle of the war, Falconaria, is perhaps the best for playing.

These are Alain Touller figures (with two Mirliton horses). As far as I know only Touller and Essex do specific Spanish figures. (Edit: Spanish are now also available from Donnington in the New Era range). The features which are particular to Iberian knights are - many of them wear a bowl shaped helmet, often with a face veil of mail; the surcoats have a sort of short sleeve; horse barding often leaves the head and neck bare and the shield has a far more rounded base than the more widely used heater shield. Touller has since redesigned the horses, which I haven't seen. The ones I have are pretty good although there aren't many poses. The great helms of the figures sold as Leonese knight look a bit rounded in places such as the vision slits. This initially put me off them but a very quick bit of work with a knife made them look how I wanted them.
Touller also does some Military Order knights wearing a hooded surcoat - I'll get some pictures of these eventually.

The Spanish nobility seem to have liked showing off their heraldry. Unlike the illustration in the Manesse Codex where most caparisons have a sprinkling of small heraldic devices, Spanish illustrations tend to show the barding with a single large form of the arms in each quarter of the housing. Sometimes the arms are split across front and back, as on the seal of the Kings of Castile and Leon.
These are not figures to paint if you don't want to do the heraldry. Some of these have the arms repeated on - the shield, four quarters of the caparison, each of the sleeves and often on the helmet.

Usually the heraldry aren't on the main body of the surcoat but there are exceptions.

Interestingly, in many of the early pictures showing surcoats from across Europe they don't show the coats of arms, so that probably isn't the original reason for surcoats being adopted.

More Spanish another time, including some of the personalities.

Monday, 3 August 2009

The Pope and the Papacy

The history of the Popes in this period is far too complex for me to go into detail here. In short, the period began with struggles against the Hohenstaufens which led to the Pope selling the claim to the Kingdom of Sicily. Henry III of Engand bought it for his son but this resulted only in Henry getting severely into debt, helping to create the circumstances for the Barons' War.

Charles of Anjou then obtained Papal backing for a claim to Sicily and finished off the Hohenstaufens.

With Ghibelline influence on the wane, the Papacy was able to extend its power further north, gaining lands which it then held fairly continously until the 19th century. Bologna was a major acquisition.

Relations with the Angevins and the French monarchy varied over the period. The populace of Rome were not always welcoming to the Pope and the danger of riots was used as a reason for the papacy moving to Avignon, although it also allowed the French monarchy to have more control over Papal policy. Rule of Rome itself was actually in the hands of the Senator. Sometime this was the Pope, at other times a native Roman of one of the great families but for some time the post was held by Charles of Anjou. Henry of Castile was a notable Senator - more of him another time.

Various Popes are mentioned by Dante. He finds Nicholas III in the 8th circle of the Inferno, buried head down with his feet on fire as a punishment for simony. This pope forsees the arrival in hell of Boniface VIII and Clement V - both of whom being political enemies of Dante.

In DBMM, the Pope is represented by a Bge(S) element. One of the benefits of this is that it gives room for a vignette and this is my attempt. The Pope is probably the most ambitious conversion I've made - he started as a mounted Hungaraian archer from Mirliton. The figure had a fur lined cap which was easy to make into a mozetta. The rest of the papal garb was made from Milliput. The litter and bearers are fantasy figures from Black Raven Foundry. They are moulded with nothing but a loin cloth so I used Milliput to give them a tunic. The throne is plastic card.
The two guardsmen at the front are from Mirliton as are the figures carrying the flabella fans and the umbraculum. The various monks are from Donnington. My original plan was to use these and their nice priest figure with the papal litter placed on the ground.

The Papal armies were, in this period, more often controlled by the Captain General of the Church (not the Gonfaloniere, apparently). This was, at times, an allied king but I have painted mine as Guillaume Durand, Captain General and governor of various Papal territories in the last two decades of the 13th century. His arms are copied from his tomb.
The figure is Mirliton, modified with a bishop's mitre of Milliput.
The figures in the background are Papal guards. I think the DBMM list is quite generous in classifying these as Sp(S) since the picture on which they are based seems to be pretty similar to other pavise carrying spearmen of the 14th century.

The DBA list for the Papacy doesn't, in my opinion, work well for this army. Normally, allies are added to the normal 12 elements but for this particular army the allies are a far more integral part of the army so should be represented as part of the normal army.

If you have access to JSTOR articles, you can download D. Waley's "Papal Armies in the Thirteenth Century". This has a lot of detail about the way in which the tributary cities owed service.
The 19th century "History of the City of Rome" by F. Gregorovius is available as a partial preview on Google books or as a pay download from here . There isn't very much military detail but it puts a lot of the events in context.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


The Guelphs were the political opponents to the Ghibellines. They opposed Imperial control in Italy and generally supported the Pope or, later, the Angevin rulers of Naples. As with the Ghibellines, many states changed their allegiance at different times as different parties gained the ascendency. Within a city, different areas could support a different party. This was often the result of following the patronage of a great family although party differences could exist even within families.

This shows a game using my Guelph figures. The cavalry are Mirliton with Black Hat spearmen and peasants.

This shows the main Guelph standard bearer at Montaperti, Jacopo del Nacca, of the house of Pazzi. He was the victim of one of Dante's most damned characters, Bocca degli Abati. I haven't painted this individual for two reasons - one is that his arms aren't very interesting but the other is that I didn't want to put a traitor in the midst of my forces - no point in tempting fate :)
Abati was a Ghibelline from Florence but hadn't gone into exile. He was in the forces facing the Ghibelline from Siena and elsewhere at Montaperti. Once the battle, Abati made his way towards Pazzi and, without warning, struck at his arm holding the banner. The severed hand and Florentine flag fell to the ground; the Guelph cavalry facing treachery and the assault of the Germans, soon broke. The infantry were less able to escape and although they put up substantial resistance the battle ended with thousands dead.
In his poem, Dante was crossing the lowest circle of the Inferno, the circle of traitors, when he accidentally kicked the head of a sinner embedded up to his neck in ice. Dante thought he recognised the face but the traitor refused to give his name, though he alludes to Montaperti. Dante tried to get his name by pulling out the damned man's hair though he only discovered that he had been talking to degli Abati when a neighbouring soul gave away his name.

Crossbowmen comparison

Here are some painted 15mm crossbowmen.

The stand on the left is Black Hat and Touller, the next stand is Essex and the stand on the right is Mirliton.

This is a close up of the Black Hat and Touller figures. They mix well, including the crossbows which are different styles in the other makes. The outer two are Black Hat, the centre two are Touller

One of the distinctive features of Italian warfare was the wide use of pavesarii, shield bearers protecting the crossbowmen behind.

These are Mirliton figures. The Mirliton figures with pavise, CO11, are the same as the 'Assorted infantrymen' CO10. I decided to replace these with the ones attacking with lanze longhe - CO12.

The pavises were marked in the colours of their state. http://www.heraldica.org/topics/national/tuscany.htm has some information from Villani. Much of the information is in Italian - unfortunately for me only some of Villani is easily available in an English translation.

Before the Battle of Campaldino, the shortsighted Bishop of Arezzo is said to have asked "Whose walls are those?" receiving the reply that they were the enemies' shields. Dino Compagni's account is here

If you can get access to a copy of Sercambi's illustrations they are chock full of examples of painted pavises. They are from the later 14th century but are still useful. My local university library has a copy.

Incidentally, David Nicolle says that the Genoese at Crecy had spear carrying pavisarii with them and that it was their pavises which were left with the wagons. His essay is here
I haven't read much about Crecy, so I don't know how secure this idea is.