First Blood!

Here are the first of the painted Normans for 1066. Duke William, The Papal Standard, and the Minstrel are included in this batch of six. I have ironed out the kinks in my painting technique--it's four steps now... The shields, as always, are hand-painted. No decals for me!

1066 Project: Norman Army

Every October 14th I have lamented the fact that I haven't wargamed the famous battle of Hastings yet. It has been in the back of my mind so to do for half a decade, and every time I have a bit of extra cash it must go elsewhere, or has gone to feed other projects.

Well, the Hastings bug bit me hard this year, and now I intend fully to make this my next project. So, I have been researching the battle (What else is new?), and have come across conjectural army lists here and there, and many other sundry articles, opinions, etc. on the matter. I not only want to have armies which will function for the battle itself, but for one-off engagements and other historical battles - There is a Byzantine army in my future as well...

I plan to use Old Glory for the majority of the figures, since this seems to be the most cost-effective route, and I prefer true 25mm to the larger 28mm "Heroic-Scale" figures.

My final Norman army list will look something like this:

William, Duke Of Normandy; Eustace, Count Of Bolougne; Odo, Bishop of Bayeux; and Taillefer, Quasi-Legendary Minstrel

3 units of 30 Norman Knights

1 unit of 10 Breton Sergeants

2 units of 30 Norman Heavy Infantry Spearmen

1 unit of 30 Norman Heavy Infantry Swordsmen

1 unit of 20 Breton Light Infantry Spearmen

3 units of 20 Light Infantry Archers

Totals: 104 Cavalry, 170 Infantry

This will provide more than I need for Hastings, but enough to make a sufficient spectacle on the table when it is all finished.

Coming soon will be my Anglo-Saxon list--again padded for utility and visual appeal.

Courtesy of tobaccoblending.com, and dirt cheap:

8 Parts Black Cavendish
6 Parts Captain Black Gold
3 Parts Captain Black Blue(The original was 2 parts here, but I like the extra spiciness this adds)

Each part for me equals a healthy pinch. I'm not terribly exact when it comes to tobacco blending. That's a lot of black cavendish, indeed!

Let this marry for about a day in a kitchen storage bag or jar. Let dry for 15-20 minutes before smoking. This will have a thick, fluffy smoke and only a little bit of gurgle, none if you're careful.

This blend was the creation of someone who goes by "Old Mule" Well, whoever you are, my hat goes off to you.

Caveat Emptor...

I will never purchase a pipe from a cut-rate tobacco shop such as Smoker Friendly again.

The pipe in question is a wonderful little Italian navy-style straight with a nice narrow bowl and a perfectly round heel: in other words a perfect walking pipe for when I'm in the mood for some Virginia flake. And at $22.50, I couldn't go wrong for a new bangabout piece. So, I happily paid the clerk (who seemed less than enthused about her job), brought the pipe home, and put it to my lips in an absent-minded fashion.

The taste it left in my mouth was somewhere between vomit, seawater, and charcoal.

After the initial horror, I put the pipe down and reached for my trusty Italian bent apple, which I hastily filled and lit. Sweet relief.

Upon further research, I found that the pipe, because it had been sitting under ultraviolet lights at the shop for God knows how long and been handled by god knows who, the inside of the shank and stem had oxidised! Ergo, a thorough cleaning, nay, a zealous cleansing was in order. I soaked the stem in hot water with mild detergent for three hours. No dice.

Out comes the bottle of vodka and the extra-rough bristle cleaners. After scrubbing for at least an hour, covering my hands with vodka and oxidation buildup, and ending up with a sore shoulder, I have found that the stem is clean enough to put near my mouth, but the nasty oily smell still remains in my ill-fated new pipe's bowl and heel.

Needless to say, I am disgusted with the entire experience. Tobacco store owners, take heed: If you are going to sell cigarettes, you would take care to make sure that the cigarettes, lighters, cases and other such accessories are taken care of properly, right? Of course you would. Should not the same go for pipes? Should you not also make sure that the pipes that you are charging your customers for are not only well-taken care of, but free of any sort of debris before you sell them? Furthermore, wouldn't you want to make sure that your sales staff knows a thing or two about the product which they sell?

I realize that here in Hillbillicothe, Ohio we briar friars are a minority, but please be considerate of us if you are going to make the pretense that you are interested in catering to our needs.

I will be very upset if I have to throw my new pipe away because of someone else's negligence.

I will be calling the tobacco store tomorrow and lodging a complaint about this. I shouldn't have to do that, but they leave me no choice. Perhaps if this is brought to their attention someone will care enough about the needs of their pipe-smoking clientele to ensure that no one has to suffer this sort of frustration again.

*update* 28 October
I got the nasty taste out of the pipe, after another hour or two of scrubbing. I think that if I had had a stronger sort of booze I could have avoided much of the scrubbing...

I wanted to post a final army list for the English, for the rules which I like the most: Being, of course, the old Ral Partha Medieval rules! If any of you have never tried this wonderful little set of rules, please do yourselves a favor. So, without further ado:

Three Leaders: King Edward I, Roger de Bigod, Marshal of England; and Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham

Five Units of Six Mounted Knights - 180 Points
-English Knights and Men-At-Arms
One Unit of Six Mounted Yeomen - 24 Points
-Mounted Sergeants
One Unit of Twelve Foot Knights - 48 Points
-Dismounted Chivalry
Two Units of Twelve Longbow-Armed Peasants - 48 Points
-Early English Longbowmen, the ancestors of the victors at Crecy
One Unit of Twelve Crossbow-Armed Yeomen - 36 Points
-Mercenary crossbowmen from the Continent
One Unit of Twelve Yeomen - 24 Points
-City Militiamen
Three Units of Twelve Peasants - 36 Points
-Levy Spearmen
Totals: 36 Cavalry, 96 Infantry - 396 Points

Forthcoming is a Largish Welsh Marcher Contingent for this army - Which could also stand on its own, should the Earl of Hereford begin to feel rebellious - and the task of deciding which opponent to collect.

Three Leaders: Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford; Kaladrius, and Meriadoc ap Dafydd, Prince of Deheubarth (Fictional)

Two Units of Six Mounted Knights - 72 Points
-English Knights and Men-At-Arms
Two Units of Six Mounted Yeomen - 48 Points
-Welsh Cavalrymen
Five Units of Twelve Peasant Archers - 130 Points
-English and Welsh Longbowmen
6 Units of Twelve Peasants - 72 Points
-English Levy Spearmen and Welsh Infantry
Two Units of Twelve Yeomen - 48 Points
-English City Militia
One Unit of Twelve Peasant Javelinmen - 24 Points
-Welsh Skirmishers
Totals: 24 Cavalry, 168 Infantry, 384 Points

I had considered a Scots Common army next, but I would like to bash knights. I think I'm feeling a great lumbering, cavalry-heavy behemoth of a French army next.

Finally.

After a year and a half of painting whenever the mood should strike, My 13th century English army is finished! Now they can finally leave the shelf next to my desk and crush the foes of house Plantagenet!

The figures are to a man 15mm Essex, mounted on steel bases of 40mm frontage, save for the leaders, which are on squares of mat board.

My camera is still a bit wanting, and as I do not have a gaming table at the moment I was forced to set up on the coffee table... Do ignore the detritus of my life which surrounds the scene!

Here is the Army Arrayed, as it stands:














Here are the Commanders: Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford; King Edward I; and Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham:














Here is the flower of English Chivalry:














A close-up shot of a unit of knights. The fellow on the right is Sir Nicholas Tremayne, a relative of mine!














Some Heavy Cavalry from the Welsh Marches. Oddly enough, these were the most photogenic of the bunch!














Alright, enough of the nobility. Let's have a look at the foot sloggers:














Here is a close-up of a unit of levy spearmen, with mercenary crossbowmen behind them:














Edward I's secret weapon: The longbow!














There is a Welsh contingent in the works right now, as well as more Knights and a a whole great clump of spearmen...

Please feel free to critique and comment upon these figures.


Here we have the start of my early Hundred Year's War English army. Two units of English foot sloggers--the miniatures are Essex 15mm. They are organized in 4-base units on 40x20mm bases, four to a unit. They are presented with a piece of fairly cheesy homemade terrain. If any of you super-grognards wish to nit-pick my color schemes or shield patterns, I invite you to do so, as I have yet many more of these fellows to paint!

It's true-these fellows won't win me any painting contests, but I am proud of them, and I look forward to crushing England's enemies with them! Of course, the knights will get all of the credit, though, won't they...

A New Burst Of Inspiration

I recieved my copy of Neil Thomas' Ancient And Medieval Wargaming in the mail today. I may post a more comprehensive review of this book later, but for now I will say that I will no longer be using any of the rules which I previously used for my games (my own rules notwithstanding). The ones included in this book are fantastic. They are concise and easy to understand, and they are geared toward historical matchups, as opposed to tournament play.

Don Featherstone he is not, and those are incredibly large shoes to fill, but Mr. Thomas' "wargame plus historical information in one book" approach appeals greatly to me, as do the easy to understand nature of the army lists (Finally, a Medieval German list that actually makes sense!), and this book is a worthy successor to the works of Featherstone and the ilk. I will be posting alternative lists for those rules on this blog based upon the feudal period in Britain as I read and understand more.

My only gripes are the lack of a few mechanics, such as generals and a push-back system for the losers of melees, but the rules are so simply constructed that modifying them after playing a few games should be no difficult matter.

I'll be posting more on this matter as the days progress.

I am in the midst of final exam week, and I'm almost finished! Surely this means more time for painting and smoking.

As we speak, I am smoking a pipe of Smoker's Haven's famous Krumble Kake. This is a good flake-style English blend, one of Smoker's Haven's fantastic custom blends by J.F. Germain and Son.

The packaging is very simple and to the point, being a rectangular tin in a brass color with a very plain orange label marked: "Krumble Kake" and "Distinctively Different!" It is distinctive, but not terribly different from other English blends. However, one distinguishing factor is the tin aroma, which is one of gingerbread and spices. From the moment the seal is broken on the tin, it is plainly apparent how this tobacco got its name.

Two flakes of this tobacco-which are small and thick-folded over and held together, perfectly fill my Amadeus Oom Paul. This tobacco lights very easily, given how finely cut it is. In fact, in the days when I used to rub the flakes up, I would often end up with a handful of dust which, when smoked, would be drawn into my mouth. This stuff only smells like spice cake.

For those in the dark, English blends generally contain a mixture of Virginia tobacco and healthy percentages of what are termed "spice tobaccos", such as Latakia and Orientals. These are what give English blends their robust smokiness.

Krumble Kake is no exception to this rule. The Virginias do not play a dominant role here, instead giving way to the Orientals, giving this tobacco a spicy, almost Balkan-style flavor. The Virginias are present, though, and they lend a sweetness to the smoke that just shows up at the right times, particularly after the smoke is exhaled and the first breath is taken; then one finds a cool, rich, sweetness that is a perfect meld of all the flavors presented here.

Krumble Kake smokes down to a nice salt-and-pepper ash most of the way, and doesn't gurgle or get very wet. It is definitely a mature tobacco, and one which I had to grow into, but now that I have refined my technique and palette just a bit(and I'm still learning) it is a joy to smoke this stuff, as it is not too full-bodied, and has just the right amount of nicotine to hang on to one's senses.

Every time I light up a pipefull of this tobacco, I am reminded of Christmas trips to Columbus with my wife, and smoking between classes in Athens. The only thing I don't like about this tobacco is the price; at $10.50US for two ounces it is too expensive for me to enjoy as often as I would like. But, part of the joy of a fine tobacco is figuring out just when the time is right to pop the tin.

9/10

Currently Working On...

Well, considering the fact that I'm knee-deep in school work, I have actually found time to do a little painting here and there.

Currently I'm working on a 15mm Medieval Army, for use with Piquet, or perhaps a homebrew set. When it's done, I'll have enough figures to run a few games while I await the arrival of its opponent. I hope to post pictures when it's done. For now, here's a picture of his majesty and his champion. Do forgive the limitations of my camera.

Hopefully, battles with immense amounts of figures on the table are in my future.

I picked this one up at my local cut-rate tobacco shop, and I must say I was thrilled to find tobacco of some quality there. $14.69 was the price for a 100g tin. It states that it is a Virginia-Cavendish blend spun, then cut.

I popped it open and a wonderful sort of fruitcake and raisin-like aroma met my nose. The tobacco itself was interestingly presented in small "medallions", with a bit of loose tobacco packed around it. Some of them had a core of darker cavendish, with an outer layer of golden-brown virginia around it.

A quick rub, and the tobacco fell nicely into my pipe of choice, a Militaire briar. Now, I will admit freely that my technique could use a bit of polish, but it took me a few lights to get it going. Much of the sweetness of the tin aroma was imparted to the smoke, but I got quite a bit of tongue bite with it. I backed off a bit, and the tobacco went out. This problem persisted throughout the smoke.

The first pipeful burned down nicely through the first third of so, gaining just a bit of harshness. The flavour was that of pastries and leafiness, very well-balanced, with no one flavour or aroma gaining ground over another, becoming more leafy and slightly smoky as it burned down. It was just a bit too sweet for my tastes. There was quite a bit of gurgling and unsmoked dottle at the bottom.

The second pipeful was, well, wanting. I decided to do as some Virginia flake enthusiasts(myself included) like to do and leave the medallions unbroken--or, as unbroken as possible. This was a mistake. The flavour was sweet, yes, but too sweet; I imagine that taking a hearty swig out of a bottle of molasses would produce the same effect. Also, the tobacco bit me very hard. I will not be doing that again with this particular blend.

The sweetness is just too much. I am not an aromatic smoker by habit, preferring Virginias and English blends, but I will be finishing this tin, after pre-rubbing and drying. At this point, however, I will not be replacing the tin.

My first experience with MacBaren tobacco is off to a bit of a rocky start. I hope this does not remain the case.

4.5/10
***update***
What a funny old world this is. After pre-rubbing about 80% of the medallions and drying them, this has become my go-to tobacco. It isn't bone-dry, but I did fluff it up and leave the tin open on my shelf for an hour and a half. It now has a lovely pepperiness when smoked slowly, and has lost much of the bite. I will definitely be switching my go-to, as I have found a new favorite(review to come), but until then I will enjoy this tin. As for the rating, well, I think a bump up is called for. -8/10

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