Saturday, 11 January 2014

Old world / real world empires

My official excuse for buying dwarves on eBay is to put together the entire forces of the Blood on the Snow scenario from White Dwarf 91. It occured to me that, given reasonably priced old school dwarves are hard to come by (but plenty of manufacturers make compatible humans), my non-orc force could be the human elements from that scenario plus (initially) a few of the dwarves.

I thought I'd look a bit into which period of European history most closely relates to the Warhammer 3rd edition Empire, so as to be able to interpret historical figure manufacturers' catalogues. It's commonly known that Brettonian armies are early medieval and Empire armies are late medieval / renaissance, but what does this mean in terms of dates (or, more importantly, historical wars and hence figure ranges)?
There is clearly some hand-waving involved, however taking Warhammer Armies* as a reference point my guidelines were -

  • The dominant infantry weapons are the halberd and crossbow
  • Pikes and spears are also in use
  • Arquebuses are used but unreliable

According to Wikipedia -

Arquebuses were first used in any significant numbers by the Black Army of Hungary (1458–1494) but this was unusual for the time. They started to come to the fore when pike and shot formations were developed by the Spanish following their defeat at the Battle of Seminara (1495), with the first notable success of this tactic being the Battle of Cerignola (1503). By the Italian War of 1521 these formations were starting to dominate the battlefield. Battles such as the Battle of Ceresole (1544) still have a Warhammer 3rd ed level of technology, but it seems to be that the Empire is earlier than this.

Halberds were a primary infantry weapon during the Burgundian Wars (1474–1477) and Wars of the Roses (1455–1485) - though the English used bills. Pike regiments at the time also incorporated halberds or zweihanders when fighting other infantry but when the role of pikes became primarily protection for gunners the role of halberds declined. The English retained the bill (in conjunction with the longbow) for some time after the pike and arquebus were adopted on the continent, with the Battle of Flodden (1513) being notable amongst other things for being a contest between the two systems.

So where does this leave me? It seems somewhere between about 1470-ish and 1521; perhaps if I had to go for a specific date then 1493, the start of the reign of Maximilian I as Holy Roman Emperor.

I could have reached a very similar conclusion by noting that Wargames Foundry sell their ex-Citadel Empire figures as Wars of the Roses, and that the Perrys have similar ranges both for WotR and European Armies, 1450-1500. However I wouldn't have learned so much in the process, for example why historical Burgandian armies are also a good reference, or why Foundry's gendarmes seem as appropriate as their Renaissance knights as Empire substitutes.

As an interesting aside I came across a useful Brief History of WFRP Time in my search which states that Sigmar's real world equivalent (except without the godhood, obviously) is from around 714-814, which might be an interesting campaign one day.

* For extra old school appeal I could have used Ravening Hordes and the results would have basically been the same. WA is handy though because of the additional illustrations

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Looking forward and back

Maybe not the most original post subject ever. I'm even going to steal a topic list from Blue.
  • Collecting 
  • Painting
  • Gaming
  • Blogging


Collecting isn't really my problem at the moment so much as painting...
Having discovered eBay and trades on the Oldhammer forum I've pretty quickly managed to get all the orcs I need for now to make a decent force. There's a few specific miniatures I'd like one day, but I'm trying hard to resist just orcs I like, and it's hard to justify that it's orcs I need.

I'd like to be building up a dwarf force as well but unfortunately I'm mainly after Citadel Perry dwarves and eBay prices seem steeper than I'm prepared to pay. The Skaven were a "too good to resist" buy - I'm planning one day to put together Gnawdoom Greyseer's warband from Vengence of the Lichemaster. In fact, about the only standard Warhammer armies I can't see myself collecting a few of one day are Brettonians and Slann (phew). But I'm luckily not an obsessive collector, and the most expensive sculpts I'm after are a few Jess Goodwin ogres so while it'll I wouldn't really like to think about the total cost involved it all ought to be managable one day...

There are also a fair few old (and not so old) RPG books and modules I'd like to get my hands on at some point.

Goals for 2014:
  • Put together a 1000+ point non-orc force
  • Acquire some non-wargaming stuff


I have an odd relationship with miniature painting - I like finishing a set of miniatures, and when given the chance I find it relaxing, but as so often it's the case of "I need to paint these figures for [reason]" I often also find it a chore. On the other hand, at least with a deadline I get stuff done!

As well as getting to the point where I have a painted force to play with, I'd also like to get to the point where the need to paint such-and-such is gone, and I can paint what I fancy at the time.

Goals for 2014:
  • Improve my colour mixing
  • Improve my colour scheme planning
  • Finish a 1500+ point orc force with a few variations
  • Finish painting my forum avatar


I played 4 games of Warhammer this year, which is about 4 more than I expected. The insidious thing about this hobby is it's easy to feel involved (collecting, painting, and reading) while not actually playing. But hopefully, having found other people who enjoy this little niche, I can get a few more games in this year.

Goals for 2014:
  • Properly re-learn the 2nd and 3rd edition Warhammer rules, without mixing them
  • At least one game of 2nd ed
  • At least one day of this year's Oldhammer meet in Nottingham


I wonder if there's anyone who resolves to blog less next year?

My output for this year has been pretty low, even with the artificial boost of a battle report. I also need to broaden out from wargaming / miniatures stuff, as it was an RPG article that got me hooked back into the hobby in the first place.

Goals for 2014:
  • Fairly regular posting (more than weekly, excluding battle reports)
  • Some stuff about other worlds and other games
I've deliberately tried to keep these goals unambitious, what with having a family and job as well as a hobby, it'll be interesting this time next year to see if I was unambitious enough...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Reading list - 2013 (part two)

It's noticable that I've read significantly less books in the second half of the year compared to the first. Despite the boost of the summer holiday I'm doing more figure painting or less commuting than before.

The Three Evangelists - Fred Vargas
Another from my wife's recommendation list, and well worth a read. Detective stories aren't really my thing, I think I'm far too trusting and take characters as presented rather than trying to work out whodunit. I had no idea who the baddy was, but did enjoy the characterisation of the main protagonists - academic historians each with a different speciality who think their fellow historians are misguided at best if not actually dangerous. Sounds like some geeks I know!

The Legend of Deathwalker - David Gemmell
I spent a good part of the book wondering whether I'd read it before, eventually deciding that I hadn't. Suffice to say that it follows Gemmell's tried and trusted formula however it's written as well as ever and still manages to get you emotionally involved with the characters despite being a bit heavy-handed in places.

I especially continue to enjoy his portrayal of the Nadir - I've no idea to what extent they're intended to reflect the culture of Ghengis Khan's raiders or were invented from whole cloth, but I imagine that to your average fantasy literature fan they're more real than the real thing. I also find them useful in considering how orcish culture might actually function in the Warhammer world.

Things to do one day - re-read all the Drenai books in chrological order.

Lord of Emperors - Guy Gavriel Kay
This had everything I was looking for from the books on my reading list - a good story and it had me reaching for the history books afterwards.

The characters and the city of Sarantium are brilliantly brought to life, and while I have my frequent quibble that the ending doesn't really reward the characters for the journey they've taken us on they do fare about as well as they could hope for after becoming involved with the political elite of the city.

On the RPG setting side of things it's surprising (at least to this ignorant reader) how sophisticated the ancients were on all sorts of levels - medical, engineering and social to pick just three. We're vaguely aware of this, if only from "what have the Romans ever done for us?" but somehow experiencing it in a novel paints a deeper (if narrower) picture than a text book can.

The default pseudo-Medieval setting of your typical RPG does give a convenient shorthand for any group of gamers to congregate around, but books like this show how we're often limiting ourselves as well.

Noble House - James Clavell
An abrupt change of era to this novel set in 1960s Hong Kong. A good read, although you always suspect that the lead character's plot armour is too thick for the ending to be particularly surprising. Also quite interesting in illustrating just how much the world has changed in the last 50 years - sexual equality for example might not be quite there yet, but it's come a long way.

The Raven in the Foregate - Ellis Peters
Ellis Peters delivers what I was hoping for from The Seventh Trumpet, but then this was a nice safe pick from the bookshelf to occupy a train journey or two. Cadfael's a bit too comfortable and the era of King Stephen and Empress Maud a bit too familiar to offer much new from an RPG setting perspective, however as always there's the odd insight to be found.

On the one hand law and civil society is surprisingly strong (although this presumably varies from location to location, with the sheriff of Shrewbury being more upright than his more famous Nottingham counterpart), on the other a time of civil war is clearly the richest in terms of gaming opportunities and the odd bit of murder hobo activity. Also in an era when relatively few have horses to ride, and may not have one conveniently parked, simply running (or walking) away is often a good bet.

Criminal - Karin Slaughter
A thriller rather than a detective novel, so more my sort of thing. Brilliantly weaves between 1970s Atlanta and the present day, with a significant focus on the sexual politics of the earlier time. Things had moved on slightly from '60s Hong Kong, but not actually very far...

The Hundred-year-old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
This book came out as one of my wife's book club's favourite reads of the year, unfortunately I was right in suspecting it wouldn't really be my thing. The novel's tone is just too whimsical for me, especially seeing that Allan really does get away with (sort of) murder. Allan himself is also a bit of a contradiction - on the one hand the world would be a better place if more were as even-handed has him, however it's hard to accept that anyone could be that uninterested in how the world around him works.

A real strength of the story though is how it brings home how poorly we value older people in the western world. No one is going to be quite as remarkable as Allan, but anyone of that age is going to have a lot to offer and isn't merely an inconvenient independent person out to frustrate the old persons' home director.

House of Silk - Anthony Horowitz
Another strong recommendation from my wife's book club. A detective novel though, so had me mostly lost, although I did manage to pick up on the most obviously flagged of the villains... Although I've not read any Sherlock Holmes in a long time I think it's fair to say that the prose (if not the plot) could have been written by Conan Doyle himself.

The main plot is very modern which is good in its way, but distinctly not of a piece with the original novels. I was left hoping Horowitz will revisit the characters in future (which has to be taken as an endorsement of what he's achieved with this novel), but that when he does he mixes some Victorian plots in with the more modern ones.