Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dux Britanniarum characters

I'm in the mood for more Dark Ages modelling, so I began constructing another pair of houses for the period. They're at a bit of a standstill at the moment - I've mislaid the matchsticks I use for the posts. I suppose they'll turn up eventually, but it's a bit of a pain in the posterior.

In the meantime I thought I'd give the Dux Britanniarum character generation rules a try.


To lead the Romano-British, I rolled Camillus Aurelius. Age 28, he's the son of an Honestiore, a Roman middle-class family with a good local reputation. A master of arms, he's pretty handy in a fight. His wealth consists of a Tribune's Tribute, so from the first he's well-off.

For the first of his two subordinate Nobles, I created Barriventus. Age 23, he's a tall, strong young man of noted piety. The son of a warlord, he has a Thief's Horde of wealth.

The second Noble is named Cynbel. A die roll showed he's already earned a sobriquet - the Magnificent. Given his tall, strong physique and noted athletic ability, it seems quite appropriate. I've already nicknamed him Captain Britannica! Another child of an Honestiore family, he's 25 years old and possesses a mere Beggar's Bowl of wealth.


For the Saxon leader, I rolled Ebba. A short and wiry cove of 31, he's out to make a name for himself raiding the lands of those soft, effete Romano-British. An Honorable Wodenborn aristocrat, he's the British-born son of a Foederati, a Saxon mercenary. Ebba possesses a Tribune's Tribute of wealth.

His primary Noble is Oeric. Once again a die roll showed he's already earned a nickname - the Insane. Uh oh... A 28 year old fellow of average build, he's quite an athlete. The son of a peasant, he has but a Beggar's Bowl of wealth, and is out to improve his lot by hitching his career to the ambitious Ebba. It's yet to be seen quite how his insanity will manifest itself...

The second Saxon noble is Wigmund. Age 34 and of average build, he's a devout Wodenborn aristocrat, born in one of the earliest Saxon-conquered provinces in Britain. Wigmund possesses a Tribune's Tribute of wealth.

* * * *
So, there's the cast of characters. With luck and a following wind I'll be able to acquire a couple of forces for Christmas and see how they play out in a campaign.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Dark Ages house - 5 and Done

Thanksgiving's over for another year. I hope those who celebrate it had a nice one.

I pressed on and finished the Dark Ages British house today. The thatching took a while to dry, but in the end I got the final layer on. The photo shows it before I applied a wash of sepia ink to tone down the brightness of the thatch and walls.

In the end I didn't bother with the chimney. I'll put a couple of 'wind eyes' at either end under the gable.

The door is now in place, and the ink wash applied. I brushed this about halfway up the walls to represent splashes of mud, rising damp and general wear and tear.

Some of the underlying material was affected by the dampness of the thatch mix and warped a bit, but it all adds character to the place. It is supposed to be a dwelling in the Dark Ages before planning regulations and such came about!

My next project will be to made another couple of similar buildings - enough to represent a farm or village - then I'll make a church and watchtower.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Dark Ages house - 4

I made a little more progress on the house model today. The first photo shows the main layer of thatching material after it dried. This drying process took a bit longer than expected. My man cave work table isn't in the warmest room in the house and the colder weather means the mixture takes its own sweet time to set. In any case, it did dry in the end and shrank to about half its bulk and made a nice tight coating on the roof. I'm pleased to say the cardboard beneath wasn't affected by the moisture at all.

I applied a second coat of mix on the top half of the roof, creating a step where the layers of thatching overlap. In real life the length of the plant material used for thatching (reeds, straw or whatever) dictates where these layers go and how many there are on any given spread of roof. I used a wooden medical splint to get the straight edge by laying it lengthwise along the roof and easing the mix up to the splint with my fingertip.

Once this is dry the final layer will go on atop the ridge line to about half an inch either side. The chimney will still be slightly above the roof. Once all is dry, I'll move on to the painting stage.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Dark Ages house - 3

The Dux Britanniarum rules arrived today. I like the presentation of the book, and the artwork by Coral Sealey is superb. I'm less than happy about the USPS standards of handling the mail in their care, though. The stout card envelope protected the book as much as it was able, but looked as if it had been used as an iron foundry doormat. The book itself was somewhat buckled and had a dog ear at the spine. Who said postal standards aren't slipping?


I glanced through the rules and will have a more leisurely read of them later. In the meantime I made more progress on the Dark Ages British house.

The photo shows the first stage of prepping for the thatch - a layer of Aileen's glue sprinkled with sand to provide a keyed surface for the mix to stick to. Since the roof card turned out to be so stiff, instead of using Liquid Nails for thatch, I thought I'd risk a papier-mâché made from shredded tissue mixed with Spackle and craft paints. The pot shows the mix underway. It looks like scrambled eggs, but it'll make sure any small chips incurred during handling won't show up glaring white.

I spread the papier-mâché over the roof using my fingers, which I find is the best way to get an even coat and to ensure the small nooks and crannies are covered. The eaves have a layer of mix wrapped over the edges. I patted the whole lot down gently using the flat of my finger so it sticks to the sand beneath.

This stage will take a while to dry, at which time I'll add one and possibly two layers higher up the roof and do the chimney. Once that's done I'll paint it in more realistic colours.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Dark Ages house - 2

We have snow on the ground and a nasty wind chill factor here in NW Ohio, so it's time to stay indoors and do some wargaming related stuff. The Dux Britanniarum rules haven't arrived yet, but I made more progress with the Dark Ages house.

I added four pizza box card supports for the roof. The card may or may not absorb moisture depending on the material I'll use for thatching, and the supports will reduce or prevent the warping effect. In the photo above I've begun adding the upright posts around the walls, the distinctive feature of this type of structure. Due to the perishable materials our ancestors used to build their houses and barns, post holes are one of the few signs an archaeologist has that a Dark Age building ever stood on a spot. Placement, size and depth of the post holes give an indication as to the size and importance of the structure they supported.

Next stage - the roof itself. More pizza card, with a shallow cut along the ridge allowing it to be bent to shape. I fixed the roof in place on the end walls using hot glue for speed, but used Aileen's glue on the tops of the interior supports and the side walls for strength. The tops of some of the side posts show from under the eaves, but these will be covered by the thatching.

The means by which smoke was vented from the houses is open to debate, but it's generally accepted that a 'wind eye' in the eaves or the center of the roofline was employed. I've added a small piece of card which will be covered by the thatching to make a raised, covered wind-eye. The posts are nearly done.

The final stage of the main construction. All the upright posts are in place, along with the cross beams on the end walls. These match the height of the side walls, but the center cross beam of the end wall nearest the camera is a bit higher since this space will have the main door to the house. The posts are sections of square cocktail sticks cut to size and length. These sticks are useful because they're longer, wider and stronger than a standard matchstick. I found a box of them in a Dollar Tree years ago but haven't found any like them since, so I use them sparingly.

The next stage will be to slather the walls with a thinned mix of Spackle and acrylic craft paint to get the daub effect. I use Liquid Nails for basing work, and I think I'll try it out for the thatching, since the stuff doesn't break or warp, things which need to be considered for a part of the model which is likely to get a lot of handling. More on this project soon.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Dark Ages house - 1

I'm waiting patiently (honest!) for the mailman to deliver the Dux Britanniarum rules. In the meantime I thought I'd make a start on some 15mm Dark Ages buildings. Here's the progress so far on the first - a simple British crofter's residence.

The base is a slab of half-inch foamcore. Use a sharp craft or Stanley knife for cutting this stuff. It may feel soft but it's capable of blunting blades quite quickly. In cutting this piece I didn't notice until too late that the Stanley blade in my knife had become serrated during a DIY job yesterday. Result - one ragged edge of foamcore. Luckily it was covered up by the pizza box cardboard cladding. A rectangle of card acts as spacer and bracer for the gable ends. These were quite steep on British houses of the period. I'll fit some rafters in the spaces between to support the thatched roof. Short lengths of matchstick form the corner posts. Other posts along the walls will be made along the same lines.

I'm thinking of basing the building on more card and using Liquid Nails for the terrain effect. Liquid Nails dries hard, doesn't shrink or cause warping in cardboard, and readily accepts acrylic paint and scenic flock.

More progress reports to follow as and when.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dux Britanniarum on the way

So. The 2016 election is over, and I felt the need to treat myself after all the sturm und drang of the past eighteen months' involvement in the campaign. Today I ordered the hard copy Dux Britanniarum rulebook from the Too Fat Lardies. It looks like the system is similar to the TFL rules I already own, with some important differences to reflect the Britain of the Dark Ages.

I've watched the TFL's solitary video on YouTube and browsed various sites online to see what's out there in terms of figures. I'm pretty sure for the sake of costs and storage space I will buy Splintered Light's 15mm starter armies. They also sell villagers and livestock, useful for those raiding scenarios. The necessary buildings I can make myself. My existing trees and modular river pieces should look fine for the scale, too.

The Dark Ages is a period I've had an interest in since watching Michael Woods' In Search of the Dark Ages on the BBC many moons ago. Dux Britanniarum has rules to generate a strong campaign narrative reflecting the times with an emphasis on the characters of the main contenders. This and the relatively small scale skirmish level of the games appeals to me over the larger clashes of the period. It'll give me a project to work on over the winter months, now we're putting the garden to bed for the year.

Friday, November 11, 2016

We Will Remember Them

To all the fallen, in particular my great-uncle, Bombardier Alfred Matthews, Royal Field Artillery, who died in action on the Somme, 19th October 1916.

We Will Remember Them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Steam and Iron

"Er, I say, chaps..?" Captain Pettigrew of the RAMC encounters some local wildlife during a boating expedition.

The rainy weather and a stomach bug have combined to prevent me from doing anything much today, so I'm going to briefly revisit my Colonial-era steamboat project. That splendid chap Ogilvie VC asked about potential rules to cater for naval encounters on inland waters. If I recall correctly, he plans to build a gunboat for 54mm figures?! I remembered the Beer & Pretzel: Ironclad rules, produced by Buck Surdu of GASLIGHT fame, which deal with ACW riverine actions. We used these at my wargames club in England some years ago and they proved extremely workable.

The B & P rules are intended for use by Old Glory's range of 15mm ACW vessels. I think with only a small amount of tweaking they might work for larger scales. The record-keeping is minimal and in my experience isn't a problem with a handful of vessels. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Work has kept me busy these last few days, but at least my computer is now running as it should (Writing which, of course, is a way of tempting Fate...). I have a bit of time and cash to spend on my hobby and I'm facing the old, old wargamers' dilemma - what to spend it on?

I should use it to complete my ECW collection: It would be the sensible thing to do, but since when has a wargamer seen sense when faced with so much shiny metal and tempting rules-sets?

I've been eyeing the Too Fat Lardies' Dux Britanniarum rules for some time. From what I see and read, as always with this company, the rules are well produced and eminently playable, with the rules writers and a knowledgeable crowd of gamers to hand online if questions arise. The current woefull exchange rate betwixt Pounds and Dollars works in favour of those of us living this side of the Pond.

Then there are the 15mm Dark Ages figures produced by Splintered Light Miniatures out of Georgia. This company offers Dux Britanniarum starter armies for Early Saxon, Romano-British, Scots-Irish and Picts.

Decisions, decisions...

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