Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Byzantine Army - Part Two

Well, I will start this blog episode with a hearty thanks to Jim aka ColCampbell from TMP! Thanks to his advice on how blog the pictures and the descriptions actually make sense! now I will have to see if I can go back and re-do the first installment so I don't look like a complete idiot. Much thanks Jim! Hope you like the new design and pics!
I got some more Byzantine troops out into the glorious Wisconsin summer sun. Temps in the mid 70's and low humidity created a beautiful studio to work in.
This first picture is the center of the army as it deployed into the sands of the sand box to face any foes that should dare approach such a mighty host. The infanty unit in the far right of the picture did not turn out in the picture that I took. It was blurry and I will get more of it later. Both of these infantry units are Gripping Beast figures.

This Tagmatic Heavy Kavallarioi unit is my own special creation. The figures are my own sculpts and my first try at sculpting 25mm figures. I mounted them on Hinchliffe horses because I liked the look of the old Hinchliffe horses. I am going to paint a gold band around the archers helmets to get a better match to the front rank figures. The front rankers are based on the Kataphraktos painting of Angus McBride in the original Osprey book on the Byzantine army. that book inspired my love for the Byzantine army and the Crusades period in general and I had to do the figure from the book in miniature. This unit is my tribute to the late Mr. McBride.

This Tagmatic unit is a mix of front-rank Old Glory converted figures and a rear-rank of Gripping Beast hippo-toxotai (Horse archers). The archers would be used to harrass the enemy and shower them with arrows as the lancers charged and re-formed to charge again if the initiall assault failed to achieve the desired effect. One of my few "green" themed units. All of my tagmatic units are mounted on armored horses to differentiate them from thematic heavy cavalry units.

Well, this Tagmatic unit was my first try at converting troops to get "the look" that I wanted to capture based on the Osprey book on the Byzantines that got me hooked on them years ago. I had some old Irregular Normans laying around and decided to convert them into Byzantine Tagmatic Kavallarioi. Here is the result. I added some Gripping Beast Russian druzhina cavalry converted to archers and the result was better than I expected. Officer and Standard bearer are converted Old Glory figures. This was the first Byzantine unit that I did. I tried to match the standard to the shield design whenever possible. Horses are Old Glory from their Kataphraktoi bag with some Gripping Beast horses in the rear ranks. All in all it remains near and dear to me.

Thematic Kavallarioi from the reserve line of my array. These are Crusader miniatures and very fine figures they are! Shield designs by Little Big Men Studios. They are FANTASTIC!!! My army would be pretty plain without Stephen Hales designs! Highly recommended. I tried painting/drawing some banners copying his and it was not worth the effort. His were way better.

Skutatioi of the reserve line. They have quilted armor. Gripping Beast figures with an Old Glory officer. The other infantry unit picture did not turn out so I will do an "infantry" theme at a later date. Banner from the internet. Love to seach for Icons!

A reserve line unit of thematic kavallarioi from Gripping Beast with an Old Glory officer. I am not a huge fan of the GB horses, but they paint up ok.

This is my Latinikon unit for the Comnenan Period Army. It is mostly Old Glory Norman figures with a uniform appearance given by matching shields and lance pennons.

This regiment is a Gripping Beast Heavy Kavallarioi unit with an Old Glory officer leading them. I do have a lot of Old Glory officers don't I? Banner is courtesy of Javier! Couldn't match the shield to the banner here though! Maybe one day I'll try painting archangels on shields.

This is a kavallarioi unit from one of the Themes. It is a mix of Crusader and Gripping Beast (GB) figures. I think they mix well and give a lot of variety. I used infantry teardrop shields from GB because I liked the design and wanted more variety in my army. I will have 8 Kavallarioi regiments when all is said and done. I got carried away.

Gripping Beast Light Cavalry for my Vardariot unit. I really like the Gripping Beast figures. They have a lot of character and paint up easily. This unit can be used as a light skirmishing unit or can be classed as heavier depending on your needs.

Old Glory Pechenegs for my Skythikon unit. Some 1st Corps figures thrown in for variety! The officers are from the Old Glory Byzantine Command Bag. I will repaint the banner soon. Not my best effort at painting...

I started out to build Byzantine, Saracen (Fatamid and/or Turkish), and Frankish Crusader armies to game a Crusade era campaign, and I ended up creating a monster. I have enough troops to field Byzantine armies ranging from the 9th Century (Thematic Period) through the 13th Century including the Nikephorian period and Comnenan Dynasty period. So now I will have to have a Byzantine civil war I guess. I will add pictures on my Turks/Saracens and Crusaders at a later date. Also I still have a few more Byzantine units in development including some of the dreaded Kataphraktoi, later period infantry and cavalry, and skirmishers.
To my great horror I discovered a new mod of Medieval II:Total War that has some really cool Byzantine, Georgian, and Armenian units. I have already begun to sculpt them...

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Byzantines part one...


I am a history teacher, coach, sculptor, and wargamer. I have always had a keen interest in the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades Era of history. I also have a strong interest in the Franco Prussian War of 1870 and the U.S. Civil War, but my brother already has a great website on that topic: http://web2.cs.cvtc.edu/~cooleyjc/fpwar/ My blog will cover the progress on a project that I have undertaken recently. That is to re-create the forces necessary to stage a campaign set roughly during the early Crusades period in the latter part of the 11th Century. For this purpose I began collecting figures to create Byzantine, Muslim (Fatimid, Syrian, or Turkish), and Frankish armies. Some figures I bought pre-painted on E-bay when I could afford them and some I bought from various companies or sculpted myself. I decided to do these armies in 25mm scale which is also referred to as 28mm scale. I will try to identify which figures are made by which company in the photos. I also made use of the fantastic shield decals and banners of the Little Big Men Studios company as this saved me hours of painting and they were far better than anything I could paint! Some of the Byzantine banners were sent to me by my friend Javier who is the best painter that I have seen.

Here are my Byzantine Turcopoles or "Turkopouloi". They are based on a figure that I saw on the DBAOL site a while back. They are armed with bow, shield, sword, and a light spear. They are light skirmishing cavalry from the Comnenan Period wearing a padded quilted coat favored by the Byzantines.
Turkopouloi were a mainstay of Comnenan Byzantine armies and a unit of them accompanied the First Crusade Armies as they marched across Anatolia to Antioch in 1097-98.

This is a unit of Crusader Skutatoi or Kontaratoi if you prefer. They are splendid figures and are equipped with the teardrop shield instead of the oval shields of my other infantry units. Shield designs by Little Big Men Studios (LBMS). Skirmishers in the foreground are Old Glory psiloi archers.

Heavy Kavallarioi from one of the Themes. These troops were used to support the heavier Tagmatic units or to deal with raiding parties of Bulgars, Pechenegs, Cumans, Rus, Slavs, Turks, Arabs, etc. that plagued the frontiers of the Empire during its later history. These figures are Gripping Beast with lancers in the front rank and hippo-toxotai (horse archers) in the rear rank.
They would be used to pepper the enemy with arrows and then withdraw behind the heavier armored lancers for the charge!

This unit is a well-equipped unit from the elite Anatolikon theme in the Nikephorian period or can be used as a Comnenan Imperial Tagmata unit. It is made up of converted musicians from the Crusader Tagmatic Command set. The rear-rank Hippo Toxotai are Gripping Beast Light Cavalry archers. The horses are Old Glory with the front rank from the Byzantine heavy lancers bag and the rear rank horses are from the Russian Heavy cavalry bag.

Now come the truly elite units of the Byzantine armies - the Imperial Tagmata! These regiments were maintained in the capital of Constantinople and used to form the core of any major military forces that were necessary in the long defence of the Empire. These regiments were maintained at great expense by the state and were given the best equipment available.
The next two pictues could be used as any of the Imperial Tagmata regiments. The front rank heavily armored lancer figures are converted Crusader Miniatures. The Crusader Byzantines are some of my favorites! The rear-rank "hippo-toxotai" archers are converted Essex Byzantine heavy horse archers. The Essex heads were too big for my liking and I replaced them with some Old Glory heads on some spare figures that I picked up from the Historicon flea market a while back. Much better looking IMHO! Shield designs once again from LBMS (Russian teardrop pack). I gave this unit the Imperial Purple pennons.

These next three pics are the Athanatoi (Immortals) created by the Basileus Alexious Comnenus. Alexious found himself seriously strapped for cash and manpower after the crippling series of civil wars that devastated the Empire following the defeat at Manzikert in 1071. These civil wars were much more crippling to the Byzantine Empire than the defeat by the Seljuks at Manzikert. Alexious was only able to afford one heavy Tagmatic cavalry unit after he became Emperor (Basileus) in 1081. He created the Athanatoi (Immortals) regiment of heavy cavalry reminiscent of the kataphraktoi of Nikepheros II a century earlier. He then supplemented this regiment with many mercenary units such as the Varangian Guard, the Skythikon, the Vardariots, Turcopoles, etc.

These figures are my own sculpts based on evidence from a Byzantine manuscript from the Comnenan period, Osprey books, and from a mod for "Medieval II: Total War" - a game that I play frequently!

I used some old Hinchliffe horses because I like the "feel" of them. The shields and swords are from Gripping Beast. Shield designs - well LBMS once again. Banner from my friend Javier of Jaiko's Studio. Javier is one of the best miniature painters that I have ever seen - a true artist and a generous person! Check his work at: http://javiko.com/

Last, I conclude with a shot of the whole force drawn up in battle array. No self-respecting Byzantine general would ever draw up a battle array in one line, but I did for the sake of photographing each unit individually. I will follow up this blog with more Byzantine units in the near future. I still have the Varangian Guard, Skythikon, Vardariots, and many other units to take photos of. So watch for updates!

So, my plan was to tackle the Muslim forces first, then the Byzantines, and to finish with the Frankish Norman Crusaders. I figured the Muslim forces would be the most time consuming to paint, then the Byzantines, and the Frankish Normans would be the easiest. I would finish one army and then move on to the next until I had all three complete. Well, that was my plan anyway...things worked out a bit differently. I did quite well building a nice sized Muslim force of six units of Ghlimen/Mamluks heavy cavalry, two units of Arab heavy cavalry, three units of Turcoman light cavalry, one Bedouin light cavalry units and three units of spearmen and archers infantry. Then it was on to the Byzantines. This is where the plan started to break down slightly. I got a great deal on some Old Glory Norman infantry so I bought them. Then I saw some really cool paint jobs on the net and I had to copy them (best I could). I simply lost all control of the Byzantines. I went from a rather modest army to a massive force designed to cover from the 10th Century through the 12th Century! My Byzantine Army became the biggest part of the project.

I am currently working on two (of course) Emperor stands. Perhaps in case of a civil war???
Also on the work bench are my Byzantine baggage stands of mules and drivers, more Turkish light cavalry, and a host of Frankish knights.

I will post more pics of the Byzantines that I have done, the Muslim troops I have done, and the Frankish Norman Crusaders as I finish them off.