Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Stakes, and all of the trimmings

In this blog entry I liven up some bases of stakes, or Swinefeathers, that I made in my last post with some simple vignettes to add to my 17th century Swedish army.

“Hurry up Sven; those horsemen are closer than you think!”.  Warlord, Foundry and Perry 28mm musketeers preparing to give fire, while Bloody Miniatures are setting up the Swinefeathers.

In the previous blog post (link) I described how I used the Warlord Games’ Swinefeathers to create bases of temporary defences for my Swedish musketeers. These looked fine but were perhaps just a little bit bland.  Over recent months I’ve been inspired by seeing some great vignettes on different social media and so I’d thought I’d have a go at something similar for my Swinefeather bases. 

(For the record, some of my favourite vignette creators are:

I started by thinking about what sort of vignettes would make sense on a base of Swinefeathers. These vignettes would be used in games like the other Swinefeather bases and so they needed to fit on the same 60 mm x 40 mm bases. I came up with broadly two categories. The first was to show musketeers in the process of a deploying the swine feathers, and the second was to show the Swinefeathers after being damaged during the battle.

This time it is Avanpost musketeers hoping their comrades hold fire until they’ve finished putting in the last two swinefeathers.

I searched through my “pile of opportunity“ for likely candidate figures and other bits of battlefield detritus to sprinkle about. I came up with the following four sets of figures.

28mm Bloody Miniatures with assorted equipment from various manufacturers. 

I’m a big fan of the Bloody Miniatures range (https://www.bloodyminiatures.co.uk) and I have a nice stash from the recent releases.  I selected a couple of figures that suggested themselves for a base showing men setting up Swinefeathers. One figure was originally thrusting a pole alarm, but with a little bit of conversion, I felt that I had made him look as if he was driving a Swinefeather into the ground. There was also a figure who I thought would make a fine sergeant of Musketeers who would be helping out, setting up a Swinefeather. As well as the two figures I found some suitable pieces of equipment to add to the base; a musket, rest, powder bottle, halberd, and a club to be used to bang in the stakes. With the figures ready, and all the pieces of equipment to hand, I experimented with different positions so I could fit everything on the 60 mm x 40 mm base. This experimentation also showed where I could add Swinefeathers, already set-up, to the base. 

Avanpost 28mm resin miniatures with various manufacturers’ equipment.

Next, I had some Avanpost musketeer figures that were in the process of loading their muskets, but with a small bit of conversion to remove the muskets, I could make them look like they were planting swine feathers into the ground. As with the previous base, I added some pieces of equipment around the two figures to give the impression of a working party.

For the bases showing battle damaged Swinefeathers I was at first just going to model a base with couple of the stakes broken. Then I wondered about adding some wounded figures to the base as well.  On finding a downed horse (also from Avanpost) in my ‘pile’ I thought this would be ideal to add to a base of Swinefeathers.  The horse fitted neatly on to one of the 60mm x 40mm bases and I could add damaged and regular Swinefeathers around it.

Warlord 28mm wounded musketeer tries to crawl through the damaged swinefeathers.

Finally, and in a similar way to the previous base, a Warlord wounded musketeer could be added to a base with some damaged swinefeathers. I imagined cannon shot blasting through the stakes just before Imperial musketeers tried to assault the Swedes behind the stakes.

Avanpost 28mm resin wounded horse.



Warlord 28mm casualty crawling through the swinefeathers.

I had fun painting up the few figures and pieces of equipment for the vignette bases. A nice palette cleanser between regular units of figures!

Using Swinefeathers in games of Pike & Shotte

Now that I can deploy swinefeathers on the battlefield some rules are required.  Luckily both supplements for Warlord Games’ Pike & Shotte rules, ‘The Devil’s Playground’ and ‘To Kill A King’, include the same special rules for all sorts of permanent and temporary defences.

Here is their suggestion:

Stakes or Swedish (Swine) Feathers

… Effect of such devices is defensive and applied to hand-to-hand, not shooting.

  • Negates all charging bonuses.
  • Negates cavalry vs. non-pike combat result bonus
  • Need one complete turn for the defenders to set up or remove. If defenders lose a round of combat during hand-to-hand then the stakes or swine-feather defence is lost.

I think these rules will certainly help a unit of shot when it is charged by the enemy. A few trial games will be required to get the feel of the rules’ effect.  Whether it is enough, or too much, will be a subjective judgement as we don’t have much evidence to go on.   I’d be very interested to hear about other peoples’ experiences with swinefeathers in games of the period, whether using Pike & Shotte or other rule systems.

Next time, back to the more regular stuff.

Until next time!

Andy @ The Friends of General Haig 


 

Sunday, 12 June 2022

If Swedes and Pigs could fly?

In this blog entry I introduce Swinefeathers, also known as Swedish Feathers, to my 17th century Swedish army. 

28mm Swedish musketeers protected by Swinefeathers from Warlord.  Figures from Warlord, Foundry, Perry & TAG.

“By the one end it is made fast in the ground in such a manner that the other may lay out so it may meet the breast of a horse where by a body of musketeers is defended as with a palisade against the rude charge of a squadron of horse…” from James Turner’s 1683 book ‘Pallas Armata, Military Essayes of the Ancient Grecian, Roman and Modern Art of War’.


Background 

Swinefeathers, or Swedish Feathers, were portable stakes used by shot armed foot in the 17th century to create temporary defences against mounted troops.  The idea of missile armed foot troops using some form of defences against charging cavalry was not a new idea in the 17th century. I’m sure that many of you will immediately think of Henry V’s army at Agincourt with the English and Welsh bowmen using stakes to help defend themselves against the French mounted knights. 

By the 17th century musket armed infantry were of course still vulnerable to enemy cavalry. Although their pike armed colleagues where intended to be one form of defence against cavalry, the idea of these pre-prepared stakes was re-introduced during Prince Maurice’s military reforms at the turn of the 16th and17th century.  Each stake was made of a stout, thick pole, between 4 and 6 feet long, with a metal point at one end to aid planting it in to the ground, and a metal spear-point at the other with which to fend off the enemy.  It may have got the name ‘Swinefeather’ because of it’s similarity to a boar-spear; a very stout spear used in the hunting of wild boar. 

The Swedes, who were fighting the fearsome cavalry of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the early 1600s, needed ways to defend their musketeers. They appear to have been early adopters of Swinefeathers, and Gustav Adolf ordered enough Swinefeathers to equip 8 regiments of infantry in the early 1620s.   It was probably because of this adoption that Swinefeathers also became know as ‘Swedish Feathers’.

Swinefeathers, based separately to the musketeers, on 60mm x 40mm bases.


Technical Details

Although Swedish/Swine Feathers are mentioned in a number of military treaties of the time we know frustrating little about the details of their construction and use.  From the descriptions of them in the treatises, and from some tantalising 1/6 scale contemporary models that have survived, we have some idea of how they may have looked.  One interesting feature is the possibility that in some form the stakes incorportated a feature that allowed them to be used in the dual role as either a musket rest, or as a stake. While this makes sense in reducing the number of things a musketeer was expected to carry, it does rather limit functionality as while placed in the ground as a stake, it couldn’t be used as a rest to allow the musketeer to continue firing, and vice versa. 

Use In Action

There use in actual engagements is quite difficult to come across. Charles Singleton has written a very interesting piece (https://www.academia.edu/22167284/Of_Swedish_Feathers) that describes their use in the British Civil Wars.  The Kadrinazi blog, by Michal Paradwoski, also has some excellent references for the use of Swinefeathers (https://kadrinazi.blogspot.com/2010/06/swinia-kon-i-kozio.html ).

A modern interpretation of a Scottish musketeer carrying a Swinefeather. (From Military Modelling, 1978, I think!)

It was following reading about their use at the battle of Mewe / Gniew in 1626 between The Swedes and Poles that I started to think about how I might represent them on the miniature battlefield.  In this battle Gustav Adolf needed to operate his musketeers without their protective pikemen because of difficult ground.  To provide the musketeers with some defence, it appears that this was an occasion when the Swedes issued their musketeers with Swinefeathers.  Although there are no details of their use or impact in the battle, it is interesting to note (from the Kadrinazi blog) that an Engineer in the Polish army, Wendelin Schildknecht, who served in this war against the Swedes writes about the use of Swinefeathers. He comments on the effectiveness of the Swinefeathers against the Polish cavalry and goes on to say that he was surprised the Swinefeathers were only used for a couple of years by the Swedes.  He’s not sure why their use stopped, other than perhaps the inconvenience of expecting the musketeers to carry the extra encumbrance. 

Modelling Feathers

I suppose the easiest solution would have been to grab some wooden cocktail sticks and to have used these to represent Swedish Feathers.  However, I remembered that  Warlord Games have some rather lovely looking Swedish Feathers available in their 28mm Pike & Shotte range ( https://store.warlordgames.com/products/swine-feather-musket-rests?variant=31468976078928).  These look to be based on the 1/6 scale surviving models, and include the ‘musket rest’ feature. Even though I’m not convinced that they were used in a dual role, these white metal models were too nice not to use! An order to Warlord HQ was swiftly followed by the delivery of a good supply of Swedish Feathers. 

Pack WGP-ARM-05 from Warlord Games 28mm Pike & Shotte range.

Deciding how to field them took a bit of thought and experimentation.  As far as I know there is no account of how they were placed when in the ground, or how many were used to cover a particular frontage of infantry.  I decided to have as many ‘feathers’ as I had figures in a unit of shot, and to have them deployed, also like my figures, in two ranks.  It looked sensible, and also looked more attractive, to have them staggered.  

Blue tacked on to a 40mm x 20mm base as an experiment.

Trying Swinefeathers in front of a unit of shot. The larger bases are 60mm x 40mm.

I decided to make bases of deployed stakes that could be added on to the table, in front of units of shot, to represent deployed Swedish Feathers.  Using blue-tack I tried them on some different configurations of bases.  

  • 20mm deep bases would minimise how much space they would take up, but I was concerned they may tip over more easily, and the bendy white metal stakes would be less protected by this shallow base.
  • 40mm depth of base seemed ideal.  I suppose it would have made sense to uses 40mm square bases, the same that I use for my foot.
  • However 60mm frontage, 40mm depth allowed a compromise with reducing the number of additional bases that would need to be ‘faffed about’ with! 

I had a selection of 60x40mm, 2mm thick, MDF bases from Warbases in my hobby horde.  After a small amount of clean up, to remove flash etc., I attached the Swinefeathers to the bases.  On each base I marked by eye where each Feather would need to go so that they were evenly spaced across the base. (A cutting mat with 10mm squares helped with this.) 

Start off the whole drilling straight down.

Once the hole is started you can then drill at an angle.

Swinfeathers super glued in place.

To make a hole on the base for a Swinefeather I used a pin vice with a 0.5mm drill bit. The stakes need to be at an angle, but I found it impossible to drill at an angle in to the MDF, and so I started a perpendicular hole first, and then drilled at an angle once the hole was started.  Each small hole in the MDF base was then enlarged slightly with a round needle file, and each feather was glued in place with super glue and spray activator. 

Bases primed.

I primed the based Swinefeathers with Halfords rattle-can Camouflage Dark Brown (I don’t often use spray, but it was a nice day outside and I thought any risk to the simple stakes was minimal). This gave a nice prime and dark base coat.  I paint the pikes for my Swedish army black, based on the protective paint that is believed to have been used on them (see Lion from the North, Volume 1 by Michael Fredholm Von Essen).  It would seem logical for the Feathers to be treated in the same way, but I was worried that they might not show up very well on the table if their were black or dark grey. I therefore opted for a reddy-brown colour for the wood, and dark-metal for the metal parts. 

After a base of Flat Brown and Black Metal, added a wash of Agrax. Then highlighted with Flat Brown again, and with Lead Belcher.

Once my regular basing was added I then had sets of Swinfeathers to deploy with my Swedish units of shot.  In the next blog post I will look at their use under the Pike & Shotte rules, and also how I decided to try and ‘jazz up’ some bases.


The completed bases of Swinefeathers.

They look like they should deter enemy horsemen.

Until next time! 

Andy @ The Friends of General Haig.

Sunday, 29 May 2022

More Polish-Lithuanian cossack cavalry

 This post sees a new unit of cossack cavalry joining my Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army. 

28mm figures from TAG, Foundry and Warlord.

“Gustavus then prizes one cossack banner that having had been assaulted and circled completely by the 4 Swedish cornets, yet despite having been in a tight corner, with such a valour in their midst was explaining itself with cold steel …” A comment on the Swedish King’s view following the Battle of Honingfelde/Trzciano 1629.

[UPDATE - Michal from the Kadrinazi blog makes an important note on this quote in the Comments section, so please check that out.] 

These 28mm figures are from a mixture of manufacturers.  The riders are from TAG, Warlord and Foundry, with the horses all coming from TAG.  The figures have had some minor conversions, to add carbines, and other equipment, mostly from TAG with some bits from the Warlord plastic cavalry set. 

In a previous post (here), where I covered the previous unit of cossacks that I completed, I gave a description of this type of cavalry, along with the figures, conversions and the nail art stickers used in constructing them.  

[UPDATE - Some of the links in the previous post no longer work.  The original place that I saw the nail sticker art used on figures is also here: https://www.anotherminiaturespainter.com/wargames/28mm-the-assault-group-polish-pancerni-cavalry/ .  I think Jose is an awesome painter and his wonderful Polish collection has been a real inspiration for me.]

I have now used these cossack cavalry in a few games.  Here are the factors that I have been using for games using Warlord’s ‘Pike & Shotte’ rules.

For those not familiar with ‘Pike & Shotte’ these factors translate as follows (all comparisons are with the typical ‘harquebusier’ cavalry of the period, that makes up the majority of Swedish cavalry in the tabletop battles I have fought):

  • As Light Cavalry they move slightly faster.  They are also able go in to a ‘skirmish’ or open order formation that makes them a more difficult target for shooting, and allows them to evade from formed troops.
  • They are slightly less hard hitting, and slightly more vulnerable, in melee. (I may look to vary this in future and have some units more comparable with the Swedish harquebusiers.)
  • The ‘Marauder’ special rules means there is a no negative modifier for the distance from the general when orders are issued.  This allows them to operate in a more dispersed manner, that seems appropriate for these light troops.   

This combination of factors has seen the cossacks being most successful when either supporting the heavier Hussars, or operating on the flanks of the enemy formations.  They have been less successful when expected to take on frontally the Swedish cavalry. 

I’d be interested to hear about how other think the cossack cavalry should perform on the tabletop. 





In the next post I will be looking at some temporary defences supposedly used by the Swedish troops in the 1626-9 campaign against the Poles. 

Until next time!

Andy @ The Friends of General Haig.


Postscript. I wanted to share a snippet of information that is related to the Blogger platform, the service I use to deliver this blog, rather than related to hobbying.  Blogger does not get much love from its current owner (Google) and it can feel a bit limited in use.  It is even worse if you try and use Blogger with only a mobile iOS device. These limitations had grown much worse for me recently as I couldn’t make the Comments function work, either for my blog, or in other people’s blogs.  I found a fix today, almost by accident.  So here is my quick tip that works for me as of 29th May 2022.

First of all I use the Chrome ‘app’ / browser on my iOS devices to access Blogger.  In the past this has solved a lot of problems with Blogger; Google’s own browser working better with Google’s blogging platform.  The new tip is a cookie setting.  You need to go to iOS Settings and then look within the settings for Chrome.


From the screen snip above you can see that you need to switch on “Allow Cross-Website Tracking” which is in effect enabling third party cookies. This seems to fix the issue that I had been having with Comments in Blogger blogs, including my own.

I hope this helps someone else.  If anyone has any thoughts on this fix, or knows any other tips for using Blogger on a mobile device, then I’d love to hear them.

I have started looking in to Wordpress as an alternative for blogging but this fix has at least delayed my imminent switch! 


Thursday, 14 April 2022

The Peasants Are Not Revolting

In this blog post I add some inhabitants for a typical 17th century Polish village that may appear on my miniature battlefields. 

Inhabitants for a Polish farm or hamlet, in 28mm.

As well as churning through units for the 17th century Polish and Swedish armies that I’m trying to recreate, I am in parallel thinking about the miniature battlefields that they will inhabit.  I think that some form of human habitation on the miniature battlefield does a lot to set the context of time and place for the overall scene.  As well as any buildings, adding some civilian inhabitants then helps to add further ‘colour’.  

There is quite a good selection of 17th century civilians available for Western European theatres. For example Warlord Games do a great selection of 17th century civilians, as well as armed ‘clubmen’.  Many other ranges have at least one or two figures available and, with civilian dress giving a bit more historical leeway than uniforms, it is also possible to add in civilian figures from some late 16th century, late 17th century, and even early 18th century ranges, with perhaps just a few tiny conversion. It is even possible to plunder  some manufacturers’ ‘fantasy’ ranges; a tip that I picked from the Too Fat Lardies - thanks Rich and Sidney!). 

Although parts of Prussian Poland were quite ‘German’ in this period, especially in the larger towns, I wanted some of my civilians to give a more East European feel. We’re not so lucky at the moment when it comes to Eastern Europe civilians in the catalogues of 28mm manufacturers.    I was therefore very happy to come across this small set of Eastern European civilians produced by an independent sculptor, Leon, advertised on The Lead Adventure Forum.

“How much?!”

The set includes women, men and children going about everyday tasks, a cart with horse and driver, and some pigs with piglets.  I thought that these figures would fit in really well to a rural farm or hamlet in the 17th century Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth. 

Chopping wood is thirsty work.

I painted the figures mostly in suitably drab colours to represent typical peasants living in the rural Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  The women folk got slightly ‘nicer’ colours, and red head scarves. I based most of the figures on MDF round bases (from Warbases) sized to match the UK 2 pence piece. (Lockdowns etc. have seriously depleted by collection of 2ps!). Warbases do these bases with handy round holes, perfect for tiny magnets, so the resulting figures will sit safely in a Really Useful Box with an A4 magnetic sheet in the bottom.

Women folk out for a stroll.

I kept the basing of the figures mainly muddy earth, with the odd tuft, on the basis that they will usually be shown around the buildings and roads on the miniature battlefield.

Are these little piggies are going to market?

This set of figures made an interesting change from the martial units of figures I’m normally working on. I’m sure they will look great as the inhabitants of any hamlets in my miniature 17th century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  

I really like the cart model which comes with a horse and driver. The reins were added with thin strips of paper.

The cart is a metal model which went together fairly easily with superglue.  The cart has lots of detail on it so it was very easy to paint with washes and dry brushing. 

Next up on the painting table I’m back to more regular fayre with some Polish cavalry.

Got to load up that wagon before the Swedes get here! 

Until next time!

Andy @ The Friends of General Haig.


[Note.  At the time of publishing, April 2022, this range of civilian figures may not be available due to them coming from the Russian Federation. ]