Friday, 28 August 2015

Håtunaleken – The Full Host of King Birger Magnusson

As I now have finished my host for our club project Håtunaleken, about the feuding royal brothers in early 14th century Sweden, I decided to take some pictures of the assembled units. To me, it's always very satisfying seeing a finished project like this.

This is a full 24 points retinue for Lion Rampant consisting of:
Mounted Men-at-Arms (Drilled) 7 points
Foot Men-at-Arms 6 points
Foot Serjeants 4 points
Foot Yeomen (Mixed Weapons) 5 points
Bidowers 2 points

Leading from the front, swinging his big axe and accompanied
by his personal bodyguard, is the king himself.
In the background can be seen the fearsome knights,
ready to make short work of any rebellious brothers.

The miniatures are a mix of Black Tree Design, Curtey's and Gripping Beast. There are some headswaps hidden amongst the units, with new heads from Curtey's and West Wind.

I had my first game with the complete host this past Monday – and it was a complete and utter disaster! More about this humiliating defeat in Dalauppror's upcoming AAR I'm sure ...

And to finish it all off, here is the last part of the story of the Second Feud of Brothers. When we left the three royal brothers – Birger, Erik and Valdemar – Sweden had just fought a civil war with the king Birger on one side and the younger brothers duke Erik and duke Valdemar on the other. Since Birger and Erik through marriage, had the support of the Danish and the Norwegian kings respectively, neither side was strong enough and the fighting was inconclusive. Instead, on initiative of the two other kings, in 1310 a peace treaty was signed and Sweden was now definitely split between the brothers and in practice ruled as three independent kingdoms. However, as the "legitimate" king Birger had, in his own opinion at least, drawn the shortest straw, he naturally wanted to restore his power and unite the kingdom under himself once again.

Here are the king's trusted knektar (serjeants),
and in front of them some skirmishing peasants.

In December 1317, as a sign of reconciliation, king Birger invited the dukes Erik and Valdemar to Nyköpings hus (Nyköping Castle). When they arrived they were told only they could stay at the castle, since there wasn't enough room to house all their men. Instead, the men had to make camp in the city itself.

On the night between December 10th and 11th, the dukes were arrested by a company of crossbow men. According to the legends, the king himself was present at the arrests and is told to have said:

Minnes idher nakot aff Haatwna leek?
Fulgörla minnes han mik!
Thenne er ey bätre än hin!

(Do you remember the Håtuna Games?
All too well I remember them!
This one will not be any better!)

The dukes were then imprisoned in the dungeons, while in the morning all their men were also arrested. These particular events have became known as "Nyköpings gästbud" (Nyköping Banquet).

However, Birger had misjudged the political situation: rather than acknowledge him as king, the dukes' supporters rose up against Birger and Sweden was once again thrown into a civil war.

Finally the allmoge, peasants armed with a mix of spears,
polearms and crossbows. (Sorry about the blurry picture!)

When Nyköping castle was besieged in the summer of 1318, Birger and his queen were forced to flee to the island Gotland and then further on to Denmark. In the meantime, their son, Magnus, was left in charge of the defenders of the castle. However, they could not hold out against the attacking forces and Magnus was also forced to flee towards Gotland. During the flight he was captured and later executed in Stockholm in 1320. When the dukes' supporters broke into the castle they found both Erik and Valdemar dead in the dungeons. How they died remains unclear to this day – were they murdered or did they die of starvation?

Birger ended his days in exile in Denmark 1321, while duke Erik's only son Magnus Eriksson was chosen as king of Sweden in 1319 at the age of three. Prior to this, he had been declared king of Norway after his grandfather king Håkon Magnusson had died, and thus he was destined to become a very powerful man indeed. King Magnus was a very interesting person, for many reasons, but this is another story best left for another time!

Have a great weekend everyone and thank you very much for reading!

Friday, 21 August 2015

A Forest

Or the start of one at least!

For years I have looked in envy at the wonderful trees adorning many a British wargaming table. I was quite taken by the look of them – they looked so much better than the usual bottle-cleaner trees or the boring samey ones from Woodland Scenics.

After some research, I found out these trees seemed to be made by the same manufacturer, Last Valley Terrain. At Salute last year, I had the chance to see and admire the products up close, but due to the limited space in my suitcase, a purchase was not possible.

Rubberised horsehair – the magic stuff!

Instead I perused the Net for suitable tutorials and then promptly ordered some rubberised horsehair (it's not really horsehair these days though, more like organic fibres from coconuts or something), grabbed some of my Woodland Scenics tree armatures, a bottle of cheap hairspray and got to work.

This was my method:

  1. Remove any mould lines from the WS tree armatures and then twist them into the desired shapes.
  2. Glue to bases.
  3. Wetbrush mid/dark grey on the stems. Don't be too neat as a sloppy job just makes them look more natural.
  4. Wash with a dark brown wash, eg AP Strong Tone.
  5. Drybrush original mid/dark grey.
  6. Light drybrush with lighter grey.
  7. Tear off chunks in various sizes from the rubberised horsehair and tease these apart. 
  8. Paint some wood/PVA glue on the branches and then wind/stretch the rubberised horsehair over them. Leave to dry.
  9. If the rubberised horsehair still looks flat in some places, tease it apart as best as you can.
  10. Spray the rubberised horsehair with a generous amount of cheap (and sticky!) hairspray and pour your preferred flock over the tree. For my trial I used WS fine turf green blend. Wait for a while then shake of excess flock. 
  11. Spray heavily with more hair spray over the newly attached flock. Then spray some more.
  12. Wait an hour or more then do another heavy spray.
  13. Snip off any straggly bits of the rubberised horsehair with some scissors.
  14. Finish off the base in your preferred manner.
  15. Optional: The hairspray I used dried with a satin sheen. While this was not apparent on the turf, it did show on the stems. A couple of quick sprays with AP Anti-shine took care of this.

And there you have it!

These were all made very quickly as a test and I think they came out rather nice for a first try but of course there's always room for improvements. I learned a couple of important lessons from this trial, eg to try and tease the rubberised horsehair apart, to make it less flat. You can see some parts were I didn't do this enough and it makes the tree look a bit unnatural.

However, the major misstake was the bases. I mounted the trees on 5 mm foamcore but made the bases much too small and this made the trees very wobbly. When I realised this, I glued washers under the bases for some extra weight and this helped to some extent though they're still a bit unstable. I'm planning to do another batch and for these I'm looking at using 1 or 2 mm plastic card for the bases, and making sure to do them a bit larger than these first ones.

In the next batch, I will also experiment with adding some roots made from putty and vary the colours on both the stems and the foliage for a more natural look. I have an idea to make some birch trees as I think a grove of these would look really nice on the gaming table!

Have a great weekend everyone and thank you very much for reading!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Håtunaleken – Bidowers for King Birger

Hello everyone, long time no see etc etc. It's summer/vacation time, which strangely enough means I'm more busy than ever. The unexpected bonus of having small kids I guess. Anyway, time to update the long neglected old blog with some painted miniatures – my final unit for the Håtunaleken club project no less.

This is a unit of skirmishers, or bidowers as they are called in Lion Rampant. Very nice for screening your advancing troops and harassing the enemy.

The models are all from Black Tree Design and started out as Anglo-Saxons. A couple of them got new heads from West Wind Miniatures for a bit of variety. These are the hooded ones and the blond fella.

As they are meant to represent poor peasants, hunters and other wood folks I went for a really muted palette. To add some interest I picked out some details in contrasting colours.

I'm in the process of sorting out some picture of the full host and will post these in the coming week.

Thank you very much for reading!