Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Angles ... or Anglii ... or Angels

Then they sent to Angeln, bidding them send more help, and had them informed of the cowardice of the Britons and the excellence of the land. They then immediately sent hither a great force to the help of the others. These men came from three tribes of Germany: from the Old Saxons, from the Angles, from the Jutes”. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 449 A.D.

After reading the entry for 449 A.D. in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, I wanted to try and create a unit in our Dark Age games of Angles which could serve as allies or mercenaries of the early Saxon sea raiders. These would be men who had been informed of “the excellence of the land”, who had left the remote region of Angeln on the Jutland Peninsula overlooking what is today the Bay of Kiel for the softer gentler landscape of the English downlands.

The Venerable Bede in the eighth century A.D. briefly described the Angles’ homeland of Angeln “which lies between the province of the Jutes and Saxons, and remains unpopulated to this day”, perhaps a reference to the aftermath of the Angle migration. Tantalisingly, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle also refers, in the context of Angeln to land “which ever after remained waste, between the Jutes and the Saxons”.

I wanted to create a slightly different, identifiable unit of the Angles, or Anglii in latin (or angels, if you like the Pope Gregory the Great story). I started by creating a standard to which the small Angle force could rally, making the flag out of some thick artists paper which was glued with Araldite epoxy resin and folded to resemble it blowing in the wind. I’ve always found epoxy resin makes a great modelling glue for fabric and paper when you want the shape of the standard to stay curled or to resemble a flag blowing in the wind. Foil and thin metal works well also, but does not always have the resilience and endurance of good quality paper when painted.

I also made up some casualty bases for the Angles. The TooFatLardies rules almost all use “shock” (or “wound”) markers to denote casualties or deterioration in fighting capacity of a unit. We mark “shock” with small micro-dice, but in Dark Age fighting of lines of numerous units and shieldwalls, these can sometimes get knocked over or muddled between units. So I hit upon an idea (not my own, I should add!) of making a small dice holder on a casualty base. The casualty base comes on when some “shock” is inflicted, with the dice being turned as the shock rises or falls. They look a bit more cinematic than just having a dice on the table, and were pretty easy to make. A small offcut of Styrofoam, carved with a modelling knife, served very well as the holder for the dice on each base.

I primed the whole unit with Halfords grey car primer, which gives a lovely, even, matt grey prime ...

... and then painted the figures ready for the Army Painter dip. As with the second batch of Saxons, I “pre-shaded” the figures. By this, I mean that I shaded the deepest recesses of the figures chainmail, cloaks, eyes and neck, giving a very basic depth to the figure. This, in turn, helped to create more of a smoother depth to the colours once the Army Painter dip was added. In all this did add more time than for the first batch of Saxons, and a little more time again than the second Saxon batch as my pre-shading was more extensive.

I know from your comments that you’re interested in whether I actually save any time on this unit by using a dipping method – being honest, I have to say that I probably didn’t save very much at all. Dipping is certainly good fun, and I think I’m getting used to its idiosyncrasies. But I found that once I tried to reach for a good standard using the dipping method, I felt that the time saving was minimal. So, for me dipping will be a viable, alternative painting method – but I don’t see it displacing my previous painting style.

I painted the Angles bucklers light grey to create a uniformity of background. Lard-Thane Richard Clarke had suggested a white and back shield background for the Angles, and I thought this would work really well with the small buckler shields. I’ve always loved the Dark Age imagery of ravens stalking the fields of the slain after a battle, and the rapacious, land-invading migration of the Angles also struck me as being carrion-like. I therefore thought that painting a raven design on the Angles’ bucklers and standard would be quite suitable and also fun to try.

Now, at this point I shall confess freely that I have no evidence whatsoever of any obsession of the Angles with a dark, brooding, fate-laden raven God which inhabited the North German woods in the Dark Ages. And also no evidence of tribal groups painting their shields a uniform colour with a similar design image in fifth century A.D. England. None whatsoever. That being said, I had great fun painting the raven designs on the Angles’ shields working from images in various sources from a couple of Ospreys, a book on Anglo-Saxon Art from the British Museum, a couple of archaeological sites online and some field-work of looking at the crow rookeries in the nearby woods! So, in football score terms: History 0 Fun 4!

Some basing trays finished off the unit for the moment, although I’m going to add some Silfor tufts later this week.

Turning to using the Angles in our Dark Age games. I’m hoping we can focus on the role of the Angles as potentially unreliable allies, and perhaps even mercenaries, rather than merely subject troops of the Saxons. As close neighbours to the Saxons and Jutes, it is easily to imagine that the tribal groupings may not have seen eye to eye on all matters.

Mercenaries are always great fun to introduce into a tabletop wargame and a campaign, and I’m hoping that the Anglii, Angles (or Angels) are no exception.


  1. Well documented, well detailed, well done sir.....

  2. What a splendid unit they make; great historical insight too. I love the use of colour to bring them together.

  3. Difficult to add value to Angry's comment. The new TFL project has prompted me to take a look to Iberia's dark age. Some very Interesting stories arising of the fights between hispan-roman natives, Vandals, Alans and Visigoths.

  4. Great looking unit, you are certainly getting a hang of the dip. Using the custom casualty base for the shock die is a brilliant idea and one I shall shamelessly purloin.

  5. Interesting, I would have thought the primer would have dissolved the foam dice holders?
    Lovely looking unit!!!

  6. Thanks very much for the comments yesterday. The Angles were in action in last night's game, so watch out for the AAR later this week.

    @Angry - thank you!

    @Michael - thanks. They probably look better in the photos than in the "flesh" so to speak! They're certainly not museum quality, but I did try to get the colours to blend a lot more than with the first batch of Saxons.

    @Anibal - Fantastic stuff. Dark Age Spain must be a really interesting period. I know there's some wargaming stuff around regarding the Reconquista. But as for the fifth and sixth centuries, I think you'll be ploughing a unique and fascinating furrow!

    @Old School - Thanks Old School! I feel I have got the hang of the AP dip, sort-of…! I'll certainly not say I dislike using it - but it is very different from a three-colour layering process.

    @Paul - very interesting point, thank you. To be honest, it was sheer fluke that I got away with it. until you mentioned it now, I don't think I had thought about the risk. I did cover the Styrofoam in PVA and grit scatter, and PVA-ed into the "dice well". Perhaps that gave the Styrofoam a coating which protected it. I shall be a lot more careful next time! Thanks very much for the heads up.

  7. Great write up and figures really turned out nice as well!
    It seems your conclusions on AP are similar to mine in that in order to get an acceptably good look you don't save much time from just painting them normally. I'm still going to try a few things and I'll report if I got the process going quicker, but still looking good.
    As to a warband having all the same shield marking is possible. There may be no evidence as you said, but I see no reason why they wouldn't want to distinguish themselves in some way and so why not shields.:-)


  8. Great looking unit... I'm following this with great interest.

  9. Very nice. How are you using the movement trays? Do they help with formations?

    With the casulaty/shock markers, do they fit into the movement tray or are they placed behind it?

  10. The figures are great, and the tip of using epoxy glue for the paper flags is very good. So I´ll give you another tip (free :P) Use nylon broom bristles for spears and flagpoles. As they are elastic, they don´t break, neither your fingers get impalled on them. The only problem is to find the ones with the right width. No problem for me, as I use mainly 15mm figurines.

  11. Beautiful figures, beautiful basing, beautiful painting, beautiful flag, need I go on.........

  12. Wonderful, these posts remind me of looking forward to Saturday morning serials :-)

  13. WOW! Excellent casualty markers. I will definately show the fellows at the club, much nicer than dice all over the place & not remembering whom they belonged too.

  14. From gray to beautiful. A treat to look at and they'll be a treat to play!

  15. Sidney, these are just wonderful.I love them. Great post.

  16. Thanks again to everyone for the comments. They are really very much appreciated.

    @Christopher: Thanks for the uniform-shield-design support! I quite agree with you regarding AP - it's not better (and perhaps not worse). but it is just, well, different.

    @Arlequin: Many thanks indeed. As I've mentioned before, there's a lot more to come including some terrain.

    @Chris: Welcome Chris! Thanks for the comment. The Movement trays have really helped with keeping the figures in formation on sloping and undulating terrain. The ones I have are a little large and we've ordered some smaller ones. They should make it easier to look at a glance at groups and formations on the tabletop, and therefore help with sorting out trickier things like overlaps between opposing groups/formations. The casualty stands slot in behind the group or formation, reflecting stragglers and wounded.

    @Emilio: Many thanks for the tip. I shall be trying that!

    @Ray: No need to go on (but thanks anyway)!

    @ Phil: You're very welcome. Glad you're enjoying it so far!

    @Terry: The casualty markers are not an original idea. Sadly, I have no clue where I did get the idea from in the first place. If you know, please do tell me.

    @Monty and Rodger: Thank you both very much. As you will see form the next report, they look better than they play! How often is that the case ….. ? :)

  17. They look awesome Sid and the raven device is quite evocative. Looking at this lot, I doubt Gregory would mistake them for angels!

  18. Thanks again for a splendid post. Enjoyed it a lot and the figs turned out very well and I love the shields. Now buy yourself some dice in camo uniform :-)

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Looking really nice. Just started on my romano-british yesterday, so I wonder what you use for basing - and is that a bought or home made tray?

  21. Very nice work! I came up with the same method for marking casualties for my Napoleonics:

    I like your foam insert idea as its less fussy than my method.



  22. Thanks guys.

    @Mike – yes, not quite Pope Gregory’s doe-eyed children, are they?

    @MiniMike – Dice in camo uniform. Now that IS an idea!!

    @Derk – I’m using pre-cut 25mm circular bases which you can either get from Litko in the US (very high quality plywood, but a little expensive) or Warbases in Scotland (very reasonably priced MDF bases). The bases are laser cut from both Litko and Warbases and both are a 3mm depth. Both are great suppliers to order from, although Litko tend to cut to order and take a little while longer. The basing tray is Litko, although I’ve ordered a few from Warbases which are in bases of 6 (being the unit size we have been using).

    @Curt – Curt, thanks so much for posting. I think you’re the inspiration for the dice based casualty base! I could not remember where I’d seen it – so absolutely all credit to you. One the shoulders of giants, as they say !

  23. Thanks for the credit Sidney but I think I, in turn, probably pinched it from someone else... Again, lovely work. I really like the high-contrast raven shield/banner designs. Fits the mood of the warband very well.

  24. Looking realy good ! Very interesting to read. what bases and movement trays are you using?

    Best regards Dalauppror

  25. Sid, I am receiving a lot of spam from this thread. I see that at it least doesn´t show here... but my email box is crying.

    1. Emilio, thanks for letting me know. I'll see what I can do. Please do drop me an email if it continues, or post a reply on this comment and I'll be in touch directly. I'm sure I can try and sort it out. Thanks again for letting me know - Sidney.

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