Sunday, 11 October 2020

“… as meer Mercenaries, and Hirelings to serve any Arbitrary power whatsoever…”: German Foot, 1688

"And for this cause also was the Army at first raised, formed, and commissionated, namely, for the defence of the just, civil, and religious Rights, Liberties, and Safety of the good people of this Nation; and not as meer Mercenaries, and Hirelings to serve any Arbitrary power whatsoever"


So wrote the author of a pamphlet from 1659, entitled "The Army's plea for their present practice: tendered to the consideration of all ingenuous and impartial men" about the New Model Army, in its final year of chaos before the Restoration brought everything crashing down. "... meer Mercenaries and Hirelings" - it's so gloriously dismissive, isn't it?

One of my favourite blog posts of the past few years, since I went back to the seventeenth century as a wargaming period, was something I wrote about hiring German mercenary foot, recruited by the civic elders and burghers of the (fictitious) Flemish city of Laarden to brace and supplement Laarden's otherwise creaking military capacity.  

As I wrote that post, I loved thinking through the various restrictions which might be applied to a contract for the supply of mercenary troops.   Since then, I've tried to read more concerning what the term "mercenary" soldiers meant in early modern Europe - whether they were "meer Mercenaries, and Hirelings", or whether this term was really just another name for veterans.  Men who knew which end of a matchlock musket the powder and ball got rammed into, maybe.  Over the years since that post, I've painted the figures I blogged about, and added some more - in the shape of a battalion of Southern German foot.  I thought it was about time I added them to the Blog from my photo-backlog.

First up is the North German foot battalion of Graf Joachim von Bek.  Rather than pick an Imperial battalion from the (very) long list of Imperial regiments from the 1680s, I wanted von Bek's foot to be taken from a painting of the period.  There was an Imperial regiment of Bek, but what I had in mind was more alt-historical - a battalion which, having served in the Dutch Wars could then have experienced warfare in the Baltic.  Pieter Wouvermans' painting of the December 1672 assault on Coevorden has an amazing variety of both foot and horse in the foreground.  I really liked the look of the foot on the right of Wouvermans' painting, with the yellow damask silken standard.

I tried to capture some of the grey, ochre, buff and brown figures in the painting in the uniforms for Graf von Bek's Foot.  Being mindful of just how many light grey uniforms I've had to paint with Louis XIV's French foot, I was keen to try and find (or justify) German foot with some more varied uniforms.  I thought dark grey uniforms would set off the ochre- and buff-coloured stockings and cuffs, while staying true to the soldiery in Wouvermans' fine painting.  Also, as I mentioned in the earlier Blog post, I added brass frets of oak-leaves to make the Imperial, or Imperial-subsidised, foot to make them more distinctive on the tabletop battlefield.

The brass fret, from Scale-link, is really nice to use.  Easy to cut, and easy to add to the hats of the soldiers with super-glue or expoy, the brass fret just allows an alternative to a hat full of (green-stuffed) ostrich or partridge feathers.  

I tried to replicate Wouvermans' standard in the painting on the paper flag.  I don't think its my best effort - maybe the yellow damask-silk looks too clean, or not shaded enough.  Maybe the shield on the quarter of the flag isn't really shaking enough in the breeze.  Anyway, it's done now.  Knowing when to stop painting is one of the hardest things to master, sometimes!

I finished the regiment off with some Bicorne finials, 3mm MDF bases from Warbases and some grass tufts from WSS Scenics.  I would recommend all of them, just for finishing things up on a wargames unit.  

Unlike the Flemish or French foot in my collection of units for Laarden 1688, I wanted to include a couple of battalion guns for the German foot.  Not too many, but just a couple - maybe to test out if they would make a difference on the table.  I added this one from Dixon Miniatures, complete with a suitably uniformed gun crew.

I also had a few Bavarian foot left over from an older project.  These came to me from a friend, a long while back.  He had kindly sold me the shot, but I needed to add some pikes, add the standards and the bases.  As this unit was a little of an after-thought, I'd not purchased any Bavarian chequered standards in advance.  Casting around for inspiration, I found the following image on the front of Helion's fine book on the Bavarian army of the Thirty Years War - it looked a lot more practicable than painting Bavarian chequers...

The Bavarian blue is a lovely colour, which should hopefully look distinctive on the tabletop.  Bavarian forces were heavily committed in the later Thirty Years War and in the Nine Years War, so adding the possibility of Bavarians to one of the sides on a later seventeenth century tabletop doesn't seem too outlandish.  The regiment I found in Bavarian light blue and yellow ochre was L├╝tzenberg - so the uniform is accurate, even if the (alt-historical) standard is not!  Hopefully these are the first of several Bavarians over the next few years.

And finally, because I enjoy creating nonsense documents as a back-drop to future campaigns, here's a letter from one of my notebooks from an old friend of the Blog, Don Fernando de Torrescusa (Marquess de Girona, Envoy of His Most Catholic Majesty, Carlos the Second, King of Spain, to the Flemish Free City of Laarden in 1688, and so on...), commissioning more forces for the wars in Flanders.


Saturday, 10 October 2020

"Slow, uneasie and troublesome": Tales from the Baggage Trayne

"The great number of Coaches, Waggons, Carts, and Horses loaded with baggage, the needless numbers of Women and Boys who follow Armies, renders a march, slow, uneasie and troublesome." 

Sir James Turner, Pallas Armata, 1670.

Dear Readers, you might remember Sir James Turner, and his magisterial book, "Pallas Armata: Military essayes of the ancient Grecian, Roman, and modern art of war" from other posts here on the Blog. Sir James is the gentleman, experienced in the savage fighting of the Thirty Years War, who failed to write about precisely what happens in the heat of battle, but was capable of writing pages and pages and pages about the minutiae of seventeenth century warfare. 

Sir James spends three of four pages of "Pallas Armata" devoted to baggage "traynes", "waggons" and provisioning. According to Sir James' account, the number of "waggons", carts and horses accompanying an army in the field could be extremely high. He provides an entertaining scale of different wagon numbers for different armies in the Thirty Years War - Swedish, French, German and Danish - noting that 900 wagons for 6,000 horse and foot was not unusual.

With this in mind, I thought I'd have a go at creating some suitable baggage for a seventeenth century trayne.  

I had bought one of "Colonel Bill's" larger wagons, with a Renaissance artillery load, from the Colours show last year.  It was a joy to make, fitted perfectly, and painted up easily..  The heavy horses were a little rough-coated, but I quite liked that - being different in look to the sleeker horses of the Horse and Gendarmerie.  You get a jumble of bits in the MDF pack, but it comes with some useful instructions.

I added a couple of additional russet-coated musketeers, trudging along with the wagon, and a Wargames Foundry wagoneer, alongside the Colonel Bill's horse-ostler.  A Warbases 3mm MDF base completed the wagon, ready to join (or start off) the baggage trayne.

Listeners to the TooFatLardies "Oddcast" might remember that one of the books I mentioned in the Library section a year back was "The Memoirs of James II".  As I mentioned on the "Oddcast", James, Duke of York, was obsessed with .... fodder.  Barely a page goes by in the Duke's book without mentioning provisions, baggage, lines of march, fodder, forage, horse-feeding and logistics.  It's an amazing read, although one I found I needed to read through with a map or Northern France and Flanders by my desk most of the time.  

I wanted to create some wagons in the baggage trayne bringing fodder for an army's horses.  One of them I bought from "Blotz" at the Salute show a few years back.  The other I scratch-built from bits and pieces on my work-desk - card, some spare wheels and a couple of Wargames Foundry villagers.

The hay-fodder was made from a chunk of blue styrofoam, which was covered with a mix of cut up floor mat, sissal-string and small garden twigs. Dry-brushed with some matt emulsion from Dulux called "straw" (no, I'm not joking), I thought they looked the part. I added some loose chains, dry-brushed with Vallejo gunmetal, to complete the models.

And now, all I need is some rampaging dragoons or Croatian "hussars" to attempt to sack the baggage trayne ... while any defending horsemen make "handsome Sallies".  Here's Sir James, again - 

"When Convoys are put to fight for defence of their Charge, as many times they are, (for the desire of booty spurs men to desperate attempts) they should (if conveniently they can) cast themselves within the Waggons and Carts drawn up round for that purpose, from whence Musqueteers may do notable service, and out of which retrenchment the Horse may, as they see occasion, make handsome Sallies."


Friday, 4 September 2020

In The Cold Season of the Year : A miniature campaign version of Laarden, 1688

One of the things I've been doing in Lockdown is working through a list of projects I've wanted to finish for some time.  This has included creating a very miniature version, of the old Games Workshop "Mighty Empires", set in the cold, winter-bound countryside of 17th Century Flanders.

I've always been fascinated by games which reduce military campaigning to a manageable, miniature scale.  Reading the accounts of soldiers through history, campaigning seems to have been anything but manageable, and 17th Century campaigning was no exception.  Yet there is something which really appeals to a world-building wargamer in trying to reduce a messy, chaotic, sprawling experience - moving armies across a potential battlefield - into a coherent, neatly manageable, tabletop experience.

“Mighty Empires” had the same feel about it, although the scope of that game was far greater – it created both a campaigning and battle game, as opposed to just a wargames campaigning tool.  I wanted to take my inspiration from the look and framework of “Mighty Empires”, but leave the project as a campaign tool only – being an attractive way of setting the scene before the action moves to the wargaming tabletop.

Projects often take some time to come to fruition, and this was no exception.  I’d had the 40mm hexagon tiles, in 3mm MDF, from Warbases, for some time.  I was also left with a fairly large amount of 2mm terrain pieces from Irregular Miniatures, a surplus from my Thirty Years War project in 2mm a few years back.  My first decision was whether to continue the winter-terrain theme from the 2mm Thirty Years War collection, or create something for summer or autumn to match my 28mm Laarden figures.  In the end, I went for the former, really because I thought winter campaigning offered some interesting challenges as a game environment.

Creating the small terrain tiles was quite fun, and not too difficult.  I had thirty hexagon tiles, and I wanted a variety of terrain types, mainly reflecting northern France and Flanders.  Woods, low hills, windmills, a river, some bad roads, several small villages and a small walled town all seemed to fit with the theme I wanted.  Much of this was scratchbuilt – with hills being scraps of extruded Styrofoam covered with Polyfilla, woods being clump foliage and the river banks being built up with green-stuff putty.  The Irregular terrain items made good-looking villages and farms.  The town was carved and cut out with a very sharp scalpel, using a stencil, and with Brigade Models’ 2mm buildings adding the ‘look’ of a Flemish town of late-17th Century.

As you can see, most of the items were basically scrap or left-over items from other projects.  I always like to try and get some use from leftovers like this, rather than consigning them into a spares-box for a decade or so!

What I was trying to create was something which looked like a reasonable approximation of a campaign map – showing major features, albeit major features which were somewhat out-of-scale and exaggerated.  I wasn’t keen on creating anything like a properly scaled model of a late-17th Century fortified town for the project.  Rather, I wanted to create something which had the feel of such a place.

I painted the hex tiles with a light grey emulsion paint, with a dry brush of white emulsion.  The woods I soaked in PVA, and then painted them black, and dry brushed brown, then light grey.  The cold, slow-running river was painted in a dark blue, with a couple of coats of varnish.  And some “1mm snow”, essentially cotton dust, finished the look I was aiming for.

Hopefully this will be a portable, and very versatile, campaigning tool, adaptable not just for the 17th Century, but for just about anything from 1550 to 1815.  Maybe it can even fit an earlier period if I add a medieval-walled town instead of the trace italienne version.  The tiles should be versatile enough to be picked out by the players at the start of a club night game, or selected before a tabletop battle and turned into a suitable paper map through a few photographs and maybe a little photo-shopping.

I’ll have a look in the next blog post at some possible rules to use with the tiles, again with a grateful nod in the direction of “Mighty Empires”.  

Also, while on the subject of acknowledgements, I’d like to thank fellow-Twitter user, Adam Clark, for his own posts of his “Mighty Empire” tiles from a recent Kickstarter, which were very inspirational and prompted me to rescue this project from the ‘pending’ pile.  Thanks Adam!

Friday, 19 June 2020

And yet more "Characters of Laarden, 1688"

The final five “Characters of Laarden” were painted in late March and early April 2020. They feature a glittering favourite (who may turn out to be a fraud), a tulip cultivator who may turn out to be a hero, an indecisive but dangerous adversary, two sisters and five Brothers, plus a collection of Laarden chickens. 

So, now is the time to pour yourself a glass of the golden ale from one of Laarden’s breweries, or enjoy a cup of coffee illicitly brought to the city through the French blockade, and drift back to my alt-historical nonsense from the year of 1688….


The first of the “Characters” is Hannes van Breughel, Count of Ieper and Lord Commander of Laarden. Hannes is a converted Wargames Foundry figure, with a sword arm swapped for his originally cast-on ineffectually-waving arm, and with some green-stuff feathers and lace added. The trumpeter is Wargames Foundry, with just some added brass fret oak leaves on his hat – which is my field-sign for Imperial troops.

The two soldiers are Dixon Miniatures, with more oak field-signs added, and painted in suitably earthy Flemish browns and ochres – to fit the colour scheme of the other Flemish regiments in my Laarden collection. The Imperial standard, in Hapsburg scarlet and yellow, is from Iain at “Flags of War” – whose website and flags I can heartily recommend. The base is 60mm MDF, 3mm depth, from Warbases. 

Here’s the Lord Commander’s Character Card. I had in mind that the Flemish commanders for Laarden would be somewhat untried and untested when faced by an assault of the ferocity of the French army of 1688, led by the Marshals of "Louis Le Grand". So, I tried to conjure something which suggested finery, but tinged with some slight nervousness about the Lord Commander's "credentials" for command in the Field.


From one nobleman born to lead (with uncertain abilities but from the right side of the Laarden highway), to another from the other side of the cart-tracks.  Every crisis brings unusual heroes to the fore, and allows us all to be astonished by the quiet tales of sacrifice and determination. And this would be true in the alt-historical world of 1688, as well as our own.

Much remains to be written of Laarden’s powerful guild-system. To some, it might be a medieval hangover of restrictive trade practices; to others, it might be a reinforcement of community in the face of economic change. Whatever the academics might say, it’s true that the Laarden Guilded Company of Tulip Cultivators contributed significantly to the defence of the city in 1688, not least in the form of Captain Jan de Vroot, one of the redoubtable and irascible Guildsmen who has found his moment to shine as the French army threatens his City.

I tried to depict Jan and his civic militia comrades in earthy browns and ochres, but added a drummer in yellow – a colour which I’ve been using for Laarden drummers and characters since the start of the project a few years back.

Captain de Vroot is a Wargames Foundry ECW dismounted cavalryman, with a converted arm and green-stuff additions. Other civic militiamen have green-stuffed feathers on their hats, and the standard bearers are carrying more flags from Warbases. The chickens, wandering the Grote Markt, where the Company of Tulip Cultivators is assembling, are from Warbases. The cobblestone groundwork is more brass fret from Scalelink. I bought it a few years back – it’s very expensive, but gives a great depiction of continental European paving. Since then, a couple of companies have produced rollers for green-stuff with the same pattern, so one of those is on my list to purchase. The “straw” is…well, straw from a floor mat. Finials on the standards are from Bicorne Miniatures.

And, here's Captain de Vroot's card for the collection of the Characters of Laarden:


And, now for a view of yet more "Adversaries of Laarden", in the form of two French engineers, a French grenadier and a Captain of Engineers - Pierre Duval, "The Mole of Versailles" - steadily advancing a sap towards the walls of one of the fortified villages close to Laarden.

I've always had a sneaky love for the spade-wielders of the seventeenth century, either besieging a town with lines of circumvallation or, less commonly, digging defending saps to challenge the besiegers. I think that groups of engineers, miners and sappers always make a great addition to seventeenth century tabletop battles, so often providing the target for an attacking force in the game.

The figures here are a mix of manufacturers, being Dixon Miniatures and Wargames Foundry. I tried to add some extra greenstuff features to one of the engineers, just to give that soldier a defiant, jaunty look with greenstuff feathers in his hat. For the "Mole of Versailles" himself, I used a Wargames Foundry figure, depicted in robust siege armour, supervising the siege workings.

The gabions are from Front Line Wargaming and Colonel Bills, and paint up very well in a variety of earthen shades to match the uniform of the engineers. And, since this is part of the set of the "Characters of Laarden", they have their own collectible card to add to your collection!


As you know, my journey in the hidden bye-ways of 1688 Flanders is not just about the soldiers and commanders. Warfare in the late seventeenth century affected non-combatants, often in surprising ways, as I wrote about here on my blog a couple of years back. I wanted to add a couple of sisters to the collection of Characters. So here are Agnes and Margriete van Rompaey, and their children....

I loved painting these old Redoubt sculpts – at least once I’d managed to undercoat them. They’re chunky, look very un-prepossessing out of the plastic bag when they arrived, but painted up really well. You can cover any of the slightly clunky facial casting by a careful paint job, and by adding some basing to take the eyes off the slightly mis-sculpted children’s faces!

I thought they’d be perfect to grace either the streets of Laarden, or one of the cluster of satellite villages around the city. The chickens are again from Warbases (as is the base) and the geese are (I think) from Magister Militum.

I experimented with a softer brown edging on the figures - which I thought worked quite well. It's less harsh than the black edging - perhaps more suitable for non-combatants, maybe?


And finally, as a painting treat for Easter Week 2020, I thought I’d add a small group of monks from the Laarden-based Brotherhood of Sint Jacobus. 

More from the Brotherhood of Sint Jacobus in later Blog posts, dear readers. Men and women of religious orders hold a real interest for me, and I think the Blog would benefit from a description of (at least one of) the miracles of Sint Jacobus at some point. 

Anyway, for now, here are the Brothers worshiping and praying. I’m not sure whether their prayers are being offered for the safe delivery of Laarden from the French attackers, or for the safe delivery of this morning’s chicken eggs from the hens in the Abbey gardens – but you’ll have your own views on that, I’m sure.

The Brothers are a mix of Redoubt (the brother with the hat) and Perry Miniatures, the latter being from the Perry’s First Crusade range but which make good monks in any period.

Looking through the lead pile, I seem to have collected far too many monks over the years, so I’m sure that more of the Brothers of Sint Jacobus will appear in Blog posts in the future. Blessed Be!!

Here’s their Character Card, complete with the Brothers’ cryptic possessions to be explained at a later date….


And here, finally, is the completed “Characters of Laarden” collectible-collection of cards for Challenge X. Did you get the whole set?

I've loved doing them.  Totally indulgent, frivolous, and sometimes downright silly.  Or, if you prefer, "quintessentially Roundwood", as a good friend once tweeted to me! 

I did, however, enjoy them so much that I’ve thought of doing another set. Perhaps (in Old-School WRG fashion) “Enemies and Adversaries of Laarden”, or maybe “Allies of Laarden”. Let me know what you think. 

I wonder if I could expand the current 13 Collectible Character cards to 26. Or even to 52. What’s that - making a 52 card deck of such nonsense?  No… no, surely I’m not THAT frivolous …. hmmm..

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