Wednesday, August 1, 2012


As careful readers of the blog will recall, I've been in the process of putting together a fleet of late Medieval / early Renaissance ships. For figures I chose the 1/2400 "Christians and Corsairs" line put out by Figurehead Ships. (They also have Napoleonics, Spanish Armada, and an "Iron and Steam" 19th century line.) I got mine from The Last Square, located in Madison, WI; they have a very nice web-store so ordering online is very easy.

The big negative about these figures is that there aren't many pictures of them available. Hopefully, this post will overcome that oversight.

I went with 1/2400 scale because a) my painting skills aren't that great, and I figure there's not a lot of the sort of detailing work that 1/1200 scale figures would require (rigging? surely you jest), and b) smaller equals more affordable (I got a fleet of 62 ships plus wreckage markers for around $150). The Figurehead ships also come in fleet packs, which makes them even more affordable.

Here are some shots of the figures straight out of the box (click to embiggen):

FR-1: Mediterranean Flagship Galley. Note the unfurled sail piece at the bottom; all of the galleys come with furled sails; you can purchase the unfurled sails separately, which I did for most of mine.

FR-2: Small Mediterranean Galley (x3). You get three of these guys in a package.

FR-4: Mediterranean Galleass.

FR-5: Great Carrack (Knight of St. John): This is one of the sailing ships that come with the "galley fleet logistic support squadron". It's the only one that is even close to the same size as the galleys. You get one per package. 

FR-6: Carrack. You get four of these in a package; each is a two-piece cast (ship and base). The photo below has eight figures because I got two packages in the fleet packs I ordered. 

FR-7: Merchantman Galleass. 

FR-20: 4 (mixed size) caravels. 

FR-21: 4 common pinnaces. Some of them have oars, some do not. Each is about a quarter-inch long, and comes as a two-piece cast; the ship and the base are separate.

And now we come at last to my finished products. These were very easy to paint, owing to the lack of lots of detail (although I'm sure someone with better skills than I possess would be able to do an absolutely marvelous job on these guys). The painting took a total of I believe 5 evenings.

Here are the various sorts of galleys, all collected in one shot. For the small Mediterranean galleys, I went with four separate stripe colors on the sails, combined with an individualized color on the rails, flags, and fore and aft castles. That makes identifying the individual ships relatively easy, and doubly easy to have four separate squadrons for games with more than two players. You can see some of the galleys ended up with furled sails.

Here are the various carracks, caravels, and pinaces. I did a similar color scheme with these; within each ship type, each has a unique color on the flags.

And here are the wreckage markers. These are a combination of FR-8 "Deadly Embrace" and FR-9 "Wreck & Ruin". 

As for rules, I decided to do something home-brewed. I started with the fleet rules for Avalon Hill's old game "Trireme", but the thing got tinkered with to the point where only the "big picture" still resembles the original; the details are all changed. Hopefully I'll get a chance to take the rules and figures for a test-drive at this weekend's wargame day at All-in-One Collectibles in Randolph, NJ. If you're in the area, please do stop by!

My ultimate goal is to use these figures to do some naval wargaming in the World of Greyhawk. The technological era is just right, and there's lots of water on that beautiful Darlene map!

The Tudors: Seasons 5 and 6

I was (and remain) a huge fan of the Showtime historical drama series The Tudors. One of the great disappointments surrounding the series is that it wasn't really about "The Tudors" at all, but only concerned itself with the life of English king Henry VIII. I was really hoping that, after his death in the show, they would go on to the fascinating life of Queen Elizabeth, her struggle with Mary Tudor (aka "Bloody Mary" because of her persecution of Protestants) to ascend to the throne, and her subsequent struggle against Mary, Queen of Scots. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

However, one can sort of reconstruct what two Elizabethan seasons of The Tudors might have been like with some historical dramas that detail aspects of the virgin Queen's life.

First is Elizabeth (1998), starring Cate Blanchett. It starts with an around-the-bend Mary Tudor bringing her half-sister Elizabeth back into the succession and deals with the virgin Queen's efforts to control the clergy in England and with various lovers and attempts to get her married so an heir can be born. Blanchett does an excellent job of portraying Elizabeth, and this is one of the shining examples of the modern costume drama genre.

Second is Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), with Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth and Vanessa Redgrave as Mary. It is a prototypical 1970's film, with lots of excellent costuming and on location shooting. Timothy Dalton plays Mary's eventual husband, Lord Darnley, and Patric McGoohan plays her half-brother, Lord Moray. It's a surprisingly fun film, portraying Elizabeth in particular as a very calculating and manipulative monarch.

Third and last is Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), once again starring Cate Blanchett. This film is centered on the later years of Elizabeth's reign, and in particular deals with the attack of the Spanish Armada. I think it suffers from a lack of enough John Dee and too much speculation about Elizabeth's lovers.

Put 'em together and I think you have the makings of a couple of seasons of pretty good television.

REMINDER: Castle of the Mad Archmage, my homage to Gary Gygax's original megagundeon, is now available for both Old-School RPGs and the Pathfinder Role Playing Game! More than 13 levels and 1,500 rooms. Get your copy today!