Sunday, January 30, 2011

On the Table: Muslim Mounted and Foot (Part Two)

In my first post, I described the early Muslim infantry that I recently painted as part of my Crusades project. In this post, I'm going to talk about figures that are specifically part of Crusader era Muslim armies. I purchased the figures specifically for my Ayyubid Egyptian army. This is the army led by Saladin which fought both the Kingdom of Jerusalem and King Richard the Lionheart's army in the Third Crusade.

The first batch of figures are four stands of javelinmen. They made up the bulk of the Muslim auxiliaries in the period, and could be of either Kurdish or Arabic origin. I used the same techniques as in my previous post: prime white, raw umber wash, paint the rest of the figure. I also used the "standard" Middle Eastern color palette. Since these troops were a step up from the city militia, I assumed that they would have less "natural" fiber. I painted them with a bit more color than the either the swordsmen or the archer. For the shields, I used designs almost exclusively from Saracenic Heraldry. Since these figure represent troops from the 12th and 13th centuries, I feel a lot more comfortable using the later devices.

Again, I'm pretty pleased with the results. The figures are from Legio Heroica, and I really like the sculpts. I also like the fact that the shields are separate from the figures, so you can really mix and match to get the effect that you want. The only down side is that the javelins are also separate, so you have to individually glue them. We'll have to see how they hold up with repeated play.

The last batch of troops are four stands of Arab lancers, also known as askari (Arabic for "soldier"). The made up the bulk of the heavy cavalry in Ayyubid armies. Unlike the Mamluks, which were slave soldiers specifically trained to fight, the askari were all nobles and free men. They would be the rough equivalent to knights in Western armies. One of the most famous (infamous?) of these troops is Usamah ibn-Munquidh, author of "An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the period of the Crusades." He lived during the first half of the 12th century, and his memoirs are quite an interesting read. The figures are all from Legio Heroica, same as the javelinmen.

Once again, I used the standard painting technique for these figures, somewhat altered to account for horses. For the horses, I started with whiter primer and a raw umber wash. Then, I block painted each horse with a different color according to the type of horse that I wanted to paint: brown for dark bay, sand for dun, mahogany for chestnut, toffee for roan. After that, I washed the horses again, using black for the bay and brown for the other colors. This really brings out the detail on the figures and makes the colors more lifelike. I then paint the manes and tails, black for bay, dark gray for dun, and brown for chestnut and roan. Finally, I add a few markings on the face and legs.

For the riders, I followed the standard Middle Eastern palette for color. As these would be nobles, I assumed that they would have brightly colored robes over their armor. All of the figures have armor, and about half of them have robes while the other half do not. The shields all had designs as part of the sculpts, so I didn't add any heraldry. I painted them using the standard palette, but picked colors to be aesthetically pleasing. (Pleasing to me, of course!)

That completes my post. These four stands will almost complete my Ayybid army. I still need to paint a few stands of militia, but I hope to complete them in the next week or so. Once they are done, then I'll create another post containing pictures of the entire army. After that, I will start cleaning up my Later Crusader army to provide an opponent for the Ayyubids.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On the Table: Muslim Mounted and Foot (Part One)

The idea behind this post is to talk about my latest painting projects. I'd like to discuss both the history behind the figures, the inspiration behind the colors and designs, and the painting techniques that I used. Hopefully this will become a regular feature documenting my projects.

My current project focuses on Crusader era Muslim armies. It is part of a larger project to build a set of Crusader Era armies, including Christian, Muslim, and Mongol armies. Except for the Mongol army, I'm actually pretty close. A lot of my guys are a bit "generic", so I am painting these figures so they are accurate for specific armies and campaigns.

The first batch of figures are actually predate the Crusades. They are Dailami zupin men from Khurasan Miniatures. The Dailami were mountain people from northern Iran that appeared as mercenaries in Muslim armies from the 7th through 12th centuries. The "zupin" was a double headed spear (i.e., had points on both ends) and was their premier weapon. The Dailami had a well deserved reputation as fierce fighters.For these figures, I chose a generic "Middle Eastern" color palette of yellow, red, and blue, with some green and white as accents. These colors are based upon the dyes that would be available in that region: indigo (blue, saffron (yellow), and cochineal (red). I also used some green and white. It would also be common to see some "natural" fiber colors, too. See Dr Brendan Moyle's web site ( for more information.

Since I couldn't find any definite references, I chose basic Islamic designs. I used a couple of designs from Osprey's The Armies of Islam 7th–11th Centuries and a couple from Mayer's Saracenic Heraldry. For the shield colors, I stuck to the generic palette from above, picking shield colors that complement the clothing.I have been experimenting with a new painting technique, and I used it on these figures. I prime the figures white, then wash them with a thin raw umber wash. This helps bring out some details and works well for undyed clothing. It also helps fill in some "cracks" with color, which can be a problem when you prime white, since unpainted areas tend to stand out. I first read about the technique on Simon MacDowall's web site ( and have been really please with the results. After the wash, you paint the figures normally. For me, that means you start at the boots and work your way up the figure, finishing with the shield design. Finally, I base them on 3mm thick bases, apply some Woodland Scenics fine ballast, and then a few tufts of static grass. Voila!

Add Image
I'm pretty happy with the results. I think the stands look pretty good, and I now have a core groups of Dailami troops for all of my Muslim armies. I base all of my armies the same way so that they look consistent on the table. They might not always win, but at least they look good!

I also painted a couple of stands of Arab swordsmen from Khurasan. Originally, I was going to use them as Arab auxiliaries, but after seeing them, it was pretty clear that they were really Conquest era troops. I decided to paint and base them that way, so I can use them in early Islamic armies as swordsmen. It also gives me an excuse to build a Conquest army! I use the standard color palette and a lot of "natural" color. In fact, some of the figures are just washed, with no other colors applied to the clothing.

The next batch of figures are Arab archers, also from Khurasan. for these guys, I used the same color palette and the same painting techniques as mentioned above. The figures represent "generic" Arab skirmishing archers, and can be used from the time period of the Islamic Conquest until the 12th or 13th century. Like the swordsmen, I left quite a few of them in natural colors. And like the rest, I based them on thick bases with gravel and static grass.

This post turned out to be a lot longer than I had originally thought, so I'm going to break it up into two posts. The next post will focus on troops specific for the Crusades, which was actually the original point of the project!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2010 In review

Its been over a year since I posted anything, and I have been doing a lot of gaming. I have focused almost exclusively on historical miniatures and World of Warcraft, really only playing other games at special events. I've found really good people to play with, so its been easy to focus on these two areas.

I got back into World of Warcraft over the summer. I got a Cataclysm beta key, but when I tried to use it, I found out that my account had been hacked! Of course, I had to log in to make sure that everything was okay. One thing led to another, and there I was playing again. My main character was on another server, so I moved him back to the original server, and I was ready to go.

Playing on the old server with the old guild was pretty awesome. Most of the old faces were there, and the new faces turned out to be super cool. The questing was a lot of fun and the high end content was also pretty interesting. The only downside to the whole thing was the gear grind. By this point in the expansion, most of the content was stupidly simple. It often took less than 15 minutes to complete a heroic dungeon. It was fun doing each one once, but then it became pretty boring. I did manage to get my main geared to the point that I was able to participate in my guild's first downing of the Lich King. That was an awesome experience.

I've spent the last month and a half playing Cataclysm. Its been a great experience. The questing was really, really good. Blizzard has done a great job with the phasing and quest design. The artwork was also top notch. The dungeons are a lot harder than before. I like that a lot, since it actually requires some planning to successfully complete them. My only complaint is about the crafting grind. It is really, really painful. We'll see if I still think that a couple of months from now. My guild is just starting to raid, and so far its been pretty tough. I'm looking forward to the progression.

On the historical minis front, I've been playing a lot of DBM and a little bit of FoG and DBA. I'm really starting to get into DBM. It has a LOT more going on than DBA, and I find that quite interesting. I've mostly been playing my Normans, although I will also play a Roman army on occasion. I still like both FoG and DBA, but I don't have as much chance to play them.

I did a lot of painting in the second half of the year. My first project involved wrapping up my Roman army. I painted a bunch of legionnaires, velites, and cavalry. My second project was going to be Alexander's Macedonians, but I haven't made much progress. My current project is Islamic and Crusader armies. I've painted a lot of Arab and related foot, as well as Muslim and crusader cavalry. I have been trying to be as accurate as possible regarding colors and shield designs, and I've been very happy so far with the results.

That's a short summary of the past year. I hope to start posting a bit more regularly. I have weekly WoW and mini sessions, as well as a constant flow of guys to paint. The plan is to create updates on all of these topics. Stay posted!