A day out at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall
My longstanding interest in the Vikings whether historical or in miniature meant the Vikings exhibition at the NMMC in Falmouth was a must see! Because of the distance it meant little time to see the rest of the museum although we found time for the cafe funnily enough. Walking through the museum I did like the Viking inspired decoration of the learning area.
The Vikings in Cornwall
Most people think of the raids on the North East coast, York and Alfred burning the cakes when Vikings are mentioned. However, they really got around and that included Devon and Cornwall. The Great Army burnt down Exmouth in Devon where I live and some residents think they should do so again! In Cornwall there is evidence of settlement and trading which the exhibition included. The combination of interpretation, reconstruction and objects really brought this out clearly I thought.
Vikings – raiders or traders?
This argument has a long history and I’ve encountered it since university days in the late 1970s. Coincidently this same argument applies to the Homeric world of the Iliad and Odyssey which I studied in the context of ancient banditry but that’s one for another blog.
I liked the way the exhibition clearly brought out both sides of Viking life. The combination of the large clear interpretation panels and related objects was excellent. Being able to handle objects was good too. My mother was amazed at the weight of a mail shirt and said being able to touch it really helped imagine it in use.
Including weapons and slave fetters illustrated the dark side of Viking life. Backed up with DNA research showing how many Icelanders are descended from Irish women taken as slaves. The Irish connection was well documented in the exhibition too.
Trading ship Walrus
My favourite part of the exhibition was the recreated Viking trader the Walrus. Visitors are allowed on this boat which was both fun and informative. Moving about on the deckspace really made both of us appreciate the skill and courage needed for sailing shallow draft ships on the high seas.
Speaking with a well informed volunteer about how the ship was made at the NMMC and finding out more about some of the recreated objects was really interesting. I didn’t know that the Vikings used hazel as barrel hoops which makes perfect sense in terms of time and resources. After all splitting hazel is quicker and cheaper than making iron hoops.
How the Vikings made things was a really strong theme in the exhibition. From nails for ships to rigging from intestines there was enough information to appreciate how preindustrial societies relied on skills, crafts, time and effort. I also learnt that saws were not used but a broad headed axe provided a means of splitting wood into planks.
No, not some form of dark undead from the Sagas but women and children. Another strength of the exhibition was including women and children in the interpretation and the objects on display. A lovely object was a child’s toy boat and imaging it being played with really brought the past closer. Having a reconstructed trader’s booth with a female mannequin was a nice bit of trading interpretation. The clothes worn were plainer than often shown which seems sensible as the cost of fine clothes with tablet stitch decoration would make plainer working clothes more practical.
As you leave the exhibition
I enjoyed the display of modern items inspired by the Vikings. Everything from films to comics, toys to the Rover badge. A good assortment of souvenirs were in the shop although I didn’t buy anything. Most of the items were very reasonably priced as well which is always good to see.
Three men and a Viking boat
By odd coincidence a week after visiting the exhibition I was at Legionary, the Exeter Games Show, talking to a friend and a trader about Viking ships.
A lovely digital reconstruction covering several sites produced by the Danish National Museum.
It includes demonstrations of how buildings were made and fly throughs of reconstructed buildings too. There’s plenty to see. so get a cup of tea or horn of mead and enjoy the show!
Saga louts ready for action
Having decided on the Saga rules and Gripping Beast plastic figures for tabletop Dark Ages fun the first force is complete!
My Viking horde is flexible for 4 and 6 point games. The compulsory warlord, six groups of hirdmen and two groups of warriors
For anyone interested in my painting approach I kept it simple. An undercoat of Humbrol Matt brown 98 To provide shadow and good surface for paint to key onto. Vallejo extra opaque and Citadel base colours are used to give a one coat finish. This meant colours had to reasonably work with the brown undercoat providing shading.
Metal was Citadel metallics with a black wash then highlights (chainmail, Nuln oil and Mithril silver respectively).
Finish was Humbrol satin varnish followed by Windsor and Newton Matt acrylic varnish.
Shields and flags were mainly ready made. I painted the shields on the two warrior units and used transfers from Battle Flag on the rest. Cutting out shield bosses was made easy by buying a 3mm diameter punch. Using the transfers was straightforward but do follow the instructions. Using a transfer softener and sealing with varnish is a must. Having a practice first is a good idea too!
Flags are from the figures instruction sheet and the transfer sheet. Cut out and then stuck together with diluted PVA.
Vikings join the Tufty Club
Bases are to match my old Standard Games boards. Simply Vallejo texture paint highlighted with various craft shop acrylics. Some Silfl0r tufts added with PVA to finish the bases.
Hedging my bets
In case I decide to use these figures with another rule set I made up some extras. I painted up some individually based command figures as an alternative to the group for Saga. I also made some standard bearers as a bit of extra bunting always can come in handy!
Back to my gaming roots
One of my first ancient armies for wargaming was a box of Airfix Ancient Britons. Despite the archaeological anomalies like the solid wheels on the chariots and odd arms and armour in places they were great fun to paint and fought many a battle in the 1970s. I did sell them off when I moved up to 25mm metal figures from Minifigs. However, the Roman invasions of Britain and Boudicca’s revolt kept the interest in gaming with Ancient Britons alive. Sadly I’ve no photos of those early Ancient Britons nor their Roman opponents
Airfix never had druids and screaming women!
Going down a size
Moving house twice in a year focussed my attention on just how many unpainted little metal men I had. Yes, I used the past tense there!
I decided to clear out anything I just have a few of and wasn’t going to turn into a complete army. I also decided that for big ancients armies I would move to 15mm size figures. This is because they take up less room, are quicker to paint (as I can’t see so much detail now!) and thanks to scale creep are almost as big as my old Airfix figures were!
Before making this decision I considered trying 10mm for ancient and medieval but found them not quite right for me. I used some Pendraken 10mm Vikings as a test and can while they did not suit me I suggest trying Pendraken if you are considering 10mm. I sold these on eBay as part of the grand clear out in the end.
Cracking on in 15mm
Another consideration was having a Peter Pig Roman army in 15mm I had painted for DBA and DBM. Getting a similar scaled opponent made sense of course but like most wargamers I try to leave sense out of it when choosing armies and scales!
Peter Pig Romans
The challenge with painting an army of irregulars is getting the variety there without painting each figure separately. I have a simple system for this involving strips of cardboard!
This is a rather ocd variant of the old take a colour and paint a different bit of each figure with it. To ensure variation I sort the figures into groups with a minimum of duplicates. Then each group is glued to a cardboard strip and undercoated.
I paint all flesh first using a red brown wash then a warm flesh colour.
After that the fun begins! Well my idea of painting fun anyway. Take a colour and go through a strip of figures applying it to different areas, so a dark brown is hair on figure one, trousers on figure two, belt on figure three and so on.
Then take another colour and move onto the next strip. As you can now see repetition of colour and pose is kept to a minimum. Having plenty of paints helps!
One point to keep an eye on is use brighter, historically more expensive, colours on better equipped wealthier types. Use patterns on clothing and showy shield decorations as well, again more so for those who could afford them.
For the sake of sanity and speed use one colour for shield backs, spear and weapon shafts, metals. Then varnish and base to taste!
Chariot Miniatures slingers
Chariot Miniatures Warband