Friday, 31 July 2009

How do you eat an elephant?

Answer: One bite at a time.

Who am I?
This is my first diary entry of the project. As you will find, I am somewhat prolix and can write lots about virtually nothing. I am Ruarigh. I live near Hull in East Yorkshire and am an archaeologist by profession. I have worked in archaeology in various capacities for the past twenty years. I specialise in Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age archaeology, language, literature, history and culture and embrace a fully multi-disciplinary approach. Currently I am also studying for a part-time PhD in Viking Age warfare, which will see me becoming the world expert on berserkerology if I ever complete it, at least until the next person comes along and advances study of the subject beyond what I have done. My approach has been described as textual archaeology, but it has a strong cognitive element, or, as Neil Price puts it, it is the 'archaeology of the odd'. But that is probably more than you really wish to know about me.

What am I doing?
I received an elephant ear in the post today. The figures I need for Edward IV's command in our basic order of battle arrived from Baccus Miniatures. I ordered them only a day or so ago, so the turnaround has been really quick despite the fact that Pete was busily preparing to go to Claymore at the time. I also received the 2.5mm thick MDF bases that I ordered from Tony Barr at East Riding Miniatures. I ordered those on Thursday and they arrived on Friday. That's pretty good turnaround in anybody's book. I know Tony and like him, so I am pleased to be able to directly support him in this.

So, I have enough figures and bases to put together my first command of the army. The next step is to prep and undercoat the figures, then I need to get them painted. By my reckoning I need to paint one command every two months to meet the project goals.

I plan to build one set of the whole basic order of battle as my contribution to this project. Pete Berry at Baccus is offering a generous discount to the project team to help us achieve our goals. This has made buying the whole order of battle achievable for me.I just need to have a bit of a clear out and sell some stuff on eBay so that I can raise the money for it, because I am currently 'resting' between jobs thanks to my very kind former employers. Still, it gives me time to pursue my PhD in more detail and to get on with this project. Gotta look on the bright side.

Pictures to follow tomorrow.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


I blame Pete Berry. He sits there on my shoulder, whispering into my ear like a cartoon devil. This time it was a comment about the battle of Towton.

"I know you cannot afford to stage the game yourself, but why don't you project manage it?" He said to me. The man is made of pure evil. I tried to ignore his simple question. I tried to go to sleep and forget about it, but the possibilities kept rising up into my dreams. I dreamt of a game in which the Battle of Towton was refought using large armies that gave a proper impression of the numbers at the battle. It was too tempting. I posted an enquiry on the Baccus forum to see if there would be any interest. There was. Clearly Pete has been visiting various members of the forum at night and whispering evil plans into their ears too.

So, four of us have got together to put on a demo game of the Battle of Towton. Rhys is in London. Steve and I are in Hull. Graham is in Redcar. Apart from Steve and I, we have never met except online. Yet we are planning a wargamers' co-operative. Each of us will paint part of the army for this battle and we shall each bring our efforts to the table at shows in 2011. Why 2011? Well, it is the 550th anniversary of the largest and bloodiest battle in England.

On Palm Sunday 1461, around 70,000 men met in battle near Towton. The battle was fought in a raging snow storm between the House of Lancaster and the House of York and at the end of it an estimated 28,000 men lay dead. Who knows how many more died later of their wounds? It has been estimated that 2% of the population of England were involved in this battle and that the number of dead was around 1% of the English population at that time. That is rather a lot of people. Worse yet, no quarter was given. There was no call to "spare the commons". About half the dead appear to have been casualties during the battle. The rest seem to have died in the rout with most dying in Bloody Meadow.

Our goal is to model this battle at a suitable ratio of men per figure so that the sheer mass of the battle can be seen on the table. I would love to field all 70,000 figures, but I believe that number is beyond our reach at the moment. We are adopting a staged approach to producing figures for the game. Our first tranche of figures will be the 8,500 figures we need to do for the basic refight. With those under our belt, and if all has gone well, we plan to produce an additional 4,250 figures to expand the size of the armies, followed by the same again to double the initial army size. Depending upon time and support for the project, we hope to be able to add an additional 8,500 figures to the armies after that. With those added, we could field over 25,000 figures on the table at a figure:man ratio of 1:3. That ought to look moderately impressive.

We shall be using Baccus 6mm figures for the armies, all based on 60mm*30mm elements. The Lance and Longbow Society/Freezywater have promised to produce suitable 6mm flags for us; their range of material for this period is excellent and generally very well researched. For the refight we plan to use Poleaxed 2 as our main rules system, which are also available from the Lance and Longbow Society. We may instead use this opportunity to playtest to destruction the forthcoming Poleaxed 3 rules, which are a revision of Poleaxed 2, but such decisions will be based on the playtesting of the scenario.

Along the way and to keep our sense of progress up, we plan to put on some of the battles that were fought in 1460. These were much smaller affairs so we can use some of our newly painted figures more quickly to help keep us enthused.

There are only four of us involved in the project directly at the moment. If you feel that you would like to join in, please drop us a line. It would be useful to have an additional four team members to help with buying and painting the armies, and with running the game at shows. Even if you do not wish to take part in producing the game, I hope you will come and admire the game once it is done. There may be space for you to take command of a battle for a while too, to relive the events of that bloody Sunday, albeit in a safer environment.

We hope you enjoy watching our progress on this project and that it inspires you to try something of your own.