Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bare flesh and hot rides... Yowzah!

...In which our protagonist writes about the other half of his Celtic "army" for Basic Impetus, while simultaneously indulging in a bit of historical revisionism. It's not nearly as sexy as the title makes it out to be.

The Ancient British force, with options, deployed in the famous "pose for the camera" formation.

For something that was supposed to be a lazy side project, this one turned out to be something of a chore to finish. My dislike for painting large models was the reason I moved to small figures in the first place, so when something as "large" as a 10mm chariot comes up I tend to look for ways to procrastinate.

British light cavalry. Like my Gallic horse, the figures are a mixture of AIM and OG riders on AIM's WWII horses.

Nevertheless, the Ancient British are done. Sort of. At the moment they're stuck using the same warband infantry as the Gauls, so while I can say I've got two armies finished for Basic Impetus, I can't actually have them fight each other.

Pimp my rides

Chariots. Transportation, fashion statement, and getaway vehicle, all in one.

Adding to my general reluctance to finally deal with them, the chariots I had were... shall we say unimpressive. Each model came in 6 pieces: two horses, two wheels, the chassis, and a single figure for the two crewmen. Several specimens of both crew and horses showed defects in casting. The wheels were even worse, many of them coming with spokes broken or cast together; even the best castings weren't even round! Only the chassis seemed to lack casting flaws... with the caveat that there was no way to attach it to either wheels or horses.

Pendraken AG7 - "Chariot, 2 Men & 2 Horses (3)". Not one of Pendraken's finest offerings. You can see how I jury-rigged axles out of scrap balsa; an inelegant solution to an inelegant problem.

The wheels had clearly been designed with holes in the back of their hubs for wire axles; in practice, probably half the wheels were cast with their holes filled in (sounds kind of raunchy, doesn't it?), and even when they didn't, glueing the wheels on properly perpendicular proved something of a nightmare. Anyway, the drillbits I broke trying to drill out the remaining hubs were worth more than the figures themselves, so ultimately I gave up on the wire axle idea. Substituting a bit of scap balsa still resulted in a few fingers being superglued together and/or to various chariot components, but the end result probably wasn't any worse than it would have been with wire.

Once painted, the models do look fairly nice, though. And yes, this time the shield designs are mine.

The horses were another issue. Coming in two different poses, with no real indication of whether they are supposed to be used as left/right in a pair, or matched (as I have depicted them), these simply add even more frustration to an already frustrating project. To their credic, at least these horses are depicted wearing horse collars. Now, I don't know if any archaeological or pictoral evidence actually exists for the yoke system used on Ancient British chariots, but at least the collars are a reasonable guess-- certainly they make far more sense than the fantastical oxbow-style chariot yokes depicted on many a wargames miniature that, in reality, would likely asphyxiate the horses.

On the other hand, the rest of the harness on the Pendraken figures is ambiguous at best. Just what are those straps leading wrapping around the horses' hindquarters supposed to do, anyway? And how are you supposed to attach them to the pole of the chariots' chassis? Long story short: more scrap balsa. Oh yeah, and hope that Pendraken re-sculpts their Celtic range some day.

Beware! Male Nekkidness!

AIM 10020410 - "10mm Barbarian Warriors". I used these for naked fanatics and javelin-armed skirmishers, but the 10mm Celtic Warriors pack from the AIM Punic Wars range makes for a better warband. I'm not sure whether the "naked" figures are even meant to be naked, but inflatable G-strings were the only other explanation I could give for their accoutrement!

Were there ever actually naked fanatics? The jury's still out on that one. Certainly in greco-roman sculpture there's a discernable towards nude Celts-- but in greco-roman sculpture there was a general tendency towards nude everything. Yep, no hiding the Family Jewels from the Greeks. There are also a few ambiguous statements by Greek and Roman writers that have been interpreted (or not) as meaning some Celts fought in the buff. Mind you, factual accuracy in writing ethnography and history was not really a priority back in the day; it was considered perfectly alright for a writer to spice up the facts to make a more exciting read.

Man, these fanatics have babymakers as big around as their biceps! Oh, and tatoos that I drew on with a blue Sharpie pen. They didn't turn out all that well.

Of course naked fanatics are a staple of wargaming Ancients. Heck, even the standard Gallic warband charges bare-chested across the wargames table, even though current archaeology tells us that it was the Celts who invented chainmail. In fact, the Romans copied the famous "Gallic" helmets used by imperial legionaries, and there's good evidence that the oval "spindle boss" shield of Republican times was a Celtic invention as well. The Roman legionary would have been something of an imitation Celtic warrior in his equipment! Celtic torcs became prized Roman military decorations; some of the best imperial weapons and armour were manufactured in Gaul after the Roman conquest.

All roads lead to Rome

Old Glory ANT-107 - "Gallic Slingers". These are surprisingly nice figures; in fact OG's Gallic range is among the very best of their grand scale offerings. It's a pity their warband figures are cast in strips.

In fact there seems little evidence of Roman superiority over the Celts. The Romans built roads and lived in walled towns; so did the Celts-- and these were not barbarian copies, but home-grown technology that were just as sophisticated. Roman-centric historians over the ages have denigrated the Celts as living in primitive tribes; modern research indicates that many Celtic groups were governed as Republics, with elected annual magistracies not so different from Rome herself. The similarities go even further: linguistic research shows that the Celtic languages of Gaul were perhaps Latin's nearest relatives in the ancient world. Given how little change there would have been for many, perhaps it's not so surprising that the Gallic provinces were so receptive to Romanization!

British slingers. Why do the Brits get slingers but not the Gauls? I dunno. It doesn't really match what Caesar told us.

Of course the Romans had a better army. Wargamers know at least this much: how the badly-outnumbered but disciplined legions of Rome squared off against the innumerable but poorly armed barbarian rabble and beat the stuffing out of them time and time again. Or did they? I sometimes wonder. After all, it's the winner who write the histories-- and in this case the losers weren't even literate. Indeed, the lack of a writing system was the one outstanding technological deficiency of Celtic culture.

A horse is a horse, of course (of course)

AIM 10020411 - "Barbarian Cavalry". Reasonably nice figures, but, like all of the old AIM lines, lacking in the over-emphasized details that make painting easier at this scale. All of the musculature on both horses and riders has been faked with paint.

Anyways, getting back on topic here, the final component of the Ancient British force for Basic Impetus is a couple of stands of light cavalry. Now, one thing about horses is that manufacturers tend to use the same sculpts for all their ranges-- so a 19th century cuirassier is going to ride a horse no bigger than that of a 17th century dragoon, and indeed, no bigger than that of an ancient Celt, even though the latter would likely have had a pony for a mount. I say most manufacturers, because there are an enlightened few; in 10mm the winner is Pendraken, who mount their ancients on nice little pony-sized horses. Strangely, I've actually heard a number of people complain about this! I mean, you're counting the bloody buttons on your Peninsular War redcoats, but you whine when somebody sculpts Ancients on appropriately-sized horses!!????

This picture is fairly similar to one of the ones at the top of the post. I'm not really sure why I'm including it.

Okay, I'll admit that it could well be different people who are complaining about the one thing versus the other. In fact it probably is. To each his own, right? I, for instance, don't care how many buttons there are on my toy soldier's jacket, but I prefer to be able to mock anyone who's anal-retentive enough to count.

And now that we're off topic again...

Another picture similar to one already posted.

What was I saying? Horses. Right. So Pendraken makes cavalry that would have been perfect for these ancient Brits... but I didn't have any. And since the whole point of this project was to use the figs I already owned, you won't see any here. Disappointing, eh?

All the Celts, all lined up.

A final note on things Celtic

'Celt' is a rather slippery term. Usually it's held to have come from the Greek word Keltoi. We don't actually know what the people in ancient Gaul and Britain called themselves. Even the concept of 'Celt' as a single homogenous, identifiable ethnicity is problematic. To my knowledge (and feel free to correct me here if you know better), aside from a few groups who straddled the Channel, the people of ancient Britain were not even identified with the Gauls-- the latter were supposedly tall and fair-haired, the former small and dark. Linguistically they must have been close; but as we've already seen, the same was true of Gauls and Romans. The speech, customs and culture from one end of Celtic Europe to the other may well have been just as varied as it has ever been.

So who were the Celts? In a way 'Celtic' is as much a product of Sir Walter Scott, Queen Victoria and their contemporaries in 19th century Europe as it is a meaningful distinction. Wargamers like me, who so blithely use Gallic and British figures as interchangeable, are only fuelling the melting pot.


  1. haha I like how one of your tags is 'gratuitous nudity'.

    Nice army! I've been pondering 10mm Impetus for a while now.


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