Sunday, October 30, 2016

Getting Medieval on the Road

I went to the local Michael's and found a cheap ($3) hot glue gun and said "Why not?" because my experiments with super glue had pretty much failed. Super glue just does not provide a strong enough hold when dealing with curved, plastic pony beads. Pony beads are basically 6 mm x 9 mm plastic beads with a large hole. I use two of these for horses, acting as the body.

To each of these I attach a 3 mm by 5 mm plastic, tubular bead.

Here is what it looks like attached.

I usually fill up the pony bead with hot glue first, then attach the "legs". When attaching  the front and back sets together I connect them with a spot of hot glue and then let the glue harden.

Although hot glue will typically set in 15 to 30 seconds, unless you are using cold water the glue generally takes a few minutes to harden. After it has hardened, I add more hot glue at the join point between the two pony beads, deliberately leaving a blob towards the bottom (above the horse's legs) as this gives the appearance of rider's legs.

As you can also see in the image above, I use a wooden, tubular bead for the horse's head (the light colored bead). All I can say about it is that it comes in a package of wooden beads with varied shapes and sizes that I buy at Hobby Lobby and it is the perfect size. Those five beads complete the horse for a 12 mm figure.

For the rider, I only need two more beads, one for the head and one for the body. Because these figures are sort of Chibi-style, with an oversized head compared to the body size, the rider's head is either an 8 mm round wooden bead or another 6 mm by 9 mm pony bead, depending upon which shape suits your subject better. (The pony bead provides more of a flat-topped barrel shape, while the wooden bead is a spherical shape.) The body is a small "seed" bead. It does not need to be as large as the body used for infantry as the rider's legs overlap the shape of the horse's body and is represented by hot glue.

Here are six cavalry, armed with swords and shields, shown at various angles.

Some cavalry with spears in upraised position.

Some cavalry with spears in lowered position (charging). All of these cavalry use pony beads for the heads, so will be better for medieval knights with barrel helmets, although the shields are not really the right shape for heater shields. But that is okay. I am trying to train myself that it will be the paint job and not the shape that will matter as much.

So far I have finished six sword-armed cavalry and 12 spear/lance-armed cavalry, plus 16 infantry in shield wall formation. So let's look at the infantry.

For these guys I used two beads, an 8 mm wooden sphere bead and a 6 mm wooden cube bead, hot glued one on top of the other. (The cube is the body.) To that I glue a piece of foam sheet cut out with a hole punch, which represents a shield and part of a wooden round toothpick to represent the spear. I only put the shield on the front row figures and the single back row figure where the shield would show.

As you can see in this image from above, adding shields to all of the figures in the back row is not necessary as they would never show, unless you created a sufficient gap between the two ranks. But if you did that, then you would be able to see the fronts of the second rank sufficiently that you would then have to paint it. That defeats the point of this minimalist style.

Once I paint these all up with black gesso a lot of the little holes and gaps will be filled up, in addition to acting as shadow for any area I cannot or do not paint.

I hope to have another three or four infantry shield wall units done in the upcoming week. I have to work on these at night, if only to stop me from buying more stuff at the local craft stores. I have no more room in my luggage! (Update: I got three infantry and five cavalry stands done.)

Here is the first infantry unit that I have finished. I have painted it all in black gesso in order to create shadows for wherever I cannot paint another color. I will only paint those areas of the figures that are easily seen. Hard to see places will be kept black. This unit will likely be an Anglo-Saxon fyrd unit. No armor, a couple of helmets (mostly caps), and lots of colors. In terms of Dux Bellorum, it will be an Ordinary Shieldwall unit.

As this unit is more orderly, it will be an Anglo-Saxon select fyrd unit. They will have body armor and metal helmets. In terms of Dux Bellorum they will be Noble Shieldwall units.

Here is another Anglo-Saxon fyrd units (Ordinary Shieldwall), painted up. As you can see in the images above, lots of color in the clothing (the square bead) and in the hair color, caps, and helmets.

The main point of emphasis to the eye, however, is the head from the back and the spear points, shields, and heads from the front. Lots of detail on the clothing or shield is wasted. I allowed myself some dots, stripes, and spirals for the shields, but I was not going to paint any animals or Celtic knots, that is for sure!

Opposing the Anglo-Saxons I wanted to use the Sub-Roman Britons. At first I thought about using the SRB in the Southwest of England, but later realized that the Kingdom of Strathclyde lasted much longer and had more enemies it could fight (lasting until the 10th century or so). Plus, they can be an all-cavalry force, if you want them to be! I thought that would be fun – cavalry and light, skirmishing infantry against a shieldwall – so I decided to make a few cavalry units.

This first one is sword-armed, just so it can be a little different from the rest. It will likely end up as the General's stand, or in Dux Bellorum, the Noble Companion Riders.

Here is a unit of Strathclyde cavalry. I will paint them with a few helmets and no body armor, making them Ordinary Riders for Dux Bellorum. They are armed with javelins and spears.

This Strathclyde unit has everyone wearing metal body armor and helmets, no count as Noble Riders. The weaponry are javelins and spears, so they will use their firepower to wear down the enemy before charging into them and breaking them. That is the plan at least.

As you can see, I really did not put a lot of effort into the shields. (I also forgot to paint the spear points!) The good thing is, I can always go back and paint a little more if the mood strikes me. The ones that have shields on the outer edge of the stand (the red one, in this case) and are easily accessible (the white one and possibly the orange one) would be the likeliest candidates. Maybe a simple two color scheme with painted halves, stripes, or dots. Plus iron shield bosses in the center.

So, all in all a pretty productive trip. I still have three more cavalry units to add weapons and shields to, but the horses and riders are all done. I stopped doing infantry because I was worried that they would not survive the trip. As all of the infantry in a unit were glued together in one big block, that made them less flexible. So I glued a couple of dozen heads to bodies and left it at that.

It is all coming together nicely. If the Dux Bellorum rules do not work out, there is always DBA (with 3" bases!) and several other rules I would like to try (like Conquerors and Kings).


  1. Really nice tutorial! I was especially interested to see how you did the horses and I'm still trying to work that out myself. I am good except for a bead for the head, mine are just too big. There is a smaller size I can order, though, and I'll try that.

    Nice to see them painted up too!

    1. You should be able to find it in this pack:




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