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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Norse go South

The Varangian Guard were elite Norse mercenaries who served the Byzantine empire from the 9th through 14th centuries. To get an idea of how important they were, consider the spoils of war.  After a victory, the Byzantine Emperor took 1/3 of the booty, the Varangians took 1/3 and the rest of the army divided the balance. The Varangians were also the first to plunder a city and upon the death of the emperor, the
privilege of plundering the palace.

Much like Napoleon's Old Guard, the Varangian Guard were committed to battle at critical moments where the action was most fierce. Chroniclers described them as "fighting like madmen, as if ablaze with wrath,"  "frightening both in appearance and in equipment, they attacked with reckless rage and neither cared about losing blood nor their wounds." During the Battle of Beroe, Byzantine troops tried but couldn't break a  Pecheneg wagon laager (fort).  Byzantine officers cried for the "Emperor's wineskins" and up came the Varangians.  Heavily outnumbered, they broke through the circle and slaughtered the enemy. 

These are all Gripping Beast figs.  The hafts on their 2-handed axes were reportedly 5' long, so I trimmed the axes to keep them at or under the height of the figures.  

In Saga, the Byzantines can take Harald Hardrada as a hero & Captain of the Varangian Guard.  Part way into the project, my customer asked to add a Harald, plus 4 Viking Hearthguard for his Viking warband.  I modded a Hereward the Wake figure by cutting the sword out of his right hand and drilling out his left.  In it, I put a clipped spear in and added an axehead. Bingo, the Captain of the Varangian Guard with a a few Vikings running amok. The Viking basing was done to match an existing Viking warband.  


I recently switched to Krylon Matt Finish for sealcoating. It dries with a satin finish that looks brighter in the photography lights than natural lighting.  I'm not sure why the matt finish is coming up satin but I knocked it down with Army Painter Matt varnish after the photos.

39 comments:

  1. Cracking work Monty and I love the conversion, really stands out.

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  2. Nice conversion and very good work Monty

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  3. Very nice conversion work, and a fantastic Varangian Guard unit...looking fierce like "madmen"!
    Great paintjob as always Monty!
    Best,
    Phil.

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    1. A Norse with a Danish axe is "run for it" in any language!

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  4. Great work!

    I have tried Krylon Matt several times and in every instance it always produced a satin finish. Never flat as claimed by others. For me, it is Dull Cote all the way.

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    1. I've heard so many positive reviews of Krylon. It does put down a hard coat but I'm wondering if it must always be followed by a true matt. I GW Purity, AP Matt varnish, Future acrylic and now Krylon. Dull Cote is out of stock locally so I probably need to order it on line.

      BTW, I got "No Better Place to Die." Instead of painting this afternoon, I've been reading. Excellent book and THANKS!

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    2. Glad the book made it! It is an enjoyable read.

      On the Dull Cote front, I have found Dull Cote in the chains, Michaels and Hobby Lobby.

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    3. Jonathan, you are a fountain of good info! I've been shopping Michaels for years and somehow never spotted Dull Cote. Is it in the model section? Michaels is near the grocery store I shop at so this tip is golden.

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    4. Yes, back amongst the model stuff.

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  5. Great looking axe men, Monty - definitely look the part - they look a lot more animated than the Crusader axe men I have. Best, Dean

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    1. Thanks Dean! I do like the Crusader axe men as well. At least their axes will never get bent on the tabletop. ;-)

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  6. Now that takes me back! In the words of my old re-enacting comrade Jamie, "Nothing says 'watch me' like a two-handed axe"!

    I've not seen the Byzantine rules for SAGA, since no-one's seen fit to import the book for retail sale here as yet, but I'm assuming that the Varangians hit as hard as their looks would suggest.

    Incidentally, have you read the accounts of Harald Hardrada in Byzantium? Why no-one's made a movie about this epic badass of history is anyone's guess!

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    1. LOL! I love it!

      The Varangians are tough as nails and its possible to max them out at an armor of 6. They'll be like Dark Age tanks.

      My reading on Harald has been very light-Wiki type articles. I do have 45 Years of Slingshot on DVD. I'm going to queue it up and see if there was ever an article about him!

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    2. I will have to see about getting a copy of the Byzantine & Rus rules - better annoy my local games shop guy a bit more!

      My Scots are lots of fun ("Surprise! We also have javelins!"), but the thought of fielding a force with heavy cavalry, horse archers and indestructible Varangian axemen is extremely tempting!

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  7. That's some pretty cool stuff going on here again! Your Varangian Guard is simply superb.And the Herward the Wake conversion is spot on.

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    1. Thanks Moiterei! Your WW II has me salivating. WW II was my first historical love and I'd like to find a way to get back to gaming it. Maybe Chain of Command in 2014? If so, I'll go to your site for inspiration.

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  8. These look great Monty. I'm looking forward to see how the Byzantines perform in Saga. Good Luck :-)

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    1. Thanks Matthew, I appreciate it! It's a bit different than FoG and the best way to summarize is that you can have a beer or two and still get through a game. ;-)

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  9. Superb work! I especially like the attention to detail regards the length of the axes and the conversion. I'm sure your customer will be thrilled with them mate.

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    1. Thanks Millsy! I wonder how they'd manage against the Scots?

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  10. Very nice work, I particularly like your Hardrada conversion. BTW I use Krylon as well and it ALWAYS come off as satin. I sometimes leave it as is but sometimes hit it with Dullcote. I'm with Jonathan, Michaels as a dependable source for Dullcote. You can usually find it in with the plastic model kits.

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    1. Thanks Curt! I really appreciate the feedback on Krylon. It does put down a hard coat but that's balanced with it being a 2 step process. Krylon, then Dullcote. Hmmm.

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    1. Thanks Cyrus and I happened to notice that you've got Byzantines open on your blog as well!

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  12. Great work Monty, I've always loved those mad bastards!

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    1. Thanks Fran! If I could afford mercenaries, it would be these fellows!

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  13. Looking good as usual Monty! Nice work on the conversion too.

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    1. Thanks Jonas, and I love your new Saxon project!

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  14. Those guys look seriously dangerous! Super painting and conversion work!

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks Chris! If I remember right, you had a beautiful WW II game on this weekend...Rush for Berlin? Can't wait to see it!

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  15. Good job with the conversion and a very well painted as always. Very inspiring for my ongoing Saga efforts... ;-)

    Thanks and cheers
    Stefan

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    1. Thanks Stefan! I do have Saga fever and it has not yet broken!

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  16. Always loved the Varangians, damn fine painting Sir!

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  17. Lovely painted figures! Love the colours that you have used!

    Greetings
    Peter

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