Monday, 19 January 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

I can't think of anything more removed from the austere elegance of Holgar Eriksson than the figure above.

Several years ago I was toying with the idea of the Seven Years Wars in the Balkans, (as you do). Well I was at Partizan and after a lunch of several glasses of their sub zero lager, I fell into conversation with that smooth tongued charmer, Andy at Old Glory UK. In a blur money changed hands and I took away several bags of the 'Brand New' Turkish line. With a dreadful hangover I unwrapped my purchases !!!!! Hurriedly I wrapped them up again and put them at the back of the shelf. Of course ideas for them have crossed my mind since then; scaring children, putting one in a sock to deal with intruders that sort of thing but they have stayed firmly packed in their box.

Until last week, I was painting some Charles Stadden Grenadiers and musing upon my fictional nation of Bohemia/ Moravia. I was wondering about the eastern borders surely they would be composed of mountains and impenetrable forests and not a million miles from Transylvania.

I don't suppose anyone remembers the BBC children's series of the sixties, tales from Europe. They were foreign films that depicted fairy tales that took pace in a sinister and incomprehensible landscape of forests and goblins and trolls and ogres.
It occurred to me that if I was to explore this a little I could have a setting in which frontier raids and brush warfare could thrive. All I needed was a generic Balkan style range to depict the barely human inhabitants if the great forest.

To think is to act, out came the neglected figures and a big brush. Crudely and quickly painted and they are exactly right for what want. I put a partially painted Stadden figure from my painting table alongside to give an idea of scale.

Looking around at the blogs and sites of the established Imaginations, it did occur to me that a historian of the modern school might be tempted to describe them as 'Euro centric'. Most of the rulers look to the courts of France and Prussia as models for their civilised and elegant activities. In Bohemia and Moravia we are forced to be much more aware of the Nations beyond the dark forests; Muscovy, Tartary and of course the ever threatening Ottomans.

To be honest I did feel a slight twinge of uneasiness about creating a Germanic state which regards its Eastern neighbours as primitive barbarians. The trouble is that what you want are terrifying shapes moving in the forest. Slaving parties raiding frontier villages to sell the inhabitants to the Turks. Sacred Oaks stained with the blood of human sacrifices and mysterious Shamans.

What you definitely don't want are a gentle pastoral folk famed for their nose flute music and interesting birch bark paintings.


Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Hello there John,

Great job on those O.G. figures. Happy you found a use for them at last. Now here's a good name suggestion for a chieftan or shaman: "Vuloynda". It's the word verification I must type in to post this post!

Best Regards,


Der Alte Fritz said...

Ottoman Turk armies can be fun to paint and they could be the dark foe that your nation fights. The Austrians were certainly afraid of them long after they had posed a threat. You could use Janissaries as your regulars, or use some 17th Century Poles as your regulars. Then add in all of the irregular looking Turks for your greater mass of infantry. And then go crazy with all sorts of cavalry.

johnpreece said...


thats perfect thanks. I wanted a name that sounded suitably diffferent, unfortunately looking at the figure all that came to mind was 'Poppa Smurf'.

Ah you tempter Fritz, I am looking forward to frontier conflicts. But the whole point of the forests is that I won't have to sell the house to afford all those Turkish cavalry.

I shall probably expand what I have with some of the Old Glory Cossacks range. Thay have some wonderfully eccentric bags of figures, but who can think of a use for a bag of 30 yes 30 dancing Cossacks.

Anyone want to share a bag?


Fitz-Badger said...

Cossack wardancers? lol

Martin said...

Hi John,

Those fellows will look pretty intimidating slinking though the forests! See if you can latch on to the novel, "Fire In The Steppes" by Steinkewitz. It's a great story that you can mine for character names, place names, scenarios, and it gives a great background to the whole Polish, Cossak, Ottoman, Austrian, and Russian shifing relationships.

You the Hetman,


marinergrim said...

They remind me of the characters seen in some of the old Hammer Horror movies. great atmosphere!

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Lord - the guy in the brown coat is a dead ringer for Quasimodo, and who is the guy in the grey coat (last picture) going to shoot when he's looking 90' away from where he's aiming?? :o)))

Stuff of nightmares... must have been *good* lager.....

Excellent stuff John, I remember those TV series well - and do you remember the "Singing Ringing Tree"??

I have an abiding memory from my childhood of sitting watching it in my tartan dressing gown, and being astonishingly hot - think I had the measles at the time, or maybe it was Sunday night bath night...!

guy said...


With regards to your last paragraph, this immediately brought up images of Syldavia from the Tintin books King Ottokars Sceptre and The Lake of the Sharks. A couple of centuries too late as well. There might be some names you could use.


tradgardmastare said...

Sounds a really great idea- something different and I really look forward to seeing where you go with the project...
What rules will you use? Have you thought of using some peasnt figures as a sort of mob/militia- the sort of folk who stormed Dr frankenstiens castle in black and white films?

abdul666 said...

Original and promising!
Such a setting indeed to play FIW-like scenarios for a change, and to field a tremendous diversity of minis -even some Huns could be of use!


Der Alte Fritz said...

John: Essex has some terrific looking Ottoman Turks from their late Renaissance range that I used in my SYW armies. RSM has Turks, so does TAG and Dixon and several others, all based in the UK, so they should cost less.

Prinz Geoffrey said...

My imagination is currently fighting the Delicate of Bizerrca, I have posted several pics of my Bashi Bazooks. I look forward to seeing how you develop your ottoman enemy. My imagination Cavenderia is located in Dalmatia and I am going to use many irregular elements in the army. Will keep an eye on your developments.

abdul666 said...

Cossacks used a lot of river transport - historically in an earlier period, but old practices may not be obsolete in some backward parts of Europe...Specially the 'foot Cossacks' culture may have survived in 'mountains and impenetrable forests'; so if so inclined you can try riverine warfare...
(On the other hand tabors would be hopeless against 'modern' artillery.)

Mike Siggins said...

Very good piece. Cheered me up on a dark, wet morning. Eastern Europe is still like that, in my mind.

old john said...

i've been fortunate enough to see these in the flesh and they are even better than the pictures, real characters, superb painting
many thanks John for a great day out
cheers old john