Dark Ages On The (Comparatively) Cheap – Part 1

Von Greg

Vikings vs Welsh during the HAWKs February Dark Age Derby

I recently hosted a day of Dark Age battles for the HAWks club in order to play-test several popular rulesets for the period. The results were inconclusive as to which was “the best”, but it reawakened my long term interest in the genre enough to go out and build up my own army.

Since SAGA is the most particular of the bunch, I set out to create a force that could count for at least 4 points in that system, while still being diverse enough to provide a variety of troop types for use in the other two.

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Dark Age Gaelic skirmishers converted from Wargames Factory Vikings and Numidians

I attempted some kitbashing with a few backlog Wargames Factory Vikings and Numidians, but the CAD-produced sculpting left the detail less than desirable and while cheap, it really drove me batty trying to assemble them, so plastic was out and metal was in.

If you are going the plastic route, you have to check out SAGA Tapestry’s excellent guide for making the most out of the Gripping Beast and Conquest Miniatures plastic box sets.

With HMGS Cold Wars fast approaching, I threw myself into doing my research and tried to figure out what would be the best way to get the most bang for my buck, without having to resort to figures that either looked bad, or we so fiddly to assemble, that I’d quickly lose interest as I had in the past. That being said, here were my results:

Gripping Beast:

As the publishers of the SAGA rules, this is the go to place for those who want the right-out-of-the-box forces. I have mixed feelings about the sculpts, since the older items that get mixed into the packs seem to be suffering from an all-body case of fluid retention bloat, but the newer items are really nice.

In the States, my convention favorite, Architects of War sells $53.00 for a metal starter army of 25 foot troops  which comes out to around $2.12 a figure

Wargames Foundry:

While they lapsed into the Bugatti Veyron price range for a good part of the last decade, Foundry has recently lowered their prices back to something that us mere mortals can afford. Their old Dark Ages line has a nice selection, but they are old (Perry?) sculpts and can be a bit on the “wee” side. The newer Vikings are very nice, if not for the odd inaccurate horned helmet, and would be great for your showcase figures such as Warlords or champions (hearthguard for you SAGAmites). As an added bonus, they have a decent selection of civilians and lady vikings, not all of which are scantily clad if you’re looking for your Lagertha!

Currently listed on their site as $18.00 for 6 infantry, they still tip the scales at $3.00 a figure, but if only used for your “set piece” troops, that’s still relatively reasonable. The older range is $18.00 for 8 infantry which would be $2.25 a piece.

Crusader Miniatures:

Age of Glory, one of my other favorite retailers stock the entire line of these and  I really prefer the crisper poses over the “official” SAGA line. With a few exceptions, they have all the options you would need for most of the SAGA factions, even odd ones like the Irish dog handlers.

$14.00 for 8 foot troops so we’re now talking $1.75 a figure

Black Tree Design:

Successor to the Harlequin miniatures line, Black Tree does have a small, but decent Dark Ages line and you might even be able to use certain packs from their ancient Picts to supplement your Gaelic armies of the Dark Ages. This line goes on sale quite often, and the extent of the discount can make these prices vary greatly.

Typically, if you are signed up for their free email club, a minimally discounted army like the Normans will sell for around $7.23 for 4 minis, bringing their individual infantry miniature price in at $1.81, just above Crusader, and just below Gripping Beast.

Saxons are slashed to 25% off right now ($6.23 for 4) making them quite a bargain at $1.55 per mini so you could kit out a 4 point SAGA force for under $40, and if you buy the Saxon Kings set and use the armoured guy as your Warlord, you also have the harp playing figure that can easily pass as the “Wandering Bard” special character.

Old Glory:

This has always been the wargamers go to choice for cheap metal, with the caveat of some really dodgy sculpting at times and they also tend to be on the smaller size of the 28/25mm spectrum so you have to some visual inspection before throwing down the cash.

I’ve dealt with the main line of Normans/Vikings/Saxons and they are pretty bad.Too many “Hey Steve!” pointing command figures and rigor-contorted poses turned me off from finishing an army decades ago. On the other hand, their newer “Somerled the Viking Slayer” line shows some promise, especially if you are aiming to do a Scots or Irish force.

Usually, you’ll get 30 infantry for around $35 and you can order directly or pick them up at one of the many HMGS East cons. Each troop will cost you a mere $1.16. Add in the 40% Old Glory Army discount (which will cost you $50 annually) and that drops to paltry $0.70.

Tune in next time, and see if the research survives an encounter with the dealer hall!

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Author: hawksgameclub

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