Tuesday 2 December 2014

Building a Saracen Army part 1

Hi Folks

Now that I am coming towards a good point in my arid landscape build I thought it would be appropriate to start building my Saracen army. I have a plan to use this for both Saga Crescent & Cross as well as a big ruleset game - currently looking at Hail Caesar.

Fortunately I was invited around to a local friend earlier this week to play a LOTR game which had a cast array of forces on the table. This gave me the opportunity to count up the size of the potential force I want to deploy.

So at present my plan is to field in excess of 200 infantry figures (of which a third will be archers/missile troops) and approx. 100 cavalry units (inc Camels). This will be by far the biggest army project I have yet tackled and the painting just leaves me in a cold sweat.

Now I realise that a great deal of folks might think me blasphemous to say this but I am not developing one specific Islamic force but rather a hotch potch of folks in flowing robes and turbans that could work across the Crusade period. In the same way I mix up my Vikings and Saxons (lets face it they all used round shields, axes, swords and spears) I shall do the same with my 'Hollywood style' Saracen Army.  In this first post Ill highlight the forces I have purchased and show the progress of painting so far.

As I push forward on journey I'll be posting up regular updates. My ambition is to get the whole force painted by the time spring 2015 arrives.

Clearly to build such a force is not going to come cheap so where possible I'll scour ebay for bargains, make compromises on sizing (if its advertised as 28mm it can go into the army) and take advantage of deals.

First up were three boxes of gripping beast's Arab infantry. Its a real shame that this company don't do cavalry to match.I managed to put one of these boxes together in an evening and have embellished the force with a couple of long lances from an old fire forge set to make some standard bearers.

The plastic casts are clean and their is a huge amount of variety in each box. For the sum of £20 you get 40 figures - from the first I made 8 archers, 24 spears and 8 handling melee weapons. Keeping Saga in mind all my units will be made in units divisible by four

Count - 120 infantry at 50p each

Next up was a purchase on ebay - the range was described as  35+ unpainted Moorish (can be used as Saracens) figures from the Warrior El Cid range and includes a 'Cid' personality figure (makes a good Emir!).  In fact there were 39 figures including a mounted general. Two thirds of these were archers. Winning bid on these was £15 (inc postage)

These were mixed into some of the units painted so far
 - 16 are clearly of African descent so will make up a small skirmish unit of 16.

Count - 39 Infantry at 38p each

I then managed to see one of those great Black Tree Design offers and I picked up a significant part of my force on one of their half price deals. If you have never checked out Black Tree do so and register your details, this way you can get advantage of some of their great deals.

For the princely sum of about £100 I acquired 64 foot, 9 cavalry and 9 camel mounted troops.

extract of invoice...
Soldiers of the Prophet (64 Foot)
Warriors of Islam Armoured Cavalry with Spears (3)
Warriors of Islam Cavalry Command (3)
Warriors of Islam Light Cavalry with Bows (3)
Warriors of Islam Camel Cavalry Command (3)
Warriors of Islam Camel Cavalry with Bows I (3)
Warriors of Islam Camel Cavalry Light Armoured Spearmen (3)

Count -
64 infantry at £47 - 73p each
Cavalry - 9 horsemen at £2.62 each
Camels + riders - 9 in total at 2.62 each (these were a bargain given the size

At the moment these all fit well together in scale terms.

However on reflection and mindful of my budget the cavalry was going to be pricey so I had to find an alternative...

One option that has presented itself is the HaT Cavalry from the ElCid range - taking the plunge I have bought the following

the Andalusian light, and the Almomaravid Heavies and Lights. At around £12 (including postage) a box these cavalry figures work out at about £1 each.

Damn....these figures are somewhat smaller than the black tree cavalry but what particulary grates are this size of the HaT heads...they are too small.

The problem was soon solved by using the spare heads from my first acquisition, the Arab Spearmen from Gripping beast. A quick snip and off comes the HaT head and ongoes a gripping beast version. They now look much better. The horses are still a bit small but once massed together this should not be too much of an issue.

Spot the new head

Up next were a unit of 12 heavy cavalry bought from a good chap on the LAF for £20 followed shortly by another heavy unit of cataphracts for a similar sum.

Each cavalry man cost c£2

Finally whilst at warfare I bought two boxes of Mongol horse. Having seen that these can also be converted into Arabs horse archers

The Fireforge Mongol Horse & 2 boxes of Arabs - still to be assembled
this brings my total spend to around £260 delivering....

100 Cavalry (including Camel)
200 Infantry

The Units

So I have started painting -

PLEASE NOTE that the figures only have their base coats on at the moment, no shading, touch ups etc. Shields and banners all to be added.

1. Arab Levy (Black tree, Gripping Beast, ebay source??)

Add caption

2. North African Skirmishers - primed and based

3. Veiled Archers (Black Tree & Ebay>??)

4. Veiled Spears (Black Tree & Gripping Beast)

5.  Saracen Infantry (Black Tree)

6. Foot Warriors, Command etc (mix of Black Tree & Gripping Beast)

7.  Black Tree Design Camels - Great Value !!

8. Heavy Armoured Horse (perry ??)

9. Heavy Cataphracts (to be painted as heavy Saracen Ghulams)

10.  Black Tree Cavalry (Horses all painted)

11. 36 X HaT Cavalry all painted ( All Horses based 2.5 x 5cm bases)

12. It seems only fair to show you them all togrether

By the time I have added all the fireforge mongols and the two boxes of arabs we will be getting close to the size of army needed..

Part 2 can now be found here...



  1. Good grief! It would take me four years to paint that lot! This will be a great looking army though!

    1. Ah...but as you know I go for a certain functionality in my painting (as in its OK) - much more exciting to play with the toys.

      However saying that there is a certain dread that I have a long way to go!!

  2. Hey, those are my cataphracts! I look forward to seeing how this all turns out. Good luck with the "paint sweats"!

    1. Yup...and they have been roped into the Arab army...

  3. That is a rather large project to take on. I'm looking forward to seeing the completed army.

    If they are individually based, I guess they could also be used for desert pulp adventures.

  4. You don't do things by halves, do you Mr Shed? You'll need an annex at this rate!

  5. I looked long and hard at that e-bay lot of Warrior figures. Pleased to see it went to a good home.

    I did not know of Black Tree saracens, I will follow that lead.

  6. Good luck :) Those long winter evenings will fly by....
    Shall look forward to seeing the progress!

  7. Nice work Eric,

    Any chance you could do some comparison shots of the Hat Cavalry with other manufacturers...vs Perry, vs BTD, etc. That would be very handy as I am interested to see if they will match in for light cav type.

    You've made a great start and this should prove a very versatile force.


    Happy Wanderer

    1. Hi there...I'll do this next post but I can confirm the following

      1. The HaT horse are virtually the same size as Fire Forge horses
      2. The Black Tree horses are much larger than HaT but when massed should not pose a probem
      3. The Perry horses are a tiny bit bigger than HaT.
      4. The Hat comprised units are most definitely light cavalry poses.

  8. HI Eric,

    Thanks for that breakdown, much appreciated. I may have to track down a box or two of these guys....nice one ;-)