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The Saga of Symbaroum

The Saga of Symbaroum

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Project Blog by onlyonepinman Cult of Games Member

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About the Project

I currently participate in an ongoing RPG campaign using the Symbaroum rules and setting. The game takes place over a single, long weekend of intense gaming once per year (Friday - Monday). One of my great passions (and a subject that I disagree quite strongly with Gerry on) is painting miniatures for RPGs - even if some of them don't actually get used. Because we only play a single weekend a year, I actually put a lot of effort into making it look visually stunning, as far as is possible because a good RPG setting and game can really fire my imagination and Symbaroum has done just that. However because of what the GM asked for, I realised earlier this year that I actually had the beginnings of some warbands that I could use with Saga, possibly using Age of Magic. This project will chart the "design" of the characters and faction within the world and the miniatures ranges I opted for to represent them. Following on from that I will then expand each of those RPG factions into a Saga faction, taking them from around 12-15 miniatures up to 30-40 miniature warbands.

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Faction - Ambria - Queens Army Warriors

Tutoring 5
Skill 5
Idea 5
No Comments

With the lower classes (Levy and Light Cavalry) out of the way it’s time to start looking at the professional soldiers, the standing army that has given Ambria such an advantage over the barbarian clans they have displaced. There’s nothing specific about the army in the Symbaroum books, not in any great detail.  But using the principles of Saga with its three tier system, these are the middle tier unit type called “warriors”.  They are professional soldiers and would likely be knights; second or third sons of noble or wealthy families.  Service in the army offers an opportunity for them to make a name for themselves that they would not likely get from their family.  They are wealthy enough to have decent equipment and spend a reasonable amount of time training.  In the world of Symbaroum, plate armour does exist however it isn’t really described as being ubiquitous and it’s still incredibly expensive to buy. Most armours are portrayed as flexible armour rather than rigid, armour like chain, scale or lamellar. Thus it would seem unlikely that for the main army, plate armour would be the norm although it may be used for elite troops and leaders.  So I have gone for chainmail armoured knights, again a mixture of Footsore and 1st Corps for the “Warriors” troop type.  These are the middle tier of soldier so obviously for the HearthGuard, the elite soldiers, I will need something a little better.  However the 12th – 13th century look is absolutely perfect for the soldiers.

When I looked in my collection I already had a few foot knights from Barons War more than enough to make a single unit but not enough for two.  So I topped them up, again, with Miniatures from 1st corps as well as buying a second command group so both units would have a banner.  Again, for scale comparison purposes, just in case anyone is interested, I have placed a 1st Corps Miniature on the left in the photo below, the rest are footsore.  The 1st corps looks slightly bigger but I think some of that is also down to the fact that the metal tab that they come mounted on is slightly thicker.  However, regardless of why it’s slightly taller, the difference is not so large that it looks weird and out of place.  They’re a very good match.

These troops also represent the first time I have painted a full unit of anything using paints other than citadel.  I recently switched to army Painter but have also picked up a few Vallejo paints as well.  I can’t say that I regret the decision.  I never actually had any problem with Citadel Paint, but I was absolutely sick of the pots clogging up, not closing and drying the contents out.  I can get to element games as easily as a GW store and they’re open 7 days a week.  That basically ended the “convenience” factor that had kept me with citadel for so long.

As well as new paint range, they’re the first unit in the army that I didn’t paint using speed paints.  The reason I opted to go with regular acrylic paints for these is that I wanted them to look brighter and cleaner than their peasant counter parts.  These are professional men-at-arms, their full time job is soldiering so it stands to reason they would have better kit and more time to look after it.  And of course being the Queen’s Army, not looking like you have been dragged through a hedge backwards is probably also very high on the agenda.   Also, it wasn’t really practical to go with speed paints because there’s so much metal on most of these, which made a Black undercoat preferable. If I have to go and pick out the cloth areas in white before painting the speed paint on, it would be almost as quick to paint the purple base coat and add some highlights anyway.  And finally, I actually enjoy painting, Speed Paints are a means to an end, actually sitting down and painting is a joy.  So there.  The finishing touches were some shield transfers, which are old Bretonnian transfers I have lying around, and a base ready mix from Geek Gaming.  At some point (i.e. when they arrive) I will be adding a few tufts as well.

On the subject of tufts, if people are looking for a reasonably priced supply of basing materials, look at a company called Serious Play.  They do a HUGE range if grass tufts and flower tufts in all sorts of colours and, more importantly, they are dirt cheap.  Delivery is sometimes a little slow (a week or so) but then, I remember a time when Amazon Prime wasn’t a thing and things always took that long to arrive so it doesn’t really bother me.

Faction - Ambria - Queens Army Warriors

Faction - Ambria - Queens Army Light Cavalry

Tutoring 6
Skill 6
Idea 6
No Comments

There are three tiers of troops in Saga, Levy, Warriors and Hearthguard.  In the Great Kingdoms faction archetype from Age of Magic warriors and Hearthguard can be mounted.  To represent mounted warriors I decided to go with mounted sergeants and light cavalry.  These have a similar appearance to the Levy, which is why I chose them.  Another of the features of Ambrian culture, as well as it’s militarism is its materialism.  All Ambrians purse “more” and/or “better”.  Whether that’s land, lifestyle or belongings, they are always looking to improve or increase what they have.  So having some light cavalry that is similar in appearance to the levy represents Ambrian commoners who have earned a little more wealth, enough to perhaps buy a horse and some better armour.  Like other warriors, a full unit requires 8 models but they won’t all fit in the photo booth.

To get the 8 models required for a unit, I started with 4 mounted Sergeants from the Barons War range by Footsore.  Now, I could have just bought another 4 and been done with it but as much as I absolutely love Footsore Miniatures, they are mono-pose and they only have 4 variants so I would have been buying the same Miniatures again, I didn’t really want any duplicates as it would be difficult to disguise them with colour scheme alone.  So I instead turned to 1st Corps and bought some of their early medieval knights, which can be made to look like sergeants by selecting different head options.  You also get a selection of weapons to arm them with including falchion, maces, flails, axes and swords.  Needless to say I’m now a big fan of 1st corps and I will likely be using them again in the future – I have already started eyeing up conversion bits to use on some of my barbarian forces.  I think 1st corps also scale really well with the Footsore Miniatures, which do tend towards the smaller end of the 28mm scale (unless you bought the Mortal Gods Argonauts, which a fahooking massive).  The Miniature at the front in the image below is from 1st Corps, the other three are Footsore so you can see the comparison.  The 1st corps are ever so slightly bigger, but that’s more to do with the horses than anything else.  I bought some foot knights as well (coming in a future article) and they’re virtually indistinguishable from the footsore ones in terms of height.  In addition, as a leader model, I have selected the Dante miniature from the Wargames Illustrated Giants In Miniature range, but that will have an article of its own.

These were an experiment in using the new Army Painter speedpaints.  The results were quite good, I think, although I did get a lot of reactivation, especially when trying to put a brown wash over them – I had to varnish them before adding the wash.

Faction - Ambria - Queens Army Light Cavalry

Faction - Ambria - Queens Army Levy

Tutoring 7
Skill 7
Idea 7
2 Comments

The first army I will be working on will be the Queen’s Army, turning a collection of Barons War stuff into the mainstay of the Ambrian Army.  This is the first step of taking what was a small collection of Miniatures for an RPG into one of several Saga Warbands.  I am not aiming for a specific points limit, my plan is to expand in 1 point blocks (12 Levy, 8 Warriors, 4 HearthGuard) or perhaps 2, depending on how many troops I would need to paint.  Eventually I want to have the flexibility to build 4-6 point warbands and have options available, which means painting more than 6 blocks of troops.

Because I was closest to having full troop blocks for Levy, I decided to convert the soldiers I already had into Levy.  They’re a great match for levy, being lightly Armoured Sergeants.  Although I had 12 available, and it is possible to buy split a block of 12 Levy in 3 blocks of 4, I opted to buy an extra couple of sets of Crossbowmen from Footsore, giving me 12 – a full, one point unit.  That left me with 8 spearmen and rather than buy another 4, I bought a command pack from Crusader Miniatures which again bumped the number up to 12 – another full, one point unit.  Even though the Queen’s Army is supposed to be a very well disciplined fighting force, it stands to reason that they would still rely on Levy troops to swell their numbers as many historical Armies often did.  And having them appear as sergeants, rather than peasant rabble, fits with the militaristic nature of the Ambrians; the Levy aren’t mere peasants, they are still soldiers with a level of training and discipline but somewhat lack the equipment and armour of the professional soldiers.

At some point I will be making banners but I will wait until I know how many I need before printing them out.  I reckon I will likely need 3-4 as not every unit will have a flag. HearthGuard for example only have 4 Miniatures and I don’t really want to drop that by converting one into a banner bearer.  I might also get a mounted banner bearer and use it as a lieutenant/captain in the army, which takes the place of half a unit’s worth of soldiers (i.e. sacrifice 6 levy, 4 warriors or 2 HearthGuard)

Faction - Ambrians - The Ordo Magicka

Tutoring 8
Skill 8
Idea 8
No Comments

One of the defining features of the Ambrians is their militaristic nature, something they had to adopt in order to survive and establish a new homeland.  That mindset has not dissipated as the Kingdom is now focused on consolidating its newly acquired homeland and also expanding it.  One of the facets of this is that things tend to be very nicely pigeon-holed;  you serve one of the institutions and no other and one of these organisations, and probably the most fun to paint, was the ordo magicka.

In the book, there are various pictures of wizards and sorcerors and broadly speaking they just look like normal people.  They’re certainly not the more stereotypical old man in a pointy hat.  In many ways they look like explorers as their primary purpose is the pursuit of knowledge.  Accordingly they are very outward facing as an organisation, even if there are still secrets and cliques and agendas within the organisation itself.  They will often be found accompanied by treasure hunters and mercenaries on exploration missions in the forest of Davokar, where the ancient ruins provide a near endless supply of lost knowledge and artefacts as well as rare and interesting flora and fauna.  All of this is within the purview of the order and there are certain faculties within the order dedicated to all kinds of magical research.

However the artwork associated with wizards in the book suffers from the same problem as everything else.  As beautiful as it is, its highly stylised nature presents a somewhat drab and washed out look, which I was keen to avoid in my miniatures.  It’s a bit like when we see portrayals of medieval and Dark Age Europe, they always get presented as quite dirty and dull, almost colourless whereas the historical research would paint a very different story.

For example, the Bayeux tapestry is full of colour, as are many of the paintings that we see from the era.  So I wanted to try and capture that in the order.  This would also mean that, when they are placed inside a warband that they would always stand and provide a nice spot of contrast against an otherwise uniform background.  One of the places I turned for this was the Amazon TV show The Wheel of Time, which I actually thought was unbelievably average and suffered from the same problems as most things coming out of Hollywood these days (too much focus on political signalling at the expense of good characters and story).  That said there is no question that it was visually stunning; for the most part it was incredibly well designed and realised and in particular the Aes Sedai, the order of sorceresses.  I did think that the “man bashing” element of this was too frequent and too obvious, however the way that it was designed as an institution and the machinations and agendas within it were excellent and quite engaging.  So I thought of the Aes Sedai when designing the colour schemes for the ordo magicka, although I decided to try and get a much healthier mix of male and female models so it felt more like a University and less like a radfem version of an Al Quaeda training camp.

When searching for models, I think all of these bar one come from Northstar, a mixture of Frostgrave, Rangers of Shadow Deep and their generic fantasy range.  They are the perfect scale for my project but they don’t look too “wizardy”, they look like normal people who know how to command magic.  The last model was from Bad Squiddo games and was received as a freebie when I placed an order with them for somthing else (so many thanks for that Annie).  She’s not shown on their website as a wizard but as an “academic” but that’s kind of the look I am going for, kind of like an archaeologist.  Then, I looked at colours and leaned quite heavily on the Wheel of Time for inspiration and opting for coloured “uniforms” for the different orders.  Obviously in game terms, whether it’s the Symbaroum RPG or whether it’s Saga, the colour of the uniform is purely to support the narrative.  I have to say I am really pleased with the results, especially seeing as these were all painted with contrast paint and brown wash, I think that’s testament to the quality of the miniatures to be honest.

Faction - Ambrians - The Ordo Magicka

When selecting senior figures for the order, I wanted to have both a master and a mistress of the order, one of each and strangely I found it much harder to find a male leader than female.  For the time being I am just using a Saruman the White model as a stand in but I am constantly on the look out for something better.  He sort of works as maybe a head of the order who is so old he’s been given a desk to sit behind, but he doesn’t really look like someone who is going to be leading from the front in major battles (to be fair, Ian McKellan didn’t create that impression either but he pulled it off as Gandalf in the Return of the King).  However by far my favourite model is the female leader model, the Mistress of the Order, who is from the Frostgrave range.  Unfortunately, while there are plenty of male wizards, I don’t think that any of them quite capture the look that I was going for quite like this lady.  I also love the fact that she’s an old woman, so many female miniatures portray young beautiful women but this one seems to stand out because it doesn’t.  She has very simple attire, she isn’t standing in a particularly imposing or threatening way, she has no weapons.  But I think the model has a sense of gravitas about it, she has a very stern look about her and a sense of confidence that suggests she brooks no nonsense.

Faction - Ambrians - The Curia

Tutoring 9
Skill 9
Idea 9
4 Comments

The Curia has three distcint branches;  the Clergy, the Templars and the Inquisition.  As I was already going down the medieval route, it seemed only natural to look for historical comparisons for this faction.  The best analogy to the Curia of the Church of Prios is the Roman Catholic church, even in so far as being Monotheistic (although they do accept other Gods exist, they just don’t worship them and consider Prios to be Superior).  The colours in the the artwork are predominantly red and gold, also colours that are very common among Christian priests, particularly Catholic and Orthodox.

The Clergy

I started out looking at the Clergy and it was surprisingly easy to get what I needed, although I had to source from several manufacturers.  Even finding some females to add to the mix wasn’t overly difficult as there were a couple of wizards in the Frostgrave range that I thought looked perfect for priestesses.  So in the end I had miniatures from Frostgrave, Perry Miniatures and V&V miniatures.  Do I need 7 priests?  Possibly not. Is it nice to have them?  Absolutely.  Although if I ever build a full Ambrian army (it’s definely more than an idle thought) it will be nice to just dot them throughout the army so they may have a use.

I tried to go with a set palette of colours, mostly red, gold and beige across the whole set.  They were all contrast painted and brown washed at the end.  The exception being the two characters who I am calling the Cardinal and the Abess, for want of any better titles.  These were painted using traditional methods but sticking to a similar colour palette

The Templars.

The Templars were the easiest to find models for as there are a good selection of crusader miniatures available already from companies like 1st Corps, Crusader Miniatures and a small selection from Baron’s War.  Because I was already putting an order in I went with Baron’s War miniatures, however I have also marked Templars as a possible Age of Magic warband so this might expand in the future.  The upcoming Baron’s War Outremer kickstarer could be a fantastic source of miniatures for that, but that’s a future article.  While most of the miniatures are Baron’s War miniatures, only 4 of them were officially “Templars”, I added a couple of footknights in there and swapped out the shields for some with embossed sunbursts.  I also had a spare miniature from the Wargames Illustrated Giants in Miniature range that seemed to fit perfectly so painted him up as well.  To lead them, I then took a Bishop miniature from the Baron’s war range as I thought that stand out a bit from the rest of the troops

When choosing a colour scheme I tried to follow the same colours as the  priests but I wanted them to look a little more battle hardened and worn.  So I used a deeper shade of red and for the most part did away with the brighter red and gold.  The resulting colour scheme matches the character of Benedictus quite well and isn’t a million miles away from the livery used by Balien of Ibelin in Kingdom of heaven.

The Inquisitors

The last faction was the Black Cloaks, the Inquisitors.  These were a bit harder to design because there isn’t really much to go off in the book in terms of artwork.  The only unifying feature seems to be that they all wear a Black Cloak, hence their nickname.  I decided to throw in a mixture of different model types here, some that looked like monks and some that looked more like warrior-priests and the only place I could really get what I wanted was Baron’s War, although I did deliberate over some similar models from Gripping Beast.  Ultimately I did buy the faction leader from Gripping Beast.  I have looked through Saga Age of Magic and there’s a really cool unit type in the Great Kingdoms army archetype call religious zealots so I think in future these might form part of the Tempar army where they will be my religious zealouts unit

Faction - Ambians - The Nobility & Military

Tutoring 8
Skill 8
Idea 8
No Comments

Ahead of our last gaming weekend I was asked to provide miniatures for various sub-factions within Ambrian society – notably Priests, Inquisitors, Templars, Queen’s Army and the Ordo Magicka.  Knowing that this would be a long term campaign I had decided that I might go beyond that and try and get most of the major Ambrian factions represented in miniature, at least those who would be likely to be seen in a fight.  My aim was to try and stick to 28mm “true” scale where possible because I think they do the artwork more justice, and this means a lot of the miniatures can be drawn from historical miniatures ranges.  I also happen to prefer the more realistic proportions and of course they do tend to be a bit (or a lot) cheaper than their heroically scaled counterparts.

This article will focus on the miniatures and colours I chose for the military factions, which fall into three categories.

  • Queen’s Army
  • Queen’s Rangers
  • Local Military

Based on the artwork in the books I get a very medieval vibe from the Ambrians, and to be more specific a more early-mid medieval.  However, contrary to much of the artwork the more well equipped units within Ambria are known for wearing plate armour, which pushes them more towards the latter part of the medieval era.  However the great thing about fantasy games is that you can, to a degree, get away with mixing and matching from different eras of history, especially if you select periods in history that are relatively close together.

Queen’s Army

Starting with the Queen’s army, which are the largest and best equipped fighting force, I have gone with a pure medieval look and got hold of some Baron’s War sergeants.  The reason I went for sergeants, as the lowest level of the soldiery, is mostly because I liked the Kettle Helms.  However I also wanted to keep some of the down to earth feel and not intriduce elit units like knights too early in the campaign.  I did paint a single knight to use as a faction leader though.  However the plan is to add additional models in the future to represent better trained and equipped units.  I have to say the Baron’s War range has provided me with a lot of ideas of where I want to go with the Ambrian faction, I am sure there will be some historical wargaming enthusiasts will be thrilled to see this act of wanton desecration.  However from my perspective, although I am not actually going into historical detail, there is still an amount of research involved in looking at different periods of history to try and create themes throughout this project that while they may not look entirely consistent with each other at least look like they could plausibly co-exist.

Because these are, for the most part, just grunts, they were treated to the Contrast Paint treatment with a brown wash at the end to mute the colours and hide any mistakes.  They were based using the ready base mixes from Geek Gaming Scenics and I turned these around in a couple of evenings, plus an extra night when I did the transfers (which are actually from the old Bretonnian knights box).  Despite the speedy work, I think they will look absolutely fine on the table top.  The champion model wasn’t contrast painted, I actually spent a couple of hours painting him on his own just because he’s the model people are most likely to look at so it’s worth spending a bit of extra time on him.  But the basing technique was exactly the same, a pre-made base mixture.

Queen’s Rangers

To be honest, the Queen’s Rangers were a bit of an afterthought and I didn’t really think I would have any real need for them.  However I did have some Gondor Soldiers lying around and I thought the tree design on the shields was a perfect icon for the rangers who are charged with patrolling the trade routes through the forest of Davokar.  Also, being something of an “elite” organisation, I thought a slightly more heavily armoured look might work quite well.  Rather than painting the armour in silver, I decide to paint it in greens and browns but give it a silver dry brush at the end, just to catch some of the edges.  I was trying to make what is obviously plate look more like Brigandine with green and brown material covering.  I’m not 100% certain I managed to achieve that, however I do think that it at least doesn’t look like full metal armour and I can live with that.  To lead them I borrowed another miniature from the Baron’s War miniatures that I already owned from a kickstarter, although at some point I might decide to buy a Gondorian character from the Middle Earth range.  It’s not really high priority though as I don’t see any real use for them, I just painted them because I had them lying around.

Faction - Ambians - The Nobility & Military

Local Military

The last branch of the military is the local soldiery.  I didn’t want to spend too much time or money on these as once again, they may not ever get used.  So I purchased a couple of sprues of the Perry Agincourt foot knights from ebay, swapped a couple of the shields out used them.  Because of the tunics and tabards, it hides quite a lot of the armour making it slight more ambiguous as to what they’re wearing.  Obviously they’re wearing either plate or brigandine but I think with the right paint job it they can be as heavily or lightly armoured as they need to be for the story

Faction - Ambians - The Nobility & Military

Background - Barbarians

Tutoring 8
Skill 8
Idea 8
No Comments

The Barbarians are a collection of clans who inhabited the lands north of the Titans prior to the arrival of the Ambrians.  For the 200 years since the destruction of the city of Lindaros, which acted as a centre of government and civilisation in the region, the clans warred with one another.   Historically there were 13 clans however the first act of the Ambrians, essentially announcing their arrival, was to reduce that to 12 with the subjugation of the Kazid clans and their integration into Ambrian society.  That 12 has since been reduced to 11 following a brief war with the Jezora clans which saw them destroyed.  There are rumours of a 12th clan – a beast clan – but there are no confirmed accounts of their existence by the Ambrians.

Each of the Barbarian clans is culturally and visually distinct and they all have very different views and attitudes to each other and towards Ambrians.  Generally speaking the southern clans who have had the most exposure to the Ambrians have more relaxed and friendly attitudes towards them.  They will often trade with and help the Ambrians on occasion.  The more northern clans on the other hand tend to be much more hostile towards the invading southerners.  This is an arrangement that suits the Ambrians well as it prevents the Barbarians from uniting against them, especially as their arrival has caused the clans to live more harmoniously than in the past.

Geographically, there are also two main areas that the barbarians inhabit – the Forest of Davokar and the plains to the west.

Background - Barbarians

Although it’s hard to see on the map, you can see the names of some of the clans on the map – yellow in the forest and red on the plains.  The clans exist in a sort of two axis arrangement around the compass, being either planes peaple (west) or a forest people (east) and also being either northern or southern.

Western Clans

There are only two tribes on the planes to the west, the Saar-Khan in the north and the Varakko in the south.  As mentioned already clans, the Saar Khan in the north are much more insular than their southern Varakko neighbours and are considered savage even by the standards of the North.  They are exceedingly hostile to Ambrians as they proclaim themselves to be the heirs to Symbaroum.  Their main settlement is a fortress in the far north where they worship some form of Beast god.  A few times a year they send warriors to raid other Barbarian settlements although these raids are denied by the clan chief as rogue elements within the clan.  The Varakko are more nomadic and travel the plains in large convoys, trading with the Ambrian settlements who border their lands to the south.  They are also subjected far more than the other clans to the raids of the Saar Khan.  They have a strong relationship with the Ambrians and the Duke of New Berengoria allows them to freely travel the lands on the Ambrian side of the border to avoid the raids of the Saar Khan.

Northern Forest Clans

There are 4 tribes occupying the northern parts of Davokar, the Gaoia, the Enoai, the Godinja, and the Yedesa.  As with the planes tribes the most northern of these, the Gaoia are considered to be the most brutal and promitive of the clans.  They are rumoured to be aligned with a great Lyndworm and as a people they rarely venture outside their lands and so are not often seen in the south.  Apart from the Wrathguard warriors whom they send to guard the city of Karvosti in the South.  The Enoai are a tree dwelling people who prefer to keep to the depths of the forest, making their homes among the roots or high in the branches of ancient, giant trees.  The Goeds of the Godinja are artisans and craft many of the masks that the Barbarian clans are often seen wearing.  They also claim to be descended from the ancient rulers of Symbaroum (although they don’t claim to be its rulers).  However the other clans are quick to point out that up until a few generations ago the Goeds were very closely related to the Elves of Davokar and their chieftain, Vikomar, has Elf blood running through his veins.  The Yedesa are probably the most civilised of all of the Barbarian tribes, having given up any pretence of being nomadic favouring permanent settlements.  This has given rise to a certain amount of dominance by the clan, 6 of the last 10 high chieftains have been from the Yedesa and their chieftain Leonod’s stone fortress is among the most impressive Barbarian structures.

Southern Clans

Finally there are the southern clans, occupying the southern regions of Davokar and mostly sharing a border with the Ambrians.  Starting in the East, clan Zarek is probably the most hospitable to the Ambrians.  In part , this is likely due to the trade they have with the Ambrians.  However it is no secret that the Zareks assisted the Ambrians in defeating clan Jezora and their chief Haldobar with whom Monovar, chief of the Zarek had a blood feud.  The Baiaga are a clan that is somewhere between a northern and a southern clan, but their somewhat peaceful attitude towards Ambria put them, for me at least, in the southern list.  They are renowned for fighting alongside their tame Bear beasts called Baiagorns.  Generally the wander the forests hunting or fish in the great lake but for reasons unknown, many Baiags choose to leave their home land for periods of time and they are often seen in Thistlehold as well as the Barbarian capital Karvosti.  The Odavs of clan Odaiova inhabit the land between Karvosti and Thistlehold meaning that all of the major trade routes between the Barbarian capital city and the treasure rich Ambrian settlement pass through their lands.  Not only do the Odavs tolerate the Ambrians but they actively capitalise on it, openly trading with them and acting as intermediaries between Ambrians and Barbarians.  The Karits of clan Karohar, unlike the other southern clans, are warlike and openly hostile towards the Ambrians.  There may be several reasons for this, the recent destruction of neighbouring clans (first Kazid and the Jezora) or the fact that Ambrian treasure hunters constantly invade their lands, disturbing the ancient ruins and attracting the attention of the elves (who consider themselves guardians of the ancient places – we will visit the Elves in a future article).  Finally there’s the Vajvod, in the south eastern reaches of Davokar on the edge of the Raven mountains.  The Vajvod are very relaxed about the Ambrian presence, so much so that there are several Ambrian footholds in the region, including a base for the Queen’s rangers

 

In terms of artwork, there’s not actually any defined images for each of the clans.  There are pictures and images throughout the book of barbarians but none linked specifally to a clan.  So splitting them into the three subgroups will really help to start to come up with designs for them that I can then try and find miniature ranges to suit.  Broadly speaking I think that the northern tribes need to look more stereotypically barbarian, whether that be like the furclad wildlings off Game of Thrones or the woad covered and tattooed ancient celts or a mixture, seeing as there are multiple tribes.  I then think the more southern and some  (Ambrians) might say more civilised, give them a more “modern” look, maybe looking at various Dark Age societies like Saxons and Danes, so less woad and tattoos and more chainmail or other similar armours.  It’s also interesting that many of the barbarian tribes use animals in their armies, more so than the Ambrians and their horses.  That could also be an interesting aspect

The Characters

Tutoring 8
Skill 8
Idea 8
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The first place I always start when painting miniatures for RPGs is the characters.  The reason for this is that even in games where miniatures may not be used, I love searching for miniatures and just bringing the characters to life.  It’s like having a character portrait on a sheet only in 3D and this game is no different.  The intention with these miniatures is that upon the conclusion of this campaign, the character miniatures will become the property of the players themselves as a gift from me and a momento of what has thus far been an incredibly enjoyable game.  In addition to that, the GM doesn’t have a character so I have picked a character from the lore and chosen a miniature to represent her even though it’s highly unlikely that we will ever see her in game.  Finally I wanted to give everyone a version of themselves on foot and on horseback.  This extra dimension made finding miniatures for some of the characters a lot more difficult.

I should point out that about half of these were painted at the start of last year, the other half were done in January this year so they were done well before I started this project.  I really wanted everyone to just have their little avatars sat on the table while we were playing even though a lot of the game was focused on politics which doesn’t have any combat maps or anything like that.   Also, because these are RPG characters and are eventually going to be gifted to my fellow players, they won’t actually make it into the Saga game

So who are the characters?

Osric – The Hunter

Osric is the ranger of the party, or an equivalent thereof.  Born the third son of a noble family and promised to the Church of Prios, he had other ideas and ran away from home the night before he was supposed to join a monastery, earning the eternal ire of his family.  Eventually he land in Thistle Hold and,  taking on the name of Osric (not his birth name), until recently he made a quiet living by hunting the creatures of Davokar and selling the pelts and trophies, accompanied by Reave, his faithul pet Jakkar (a sort of large dog  – but not a wolf – native to the forests of Davokar).  Occasionally he would take work guarding some of the trade caravans that travel the roads through Davokar, which is how the adventure party met in the first place.

During my searches for miniatures, I spent a lot of time looking at the Footsore ranges and conquest games, both of whom have some really nice Robin Hood miniatures, however I was really struggling to find something to match it on horseback.  As he uses a Longbow, primarily, finding a mounted longbowman isn’t that easy because Longbows are not really a mounted weapon.  Many of the Horse Archers have a more Eastern look, which wasn’t what I was going for and also isn’t really in keeping with the Ambrian feel.  Eventually I settled for one of the Dunedan Rangers from the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game because there was also a really nice version of Aragorn on horseback that was a great match in terms of its look.  The fact that he uses a sword isn’t a problem because Osric’s backup weapon is a sword (although if he has to use it he’s probably fucked because he’s a bit useless with it).  Finally I managed to get hold of some of the Wolf Hounds from the Footsore Dark Age Irish range and used one of those for Reave.

Osric & ReaveOsric & Reave

Seebor – The Sellsword

Seebor is an uncomplicated kind of guy.  He fights, he gets paid and he likes a drink at the end of a day’s work.  Not wishing to get drawn into the politics of the world, he shares much in common with Osric and the two have formed a friendship and will often be found drinking together whenever they’re in a town.  The two have taken to hunting together seeking larger quarry for greater spoils and in a fight, Osric will often soften targets up for Seebor to finish off.

Seebor favours his axe and a shield and there are in fact a nice number of miniatures out there for this, especially in the Baron’s War range from Footsore.  However I spoke to the player and he said he wanted a more Dark Age look to his model, like a fighter who hasn’t necessarily earned enough to buy the latest in heavy armour.  Luckily I already had in my posession a miniature from Wargames Illustrated – Harald Hardrada – from the Giants in Miniature range that was absolutely perfect.  Finding a nice matching mounted model also wasn’t too hard because although mounted viking miniatures are not really very common, the Sons of Eorl from Middle Earth SBG are a great match.  I managed to find one on eBay so I got the exact one that I was looking for rather than chancing a random one from Games Workshop.  By not using the Green colour scheme of  Rohan, I think the result is really nice.

SeeborSeebor

Koromai – Queen’s Assassin

Koromai is also of Noble birth and is also hiding who he truly is.  Having witnessed his father murder his mother and fearing he was next, he fled his ancestral home.  He has since manged to forge a reputation as a skilled blade and attracted the attention of one of the Queen’s spy masters who have helped him develop his skills even further with the introduction of alchemy.  He now secretly serves the queen whilst plotting his eventual revenge against his father.

This was one of the more difficult miniatures to find, mostly because trying to find lightly armoured (or unarmoured) noble miniatures with either a matching infantry version or that just looks vaguely like another miniature out there was next to impossible.  Well, impossible within the medieval aesthetic, it gets easier the further on in history you get but even rennaisance miniatures felt a little anachronistic.  There were plenty of miniatures to choose from on foot.  Eventually, after a lot of discussion with the player, we eventually settled for the Bard of Laketown miniature from Middle Earth SBG.  It wasn’t really a perfect choice and to be honest, I still keep a look out for possible alternatives but as yet nothing has come up.

KoromaiKoromai

Karin – Mage of the Ordo Magicka

Not much is really known about Karin’s background and she doesn’t really share.  All we know is that she’s a member of the Ordo Magicka.  She is accomanied everywhere by Feynor, her flaming servant, little more than an animated suit of armour filled with fire.  It doesn’t speak or interact in anyway beyond carrying out Karin’s instructions.  Feynor is formidable in and of itself however Karin herself wields the power of flame which she uses to great effect when threatened.

As with Koromai, Karin was quite hard to find a miniature for.  There’s loads of really nice sorceror miniatures especially from the likes of North Star in their Frostgrave range but trying to find a mounted, unarmoured female is actually quite difficult.  There are some but quite often they are nobles and royalty and don’t really look like adventurers.  However I came across a miniature by a company called Elladan miniatures who make some “I can’t believe it’s not the Starks” miniatures and their Mounted Daughter of the North looked like a perfect fit.  I then coupled that with an elementalist from North Star.  Feynoor is actually an old Reaper Bones miniature I had lying around

Karin & FeynorKarin & Feynor

Benedictus – Theurg of Prios

Benedictus is a pious man and has served the church for many years.  Like many priests he spends his time travelling and bringing the light of Prios to the masses – and cleansing holy flame to his enemies.  He is currently undecided about the Heretic, Friar Sarvola, and has not yet picked a side which has earned him some suspicion among his order.  However his devotion to his God is unquestioned and this has put him at odds with his travelling companions from time to time, especially when they face trouble with the Tempar Order or the Black Cloak Inquisitors.

This was one of my favourite models to paint and it didn’t take long to decide what I wanted.  The King Baldwin IV miniature from Fire Forge seemed like a perfect mactch – it looks regal and proud, especially with the cane in the hand of the dismounted version.  The fact that it wears a face mask was also a great fit for the Theurg class. I opted for a different colour scheme that the white that is used by Fireforge and went for a gold and red colour scheme.  I put an emphasis on the Gold rather than the more typical red that is associated with the church of Prios, essentially inverting the colour scheme, just to set him apart both from the Church itself and also from Karin who also wears predominantly red.

BenedictusBenedictus

Queen Korinthia

Queen Korinthia is the head of the Ambrian State however in the lore she is currently old and horridly disfigured following a battle long ago in the Ambrian homeland.  She wears a mask to hide the burns to her face and sits upon her throne brooding and scheming as to how she can find the lost throne of Symbar, the first human empire, and claim it for her own.

When looking for a miniature for this, I decided to go for a younger version of the Queen, how she would have looked 30 or 40 years ago when she was fighting against the Dark Lords in the ancestral lands of the Ambrians.  I made this decision when I saw the Jeanne de Clisson by Bad Quiddo Games.  This is the miniature that will gifted to the GM so that all players have a momento of the game

The Characters

Background - Ambria

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The first faction I am going to look at is Ambria, mostly because in our particular group the story focuses mostly on Ambrians because all of the group chose to be Ambrian.  There’s nothing in the rules that forces this, however because of some of the politics of the world, it can make mixed groups of Ambrians, Barbarians and non-humans more difficult.  It would present some interesting roleplay opportunities, however these can sometimes overshadow the wider adventure.  So we just all agreed to play Ambrians.  There’s also far more lore and artwork depicting Ambria than anything else, certainly in the core book, which kind of steers you towards an Ambria-centric game.

Ambria exists in the south of the game world.  Clearly the world is larger than the map below, however it is strongly implied that the lands south of the mountains are no longer inhabitable, which is why the Ambrians left their homeland of Alberretor and founded of the Kindom of Ambria.  Each of the areas in red text is a Duchy however only major cities are marked on the map, small towns or villages are ignored leaving the GM quite a lot of scope to invent.  Most of the action so far has taken place in the north, at Thistle Hold, which allows easy access to the Forest of Davokar and all of the ruins (and treasures) contained within.

 

 

AmbriaAmbria

While the story of Symbaroum is very much about the Ambrians they are by no means the “good guys”.  They are people who have had to fight to survive and fight they have done.  Their biggest city, Yndaros, is built upon the ruins of the ancient city of Lindaros the capital of a great civilisation that was present in the north around 200 years ago.  That city was destroyed by some kind of plague that all but wiped out the inhabitants leading to a societal collapse.  For the following 200 years, the region was controlled by warring tribes of Barbarians, none of whom dared approach the ruins of Lindraros for over 100 years after its fall.  However by the time the Ambrians arrived, a new settlement had been founded there by one of the Barbarian tribes.  It took the Ambrian’s superior army, with its knights and its war machines and its wizards 3 days to force the Barbarians into submission, making the Kadiz tribe the first of the tribes to fall and be subjugated by the Ambrians.  In but a short period of time, 21 years, the Ambrians have conquered all of the lands between the Titans in the south and the Forest of Davokar in the north.  The Barbarian tribes given the option to either accept Ambrian rule or be destroyed, many being used as labour and slaves to rebuild the Ambrian capital city.  With the new kingdom gradually stabilising, the Queen has turned her attention north, to the forest of Davokar and the legendary lost Throne of Symbaroum, the ancient, first empire.

Ambrian Architecture

Looking at Ambrian architecture, there’s a real mix of older, wooden buildings, wattle and daub and even some stone buildings.  There’s also examples of stone city walls and wooden walls.  In the game world, the wooden buildings and walls are part of a town called Thistlehold, which is a walled, frontier town in the north of the Ambrian Kingdom, right on the southern edge of the forest of Davokar.  However larger settlements, such as Yndaros and the Fortress of Temple Wall have much more “modern” buildings in either wattle and daub or stone.  It creates the impression of a civilisation that is gradually moving from the early medieval period (Norman Conquest) and into the high medieval (Hundred Years War/War of the Roses), for want of better analogies.  This will help to determine miniature selections in the future.

 

Ambrian Society

Ambrian society is split into various institutions and bodies, the three main ones I will describe here.  Obviously there are others such as artisan guilds, labourers etc but they play no role in the politics and governing of Ambria.

  • The Nobility – controls the army
  • The Curia – the governing body of the Church of Prios, the state religion
  • The Ordo Magicka – a body concerned with the study and control of magic

Each of these is further sub-divided, although details on the internal structure of Ordo Magicka is quite vague and is generally just centred around “faculties” with different knowledge specialisms rather than competing interests. So I won’t really dwell on the Ordo Magicka, I shall just share some images of wizards.

The Nobility and the Military

The Nobility, or rather the army, because it’s the military strength that enforces their right to rule, is divided into a number of branches.  The most recognisable and the most numerous is the Queen’s Army, which is a professional army controlled directly by the Queen herself.  The army is generally well equipped with a diverse range of troop types.  There are also the Queen’s Rangers, which are separate organisation whose primary role is to patrol and police the highways of Ambria but also extends into the forest of Davokar to ensure that travellers do not enter the forest without permission, those that have permission do not take anything they should not take and also to try and stave off any attacks from the denizens of the forest.  They are considered to be an “elite” army and are quite small in number, though they are more than adequately equipped for their duties.  In addition to the Queen’s personal forces, there are local armies maintained by the Dukes of each realm and, in feudal fashion, supported by soldiers maintained by local lords and ladies from within their Duchy, who in turn might conscript additional soldiers in the form of levies.  Each town and village also has its own local militia of varying degrees of quality and number, depending on the status of the settlement.  The quality of the local armies will vary greatly from peasant rabble all the way to fully armoured knights.  There’s a few images below to indicate the breadth of  the styles of warriors and although I couldn’t find any of “peasant levy” it stands to reason that they would just look like peasants from a given period of medieval history

The Curia

In addition to the Nobility, the Curia is also split into three very distinct bodies.  There is the Clergy, which represents the priestly classes (also known as Theurgs, Liturgs and a whole host of other roles) and these are most closely identifiable as the Catholic church.  They have similar views, although many of them are justified in the game on the grounds that Demons and Devils (known as the Blighted) are in fact real and must be guarded against.  They even have a “reformist” in their midst by the name of Father Sarvola (why does that name sound familar…) who has, for now, found the Queen’s protection despite being declared Heretic by the church.  Alongside the clergy there are the Templars and they are exactly what you might think – they are a military order whose primary focus is to defend the realm, in the name of Prios on behalf of the church, from external threats.  They are separate from the Queen’s army as they are in theory governed by the Curia and their focus, ostensibly at least, is to protect Ambria from the threat posed by corruption, such as undead and blighted monsters, rather than being a tool of conquest.  However they are highly skilled warriors with excellent equipment the equal of anything in the Queen’s army.  The final branch of the Curia is the Inquisition, known as the Black Cloaks or the Twilight Friars.  The role of this order of monks is the reverse of the Templars – their job is to protect the realm from internal threats.

By this stage I already had some plans forming in my mind about where I wanted to go with Ambria in terms of miniatures.  Rather than opting for Fantasy miniatures, I am leaning more towards the historical with a few fantasy miniatures thrown in just to add some flavour and give a slightly other-worldly feel whilst still being firmly rooted in real life

Some Background

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The world of Symbaroum is a psuedo-medieval setting with many comparisons to real life.  It has some really evocative, watercolour artwork which is truly breathtaking and in part is what has inspired me to start this project, or rather to take the project beyond just a simple set of miniatures for use in an RPG.  What the game doesn’t have is a dedicated set of miniatures to support it so part of the fun of this project will be selecting miniatures that I can use to capture the ambience of the world.

The Inhabitants of Symbaroum

The sentient inhabitants of Symabroum are split into three broad groups;  Ambrians, Barbarians and Elder Races (Elves, Goblins, Ogres etc etc).  These are very broad groups and there is a great deal of variation within each group, however there are many cultural similarities which define the groups.

The Elder Races are a collection of non-human races loosely based on traditional fantasy lines, but always with some weird twist.  Elves for example look like the Elves we know at certain ages but turn into some weird monstrous creature as they age.  I will cover the non-human races at some point in the future

Ancient ElfAncient Elf

The humans are split into two broad factions, although disctinct sub-factions exist within each.  There are the Ambrians, around whom the story seems to focus (although it is possible to play any species or human faction), who are technically invaders from the South who fled north after their homeland was destroyed and the Barbarians who inhabit the forests of Davokar in the north and the plains to the west

The Ambrians have been around for some time and have established several thriving cities and they are very much a medieval faction.   On the other hand the Barbarians are a real eclectic mix that can include anything from woad and tattooed barbarians to dark age vikings or saxons to tribes of nomadic horsemen

As well as the main human and non-human factions and species, the forest of Davokar, where most of the adventures occur, is full of mysterious, dangerous, terrifying and majestic animal life, from spiders to huge bears and boars.  Not to mention bands of undead that linger in the dark places and the ruins.

My mind was absolutely racing with ideas seeing all of this beautiful artwork and reading all of the background and I will be dedicating more posts to the factions to share my thoughts on them and how that influenced decisions about miniatures

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