For me, Vikings are kinda like Romans – always wanted to do an army of them, but was hampered by a) a lack of a decent rules system and b) more importantly, a lack of a decent miniatures range.
Last year, Gripping Beast did what almost every historical minaitures company of any size in the UK did, and produced a box set of multipart/multipose plastic troops, in this case, Hirdmen, the core units of any Viking force. And at an astonishingly low price (just £20 for 44 models).
I was set. Availing myself of their metal range of Vikings to fill in the gaps, Gripping Beast paved the way to a full force of wild Northmen! I built the army along Warhammer Ancients lines, about 2,000 points with room for some options, though I may end up using Hail Caesar for actual games. The full army, assembled on the battlefield, looks like this.
I went for Danes as, well, they were always the hardest and most capable of the Vikings (Norwegians, Swedes and Hiberno-Irish can meet me on the battlefield to settle any dispute there).
These guys are the Ulfhednar, ready to create their own Saga and there are, of course, 12 of them! Filled with the spirit of the wolf, these are a mean bunch of wild warriors that mess around with the enemy as skirmishers with some serious hitting power.
Meanwhile, these chaps are not actually skirmishers but are to be sprinkled around Hirdmen units as points allow – the famed berserkers. They are really one hit wonders in Warhammer Ancients, but will do a serious amount of damage before they go down!
Next up is the core of the army, four units of Hirdmen. Points-wise, they are chuffing expensive in WAB, but you cannot argue with their capabilities. I got hold of Gripping Beast’s extra sheet of Viking banners, as I quickly used up the ones you get free in the Hirdman box set, and I wanted some variety. I could also have gone for the Viking Shield transfers they do, but wanted to paint my own more solid colours. This is actually quite a challenge when you decide to use a limited range of colours and a fixed number of designs, but fancied this would look better than the more intricate designs on the transfers – after all, these are serious warriors who want bold colours on their shields, and not spend time doing fancy designs that would get hacked apart in the first battle!
I polished the army units off with a big block of Bondi (still haven’t worked out the pronounciation of these – Bon-Dee? Bon-Di?). Being metal, they actually cost more than the rest of the army combined but, game-wise, you need a large block of more basic troops as the Hirdmen are all effectively elite. There is also one issue with these metals – they are a slightly larger scale than the plastics, despite having come from the same manufacturer. It is not something you notice until you put them right next to a Hirdmen unit, but slightly irritating nonetheless.
I gave them a larger banner than the Hirdmen because a) the banner bearer could support it, b) they are a larger unit anyway and c) I figured they had something to compensate for after being around the Hirdmen so much. I actually wanted to get Thralls instead (the Hirdmen are the professional warriors, the Bondi the local farmers that get called up by the king, and Thralls are basically slaves), as you can have a unit about twice the size you see here but for the same amount of points, give or take. Yes, they are no way near as good in a fight, but there is method in my madness…
The model on the left is a Godi (Go-Dee? Go-Di?), a Priest of Odin. My tactic here is to put him with the Bondi and make them completely unbreakable. Now consider doing the same with a unit of Thralls 80-odd strong! Just send them towards the enemy’s most lethal units and watch them go. Sure, they will get steadily slaughtered throughout the battle but, so long as the Godi survives, they will never, ever break, meaning the rest of your army (the elite Hirdmen) can quietly chew through the rest of the enemy unhindered by anything close to being their equal.
The other model is the Danish King (the Danes had far fewer blondes than the Scandinavians, due to their closer proximity to the rest of Europe), in a suitably hard pose.
I will probably not add to this army at all, as the Viking army list is not the most extensive around, and I already have everything I need for as decent 2,000 point force. However, never say never. I could possibly use some more Vikings characters, lords and the like, possibly one with a Battle Standard for the whole army (playing with my Romans taught me the value of Battle Standards). And then, of course, there are the Thralls to consider. However, this is only likely if I start playing with the Vikings in a serious way, such as in an extended campaign.
One final point to make here. You may have a wargaming friend that you occasionally buy birthday and Christmas presents for. If this is so, you have probably been restricted to getting them the odd model or unit here and there. This year, make it a really good gift – two Hirdmen box sets will set you back only £40 and give 88 models back. Add in a leader model and maybe some Berserkers, and you will still have spent less than £50. In return, you will be able to give your mate a full 2,000 point army.
If they are serious about gaming, that will probably be the best present they get that year!
Coming up in the next few posts, another Ancients force, what I have been doing with Lord of the Rings models, and a bunch of models I managed to get finished during this week that will form the core of (another) new army.