Sunday 6 March 2022

Der Verlorene Haufen: All Aboard the Arquebus!

Kurt Todeswunch was awake before his adjutant burst in to the tent - perhaps he had never actually slept. How was one to know where the border between dream and reality was in this accursed place.

"Sir - reports of movement along the line, just in from the forward pickets. They say the woods have come alive!"

Kurt silenced the panicky Captain with a glare. What new devilry was this?

February has been a busy month, as it usually is being that little bit shorter! My plans have changed a few times these past few weeks but looks like I've escaped the Field of Bones once more. I had originally intended getting most of my missile troops painted up, in the form of the Hakbutschutsen and my cannon. However, I was still short of one gun (namely the Death Bell from the Bruegelberg) so I decided to postpone the artillery to bring up the rear in the baggage train I have planned for my Wild Card month later in the year. 

There have been other distractions too. A small painting commission that was needed for a game in March for a good friend, who is having to relinquish his painting brush due to eye problems. 

I'll no doubt give them their own blog post once I've based them up and handed them over to Stuart when we meet on the battlefield later in the month! They've certainly given me a nice change of pace with some lovely Nippon and Hobgoblin miniatures I likely would not have had the chance to paint otherwise so quite nice really!

There was however the root of an idea for a new unplanned unit, which had also been worming its way in to my head for some time, which finally decided to bear fruit this month - or should I say root vegetables...

Staring fiercely in to the dark, Ebenholz cursed yet again at her lot. Keep the powder dry, keep the powder safe - yet there was barely enough for one good fusillade, and to be relegated to guard duty... They were as old dogs, toothless but with perhaps enough bark in them to raise the alarm. This was not what she had envisaged for her Schwarze Haufen when she signed up for the punitive expedition in to Sylvania. Perhaps she should have listened to her superstitious Sergeant and his misgivings about setting foot in witch-haunted Sylvania. 

They had been promised good hunting and she still relished the prospect of bringing down whatever God these deluded heretics had brought in to her world. That would surely be a trophy to prove her worth to all her doubters. Estranged from her noble birthright and mocked openly for daring to follow her military ambitions, Ebenholz had even found herself accused of witchery thanks to the uncanny nature of her accuracy with an arquebus. A rustle and the crack of a rotten branch snapped her out of her cold fury. She and her men looked on in horror as the dank and moss covered undergrowth of the forest floor heaved and slowly coalesced in to the looming shapes of armoured warriors. Slowly and inexorably, festooned with matted, lank sward and ferns, they loomed out of the mist bringing the mildewed stench of the dark woods with them...

Some of you may be familiar with the phenomenon (and rules set/world/artistic vision/et al) of Turnip 28. It's certainly caught my imagination since I came across it and I really felt the aesthetic would fit in with my creepy Empire army! For the uninitiated, Turnip 28 is a weird and beautiful mix of Post-Apocalyptic root vegetables and napoleonics. You really have to find out for yourself but for me it just screams Ian Miller and I love the creepy mixture of man, vegetable and the hodge-podge of historical strife. Along with the Napoleonics, I'm getting hints of the Medieval and pretty much any war from the 1400's onwards to World War 1 - if only for the mud soaked wasteland that the game is set in. Anyhow, I decided to twist this deliciously twisted concept to fit my Oldhammer army! I present to you, the Wæpenbora un−læd ðone as Môs, or the Knights of the Moss (according to my online Olde English translator).

Whether a lost patrol who have lost their way in more ways than one in the twilight glades of Sylvania, or the unfortunate victims of some strange enchantment, doomed to fight on till the moss and rust overtake them is unclear. Even though I've borrowed the look from Turnip28, it is the ancient forests of that benighted county that have invaded the minds and bodies of these poor souls, rather than insidiuos root vegetables. Though not inherently evil it is more a case of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" in terms of their alliance with Todeswunch's expedition. Either way, they've scratched an itch for me and I'll definitely be delving in to the world of the Root again!

They were pretty fun to build too - a mix of parts from various Perry Miniatures medieval and Napoleonic sprues along with (Oh the heresy!) some 3D printed armoured torsos off Etsy! Of course liberal doses of crackle medium, Typhus Corrosion and oil paint washes were applied along with Vallejo's European thick mud - oh and some tufts, weeds and a few bits of old heather! I'm really enjoying all this weathering and I could really go to town on these chaps.

Another itch this unit has scratched is that of having different armaments in the same unit. They are primarily a pike block, albeit a small one, but with some arquebusiers on the wings. I've no idea how effective they are as a unit in Warhammer 3rd edition, but the idea has always appealed to me. I had toyed with the idea of also making them foresters (if only for the ability to move through woods without penalty) as per the 3rd ed. rules for specialists but ran out of time to look in to how overpowered that might make them as a unit - fitting as it might be for their background or lack of it! 

I had various ideas about banners for them - many inspired by the root (or the grain ;)!) However, my attention was grabbed by a  particular piece by an artist called Kate O'Hara, who had been commissioned to do the artwork for an album called Dust Bunny, by a band called Twink. I rather liked the naturalistic elements and cycle of life and death it depicts.

Now a group who advertise themselves as a toy piano band, whilst not automatically disqualifying themselves from my interest on that basis, might not have caught my eye as inspiration for a folk horror, nasty ass Empire army - but they did! I think a few tracks from the album create that kind of mysterious atmosphere - the rest just help me get to sleep at night! Probably been watching too much Adventure Time too, which has allowed this much "cutesiness" to creep in to my Grimdark army! XD

Right, enough of that - back to the existential wrestle with Death! I had the misfortune of studying Chaucer at university, or at least until I realised what a savage he was! One of the lasting images seared in to my brain after reading the Canterbury Tales was of a bunch of monks scurrying out of the Devil's arse! The friar who is the main protagonist of the Summoner's Tale descends into hell and not seeing any other friars there believes they are all such goodly men that they have escaped damnation. However, the angel who accompanies him says to Satan:

Hold up thy tayl, thou Sathanas!' quod he;

'Shewe forth thyn ers, and lat the frere se

Where is the nest of freres in this place!'

I digress, however, and it was a small excerpt from the Knight's Tale that also helped inspire this unit -

Fields have their eyes, and forests have their ears.

It’s well to be upon one’s guard, I mean,

Since all day long we meet the unforseen.

The text on the smaller banner for the unit is another fitting quote from the Knight's tale from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Not only are these knights almost literally the eyes and ears of the fields and forest but they also seemed doomed to tread the earth as sorrowful pilgrims, looking for that escape from worldly pain.

This world is but a thoroughfare of woe

And we are pilgrims passing to and fro.

Death is the end of every worldly sore.

I also quite liked the larger themes the tale deals with - I won't turn this in to an English Literature lesson, but the main characters both get what they want, albeit ironically. Having both fallen in love with a lady, Emilie, who they see from the window of their prison, having been incarcerated by Theseus, the two brothers, Palamon and Arcite, either after escaping or being set free, go on to suffer differing fates. Palamon wins Emilie's love but loses the battle to Arcite; Arcite wins the battle but loses his life and thus Emilie. Out of this mayhem, justice is reestablished, and each man gets what he asks for...

Had it been skeletal or rotting remains that had suddenly risen from the loam, then the response would have been instant. As it was, strangely, hands were stayed from reaching for their powder and lips from blowing on their fuses and a sonorous voice rang out,

"Stay youre hands yf friends ye be. Yf ye seke the poison that does afflict the land thanne we should offer up oure weapons and brothers be."

With that, rusted swords and pikes were lowered and the figures stopped their advance. Ebenholz sent runners with the news and steeled herself to endure the following silence with the dour knights of the woods.

Ebenholz Heckenschütze's Schwarze Haufen are a mercenary unit that has had many dealings with Kurtz Todeswunch over the years. Denied an ordinary career in the Empire's military, Ebenholz has found both renown and regular employ in Kurtz's various expeditions. Her arquebusiers are fiercely loyal to her, hailing from the sort of walks of life that even the Imperial Army would turn its nose up at. 

Lady Ebenholz was slightly inspired by Lady Eboshi, from Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke. She was just the kind of ambiguously good/bad character that I wanted, of course being rather handy with a firearm too. 

Eboshi's desire to kill the Forest Spirit in order to bring security to her people fitted in quite nicely to the narrative of hunting down the Cult and their New Colossus. I think I intended on giving her black hair but she went ginger instead - I quite liked the contrast with the colours of the unit's uniforms!

The unit is mainly made up of Foundry miniatures from their 16th Century Renaissance range, along with an old ex-Citadel favourite! I had intended to paint them up in a similar scheme to the Roundhead soldiers seen in Witchfinder General, but the colour scheme didn't work so well with their period dress.

Instead, I was rather taken with these dashing fellows - no idea what unit or regiment they might represent as they're referred to only as German Lance Soldiers in the image below. 

I had considered assigning them to the famous Black Band - a mercenary regiment often described as “Landsknechts” and as “renegades” who refused to return to the Empire when recalled by the emperor Maximilian I. However, I believe a certain fellow OWAC'er has already snagged that name, so I went with Der Schwarze Haufen (The Black Heap). For some reason the historical background of that unit somewhat appealed to me - In 1515, the Black Band sacked the village of Pier Gerlofs Donia, killing his kinsfolk and burning down his farm at Donia estate, Kimswerd. Donia then formed an army, the Arumer Black Heap together with his nephew Wijard Jelckama and threw the landsknechts out.

As you might tell, I'm rather enjoying my banners and I feel they're an important element in telling the story of a regiment. Der Schwarse Haufen have nicked there's from a lovely mural that can be found in the Italian town of Clusone and thought to be painted by Borlone. The piece is entitled The Triumph and Dance of Death - a common theme to be found in this particular project!

I had really just been searching for cool images of skeletons wielding arquebuses as inspiration for the banner but was very happy to find this artwork! There's obviously a lot of religious symbolism going on and I gather that the text in the cartouches is about how innocent men have nothing to fear from judgement, etc. I decided, however, on a slightly more succint motto - Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.

I'm not sure I'll hurry back to painting any more puff and slash to be honest and hats off to folk who do it so well! This lot were a bit fiddly!

Again my muddy, disheveled theme has saved me a lot of work with these chaps although with this lot being a proud mercenary unit (if brought a little low by their current circumstances) I figured I shouldn't get too slap happy with the Vallejo European mud and oil paint washes! Of course, having gone traditional with their uniforms, that does mean I might have to purchase some actual ECW miniatures (some lovely stuff from Bloody Miniatures) to replicate the Witchfinder General colour scheme - a must for this army...

Kurt gave Ebenholz a terse nod as he strode in to the clearing. This soon changed to a warning glare as the general watched her hand move fitfully to the firing mechanism of her arquebus. Without a word the strange knights rose as one. Seeming to take Kurtz's tacit warnig to his subordinate as an acceptance, the Knights of the Moss filed slowly out of the forest and began taking up positions on the line. Kurtz had certainly had some unconventional allies in the past but these grim soldiers of a bygone era were something else. He just hoped the murmuring and disquietude that rippled among his men at the unnatural appearance of their new comrades wouldn't turn to outright fear and hostility...

Well that's it for this month -I have a big queue in line for painting for March so hope to see you all on the other side!

18 Habutscutzen - Der Schwarze Haufen 206

L10 Hero (light armour, arquebus, pistol, hand weapon), standard, arquebus, hand weapons

20 Ersatzsolder - Knights of the Moss - Wæpenbora un−læd ðone as Môs             278

L10 Hero (Heavy armour, pistol, hand weapon), standard, musician, heavy armour, pikes, arquebus, hand weapons


  1. This is all insanely good. They are full of charm and personality. What an awesome force!

  2. Great ideas and painting job.

    1. Thanks Jaeckel! Got some more traditional horror inspired stuff coming this month!

  3. First of all, apologies for being a bit lazy and not commenting on the latest posts, but we are eagerly following the progress in building Todeswunch’s army. We love how you manage to intertwine narrative dimension and painting work, drawing inspiration from many disparate sources and thus making the background of your miniatures rich: truly a source of inspiration, which we hope to imitate soon!
    This specific project appears very attractive to us with its dose of nihilism and attraction for death. We couldn't miss this time, as we are fantasizing for our next projects to focus on black powder.
    Fantastic the two units and the story you built for them. In particular, we were impressed by the unit of the Schwarze Haufen and the image chosen for the standard. Although we are passionate about medieval art, we had completely forgotten about the skeleton with the harquebus in the fresco of Triumph of Death in Clusone (we will have to go and see it in person soon!). A perfect iconographic reference, and the temptation to copy it in the future is so strong ...
    I hope you don't mind if we point out two other details that further enrich your already rich substratum of your arquebusiers.
    1) The cartouche next to the skeleton with the harquebus speaks specifically of equality ("equaleza") of men in the face of death, so even the powerful and the rich who offer gifts to death will not be saved by it. In a different sense, regarding a woman like Lady Ebenholz who chooses a military career and commands a unit of arquebusiers despite sexist discrimination, it seems to us that she claims equality, even in the face of the danger of death in battle.
    2) Even the different motto chosen for the banner and taken from the Latin version of Genesis actually introduces a pun that I don't know if it was wanted by you: the one relating to the word "pulvis", which in Latin (unlike of the English) indicates both "gunpowder" (pulvis niger) and simple "dust". So curious that it becomes the motto on a banner of arquebusiers, isn't it?
    We look forward to the next post on this precarious expedition, on the razor's edge between life and death (and beyond death) ...

  4. No apologies needed! As nice as comments are to receive, I've always intended this blog as a way of documenting my hobby - the fact that folk want to read and leave comments is a lovely bonus! I'd extend that apology back to you and various other bloggers I follow - I tend to get rather caught up in these projects and often neglect to go through my reading list to see what others are up to. Your Old World project is looking great and I love the elegy you used in your last post!

    I've said it before but narrative for me is central to any army I paint and it's been really fun to bring a lot of literary elements in to this project and the Cult of the New Colossus I painted last year. I had to do a term of 16th Century literature as part of my English Literature degree (many years ago!) which I'd wrongly assumed would be really boring. Thankfully I had an excellent tutor in Jonathan Dollimore - I'd highly recommend his book "Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture - a lot of the course was centred around those themes. Much of the literary background used for this army is taken from that and other texts I studied for that term. The themes of nihilism and obsession with death I wanted to use as a counterpoint to the blind religious mania of the Cult of the New Colossus I painted last year. The so-called "good guys" of the Empire are really just the other side of the coin to the Cult they hunt - just with a different obsession.

    I'm very jealous of you being able to go see the Triumph of Death in the flesh (or lack of!) and I'd love to see your version of it and your forays in to black powder! I had read a little of the actual translation of that cartouche - Death as the Great Leveller and the equality of all men (and women!) in the face of Death is definitely an important strand in the overall theme I'm going for but I was running out of time to get my entry in for the end of the month! Hence the easy way out with the more straightforward latin motto! You're right about Ebenholz's quest for equality - not something I'd consciously tried to depict in her banner but I like the parallel you've drawn there! I might go even further in that she sees herself as something of a great leveller with her firearms and the rich and powerful who are depicted grovelling before death on her banner are representative of her contempt for those who would hire her with gold and those she is hired to fight against - for all their finery and influence, they all meet the same fate in the end.

    As for the pun you point out - a very happy accident, much as I would like to claim it was intended! Thanks for enlightening me!

    Todeswunsch's (my German was corrected on Facebook - much appreciated!) expedition does indeed tread that razor's edge and although next month's instalment doesn't transcend this mortal coil, future entries may well cross that dark line...

  5. Hi Thansants! I just wanted you to know that I have been reading your blog over the last couple of years and absolutely love it. I've also been inspired in many ways (I've started a Dragon Rampant campaign based on the siege of Vymorna setting from Fighting Fantasy). I see you haven't posted for a while but do please keep up and I hope all is well. Cheers, Ted.

    1. Thanks Ted - apologies, your comment got missed in the pile of spam in my comments awaiting moderation pile! Your siege campaign sounds great - always loved Battleblade Warrior and the Lizardmen have always been a favourite Fighting Fantasy bad guy for me! I'm slowly getting back to resurrecting the blog - got a few more posts to edit to finish off the Verlorene Haufen series and then on to new pastures hopefully...