Thursday, 30 January 2014

In the Shipyards of Dol Amroth

As Breged and Mandracoth have been recruiting heroes to join their quest, the royal shipwrights of Dol Amorth have been busily working on the Glaurung....

I put a lot of thought and internet time into imagining the Glaurung and how to represent it on a table.  I knew from the start that I wanted an actual wargaming piece, something that could be played with, not a model full of intricate detail. Perhaps the most practical solution would have been to make something myself, but I didn't think my modelling skills were up to the challenge, and, frankly, I would rather spend the time painting more miniatures. So, I had to look at ships that were commercially available.

At this point, it was also important to decide what the ship might actually look like. Tolkien doesn’t give much detail about any of the ships of Middle-Earth, so I felt pretty free to make up my own mind. I spent a lot of internet time looking at supposed ships of Middle-Earth, but I kept coming back to one image, a painting by the late, great Angus McBride, which appeared on the old Middle-Earth Role-Playing supplement, Thieves of Tharbad. Great cover.

Of course, the ship pictured here is obviously a merchant vessel of some sort, whereas my Glaurung would be a warship. Generally, warships are longer and narrower than merchant vessels. It seemed to me that a longer, narrower version of the McBride ship would look something like a large Viking longship. Lucky for me, the longship is probably the easiest naval vessel to find for 28mm miniatures.

I looked at a lot of different manufacturers, but none of them seem to have everything I wanted. I wanted a flat bottom, so it could rest on the table. I wanted as few pieces as possible. I wanted the deck to be generally flat and open so that miniatures could easily stand. Finally, I wanted it to be large enough to be impressive and have plenty of room for a lot of figures. I didn’t really expect the ship to hold all thirty of the Glaurung's crew, but I at least wanted enough room for the ten heroes.

After several weeks of searching, I had almost given up. Then I saw the newest issue of Miniature Wargames magazine, which had a really nice article on playing the Viking Wars. This included lots of pictures, including a couple of a longships I had not previously seen, manufactured by Gripping Beast. I’ve ordered figures from Gripping Beast before, but had not thought to check if they had a Viking ship, and strangely it had never come up in any of my searches.

Anyway, yesterday being payday, I ordered one. Amazingly, the ship arrived today, carefully packed. Most of the ship is one single piece of resin. The dragonhead and tail, and a few other details come in metal (as does a dozen or so rowers, which are of no particular use to me at the moment). It’s an impressive piece.

There’s some work to do. First I’ll need to file down some of the extra resin, but this looks pretty minor. I need to decide what to do about the dragon head. I’m not that keen with the one it came with, it looks a little too much like a dog, but I don’t have a specific alternative at the moment. I probably won’t attach most of the detailing, as I don’t want to worry about knocking it off. I'm still pondering what to do about the mast. I'm not sure if I want to just stick in a down to represented it, or make a full sail. The sail would look cooler, but might get in the way of gaming. Also, I'm thinking about adding a small covered room at the back, like the tent on the McBride ship. Again, I don't know if my modelling is really up to it.

So, the shipwrights still have a lot of work to do, but Breged, Mandracoth, Valetha, and a few of the Guards of the Tower have come to see how it’s going.

1 comment:

  1. Fun concept! Looking forward to more on the voyage.

    David S.