Rome’s enemies in the west included the Sarmatians, Germans, British Celts, Scots-Irish, Caledonians, and Dacians, and in the east Armenians, Parthians, Numidians/Moors, Blemmye, and Jews (in revolt). Apart from these the Romans had a nice line in civil wars which could be particularly deadly considering the opponents were both equally highly trained and equipped. In fact the Legionarii sometimes refused to fight each other, which seems eminently sensible to me.
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Some of my most enjoyable historical miniatures projects have involved bringing the painted, tattooed, festooned, striped, and chequered barbarian tribes of Western Europe to life on the gaming table. Whether fighting the advancing might of Rome, doing battle with one another for honour and glory, or looting and raiding villages during the sub-Roman power vacuum, the tribal warriors of the Germanic, Gallic, Celtic, and Pictish cultures conjure very exotic idioms and offer exciting opportunities for creative painting.
DOING IT ALL WRONG:
I will admit that some of the appeal from a practical point of view is that many of these cultures have left us very incomplete or merely suggestively vague records of their own aside from archaeological finds. We are left with the outsider’s points of view of the Greeks and Romans who knew them as contemporaries and much of their data is rife with hyperbole and hypothesis. This means that I can paint with a broad spectrum of colours and wild designs with very little worry that the more pedantic members of our hobby might be able to legitimately argue that I’m “doing it all wrong”.
STRIPES, PLAIDS, AND CHEQUES:
Stripes, plaids, and cheques in clothing, elaborate shield designs, tattoos, and body-paint are what make these types very fun to paint, and very evocative and eye catching on the gaming table. With plaids and tattooing both I aim for thinner blends of colours, fairly gently applied. Striping and war paint I utilize a very stark contrast in colours and crisp lines to make these features jump out. I paint the warriors’ body paint representing either skin blackened with ash and soot, or a bright blue to represent woad or other more opaque pigments of the time. The tattoos are done with a very thin mix of black and blue, with plenty of water to allow the skin tone beneath to show through. I find this helps the tattoos look like they are indeed ink mixed in with the warrior’s flesh, rather than paint lying atop the skin.
In many cultures where the individual warrior was more prominent than a uniformed mass of state troops, the shield was prized as much as symbol of an individual’s right and ability to bear arms as it was for protection while doing so. These cultures thus lend themselves well to painting unique and individual shields with icons from nature, totems, and tribal motifs that one can imagine being special to the bearer in particular.
In addition to what these warriors wear and carry is the fact that they don’t often do much of either, and are regularly partially, if not totally bereft of clothing and armour. This leads to much good practice on painting flesh tones! Several of the warriors shown here are done in a quick five-layer method I use for my more rapid production figures. I use the same three colours in that method as I do when painting in a less hurried manner. The smoother and more gently shaded figures are simply done with more layers each a smaller step toward the next paint colour in the triad.
What would a collection of figures from the cultures of Farmer-Warriors be with out some animals to herd, protect, and steal? I find painting livestock a great break from working on hordes of humans. Their hides and fur require different treatment from painting people, like lots of dry-brushing, and I appreciate the versatility that painting them requires of me. It also has to be said that nicely painted farm animals, wild animals, and pets can add an additional facet of realism and depth to a collection that most any miniatures aficionado is bound to appreciate.
Flesh: shade layer, BAY BROWN 42B; then FLESH 5B; highlight CANVAS 8B mixed with BASE SAND LIGHT 10C.
Ash War Paint: shade layer, BLACK 34A; and then CHARCOAL BLACK 34B; highlight CHARCOAL BLACK 34B mixed with WHITE 33C.
Woad: shade layer, DEEP BLUE SHADE 20A mixed with BLACK 34A, then DEEP BLUE SHADE 20A, highlight with DEEP BLUE 20B mixed with SKY BLUE 21B.