Thursday, February 4, 2016

Entry #11 to AHPC VI - Two Mercenary Forces Spanning 500 Years, 1503 / 2003

Ever since the beginning of America's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, I've had a deep fascination regarding the debate surrounding Private Military Contractors (PMCs). 

I've read several books and journal articles on the subject and my own opinion is varied, but generally negative. On one hand I understand the shell game governments play when hiring military contractors. The use of PMCs allows governments to reduce their official military footprint while still providing themselves with a substantial force to utilize in a variety of situations. Nonetheless, the fact remains that PMCs are not soldiers of a nation state, but rather are beholden to their companies first, to their contracts second and everything else follows in varying degrees of importance. In many instances this pecking order has ended in tragedy, underlying the morally nebulous, and violent, world they work in

Of course, the most famous of these companies is Blackwater Worldwide which was created and owned by ex-SEAL, Erik Prince. I recently finished Prince's autobiography, 'Civilian Warriors' which puts forward his personal perspective on the PMC industry, and the media frenzy which besieged his company. While I am sympathetic to several aspects of his story, I did find it bemusing how Prince bobs and weaves with his argument that Private Military Contractors should not be equated with the pejorative term: 'Mercenary'.  Rather Prince believes that he and his industry should be considered no different than the 'dashing' soldiers-for-hire and privateers of history, much like Lafayette and James De Wolf. Soldiers-for-hire? Privateers? Mercenaries? To me, Prince is splitting hairs. All of these are cut from the same cloth. It's true that being defined as a mercenary currently denies a host of rights, both on and off the battlefield, but let's face it, for all intents and purposes PMC's ARE mercenaries - just the same as the Condottieri were in late medieval Italy and David Stirling's WatchGuardInternational was in the 1960s. The only difference is that PMCs of today have a corporate sophistication that a 16th century condottieri would find mind boggling.

Anyway, enough about all that. Let's talk about toy solders. :)  

What we have here are two groups of mercenaries, spanning 500 years, one from 1503 and the other from 2003.

First up are several contemporary contractors, or 'operators' in a mix of civilian and military gear. These are 28mm figures from Eureka Miniatures, sculpted by the very talented Kosta Heristanidis. I really like these models. They're well cast and have a great sense of animation. The other thing I really appreciate is that their weapons are slightly upscaled, giving them more of a presence (and sturdiness) that is lacking from some other modern ranges.

I've kept the palette fairly muted, only introducing a pop of colour here and there with cap, t-shirts and optics. Pretty straightforward stuff.

But iyou want colour, we have it in spades with these Swiss mercenaries from the canton of Bern.  

First up is a command stand featuring a huge (no, really, I mean HUGE) brown bear. Bern has a bear as part of its heraldry, and apparently in one of the period manuscripts there is one depicted in battle, mauling some poor French sod. Being that it is a big wild animal I thought I'd add a doughty halberdier to help keep the beast moving in the right direction. The canton's banner is from Pete's Flags. It's a beautiful piece of work, being printed on tight-weave fabric, but I inadvertently rubbed away some of the inkjet transfer when I was working with it so I had to retouch a good bit of it with brush and paint. Nonetheless, I still quite like it and look forward to using more of his flags in the future.

This halberd unit started it's service last year as group of twelve figures. At the time I chose to base them in threes on 40mm round basesthinking we'd use them primarily for skirmishing rules such as 'Lion Rampant'. 

As things often turn out, we found that while 'Lion Rampant' was good fun, we actually preferred 'Pike and Shotte' for our Italian Wars fixSubsequently, I found that the original twelve figures were a bit too weedy to be a respectable unit for P&S, so I decided to re-base the lot and add another four figures to bring it more up to snuff.

After my experiment with Simon's (aka BigRedBat) excellent irregular-edged bases for my crossbowmen, I decided to ask the good folks over at Warbases to make me a whole mob of them in various sizes. The singlbase shown here is roughly 180mm x 60mm, which is more than enough room to accommodate my existing 4 bases of halberdiers plus a few new additions. (I decided to be lazy and just glue them on the new base and shape the groundwork around them.)

Three new recuits for the unit...

 ...and this red-helmeted horn player (hornist?) was conscripted at the 11th hour to add a bit more mass and colour.

And here is a group shot of the redux halberdier, my recent crossbowmen and the 'Bear of Bern' command stand.

Thanks very much for persevering through this inordinately long post - I hope you have a great day!