Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mediaeval Cogs...

Every now and then a serendipitous discovery leads one down fascinating and exciting paths. Years ago, looking out for sources of buildings for wargames, I found copies of Usborne's books - Mediaeval Village, Sea Port and Roman Fort. There are others.

But the sea port included a feature I had not altogether expected: a 3-D paper sea-going vessel. There were a couple of 'flat' small craft as well - always good for a diarama - but it was this cog-type vessel that took my fancy.

There it is in the back cover depiction of the Sea Port completed: lying to against the the mole, or breakwater.

As you can see by this plan, I never did build the model in the book - though I will one day. I went one better. Using it as my template, I made one up using different materials...

... and here it is. The masts were lollipop sticks (Chup-a-chups, probably. I don't have much of a sweet tooth myself, but have been fortunate in my choice of family members...). Sails: tissue paper, chosen for their lack of stiffness compared with other types. The sails were criss-crossed with brown or black cotton. I didn't bother with rigging, but it could have been added with a little trouble.

The whole vessel was painted with enamels, acrylics and/or water colours as the mood took me. The shields draped about the fore- and after-castles, in order to lend them a military look, were made up in strips, with the designs in pen and felt-tip markers.

The bases were as prescribed for DBM 15mm scale. Given their derivation from the Usborne books that employ a broadly similar scale, they could probably have been crewed with 15mm figures as well, though I suspect 10mm would look better. All the same, these are not large vessels!

Having built one, I had to build more. A certain wargaming buddy was using Mediaeval Germans at the time, and wanted 3 cogs as his naval contingent.

This next cog was something of an experiment in building up the hull with strips of cardboard as strakes laid 'clinker fashion' with the upper edge of each strake oberlapping the next upper strake. Unfortunately the close-up picture showing this didn't come out, so I can't show it...

The thing wasn't an unqualified success by any means, yet the finished article looked OK. I gave that vessel the shields of a single sponsor that favoured a quartered argent and sable design.

The final vessel was slightly larger than the other two, but the overall design was the same. The foremast was raked forward slightly; the mizen slightly aft. I quite liked the look of this one.

Finally: some pictures to show how a fleet can be more exciting to look at than a single ship...

The next close-up was really just an arty shot to show foresails, forecastles and the ocean trodden by the three cogs in line abreast. The bases were simply painted, though a little sand laid out in ridges by way of a wake would have looked pretty good, I reckon.

With flags and pennons fluttering gaily in the breeze, one can well imagine the order of Edward the Third to his ship's captain: 'I wish to tilt with that one!'


  1. These look delightful, sir. Very nice. Thank you.

    -- Jeff

  2. A certainly fascinating topic. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Impressive models, again Ion. I'm sure they would add much to the visual aspects of the game. It is a shame DBM, or indeed DBMM, is not played frequently at the club these days.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, guys.
      It is also unfortunate in this case that the Mediaeval German army for which these were made hasn't seen the light of day for well over 12 years. But I did want to show these off, as I recalled that I rather liked them.

      They are quite easy to make and something similar would be just the thing for campaigns with a potential naval element such as the DBA campaign recently shown on Tim's Wargaming Blog.

  4. Yep they are pretty. v Its been years since I made a card model... where did I put that La Haye Saint....

  5. My dear Archduke:

    I really love these cogs. They are nicer than other home made models I've seen. I think the inspiration of using the Usborne book as a template was brilliant. I still have some of the Usborne medieval village buildings in boxes somewhere. Usborne does nice stuff.
    Cheers, Mike

    1. I agree, Mike -
      They make fine buildings that are great for wargames. These mediaeval buildings I reckon are good for anything up to about 1700. The Roman Fort, obviously intended for a permanent garrison, is quite a good piece, too, especially if you're into campaigns and want a Roman base depot.