Early Saxon Army In A Week

A new wargaming project can have one of several results. It can be a glorious addition to your ever growing collection, a poorly painted, disappointing blot on the hobby landscape or worst of all a box of treasures consigned to the ever growing pile of stuff that has been earmarked ‘to paint’. As a hobbyist who has made a habit of always having far too many amazing figures in that final bracket and a graveyard of unopened boxes nagging at my conscience every day, I was determined that my next army would not fall to the same miserable fate. So after ordering my brand spanking new Early Saxon Skirmish Warband, I set myself the somewhat ambitious goal of completing the whole lot, from bare metal to ready for the battlefield, in a week. Not as easy as I thought……

The Early Saxon Warband is a perfect starting point for someone wanting to explore the new Aetius and Arthur saga army list, a leader and four core units to provide you with a solid four point army with which to get started. My army arrived on the same day as the accompanying shield and banner transfers I’d ordered from Little Big Men Studios, and I set about getting my project underway. The army consists of a Saxon Warlord and his attendant Banner Bearer, suitably resplendent in the finest armour available and two figures I had wanted to paint since first laying eyes on them a long time ago. They are joined by two four-man units of Thegns (which count as Hearthguard units for Saga) – spear wielding, chainmail clad brutes ready to defend their Lord and punish his foes. The set is finished off with two eight-man units of Fyrd – unarmoured spearmen comprising the bulk of the force and giving you two solid units of warriors for your Saga battles.

Unpacking the box and cleaning the figures up, I was happily impressed by the lack of flash and minimal mould lines on the figures themselves, whilst being equally happy with the range of figures in the set that ensured my units would not look too similar on the battlefield. After a few hours spent cleaning up and basing the figures, a black spray undercoat had them ready for day two and the beginning of the basecoats.

I grew up as a Warhammer painter and had the discipline (and lack of money!) to be content painting figures one at a time, completing one blister pack of minis whilst saving up for the next one. Batch painting was never even a thought for me, but the benefits certainly became more obvious as I moved on to larger and larger projects. I’d recently finished my Late Romans (featured in my last article) using the same method, so decided to stick with the same formula.

Over the black basecoat, I gave all the figures a solid drybrushing with silver to highlight all the metal areas - armour, buckles, rings, sword and scabbard parts, which makes the rest of the model much easier. I then painted the flesh areas (26 faces and 52 hands over the course of a couple of hours and my vision began to blur) which brought me to the end of day two.

Day three saw the boots, pouches and spearshafts all done in various shades of brown, before beginning work on some of the large cloth areas. I tried to stick to the colours from the excellent demo figures on the Footsore website, with the mix of pale, natural tones a good representation of the natural dyes that would have been available at the time. Finishing the trousers, cloaks and tunics took me through to the end of day four, and the figures were really starting to come to life.

Day five was “beards and hair morning”, various tones to offer enough variety whilst being realistic, and I began work on the shields in the afternoon, firstly applying a white basecoat before adding the shield transfers over the top.

Day six I began to panic that I wouldn’t get finished – there still seemed so much to do. The morning was spent starting the bases – I use Army Painter basing materials and began with their Brown Battlefield gravel to start with, before spending the afternoon checking through all the models and painting over any slips or bits I had missed (including, unbelievably, two pairs of trousers), before giving all the figures a liberal dark brown wash and leaving them to dry overnight.

Day seven came and I had plenty of little finishing off jobs to do. I started by completing the bases – I used a mix of flowers and tufts to add some colour and match the figures up with the Late Romans they will soon be battling. Next task was completing the shields, painting the metal bosses before carefully completing the rims in colours to match the transfers. Gluing them to the figures they began to feel complete, and as early afternoon came I took my foot off the gas a little as I applied the excellent standards to the warlord and banner bearer and sat back to look at a job well done.

I’m delighted with the outcome. They’re far from ‘pro-painted’ as so many eBay listings will claim, but I’m happy with how they look and the figures were an absolute pleasure to paint, as I’ve found all Footsore minis have been in the past. This month, I’ll be adding to the force by picking up a unit of 12 Early Saxon archers to give my spearmen some missile support, and another point of Warrior Fyrd with 8 of the Young Saxon Warriors. I’m going to mix these in with my current warrior units to add even more figure variety to them, and those extra units will bring me up to a solid six-point Saga force. While the new recruits are getting trained (painted) up for war, we’ll see how my new army stand up to the challenge on the battlefield as they try to carve out a new kingdom for themselves on the British shores. I’m looking forward to taking these guys out onto the battlefield and seeing how they stack up with a new Aetius and Arthur campaign, they have a date on the battlefield with some Romans and possibly a horde of marauding Picts…..

And as a final thought, never let 8 year old daughters near your gaming table, or cantankerous droids might lay waste to your forces in double quick time…… thanks to Seren for the Star Wars invasion……



Author: Carl Marsden

I'm a writer based in York, UK and have been painting and wargaming for the last 25 years.

My main project currently is Saga, fuelled by an (un)healthy history obsession and the occasional drift into Malifaux and Guildball. 


Andy Hobday

WoooW! Thats great!

Andy Hobday

Which brand of brown wash did you used ? Great result for speed painting.

Andy Hobday

Chris – thanks very much I’m glad you enjoyed it – I had a lot of fun with this and hope you do when your guys arrive, good luck! My twitter is @CarlMarsdenUK if you want to ping me some progress pictures!

Argonor – I find the block colours/wash method a pretty good mix in terms of getting a good result whilst being very economical time-wise. spending several hours at a time painting the same colour and area of an army can be soul destroying so I might switch it up next time and have a go at your method – thanks! Glad you liked the article and thanks for the feedback!

Andy Hobday

I’m curious, what brand of brown was did you use ? The result look great for quick batch painting.

Andy Hobday

Love it! Thanks for the tutorial! One thing I noticed: some of the models have upside-down spears. The ones with their hands up would have down pointed spears to be able to stab at faces or up and over shields.

Andy Hobday

An excellent and inspirational article. I’ve been meaning to do a Saxon army, like this, for a while. I’ve just ordered all the necessaries and will use this article to drive me on.

BTW have you considered using a different combination of grey text against a white back ground. I find it quite ‘hard’ to read and ended up highlighting all the text so that I could do so comfortably.

Andy Hobday

Very nice report/log – I am currently painting a SAGA Viking warband, also using the short-cut of a shading wash on blocked in colours, and like the results I get. I am not batch-painting as such, though, preferring to be able to ‘tick off’ minis as finished along the way. Has taken me somewhat longer than a week though, but I am nearing a full six points by now.

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