Only recently have I finished the next unit for my Habsburg army. What can I say? Never thought it would take me so long to build a (Basic) Impetus force, which looks rather small on paper. Somehow I lost some verve last year and haven’t fully recovered yet. Thus it was clearly the better option to restart with an all-new and, at the same time, tiny unit. Added to that, the figures used here first and foremost sparked my interest in the whole range.
Anyway, enough of the fuss, on with pictures:
Obviously, here we have some skirmishers. The army list I’m using allows for one base of handgunners, and to me they are quite iconic for this period of experimenting with new tactics. Handheld guns were employed in European warfare as early as the beginning 14th century. The earliest surviving example from Germany is the so-called „Tannenbergbüchse“. It was excavated at a small castle in Hessen, which had been razed in 1399. So it seems very likely that the Habsburgs would have been able to obtain handguns in 1386 as well.
Commonly a handgun consisted of a small barrel mounted on a wooden staff. The pole could be pushed into the ground or held underarm or like a modern panzerfaust. Before the invention of a trigger mechanism a second man was needed to ignite the gunpowder. Though being very slow to reload and dangerous to the fireteams themselves, handguns were cheap to produce and quite easy to handle. In early times the metal pieces were made of bronze, and therefore the steel barrels portrayed here might be a bit too advanced. However, in the famous German Bellifortis manuscript, dating from around 1400, a handgun is pictured in the same colour as the firing soldier’s steel armour. That said, if this remains the only evidence I’m probably going to change the colour later anyway.
Many people playing Impetus seem to deploy as few models as possible. Bases of skirmishers in particular are prone to this practice. Personally I’m still undecided, if I was comfortable with two or three models representing a whole unit. Of course, that’s just me. With the handgunners I saw the opportunity to set up a little diorama instead. I remembered an intriguing vignette provided by the Perrys in their Samurai range: It shows a noble warrior reaching out for an arquebus, which in turn is presented to him by one of his retainers. I quite like the idea of a progressive-minded nobleman trying his hand at new military developments. (By the way, that’s an image Emperor Maximilian I would cultivate for himself a hundred years later.) I found an expedient miniature in Charles d’Albret (sorry, chap!) from the French High Command at Agincourt. His heradlry was removed and his tabard repainted in the colours of House Schnewlin. The Schnewlin (or Snewlin) were patricians from the city of Freiburg im Breisgau; two of them were killed at Sempach. As city dweller I could imagine them being more liberal towards such ‚unchivalrous’ weaponry like guns.
Picking up the thread I gave the common soldiers some urban heraldry – a red cross for Freiburg, black and yellow for Schaffhausen. Both cities contributed to Leopold’s army in 1386, and as municipal authorities are always struggling with finances, sending some inexpensive handgunners is a likely way to go.
That concludes the story so far. If you have any comments or questions, please come forward. Also, suggestions what Impetus unit should be next are very welcome! Hopefully I’ve taken up some steam again. But first, to my backlog of things to get finished.
Painted May to June 2011. Models by Perry Miniatures.