Ah Swindon how I have missed thee.
Let me count the ways...
It has become my practice on these jaunts to bring some soldiers with me, Napoleonics, Saxons, a mix of Africans and GIs and some Warhammer Empire troops have all found their way into my luggage.However, this time a more convoluted itinerary meant I was travelling lighter than usual so I restricted myself to bringing some models I could stick together rather than burdening myself with paints and brushes.
I picked up the Gripping Beast plastic Arabs at Salute, and decided they'd make an ideal assembly project for this trip.
But before we get to the sticking together part of the equation what do you get for your £22?
Well you get a very nice yellowish box.
One that is completely stuffed with soldiers.
You get 8 identical sprues, each of which will make five Arabs with a variety of headgear and a selection of weapons.
You also get a sprue of 20mm bases.
And a very basic assembly sheet.
There are five bodies on each sprue, so 40 complete models can be made from the kit, which makes it pretty good value for money.
Each of the sprues has two bow arms and quivers, together with a pair of empty "firing"right arms so you can assemble up to 16 archers from the set.
Of the five spear arms, three are under, arm, allowing you to model them upright or thrusting forward, whilst two are "overarm" striking downward, or allowing you to model them as javelins.
Three of the bodies have the left arm sculpted in place, but there are a two additional empty left arms.
So you can make a full 40 spearmen armed with shields, or use some as skirmishing types if you prefer.
There's no standard included, but adding a flag to one of the spear arms would probably work fine, or (as I may do), replace a spear with some brass rod to make your own.
The sprue does include a sword arm, either to add a little variety to the unit, or to use to fashion a leader model for the unit. There's also a horn arm so your unit can have a musician.
Sadly there's no drummer option in the kit for those of us wedded to the two drummer idea from the Warhammer El Cid supplement.
Finally there are eight heads on the sprue. Five have turbans of various types, with all but one having some facial hair. Of the remaining three, one has a steel helmet, and the last two have the facial veils ideal for your Almoravid forces.
There are almost no mold lines I can see, and the sculpting looks crisp and like it will paint up well.
I'm not sure the anatomy of the bodies is quite right, the heads look big and the legs a little short but as most of my Almoravid force is Black tree design models, a little anatomical inaccuracy will make sure they fit right in.
My major dilemma is what to do with them.
My plan was a unit of 32, 24 spearmen with a rear rank of eight archers, painted up all in white to match the rest of my units, with a spare eight archers to use as skirmishers.
However on the train on the way hear my thoughts shifted and I'm now thinking perhaps to paint them as Andalusians or other, more colourful Arabs to use as allies to add a little variety, or form the start of an alternate El Cid force or SAGA faction, or to use in Crusade game.