Irish/Dark Age Cavalry Wish List

  • What would you like to see in this set? Have any inspiration (photos, illustrations) for us? 

  • If its a set of 12, I would like to see 4 armored & 8 unarmored minis. Would also like to see a separate chariot set.

  • not sure if we could get more hounds that'd be nice. I know I already have 3 boxes worth but if I get a large enough base we can have a hound run alongside the horse

  • I'd love the option for everyone to have javelins. Then maybe it could be used for jinetes and other light cavalry sets

  • Could prove one of the most popular sets. Irish, Scottish , Pictish cavalry was similar enough. I'd go easy on armoured types.

  • As already mentioned I'd go lighter on the armored options though wouldn't get rid of them altogether. Maybe 1 for every 8 or something. I think that head options are really what make a box stretch.

  • I'm not sure what you'd need to do to make this work,  but I'd like enough options to be able to use them up to and including the Tudor period! 

  • Since I  play Saga, a box of 16 would be ideal. This should include 8 in mail and 8 without mail, and all figures should have javelins as an option. 

  • I'd go easy on the armor types and I'd definitely be looking for something more in the Pictish/Scottish look. As far as number of models in the kit, that'll be a hard sell. All of your kits have a very convenient price tag on them for a very good price. I think you should probably aim for either a) better quality than most plastic cavalry (not hard) or b) more figures (16 -24) but that could be harder to pull off given that horses take up more room, or c) both a and b. I'm fairly confident that whatever WA does, it will be impressive and reasonable. Keep up the good work!

  • How much of a "thing" were armored horses in/around Dark Ages Ireland?  Looking at the Irish warriors themselves, my instincts tell me that the horses were probably relatively lightly armored - if armored at all.

    In a glance over the peculiar history of horses and cavalry in Ireland, it seems that the horses that were imported to ireland over 2000 years ago tended to be relatively light and fast sporting horses, which would in time descend into thoroughbred horses, but perhaps more interestingly they developed into a breed of Irish sporting - and military - horse called hobby horses, from a Gaelic word for "swift", and are the origin of the more modern sense of the term "hobby horse" for a toy horse crafted in imitation of the hobby, and "hobby" (from the expression "to ride a [toy] hobby horse":  such a toy horse might be fun for children to pass their time riding, but doesn't get adults anywhere!)

    These original hobby horses were ridden by a specialized form of cavalry, eventually named for the horse and thus known as the hobelar: the hobelars and their horse were intermediate between lightly-armed/armored mounted longbowmen, and heavily-armored knights, and would certainly have been poorly-matched one-on-one, face-to-face against, say, Norman knights on the open battlefields of continental Europe.

    But, that sort of distinctly continental knightly combat wouldn't have been the specialty of the Irish hobelars and their horses:  this light form of cavalry enjoyed their advantage in the soft boglands and woodlands of Ireland, where heavily-armored European knights and their horses would struggle.  The hobelars would have exceled in combat that involved speed and agility, and specialized in skirmishing, quick guerilla raiding and ambushing, scouting and reconnaissance patrols, and that sort of thing. 

    As such, the hobilar and hobby by the time they were described in detail in the 1200s by the English would have been an uncaparisoned hourse, the rider in light chainmail and cap, armed with a 12' spear/lance and sword.  By some accounts, the original hobilars were mounted archers, and I suspect the Dark Ages version of a hobilar probably would have considered mail and helm to be a rare and expensive luxury, just as the Wargames Atlantic Dark Ages Irish infantry seem to!

    Artist's depiction of a later English version of a hobilar, with kettle helm and light armor on unarmored hobby.
    (Artistic depiction of a later English hobilar, with kettle helm and light armor; I expect the Dark Ages Irish equivalent would probably not be so elaborately dressed.)

    Of course, the hobelar as he was known toward the end of the medieval period took a while to develop, and having been developing for centuries before then since the late Roman Empire, would have been a different sort of warrior in the Dark Ages, but as near as I can tell the sort of combat that the hobelar exeled in was traditionally quite common in Ireland and Scotland for a very long time before the hobelar caught on elsewhere in the British isles, and the basic role and form of the hobby and hobelar probably didn't change much between the late Roman Empire until the 1300s, when the mounted longbowmen finally replaced him in warfare.

    SO, I expect that Dark Ages Irish cavalry were mostly lightly-armored ambushers, raiders, guerillas, and skirmishers relying for their effectiveness on mostly unarmored horses and minimal personal armor for a speed and agility which would have only been hampered by armor, and which would have been an undesirable hazard to horse and rider on soft boggy ground and close, tangled woods and brambles.

    I would imagine that the Dark Age Irish cavalry would thus be light cavalry, on unarmored horses, with relatively simple saddles, and little or no armor on rider or horse - the rider would, I imagine, look something like the Irish infantrymen, armed with long long spears and swords of the era suitable for mounted skirmishers, or perhaps ranged weapons of some sort - javelins, short bows, thrown axes....  I'm not sure heavy Irish cavalry were ever a "thing", but I'm not a proper historian.

    TL;DR: Go with something similar to the Irish infantry on horseback, with spears, swords, and light thrown weapons or bows; any armor worn by the rider would be light. The horses would be small, light, agile, and unarmored. This sort of light cavalry would be deployed as specialized skirmishers, raiders, and guerillas, and probably wouldn't have been deployed in mass numbers.


    That said, the Dark Age Irish are such a versatile and flexible set of infantry, I suppose that armored versions on armored horses would definitely make sense for a lot of other applications in different eras or countries, and would especially appeal to fantasy gamers who use cavalry.  Fantasy options such as heavy cavalry and fancy armor and weapons might help sell a Dark Age Irish cavalry to a wider market!

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