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!

  • There wasn't much armour in ancient eire.

    Irish / Dark Age Cavalry should be unarmorued with Javelins (and some other options).

  • Not an expert, but that's what I've been thinking too, @Steffen Seitter, and the few resources I've been able to find on the subject seem to agree:  not much in the way of armor for any of a number of reasons, and the weapons were pretty simple and straightforward, too. 

    Javelins and the other classic pointy-stick option - the lance/spear - seem to be the obvious weapon options, and apparently swords and maybe bows/arrows were options for Irish cavalry of the era, and one suspects the shillelagh war-club probably wouldn't have been out of place at the side of an Irish horseman (in fact, I imagine it could have been a reasonably devastating weapon on horseback.....)

  • Oh, I don't think I ever thought about the answer to what I'd like to see included in an Irish cavalry box.

    I'm not generally a customer for cavalry, so I'm trying to think of things that...

    • Aren't already included in the Warriors box.
    • Complement the Warriors box.
    • Could add value to the Dark Age Irish by enabling their use for other purposes.
    • Would draw me in as a customer by giving me more than one reason to buy one or more boxes of Dark Age cavalry.


    Each Dark Age Warrior infantry sprue includes (at five sprues per box):

    • Six warrior bodies, with off-hand (shield) arms.
    • Two hounds.
    • Six large round shields.
    • Nine(!) small round shields.
    • One medium round shield.
    • One oval shield.
    • One small shield, with javelins.
    • Six spear arms.
    • Three sword arms.
    • Two shillelagh (war-club) arms.
    • One hand-axe arm.
    • One fist arm.
    • One pointing arm.
    • One horn arm.
    • One sling arm.
    • Two capes.
    • Misc. bits:  one scabbard, one sword-in-scabbard, one dagger-in-scabbard, one totem-skull.
    • Nine bare human heads.
    • One head in a helm.


    Some things I have to notice about the infantry kit: 

    • It's a GREAT kit to buy if you want lots of spare shields! (The cavalry set need not include shields at all, assuming those who buy cavalry will also be buying infantry.)
    • Short spears are well-represented.  (The cavalry set should probably also include spears, but need not include extras - the minimum of one-lance-per-cavalryman will be plenty.)
    • There are barely enough assorted melee weapons here to outfit thse Irish warriors, and they seem appropriately historical to the theme; swords dominate the selection, but not enough so that there are enough swords for everyone.  Only one axe and two shillelaghs are included.  (As melee weapons from horseback, and spares for the infantry, the cavalry could perhaps afford to include one or two sword arms per sprue, but need not include many.  One or two shillelagh arms and a couple axe arms might be nice to have.)
    • There is a shield-with-javelins, but no hands throwing the javalins.  Aside from a single sling arm, ranged weapons are otherwise sparse.  (To beef up the ranged capability of the irish, the cavalry set could perhaps afford to include javelin arms and shields-with-javelins, and more sling arms!)
    • Basic command bits are included and well-represented.  A cavalry box might have been an opportunity to include command bits, if the infantry box didn't already have them, but perhaps there are some other specialist bits that might be included instead: 
      • a crowned head (each cavalry box will add bits for a lot of Irish kings, but that's how it is, I suppose!)
      • DRUID BITS!  beared heads in hoods, leaf crowns, and animal-skin caps for druid priests, along with arms with wands, staves, and curved blades for druid priests, perhaps?  A spare robed druid body would be nice, but not strictly necessary.
    • An infantry box contains 10 hounds.  Some say that is too many.  Or is it?  If there's still room after including plenty of other cool stuff, I for one don't think I'd complain about seeing one or even two extra hounds per cavalry sprue!  (I think the hounds are a great inclusion in either or both boxes.)
    • Extra bits:  sling bullet pouches, javelin quivers/scabbards, hunting horns, spare weapons to hang from belts or saddles; the capes are a nice inclusion in the infantry box, a couple more capes would be nice as well....
    • Heads:  Dark Age Irish warior heads are well-represented in the infantry kit, extras are always nice, but just enough bare heads for the cavalry with a couple extras are surely fine. 
      • Heads for other armies are a possibility... extra helmed heads of various sorts might work, caps and hoods might be nice, etc.  Thus, the Irish cavalry might be used for other armies or eras.
      • Fantasy heads:  add some wild, dark, and dangerous-looking elf heads, and perhaps also orc/goblin heads, and the Dark Age figures easily cross over into fantasy territory even better than they already do.  Including extras will supply at least some of the heads needed to convert the infantry, too.
      • More fantasy heads:  keeping within the Irish and fey "little people" theme, include a couple creepy halloween-themed war-masks... check out what turnip jack-o-lanters look like!


    Historical gamers will no doubt be baffled by the druid and fantasy bits, but these figures make fine Tolkien-style human, orc, and elf figures, at least those on the more rural and primitive side of the fantasy spectrum.  I kinda like the idea of the hounds and cavalry being combined with elf or orc/goblin bits and the hunting horns to produce the Wild Hunt!


    Any glaring opportunities for a cavalry set I might be forgetting - weapons, accessories, heads, vehicles or scenic bits?  Any cross-genre items you can think of to add utility, or any items that might might work for conversions into other historical eras or cultures?  What other sorts of bits would you rather see in a Dark Age cavalry set?


  • If this set is meant to specifically be Irish Cavalry, then it should feature entirely unarmoured bodies, the only cavalry that the Dark Age Irish fielded were the light Ridire, equipped with javelins to harass the enemy and a spear, sword, axe or Shillelagh to use once they had run out of ammunition - think mounted Kerns.

    I certainly think it would make more sense for the Irish to have their own cavalry box separate from those of other factions, as their cavalry was less well-dressed than, for example, that of the Germanic peoples, Late Romans or Britons, all of which would benefit from a better-dressed generic Dark Ages light cavalry set, and then an armoured Roman Heavy Cavalry set for the Romans and Britons.

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