Scratchbuilding a Medieval Cog

Ever since seeing pictures of the fantastic naval Wars of the Roses game put on by Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy  magazine I have thought about how to integrate the naval dimension into our WotR gaming. Warfare at sea played an important part in the early phases of the Wars of the Roses: After Warwick became Captain of Calais in 1456, not only did he use this office as a means of attacking merchant ships in the channel, but he also provided a safe haven for Yorkists after the disaster at Ludford Bridge. His fleet even raided the port of Sandwich and captured the Lancastarian commander Lord Rivers! Plenty of gaming opportunities there…

But where to get the ships from? The people from WSS had converted Revell model kits, which seem to fit well with 28mm figures. For 15mm, there are two offers which are aimed more at the wargamer than at the modeller. The first is by Old Glory. From looking at the images, I have to say that the ships don’t convince me, and also shipping is prohibitively expensive to Europe. Sea Dog Game Studios once had a very nice cog for 15mm, which is now out of production. When I contacted them, they told me they had two left – but apart from the steep price those ships are huge and wouldn’t fit in with the reduced ground scale of our buildings.

So it seems I would have to build a ship from scratch. What follows is my first effort – I am not really sure how to continue.

My main problem was the hull. I pondered on different ways of making one, e.g. carving one from foamboard or glueing together layers of balsa wood. In the end, I happened upon a little wooden ship at a flea market and decided that I would use its hull as a basis. It’s only 15cm long, which fits well with the size of our playing area while still looking like a proper ship rather than a rowing boat.

...and after meeting my pliers.
…and after meeting my pliers.

I glued plasticard unto the deck to get an even surface and started to build the structures for the castles. The fore castle was made up of two layers of balsa wood, while I used plasticard for the stern castle, which was to be a bit higher. I also drilled a hole for the mast, which I wanted to be removable for storage.

The basic structure.
The basic structure.

Building the castles out of balsa wood was easy, but the detailing of the planking proved to be a bit fiddly.

Castles added.
Castles added.

The mast was made out of wooden rods. I rummaged a while searching for something to use for the crow’s nest until K. came up with a bottle cap that had the perfect size.

Ready for painting.
Ready for painting.

Before painting, I covered the whole thing in thinned down PVA glue to give the balsa wood rigidity and the paint something to stick to. I then primed it and gave it a cover of GW’s Mournfang Brown. Afterwards, it was drybrushed with successive layers of Skrag Brown and Balor Brown and in the end very lightly with Terminatus Stone.

I added a sail made of paper. The standard is removable – I added one of Henry VI because I want to use the ship for a ‘Flight of the Queen’ scenario.

pic8 pic9 pic10

Unfortunately, no one makes figures of medieval sailors in 15mm (or in any other size, as far as I know). However, Donnington has a nice artillerist shielding his eyes who can be used as a sailor, and I’ll probably convert a couple of other figures. The rowing boat is something I picked up at CRISIS (I don’t remember the manufacturer), crewed by Essex figures from their boat crew packs – one is a Viking and the other is a Slave, so they are not really fitting but better than pirates, which are the only other rowing figures available. The guy steering is an Essex cart driver.

Building the cog was fun but took more time then I would have liked. Also, I am not completely convinced by the shape of the hull, as it is too narrow for a medieval ship. This is also the reason I put the project on hold, as I am not sure if I should get some more of those flea market cutters and use their hulls or if I should look for an alternative. I am open to suggestions…



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