Berber infantry conversions

In the last post we looked at a number of options for putting together a force of El Cid era berber troops. Settling on the Gripping Beast plastic figures range supplemented with metal minis from a number of manufacturers as previously described.

Here we look at how I intend on using the plastic Arab GB set for my Berber infantry.


The figures below are made up from the parts of the GB plastic Arab set made up of 8 identical sprues. Overall the poses that you can create are about a 7.5 out of 10 in my opinion. The figures are perfectly usable, dynamic and varied, however, I think they lack a subtly of pose positioning that the Perry’s so elegantly achieve with their plastic sets (check out their Wars of the roses range for example). This is perhaps a bit harsh and frankly not that much of a big deal, but it is worth noting that multi pose does not always equate to multi pose ‘natural’ positioning. 

Anyway, that aside, these are what we are working with so we shall make the most of the poses that can be created whilst still striving for as natural a posture in the figures as possible.


There are lots of options on the sprue which allow for a number of figure types to be created. They can be spearmen in a number of poses and a smaller selection of poses avalaible for the archers. The The sprue also allow for making command figures and a horn blower and some easy conversions for standard bearers. So there is a lot of versatility from this one sprue….despite my comments above, you can’t get as much variation from the one figure range greater than what this sprue can produce….and for that they get high marks.

However one thing that I do want to ‘correct’ about these figures is the quite forward thrusting arm on a couple of poses…they seem a little awkward and ‘unnatural’ to me (see my comments above about the Perry stuff). Carrying a shield would generally be done a little closer to the body and when the shield is mounted the forward thrusting arm looks a little odd. I’m going to do a bit of surgery to correct this. I plan on using the Artisan shields for these figures (below) which will give me more of the ‘Berber’ look I’m after (replacing the teardrop and circular shields). The GB shields are fine and I shall use some, but the bulk of my infantry are going to have hippo shields like these (which are sold very conveniently in packs of 40!)


Whilst the arm pose is not a major issue I’m going to correct this by  cutting the forward thrusting arm near the elbow at a suitable angle to take the large hippo shield. This will also give me a solid ‘join point’ to secure the shield. The ‘chopped off’ arm can be trimmed and glued on the inside of the shield if you feel you want to complete that bit of detail, but I’ve found that the shield is tucked in enough that is really isn’t noticeable once the shield is on the figure  and held close to the body.

So here are a few put together, minus the shields that will be put on after the figures are painted.

A few points worth noting. The obvious one is that the inclusion of a face veil is ‘the look’ to turn your standard Arab Saracen type into the more sinister looking North African Berber Almoravid warriors. This was easily enough done using some green stuff that is rolled quite thin and then simply placed and ‘worked’ onto the face of the model. When working with green stuff use water on the surface it is placed and on your ‘working tool’ to prevent the green stuff becoming sticky and unworkable. There are some good online tutorials on using green stuff that show how to use this product.

I was a bit dubious at first as to whether these would look right or be hard to ‘work’, but it was surprisingly easy to do and quick. You’ll note in the left of the picture there is an Arab I have painted in green with a yellow head scarf (in the background). This headscarf is the usual one that comes with the plastic arab set (along with one similar styled head dress – see sprue above) but there are not enough on the sprue to do all the figures in the box and the variation using the green stuff gives a much nicer look in my opinion, instead of the ‘cookie cutter’ two head scarf styles that the sprue gives you…so a bit of extra work here pays dividends on the finished figures.

Getting a little more creative with that green stuff I’ve added some spear tassels and some helmet ‘wrap arounds’ onto some of the figures to create yet more variation and give them a unique look. The idea is to create as much variation as possible whilst making them more or less look similar. The standard bearer is made with a simple drill hole through one of the existing standard soldiers hands appropriately armed with a sword as mentioned above….very simple stuff.
Here is a shot from behind showing a bit of the green stuff used to create backflaps flowing off the head dress to break up the overall garment a bit and make them less ‘the same’ when there are lots of them put together in a unit. I’ve also added some detail on the waist of a few to create further variation. 


So from the standard plastic arab set we can now get quite a good deal of variation from the one sprue and by and large no two figures look the same, though they all look similar…which is the look I’m after.
Ok, that’ll do for this post. We have the figures assembled, have chosen the shields to use on the models, added elements to make them distinctly Berber in style using ‘green stuff’ to make face veils, and created a lot of variation using the single box of plastic Arab saracens to make them look like Ben Yusuf’s berbers…a good start. the next post we’ll talk a bit about colour for these troops and how to get them painted in short order….

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