AZTECS AND CONQUISTADORS
As is the case with so many of my collections, my interest in the Aztecs and Conquistadors can be traced back to my childhood. What reading I have done on the subject in subsequent years includes hobby-related books such as Osprey’s Aztec, Mixtec and Zapotec Armies and The Conquistador 1492-1550 as well as Foundry’s Armies of the 16th Century with a focus on the Aztecs. I have also read more traditional histories such as The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico by Castillo, The Conquistadors by Innes, Cortes by Marks and Pre-Columbian Cities by Hardoy. But my childhood fascination was not driven by hobby or historic texts but rather by movies like Captain from Castile with Cesar Romero as Cortes (probably the only thing he ever did that I liked, but he was a great Cortes). It planted a seed very deeply in my imagination. In terms of the development of this gallery, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the influence of Duke Seifried’s Aztec City Parts I and II in the July and August 2000 Wargames Illustrated, and more recently the beautiful board done by Societe de la Gande Armee entitled Siege of Tenochtitlan at Crisis 2009 Antwerp, Belgium. Like Seifried’s and the Societe’s boards, my gallery is not intended as a presentation of the historical record. This gallery is a device for displaying my 15mm Aztec and Conquistador collection. As such I have thrown a bit of every event I could think of that would allow a dramatic (hopefully) presentation of the figures. There is the arrival of the Conquistadors with their ships at anchor and a blessing on the beach. There is also the return of Cortes to the Aztec capital following his march back to the coast having learned of the arrival of a new and potentially threatening Spanish fleet. And following Cortes’ return to the Aztec capital, a representation of his discovery that the garrison force he has left behind is under siege. I’ve even thrown in my own version of his brigantines. While most of the approximately 2000 figures for this collection were painted more than a decade ago, I spent the two months from early July through the end of August 2012 putting the finishing touches on terrain features such as the market place and agricultural islands as well as painting my Aztec villagers and canoes. During that two-month period I revisited Captain from Castile more than once and enjoyed several viewings of Apocalypto as well. Hopefully this gallery will be viewed as what it is intended (much as I viewed Captain From Castile and Apocalypto), an escape into the flavor of a remarkable time long past and not as an effort to present a precise history of those events.
Now let me take you through a review of the miniatures in this gallery. I do this because, as someone who paints and builds, this is the information I most want when viewing someone’s collection. My Aztec city is in no way as grand as that of the actual capital, but with more than 40 buildings, a market place and a walled temple complex housing six temples and a skull rack, it is a rather significant undertaking as 15mm layouts go. As stated above, much of this collection was put together more than a decade and a half ago so, in identifying manufacturers, I will be taking my best shot. For example, I believe most of my town buildings are by Battlezone with a few Musket Miniatures buildings included. The corn fields are by Musket Miniatures. The temples are modifications/reworks of toys that were included in a game called Back Off Buzzard. The game is terrible but it included a wonderful plastic step pyramid and several small temple-like structures. I ultimately bought about seven boxes of that game on ebay. I added the stairs to the pyramids using Evergreen Plastic. The temple complex walls, entrance and the enclosed walkway that forms a courtyard for one of the pyramids are also scratch built from Evergreen Plastic. The skull rack is another scratch built item as are the agricultural islands/again using Evergreen Plastic. The palm trees are cheap little cake decorating trees I bought online by the gross. The Spanish ships are Revell models of the Santa Maria. I cut them to waterline and surrounded each with Milliput to form a water-like base. The market place is scratch built from Everygreen Plastic and Milliput. The pots, pumpkins and parrots are also made from Milliput. I took that idea for the market place straight from the work done by Societe de la Grande Armee. My brigantines are SDD hulls with Essex masts and Peter Pig crews. My Aztec villagers are modifications of the African villagers in the Blue Moon 15/18mm Deep Dark Africa collection; basically all I did to make them Aztec was change their hair styles using Milliput and alter their outfits with paint. I made the same hair style change on the Blue Moon African canoes paddlers who I used along with their canoes. The one large canoe is sculpted from Milliput. The fire pots on the temples are beads with Milliput rising out of them to serve as flames. The large skulls on the corners of the platform holding the skull rack are also beads. The platform the skull rack sits on is by Stonehouse Miniatures as is one of the temples on one of the Back Off Buzzard pyramids. Most of my Aztec figures are by Gladiator but there are also figures by Minifig, Essex, Naismith and the modified Blue Moon Deep Dark Africa I mentioned earlier. I’m sure I have forgotten who made a couple of my Conquistadors, but probably 90% or more of the Conquistadors are by Essex. As I indicated earlier, I used Peter Pig pirates as my rowers when rowers were needed. The Aztec shield decoration is done with homemade decals as are fields on most of the Spanish flags.
The board used for this gallery is 5 feet by 7 feet in size and is the same board I have used on all my other galleries. The ground cover is a cheap indoor-outdoor carpet that I bought a quarter of a century ago and is long out of production. The murals are homemade and the water features are made from sheets of plastic I bought at the hardware store that are intended to be used as a covers for ceiling lighting. They come in 2’x 4’ pieces that are a little less than an 1/8” thick and cost about $10 a sheet. Once the plastic sheets were cut to the desired size, I simply spray painted them with a couple different shades of gloss blue by Testors.
As always, the pictures were taken by my daughter who has a wonderful eye and has really brought all my galleries to life. We’ve been posting these galleries for about four years now, and while I obviously hope viewers enjoy them, the galleries also offer me the opportunity to see my collections as I intended them to be seen, and after four years I still find great pleasure in going through them. Much of that viewing pleasure I’m sure is do to the great job my daughter does capturing those collections in photographs.