The Hundred Kingdoms are one of the founding factions in Conquest and their models have come an extremely long way. Between Warhammer, Song of Ice and Fire and Conquest I have painted a lot of medieval dudes on horses and I think that overall the Hundred Kingdoms range might be my favourite of them. The models, on the whole, trust the painter to do something excellent with them and don’t get bogged down in ten billion finicky little doodads and tassles.
I’ll be reviewing these models in rough order of production date; there’s been an extremely clear progression of quality in Para Bellum’s production and it makes sense to follow their own development. This does mean that early criticisms mostly die away into wild enthusiasm by the end.
Men at Arms
The easiest builds in history, these are legs+torso+arms+head and done. You can’t mess up the assembly at all.
That’s initially where I intended to stop saying nice things about the Men at Arms. These are quite possibly the first sculpts that Para Bellum ever worked on and they’re kind of inoffensively bad. The swords are blunt, the shields are these awkward big flat pieces that do give you the opportunity to do some cool freehand but they’ve just kind of got to be glued onto the arms without pegs or slots. The poses are kind of weirdly splayed. The biggest problem are the faces, they’re these awkward moustaches oozing out of these little helmet slots. I was not a fan when I started working on the Men at Arms but I don’t hate them. They’re just okay.
I was going to end the thought there but then Para Bellum sent me even more of the bastards in their new starter box. I already had all the Men at Arms I’d ever need for gameplay purposes so I scratched my head a little bit and then figured that it was time to start converting. Because what, specifically, was wrong with the Men at Arms? The arms and the faces. The legs and torsos are entirely normal human legs and torsos and nobody ever pays much attention to those. So I reached into my bits box, which I’ve finally started to accumulate at the Conquest scale, and bashed up some new ones.
My bits box, in this case, basically meant the Longbowmen kit. The Longbowmen kit gives you a ludicrous amount of surplus plastic – it’s something like six sprues and drowns you in heads, cloaks and multiple different kinds of bows and arrows. Hundred Kingdoms are always gagging to put more archer bodies on the table so what I had previously thought of as a waste of plastic turned into an amazing synergy. Not only did I have enough parts from a single unit of Longbowmen to convert an entire unit of Men at Arms into Longbowmen or Crossbowmen, I still had heads to spare to scatter across other units and conversions that I needed. I think the results are fantastic.
Cousins to the Men at Arms in complexity and quality, one sprue makes one Crossbowmen unit with no waste or excess. They’re alright. The faces aren’t great but they’re wearing big helmets that shade them acceptably out of view, and there’s such restrained detail here that they paint up really quick. They’re the epitome of basically functional.
This kit has a cursed one point of contact cavalry model. You need to be careful with these as a result.
It at least has the courtesy to have the point of contact be at centre mass, but you still have to be a little careful. Specifically, attach the model to the base before attaching the rider. The rider is a nontrivial amount of weight which pushes the thing to the point where it’ll tear plastic glue or give you some grief if your superglue is not at full potency. Prop it up with a paint bottle while the glue dries.
There’s another cursed thing to watch out for with these. If you assemble them facing forwards across the stand and glue in the circular base like I have then they don’t rank up nicely, the horse tails will hit each other in the face. As a result I strongly recommend you glue these diagonally. This goes for a lot of the heavier Hundred Kingdom cavalry. You can leave the flag-bridles and the side flaps off, and I quite like doing so, especially for the second set of these to create some unit variety.
These also benefit from conversions. As with the other early sculpts, the heads here are kind of basic and benefit from swaps – but there’s a catch. One, the neck join here is flat, meaning you need to carefully flatten the neck joint of common ball-socket heads before attaching, and it’s also a diagonal angle, so you need to keep that in mind too. Two, Household Knights are incredibly swole. There’s huge variance in the physical size of various Hundred Kingdoms humans; a Longbowman head on a Household Knight looks like a Guardsman head on a Space Marine. Order cav won’t help you, there’s one spare head in the Ashen Dawn and one spare head in the Crimson Tower kit, and they’re both helmeted. What to do?
The answer is to go cross faction. Find your local Nords player and ask to go through their bits box. Nord infantry is as swole as the Household Knights and you’ll find much better fits there than you will anywhere inside your own range.
That all said, I actually love this sculpt and it was one that drew me to the faction in the first place. They’re absolute units, just an avalanche of metal and horse, with huge flat shields inviting freehand and heraldry, flowing robes and capes for working up blends, and few enough of them in a unit that you can feel great about making each one a hero. They’re extremely intimidating visually on the table.
These are extremely monobuild and monopose and there’s no way around that. They look great ranked up but you’ll get nine guys holding their swords vertically and three guys holding their swords horizontally and there’s no variety at all in how that goes together.
They’re also a colour scheme risk. If you’ve built your colour scheme around a balance of fabric and armour these are almost all armour. Other than their armwrap ribbons they’re all metal – no slashed sleeves, no colourful pantaloons, just metal and chainmail. If the rest of your army is brightly coloured and you’ve got this one block of dudes in leadbelcher spray it sticks out. Consider use spare Household Guard capes on these – I haven’t tested the fit myself but it could help balance them out.
Gilded Legion/Household Guard
They’re a surprising amount of work to assemble compared to other kits; the torsos are two pieces, the legs are two pieces, the arms go together very precisely. It’s not a complex kit and all the pieces being labelled is a huge help in helping avoid messing up, which is helpful because there’s no flex in these poses. But somehow the amount of clipping, cleaning and shaving feels like it takes twice as long as any other kit.
Also watch out for the cloth banner – it only goes on one of the poses, and it’s a very heavy piece, so if you’re planning to use it make sure you assemble it first.
They’ve got helmeted and unhelmeted options, and I strongly recommend the unhelmeted versions. The feather and the skintone of the faces are a splash of colour right where you need it; they’ve got a little fabric colour in their pants but if you put the helmet on and paint the entire thing in a metal colour you risk the model being very flat in the same way as the Steel Legion. The capes help with that, but they’re not great capes – if you’ve ever built an older Terminator you’ll recognize this kind of clip-on cape that’s like an attachment rather than something that’s part of the sculpt.
Like the Mercenary Crossbowmen, this is such a basic and functional kit it’s easy to forget it even happened. Everything’s one piece – spear arm, one piece, bow arm one piece, legs one piece, etc. They go together without fuss and paint up without drama. The only choice of note is to give them their pot hats or not. I think they’re ugly on the whole but some of the heads don’t work without them. But they’re meant to be malnourished peasantry screening for the glorious knights so their basic nature is very easy to overlook.
Longbowmen/Hunter Cadre/Imperial Rangers
This is a triple kit and what that means is a massive amount of excess plastic. There are so many sprues in here and a huge amount of spare bits after you’ve worked through them. There’s huge variety in what you get too, with the option to give everyone a cape, and various tricorne, pirate, bandit, or just general ruffian heads. If you want to make any unit look like a bunch of scumbags then mixing in Longbowmen heads is a fantastic way to do it.
The results that come out of the kit itself are genuinely pretty great. The studded leather armour is very attractive and their poses feel a lot more professional and skilled than the other archers in the Hundred Kingdoms range.
This kit feels modern; nice and sleek, sharp details and not much flash. It builds up easily, everyone has two points of contact, there’s nothing much to complain about – except the heads. The heads are very, well, squirish – young, fresh-faced boys with terrible haircuts leading the way for the serious knights. And if that works for you that’s fine but I preferred to mix in Gilded Legion helmets and a Longbowman tricorn to make them feel more like professional outriders.
The Crimson Tower are broadly like better designed and modernized Household Knights, but I do need to take a moment to talk about how unbelievably cool their unit banner is. It’s a dozen different flags torn and stitched together and it looks amazing. Absolutely no complaints with these, their armour is angular and stylish, although the materials balance is a bit heavy on the metal so its worth figuring out how you’re going to avoid 80% of the model being leadbelcher spray. Household Knights have much more fabric and inset gemstones and things for visual interest, these are just raw metal.
These are huge. Absolute units. Household Knights are already huge, but Ashen Dawn are chad’s chads. Thankfully they’re all two points of contact so you can assemble them as you want. I tried three ways – rider on, fully assembled, rider off, and rider’s legs on and torso off. Of the three I’d recommend the last option – the fit of the torso is very easy in that situation, and it gives you good access to the underside of the massive cloak. Rider entirely off didn’t go on entirely right, I recommend building the legs in place.
For build you’re fairly limited, with only options for banner, one alternate weapon, and a couple of different heads. The heads in particular are extremely cool – there’s serious Old Dominion influence there, but the Old Dominion at the height of their game and flash without being decrepit corpses.
All of these are extremely beautiful and high quality resin casts. I was initially a bit suspicious of the price point paired with the material; normally I hate working with resin and generally prefer kitbashing up my own unit leaders so I put off getting these for a while. I’ve come around though, the quality of these stands up entirely on its own.
Due to the nature of these there’s not really much space for customization on the mini itself, your real chance to flex is what you do with their scenic base. For these I really decided to get into the narrative of what, exactly, was going on in my one of the Hundred Kingdoms.
The Itinerant Court is an unusual Kingdom in that their domain is not any particular territory – their domain is the Ribbon Highway itself. They have the responsibility to maintain, repair and defend the Highway as a piece of infrastructure; it is the personal possession of the Mounted Lord, King Lana d’Saeno. She has sole authority to collect tolls along its length, as well as the right of hospitality from any lord or town who lies along it. The Itinerant Court thus is in constant motion, moving all across the Hundred Kingdoms, maintaining the Highway as they head towards the next danger that threatens it. Her household’s colour is green, which is reflected throughout the majority of her warband, but in vanity she styles herself in the black of the Ashen Dawn order.
The Imperial Officer, Jaso Rhyme embodies this; I built him a fragment of the road using some brick parts and incorporated some gold into his uniform to show his connection to the Gilded Legion and Imperial Treasury, which has a strong interest in the continued functioning of the Itinerant Court. Continuing the theme of wealth, the Chapter Mage, Ailee Manzikurt is the Court’s Steward and company paymaster, represented by her standing with open treasure chest. She mostly serves as a Water Mage and her healing spells are at least partially backed up with the promise of coin for soldiers who return to the fight.
The Theist Priest, Hanna Serino, and her old rival, Null Mage Kest Shtern, are both potent casters (with the Null Mage serving as an Air Mage more often than not), and the destruction their offensive spells work on the table made me depict them as shattering the earth into scorched lava. Horst’s priestly robes are blue and white which sets her apart from the rest of the army; when Sicarii or other religious units are released I’ll paint them to match.
The brash young foot Noble Lord, Princess Adila IV, is an aspiring blademaster and spends her vast wealth on attracting experts from the Order of the Crimson Tower and – eventually – the Order of the sword to personally tutor her. Her colours are in red and white and she’s modelled atop a hill that contains the sunken ruins of a destroyed castle, hinting at her destiny in most games.
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