Thursday, 27 September 2018

A long Awaited Return for Napoleon

Well it wasn't exactly the 100 days, probably more likely 30 years to the year!  This was how long it was since I last played a Napoleonic game at home.    I shall now tell a tale of wargaming which might appear familiar to some and odd to others - those who might be more efficient with the time management and painting than I.  My paragraphs will be interspersed with the main feature photos to break up my essay!

In truth I have been involved in one Napoleonic game since 1988 but that was at a wargaming 'centre' about 15 years ago (a cold shed in East Anglia), and was the worst wargaming experience I have ever had with the most argumentative, rudest set of people that I have ever come across in the hobby - something that has made me VERY careful of who I spend my valuable time with since).  I digress...

Many times over the years I have started Napoleonic armies. In the mid 1980's Airfix and Esci troops were the thing and as a teenager I consumed all the books I could borrow from the school library about Waterloo.  At the same time Esci brought out their amazing Waterloo battle set which was incredibly good timing - I still remember seeing the box in Cheltenham Model Shop and being absolutely bowled over by it. I was one happy guy going home with that!

Many conversions followed with trimmed Brown Bess's to make Baker rifles for my modified 95th Rifles, cut down shakos with glue and rolled loo roll to convert Esci Scots Greys into Life Guards - lots of fairly rough and ready conversions but it looked ok(!) as a teenager.

The rules were those which I had devised myself and were very basic but it was fun and many hours were had playing with hundreds of Napoleonic troops on the boards set up over a 'bar football' game which must have creaked under the weight.  The most amazing thing was all of the troops were based on individual pieces of card - so it took flipping AGES to take a turn!  How things have changed as lessons were learned since then.

Well, Ian was my regularly gaming opponent back then and still is now.  On the discovery of the 'Keep Wargaming' shop in Devizes a small collection of 25mm Minifigs began to gather I also had some Prince August moulds (only sold this year) and I managed to build a few units up but didn't get to play with them. 

Alas, I joined the regular army in 1988 and away I went for a few years.  Wargaming didn't happen again for a few years until I got a regular post and had my own room to do my hobbies again.  This time it was mostly 25mm ECW using Forlorn Hope rules.  Regular wargaming didn't happen again until more recent years (probably about the time I started this blog).  Several years could happen between games for a couple of decades, but then rules were pretty poor and only Fire and Fury and 'They Died for Glory' were inspirational and these were later 19th Century rules.

In the early 1990's Ian sold his 15mm collection of Napoleonics to me.  I thought I would do something with them. For some reason I based them in 50 man units and tried to use the Barry Edwards set of rules which I hated. So Napoleonics was put back on the back burner again.  Ten years ago I got General de Brigade which looked good and so started a 28mm collection. This proved hard work to paint.  I switched to 18mm AB, painted one unit, and found this even harder!  They are such detailed figures that I really felt I had to put all the lace on so I did - but it took a long time and the rewards did not match the time taken.  I bought the Perry's 28mm Waterloo French Infantry - in greatcoats.  These painted better but I still only wanted to paint 4 men at any one time...whereas normally I would paint up to 24 men for other periods!  So I painted any other period except Napoleonics.  Napoleonics became the period to start 'next year'.

I still read the Napoleonic books and watched Sharpe and the interest has always been there.  I have more recently become more aware of the passage of time and also of ground scale.  The realisation that I would probably never paint all of the units of Waterloo and also that having a board big in 28mm would mean it being enormous! And also unplayable in an evening - even over a weekend - or even a week!  So I made the decision to switch to 6mm.  This would mean I could play those battles of the Peninsula and have 3 miles of battlefield scaled down - enough to satisfy the meglomaniac in me who wants to use whole armies and see how whole battles unfolded.

So I decide that those old 15mm Minifigs had to go on Ebay.  I got them out and started to price them up.  As I lined them up they started to form units and formations and by the time I finished calculating I realised that I had the makings of a very playable army indeed!  By some reorganising I could make double the number of units that I had and easily put on 4 brigades a side (give or take a few missing command stands as will be seen on some photos).

So here we 15mm army is now seeing action for the first time in its existence since being painted up nearly 30 years ago by Ian.  I have rebased them in the last few weeks (work in progress!) and new flags will follow.  I am a bit of a figure snob in 28mm and really like the best figures but in 15mm these figures are not covered in excessive sculpting detail and in fact, in close order, they look really very nice indeed. Minifigs may not be fashionable anymore but en-masse these look great on the table...and their range is huge!

So the gaps will be filled in...other units will join them and whole scenarios will be played out - not whole battles but the major actions - the attack of the Imperial Guard, The battle for Placenoit etc and these old figures will take their place with their newer colleagues.

I used Black Powder and their Napoleonic supplements for this first game - all heavily modified by our own in-house amendments and what a game it was.  My British left flank was rolled up as my cavalry and then my Brunswickers started to break.  It was an outstanding game.  It has taken 30 years to get them on the table but there will be a lot more hot work for them ahead and soon!

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

English Civil War - Artillery

Progress has been immensely pleasing in the last month or so with completed units and models joining their comrades at a great pace.  It is often the inspiration from finishing a unit which acts as the spur to get the next batch of unpainted lead moving through the painting desk.

I have completed these guns and crews in just two weeks.  This is incredibly fast for me.  I painted and based 3 models in about 5 days and then 2 more models in another 5 days.  It was nice to get models out which I had undercoated a few years ago and put aside and finally get some paint on them!

These models are from Bicorne miniatures and are mixture of 'Galloper' guns and Falconets.  Actually two of the Galloper guns are very old Minifigs pieces which I had retired.  They had been painted in a gaudy red and looked dreadful.  However I noticed that size-wise they fitted very well with the Bicorne models, so I would see how a darker hue would look.

The two central models in the pics above and below are the Minifigs Galloper guns, suitably worn from travelling on poor English roads.  I'm really pleased how they have turned out. Now manned by an able Bicorne crew they are worthy of taking their places in the gun lines (or in hedgerows, placed by Sir William Waller, ready to ambush the Royalist vanguards in the lanes of the West Country!).

Paints were a combination of Foundry Triads, Vallejo, Miniature Paints, and even Flames of War.  I am using Foundry Paints probably for 75% of my painting these days. 

There are some real characters amongst the gun crews but I think the Parliamentarian officer above is one of my favourites.

I have just received a much needed set of reinforcements for Waller's army which are just waiting for some paint to go on.  I have been side-tracked by an unexpected project though.  More to follow!

Friday, 17 August 2018

English Civil War - Colonel Sir Robert Cooke's Regiment of Foote

Here we have the finished pike block of Colonel Sir Robert Cooke's Regiment of Foote.  I completed the musketeers a couple of years ago and the pike received an undercoat at the time but were then put aside as other projects took my attention.  Having waited patiently for me, I have now returned to finish the job.

I find there is a limit to the number of 28mm figures that I can focus on to paint as a unit at the same time. The very maximum is 30 if they are straight forward (ie are covered head to foot in mail!).  I can do 24 figures if inspired, for instance if I am painting a really smart American Revolutionary War unit.  Otherwise 12 to 16 figures is about my limit.  I can then paint in a production line method, applying one colour at a time and doing that to each figure as I work down the lines of troops on my painting table.

Thankfully I keep a folder where I jot down the step by step processes and which colours I used for each unit.  If I need to pick things up later to finish a unit (as in the case of this particular regiment), then there is no reason why I cannot match the remainder of the unit. 

Over the years I do change technique but as long as the basic colours are used then all is well. I merely update my methods and over-staple the new sheet over the old ones - I can track my own change of styles and techniques this way too.  I find it strangely interesting - especially my change from white to black undercoats.

This regiment served in Sir William Waller's army during the Western Campaign of 1643.  In some books the Colonel is noted as Edward Cooke, but Edward appears to have been a Colonel of his own cavalry regiment.  Sir Robert died in 1643.

I have made guesses at the uniform coat colour and the flag colours as they appear to be completely unknown for this regiment.  I chose these colours simply because I liked them and the coat colours differed from previous paint tones used.  I have red coats on some of my units but I wanted more of a faded russet for this one.  Foundry terracotta shades seemed to work perfectly. 

Sashes have been painted in yellow shades to reflect allegiance to Sir William Waller.  There is no definite evidence that I have found that regional commanders had their own sash colours, but orange was associated with the Earl of Essex and Waller was no friend of Essex.  Having his men wear Essex's colour would probably have been hard to bear.  I have read that it is now believed that the New Model Army and Fairfax's men wore blue sashes, though I wish I had made a note of where I read that.

The figures are from the very fine Bicorne Miniatures.  The flags are from the very talented GMB Flags.

As usual I have based the figures on MDF with magnetic sheet at the base to hold the figures safely when in their box.

I don't normally go for marching poses, but there was something about these that I really liked.  I thought that one regiment marching surely wouldn't do any harm.  I have moved the officers to the front from my usual mid-formation position.

Amusingly (or painfully!) when I move the figures I just have to remember that the pikes are now facing my hands!  I do run a metal file over the tip to remove some of the needle-sharp qualities of these steel pikes to attempt to prevent serious injury though they are still sharp enough to dig deep (as my camera lens found out 3 years ago when I last photographed pikemen close up!).

...And here we have the rest of the regiment joining the pikemen.  I like my ECW units to have some depth and to look impressive.  40 figures are my usual for ECW 'standard sized' foot units.

Sir William Waller's army are on their way to being fully represented for the Western Campaign of 1643.   I will have to do work on the Royalists again soon.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Normandy - Forward Air Controller - M3 Scout Car

This is the Battlefront produced 15mm M3 Scout Car with Forward Air Controller.  As models go, this is a really useful and interesting one to deploy in Normandy games.  The air supremacy of the Allies over Normandy is undeniable and the use of aircraft in the ground support role was a major factor.

I really enjoyed putting this model together.  I love the characters included with the kit.  The above photo focuses on the radio operator with his kit in the back.

It's interesting that the FAC's usually wore their blue RAF tunics in the front line and made a point to be well presented (see last photo at the bottom of page).  I really enjoyed putting all the detail into this Flight Lieutenant. It was time to get the single hair brush out again! It was also a nice change after several weeks of painting shades of olive green and khaki.

I am sure that this vehicle will be coming into play a lot in the future in my games with the 'Panzergrenadier Deluxe' rules, and bringing my Victrix Typhoons roaring overhead to attack the SS divisions in the bocage.

Below is one of the most amazing photos.  The Forward Air Controllers really did look like this and here is the primary evidence. 

I know that it is currently fashionable to carry out revisionist history exercises, often done by new history authors in an attempt to sell books.  Recently YouTube 'pundits' seem to be delighting in stats showing that air attacks over Normandy were not as effective at knocking out German heavy armour as the airforces claimed.

 I have no doubt that it is easy to be over optimistic in the heat of battle and the analysts at the time found that there were less AFVs lost to ground attack aircraft in Normandy than claimed when air crews arrived back to base.  However, for the German's - being on the receiving end of rocket firing Typhoons is not going to be good for morale, nerves, soft skinned vehicles or human skin.  I don't think that the allied infantry would have been that displeased to see Typhoons streaking overhead to support them, and that ultimately, is all that really matters.