Wednesday, 12 December 2018

28mm William of Normandy Command Stand

Since the summer my wargaming year has so far consisted of re-basing...lots of re-basing!  This started with my Napoleonic armies that I was on the cusp of selling and then as I was photographing it all for the purpose of selling, I just found that I really liked them (but they would need rebasing!).  This continued with my 15mm ACW collection (last blog post). An update on all that to follow soon!

So having to work away elsewhere and in accommodation that I really couldn't leave static grass, old basing texture and sand scattered everywhere I realised that I would have to take paints and a real painting project in case there was any decent 'downtime' from the work.  In the event, there was a lot of downtime and I was able to paint 4 command stands (minus basing!) in one week.  This was immensely pleasing but also reflects badly on me in that I found that I can virtually imprison myself for a week from dawn to midnight just to paint!

I am always desperate for command stands. Rules these days tend to be much more command focussed (and rightly so in my view) and leaders play an obviously important role.  But between painting a 24 man unit of fusiliers and a command stand, I'll paint the fusiliers every time!  In this case I took away with me all of my paints and the Norman commanders and some plastic Infantry to build. As I was 100 miles from home and driving to my job, I realised that I had forgotten to bring polystyrene glue! - so no figure building for me - It was going to be focussed command stand painting only.

I have had my Norman commanders for quite a long time. I think they are from Gripping Beast. If they are then then they have clearly improved on their old crappy horses.  As I got to work on the command stands I really enjoyed working on them. These characters are great and the paint really made them come to life.

As we see here this is William of Normandy doing his famous tapestry pose of 'Hello everyone - look I'm not dead' and sliding his helmet up.  The banner was randomly chosen for William and chosen just because it looks really nice.  I have studied photos of the Bayeux Tapestry for many hours and cannot find his personal banner shown anywhere.

The banner is from Little Big Men Studios and the shield designs are from Battle Flag.

I have much to say on basing which I might save until I post my ACW figs freshly rebased on to my blog.  I have changed techniques, both to save money by using static grass instead of just clumps of expensive grass and the various shades of grass also looks more realistic I think.  I'm moving away from painting the edge of the MDF base too.  I usually paint the edge brown but it looks like the figures are based on a chocolate biscuit when I do that.  I quite like this worn effect from the various basing effects on the MDF. It blends nicely and stops the eye from being drawn to the base edge, I think.

Anyway, I took these photos with my phone camera as the cheap Poundland batteries were all dead in their box so I cannot use my main camera (yes the one with the pike scratch on the lens!). At least these pics don't have the scratch (even if they do look a bit soft-filtered!).

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The Wargamer's Dilemma - Re-basing

It's something we have all done, it's not as if we haven't got enough of a lead or plastic mountain to spend our time painting instead.  But for whatever reason, be it new rules, a general re-fresh or re-organisation, we find ourselves levering figures off of bases and then putting them on new bases. Then applying our re-basing texture, plants etc of choice and then remembering to put magnetic sheet beneath each base. It's a MONSTER of a job!

I guess I'm writing this mostly in justification.  I'm just about to re-do an army I only re-based about 2 years ago...and I want to remind myself of all the reasons why I'm doing it and set it to paper (so to speak), so I don't continually beat myself up and ask myself 'why?' when I properly start the process.

Well, this fine 15mm Confederate army with their beautiful GMB flags were re-based and re-flagged only about 2 years ago. This replaced all of the card and messy scatter-flocked bases which were horribly warped.  Some of the flags had been made by early dot-printers and picked up at shows in the early 1990's.  The basing must have been done about then as I had picked up Fire & Fury rules and I was obsessed with them for about the next 10 years. Rules which were actually fun and looked amazing (unlike the poor photocopied and horrendously complex rules being produced in the UK at the time). 

Two years ago I decided to re-base them. I used MDF bases cut to the standard 1" x 1" and used the highly expensive railway flora stuck on.  Great I thought....Except it wasn't.

For some reason I couldn't get the motivation to re-base my Union Army afterwards. In fact I couldn't get the motivation to get my Confederates out of their box.  I did do for one great game...once.  But after this in the box they stayed.   I couldn't work out why my playing mojo for them had gone.  It was only recently when re-basing my vintage Minifigs Napoleonics (previous post) a couple of months ago that the reason became clear....I just hated handling the newly based figures.  It was so hard to get them out of the box, but also just to move them on the battlefield without bending bayonets and flags. It was easier to handle them by grasping the rear left and right figure which is never good.  I guess it was less important when the old bases were card as they were lighter (and actually were accidentally cut a little larger than 1" x 1").  With the weight of the new MDF bases with sand/acrylic texture and shrubs, bayonets bent like bananas.

The problem is immediately apparent with these photos.  I just tried to put these stands back in the box with their comrades. I had to stop - bayonets all over the place which were in dire danger of breaking.

I also realised that I really didn't like the Fire and Fury basing for the artillery too.  It looks so unnatural and like a marker than a model.  Very unrealistic crew positions.  I know in the F & F scenarios, units need to be jemmied in to get everything on to the board (at least in my experience) so I was loathe to make the bases bigger.  However, when the aesthetic offends the eye so much that you realise you don't want to get them out, then you know you have to do something.

Work in Progress:  On the plain MDF base is what I have done today. The squares are 1 cm squared.  I shall talk metric now.  The old base was 4 cm x 2.5 cm for a gun but with the gun sticking a further 0.5 cm out further. So let's call it 4.5 x 2.5 cm.

The new base is 5 cm x 4 cm.  It is just 0.5 cm longer and 1.5 cm wider and yet - look at the crew - they can work their gun!  It will look much better when properly base textured and plants and grass applied but the slightly larger base gives a much better aesthetic.

So now we come to the Infantry.  I decided to make bases into single bases containing what would have been 3 bases previously.  I also widened the base and have made it deeper.  This protects most of the bayonets leaving only a fraction to 'over hang' where unavoidable. Handling is much easier without it seeming like one is picking up a tiny hedgehog of protruding bayonets and ramrods.

The difference can be seen clearly here again.  The old bases were 1" x 1" so 3 bases would occupy 3" x 1" or approx 7.5 cm x  2.5cm.  My new base is 9 cm x 3.5 cm.

My new single base has a larger footprint in width but as the bayonets now have basing depth to protect them, the depth makes little difference.  Previously exposed bayonets sticking out would have increased the base depth in reality.

I used the figures from 3 bases for my new single base.  It is rare to require less than 3 bases in Fire and Fury.  I can call this new base a triple base or if stuck for game size which is suffering because I have given greater width to my bases then I will merely call it a 4-base.  I will be very flexible with my naming conventions.  To be honest, I don't intend removing bases when playing F & F, my standard casualty markers will keep track....and I'm sure in real battle when lead is flying and smoke is filling the air it would be impossible to tell whether it was a 900 man battalion or a 700 man battalion facing you across the valley and so I don't intend counting bases to keep track. A label will suffice to show starting strengths.

Another factor which makes my sticking to F & F basing conventions a little superfluous is that I tend to use Black Powder for ACW these days - though I would like the option of playing F & F if I feel like it.  I feel I can now do both with my figures protected and looking much better. 

It should also speed up the game - I dislike moving little single bases when I can move larger ones.  Some might ask why I don't just use movement trays - yes it would simplify things - but I just don't like the figures standing 6mm or so above the terrain as if they were all on a giant surfboard.  It's just an aesthetic thing and we all have our personal tastes.  I've tried movement trays and I am just not fond of them at all.

One potential problem was how to remove the figures that I had previously completed with basing texture of sand and acrylic paint. This stuff sets like concrete.  The Confederates above are standing in water.  After 30 minutes the bases are soft to the modelling blade.  I had feared that I would have to drill them out with my Dremel tool. A gentle scraping and lifting will undo all my previous hard work, but will result in figures being rebased in a far better fashion which also protects them more and makes them more playable to my mind.

Above is work in progress - the first texturing of the Union army.  Below how they look on my new larger MDF bases.

Well, if you have maintained interest so far then I congratulate you! You must have faced similar problems before and were curious to know how I dealt with my dilemma. It is something that has occupied my mind for weeks if not months now.  I think we like these little challenges and dilemmas as a deviation from daily life.  Ultimately, I can now look back on my blog in the coming weeks and say - 'THIS is why I'm putting myself through re-basing well over a thousand figures! Stick with it!'

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!