Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Franco-Prussian War - 28mm Prussian Brigade Commanders

After so many years without command stands for my Prussian Army, I finally decided to get to work.

 Brigade Command Stand 1

I think one reason why I went so long without commanders was that I used to use the 'They Died For Glory' rule-set, which was great fun and perfect to get me into the period over 20 years ago.  There was not really any focus on command (other than in the optional rules as I recall).  These days I am much more command and control focused, so I prefer rules which reflect this.

What is clear from the Franco-Prussian War histories is the decisive element of the command and control over all other factors. It could be argued, that command and control had greater effect than the differences in army sizes or differences in weapons. French failures in command and control lead to greater numbers of Prussians running rings around French armies. With this in mind, moving to a rule set which would allow me to use more command and control and 'tweak' elements to make it more period specific became very desirable.  So to Black Powder rules I turned, and thus the need for Brigade and Divisional commanders.

The figures are by Wargames Foundry and are a lovely range.  They are though hamstrung by a lack of a range of command figures and weird packaging.  The mounted general is sold in a packet of identical mounted generals and is the only mounted Prussian commander produced. So unless conversion work is your thing, having the mounted commanders on the same base is going to be weird (or appear very disciplined!).

The officers on foot are sold in Infantry command bags, which include rather animated infantry officers and drummers and standard bearers. One tends to want an infantry command set to have one officer, and not a number of them.  However, this is the way that Foundry have packaged them so it's a good job that I needed lots of infantry command...this way I got senior officers on foot too.

That was the first base of a Brigade Command stand.  I now had to vary the mix a little!

 Brigade Command Stand 2


The same type of General figure casting but painted with a different coloured horse and new comrades.

Great sculpts and still some of the Foundry's best, but they really deserved to be in a dedicated senior command pack.  It is a small moan though.  I really do like these figures.

So on to the third and final command stand for now.

Brigade Command Stand 3

To add some more variety, one of the more animated infantry officers was added to the base. This time vocally passing orders from the Brigade Commander on  with some urgency!

 Wide eyed and giving plenty of verbal instruction over the noise of battle!

The mounted commander is not a teutonic blonde in this instance!

I could have made one post for each one of these three stands but I thought I would hit them all at once as I painted them together.  It's rare enough for me to sit down and make a blog post, and there are other things that I would like to post next time.  More Franco-Prussian War next time I think.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Franco-Prussian War 28mm - Prussian 12th Dragoon Regiment

Sometimes having to work away from home for a couple of weeks means having the opportunity to do the only things that you have brought with you in your leisure time.  Fortunately for me I decided to take three travelling bags of paints and tools and a regiment of unpainted cavalry.

These are the 12th Dragoons (2nd Brandenburg) who were part of the Prussian 2nd Army.  I rather like the deeper carmine distinguishing colour compared with red.

The figures were made by Wargames Foundry who still even after over  quarter of a century of having brought out their Franco-Prussian War range, still have one of the most comprehensive 28mm ranges out.  Unfortunately their are many gaps in the range, not least in commanders, but also in trumpeters and standard bearers.  I could have performed conversion work but did not feel inclined to do so - partly because I would then have to do the same for every cavalry regiment.

The figures were mostly painted with the Foundry triad range of paints but with a good smattering of Vallejo and some 'Miniature Paints' -particularly No.81 Leather Brown which all the reins & bridles  were painted with.

 The ground virtually thunders with the weight of the charge of the Prussian Dragoons.  They certainly have a presence about them.

Unfortunately and despite my very best efforts I wasn't quite able to complete the figures when I was away. I still needed about 4 hours worth of touching up of detail and then the basing work when I got home.  As usual with 28mm figures, I just can't stop trying to improve my work. It is no wonder that after starting this collection over 22 years ago, this is only my third Prussian cavalry regiment in my collection.  Future ranges will be in a smaller scale for sure!

In many ways I wish I had started my Franco Prussian range in 6mm (or 10mm). The reason being is that the battles tended to be huge and there seemed to be little in the way of brigade battles as such.  Certainly the English source material only really mention the larger battles, though no doubt there were many skirmishes. There just doesn't seem to be much written up which would provide good material for a Division vs Division action - unless taken as part of one of the large battles. 

I am trying to read what contemporary memoirs I can to try to create some scenarios which would fill this gap.  Although not a memoir, I finally got around to reading Emile Zola's 'The Debacle' which I understood contained detailed and atmospheric descriptions of a Bavarian attack near Sedan.  If you plan on reading this book (and I read the Penguin version), DO NOT read the translator's notes at the beginning - it gives away the entire plot and what happens to all of the key characters including the big twist at the end (which came as no surprise to me as I had read the Translator's notes!).

Also avoid listening to 80's bands such as The Smith's and The Cure whilst reading the book, as it is darned depressing and just swims in a thick sticky treacle of tragedy. A combination of the music and the book cannot be good for one's health.  Admittedly the description of the Bavarian attack is pretty good though!

Having just looked at the photos again, I think that even if I had collected FPW figures in 6mm, I would still have got these figures. There is something about the 28mm Foundry range which is magnificent. From the French infantry in their massive packs to the great sculpts of the Prussian cavalry, these figures inspire the imagination.

As if I wasn't obsessed enough with my painting, I have been making labels to go on the magnetic bottomed stands of my figures.  I used PVA glue to attach the labels then coated a thin coat of PVA over the top of the label to give it strength. This seems to work well and the magnetic base only seems to lose about 10% of it's ability to cling to the steel floor sheets of their box, so well worth doing.

So what next? I am sat here asking myself the same question. I have painted a number of things in the last few weeks which I will post up in due course. But as for what I shall paint next - we shall see- it could be anything!

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Napoleonic Naval Wargaming

I have a confession...I realised recently that I had never ever played a naval wargame.  This is with miniatures in the conventional sense that we know.  I have played 'Battleships' of course the simple board game, and the 1970's boardgame 'Up Periscope' with it's ingenious periscope on the vertical playing surface allowing you to see the other players ships (and cheat by bending the board and counting the peg holes to obtain a hit!).  But as for 'proper' wargaming - nope never played one.

Years ago I had my eye on the Games Workshop historical set 'Trafalgar' but then they stopped producing it and the price went through the roof of second hand copies. I had never read the rules so didn't really know what I was missing.  I did read blogs saying how good the Too Fat Lardies rules are and last year I decided I must give them a try one day.

To deviate slightly, this coincided with my attic undergoing a grand tidy up.  I have lived in the same house for 26 years and some boxes have never been moved since I moved in.  As I moved some boxes I found some that had been crushed somewhat.  To my dismay I found these ships at the bottom of the flattened cardboard box and in a terrible state.  I rescued them and put them into plastic storage boxes positioned at the top of the attic.  My plan was to rebuild them.  Of course time marches on, but I could see the ships every single time I went into the attic and I felt dreadful about their state.

Three weeks ago I was planning what game to play with Ian for one of our regular battles.  I decided that it would be a great opportunity to do something completely different. I did some more blog searching about rules and decided to download the set called 'Kiss Me Hardy' by the Too Fat Lardies.  This was inspired by the blog-site 'Last Hussar's Barracks' which is a superb blog and well worth following.  His write up and thoughts on the rules inspired me...and also filled in some gaps in the rules. More of this later.

So rebuilding the ships. This took a whole day.  It was difficult to work out which parts belonged to which ship, but by detective work it all came together.  There is a story behind the ships.  I remember as an 11 year old seeing a newspaper advert of someone selling their models in the nearby village of Long Hanborough in Oxfordshire.  This was of course pre-internet and I had no idea of what was for sale.  One just took a chance and went and had a look.  I was just really getting into the Airfix 1/72 Napoleonics and I hoped this is what I would find.  This was in 1982.  A very nice chap called Maurice Wilkinson and his wife Elizabeth showed my father and I to the attic wargaming room. I was bowled over by what I saw....hundreds and hundreds of model tanks for sale!  All arrayed like a Soviet May Day parade.  Each had price labels next to the tanks. 

I decided that I would like to branch into tanks too, and I persuaded my father to purchase a few for me and I parted with some pocket money too.  I went away with a number of tanks but other models had caught my eye.  This was the first of a number of visits over about a year.  The ships also came back with me after one visit.  These must have been made in the 1970's or even earlier.  I think they are Airfix kits, converted in some instances.  The plastic seems quite brittle now and the carpet basing to us now seems so basic but at the time I'm sure it was pretty standard. 

Maurice was clearly a keen wargamer and it seemed sad for him to be selling everything. I bought as much as I could. I have around 100 tanks sat behind me in storage boxes right now...but I digress again. This collection had an enormous influence on me (as well as just seeing all the other stuff he was selling) and it really was the start of 'proper' wargaming for me (and not just throwing ball bearings at 1/32 Airfix armies in turns as I had done till that point...fun though it was!).  If anyone knew Maurice I would be interested to know more background about his wargaming and the games he played.

I felt much better when the ships were built. All the memories of first seeing them as an 11 year old came back.  I have no doubt they are a bit wonkier now and some parts were just too delicate to stick into place, but those missing flag poles will have to remain battle damage for the time being.

I allowed myself a day to play-test the rules.  One thing I should mention is that the camera is not lying. The sea is a lilac colour!   I found I don't have any blue sheets. It was lilac or green and green is too field like for me.  So lilac it had to be.  The play-test was interesting.  The blogs I read had said that the rules were superb and quite brief. BUT descriptions and explanations were missing. The rules really assumed some knowledge in places and didn't explain some things.  Thankfully the rules are quite intuitive and you could kind of get into the designers mind and work out what tests etc should be applied where and work out the only way things could really work.  I had never played a card-driven game before, and had slightly shied off this concept for some reason.  However the card-system here was really very good indeed.  I have to say that I had a lot of fun play-testing the rules and after just one solo game I felt that I could run a game.   I just knew it was going to be good.

Ian commanded a 3-ship flotilla including HMS Victory as his flagship.  I commanded the French, with another 3-ship flotilla.  Both sides were similar but the British Crews were superior in most respects except long range shooting.

I had the wind against me much of the time and my ships struggled to make headway. However, timing it right (thank goodness for the play test on the previous day), I knew I could turn and let the wind take my ships at speed. My French 3-decker managed to 'cross the T' and raked HMS Victory, leaving it shot up badly.

The battle was ferocious but the Royal Navy came off worst...this time.  To be fair it was the RN commanders first naval wargame and first time seeing the rules, so we were just going with the flow really and seeing what happened as we tested the rules.

I have to say that the rules 'Kiss Me Hardy'  (now referred to here as 'Napoleonic Naval Rules (KMH)' as I have written on the spine of the rules folder) are superb. Not too complex but enough period style rules and action to give a really brilliant game. It felt like a Napoleonic naval battle and it was great fun to play.  I look forward to playing them again!

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Norman Infantry Command 28mm - Battle of Hastings

Most of my Norman command stands are mounted. This one is the exception so far.  I thought it would be fun to have one commander ready to lead and stand with his men on foot.

The figures are from Gripping Beast and were again, very enjoyable and quite quick to paint up.

The standard is from 'Flags of War' and I selected this one just because it was large and colourful.

The shield transfers are from 'Little Big Men Studios' if I recall correctly.

This takes care of my immediate need for commanders for my Normans. I have built and undercoated lots more foot figures ready to take to the next stage, however, my interest is now firmly onto another two periods of history (two just to make it harder to paint everything quickly!).

So there will be a delay before I get onto to painting more Normans. It only took me 24 years to paint up commanders for my Normans, so I'm sure the new infantry don't mind a little wait! This is another reason why I'm moving into smaller scales...I actually want to have playable ranges...but I'll keep my existing 28mm figs and just add to them slowly.  I do enjoy painting the detail.  Anyway - there will be something different in my next post to follow soon.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Count Eustace of Boulogne - Battle of Hastings

Here we have the command stand of Count Eustace II of Boulogne.  It is believed that Count Eustace carried the Papal Banner, and here we have it in all it's glory.

Count Eustace seems to have been a colourful character, having been excommunicated by the Pope, being involved in rebellions and getting involved 'in a brawl' with the citizens of Dover which caused a rift between King Edward and Lord Harold Godwinson (if my easy research from Wiki is accurate!)

Wiki also claims that Eustace might have been the patron of the Bayeux tapestry, and then goes on to claim that Eustace is shown pointing in retreat on it. I'm not convinced that a patron of the tapestry would have himself immortalised telling the chief that the army should skedaddle!

William of Poitiers who chronicled the Norman conquest did write the following about Eustace though (which also shows that one doesn't turn one's back on a line of angry Anglo-Saxon's!).

'With a harsh voice he (Duke William) called to Eustace of Boulogne, who with 50 knights was turning in flight and was about to give the signal for retreat. This man came up to the Duke and said in his ear that he ought to retire since he would court death if he went forward. But at the very moment when he uttered the words Eustace was struck between the shoulders with such force that blood gushed out from his mouth and nose and half dead he only made his escape with the aid of his followers.'

To me it appears that the tapestry shows that Eustace is drawing attention to William who has raised his visor. 

My figure of Eustace has one of his entourage doing the actual carrying of the Papal Banner.

The figures are from Gripping Beast and the banners from Flags of War. Shield transfers are from Little Big Men Studios (if I recall correctly).

I do enjoy painting Normans - a good covering of chain mail makes painting a simpler task than many troop types!

Well, I am away working again this week and I have taken plastic 28mm Normans and Saxons with me to build - hopefully I will get to paint some more up too. It's nice to take uncomplicated things away to do in my time off in the evenings.  So hopefully more to follow soon!