Wednesday, January 7, 2015

7th Dutch Militia

I think I can safely say I have never taken so long to build and paint just one unit. At long, long last my 7th Dutch Militia can join their comrades on the miniature field of Waterloo. This lot took me three months - that's how much time I have found myself able to devote to this wonderful hobby. I'm hoping this year will see an acceleration of my output. But I am getting more meticulous - perhaps that's an age thing?
 This 36 figure representation of the 7th Dutch Militia is a mixture of mainly Elite Miniatures, with grenadiers and light company (which Elite does not make) from Front Rank. The drummer is from Perry Miniatures. I mounted this unit differently from previous Napoleonics - on 5mm think MDF which helps me move the base rather than holding the figures. The bases will be far less obvious on my future synthetic fur terrain.
The tall grass is a combination of all sorts of scenic stuff I had lying around, rolled together and glued in grooves cut with my scalpel before the bases were textured with pre-mixed wood putty. My static grass is of three progressively lighter blends, the ratios of which I couldn't guess at. I used a life-long lasting reserve of mouse litter for the stones (if you can even see them).
I gave my militia another and different improvised colour from my earlier unit. I say improvised as the militia of the Netherlands newly created army had no national standard issued to them by the campaign. This time I opted for an orange field with gold lettering of the battalion numeral beneath the royal crown - consistent with the generally agreed convention. It is made of cloth as is my new approach.
The thicker bases also allow easier identification if you want to label them as I have just started to do. My labels are simply printed off a Word document at 8pt font size (should have gone bigger), white glued on and clear varnished over the top. I must now look to finishing some 15mm FPW French and then commence painting my French lancers.

Chevau-leger Lanciers: Figure Review Part 1 of 2

My very first Napoleonic French unit in 34 years since my plastic Airfix teenage wargaming days will be the 3rd Chevau-leger lancers for the 100 days. Overlapping slightly with my near complete Dutch Militia, I have built my lancer models ready to prime coat them but wanted to make a number of observations.

These are Elite Miniatures models and to be frank, they have been hard work. Now I'm a long time fan of Elite Miniatures and their Australian distributor and it would in fact be safe to say it was this range of figures which got me back into 28mm Napoleonic wargaming over 14 years ago. I love their infantry but am not such a fan of their cavalry. Don't get me wrong - I think they are a good looking figure and at the best price on the market but they have their limitations.

The riders come in only three poses - an officer, a trumpeter and a trooper. To gain variation, arms must be twisted, heads likewise, and the positioning of the integral rider/saddle can vary the seat of the trooper. Manipulation of the Elite alloy is a tricky undertaking as it is rigid and prone to snapping if you aren't very careful.

The casting of the saddle interior required vigorous filing with a proper workman's tool, as does the back of the mount to enable even a snuggish fit. I drill and pin my riders to their mounts with steel wire and plenty of Selley's Araldite and make my own lances with steel wire and fix them with the same glue at two points all prior painting to secure the best bond.

I've never made lancers before and thought to experiment with their pennons. In recent years I've migrated from tissue paper flags to cloth but was not convinced about fiddling with cloth pennons and dislike the paper variants I have seen. A scotch snob when I can be, my current preferred drop comes with medium grade foil capping which is easily marked and cut. I cut the swallow tail leaves from the foil, rolled the lance end of the pennon over a wire sufficient to hook and glue onto the lances. I then fixed them to the rider and mount after 24 hours. Once fixed, only then did I curl the foil pennons to represent the effects of momentum and breeze depending upon the pose of the casting.
In the end, between turning some horse heads in a vice and even the accidental collapse of the back legs of one mount (see left figure in the first image), I ended up with a varied looking regiment (20 figures) in a series of fully animated poses. I am confident that once painted up and based, they will look the part.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Black Powder Game: Rule Thoughts & Scenario elements

I hope most gamers out there get more games in than I tend to. This morning my good mate Grant and I finished a two-day Spanish Peninsular wargame using Black Powder; the second game in four months. I must say, we really enjoy the rules and it has completely revitalized this period for me.

My gaming colleagues and I were long time players in WRG and then Grand Manner rules which were always hard going for the infrequent gamer. We invariably ended up with sore feet, a bad back from all that stooping but most of all a splitting headache from all the chart reading and number crunching. In the end, it was a chore - but not so with Black Powder. I just love it.

Having declared my enthusiasm, there remain a few house rules we are developing which I thought to share. A) Horse Artillery are permitted free limbering and unlimbering without affecting their ability to fire. We find this enables them to teleport about the field like an Enterprise Away-Team which is a galaxy too far away for us. Whilst we haven't fleshed out an alternative yet, it's definitely on the drawing board. Perhaps just a -1 to hit if the battery moved?

B) Interpenetration is too permissible in this game for us. Perhaps it's our own gaming history getting in the way but we feel there needs to be limits. In print, there exist no impediment to friendly interpenetration or consequences. We propose no penetration of squares; infantry or cavalry in columns and all interpenetration disorders both units.

C) Disorder can be rallied against with the morale (save) rolls. For every hit from a roll of six (d6) which imposes disorder, a morale roll (save) of 6 removes the effect. Neither of us were entirely convinced that every disorder affect from skirmish fire and musketry would necessarily disorder a formed body of troops so we believe this will return some balance.

D) Heavy Guns are not specifically provided for and we felt that 9pdr through to 12 pdr guns should have some delineated presence in the game. Similar to the Heavy Cavalry attribute, a +1 dice per battery of 9pdr and +2 dice per 12pdr battery should make a difference.  A penalty for larger ordinance for balance will be -1 to hit if the firer's move at all (unlimbering or man-handling).

Whilst Black Powder provides for single gun batteries, we have retained our three and four guns batteries and believe we retain a balance. 
Scenario Features

Grant and I randomly generated our scenery options and developed an order of march. Our game was designed for a meeting engagement, constantly reinforced throughout the battle. We dice for entry from the first turn and I didn't even get onto the table until turn three - enabling Grant to dominate the field with his cavalry. We dice for each battalion, battery and single squadron of cavalry with a 1-3 in 6 chance. If we diced successfully, we diced immediately for the next unit and continued to roll our units on until failure for that round.

We find that this enables our whole armies to be played over time whilst avoiding an overcrowded table and allowing for significant maneuver. The battle see-sawed radically at times and both sides experienced desperate shortages in specific arms from time to time. Like the last few games we have played, neither of us were confident of the outcome until the last round - a deciding and disastrous round for one of us.

This game featured several instances of cavalry getting pinned and isolated through disorder before routing under a galling fire. The British rifles once more proved hard to destroy due to their skirmish formation whilst pinning enemy formations time and time again. Allied rocketry pinned rear echelons throughout the game and the ability to fire from the rear was particularly valued and despised. The French cavalry (particularly the lancers) corralled the allies and prevented a developed front; forcing several reactive squares. Interestingly, each side formed square on a number of occasions - on two occasions those troops were over-extended and in the end, collapsed under melee attack.

In the end, all units got onto the table and whilst the British attained a victory with a residual 7:2 field presence, they were under extreme pressure and contemplated capitulation right up to the end. Another close run thing.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Sacre Bleau! It's the Second Empire.

I must be seriously out of my mind when I think of all the other figures I should be painting and models I should be building but I cannot seem to help myself. Embracing my wargaming schizophrenia, I have embarked on yet another army development - Franco-Prussian War in 15 mm.
 When I was alone in Tonga last year, I spent some time developing Black Powder amendments or inclusions for FPW and looked about for the best figures and ranges to my tastes. A long standing 28mm aficionado, I just couldn't get past the Old Glory 15mm ranges and soon realised that to game this war on the divisional to corps level it would have to be on the smaller figure scale.
With a preference for bigger battalions I opted for 24 figure French battalions to the Prussian and German allies 32. Whilst not entirely convinced about the frontages I opted for, I am happy enough with the results even though it was tricky to pack-em-in. I feel I was too heavy handed on the flesh wash and the next three battalions will see an improvement.

This is my first French army after over 35 years of wargaming - yikes! I must be getting old. I jokingly state often enough that as a Napoleonic wargamer (Airfix to metals) I've been fighting the French longer than Wellington ever did. I know I'm not alone. Anyway, this has been an absolute treat for me. The French army of the Second Empire is a colourful and romantic period and the infantry are obviously reminiscent of the high-watermark of the French Foreign Legion era. I actually gave my mate Grant the choice of either German states or French and whilst it's hard to see past the allure of the Pickelhaube, I'm very pleased to be painting the French.

The images are of my first full line infantry regiment - of no particular identity (yet) with the second battalion in front carrying the eagle and the other two with their respective battalion fanions. The Tricolour is a print-out from and served my purposes extremely well. I'm learning to find the painting balance demand-wise of 15mm figures compared to 28mm and am enjoying the change. Vive la difference!

Next in this army will be a further line battalion (skirmishing) and two Zouave battalions.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Close Encounters of the Waterloo Kind

Well, who'd have believed it? I was playing my first wargame in months the other weekend with my good mate Grant: a Black Powder game of 28mm Napoleonics (Brits vs French). It was so much fun, we have both admitted to being bitten by the bug. Waterloo 200th Anniversary 'A' strain virus with only one cure - wargaming the battle.

As an Australian residing home once more and having been to Waterloo in June 2012, I cannot justify the expense or take the time to attend the memorial event next year. Oh, we've talked about it alright but I doubt many of my colleagues will get there. That doesn't mean our spirits wont fly across the Indian and Atlantic oceans to be with those of you who present yourselves on those hallowed grounds.

Instead of concentrating on my current and significant projects (Quebec, Lewes and Seneffe) I trotted out what's left of my unpainted Napoleonics and have started splashing paint carelessly about. I had actually bought the figures for three Dutch Militia battalions years ago but only ever painted up one of them. That's all going to change.

Grant and I will develop a scenario and wargame the east flank of the battle using Black Powder and 28mm figures. I will build 1800x2400mm table, sculpting the elevations with foam sheets and dressing it with synthetic fur. It will be the best terrain I am capable of making and the central feature will be the Papelotte farmstead which I will buy myself for a Christmas present.

The eastern flank was a relative backwater in the battle which makes the minor actions which take place over it entirely achievable within our representative troop scale (1:20) within our time frame. We'd like to play in June next year. The game scenario will centre around the French player(s) chosing the start time and hence the number of turns before day's end. The ground will be saturated and hard going due to rain and will improve as the game progresses with a sliding scale of artillery and movement effects. The deployed units will be supported along a time frame influenced by the actual battle timeline and a few what-if's which need to be diced for.

For example, once Bijlandt's brigade are retired from their forward positions off table and to the west, from that time they may be rallied off table and diced for deployment to reinforce the east flank - coming on 'shaken' in Black Powder terms. French units (cavalry primarily) may be similarly diced for but off table combat results diced for as they force their way through Smohain, Frichermont or Plancinoit to get onto our table.

We are introducing event cards or 'Imposition' cards which are drawn unseen from a deck if or whenever a player dices double one on a command roll. They can be played at any time by the drawing player and are either good for themselves or are bad and can be played on the opposing commander.

From an allied point of view, the forces are Nassau, Dutch/Belgians and Hanoverian's with a more varied colour pallet of green, blues and reds. The French will (like the allies) be relatively light on infantry and artillery with proportionally more cavalry. A lot of actions will be on skirmishing, company and squadron levels and be about movement and terrain more than the bludgeoning mass column actions taking place in the centre of the main battle. We also hope it will be something a bit different.

We are less bound to build full brigades and may not need to furnish ourselves with full cavalry regiments as it's likely to be about battalions and squadrons. We will be fully developing the scenario with notes and charts for weather effects and reinforcements. We will also keep it simple as possible.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

My New Friends

Those friends being the wonderful designers at Dragon and the almost instant troop of Challenger 2 MBTs. What an amazing world we currently live in where for the same money as buying a kit, I can have an almost table ready vehicle pre-built and ready to rock-n-roll. Naturally, I still base my vehicles so there is a little work to do.
I don't bother weathering but I did want them dirtied up a little.I think about three lightening shades of dirt brown with three shades of static-grass finished the MDF bases which were coated with pr4e-mixed putty.
My final touches were drilling and fixing the two main aerials. My photos were taken before fixing the roof mounted MGs. The real purpose of these models being based is for storage and transport. The turrets are fixed to the chassis but they do swivel. My bases are longer to the model's rear which allows a little sculpting in the putty to replicate tank tracks but perhaps more importantly, they cover the length or the gun barrel when the turret is turned to the rear. When turned to the rear, most of the barrel runs the length of the chassis and provides for the least overhang. This protects the model when in their travel boxes.

Movement & Fire

Liberation Miniatures make a five man crew which provides for artillery or mortar crews. Lacking any 105mm guns but having a few plastic 81mm mortars to hand, the decision was made. Those in the know will realise that the mortars themselves are not in fact the modern L16 81mm variety but frankly, I can live with it.
 My battle group will need a variety of Land-rovers for a variety of roles and this will include transporting my mortar battery. So, it was JB Models to the rescue with my first in a series of hard and soft top 4x4s.
Whilst I didn't go overboard with the interior detailing, I needed to paint the cabin before fixing the top to this model.The only interior painting required afterwards was half way down the length of the canvas top. The rest was straight forward.
This is a beautifully simple model to build and ideally suited for the wargamer. One tip to remember is that if you base your vehicles as I do, be careful pushing your model into the glue - the axles are thin and weak and the wheels will buckle.