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.

My FV107 Scimitar Armoured Recce Unit

I wouldn't want to guess how long ago I bought these Airfix Kits but I knew one day I'd build these models. I have long felt that the Saracen/Scimitar light tanks are the best ever looking design of armoured fighting vehicle even to come from the British isles.
For a reconnaissance role, I wanted my Scimitars camouflaged to the max. I have been hording tea leaves for some time and finally got a chance to test a technique my mates have been using - fixing tea leaves to medical gauze.
I cut up, rolled and glued the gauze to the plastic model. Once dry, I brushed on undiluted PVA white glue and pressed on the dried (used) tea leaves. Once dried, I generously coated the leaves and gauze with diluted PVA (perhaps 50/50), then sprayed the whole model with my usual black undercoat.
I dry brushed dark green over the vehicle but it didn't matter if the leaves copped any. After dry brushing a lighter shade of the green to hit the highlights, I painted the black disruption stripes and dry brushed them over with dark grey.
I hit the tea leaves with ochre, khaki green and light green and am very pleased with the effect. Finishing off the model with some aerials and the job is done. I used two cut down plastic infantry by Revel to jazz things up a little.
This model was a trifle fiddly and I had trouble with the wheel assembly and the tracks. I always base my vehicles which adds structural integrity for a wargaming model and allows for hiding my gaffs with the plastic tracks. I will most likely never build another Scimitar - but I'm sure glad I have.


 This weekend past spurred me on to develop a long standing series of purchases for my 'modern' 1990's British battle group. Having painted most of my rifle sections years ago, I realized I had the makings of a Forward Observation Officer (team) to co-ordinate my on and off-table artillery assets. So I got stuck in and here they are. These chaps are Liberation Miniatures which I think are superb castings based on - is that a coin?
The only modification made is the radio aerial which is a synthetic fibre I snipped from a brush. The photos are taken by my trusty Canon Digital SLR with a macro lens on a macro setting, cropped with Photoshop. The first image was also 'brightened'.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

FULL BATTALION: 48th Foot for Quebec

Now I'm back in Canberra where I belong, I've managed to reunite the entirety of my 48th foot  and base them - basically. I'm still separated from my possessions and unable to paint or build anything for the next few months but have at least based these chaps - I couldn't wait to see how they look.
The only other unit comparable in size I've ever constructed (70 figures) was for one of my other major efforts - Project Lewes. Whilst they were irregular infantry (always more involved) the detail on these uniforms put them on par in the effort stakes for my money. Was that that a triple-cliche sentence I just wrote?
Anyway, once ensconced in a residence of my own and settle, it will be full steam ahead.