Friday, April 3, 2020

Quebec: Wolfe's detatched light companies & Cran Tara Minis

It's been a hell of a start to 2020 and I've struggled to cultivate the motivation to paint. I am now marooned with 100,000 souls in a locked-down Kingdom of Tonga for an indefinite period. I have had to cancel a large spate of anticipated leave back in Australia which was to coincide with my daughters' 18th birthday (twins) and an Iron Maiden concert in Sydney. Well that's not happening now. Thankfully the fires which raged across Australia didn't directly affect me or mine but a massive hail storm with stones the size of golf and billiard balls destroyed my car. Fortunately, the insurance write-off was worth more than it's trade-in value so I'm ahead for the purchase of a new Hybrid SUV. I also managed to squeeze in a ten day trip to Dubai and Muscat over which my partner Tania accepted my proposal of marriage. So, the summer of 2019/2020 has been quite the roller-coaster ... and distracting.
I've finally got back into a groove somewhat less intense than last year's end-of-days frenzy. To ease myself back in, I turned to the composite detached light companies for Wolfe's army. This unit comprises for me a 21 figure group made from light companies from three regiments - the 78th, the 2/60th and the 28th foot. It's been a little tricky inasmuch as I've had to flick back and forth between three sets of colour references and late last year I ordered some supplementary figures from Cran Tara as I didn't have quite enough Scots ... needing eleven.

I had not ordered from Cran Tara previously and I was a little dismayed when they turned out to be nearer true 25mm miniatures. I've been used to scale-creep 28mm figures and I didn't feel these boys would mix that well along side my Crusader and Redoubt ranges - not to mention the oversize Blue Moon figures.
The Cran Tara sculpts are very realistically proportioned and very nicely detailed - they are very life-like. Being just that much smaller or rather finer, the kit is a trifle fiddly compared to the others. Don't get me wrong, they paint up lovely but it's a wee bit more of a strain to my ageing eyes and it felt harder going. Their Scots also have all the kit for French and Indian wars with hatchets, powder horns, ration sack, water flasks, bayonet scabbards and sporrans. These figures aren't so much shorter than the others but more accurately slender and I'm not at all sure they would fit well into a formed unit along side my other figures. It's just as well they don't have to as they will be skirmishing three to a circular base so what I've been scrutinizing under my magnifying lamp will be barely noticeable on the table-top.
I have to remark that once painted the differences seem to reduce. I found the faces on these Cran Tara figures to be less well put together than the other ranges in my collection. They are okay but more akin to Elite Miniatures in their attention to detail than Crusader or Perry Miniatures. This range came out years after I had started this project and it looks to be extensive and expanding. If I had my time over again I would definitely have considered them as a foundation range. As it is, I have been working within the uniform limitations of pre-existing ranges where sometimes significant variations in uniform styles between regiments is simply not provided for.
My previous go-to Humbrol metals have partially perished in the heat and humidity of Tonga with no hope of replacement in the short term. I had thought to experiment with alternative acrylic metals from the Vallejo ranges which were thankfully to hand and I will say they are superb. I do believe I am converted now using their flesh tones and now brass, gold and steel metallic ranges.

This makes the eighth unit completed (not including the two guns and crew) and I've already started on the next jumbo unit of 44 figures. I'll push along this Quebec effort but I'm about to hit the end of that particular lead pile and it will be time for the final orders to complete Wolfe's army.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Battle for Quebec: Anstruther's 58th Foot

What was on-track to being the last unit for 2019 became the first for 2020 - my interpretation of Ansthruther's 58th regiment of Foot. I had painted these little men just after Christmas, ready for their mat spray coat but a category 1 cyclone parked itself across Tonga for the best part of three days and more into the new year. High winds, lashing rain and spiking humidity prevented me from finishing them but all good now.
This time I remembered to file off the cast detail for the genadier mitres which again did not conform to the pattern for this regiment. That made life so much easier when it came to painting the King's cypher motif.
As I'm likely to be using Black Powder rules when I finally get around to wargaming this army, it's allowed me to get over a bugbear I've had with basing. These bases allow for eight figures in two ranks with a 20mm frontage each. As you can see, I squeezed the sergeant on the right flank making for a nine figure base. That's because strict figure frontage no longer matters in the current generation of rules ... freedom!
I've been paying a lot more attention to faces these days and I think I've finally settled on my unshaved technique. Over the years I've opted for a diluted Citadel black wash and even painted grey but what's working the best for me is stippling a dark grey wash - just white, black enamels and mineral thinners. If I want it darker, I just repeat.
This is a gratuitous shot and I know I sound nuts but I like the grenadier mitre as much from the back as the front. I opted for the grenade on the black back-band but shied away from the regimental number.
I really enjoyed the black facing for this unit - something a bit different to my others thus far. Hey, you have to take relief where you can find it when painting 34 figure battalions.  The lace patterns and coat cut of the Redoubt Miniatures matched with the 58th foot better than others have in the past so there are less detail compromises this time.
I didn't weather or battle damage the regimental colours like I often do and they turned out quite vibrant - which I don't mind. I did more dramatic folding for the cloth of the flags this time and used the Front Rank fanion chords to tuck the King's Colour in closer to the pole.
The commander is a Black Hussar figure from the British FIW range and I think the drummer is a Blue Moon but can't really remember. The rest are all Redoubt Miniatures.
As I took a bit of time over this wretched drummer, I'm a little vexed he is so obscured at the back so here are two shots in detail ... peekaboo!
One small advantage to this regiment was that all references indicate that the cockade was black with a black tie and no button, making painting the head-wear just that little bit easier. The lace was also plain white for rank and file, silver for officer ranks.
I came to realise I hadn't added to Wolfe's army since 2017 at the start of my Tonga posting. Therefore, I have already started painting the detached light infantry skirmishers and bracing myself to paint the 44 figures for my 34th foot.
I'm happy I got the lighting right this time when photographng. I used my make shift light box and fitted it out with my charcoal cardboard backing sheet. I'm now concentrating on some Russian Cossack cavalry for my Balaclava Build (another of my blogs).  

Friday, December 20, 2019

Battle for Quebec: French regiment la Sarre

My third regiment for Montcalm's army is the comparatively colourful regiment la Sarre. All figures for this 37 figure unit are from Black Hussar Miniatures from their Seven Years War range including a British officer from their FIW range. 
Together with my first two French regiments and a Huron war party, I now have a brigade and can start playing some games against the British whilst I continue to compete both armies - well, in theory.
The regiment's two colours are 30mm square cloth allowing for a central cross 6mm wide and being the second battalion of the Regiment, they are both ordinance colours. The chords for the one-piece cast flag poles are plain in comparison to the Front Rank fanion sets so I opted for my own interpretations of the colours making one red and one black.
Unlike the regiments I have sought to create so far for the Plains of Abraham, the Black Hussar Miniatures are sculpted with collarless coats. Instead, the figures have prominent neckerchiefs. La Sarre arrived in Quebec in 1757 whose uniforms would have conformed to the rest of those deployed to the New World.  Originally, they arrived with an altered colour scheme and collarless coats for Canadian service but were later reissued and returned to their conforming regimental coats as depicted here. I elected to represent the collar by painting coloured tabs on the neckerchief as well as indications for the black stock.
I loved painting these figures and would have delivered faster results had not my work got in the way in the madness leading toward the end of the year. These figures include the bayonet and swords - whereas I read the fusiliers left their swords behind prior for embarking to Canada. I have to admit this doesn't concern me in the least so perhaps I've turned some sort of corner when it comes to a tendency to obsess over accuracy?

The sergeants come with partizans (traditional issue) whereas I understand that sergeants were issued with muskets and bayonets for Canadian service. Well I'm sure that there would have been a few partizans about Quebec and the fight on the Plains of Abraham was a regular open battle.
The two tambours were fun to paint and I reckon the drums are larger than others I've painted in the past. They are both sculpted quite differently. The one above has recessed buttons (made from a tube impression) whereas the tambour below has raised buttons. I've never come across this type of design variation before within the one range.

I lost a few bayonets along the way - a real vulnerability in this range. Having said that, when next I paint a Black Hussar French infantry unit I might opt for no bayonets and lop them all off.

The battalion shots are on temporary bases. I'll be wrapping this lot individually for shipping home. The cast bases are really very stable ovals and they stood quite easily on their own with no Bluetack.
Nevertheless, I arrayed them as I will be basing them - three ranks deep and giving fire in half-battalion with the right side loading and ready and the left giving fire.
I'm still learning to use my lighting array for my macro photography and am trying to minimise the saturation. In the battalion shots I have mainly dimmed my LED panel (only using one this time) to a minimum output which I think works better.

As you can see, I'm running with an ad-hoc set-up in Tonga but it's a vast improvement on relying on natural light which comes and goes here with frustrating regularity. There is so much rain in the Pacific this time of year.

The next regiment I paint will be from another manufacturer simply because I'm keen on sampling the market. I'll definitely return to these figures in future - they are just beautiful models.
This will be the last product completed in 2019 I predict - but I'll be pushing hard to get their adversary the 58th British regiment of foot done - we shall see. This has been the year of the French for me between my 15mm FPW output and a relatively rapid start-up for the French at Quebec.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Franco-Prussian War: French Field Artillery Battery

The first challenge to this build was figuring out what I had in the Old Glory 15s packet. It's a generous offering of six guns and 25 crew. I will need limbers down the track but they will have to be another supplier. What I had to discern was what types of guns I had on my hands - there are two types supplied.

There are four smaller pieces with shorter barrels (20mm) and shorter, stout gun carriages. The other two are longer and larger barrelled pieces (25mm) on longer, slender carriages. Old Glory fails to adequately identify them but both types are muzzle loaders.
A little bit of research is always required of course (it's part of why I'm into historical wargaming). I don't know why but I have relied greatly on open source internet information to inform this build. Perhaps it's because they are 15mm. If I were building this army in 28mm you can be sure I'd have purchased a comprehensive uniform guide and reference library.
Anyway, and these models represent four of the Canon de Campaign de 4 La Hitte (1858) and two of the older Napoleon III 12 pounder re-bored guns.

Normally I'd group my batteries into three gun units but in this instance I'm likely to go for a two gun battery organisation as the 12 pounders formed reserve batteries and the model 4's formed homogeneous field batteries. It's academic anyway because I base my guns separately and I can always arrange them differently on the day if I prefer.
I needed to balance the barrels when fixing them with Selley's Araldite to give time for the bond to set.

For the first time I have deliberately based one of my 4's askew. On reflection, I don't know why I've never done this before but I wanted it to look like it was being man-handled to change facing. When it comes to guns there's so many different modelling possibilities and I must try to remember this for future artillery builds.

The gun carriages as far as I can discern were a grey/green. This would appear to be continuing the Napoleonic tradition. Imagery for extant examples are variable in colour from a pronounced mid-green to grey which I presume to be faded over time. Artists as often as not depict them in a natural wood but I recognise that digital colour reproduction can also vary significantly. So, I've gone for a louder green on the carriage body and greyer green on the wheels which I admit is hedging my bets a little. In the end, I'm not entirely happy the wheels are dark or grey enough and they look the same as the rest of the carriages under the light. Ah well. The barrels are all brass.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Chasseurs a Cheval: French FPW 15mm

Well I pushed on and cranked out the other cavalry bag I had with me in Tonga for my French Second Empire 15mm army. These Old Glory 15mm toy soldiers are a treat to paint up and compared to 28mm figures they really are much faster to produce.
When it came to applying the research I posted in my uniform guide, I realised that at this scale there were practical compromises to make. For instance, the double black and green central stripe on the outside seam of the trousers I reduced to a single simple black line.
The pack came with two standard bearers and one trumpeter so I cut one standard bearer's standard down to a sword by lopping the ends and pinching the soft alloy wire with flat nosed pliers and trimming appropriately.
I have to admit I wasn't able to readily identify which figure was the leader/officer so I just went with the only heroically posed rider waving his sword in the air.
The Chasseurs a Cheval have relatively simple uniforms. I couldn't readily discern if the faces included molded chin straps or not so I left them out entirely. I did include the eagle on their sabretache. When it comes to deciding what details to include in 15mm I admit I don't have and hard and fast rules or a painting plan.
I really couldn't be bothered with the collar piping and didn't want to but ended up forcing myself and I'm glad I did. It wasn't that arduous. Anyway, I've already started on their artillery support (foot) so that will be the next post.

Black Hussar Figure Review and approach

French SYW Fusilier kneeling at ready

My second purchase of French infantry 28mm figures is from the Berlin based Black Hussar Miniatures. They are hands down some of the most elegant fine scale model soldiers available today and they just scream 18th century.
French SYW Fusilier loading

I purchased 37 miniatures for my regiment la Sarre and these are only the second company I have so far sourced for my French army - the other being Crusader Miniatures. They were all purchased from the Seven Years War French Fusilier selections and I thought to model a firing line.
French SYW Fusilier loading (2)

Black Hussar Miniatures make a varies range of standing and kneeling fusiliers firing, loading and at the ready. The equipment is beautifully detailed and their muskets are very fine when compared to Crusader Miniatures whose muskets border on artillery pieces by contrast. Whilst they look superb they do not travel well and he bayonets bent significantly in transit without exception and I lost a couple in the undercoating stage (I brush it on). They are cast is a very malleable alloy.
French SYW Tambour advancing

The Tambours (drummers) are very detailed and require assembly as the drums are depicted swinging freely away from the body once affixed. I drilled and pinned the connection points (the left hand) to further support the join prior to using Selley's Araldite.
French SYW Tambour standing

In fact, some attention is paid in the design and casting process to project the third dimension to these figures. The fusiliers (particularly those standing and shooting) have a superbly rendered and prominently projecting sword and bayonet scabbard with none of the relief in depth issues normally found. They required no cutting in like most manufacturers - just a little straightening.
French SYW Standard Beaerer

The standard bearers come with the flag pole, fanions, cravats and streamers as one piece separate to the figure with both hands forming the flag pole sculpt. I also drilled and pinned the join. As I make my own cloth flags, this altered my usual order of build in that I constructed and painted the flags prior to fixing them to the bearers and proceeding to undercoat stage.
French SYW standard with fanions and hands sculpted on

I also purchased a pair of English officers from the French and Indian Wars selection, one of whom comes with no sash and a gorget , serving just as well as a French colonel on foot. The French company officers with spontoons and the Sergeants with halberds are particularly beautiful.
British FIW officer who will pass for French
All shots are taken after white undercoating. I over did it with the lighting and most likely should have filtered it a little to pick up detail - they look over exposed.
French SYW Line Officer
There's a lot to be said for mixing up manufactures within a unit and across an army just for variety's sake. I will be completing an entirely Black Hussar unit in this instance. I'm looking forward to how they come out.
French SYW Sergeant