Monday, March 9, 2015

A Horse of Course

Years ago I recall a conversation with the proprietor of Peter Pan Hobbies in Woden Plaza, Canberra (now long since defunct) about modelling trees. His advice (which I took to heart) was 'model a model tree off a tree.' Sounds simple but I apply the same theory to my horse models.
A lot of people have made a lot of comments about horse painting and there's more than a few figure painters who just hate painting horses. I suspect that the reason which underpins these feelings is that they are not crediting the beasts with the importnce they deserve. Even I tend to pay more attention to uniform details which is a major attraction to the Napoleonic period (for example). In cropping these photos for this article, there's one inclusion which still focuses on the figure as a whole rather than just the horse. I am ever mindful that horses are not mere vehicles for war but living, thinking feeling partners in battle. More like victims in reality but I find I pay a lot more attention to horse painting because I treat each one as a individual worth detailing.

Wargaming my Napoleonics these days using Black Powder, I find that even a single squadron (6-8 figures) can make their presence felt on the table-top. Consequently, it seems to drive me to pay a little more attention to details my cavalry than I might otherwise have done previously.
I long ago abandoned the generic brown horse concept of cracking out regiments of cavalry. Like the faces of the figures who ride them, I break up the colour schemes into as many varied groups as my desires and historical records permit.
This unit will be representing the 10th Hussars (British) and as such I'm sticking to the core schemes of browns - avoiding the blacks as more popularly reserved for heavy cavalry, and greys which were reserved for trumpeters more often than not. Of course what I really mean to say is that this light cavalry regiment are principally mounted on colour variants from the Bays and Champaigns.

By threes, I have gone for Bays, Blood Bays and Seal Browns for the darker schemes and Yellow Duns, Mouse Duns and Grulla for the mid ranges with a few classic champaigns and a buckskin or two thrown in for good measure. I am going for a Rose Grey for the trumpeter which is a colour I don't think I have ever tried to replicate before.

Admittedly, this time I'm using the above colour chart as my guide and not working from photos.It took me a week to finish the horses themselves without their furniture depending on how much time I can allocate but this sort of attention to detail makes it a challenge - not a chore.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


An ongoing army on-the-side is my Franco-Prussian War Second Empire French army in 15mm. My current collection (mainly unpainted) are Old Glory 15s and I elected to paint the French ahead of my life-long wargaming buddy Kaiser Grant.
As other obsessions loom larger at my painting table, I've turned back to these little fellows as a break from detailing 28mm figures. After my initial rush at a three battalion French line infantry regiment, I've eased off but will push ahead switching back across from my other goals so I'll have a supported Brigade by the end of the year.

These are my first and possibly only Zouaves of any description. I elected not to attempt specifying any particular regiment and I only had two battalions in the job lot I had purchased. I am sticking to painting what I have rather than worrying about rounding out whole regiments for paper based symmetry. Oh, and if anyone has references for the battalion fanions please contact me - I'd be extremely grateful.

This brings be up to five battalions in all with another half painted. I put more care into the faces this time and am more comfortable with the adjustment in my painting approach to the 15mm scale. I haven't decided how to finish the bases for this army yet, so am leaving them naked until that time. Consistent with the others, these Zouaves are 24 figure battalions, six to a base and deeper than the others to accommodate the firing poses.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chevau-leger Lanciers: Part 2 of 2

Well these Frenchies took longer to base than I expected. I present my completed rendition of the 3rd Chevau-leger Lanciers for Waterloo. I have to admit to having enormous fun painting these - got stuck right in. This is a 20 figure representation of three squadrons (lost a horse along the way somewhere) using Elite Miniatures 28mm figures.
Based on 5mm MDF composite board, I commenced cutting the divots for my improvised grass clumps (see my Dutch Militia posting). This time I drizzled diluted PVA white glue over them afterwards to set them which resulted in next to no loss.
When fixing one rider I accidentally collapsed the rear legs of the mount but went with the concept of the horse faltering in a bog. Not sure if my photography does the effect justice but it's three layers of gloss varnish for effect.
Speaking of effect, my move to Black Powder rules makes my casualty markers redundant so made use of one of my Elite Miniatures dead Scots - reminiscent of Quatre Bras I felt.
I glossed up any shallow points in my putty-textured bases and used greener static-grass than normal for the verdant pastureland of Belgium. I blend all my static-grass; never being satisfied with the solid colours provided by the suppliers. I was aiming for an abandoned pastureland look.
I put a fair effort into animating these figures and injecting as much individualism as possible. I have drawn a line against making French flags myself; using Ian Croxall Salem's freely available Warflag graphics - a BIG hello to Ian. I started using his products for my Franco-Prussian War 15mm flags but used 45gsm paper this time which was the thinnest I could easily source. Given the size of French standards, I don't see this position changing taking the complexity of the design into account. Find his stuff here if you haven't already:
This unit's first time out may be against me as I'm building the Allied side primarily - so I don't know if I care if they disgrace themselves. Next unit for Waterloo is the 10th Hussars.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

10th Hussars Start-up: 100th Post

I can't help it but I'm siezed with enthusiasm for this year's 200th anniversary for the battle of Waterloo. For those following my other blogs dedicated to my major projects I can only say sorry. I will be working on them but only gradually for the first half of the year. My enthusiasm (bordering on obsession) may wane - who can say?

Whilst I work on finishing the basing for my 3rd Chevau-Legere Lancers I've started prepping the first two squadrons of my British 10th Hussars. I've had these figures knocking around for several years - a gift from my mate Matt (avatar Bluewillow) and the first thing to do was strip the black undercoating. My painting technique dictates white undercoating and I just cannot see well enough for working on black.
 The figures are old Foundry castings and come in only three poses for the riders - officer, trumpeter and trooper from the B100 Late War Hussar series. Injecting variation and animation across the unit as a whole was required. They all came with mustaches (curiously enough) so some very careful shaving with a fine scalpel and some judicious filing cleaned three of them up for starters. I'll know it was successful only once they are undercoated. The head and shoulders are thick set on these castings so I resorted to some very cautious head turning with needle-nose pliers wrapped in cloth. A twist to the left for some, to the right for others, one tilted back and another to his front was about all I could do.
I thinned their sabres on the outer edge with the scalpel and file and curved some of the oddly straight scabbards. The mounts come in only two poses so I similarly turned a few heads to break them up a little. I docked all of the horses tails as was the fashion except the officer's horse - just because I felt like it. Now I drill and pin the riders to their mounts and they will be undercoated and painted.
Black Powder rules allow for an effective presence in the game for even a single squadron of cavalry but my scenario calls for up to the whole regiment on the field. A trip to CANCON last week saw me return with the Perry plastic British Hussar set which will provide for the other two six figure squadrons. I will not be turning these over in a month as I just about have with my lancers as I promised myself I'd finish three battalions of 2nd Empire 15mm French which are sitting at my table taunting me.

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.