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.