Monday, 16 March 2020

Limbering up. Doing SYW limbers on the cheap + model conversion notes.

Limbers and wagons are very much a non-essential nice to have. If anything, I have found wagons more useful over the years as they allow a wide variety of scenarios to be played; I have happily done without limbers for most of my gaming life, coming up with various ways of showing guns 'in train' without models of limbers and teams.

One thing that has put me off buying limbers is the price of the models, which has only increased with the size of my collections. However, when I started my Napoleonic collection I made a conscious decision to include them, if not one per battery at least enough to get by, and I discovered just how 'nice' it is to have them.

Consequently, I decided to retrospectively buy limbers for my SYW collection (Prussians, Russians and Austrians). I have six two gun batteries of artillery for each army so, initially, I thought this would cost me more than I really wanted to spend: In metal, with a four horse team, I priced each limber at £14.80. For one limber per gun (total 36) this would cost £543.60 - passion killer.

I thought about how to cut costs. I looked to War Bases (MDF) for a solution. They make various carts, perhaps they make limbers. They do, they make a Napoleonic French limber. They are not ideal but, they had potential for conversion and at only £1.50 each they had to be worth a punt. At this point I also decided to cut cut down the teams to just two horses each. Limber and teams would now only cost £5.90 each.

Warbases Gribeauval limber. A neat little MDF model.

I took out the bits then cut bits off (as shown) before assembling it as a simple 18 C limber.
Note: I cut the MDF tow spike off (piece on 
far left ) so that it could be replaced with a more durable wire one 

Assembled before being drilled for the wire towing spike.
To cut costs further, I decided on one limber per two gun battery and to paint the limbers natural, neutral wood so that they could be used for any army. Furthermore, it was hard to imagine a scenario where I would have six batteries on the move at the same time, so three or four limbers per army would be enough. I bought six limbers from War Bases and twelve draught horses from Front Rank. Total cost: £35.40.

However, I had made a serious mistake. As soon as I had painted them, and added a gun, I realised just how ridiculous they looked. I should have painted the limbers in national colours. I would need to buy more. I decided on four limbers per army, potentially doubling the cost to £70.80. With my ardour receding I decided to do the limber bases in two parts - one with the limber and one with the team. This would mean I only needed four more horses, rather than twelve, reducing the total price to £50.20.

Limber and team based as two pieces.
The limbers painted in national colours - Austrian yellow; Prussian blue; Russian red.
This weekend, with all the bits in place, and having a couple of afternoons to spare, I repainted the limbers, painted the horses, and based them up. I also painted up another Warbases wagon and team that I've had hanging around for a while (its load is teddy bear fur painted up as hay): Note that I have changed it two a single shafted model to allow a two horse team to be harnessed side by side rather than in tandem.

I will only need horses for two armies, so I split limbers and teams, thus reducing the cost of horses by one third.
Another benefit of basing the teams separately is the possibility of having four horse teams when not many limbers
 are in play at the same time.
I now have SYW limbers. Huzzah!


IronDuke596 said...

I commend your efforts at making limbers and including horse teams for your guns. Very nice basing too.

For my War of 1812/peninsular armies every gun has its associated limber and teams for two reasons. One, it more accurately reflects the support depth of an artillery battery on the table and two, it looks aesthetically pleasing.

I always enjoy your posts. Thanks.



I see where you are coming from but, space (especially in table depth) is always at a premium on a wargames table so we tend to remove limbers when not in use. Also, supporting elements were usually kept well back from the battery (a few hundred yards from memory) to stop them being hit by (counter battery fire) bounce through. Consequently, they didn't get in the way much (because troops could interpenetrate them and reform at a safe distance from the enemy).

In a similar vein, the second line in an 18 C linear battle were most usually deployed 400 - 700 yards behind the first to stop enemy overshoots taking effect on uncommitted troops. On a war games table, using 28 mm figures, this isn't practical either.

Full limber and caisson establishment does look good though, we can definitely agree on that.

daveb said...

Haha! Very clever separating the horses (the most expensive part) from the limbers which you can easily expand to any other army colours you need.

David said...

A clever solution which saves cash and is easy on the eye.

Steve J. said...

I to initially did not use limbers for ym 10mm armies, making do with other ways to denote them entrained. However late last year I decided I needed them and like you, went with a one or two horse option to reduce cost and space. They do look good and are removed when not needed on the table.

Friends Of General Haig said...

A cleverly worked out approach! They look great.

Chasseur said...

Great idea, also been looking at these and games look much better with Limbers! :)

pancerni said...

Glad to see it worked out aesthetically and fiscally. Me, I just buy the limbers. :-)

marinergrim said...

Very nice work and definitely food for thought on how to complete my own armies. Plus they look terrific.

Ratmaul said...

Really beautiful and eye catching these primary colors. :)
Who cares they are really Gribeauval limbers? No one will really notice from 3 feet away.
To be true they are not completely out of place, because the system started being deployed mid 18th century, so you can point this out in case someone notices anyway and complains! ;)

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Gonsalvo said...

I think your Warbases Limbers look great. I agree with you about using 2 horses per limber, but it's hard to find any metal manufacturers that sell them seperately, or with les than 4 horses per. I have a number of limbers to add to my Napoleonic armies as well.


Hi Peter,

You can get separate limbers from Front Rank - very nice models - and I'm using them for my Napoleonic armies. The limber set deals are good, and you can use them as the base sets adding a limber to convert them into two horse teams, though I'm doing four horse teams for them because I'm buying them as I buy the guns to spread the cost.

For me, it's having to retrospectively buy them for several batteries that makes the outlay burdensome, especially as other things on the to buy list have greater priority, and I keep to a 'hobby budget'.

Gonsalvo said...

Thanks, James; useful info!

Fritz II. said...

Very beautiful, James