Wednesday 20 December 2017

Project management, the British starter army, and men in green.

All figure painting projects, in my opinion, are best carried out in a series of small achievable goals. To this end, I always set out to paint enough stuff for a first game, then I paint to achieve what is needed to create the next, usually bigger, scenario. 

Getting past the goal of first game is always the hardest thing to do because it invariably involves painting a few hundred figures. I'm the first to admit I've found scoring this particular goal very difficult for this project.

In the case of my Peninsular project, my first goal involves painting a little over 500 figures plus some cannons, limbers, and horses of course. I'm pleased to report that I'm now well over half way and the British 'starter army' is almost complete - I just have the divisional command element and four skirmishers for the 'Gordons' to do (the latter are winging their way through the post, with another 100 figures from Front Rank, as I write). 

I've also done about a quarter of the French but they are easier to paint than British troops so it shouldn't take too long to do them.

Here is the British starter army. It comprises two Brigades of infantry, a cavalry Regiment and a battery of foot artillery plus command elements. Please ignore the SYW Austrians in the background, they are set up for tonight's game.

This week, apart from finishing the 14th Light Dragoons, I've managed to do some Brigade attachments. These are:

Some riflemen of the 95th for Howard's Brigade. 

The Figures are by Front Rank. 
Riflemen are always quite difficult to paint because the darkness of their uniform makes picking out the detail difficult until the final highlights go on. 

I've painted the 95th from several manufactures recently and I think these Front Rank figures were the easiest to do.
Men of 2nd Battalion KGL Light Infantry for Lowes Brigade. 

The figures are by Warlord Games.
These figures are in far more active poses than those from Front Rank figures. However, I found them much more difficult to paint. 

I was also a little surprised to find musket armed troops in a sealed pack (bought from ebay) that was described as riflemen - I seem to have received a pack of mixed rifles and muskets but, as I only need six figures for 'skirmishing', and the battalion had musket armed troops, it's not a major problem.

Next up, more French.

Saturday 16 December 2017

14th (Duchess of York's Own) Light Dragoons

This week (well since Tuesday) I've managed to find time to knock out the first cavalry unit for the Peninsular War project. 

I chose to do the 14th Light Dragoons for the British for two reasons. Firstly, it fought throughout the War, from the 2nd Battle of Porto in May 1809 to the Battle of Toulouse in April 1814. Secondly, it has orange distinctions (cuffs and collar), and I particularly like orange and blue together.

The figures are a Front Rank 'battalion pack'. They are painted in enamels. The flag is that for the second squadron, chosen over that for the first squadron because it has an orange field; it is by GMB. 

Basing is two figures per stand. Bases have a 45 mm frontage and are 60 mm deep - for me this has become the ideal size for two cavalry figures on a single base as it prevents 'figure clash' in all directions.

All in all I think they came out O.K.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

First French regiment completed & some new lighting for painting

The 3rd battalion of 36th Ligne is done.

I started this regiment on 28th November. Today it's the 12th December. So that's a regiment of three twenty-four man battalions plus a dozen skirmishers, eighty-four figures in total, done in fourteen days. I doubt I'll be able to maintain this pace but, it's a very good start.

I was planning to do 2nd Leger next but, whilst double checking the painting guide, I suddenly realised that the carabiniers in this regiment wore bearskins. Of course, I bought all of my Leger in shako. Consequently, I've had to revise my painting schedule until after firing off a quick order for my Christmas / Birthday present to Front Rank. I will not get my hands on these figures until after Christmas so, next up will be 14th Light Dragoons for the British, and after that a dozen riflemen to finish off the two British infantry brigades - both were undercoated today.

On a different note, I've been thinking about getting some new bright lighting for my painting station for for quite some time. 

I've talked about a short wall mounted florescent tube with a plug in cable. Today I went into my local, very old school, electrical shop to discuss the possibility of Mr. Clegg (the very old school owner) making me such a light. To my delight I found they are commercially available, ready made, and he had some in stock. 
I happily paid over the money, went home and fitted it. I now have 100 watts of lighting, just above eye level (so no glare), directly above my desk - it is, no pun intended, brilliant.

Friday 8 December 2017

Second French battalion

Another French battalion has been done. This one  is 2nd Battalion 36th Ligne. Note that I still have to do the name labels for my French units (these go on the base, behind the standard bearer, on the raised name plate). I'll add them when I finally decide on which font to use: Any suggestions welcome.

Figures are Front Rank. The flag is by Flags for the Lads. All figures were painted using enamels.

My immediate plan is to paint a total of three Leger and six Ligne battalions to face my six painted British battalions before moving on to some guns for the French (I already have a battery of three guns for the British, see pic below), one or two cavalry regiments for each side, and a couple of rifle companies to finish off the British brigades: That should be enough to play a first game with the British defending.

Looking further ahead, I have realised that I've probably initially overbought for the British side (twenty-three Battalions including Portuguese, with nothing yet for the Light Division) and I haven't bought enough for the French (a mere seventeen battalions). 

My eventual plan will be to buy three units for the Light Division (probably a large thirty-two man battalion of the 52nd, a unit of eighteen figures for the 95th and a battalion of 1st Cazadores); plus an extra battalion of Cazadores to fight alongside the brigaded Portuguese (currently six line and one Cazadores). This will give a Anglo Portuguese infantry list of:

2 x 32 man Guard infantry battalions.
1 x 32 man light infantry battalion.
14 x 24 man (including 3 x KGL, 1 Highland, 1 light) infantry battalions.
6 x 24 man Portuguese line infantry battalions.
2 x 24 man Cazadores battalions.
7 x 6 man 'rifle companies' (4 x 95th, 2 x 60th, and 1 x KGL).
118 x skirmishers for line battalions an alternate figures for light battalions skirmishing.

I'll bring the French up to twenty-one twenty-four man battalions and three thirty-two man battalions (plus skirmishers) by adding another four light and three line battalions to the lead pile - giving a total of fifteen battalions of line and nine of light. I can't see myself ever needing more than twenty four units on my 12 x 6 table at any one time - twenty four battalions have a line frontage of over twenty feet - though the split might be a bit Leger heavy if they are all fielded at the same time.

I'm going to keep the cavalry numbers as small as reasonably possible whilst trying to cover all of the bases. The British will have three regiments of dragoons, two of light dragoons, one of hussars and two of Portuguese. The French will have three regiments of dragoons, three of chasseurs, one of hussars and one of lancers, the latter very much just for the fun of it. This will mean buying another eight regiments.

As for guns, I'm still not sure. Currently I have three batteries of three guns for each side - two of foot artillery and one of horse artillery. Once I've decided what will actually constitute a battery on the table - 1 gun, two guns or three guns - I'll have a much better idea. I guess this will largely depend on what rules I end up using. In any event, I'm not going to buy more than three more guns per side and hope to get away with what I have.

The rules thing is, as always, the key. I want to play games with multiple divisions, with brigade sized formations (French regiments) representing divisions, with sufficient rules detail to allow the constituent units in a 'division' to use battalion formations and tactics. Those who know me know that I don't get overly hung up on ground scales, time scales and such, as I'm more interested in a game's overall narrative, and consequently a false figure / unit scale is an easy leap for me. At the moment my rule set short list is Piquet (with well honed house amendments), Lasalle and Black powder. Piquet is the most complicated and slowest of the three sets (though years of use has made the mechanisms second nature) but always give a good tense game with a good narrative and plenty of period feel. The other two look to give fun fast flowing games but might lack some period feel.

Once I've hacked my way through that lot........The Spanish?.........The Sudan? Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Next up the 3rd Battalion 36th, then I'll shift attention to the three battalions of 2nd Leger. 

Friday 1 December 2017

The first French battalion

Another Napoleonic unit for the Peninsular War project is now done and in the cabinet. 

This time, for a change of pace, I've painted a French unit. With regard to the question posed in my previous post,  as to why I don't find painting these units that pleasurable, has been answered: It's the piping. It looks great when it's done but, cor blimey gov'nor, it's a chore.

Anyway, here are three more shots of 1st Battalion, 36th Ligne. Next up, the other two battalions of this regiment. I'll start them this weekend.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Back on the horse

For some reason my Napoleonic Peninsular War project, which started with such vigour and vinegar, completely stalled in September 2016. Since then I've had the 50th West Kent, undercoated, with no more than their faces painted, sat in a tray at the top of a cupboard. 

I've painted stuff since: WW2, Italian Wars and some extra bits and pieces for my SYW collections but I've avoided anything Napoleonic (except for commissions) like they've had the 'cheese touch'. Even the stuff I've painted this year has not been done in huge amounts - less than 600 figures at a guess.

I'm happy to report that this is no longer the case and, not only are the 50th done, I've started on some French. I intend to make a push for a first game - that is usually quite a spur to keep adding for new scenarios. I need to get this thing done. I'm even ordering a few extra bits and pieces over the next week or two.

Figures are Front Rank.

The 50th West Kent.

One other thing I've decided to do now, whilst the job is less daunting than it will be, is to change the basing format of the duplicate light company figures when skirmishing. Initially I had decided to base them individually on two penny pieces. However, for storage purposes, and to make movement on the table easier I have decided to base them on 40 x 40 mm squares, two per base. Note that in the photographs above all of the 50th's figures, including duplicate light company figures, are pictured.

A pitiful sight, the painted stuff so far. 6 battalions of Infantry, a gun battery and two Brigadiers. All of that empty shelving needs to be filled!

Tuesday 21 November 2017

An Italian Wars Weekend, in Scotland.

Last weekend, my turn to stage a game for The League of Gentleman Wargamers came about. I chose to do the Italian Wars as a single 'Kingmaker style' campaign game. 

The bulk of the figures were provided by Steve Rimmer and myself with significant contingents provided by Chris Henry, Angus Konstam, Dale Smith and other members of the group. It was a good job they were. On Sunday I estimated there were over 3,500 figures in play, fighting on every table. 

The massed buildings, representing the 44 towns and cities, were brought by several players, with Peter Nicholson and Charles S. Grant providing most (I think); Steve Rimmer provided most of the walled cities. Before the game, not having enough real estate was my chief worry - I don't know where players find the room to store all this stuff - Charles S., alone, brought over 40 buildings and Fort St. Elmo!

Even with the rugged hills rising as a backdrop behind the small town of Kirriemuir in Angus, an icy Saturday November morning in Scotland didn't make it feel much like being in Rome, Florence or Venice (it was positively balmy 15C in Rome last Saturday). However, inside the hired hall it looked a little more like it.

The tables, depicting Italy from  Naples to the Alps. Angus K, pictured top is stood in front of Venice.
Italy, from Naples to the Alps, was set up on five 6' deep tables. The first three (looking north, as per the photograph above) were 12' wide and represented the interlinking localities of Naples, Rome and Florence. These tables were all split by the the spine of the Apennines, all classed as impassable rugged mountains except at three passes. Being impassable they didn't have to be as wide as they should be, allowing more space to manoeuvre troops on the 'coastal plains'. Naples is just out of shot in the lower left corner, the big church is Rome and the big city on the next table is Florence.

The next two tables, looking north, are the 16' wide table with (left to right) Genoa, Modena and Bologna on it; and lastly, the table with The French Alpine passes, Milan, Ferrara, and Venice - this last table was the biggest at 20' wide. These two tables were split by the river Po which was, by the nature of the gap, remarkably straight edged but worked quite well.

All in all,less the space taken by the mountains, that gave a remarkable 432 square feet of potential battlefield for the 14 players to wade about in.

The players were (and I'll only name each once):

Steve Rimmer (Milan) on the left and Angus Konstam (Doge of Venice) on the right. 

The walls of Milan are in the distance and the place in the sunlight is Ferrara (actually sited on the wrong side of the Po for game play purposes). 

Venice, pictured later, was represented by fort St. Elmo and is just out of shot behind the tank - which we made up rules for and featured as part of a Venetian naval invasion of Southern Italy.
In the mid-blue collar, Bill Gilchrist (King of France).

Bill's knowledge of Pike and Shotte rules (on which the rules for the game were based) helped greatly over the weekend - he was a very welcome 'rules medic' when I was occupied elsewhere.
Standing left to right, Graham Hill (Duke of Modena), Dale Smith (Seigniory of Florence), Kieron Potts (Venice's No2), Kevin Calder (Doge of Genoa). 

The three walled cities, left to right are Bologna, Modena and Genoa.
On the left, Chris Henry (Spain's representative of the King, The Grand Captain) asks Peter Nicholson (The Pope) to leave him alone but the Pope will have none of it. Spain and the Papal State will battle it out for the entire weekend and Spain will get clobbered, having only one city (Naples) and two units between its two players at the end of day 1: With a little umpire aid they recovered slightly on Sunday - I gave the the Machiavelli card which allowed recruitment at 50% cost.
On the left Peter McCarrol (France's No2) who starts the game in the Papal State east of the Apennines fights it out with Colin Jacks (Spain's No2).
Chalie Grant (The Papal State's No2) shows his thoughts on not getting another duplicity card.
Charles S. Grant (The Duke of Ferrara). Not quite master of all he surveys but, definitely looking like a man of ambition.
On the right, in burgundy, Peter Jackson (The Duke of Bologna).

The format for the game was as follows. At the start of each session, each player declared their support for Hapsburg or Valois - because the rules were a U-go-I-go mechanic based on Warlord's Pike and Shot - and this determined who was allied to whom for the session. In all, if memory serves, I think the whole game was divided into 6 playing sessions.

To this mix I added events cards that were either simply handed out to each player, or obtained by rolling a 5 or 6, at various points in the day. These cards included such things as pontoon trains to aid the crossing of rivers, duplicity cards that enabled players to change sides mid session, spies, the appearance of Savonarola, ambushes, blackmail, earthworks and various other things to stoke the pot. All cards could be played or traded at any time. All cards were always positive for the player who used them and generally bad for everyone else. 

The victory conditions were simple. By building a fiefdom by capturing towns for themselves, the players could levy taxes in 'gold' (poker chips). Gold could be used for various things (including buying new troops) and the player with most at the end of the weekend would be declared the winner. 

On Saturday we started playing just before 10 a.m. and finished at 6 p.m., on Sunday we started at the same time and finished at 3 p.m. 

Here are some shots taken of the action and more can be found on Bill Gilchrist's blog here.

As it turned out, the winner, and by some margin was the Doge of Venice (Angus). He had 375 gold. Bring up the rear, also by some margin was the Grand Captain (Chris) had least with 50 gold. 

I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to the game and I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. 

I can relax now, for a year or two. Scheduled LOGW games for the next couple of years will be organised by others. The next one, in the Spring, will be themed as A Very British Civil War weekend.

Sunday 5 November 2017

A Generic Bridging Train & Pontoon Bridge (plus a few other bits)

Since I started wargaming I've always wanted to have a bridging train. In the past I've made half-hearted attempts with a few pontoons with bridging sections but, because of the cost of white metal wagons and the fact that an actual train will rarely get used (except as an interesting column of military wagons), I haven't bothered with anything more substantial. 

Then War Bases wagons and carts came along. War Bases don't actually make a pontoon wagon (yet) but they do produce a wagon that can be easily and cheaply converted. All I did was use the deck with a few extra pieces of balsa wood as planks and add a couple of trestles (made using off cuts from the MDF kit frame) for the home made balsa wood pontoon. Normally I'd stick the pontoon to the wagon, but in this case I've left them separate so that they can be used to represent a pontoon bridge under construction. 

The teams used for the pontoon wagons are also by War Bases.

I made one pontoon wagon up a while ago. Now I've gone the whole hog and produced another which along with War Bases Engineers Cart with cast resin load will make up my bridging train.

In the near future I intend to tackle some new wide river sections. To that end, I've purchased a heap of MDF sheet, and I have made up the first piece - the pontoon bridge piece. I made it using a 2mm MDF base with foam board banks. The bridge is balsa wood planking with lolly pop stick supports; the end poles are barbecue skewers.

Until I make the rest of the river this piece cannot be finished because I want it to blend in seamlessly. A post on this will follow.

The bridge is constructed in three pieces: The ramps on the river banks (as a fixed river section piece with bridge heads) that can be slotted into the river system as desired and two two pontoon bridging spans with planking afixed. Along with the two pontoons from the wagons, this should be enough to represent the bridge in varying stages of completion. I think this will work rather well. I can feel a few bridging scenarios in the offing!

Lastly, here are two other carts by War Bases. The first is a turnip cart with a load of hay made from P.V.A. soaked teddy bear fur, the second is a water cart

I can't recommend these wagons and carts enough, the quality is excellent. The turnip and peasant carts are £4 each. Having resin components, the water and engineer's cart are £5 and £7 respectively. War Bases teams are £4 per pair of cast metal horses. 

I still have two more War Bases carts to make up: Peasant cart 2 and Peasant cart 3. I just love 'em!