Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Product Snapshot: 'Architects of War' Resin Tree Bases

Earlier this year I picked up eight of these resin tree bases from Architects of War (amongst other assorted stuff) and managed to take some time this past week to get them done up. 

I got these as part of a larger online deal of which I've finished the Garden and the Plowed Field. I still have a whack of other models from them to do, but one thing at a time, eh?

Like the rest of the Architects of War products I've worked with, these resin tree bases are very well made - they're very sturdy, have no warping and possess excellent detail. It was just a matter of blocking in the colours, drybrushing, adding a little groundwork, glueing in the 'Woodland Scenic' trees to the matching sockets and they were done. Highly recommended.

I also made up a bunch of single trees mounted onto large fender washers to act as 'filler' foliation between these bases. In addition, I think I'm going to make up some large chamfered/flocked MDF bases to set these on. That way when figures move into the woods then the trees can be freely moved around to accomodate and the larger MDF base will indicate the limits of the treeline.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

From the Lead Archive: Chasseur a Cheval de la Garde Imperiale - 28mm Foundry Painted by Brian Homenick

Whenever I think that my painting skills may be improving I pull this old chestnut out from my display cabinet to get a reality check. This Chasseur a Cheval officer of the Imperial Guard was given to me as a gift about 15 years ago by my friend Brian Homenick (of Vaubanner Graphics), who is, as you can plainly see, a phenomenal painter. 

This is a venerable 28mm Wargames Foundry casting, sculpted by Alan Perry, which still holds its own amongst the best out there today. The pose is taken from the famous painting by Theodore Gericault titled "The Charging Chasseur" which was first exhibited in 1812 and can be viewed today at the Louvre (see above).

I remember Brian giving me the model in an almost nonchalant manner, just a slight smile and a shrug. Almost like, "I thought I'd give this one a whirl, and well, here you go." Awesome.

A few years ago, when I was living in Ontario, I met up with another good friend, Dallas (another venerable member of the Fawcett Ave Conscripts), to check out a Games Workshop's 'Games Day' event in Toronto. It was pretty cool as the energy level from all the kids was completely off the hook, but the real reason I was excited to go was because the Perry twins were in attendance to show off their latest work for GW and visit with the geeks. I duly stood in line with what seemed to be a battalion of pimply teens and managed to chat with the both of them for a few minutes. During this time I pulled out a few of my favourite Napoleonic models of their design and asked them to sign the bases for me. Of course Brian's Chasseur was one of these and Alan Perry was kind enough to oblige. 

I remember we all thought it pretty funny being at an event which showcases EVERYTHING Warhammer and here we were gabbing on about Napoleonics. I came away completely stoked and I remember Sarah nodding and smiling indulgently as I described by field trip and the cool 'autographs' I received. Yep, complete nerdgasm.

Anyway, there you go. The Chasseur remains a prized gift and a constant source of inspiration. Thanks Brian!

Note: Brian also painted for me the complete set of Foundry's dismounted Napoleon, Marshals and staff (its the one with Napoleon seated with his boot on a drum). As you can imagine its a real treat and I'll post it up in the future.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A New Madness - 1:1 scale ACW in 3mm

First, sorry for posting stuff that is unfinished but I just received these in the mail and I wanted to take a few shots and write a few lines about them. If you look above you'll see a 400-man American Civil War regiment, in 3mm, arrayed in line at 1:1 scale. I know I'm as mad as a March hare but I find the look of this amazing. Ever since I've been gaming with miniatures I've always wanted to see 19th century formations as they would have actually been deployed in the field and with these 3mm castings it can effectively be done. 

Even on a largish 5x8 table these units will be huge. This regiment in line takes up approximately 45 cm (18"), so a brigade-level action is about the limit, I think. Nonetheless, the good news is that with gaming the American Civil War there were many engagements fought at this lower level. 

These 3mm castings are from PicoArmour which I believe sources their stock from Oddzial Osmy in Poland. While barely discernable, these little guys actually do look like ACW infantry, cavalry and artillery. Of course these models are meant to be seen in a mass, not as individuals, and in this I think they are a great success. 

When you look at this unit you can really appreciate how hard it must have been to keep any level of command and control over these formations. Just think that this is an 'average-sized' battle-worn regiment. Some of the green Federal formations, fresh from the recruiting depots, would have easily been twice this size. In looking at this I can understand why good NCO's and junior officers were so highly valued as the Colonel would have only a limited effect in the center of these strung-out formations - especially if you compounded the problem with the sound and chaos of battle.

Each 20mm 'strip' has 8 figures and so my 'My Mad Plan' is to set four of them up in two ranks on 20(d) x 40(w) bases. This way a standard-sized ACW regiment of 400 men will require about 12 bases (48 strips).  A pack of 15 strips only costs around $4.00 so this project is as cheap as chips. I picked up enough to do (in 1:1 scale) two brigades of infantry, a couple regiments of cavalry, horse holders, officers/flunkies and two artillery batteries. I know, its pretty esoteric but it should look neat on the table. I'll follow-up when I get a unit painted and based. Ah, another project to add to the list...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dystopian Wars - Prussian Sky Fortress 'Ziethen'

Here's another update to my Dystopian Wars diversion, a Prussian 'Sky Fortress' which I've christened as the 'Ziethen'.

It only follows sensible reasoning that if Zeppelins are cool, and Steampunk is cool, then a Tesla-armed Zeppelin with an airfield on top must be the total cat's pyjamas. Actually, it was this model alone that sold me on the whole Dystopian Wars venture.

I really wanted to put a set of huge Maltese crosses on this bad boy so I poached a few decals from a 1/72 Albatross kit.

You'll have to excuse my arty 'cloud' composition but I was having a bit of fun with the pillow ticking...

Here we see the 'Ziethen' as she steams amongst the clouds, her lederhosen-wearing crew listening to 8-hour operas, reading Goethe and debating where they should land for Oktoberfest.

Coming Soon: We will return to our regular programming with some new Napoleonic Russians! (The first of what I'm sure will be many posts were I publicly shame Sylvain in his glacial progress with his own Napoleonic-Russo 'painting commitments'.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Guest Post: Greg From The 'Peg - Getting Back To Work

Greetings to the readers and followers of Curt C's fabulous "Analogue Hobbies" blog. Since I am a fellow Napeleonic gaming enthusiast/nutcase, Curt has kindly invited me to provide a guest post as I get underway with my next major Napeolonic painting effort - more Austrians!

My 25/28mm Austrians have a good foundation, but to build up into a real fighting column, I will need more infantry - more line battalions - and some more guns. I already have two full German line battalions (and a solitary Hungarian one). I think six full battalions would make for a solid column - so the target is to get another four full line battalions finished in time for a planned game in late January.

The "big battalion" format we use calls for 40 troops per Austrian line unit. I like to mix a mounted officer in with each unit, so that calls for a total of four mounted officers, and 152 foot troops.

That's a big hill to paint, but I've painted a lot of these fellows in different scales, and the painting challenge sharpened this experience into a battle-tested, methodical approach.

For the first new unit, I dipped into my sizeable pile of Foundry castings and assembled another 39 models - one mounted officer, two foot officers, one musician, two colour bearers, and 34 "march attack" figures. For painting, I mount the models four to a "stick", or two infantry and one horse in the case of the mounted officer. For facing colour (this is a big deal for an Austrian painter), I opted to go with a regiment that had yellow facings.

I always do one "stick" of basic troopers to iron out any kinks. The second "stick" I paint always includes the mounted officer - getting the mounted fellow painted gives a good shot of momentum. From there, the unit expands pretty quickly - I started a couple of weeks ago, and I already have half the unit painted.

I find my approach to the white uniforms of the Austrians is on the darker/higher contrast end of the spectrum. I use black primer, whereas many others I have seen use grey or white primer. This is part subjective preference (it's just how I like them) and part belief that no white uniform worn in any kind of field situation really looks that white.

Anyway, my progression for the cloth involves black primer, GW Fortress Grey, GW Kommando Khaki, GW Bleached Bone, and the final highlight of Americana Acrylic White. The Americana paints are generally a little thinner, so I find it provides a nice final highlight. On the straps, I go straight from the GW Fortress Grey to Americana White.

Up close, the effect it a little jarring because it is not that subtle, but from arm's length, I really like it. It also helps the the multitude of straps pop out a little bit more on the troops.

I find horses to be a challenge to paint - I don't know why, but I often struggle with them. That's one of the reasons I like to get the mounted officer out of the way early.

The very last models I will paint prior to basing the unit are the musician and the colour party. Their uniforms are not all that different from the line infantry (what a nice contrast to painting the musicians for the bloody French!) but in my mind finishing the colour party last adds an internal sense of occaision as another unit prepares to take shape...

With these fellow well underway, I started to ponder which figures to go with next. I still have quite a pile of Foundry lead (most of it, thankfully, acquired several years ago), but now that Victrix finally has their plastic Austrians for sale, I thought I would give them a go!

A slight digression - I had grown so impatient waiting for Victrix to finally get these figures out for sale that I had finally sworn back in the summer that I would never bother with them, especially once news arrived that the Perry twins would release their own plastic Austrians. While I appreciated that Victrix was trying to get the plastic Napoleonics going, it was disheartening to see the Austrians wait (and wait, and wait) for releases like French Imperial Guard troops (sigh) or (much worse) 54mm stuff. It's one thing to be a flighty painter, but Miniature companies that can't focus make me insane.

For all that, once the figures were actually for sale, I decided to try them out (hey - I'm a figure junkie). Curt has some French and British units composed of Victrix models, and they are gorgeous. I was a little wary, based on what I had seen and heard, about all of the fiddly bits involved, but intrigued by the idea of doing a unit that had a little more variety in terms of poses, NCOs, etc. Foundry's Austrian collection is pretty comprehensive (or at least it used to be - the various poses seem to be disappearing), but it suffers from a monopose syndrome, and total lack of NCO figures.

I've done one "test stick" so far of the Victrix models. I have no direct exeprience building/painting British and French kits, but from what I can tell so far, Victrix has cut back on the number of fiddly bits for their Austrians. I still found them a little tricky to assemble, but you should consider that my lack of patience for model-building of any sort is absurdly high. This was not as bad as I had feared, so if it doesn't bother me, I'm sure a normal person will find the plastic Austrians to be very straight-forward to build. You get 56 models in a box - more than enough for a full battalion, and a good mix of options for different poses, without going blind putting the figures together. So far, so good - just had to see how they looked when painted.

Once again, a big decision when painting an Austrian infantry unit is what the facing colour will be - these fellows will have sky-blue facings. At some point in the future I will add second battalions of similar facing colours, but for now I'm taking the chance to expand the range of colour in the column.

I have to say the Victrix models are very impressive. I like the poses - a bit of a bend to show they've been doing a lot of marching, but the head still stoically forward. The detail on the models is very good - in some ways it exceeds the detail of the Foundry castings, especially the little shield on the cartridge box. The different options for the muskets give you plenty of choice without bogging you down in too many details.

The only weakness I have see so far is the detail in some of the faces, but overall, these are very impressive figures at a very good price.

In terms of mixing with Foundry in the same unit, I don't think that will neccessarily work - the Victrix castings are (in my opinion) noticeably taller and leaner than the Foundry castings. The thinner muskets and bayonets are also a clear difference. But having out on the table as their own unit will be just fine.

So that's my progress so far - out of 152 foot models and four mounted models, I've finished 22 foot models and one mounted model. There are a lot of good NHL and NFL games coming along, and I get lots of stuff painted when sports are on TV. Watch for more progress, coming soon!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

1er Regiment de Carabiniers (early uniform) Redux

The first group of these figures (ten I think) originated from my earlier days in the hobby and I decided last spring that I wanted to enlarge and rebase them so they better aligned with the look and feel of our 'Big Battalion' games. So here is the regiment, fresh with replacements, (24 strong) ready to be deployed on the tabletop.

The early Carabinier uniform is one of my favorites of the period as, to me, it personifies both the elegance and power of the French heavy cavalry at that time. Sure, the later brass cuirass and crested helmet was very fashionable and quite swish but I think it lacked the understated grace of the long-tailed cutaway coat, white waistcoat and tall bearskin bonnet.

It is believed that the regiment retained a high proportion of aristocrats from the ancien regime which may have helped it maintain a greater level of professionalism during that early period when the French cavalry typically suffered from a lack of experienced officers (at this time the guillotine was very busy providing 'advancement opportunities' to meritorious NCOs and junior officers). 

An interesting anecdote from this early period is during 1800, when the 1st Carabiniers were billeted in the small German town of Eichstadt. The impoverished town was so strained under the burden of French taxes that it faced the prospect of having to sell its sacred vessels from the local church in order to raise sufficient funds.  On hearing of this situation the Carabinier officers first tried to get the debt reduced, and failing that, passed the hat amongst themselves in order to pay the debt from their own pockets. For years afterward, long after the French were considered to be the arch enemies to all Germans, the grateful town of Eichstadt celebrated an annual mass for the 1er Regiment de Carabiniers a Cheval.

A little known but dramatic action involving the Carabiniers occurred early in the 1809 campaign when they faced against their equivalent in the Austrian Cuirassiers in a moonlit melee near the village of Alt Egolfsheim.  The Austrians were covering the retreat of their infantry after the Battle of Eckmuhl to which the French were vigorously pursuing. The Austrian Gottensheim Regiment of Cuirassiers led the charge and were met with a short range volley of carbine fire from the 1er Regiment de Carabiniers, who then slung their firearms, drew swords and charged. The combination of their numbers, training and superior mounts allowed the French  to prevail. (John Elting writes that the quality of the enormous Flemish and Norman horses was telling against the largely untrained remounts of the Austrian troopers)

The French heavy cavalry was used ruthlessly by Napoleon during the vicious battles of Aspern-Essling and Wagram. The cuirassiers and Carabiniers were often sacrificed to fill gaps or to buy time for the French infantry to recover and/or redeploy.

After the shocking losses they suffered during the 1809 campaign it was decided to equip the Carabiniers conforming with the regulations of the rest of the heavy cavalry arm, that is with helmets and full cuirass. With typical Gallic elan the Carabinier troopers received the news of them being issued armour rather poorly, thinking it to be an insult to their honour and courage and it took no small amount of convincing to have them surrender their beloved bearskins and long coats.

These are relatively older Foundry castings but they are still amongst the best depicting this early Carabinier uniform. I expect that either Victrix or the Perry's (if not both) will come out with a new rendition in the years to come.

Above is a small conversion to a cavalry casualty figure depicting a Carabinier trooper who has been shot from his horse which is gamely galloping forward with the charge.

As these larger cavalry units can be a bit of a nuisance to move around the table I decided to place them into movement trays that Sylvain kindly mocked-up for me in card. We decided to break them over two sections to facilitate both the extended line and supported line formations which were common doctrine at the time.

I think I have enough castings in 'the lead stocks' to do the 2nd Regiment but I'm afraid that'll be down the road as I need to get another Dragoon regiment done to fill out a proper brigade - but more on that later!

(Information from John Elting's Swords Around A Throne, David Johnson's Napoleon's Cavalry and its Leaders, James Arnold's Crisis on the Danube and Napoleon: His Life, His Wars, His World vol. 10. Illustration buy Angus McBride.)