Sunday, February 28, 2016

Entry #15 to the AHPC - 16th Century Gendarmes

While it may seem that I've been drifting aimlessly amidst a random series of genres and periods, I have actually managed to maintain a relatively steady progress with my Italian Wars project. A lot of this has to do with my 'Renaissance Men' duel with Peter (thanks Pete!), but it's also simply that I'm having a great time researching, collecting and painting the figures. With this being said, I've found that my already slow speed has been reduced to a veritable crawl due to the complexity of the clothing, colours and armour (ie. Landsknechts, I hate those overdressed f*cks!). I know I could keep it simple and just grind the units out, but it seems counter-intuitive to the pomp and splendour of the period, and so I've been plodding away, taking my sweet time with them.

Anyway, enough of my blather, let's get to the goods. Here's the latest unit to roll off my hobby desk - a unit of heavy cavalry, which can be flagged either as Gendarmes of Louis XII of France, or heavy cavalry of the Papal army under Cesare Borgia.

I started these fellows during the first week of the Challenge and have been puttering away on them ever since. So while they have been great fun to work on, I'm quite happy to see them finally done and parked in the display cabinet.

Papal Gendarmes of Cesare Borgia.
These are 28mm metal figures from Eureka Miniatures. They're very good models, providing excellent examples of the bewildering variety of martial fashions and armour designs witnessed during that time. The figures come with a wide assortment of weapons, horses and plumage, so you can mix and match to your heart's content. 

I armed this unit with the classic heavy cavalry lance as it seems so iconic to the period. The stock lance that comes with the figures is quite nicely modeled, but since they've been cast in soft white metal, they're very prone to bending and are difficult to keep straight. 

Which will it be: The spaghetti or rotini lance?
So, with this in mind I clipped off the lance shafts, drilled-out the grips and replaced the lot with sharpened steel rods. It was a bit of a hassle, but I think it will pay off in the end (and it allows me to petulantly poke my opponents if things don't go my way during a game). I was planning to paint the lances in the classic 'barber-pole' fashion, but discovered that the painted lances were usually reserved for parade events and tournaments, whereas the 'war lances' were typically raw, unfinished wood. This appealed to my sensibilities, as in my mind's eye I think that when one saw these guys arrayed with plain wood lances it would send a message that they weren't there to pick up ladies' hankerchiefs - they were there to get things sorted. 

French Gendarmes of Louis XII of France.
It's easy to think of Gendarmes as being a uniquely French formation, but in reality most of the nations involved in the Italian Wars had heavy cavalry arrayed very much the same. As such, I wanted to be able to 're-flag' the unit depending on the scenario. I unashamedly stole James Roach's brilliant idea of sleeving the flags so they can be easily swapped in and out. Basically this involves cutting a plastic or brass tube with which to wrap the flag around. Glue a finial on top to complete the ruse de guerre The flagstaff itself is left bare at the top so the sleeved banners can simply be socketed on as required.

Sleeved flags. Borgia/Papal at top and Louis XII, bottom.
The banners are from Pete's Flags' excellent Italian Wars range.

As many gendarmes were of noble birth I thought it would be fun to tart up the bases with a pack of hunting hounds to add a bit more visual interest and reinforce the sense movement to the unit. I sourced the wolfhounds from Gripping Beast (I did a bit of reading on the subject of sporting dogs and indeed, there were French wolfhounds bred during the period).

'Italian's back on the menu, lads. Go get 'em.'
The groundwork is the same autumnal theme that I've been using for my other Italian Wars units. Admittedly it's a bit over the top, but hey, it's freakin' Renaissance Italy! It should be a riot of colour. This all being said, I'm going through tufts and shrubs like crazy, so a resupply will be needed very soon... 

'Okay, who forgot to pack Leo's fancy-schmancy repeating crossbows?'
Thanks for visiting everyone - I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Entry #13 to the AHPC - For Valentines Day: 'Prendre la Température / To Test the Waters'

This was a bit rushed, but to celebrate Valentines I have for you 'Prendre la Température / To Test the Waters' (I think that's the right translation)

It's 1795, and we see a French Chasseur a Cheval watering some of his troop's horses in a small village. He is knocking out his pipe on his boot, admiring the local scenery. A fetching young lady, who is washing some of the regiment's laundry, has caught his eye and he thinks he might 'test the waters'.

Nonetheless, the young miss has two chaperons nearby who are definitely wise to the scenario. One is an old crone, smoking a pipe and keeping an eye on the dashing cavalryman. In fact, she can clearly remember that warm spring day in 1745, when those handsome hussars came swaggering into town (where do you think she got the pipe?). She know's what's afoot...

The other overseer is the girl's faithful dog, who can smell mischief a mile away, and is barking his head off to let everyone know it (those who know our pup 'Felix' will see a certain resemblance).

This charming 28mm vignette is offered by Eureka Miniatures, minus the fearless pooch who is from Westfalia. A wonderful set of figures that was a great fun to work on.

Thanks for dropping by and have a great week!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Entry #12 to the AHPC - Madame Ting-Ting, her Bodyguards and her Garford-Pulitov Armoured Car

After the Russian Civil War, many White Russians tried to escape Bolshevik persecution by fleeing abroad. They went to all corners of the world, and many White soldiers, needing work or seeking adventure, traveled to China and fought amongst the ranks of the various warlords vying for power. The city of Shanghai became a particularly popular emigre destination, and a vibrant Russian ghetto soon established itself, traces of which can still be seen today.

So from this background we see here my new pulp adventuress, 'Madame Ting-Ting', along with her trio of Russian ex-pat bodyguards, and their rather care-worn Garford-Putilov armoured car. 

The Madame was born Leia Natasha Petrovostalavitch (an extrapolation of a friend's 'Top Secret' RPG character name), the headstrong daughter of a Russian diplomat and Chinese courtesan. She is now simply known as 'Madame Ting-Ting' - that being the sound of her enemies' bullets bouncing off her armoured car. (My thanks to Sylvain's new puppy for inspiring me with the nickname!)

These models started life during the first week of the Painting Challenge, but have languished for the past month so I thought I better get them cleared off the table before I ran out of time.

M. Ting-Ting and her bodyguards are all 28mm Copplestone figures. I had a lot of fun painting Ting-Ting, especially her red gloves and elegant cigarette holder. I chose the riflemen as I liked their ragged uniforms, thinking them fitting after their long retreat to central China. 

The Garford-Putilov is from Copplestone as well. It's a wonderful model, though rather small in relative scale (1:55). In reality, these vehicles were quite huge, this one weighing in at around 11 tons. Like many early armoured cars they were extremely underpowered - this one boasting a whopping 20 HP engine with a top speed of 18kph!

I love the turret, with its barrel-encased 76mm gun and the wing MG sponsons. Completely mental.

For Ting-Ting's banner I wanted something 'Pulpy' and a bit silly, so I went with a motif that features a skull with crossed cigarette holders. Of course, since there are not many commercially produced flags featuring this design, I had to make one myself. :)

It was a bit daunting at first, but I soon began to channel my long-dormant highschool drafting skillz and managed to muddle through.

There you go, 'Madame Ting-Ting' and her 11 ton Tin Lizzie!

Thanks for dropping by folks and have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Entry #11 to AHPC VI - Two Mercenary Forces Spanning 500 Years, 1503 / 2003

Ever since the beginning of America's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, I've had a deep fascination regarding the debate surrounding Private Military Contractors (PMCs). 

I've read several books and journal articles on the subject and my own opinion is varied, but generally negative. On one hand I understand the shell game governments play when hiring military contractors. The use of PMCs allows governments to reduce their official military footprint while still providing themselves with a substantial force to utilize in a variety of situations. Nonetheless, the fact remains that PMCs are not soldiers of a nation state, but rather are beholden to their companies first, to their contracts second and everything else follows in varying degrees of importance. In many instances this pecking order has ended in tragedy, underlying the morally nebulous, and violent, world they work in

Of course, the most famous of these companies is Blackwater Worldwide which was created and owned by ex-SEAL, Erik Prince. I recently finished Prince's autobiography, 'Civilian Warriors' which puts forward his personal perspective on the PMC industry, and the media frenzy which besieged his company. While I am sympathetic to several aspects of his story, I did find it bemusing how Prince bobs and weaves with his argument that Private Military Contractors should not be equated with the pejorative term: 'Mercenary'.  Rather Prince believes that he and his industry should be considered no different than the 'dashing' soldiers-for-hire and privateers of history, much like Lafayette and James De Wolf. Soldiers-for-hire? Privateers? Mercenaries? To me, Prince is splitting hairs. All of these are cut from the same cloth. It's true that being defined as a mercenary currently denies a host of rights, both on and off the battlefield, but let's face it, for all intents and purposes PMC's ARE mercenaries - just the same as the Condottieri were in late medieval Italy and David Stirling's WatchGuardInternational was in the 1960s. The only difference is that PMCs of today have a corporate sophistication that a 16th century condottieri would find mind boggling.

Anyway, enough about all that. Let's talk about toy solders. :)  

What we have here are two groups of mercenaries, spanning 500 years, one from 1503 and the other from 2003.

First up are several contemporary contractors, or 'operators' in a mix of civilian and military gear. These are 28mm figures from Eureka Miniatures, sculpted by the very talented Kosta Heristanidis. I really like these models. They're well cast and have a great sense of animation. The other thing I really appreciate is that their weapons are slightly upscaled, giving them more of a presence (and sturdiness) that is lacking from some other modern ranges.

I've kept the palette fairly muted, only introducing a pop of colour here and there with cap, t-shirts and optics. Pretty straightforward stuff.

But iyou want colour, we have it in spades with these Swiss mercenaries from the canton of Bern.  

First up is a command stand featuring a huge (no, really, I mean HUGE) brown bear. Bern has a bear as part of its heraldry, and apparently in one of the period manuscripts there is one depicted in battle, mauling some poor French sod. Being that it is a big wild animal I thought I'd add a doughty halberdier to help keep the beast moving in the right direction. The canton's banner is from Pete's Flags. It's a beautiful piece of work, being printed on tight-weave fabric, but I inadvertently rubbed away some of the inkjet transfer when I was working with it so I had to retouch a good bit of it with brush and paint. Nonetheless, I still quite like it and look forward to using more of his flags in the future.

This halberd unit started it's service last year as group of twelve figures. At the time I chose to base them in threes on 40mm round basesthinking we'd use them primarily for skirmishing rules such as 'Lion Rampant'. 

As things often turn out, we found that while 'Lion Rampant' was good fun, we actually preferred 'Pike and Shotte' for our Italian Wars fixSubsequently, I found that the original twelve figures were a bit too weedy to be a respectable unit for P&S, so I decided to re-base the lot and add another four figures to bring it more up to snuff.

After my experiment with Simon's (aka BigRedBat) excellent irregular-edged bases for my crossbowmen, I decided to ask the good folks over at Warbases to make me a whole mob of them in various sizes. The singlbase shown here is roughly 180mm x 60mm, which is more than enough room to accommodate my existing 4 bases of halberdiers plus a few new additions. (I decided to be lazy and just glue them on the new base and shape the groundwork around them.)

Three new recuits for the unit...

 ...and this red-helmeted horn player (hornist?) was conscripted at the 11th hour to add a bit more mass and colour.

And here is a group shot of the redux halberdier, my recent crossbowmen and the 'Bear of Bern' command stand.

Thanks very much for persevering through this inordinately long post - I hope you have a great day!