Friday, April 30, 2010

Mini Bosworth

Mini Bosworth with the battlefield Guy made: an exemplary lesson in minimalism

My little boy Guy had to do a presentation on Bosworth at school and suggested that the battle would be easier to understand if he could put some figures on a battlefield. Originally I had thought of putting some 15mm figures on some stands or maybe getting some 6mm figures for this. In the end, however, we were running out of time and given that I had already got quite a lot of the old Foundry figures painted we decided to use those; with each figure representing roughly 500 men. I had most of the standards and banners to hand and a few hasty repainting jobs put figures into the correct livery.

Henry Tudor and his standard bearer William Brandon who was killed by Richard himself whilst charging to attempt to reach Henry.

What I didn't have was any figures to represent Richard III or Henry Tudor as mine is, at present, an infantry only army. So Dave Thomas' stand at Salute was our first port of call on Saturday and we picked up the Richard and Henry character sets. These contain the character plus a standard bearer and a herald. The presentation was on Tuesday and I realised that I wan't going to have time to paint all six figures so I just went for Richard and Henry and the two standard bearers.
Henry Tudor

I filed, based and undercoated them on Saturday night. On Sunday I painted Richard and Henry and got the standard bearers done on Monday, thereby breaking my record for fastest painted purchases from Salute! The two standards are included in the Perry Plastic infantry box.

King Richard III who according to Shakespeare rode his grey White Surrey that day. Although a pure white horse would have been more appropriate I wanted to have a go at a more complex grey coat in preparation for some Sudan figures I am preparing.

I really enjoyed doing these and will fast track some of the plastic infantry now. My figures are painted as the Earl of Oxford's force so I will paint the first batch of plastics as Norfolk's troops. I also bought an artillery piece but didn't get time to do that but have started work on it so maybe it can be artillery piece of the month for next month (this month's is the Zulu War rocket team from Empress Miniatures, which is nearly finished).

Richard III and his standard bearer Sir Percival Thirlwall who, although unhorsed and having had both legs cut off, continued to hold Richard's standard aloft until he was killed

Guy's presentation (he also did an excellent powerpoint) was so good he was awarded a headmaster's commendation for it! Well done Guy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


BigRedBat's amazing Zama game

I''m a bit late with my thoughts on Salute as I have been working flat out on painting the Perry Richard III and Henry Tudor figures for Guy's presentation on Bosworth at school tomorrow.

These were my main targets to buy and I also picked up a WotR gun and crew but didn't get time to paint it. Nevertheless, I am pleased that I painted Richard, Henry and two standard bearers in a day and a half. They are now packed up in a box to go to school so pictures will have to wait; but suffice to say, I am now very keen on the Wars of the Roses again. It's a popular period at Guildford Wargames Club and I would gues that maybe as many as eight of us have a WotR army. I will do a few plastics next.

I didn't actually buy anything at the Perry plastics stand (i've got four boxes to paint already!)and it was so busy I missed the fact that they are going to do plastic Mahdists! Hooray! More on my Sudan blog in a day or two on this.

I didn't think it was a classic Salute. Parts of it seemed a bit empty but I believe that there was actually a bigger hall this year which may have explained it. Also, I didn't think there were any really stunning demonstration games to look at. There were some very good ones but I thought the standard of scenery (which is what I mainly look at) was a bit down this year. My favourite was the Battle of Busaco game which had one of the best rendered hills I have ever seen in a wargame. BigRedbat's Zama was amazing, from the figures point of view, and I was very pleased to have seen it in real life having followed its building over the last six months or so. I was glad to see that both the aforementioned games won prizes for best scenery and figures respectively. I also liked the Grand Manner/Gripping Beast Dark Ages game.

Dark Ages by gripping Beast and Grand Manner

I was so busy working on a presentation on Saturday morning I totally failed to check which issues of the various wargames magazines I was missing so I could pick up back numbers. Oh well, I can do it after the fact, I suppose. I also forgot to note down the WI and MW cds I had got so couldn't get any more to fill the gaps and enable me to get some of the binders off my shelves and into the loft.

I missed a couple of stands completely even though I meant to visit them: Battlegames, so I could renew my subscription and Mutineer Miniatures so I could get some Gurkhas. Really annoying that, but that's what happens when you don't make a list!

I was pretty restrained this year. Other than the Perry WotR figures I bought the following:

Things on my list:

Two Zulu War cannons and the Rorkes Drift personality set from Empress Miniatures.
A Great Northern Wars pack of Russians (complete with the new command figures at last).

Gripping Beast plastic Vikings. They look very compatible with the Foundry ones. Again, I have started painting one and will do a review on my Dark Ages blog later.
2 boxes of Immortal Miniatures plastic Hoplites (one box was for a friend of my sister's). Are these the most gorgeously presented plastic figures ever? More on the Spartan blog on those.

Things not on my list:

A pack of Great War Miniatures German uhlans.
A Black Scorpion naval captain for Guy's Pirates of the Caribbean project.
A big pack of New Line Designs new Mycenean pikemen. These are completely compatible with my Foundry figues and it still lingers on as a project I want to do.

Things I failed to find but wanted.

Foundry Darkest Africa Belgians. Dave Thomas didn't have any Foundry figures on his stand this year, apart from a few remaindered blisters.
A Miniature Wargames binder; they haven't got any and are redesigning them so they won't be available for sometime.

So, not too bad. Traders who I usually get something from but who weren't there include Copplestone, Grand Manner (a shock that one) and Realistic Modelling Services (I usually buy some of their trees).

No Nazis this year , thank goodness, just some silly Dark Ages re-enactors (who reminded me of that film Faintheart). Not so silly were a couple of chaps in some beautifully realised early World War 1 German uniforms. The quality of their equipment was exceptional and I took a picture of their pack as reference material.

Guy enjoyed the radio controlled tank game and the giant model panzers again. His favourite game was the attack on the Roman hill fort one.

Lastly, it was a pleasure to meet up with Matt, of Waterloo to Mons, again and hear his latest plans for his Schleswig Wars range. I am working on some of his Schleswig soldiers at preent and they are lovely little figures. Fortunately, I am enjoying painting again at the moment and have a bit more time now that I am not commuting into London quite so much.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Salute Eve

" I've got an old mule and her name is Sal. Fifteen miles on the Erie canal."

Well, off to Salute tomorrow with my little boy, Guy. The usual transport disruption is expected; this time of the Jubilee line and the Waterloo and City line. Oh well, at least the DLR is running so hopefully it won't be too bad. I'm going to try to be restrained this year as I really do have so much to paint. But my tragets are as follows:
Musketeer Miniatures claim they have the Russian command ready for the Great Northern War. Let's see. I want to have a look at the new Immortal plastic hoplites and the three ups of the Victrix plastics. I suspect the Victrix figures will be slightly bigger.

World's smallest Bosworth re-fight! Bottom left-Oxford, top left Norfolk, Centre Northumberland, right the Stanleys. A few more figures to do!

I want to get some Perry metal Wars of the Roses figures. Guy is doing a project on Bosworth at school and he wants to demonstrate the forces using blocks of figures. Fortunately, he has chose a ratio of 1 figure equals 500 men. I dug out some of my old Foundry figures and repainted a few in the right livery and stuck on some of the flags from the Perry plastic boxed set and elsewhere. The metal figures we need are Richard III and Henry Tudor. Guy thinks I can buy them on Saturday and have them based and ready to go for Monday. Hmm! Maybe if I paint them flat with no shading and go back and finish them later.

If there are any Foundry Darkest Africa Belgians I might get some of those too and maybe a WotR canon if I can find one. I will be keeping an eye open for the Wargames Factory Vikings too. I hope to see Matt of Waterloo to Mons and I want to see BigRedBat's Zama game.

I have a few back issues of magazines to pick up but that's it. I really will be good!

I haven't done much painting, although I did finish another six Spartans and the above mule. The mule was bought for use by my mountain men but I suspect this one will see more service in the Congo than in the West. Most of the mules used in the American West were actually bred on the Isle of Wight and exported to the States! Not many people know that! Talking of which I have developed a fascination for the Alamo and have a huge desire to buy some Mexicans and Texians. Must resist!

We will see what actually transpires tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Airfix Westland Whirlwind stage 1 and 2

I am building this as part of the Britmodeller group build.

The rules are that you can only use what you get in the Airfix starter kit plus a few basic tools. I haven't finished a model plane kit for about ten years and that was a 1/48 one (a Zero) but I did start a 1/48 Spitfire before Christmas, much encouraged by meeting James May (not to mention Arthur Ward) and talking about Airfix kits for a while.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the box, therefore was how small the blooming thing was! Only 34 parts but most of them seem to be for the undercarriage. I used to hate making undercarriages and always made my planes with the wheels up if possible and mounted them on Airfix's lovely clear stands (they seem to have stopped doing those for some reason).

So on to sections 1 and 2 of the instructions: a very basic cockpit build and then inserting it into the two halves of the fuselage.

I only have six paints to work with (and they are acrylics... ugh!) so doing any shading on the pilot figure was tricky.

I used the duck egg blue to lighten the flight suit and do the shirt collar but the real challenge was his face. I had two choices: paint his face yellow so that he looks like one of the Simpsons or go for a green-grey look so he looks like a zombie. I went for the zombie look and hope he doesn't look too bad when he is behind the canopy.
Thanks to Sue the postie for some extra rubber bands when I needed them!

After I had done the pilot (no undercoating is allowed so the paint kept rubbing off) I glued the two halves of the fuselage together. These went together really well and after the glue had dried I carefully scraped the join with a modelling knife and got a pretty good seam.

So far I have discovered the following: I reallly hate acrylics! You mix some up and its dry before you can get in on! You also have to thin it with water or its like painting with fromage frais. Then, of course, you need lots of coats. Why its so popular for painting figures is beyond me. I suspect its because people use ready made colours for shading out the pot whereas I mix all of mine on a paper palette. The brushes in the starter kit aren't too bad but I miss my Windsor & Newton No 7 sables. The Airfix polystyrene cement (the smell is nostalgic: I started using superglue on plastic kits years ago) is runnier than the Revell stuff I bought for my Wargames Factory Zulus.

Well that's the easy bit (or at least the familiar bit) done. Next step is to make the propellors and wings.

Monday, April 05, 2010

My own influences...

Both Matt and Fraxinus have been having a bout of nostalgia on their blogs; looking at their early influences on their interest in wargaming.
Many of our influences are the same, not surprisingly (Fraxinus and I lived very close together when we were young), but some are different. So now its time to drag a few relics out of my collection and bung them under the scanner!

My main influence was my father who fought in the Second World War in North Africa. This meant that the very first proper wargames I played against other opponents were Western Desert ones. My main opponents were my classmates: Bean kid, Cess-Pitts and Jimbo (we all had nicknames at my school except John Palmer who was too boring to have one-I was "The General"). I wrote the rules for this and, typically, revolving as they did around AFVs, they were fixated on relative armour thickness. Very good news for me if you were the Afrika Korps and could field loads of Tigers and Panthers against Bean-kid and Cess' Lee/Grants and Shermans! Oddly, thanks to Airfix I still think of the name of that tank as the Lee/Grant rather than identifying each version with its individual name! My main source of information on WW2 was the Purnell History of the Second World War; an immense part-work (and still the best part-work ever issued) which seemed to go on for nearly as long as the real war! I still have every copy in their binders and nearly all of the one-off specials which had great artwork by John Batchelor.

Later I learnt more about my grandfather (who I can barely remember other than the fact that he wore incredibly thick brown suits even in the middle of summer) who started in WW1 in the KRRC and then transferred to the RFC. Even later I found out that my Uncle Keith (who died a few years ago but not without leaving me some WW1 German pickelhauben and cases and cases of classed growth claret) was in the Airborne Division at Arnhem but was so shell shocked he spent over a year in hospital afterwards. He never spoke about it until about two months before he died when he came out with a whole load of funny stories; including the fact that the airborne troops were used as human ballast when the glider pilots were being trained, as they were quicker to load than sandbags. He said he had to endure about twenty crash landings as a result!

I actually came to Airfix 20mm figures rather late, as my initial interest in Airfix had been in aircraft and battleships. Certainly, the first ones I acquired were the Napoleonic ones at the time of the film Waterloo. I loved everything about this film and my father bought me the programme (you used to get illustrated programmes for big films in those days). Years later, I picked up a CD of the (memorable) music by Nino Rota in a shop in Rome. I can't say that I have ever seen it anywhere else.

I bought hundreds (maybe thousands) of those cream coloured Airfix Napoleonic figures and my two main sources were Gamleys, the toy shop in Staines, and Johnson & Clarke a large and independent department store in Staines. If you have ever seen Grace Brothers in the old TV series Are you Being Served? then you will get a feeling for what it was like! Bean-kid was an excellent modeller and when the Airfix Waterloo Farmhouse came out he built a model of Hougoumont using plans in Military Modelling magazine. He then added a model of La Haye Sainte and we would have huge two or three day re-enactments of Waterloo in our dining room using two big boards which gave us a 7'x6'8" playing area.

We never painted any of the figures though! Neither did we mount them on stands so if you bumped into the table everyone fell over! At first all our rules came from Terence Wise's book Introduction to Battlegaming but later we progressed to Charles Grant's Napoleonic Wargaming with its 48 man battalions.

I also picked up a great book which I still refer to today: The Armies at Waterloo by Ugo Pericoli, who was the costume designer for the film and contains all his sketches and paintings of uniforms he did for the movie. This was backed up by my first proper uniform book; Rene North's Regiments at Waterloo which helped a great deal as I did paint the large 54mm Airfix Napoleonic kits. I still remember the pain of cutting out all those straps on thin plasticard.

Apart from these social wargaming efforts much of my time was spent on solo wargaming (especially when I was younger), much of it more along the lines of HG Wells' Little Wars than anything scientific. This was especially true of the garden escapades which also involved digging little trenches for my WW1 figures. I had two main periods. Ancients, using the Airfix Romans and Ancient Britons, and World War 2 in the Pacific. The latter was always always fought outside as the Airfix Marines crossed our pond to assault the dug-in Japanese on the rockery. These games could last weeks over the summer holidays, as the tide of battle went to and fro and extra boxes were bought as reinforcements. My mother was still digging up these long lost soldiers, who still think the war is on, nearly forty years later. So for me the most evocative Airfix box is definitely the US Marines one!

I read a review of the new series The Pacific a couple of days ago which said "this conflict has been largely ignored by film makers". Yes, probably if you are a junior 25 year old journalist but for me my main memories of WW2 films are from the many WW2 Pacific films I saw on TV. Guadalcanal, The Sands of Iwo Jima, From the Halls of Montezuma and all those John Wayne ones where he suffers a heroic death at the end. He never died in his Westerns but always did in his war films! I never liked those set in Europe as they always used American tanks for the German ones whereas there was no Japanese armour to get wrong in the Pacific set ones!

The interest in Rome which, unlike WW2, persists to this day was down to the combined possession of my first box of Airfix Romans and my favourite Ladybird book: Julius Caesar and Roman Britain. Watching films like Spartacus and the Fall of the Roman Empire only encouraged me even more to pitch my grey Romans against my reddish-brown coloured Britons.

The last key book for me was Preben Kannik's Military Uniforms in Colour which, like many of my books from those days, is very well loved! It was the pictures in this that got me keen on my last great wargaming period of the Seventies: the American Civil War. Always a popular Airfix period because of the availability of infantry, artillery and, via the US Cavalry, mounted figures.

This early golden age finished on December 31st 1975. I went to a New Years Eve party at the parents of one of my mother's friends. Most of the people there were my mother's age but there were two sisters who were 15 and 17 years old. They had that short, late Seventies, hair and very tight dresses. We all got quite drunk on home made wine and disappeared outside into the garden where they taught me how to French kiss (firstly by demonstrating on each other!). Next day I had a wargame with the guys from school but I didn't really get into it as, firstly, I had a hangover andn secondlyn Airfix tanks had suddenly lost their primacy in my most wanted list.

Oddly, when I started university in September 1979 I met a girl, C, who I had originally met at interview a year before (I took a year off between school and college) and she got me back into painting figures and tanks again through playing Dungeons and Dragons. We only went along to the Oxford University Dungeons and Dragons Club for a term; mainly because all the other players were scientists (we both did law) and kept including scientific and maths puzzles in the games which we didn't understand! Catherine, a dazzling red-head (the first in a long line at college!), lasted another two terms (although there was some overlap with another one!) before going off with someone who ended up being a top wine writer. I was very pleased to hear that he was later sent down for something dodgy involving his college cellars, we believe. Heh, heh! In college I found out that one of my best friends was also a wargamer but he painted those little blocks of 5mm figures (no individual ones at this point) and I couldn't see the point so I carried on painting WW2 tanks (there was an excellent model shop in Oxford) from Italeri and Esci. They never saw service in a proper wargame but my son plays with them now.

I didn't read WW2 comics when I was young; I got TV21 and Look & Learn which contained the Trigan Empire strip, largely illustrated by the great Don Lawrence. The Trigan Empire would make for a great range of figures! I particularly liked the hover tanks that featured in it and used to build them out of Lego for battles on my carpet. I am now collecting the beautiful books of reprints produced in the Netherlands at enormous expense. I think some of my strange interest (even though I should know beter) in Warhammer 40K comes from my love of the Trigan Empire.

Well the nostalgia continues as I try to get to grips with my Westland Whirlwind!