Friday, March 30, 2012

Dark Sphere

I had a spare half hour yesterday between meetings (well, afternoon tea with a lovely Russian girl and drinks with a friend) yesterday and remembered reading on TMP the other day about a shop near Waterloo station that sold figures. I travel in and out of Waterloo most days but hadn't realised this shop was there.  Well, that is not quite correct, as I had passed it on the other side of the road some months ago but assumed it was a video game shop.  

Going inside yesterday I saw that, in fact, it is mostly figures, plus some board and trading card games.  At the rear of the shop is a room devoted to Games Workshop stuff which they sell at 20% discount.  At the front of the store is a very large Flames of War section, some fantasy figures (Uncharted Seas I noticed) and scenics.  They also had Warlord Games and Victrix plastics as well as the complete range of Wargames Factory plastics.  No Perry plastics, though.  All of these carry a 10% discount.  

I bought the Wargames Factory Skeleton Warriors for my Argonauts projects and also succumbed to some Victrix 1807-1812 French.   The latter come in a box of sixty figures and are perfect for the Peninsula (oh dear!) but they are huge!  They are 30mm foot to eye so I hope the other figures in the range are similarly sized.  Very tall Prussians might be acceptable but French?

The only other thing about the Victrix figures, and I have noticed it too with the new Fireforge Teutonic Knights, is that they cram the sprues so tightly into the boxes it is very hard to get them out without damaging them and almost impossible to put them back in again once you have taken them out to have a look at.

The Wargames Factory skeletons are the most delicate looking plastics I have ever seen, to the extent that most people say they are actually too delicate to game with.  However, they look just right for Harryhausenesque skeletons so we will have to see.

Given I have never painted more than a few from any box of plastics I have ever bought (except Lord of the Rings) I really need to get some painted before I visit this shop again!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Workbench and a problem with the American Civil War

Well, I made my decision about my new black powder period armies and have gone for... the American Civil War, and now I wish I hadn’t!   I ordered a couple of packs of Perry figures and bought a box of the plastic Zoauves in Orc’s Nest (they smile at me when I go in now, whereas in the past they always seemed a bit stand-offish).  As you can see from this picture I have based 12 Union infantry and really like the look of them but now I have got stuck as to who they will represent.  I’m so stuck that instead of undercoating them today, as I intended, I actually did some more work on the 24th Foot, who have been sitting on the workbench for far too long.

The reason for this is that I have come to realise over the last few days quite how complicated ACW uniforms were and that the Perry range has some huge holes in it.  I had intended these troops to be US army regulars at Bull Run but it seems they wore Hardee Hats on the day and the Perry range doesn’t contain anything suitable.

Originally I had intended getting some Rhode Island militia for part of First Bull Run but the problem with that battle is that many of the uniforms present are not catered for by the Perries. For example in the Brigade with the Rhode Island regiments were the 2nd New Hampshire who had both a very distinctive hat (at least according to one of my books) and a unique long tailed coat. 

Worse still, the uniforms changed over the course of the war and it seems, in many cases, far harder to get uniform information than it does for the Napoleonic War, for example.  I suppose I can solve all this by just painting up a few regiments where the uniforms are well known and use them in some fictional actions but I just have real trouble getting away from actual history.

I am not intending to paint enough units for a big battle but just for some skirmishes.  I was reading some scenarios in a copy of Wargames Soldiers and Strategy today and it looked quite promising; involving the battle for Blackburn’s Ford during Bull Run.  But then, after a bit of research, I discover that one of the principal regiments engaged had a chasseur style uniform which, again, the Perries don’t make.

The solution, probably, is to go for a later period in the war when the uniforms had become more standardised, at least on the Union side.  

Bit stymied at the moment, therefore.  Never mind made good progress on the Zulu War British instead.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I've actually finished a little unit today in the shape of this Royal Naval Brigade gun and crew for my Zambezi campaign.  More about it on my Darkest Africa blog.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More thoughts on black powder skirmishing...

Thanks to those who commented on my previous post as I try and work out what skirmish forces I can realistically contemplate building over the next year or so.

I managed an hour's painting this afternoon on my Royal Naval Brigade gun crew for my darkest Africa Zambezi campaign.  Just the eyes and the bases to do on these now.  The guns and mules have arrived (very quickly indeed) from Askari Miniatures in America and with the completion of these my British Force will be complete.  I have done a bit more work on my next unit of Zanzibari slave soldiers too, so although we are not making the progress on Darkest Africa that we did last year it is still moving along.

I have definitely decided not to go with the American Revolution or the Crimea on the basis that if I am going to paint figures with uniforms that complex then I might as well do the Peninsula which, emotionally, I would prefer.  I made and started a few of the Victrix Peninsula British but they are a total trial to put together, particularly as I can't work out what pose they are in until they are built.  Maybe I need to dig them out and finish a couple.

Perry Rhode Island Militia

I have thought about the comments I have had, with something of a consensus emerging on ACW.   I recently started to watch the interminable film Gods and Generals with its well done (although rather "clean") battle scenes of First Manassas.  A few years ago I was travelling to Washington DC a fair bit and the battlefield is less than 10 miles from Dulles airport.  I passed signs on the road to it but never got there, frustratingly.  This battle has had a lot of coverage in the magazines lately and the Perry's have started to produce some figures for particular units from it.  I first got interested in this battle having read the Bernard Cornwell novel Rebel and started to paint some 20mm plastics for it but the peculiarities of many of the unit's uniforms  meant they were difficult to model accurately.

Burnside leads the Rhode Islanders at First Bull Run

A classic example of one of these would be Col Ambrose Burnside's Rhode Island regiments in their blue hunting shirts and red blankets but now however, the Perry twins have come up with figures for these, which may well be difficult to resist.  My biggest problem with ACW is that I sold all my Ospreys on eBay some time ago when I needed the shelf space, so am lacking uniform references for the period.

My Renegade early WW1 Prussian Guards

Steve the Wargamer also suggested early WW1 and this is a good idea given that I have actually painted a number of German's for this period.  In fact, I have the 48 figures I am aiming at already for the Germans.  I hope to start some British at some point, but the existence of machine guns means it's not quite what I'm after. 

Prussian Jaeger

However, as I was thinking about the WW1 Prussians I had painted  there were a number of advertisements on TMP by North Star for their 1866 Austro-Prussian War figures, which they bought from Helion.  I know that Matt has painted a number of these (beautifully) but I had always resisted them (despite the appeal of the Prussians' pickelhauben) because the whole war was over in six weeks.  Again, a battle from this was featured in one of the magazines recently but looking at some of the new figures, especially the Jaeger, I  am starting to wonder if this might be a new option.

North Star 1866 Prussian Jaegers

Hmm, maybe I need to give in to my Austro-Hungarian ancestry but I'm not sure how much uniform information is available for this war.  So, I've still not made up my mind on this.  Maybe I need to finish my next batch of Zulu War British before I order anything new, but then it's Salute next month!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Thoughts on black powder skirmishing...

Battle for North Bridge AWI scenario from Wargames Illustrated January 2012

It is fairly obvious to anyone reading these pages that I will never be able to field an army of several hundred figures in any of the "armies" I am working on.  In a previous post I lamented what I saw as a trend to even bigger armies of five hundred figures or so.  Perhaps, however, I am now sensing a backlash against this.  In some of the recent wargames magazines there have been some scenarios for around sixty figures a side.  Partly this is because of the increasing popularity of the new Saga rules, which is good for me as I do actually have enough Dark Ages figures to play a game of this.  Also there are more scenarios for another set of rules I own but haven't played, Sharp Practice.  I noticed two rather good scenarios recently in the magazines featuring Peninsula War and American War of Independence actions.  Interestingly the AWI scenario in January's Wargames Illustrated was played using Black Powder, which I always considered a big units/big battles set, with just 48 figures on each side.  Interesting.

These made me realise that what I have really been hankering after for some time is the ability to do black powder period skirmishes but I don't, surprisingly, really have even the start of appropriate forces.  This, therefore, gives me the chance to start a new set of small forces for these sorts of scenarios.  My criteria are that both sides have to be similar in make up; so no colonial versus tribesmen type forces.  The forces should both be completely armed with muskets or rifles, so this eliminates any pike and shot period figures.  There should be no artillery and, at least initially, no cavalry (I hate painting cavalry!).

This gives us a time period from about 1715 until about 1870.  So which conflicts would be candidates for this project?  Firstly, we have the War of the Austrian Succession.  Although the uniforms are nice (perhaps too nice) it (to me anyway) is a conflict of big battles so we can eliminate that.  Next up we have the Seven Years War which is similar.  There were lots of skirmishes in North America but these often involved native troops so is not what I am after.  The next big one is the America War of Independence, which has always been a weak spot of mine ever since I first got the Airfix plastics and, even more so, the splendid Accurate British in tricornes.  I actually painted quite a lot of these.  Against this, however, is that I had some of the Foundry figures but never painted than and sold them off (along with all my reference books) so this would be an expensive way to go. 

The next big one is, of course, the Napoleonic Wars, which I know I really should do more about.  I continue to paint, very slowly, a unit of Dutch jaegers for Quatre Bras.  When I was at junior school and just getting the new Airfix Highlanders and Cuirassiers someone else in my class, "Lugs" W, was doing the same. Within a year or two I had been given some Hinchliffe French Imperial Guard by my father who was of the strong opinion that this ought to be the first wargames unit anyone painted.  Lugs begged to differ and he got given some Miniature Figurines (which I looked down on as they were so small) British rifleman.  He ventured that, for Napoleonics, the Peninsula campaign was the obvious choice whereas I said it should obviously be Waterloo.  This rather polarised argument has also meant that I have, as a result, no time or interest in Austrians, Russians, Bavarians, Würtemburgers or any of the other Ruritanian armies that most Napoleonic fans bang on about (we might make an honourable exception for the Prussians but they were at Waterloo).  "Lugs" came from a very religious family and so he wasn't allowed to go and see Waterloo at the cinema, which may have affected his choices, somewhat (toy soldiers obviously weren't a problem).  Anyway, I took no notice of him as he was very short and, as his nickname may suggest, was not an attractive chap.  This didn't stop him pursuing Sandra M, the school's crack recorder player, who somewhere between leaving junior school and fourth year at senior school turned into 5'9" of willowy gorgeousness.  I am sure my fetish for girls in tennis dresses was caused by the sight of Sandra playing tennis at the Bishop Duppas park in Shepperton one weekend.  She really did have extraordinarily long legs. Given I was already 6' tall by then and Lugs was still about 5'1" it wasn't him who got kissed by the lovely Sandra under the mistletoe at our friend's Christmas party.  It pains me to say, therefore, that of course, he was quite right on the Napoleonic front (to be fair, his taste in girls couldn't be faulted, either).   The Peninsula campaign offers everything a Napoleonic player might want, from skirmishes to major battles.  This may well have been true of Sandra as well but I never found out as, sadly, her family moved to Camberley, which might as well have been Ulan Bator when you had no transport.  The added incentive here of course was my discovery of Sharpe through the ITV programmes that first appeared in 1993 (I hadn't read the books at that stage).'s all those blessed straps which drive me mad when painting figures from this period.

So, moving along and flicking through my Blandford Military Uniforms of the World, I pass over the Carlist War (I think some of silly hats put me off here), the Mexican American War (if only Gringo 40s had done this in 28mm!) and, with apologies to Matt, the first Schleswig War, and alight upon the Crimean War.  Although I tend to see this as a big battles war (and not many of them either) skirmishes were common but the figures available from Great War Miniatures and Warlord Games aren't, on the whole, in skirmish poses. Still, its worth thinking about.

Timpo Seventh Cavalry 

So, our final "big one" which has sufficient big, medium and small actions is, of course, the American Civil War.  Like many from the Airfix generation this was the first black powder wargaming I did, inspired by Terence Wise's Introduction to Battle Gaming.  However, not long ago I sold my Perry plastics and all my Ospreys on the basis that all the battle reports I saw had dozens of regiments per side.  I also didn't like the Perry plastic infantry, I'm afraid to say.  This is, however, a conflict which does resonate with me because my father was interested in it and gave me some of the Timpo 7th Cavalry figures (standing in for Union infantry) which I used to mow down with a plastic Gatling gun which used to fire those little silver balls you put on trifles (or at least you did in the seventies).  My sympathies were always for the South.

So, we think that we have to choose between AWI, Peninsula Napoleonic, Crimean and American Civil War.  Next time I will try and persuade myself what it should be (given I don't get much time to paint at present I might as well ramble on like this as at least I can do this on the train!).