Monday, 28 December 2009

Dulce et Decorum Est...

Soldat Jean le Malchance "takes one for the team"...
The winter painting offensive is going well.  My finished output after a week of let's-get-down-to-some-serious painting.   This is what I have finished and based so far, but there are about a dozen more who are now not so far behind, and then the 28eme Legere will be- gasp!- COMPLETED!  Now there's a thought.  

For the fourth "company" (i.e. stand, for GdB) I wanted a little vignette, so I used a falling wounded figure in the first rank, and as he falls backwards his musket takes the shako off from the soldier behind him.  As the unfortunate M. le Malchance wreaks havoc in the line, the company officer attempts to restore order in the ranks, damn yer eyes...
"Soyez braves, mes soldats!"   
"What's to fear from a little canister?  En Avant!!!"
The startled figure in the back row was a bare-headed infantryman in greatcoat, but I hacked a covered shako off a spare figure (which had lost its bayonet when one of my cats knocked it off the painting desk- grrrr!), and in fifteen minutes with the help of some epoxy, a drill and a paper clip I had modelled myself a guy with his shako falling off.

I'll get around to texturing the bases once all the figures for the battalion are done.  Next up for the finish line is a pair of skirmishers and the third company.  These will be followed by the last company stand, the final two skirmishers for the battalion, and the 6 pdr. gun and crew.

And then it's time for some green; the 7eme Chasseurs au Cheval  with their natty pink facings, and for a change.. Russians!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Teaching "un vieux chien" some new tricks!

Voila Claude Deplussis, soldat of the 28eme legere.
I finished him today along with the rest of the 4th Company.  All have been given a protective coat of strong semi-matt varnish (hence the shine in the picture), and tomorrow, once the varnish has time to dry thoroughly, I'll take them outside for a few passes of matt spray varnish and mount them on their base.

Again, the picture doesn't do the figure justice.  A much darker, richer blue in real life and the cockade on the shako didn't come out very well on my cell phone camera. 

Nevertheless, this particular mini is something of a departure for me, as I tried a different painting technique with the ochre campaign trousers.  I'm pretty happy with the result.

I usually paint in all the shadows and line in the details.  Not as subtle as what some painters out there are capable of, and the "toy soldier" look is not to everyone's taste.   

But it is an effect I like, and it is reminiscent to me of the Peter Gilder and Phil Robinson figures that graced the pages of the early issues of Miniature Wargames.  And it does stand out nicely on the tabletop.  

The problem is that it is a time-consuming technique.  Washes would have made the job a lot simpler, but I have had no luck with using washes in the past.  They always looked terrible once dry; the colours would leach, and darker colours in particular tended to dry a whitish mess whenever they pooled in crevasses.  

I therefore decided to give up with washes, and to just do everything the hard way by painting in shadows, and lining in details such as deep creases and cross-belt lining.

But the method is too slow given the amount of figures I need to paint.   I need to speed things up somehow, and after checking some blogs and posts on line I decided to give washes a second chance, and to try my hand at what I call a "modified dip" method.  

First, I applied a coat of matt (actually satin) brush-on acrylic varnish over the area I want to wash.  When dry, I then took a small amount of the paint I wanted to shade the area with and mixed it in with some more varnish and a little water, and presto- it did the job nicely!

Now I want to experiment a little more with the technique, but it does seem promising.  I'll still keep largely to my traditional painting style with the lined-in detail as I do like the effect, but it looks like I may be able to take some much-needed short cuts when possible, and speed up production accordingly.   

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Step by Step!

It seems somewhat inappropriate to celebrate Christmas with plans for sabring and canistering one's fellow man to eternity, but these are only toys so I think I can be forgiven the indulgence.

With the slew of new Napoleonic rules on the market recently, I have thinking for a long time now about what I want from my Napoleonic gaming experience, versus how practical it is to achieve it given my current output (which while slow, has really been gaining momentum of late, in part thanks undercoat!).

I have decided that I wanna game Nappys, and that I wanna game soon.  For now, that means skirmishing and small actions.  As I've mentioned previously, there is some interest in this in our local group, so it would seem to be a good idea to take advantage of any kind of interest at all in Naps that may be out there, and see if it can't grow in time.  

So who knows; maybe in the future we will be having games like this one.  For the time being I need to set my sites on a smaller, yet equally entertaining, level.  I need to be thinking small actions like this.  
A semi-skirmish scenario, rather like the old Sword and the Flame games I played and enjoyed years ago which we used for the French and Indian wars.  I should see if anyone has done a version for Napoleonics- or I could just go with Sharpe Practice for a while.

The issue of rules brings me back to the other thorny issue of basing.  Years ago back in Vancouver we started out doing the French and Indian War using small numbers for skirmish games- a dozen Rangers here, twenty French militia there and a battalion or so of regulars- but as time went on the games grew, we morphed over to the European theatre, and before too long we were gaming huge actions- and I mean huge.  All with the legacy of individually-based minis, which was a real headache in so many ways. 

This time I'm just going to stay the course with  the 1:20 ratio GdB style basing for line and regular cavalry, with irregular and skirmish companies based individually.  Formed units will just have to use rosters for casualties.  I don't see it leading to too many problems.  

Taking this route will still allow me to game the bigger battles should the opportunity ever arise.  But as I add units, and hopefully hook others who begin to add their own units to the collection (no excuse not to, with all those new plastics on the market!), the whole thing may snowball. 

So it's back to basics, and I wonder if anyone out there remembers the "Stepped-up Situations" from Don Featherstone's Battles with Model Soldiers from way back when?  This is my version, some forty years later!

Anyway, back to the painting desk.  But first, a heads-up for people to check out Doc Smith's excellent blog, and I respectfully doff my shako to him for his nice comment about my masthead banner.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas!

Start today!

Vacation time is here- for me at least, as the resident Paymaster General will be working for another week.  That leaves me lots of time for cleaning, shopping, yanking the cats off the Christmas tree, and of course painting.

I've been making good on my promise to myself to get working on my Napoleonics.  I've almost finished one stand of infantry- just muskets, metalwork and some lining in to do- and I did manage to finish this voltigeur officer of the 1/28eme, Capt. Gaspard Hourteulle, from the Dordogne region of la belle France.  

He'll be leading the voltigeur company of the 1st battalion when it is deployed in skirmish order.

In common with many of the officers of the 28eme legere, he wears  the green leather gloves awarded to the the officers of the regiment by Napoleon's stepdaughter,  Hortense de Beauharnais, as a reward for "services" (unspecified) by their regimental commander, M. le Colonel Claude-Julien St. Peur. 

You can see the gallant colonel himself, if you just scroll down to the bottom of this previous post.

As stuff gets finished, I'll try to get some pictures up on a regular basis over the next few weeks- subject to the demands of the season's festivities, of course!

 * Be warned- as you may already know, I make a lot of this stuff up as I go!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Painting artillery

As far as painting goes, this weekend I've been working on- amongst other things- a section of French artillery; a 6 pdr. and four crew, all from Front Rank.

Here is the progress so far.
My latest hare-brained scheme is that I'll paint up one stand of artillery and a squadron of cavalry for each infantry battalion that is completed.  Not only will that break the painting monotony and save me from the madness that comes from painting multiple horse-harnesses and the black iron banding around the artillery pieces,  but it will also mean I can build up an all-arms force in relatively appropriate proportions.

This means it may be a while before I work on the next gun in the battery, so I will have to keep a record of what paints I used so that the miniatures are consistently painted the colours I want!  

The best place for me to do that is right here on this blog, so here is my "recipe" for painting a French artillery piece- largely for my own reference, but maybe someone out there may also find it useful.  All paints are Ceramcoat unless stated otherwise.
  • Prime whole model black.
  • Paint carriage and wheels Hammered Iron (a dark olive-grey). A number of thin coats are best to give depth.
  • Drybrush with Timberline Green to bring out the woodgrain.
  • Give the carriage and wheels a very thin wash of Amsterdam Acrylic's Raw Umber.
  • Bring out the highlights on the woodwork with a light drybrushing of Olive Yellow.  Don't overdo it!
  • Paint gun barrel with a couple of thin coats of Metallic Bronze.  Leave lots of time to dry between coats.
  • When thoroughly dry, give the barrel a black wash.  Using a very thin brush, line in the raised parts of the barrel casting with black. 
Still yet to be done; first, however, take a good swig of some strong tea, coffee, or some stronger beverage to fortify self before going on to the next step.  It will take some time.
  • After taking a deep breath, start painting all the remaining ironwork using matte black,  one side of the gun at a time. 
  • When dry, highlight with Metallic Pewter.
  • Carry out the same step for the wheel rims and iron hubs.
  • Glue the wheels on to the gun.  
  • Brush on satin varnish.
  • Add figures and gun to base.
  • Place on gaming table, roll high and knock down Russkis like ninepins.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Just because...

It rather suits the theme of this blog and I've always liked the tune.  Not to mention the nice beige greatcoats. 
Boots seem to be in need of a bit of repair, though.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Iannick's Law...

I'm sure many of you may know of Iannick Martin.   1809 Austrian aficionado, fellow Canadian, and the Master and Commander of the La Bricole forum.  Well, he has often told me that his secret to his painting productivity is to paint up one unit before even looking at another.

Sound advice, if rather daunting-  I have shelves full of wargames figures in  progress, all in different stages of completion from primed and basecoated to almost completed, with every other stage in between.

Having just returned from a business trip, and having been on a painting roll recently,  I can look forward to a few weeks off starting on the 19th, so starting today I will focus on getting at least some of these bits and pieces completed and out of the way.  This means some Napoleonics here, some War of the Austrian Succession figures there, and some ACW and Ancients in between.  This will be in addition to my WW2 project, but as many of the figures staring reproachfully down at me from the bookcase shelves are actually not that far off from being completed, it is just a matter of conquering the "do-I-really-want-to-paint-that-tunic-piping?" lethargy and just getting down to business.    

But I'm confident enough of my new-found painting discipline so that you can look forward to some small but steady progress and some more eye candy towards the end of the month.

And maybe this fellow will see the light of day!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

How to Get People Into Gaming Napoleonics...

...when it appears to be a losing battle!

All has been quiet here recently- too quiet, but there are some good reasons for this.

First off, I have been beavering away on my 20mm WWII Soviets for a game coming up sometime in January.  The good news is that I have been making excellent headway on assembling a 1944 tank brigade and motorcycle battalion, and have managed to maintain strict (for me!) project discipline so that I can now see an end in sight by the new year.

This means that I have consciously been avoiding the temptation of looking too closely at Nappy forums and blogs, for fear of distraction and of getting sidelined by all the new rules, figures, and other assorted goodness that seem to be pouring out of the hobby cornucopia these days.

The other reason I haven't been active on the Napoleonic front is that simply it has been proving a tough sell to other members of the club here, particularly in 28mm.  This is due to a number of factors as follows;

1)  Many members are more focussed on 15mm or even smaller through having played DBR or similar sets. 

2) The learning curve; none of the guys here are familiar with Napoleonics.  And admittedly it is a complex period, in terms of time frames, uniforms, tactics and organization.  Some members find the whole thing rather intimidating, if not absolutely overwhelming, for the beginner.

3) Nappy Grognards have a bad rep (go figure!), and people are simply hesitant to dip their feet into the piranha-filled pools that are various fora out there in order to seek more info (it is worth remembering that we are in Japan, and the exhortations by Crusty Old Purists for newbies to "Look It Up For Yourself At A Library" simply isn't an option here, so the Internet represents the best place to hunt for references).   

In this context,  even "helpful" advice along the lines of "Check the 1820 manuscript edition of the French regulations for Light Infantry in the Gironde archives" is pretty well worse than no advice at all.

4) A bewildering choice of rules, from skirmish to battalion-based games all the way up to corps level.  

Surely we all welcome the current bumper-crop of Napoleonic rules.  But as with so much in life, there is a reverse side to the shiny gold coin.  While variety is good, there is a downside in that first of all, gamers have to decide on which of the many new rule sets everyone can agree on.  No mean task!  And how can someone unfamiliar to the period even begin to make a judgment on which one set best suits their temperament, time, budget, and gaming philosophy?

A lot of Nappy rules require a good number of figures with specific basing conventions.  This can be a problem in that even if there is common consensus on a given set of rules, it can take a while to assemble the minimum number of miniatures- the "critical mass"  required for a decent game.  This is much less of a problem with, say, WW2 games.

But before this, it is necessary to get people hooked on the period in the first place, let alone on a particular set of rules.  Those new to the period need to find themselves gaming early on with whatever number of miniatures are available at the time - and they have to find themselves enjoying the experience if they are to stick at it.  

I suppose that initially one could use cardboard counters.  But in a period where I feel the visual appeal is paramount, cutout counters are not exactly ideal for getting the juices flowing amongst the wavering and uninitiated.  I need to persuade prospective gamers early on that of course they want to part with their time and money, and to invest in Perry and Front Rank miniatures in expectation of More Joy to Come!

Now, all this has resulted in me back-pedalling the era.  I was thinking of doing DBN, but what with so much DBR being played, I very much doubt whether the system offers a different enough "flavour" from the usual gaming experience so that it makes people want to rush off and spend money reserved for their kids' education on a container load of Perry Miniatures instead.  

Furthermore, at the level of representation of DBN there is a good argument that the smaller scales really do suit these particular rules best.  An argument hard to counter except for personal reasons (i.e. I'm well and truly committed to 28mm with hundreds upon hundreds of the buggers!).

A daunting situation all round.  But there has been some recent light at the end of a darkening tunnel, and it's looking as if there is the beginning of some interest in doing Napoleonic skirmishing.  Well, this is an ideal level of representation for 28mm, people don't need a whole lot of figures to start out with (or shall I say,  get hooked on...), and I have a number of rule sets that may fit the bill- Sharpe Practice by the Two Fat Lardies, for example.  

But in the interests of simplicity and ease of play, I have also been working on a set of small-scale rules based on mechanisms from, of all things, Wings of War- but that is the subject for another post!

Now there will be nary a redcoat in sight, as I will initially be doing Freikorps and petite-guerre actions in Central Europe and France in 1813-1814.    Eventually of course, I want to work my way up to larger games.  I was intending on using General de Brigade, but I will be closely following reports on how all the recent new rule sets that have been vomiting forth from the wargames press these days play out.  

If Nappies do end up taking off here, I'll try to get people to commit to at least a brigade.  With all those great plastics out there now, at least cost is no longer an excuse!