Monday, March 30, 2009

Crusader French Fusilier

I'm a big fan of Mark Sims's work, and the past year has probably seen me painting more Crusader figures than Old Glory.  The Rank and File line is, I think, and inspired idea, letting Mark concentrate on simple sculpts of the most common troops.  He started with ancients, went on to Seven Years' War, and added Napoleonic French and ACW late last year.

I picked up a pack of Napoleonic French command and spent an hour last night painting up the lone fusilier in the pack.

Mark always seems to sculpt exactly what I want in a wargaming figure.  The pose is perfect for building convincing units.  The figure is visually interesting without being overly busy.  The smaller detail, like lapel buttons and cuff trim, is exaggerated enough for me to paint, but not so much it becomes cartoonish.

L-R Old Glory, Foundry, Crusader, Perry, Front Rank

Here are my two trial fusiliers, one from Crusader and one from Perry, side by side with some other manufacturers.  The Crusader figure is not quite the shortest, edging the Foundry sculpt by a millimeter.  And surprisingly, the Perry figure is not the tallest!  I would feel perfectly comfortable mixing any of the four figures on the left.  Foundry and Crusader are a little chunkier, Perry and Old Glory are a little leaner, but all four are within the same ballpark.  The Front Rank figure doesn't fit well with any of the others.  He's not really tall.  Indeed, he might be the shortest of the figures.  But he's massive.

When I start my Napoleonic French up again, I'll have to decide on one of these manufacturers for the bulk of my infantry.  Foundry is out because of price, and Front Rank is out because of proportion.  My existing French are all Old Glory, and I would like to work with something else for a while.  So really the choice is between Perry and Crusader.

I'm finding that a difficult choice.  I expected to love the Perry figures and find the Crusader acceptable.  Now that I've painted them, it's reversed.  That Crusader figure has "it," whatever "it" is.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Perry French Fusilier

I bought a single pack of Perry Brothers' French fusiliers for the hundred days.  I was curious to see whether the figures lived up to their hype.  I think it's safe to say that they do!

Friday, March 20, 2009

GHQ 1:1200 Napoleonic British Frigate

This is something new for me.  Although I'm from a naval family (my grandfather was a lieutenant commander in the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II; a MacPhee was at Trafalgar; we race a 24 foot sailboat during the summer), I had never built a ship before.  The new Warhammer Trafalgar rules, though, have inspired my inner Jack Aubrey, and I mean to build a good sized force of French and British.

I bought two GHQ 1:1200 frigates off eBay to see how I liked the scale.  My first impression was shock at just how small these models are!  The ship you see here is mounted on a 30mm x 60mm Litko base, so the hull runs only two inches from stem to stern.  The fore and main masts are about 1.5" high.  The bowsprit and staysail assemby, the spanker, well, they're tiny!

I wasn't at all sure about how to assemble the thing.  From what images I could find online, I decided on a simple rigging scheme, staying the masts to the next forward and to the deck behind, and using some mesh from a 1:35 armor kit to field shrouds and ratlines.  I made the stays out of individual strands of speaker wire, and I built the whole frigate before painting.  Next time I might paint the masts seperately, because the stays made it very difficult to reach parts of the ship.

I primed with Testors grey primer, and the primer beaded up on the stays.  I couldn't file them down without breaking the thin copper wire, so I left the beads intact.  I painted the hull sides, masts, and yards in Delta's Territorial Brown.  The deck is Delta's Latte.  The sails got Americana's Butter.  

Once this basic block painting was done and dried, I washed the whole frigate in a burnt umber oil wash, gave it a couple days to dry, and started on the detail work.  I picked out raised areas of sails in butter again, painted the stays, shrouds, and ratlines black, drybrushed the ratlines in Delta's Storm Grey, and picked out the reef points and haliards in black.  I used Delta's Harvest Gold to give the upper hull a dull yellow and picked out the gun ports in black to get the Nelson checker look.

The final step was to pick out  the stern gallery, bow shear, and guns in Testor's gold.  I may still do some more work on the figurehead.  I painted the base in various blues, drybrushed all over with a light baby blue.  I may go back and add some white to the water.

Once all the painting was done, I cut a pennant out of white paper, glued it to the main topgallant mast with Elmer's Glue-All, and painted it Tompte Red.  I cut out a square for the colors, mounted it on some wire as a whip, hand painted it, and attached the whip to the stern.

It's not a beautiful ship, and I've certainly seen much better modeling and paint jobs online.  But as a first attempt, I'm comfortable with it.  This was a good learning process for me, and I hope to do better next time.  I have 8 Langton ships on the way and another GHQ frigate to build, a 22 gun ship that is much smaller even than this!

Xyston Companion Cavalry

The last part of my last commission was 12 companion cavalrymen and two charioteers.  Once again, I'm very impressed with the Xyston figures.  The detail is so good, you would think from looking at the pictures that they're 28s.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

15mm Xyston Macedonian Phalangites

My latest painting commission (just finished) was for Xyston 15mm Macedonians: 32 phalangites, 12 companion cavalry, and 2 charioteers.  I liked the Xyston figures very much, and if I ever build a Macedonian army for myself in this scale, they're certainly what I'll use.  At around $.60 apiece, they're still cheaper than ABs, and I think they're nearly as well sculpted.

I painted these in what I think are the most likely colors for Macedonians.  You won't see any pastel rainbow here.  I went with dull red tunics, off-white linothorax, and straight bronze metal.  The shields are, as always, hand painted.  If I ever do this for myself, I'll probably spring for some Little Big Men transfers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

15mm Essex Range

Bob from Nottingham commissioned me to paint some Essex figures for his FoG Turkish army and his early imperial Romans.

I found the Essex figures a little tougher to paint than Old Glory ancients.  The OG figures are sculpted with deep relief, which really helps my painting style.  The Essex figures were much flatter, and I had to work harder to make the shading and highlighting pop.

After painting 64 infantry and 24 cavalry for this commission, I feel like I have a good idea of the quality of their range.  The figures are nice, but the detail is a little too fine for my taste.  Painting them is hard work, but they do look nice when they're done.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Historical Gaming Club 1809 Battle

We had a smaller game than usual this month.  By request of some of the club members, we played a Napoleonics battle on my new terrain.  I fielded all the figures.  The Terrain Guy made the game mat, the roads, the rivers, and the hills.  We played in my little wargaming room, which only has room for four.  Once student canceled at the last moment, so there were just three of us present.

Austrian Commander Matt

Matt had played "Age of Eagles" at Tactical Solutions last October, taking Aspern with his Austrian corps, and he was eager to command the Austrians again.  The Austrians held high ground overlooking a river with three crossings.  The French had a column approaching each crossing.

Nathan, French Left Column Commander

Nathan had not played the rules before, so we gave him a smaller command, one infantry and one cavalry division on the French left.  The French had an advantage in cavalry and artillery, but the Austrians had a heavy preponderence in infantry.

The Center Bridge

Two French infantry divisions and one cavalry division prepared to cross at the center bridge.  The Austrians held an advanced position, denying the French an easy crossing.  The battle developed into three seperate fights.  Here in the center, the French shattered two Austrian brigades, but the Austrians counterattacked and threw the French back across the river.

Left Bridge

Nathan threw his men right into combat.  The left road led across the bridge and ran through a valley between two wooded hills.  This was the largest French column, and if it could get established on the other side of the river, the Austrian position would be untenable.

Austrians Prepare on the French Left

Austrian Counterattack

Matt moved just over half his army to meet Nathan's threat.  After initial French victories, the Austrian grenadier battalions, together with their curassiers, destroyed two French infantry brigades and pushed the French back across the river.

The French Right

On the right, I took an infantry and a cavalry division against the Austrians on the high ground.  It was the same story.  I had some initial success, taking two Austrian batteries and wrecking an Austrian brigade.  But a counterattack by Hungarian grenadiers checked my momentum, and a last-ditch French attack failed to break the Austrian line.

Matt the Victorious

With all three French columns making for the safety of the river, the Austrians had prevailed.  Matt basked in the glow of victory!  We left the gaming table for the foosball table, where I was more successful.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cool Little Book: Roman Legions in Color Photos

On an impulse, I picked up this title from Amazon.  I'm glad I did.  I paid $16.47 and got a book much better than any Osprey.

Front Cover

The book contains 96 pages of glossy, full color photographs of Roman reenactors with commentary on the legionary's various pieces of kit.  Although the main focus is on the early empire, there are a few pages on the Roman army of the Punic Wars, and a few more covering the armies from the later empire.

Now I know very well that reenactors' uniforms are not gospel.  They can get things wrong, sometimes very wrong.  I've been to enough American Civil War reenactments to have quite a realistic attitude about reenactors' historical fidelity.  But for the classical world, where we have so few sources for soldiers' appearance, a reenactor's interpretation seems a decent source for miniatures painting.

Roman Daggers

And really, this book includes all the details that I wish Osprey could put in their books.  Here's an example, just one page from the book showing Roman daggers.  It gives me some ideas beyond just drybrushing the things silver, in any case.  One interesting thing about this picture is that the Roman tunic appears in three different shades of red, all plausible enough.

I would like to put up a few more pages to show just what a great resource this book is, but I don't want to infringe upon copyright.  If you're interested in the Roman army, it's worth picking up from Amazon.  In fact I enjoyed it so much that I bought a few more in the series, mostly on Napoleonic armies.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

AB 18mm Napoleonic German Grenadiers

I have another commission that I'm starting now, but in the week between commissions I managed to do some painting for myself, continuing my work on the 1809 Austrian army.  These are two brigades of German grenadiers, all from AB.  I need one brigade of six stands and one of five for Wagram, but I need two brigades of eight bases each for Aspern-Essling, so that's what I painted.

As always, the AB figures were a joy to paint.  I painted the top of the bearskins in facing colors, which is correct for the early period.  By 1809 all grenadiers would have worn the Austrian colors instead of facing colors, but I want to use these figures for 1798.  And besides, the facing colors look more interesting.

Grenadiers, Kleneck's Regiment 14

Grenadiers, Reuss-Greitz's Regiment 55

I always choose one Austrian regiment per brigade, then use that regiment's facings and button colors for the whole brigade.  That lets me use these same figures as battalion in tactical General de Brigade games.

So that's another 64 Austrian infantry down.  Just 248 left to paint!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Terrain Guy

I took $500 I had earned from commissions and made a big purchase with The Terrain Guy.  My gaming room is a little cramped, but it can just accommodate a 9'x5' ping pong table.  I've always used three sheets of felt for my playing surface, with balled up shirts and shorts underneath for hills and a ketchup bottle dispenser full of Woodland Scenics ballast for roads.  But my gaming partners have much better setups at their houses, and I wanted something a little more visually attractive for my place.

So I bought a 9'x5' terrain mat ($95), two sets of roads ($90), 2 sets of 2" rivers ($100), 5 each of large, medium, and small hills ($150), and four bridges ($32).  With the various trees I've bought elsewhere, I can set up pretty much any battle on my table now.

The pictures below show the initial setup for my Pea Ridge solo game I've been playing this week.  There are no rivers or bridges, but you can see the quality of the Terrain Guy's product in these pictures.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

More Austrian Infantry for Wagram

My year-long attempt to give myself snow blindness continues.  I finished these Austrians while waiting for a shipment on my last commission, but I didn't finish basing them until Tuesday.

3rd Division, III Corps

These are IR 7 and IR 56, 16 more stands for my Austrian army.  I used Old Glory's "road march" Germans in helmets for these two regiments.  I like the poses a great deal.  They stand more erect than the "march attack" OG poses, and the anatomy seems a little better.  They still have pinched faces, but most of the face is covered by the helmet bill.

I still have 78 more bases of line infantry to paint, but 16 bases of German grenadiers are already half done, and I have 9 bases of Hungarians primed and ready after those.  Then I'll tackle the 13 remaining bases of landwehr, the eight of grenzer, the 14 of Jäger, and the division generals.  I'll finish by painting 9 bases of cuirassiers, 18 of hussars, and 56 more guns with limbers and crew.

I had hoped to finish this project in time for the 200th anniversary, but I only got about halfway last year.  I may finish it up this year, but that's a daunting amount of painting left, now that I see it all listed out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wargames Factory Celt Warband: Out of the Box

Tony from Wargames Factory sent me their third release, "Celtic Warband," for review.  I won't be able to give this box the same attention I gave their Marian legionaries (I have three painting commissions that will keep me busy for the next few weeks), but here are my initial impressions upon opening the box.

Unopened Box

The box itself is crammed full of sprues.  There isn't any wiggle room at all!  It's a cleanly designed box that should look good on store shelves.

Box Contents

The box contains three different sprues, with multiples of each, a sheet of instructions, and two identical sheets of shield transfers, each with 16 designs.

Sprue 1

Sprue 1 Detail

The first sprue consists of command figures, standards, arms, and weapons.  I know a lot of people felt that the Romans lacked strong relief detail.  I didn't have any problem with them, one I was painting them, except maybe on the sandals.  This detail shot should reassure those people.  The chain mail has strong relief, better than many metal figures I've painted.

Sprue 2

Sprue 2 Detail

The second sprue has all the heads and shields for the Celts.  The heads come in an impressive variety, with different helmet and hair styles.  Detail on all the faces is very nice.  I think I'll attempt a wash on these, because my usual painting style won't do justice to these faces.

The javelins attached to shields seem much too long, and I'll be cutting the bases down a bit when I assemble the figures.

Sprue 3

Sprue 3 Detail

The third sprue provides the torso legs for the rank and file Celtic warriors.  You'll have to pay close attention in assembly, because those figures who are wearing tunics have to be matched with the legs with the tunic extending past the belt.  The bare chested Celts have to have legs without a tunic extension.  I'm very glad to report that Wargames Factory have done away with the sprue length extending between the figures' legs.

I'm very happy with the sculpting on the bare torsos.  They remind me of the Greek sculptures (and Roman copies) of dying Gauls.  Again, those who were disappointed by a perceived lack of detail on the last set should be satisfied by these figures.

One Figure, in Pieces

Here's what you need to build one figure: six pieces, each with at least two contact points with the sprue.  Cleanup and assembly will be a little more time consuming than with metal figures.  On the plus side, no two figures should look alike.  You'll be able to vary the arms, head, and weapons at will.

Assembled Figure

Here's the result.  I built a naked javelinman for my first figure, and I'm looking forward to painting him.  I might drill out the head sockets on the rest of my figures.  This fellow seems to have too long a neck.  And I'll be more careful in attaching the weapon arm.

Overall, I think this a very nice set.  You get 32 figures for $20, which is comparable to Old Glory's prices with the army discount.  Sometime in the next couple of months, I'll have some painted examples on the blog.