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!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

We do WHAT we want, WHEN we want, WHERE we want!

Home sweet home...   Back from a business trip to Osaka where it rained bucketfuls (bad) and where I found a very cozy English-style pub (good).

No pictures of anything today, but I did find this amusing clip on YouTube. It's from the BBC TV series on Beau Brummell, where a pair of  Regency Dandies run into some (by then old-fashioned) Fops. 

For obvious reasons it struck me as being a funny metaphor for some of the strife that surfaces from time to time on the Napoleonic boards at TMP.  The next time someone tells me that I may as well be fantasy gaming for using 1812 uniforms in 1809 scenarios, or  hints that I'm in some way mentally deficient or lazy for painting the wrong shade of green on the shako pom-poms, I'll just post this in reply.

Love that line;  "...and they wash!..."


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Woo-hoo! Finished figures!

The elite companies of the 28eme legere, under the command of their brigadier,  Général Victor-Eugène BOUILLON-CANTINAT,  as they prepare to assault a manor house.   (Said to contain a large cache of the most excellent pinot-noir- the good general has a keen interest in all matters of logistical importance.)

Merde!  Not a single cask to be found.  The Prussians must have gotten there before us!  We'll go and hunt down some pesky Freikorps instead.

Half of a battalion is finished (indeed a full battalion should I wish to play a game of Shako)- the centre companies are soon to follow, along with a section of artillery- and hopefully a bit of a surprise! 

The third week of September is a long vacation here, and not only can I paint 'til I drop, but I'm also scheduled for an actual wargame!  We'll be playing DBR, but it will be a good chance to promote/ hype/ cajole interest in a game of DBN.

Coming up Blanc?

Just finished "moving house" at work yesterday, from our old office in Roppongi to our new digs in Harumi's Triton Square near Tokyo Bay.   

I won't miss Roppongi much; it is way overpriced if you just want to go for a quick brew after work, and while it is one of the world's most famous places to party, it can be pretty unsavoury at times.  

I remember often getting to my office early on a morning, and being greeted with the sight of casualties from the previous night's festivities-  Japanese and foreigners alike- draped pathetically in various stages of unconsciousness in doorways, on the subway stairs, and along the curbside.  Add to that the great number of crows who congregate there on garbage collection days, and the whole sorry spectacle was somewhat reminiscent of what the morning after Waterloo must have looked like.

Next weekend it is off to a conference in Osaka for a few days, and then things settle down again so that I can get back to work on M. Jean Crapaud et ses frères.

But to business; I've been working on bases these last few days.  After texturing and adding patches of fine sand, this morning I applied the burnt umber base coat which I'm just now waiting to dry.  Once that happens, things should move quickly and I'll be able to add a few photos of finished stands tonight.

John (owner of the inspiring Wargaming in 28mm site) was asking me about how I paint my whites. How best to paint whites is something looming large on my horizon now, as I have some Austrian grenadiers that need painting, as do some 18th C. French infantry. 

These days I use Delta Ceramcoat craft paints for about 80% of all my painting. The rest are old Ral Partha paints, which I found to my joy are now being marketed by Reaper.

Ceramcoat paints are economical as they come in 2 oz. bottles.  As I typically use no more than couple of drops on my painting palette per session, this means that the paint goes a very long way.

For a "pure white" look, I usually start with Ceramcoat's Soft Grey over a black undercoat. I use very thin coats, often two or three until I get a nice, smooth rich finish. Then I paint the rest of the figure (which usually means more touching up with the soft grey.

As the figure nears completion, I take the Ceramcoat Magnolia White, and sparingly add highlights.  Again, I use a number of very thin coats.  The last applications are just very watery light washes, to add depth and a smooth finish.  I then line the creases quite boldly using Cadet Grey and a good-quality, well-pointed thin lining brush. 

For an "unbleached linen" look, I use a base of Sandstone and highlight with Antique White and/or Light Ivory, which is a very light off-white colour. The lining and shading are done using Mudstone or again Cadet Grey for the deeper folds.

It sounds laborious, and I guess it is.  But I tend to go through a number of figures in rotation, so that when I tire of painting fiddly things like backpack straps and musket bands on one group of miniatures, I can take a break and go back and work on the coats and breeches of another. I soon get a "rhythm" and when in good form, I find I can work quite quickly at it.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Command stand painted!

Even if the base has not yet textured, but I'm happy with the result.  I've been steadily working on a lot of French infantry over the past week whenever time permitted, and in between various impoverished and decrepit Marie-Louises, I've been adding the final touches to these gentlemen. 

These two have taken a while to complete- ten years in fact!   As I mentioned in a previous post, the general's overcoat and cape are made of epoxy putty, and the feathers and cockade were also added from the same material.  I started him before Front Rank released their general officers, but as he is a unique miniature I'm quite proud of him. 

His ADC is sporting a non-regulation white greatcoat- in part practice for me, as some Austrians are on the horizon.  I actually painted him about six years ago, but I had to use Tamiya paints at the time which really don't work all that well for miniatures painting.  So I have heavily retouched the figure, particularly the face and the trimming around the front of the coat.

I added a broken gun carriage wheel, and once the glue has set later this evening, I'll get out the wood putty and artists trowels and start on texturing the base, along with a number of other light infantry stands I've been working on. 

The bases are from Litko, as are all my bases.

I've also commenced work on one section of a 6pdr. artillery battery for the French. I'm going for a mix of pre- and post- 1812 uniforms, as I did with the infantry and which seems appropriate for the 1813 campaign.

Two figures are being painted "as is", but I decided it would look interesting for the rammer to be modelled as if he was in the process of sponging out the gun.  So I clipped off the end of the ramrod itself and drilled out a hole in the gun muzzle to receive it.  While I was at it, I thought I'd replace his shako with a forage cap, just for variety.  

Now this meant that I also needed to have a gunner with his thumb covering the vent- this was necessary so as to prevent draughts of air from igniting any unconsumed powder in the barrel (and sending the rammer to the Great Sutler's Tent in the Sky).  

Front Rank don't do a mini in this pose, so I took a gunner holding a match at his side and did a bit of surgery to his arm using a razor saw, a small drill, and a paper clip.  Once the epoxy has cured, I'll build up the arm again with putty and know one will know the difference!

On a sour note, a wrong move with an elbow resulted in me accidentally knocking two centre company infantrymen off the table- broken bayonets and crushed plumes meant they were damaged beyond repair.  And of course, they happened to be two from the group that was nearest to completion, and one in particular had a very nicely painted face that I had spend some hours on.  

Also sent into free-fall was one figure- a wounded infantryman for use as a casualty marker- that I had not yet spent much time on, and which had just recently been undercoated in black.  

He, of course, survived the plunge without a scratch.  Not one.  Of course. 

I'd like to say I took it all manfully with stoic acceptance- but I'd be lying.  Big-time.

(And I have to say, I like's new version of their blog editor!)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Humbrol Authenticards, and Progress!

These were a godsend for the indigent wargamer of 1975!

When I first seriously started gaming in Napoleonics way back in time, and I mean WAY back- 1975 or so- it was no easy matter for a boy of fourteen- with an allowance of $1.00 Canadian a fortnight- to find painting references for the buckets of Airfix miniatures (with a smattering of Minifigs) that I was using to game with.

The local library had a limited selection of illustrated books on the topic, and while specialist book stores carried some of the Blandford colour series, they were much too expensive for my limited budget.

Great was my adolescent rejoicing, then, when I came across the
Humbrol Authenticard series on Napoleonic uniforms at my local hobby store. These were cheap- a dollar each as I recall- and had illustrations by Norman Swales of the figures based on those in the Hinchliffe catalogue on on side, with brief written descriptions and basic facing colour charts on the other.

I have the whole series packed away somewhere at my parent's house in Vancouver, but when I came across these images of the cards that were for sale on eBay, it made for a great trip down memory lane.

For a newbie getting into Napoleonic gaming in 1975, compared to one wanting to do the same in 2009, things have changed. Some for the better, others for the worse.

In 2009, there is an absolute embarrassment of riches for the gamer; figures in every size and in a variety of sculpting styles, rules set after rule set after rule set dealing with every level of command and army size, and a huge amount of assorted information on Napoleonic uniforms and tactics in both print and on the Internet.

And that can be the deterrent as well- where to start? What figures and what rule set? How do I organize my units, and how do I base them? What are those guys with the funny plumes on top? And what IS Napoleonics, exactly?

There is in fact not a lot out there for someone getting started, and some of the comments on TMP, for example, are not exactly encouraging. Lots of criticism of general works on the topic, and a lot of prescriptive- and conflicting- advice on how to do it "properly". Many a commentator will say how a given source may be full of "dangerous" errors- but yet can not go on to recommend any -affordable- alternatives.

I say just point a newbie in the right direction; suggest some basic books that explain the difference between a
voltigeur and a Kurassier. Sure there will be errors, but basics are basics, and as our would-be Nappy enthusiast reads more and more, the greater the understanding will develop. And being of the species Homo Sapiens, chances are that he (or she) will be able to draw his or her own conclusions as the rest of us did.

The Humbrol Authenticards were not a comprehensive resource by any stretch of the imagination; the information was absolutely basic, with the focus being on the French, British and Prussians of the Waterloo campaign (some things never change!), but with a few token cards on the Russians and Austrians available as well.

But in addition to being motivationally eye-catching, the series presented essential information for the raw beginner in a way that was concise as well as being very affordable. The cards provided a starting point which allowed me some degree of firm footing from which to start climbing the mountain of information which is part and parcel of Napoleonic wargaming.

They served me well.

I suppose the nearest equivalents available now would be the Peter Bunde plates, or the excellent online resource which is the Mont St. Jean site.


On another note, some good news that may see me actually gaming again!

I was recently contacted by a long-term resident here in Tokyo who is also interested in historical miniatures gaming
, and who had found out about me after coming across one of my blogs. And as luck would have it, it turns out that he lives no more than a twenty minute walk from my house.

This bearing in mind that Tokyo is a huge, sprawling city of 12,000,000 inhabitants, with a handful of people having even so much as heard of the hobby. Such is coincidence and/or Karma- and further evidence of the value of having a blog.

Giovanni mainly plays Renaissance games using DBR and the excellent Venexia range of miniatures- and it is an era in which I also have a great interest. But he also expressed an interest in trying out Napoleonics, so it looks like I may be looking at doing a few DBN games at first, as this is a system with which he is familiar.

The start of a flourishing club here in western Tokyo if we're lucky!


Finally, It's been a productive period on the painting front here at Chez Stavka. Here is a shot of a completed voltigeur company.

And I finally painted up a mounted colonel for the command stand- M. le Colonel Claude-Julien St. Peur of the 1/28e Regt. Legere.

I still have to texture and paint the bases, but I'll do that all at once when the rest of the battalion has been finished. I've been making great progress on the centre companies this week, and have been working on cavalry too, so I can't complain about the way the hobby is going for me right now!

Monday, 3 August 2009

"La Bricole"

"Rat innards stew...AGAIN?!?!

Care for a chat around the campfire?

Iannick Martin, a fellow Nappy enthusiast who shares pretty much the same approach to the hobby as I do, has set up a discussion forum on his Clash of Empires blog- La Bricole!

Just click on banner to reach the forum.

If you are into talking about painting, uniforms, and generally having fun with wargaming the Napoleonic Wars, come on by and register.

And we promise you that the only reference to bricoles of any sort will be in the title!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

While I go crazy painting straps and piping...

...they do look good when completed.

Here is a light infantry
voltigeur just waiting for the last of his comrades to be varnished so that the entire company can be based.

click on image to enlarge

Not the best of photos as they were taken in poor light, and I had to wring them through some severe Photoshopping for them to come out reasonably clearly. Still, good enough for work in (eternal!) progress shots.

It's of course a Front Rank miniature wearing the 1812 habit-veste and campaign trousers. He is also festooned with various equipment making him a right royal pain in la derrière to paint. The easiest ones to paint are- rather surprisingly- the ones in the full dress Bardin 1812 uniform. Less straps to worry about, although the ones in overcoat and covered shakos are also a lot easier on both eyes and blood pressure.

In a moment of madness I decided to give him non-regulation yellow piping down the campaign trousers, based on an illustration I cam across in my copy of Elting/Knotel's Napoleonic Uniforms.

Note to self; never-
ever- decide to put together a wargaming army where all the uniforms have yellow piping running down the sides of dark-coloured trousers. Therein lies the way of Madness.


Painting is made much more pleasant with appropriate "mood music". There are a lot of videos on YouTube featuring that stirring French march La Victoire est a Nous, famous amongst fellow Grognards from the movie Waterloo in 1970. Here is one of the better versions out there.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Minifigs and "Pas de Charge"; Good old days?

Shameless nostalgia time. I came across these pictures on the Minifigs website. The very first metal wargaming figures I ever ordered were some of these Prussian and Russian 25mm Minifigs to supplement my buckets of Airfix figures. I remember ordering them through the mail from a company in Pennsylvania- Soldier World USA I believe it was. Long gone now, of course!

Being 25mm, they of course dwarfed my HO/OO Airfix plastics, but in those pre-
Grognard carefree days, I didn't really care. My Russians held the Airfix La Haye Sainte against hordes of French cuirassiers painted (badly!) as dragoons, and no-one thought to give them a red-card for the historical faux-pas.

Forty years on since they were first released, they are really looking "long in the tooth" and are not really compatible with anything else out there. And they all seemed to be in the same pose, steadily advancing and eyes straight ahead. Yet I still think they had a charm of their own, although these days we have come to expect a lot more detail in our miniatures. But certainly there was no faulting the depth and breadth of Minifig's ranges- they covered just about everything the wargamer of the time could want!

No doubt modern miniatures represent a lot of progress on the part of the sculptor and caster, but I cannot help but to realize that I was able to paint my old Minifigs Napoleonics and Heritage/Hinchliffe medievals (I must have had hundreds of these!) a lot faster than I do my minis these days.

Make no mistake, I still love my Front Rank figures, and I'm certainly not about to go "retro".   Some consider the Front Rank poses too staid when compared to, say Elite or Foundry, but for me, perhaps, they are reminiscent of those old Minifig days, while incorporating the detail that we have come to expect with modern castings.

Nostalgia isn't all it's cracked up to be.    I used to use the old (1977!) Pas de Charge rules by the venerable George Nafziger, which seemed fine at the time with some mechanisms that I still like.

But when I dragged them out of storage years later and read them through again, I realized that not only had a lot of our notions of Napoleonic warfare changed over time, but that the rules themselves were full of omissions and "wierd goings-on". I think that some of the original charts and tables never made it into the book, as there remain references for mysterious tables that I have never found within the pages!

The rules served me well in their time, but time goes on, as it does with miniatures and just about everything else. And the choice in figures and rules out there now is stunning! These are great times to be a wargamer.

And while it is fun to look at old rules and figures again, there sure isn't any going back for me.

So when ARE Perry or Victrix going to release plastic Russians? And then there are those superb Prussians and Saxons from Calpe. Not to mention some interesting- if expensive- early Napoleonic wars ranges coming out from Foundry.

But practically I should just get on with painting what I have, first...

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Nappy Musings...

After spending many months in the Dolomite mountains in WW1, and in the Low Countries and upper Rhine in the War of the Austrian Succession, I find myself coming back to Napoleonics again. This is my usual pattern in wargaming. I drift from one era to another, but almost always come back to Naps at some time or another.

And I have been painting! Here are some photos of work in progress over the last few days.

Général Victor-Eugène BOUILLON-CANTINAT and ADC
(the latter wearing a daringly conspicuous- and non-regulation- white greatcoat!)

I originally converted M. le Général from a Front Rank miniature many years ago- before they released their general officer figures- using Tamiya two-part epoxy putty, a paper clip, and my trusty hand-held modelling drill. I was never happy with the original paint job, so I stripped it off and started again.

The general is left-handed, as was the "real"
(ahem!) general, due to being grievously wounded while fighting the Austrians in 1809.

I still need to work on the eyes and on touching up the horse furniture. Not sure about the white feathers on the general's hat. These should perhaps be in black, but if that is the case it should be an easy job to retouch it.

Another conversion, and one I am extremely pleased with! This is Henri-Etienne Cavignari, veteran of the Italian campaign and of Egypt, and now Chef de Bataillon of the 3/25e Regt. Legere, leading his men against the Czarist horde. About 50% done.

I have long ago come to the conclusion that I will probably have to outsource a large share of the painting to mercenary brush-smiths, which although not being cheap, will mean that I can get the bulk of my collection done, while allowing me to work on favourite units at my leisure.

I have most all the minis I need now anyway (I really only have to buy line infantry for the French, probably Perry plastics), so this may not be as expensive in the long run as it would be if I had to buy the figures as well. It is just a question of looking for a reasonable and reliable painting service that paints in a style I like.


At this time, however, I'd like to just blather on for a bit about what the hobby of Napoleonic wargaming means to me. I came across this thread on TMP, where one poster (it will be clear who this is when you read the thread!) took a position regarding the hobby which I can only call extreme, and which to me embodies all that can be the worst about Napoleonic enthusiasts.

I am a strong proponent of "each to their own" in what is no more than our hobby, and feel that we are free to approach the hobby in the way that we want, regardless of what others may think.

For that reason I am really turned off by those who feel it necessary to prescribe what the "proper" approach to the hobby should be, and who adopt that attitude of superiority and moral certitude that seems to infect the worst of the grognards. Presumptuous intolerance and blanket condemnation are not pretty traits.

So, in the interest of "stand up and be counted!", here is my own, very personal take on what Napoleonic wargaming means to me! Read it, ignore it, agree with it, or damn me to St. Helena; but it does let you where I stand with the hobby, so if my approach offends anyone, they should know this blog ain't for them!


Collecting miniatures, which means eye candy! For me, 28mm minis are big enough to paint, look good in a cabinet, and are just all-around aesthetically pleasing (with a respectful nod toward AB 15mm minis, which, while gorgeous, are just that much too small for these middle-aged eyes to cope with!).

Remaining faithful to history, but not being enslaved by it. I reserve the right to take the occasional liberty with uniform detail when I decide aesthetics warrant it, and even to tweak around historical fact when the narrative requires it.

As I pointed out in another forum, history is my Muse, not my tyrant. This extends to stretching things like having some regiments still carrying the 1803 pattern flags ('coz they're pretty!), and having my light cavalry regiments with eagles and standards, even if in practise they may not have taken them in the field.

I remember some pretentious twaddle being posted on TMP to the effect that if a person didn't replicate exactly the colours of the uniforms worn at the time, then one was showing disrespect to the memory of the soldiers themselves. Utter balderdash as far as I am concerned. We're talking toy soldiers here, not friggin' cenotaphs. My men are in a mix of campaign uniforms and full dress, because I like the variety.

Miniatures first, then the rules. Rule sets tend to come in and go out of fashion over time, but the miniatures always remain. My figures are based a la Peter Gilder and the In the Grand Manner rules, the same system which is used for General de Brigade, my current rules of choice. One thing is certain- I will never re-base. Any new rule set I adopt will have to be modified to suit my basing system, not the other way around!


"Understanding" Napoleonic tactics. I emphasize the "game" in wargame. I feel that miniature wargames are not the best way to formally analyze Napoleonic tactics, and that rules tend to reflect our own biases; to reflect what we expect should happen, rather than reveal any insights as to tactical methods used. In any event, ground/ figure scale throws everything off-kilter anyways, especially as I use 28mm minis.

And then there is the practical- but unavoidable- factor of how much time I have to play. I do not currently have a permanent table, so my games have to fall within the time constraints of being able to be played and to reach a conclusion within a Sunday afternoon.

Of course I want my games to play and feel like a Napoleonic battle may have unfolded, but I am willing to take shortcuts and abstractions to get to that result.

Let there be no misunderstanding; I am not ignorant of the tactics used, I have a considerable library on Napoleonic literature, and consider myself well-read on the period. However, the gaming table is another matter. I game for fun, to roll dice and the goal is to move nicely painted miniatures around on attractive terrain.

My history I save for my reading, and to be honest I am less interested in tactical minutiae anyway. I'm not a soldier, and even if I was I doubt that platoon evolutions in 1813 would have much bearing on combat in 2009 anyway.

Bricoles. Some of the nasty, personal spats & long-running feuds that occur between so-called professional historians, and which end up polluting various wargaming fora, do no-one any credit. On balance I feel they contribute negatively to the hobby. Such people, who are evidently incapable of showing even a modicum of civility on-line, need to stick to their own sandbox and let the rest of us enjoy our leisure activities.

Glorifying either war or Napoleon. Sorry for those who talk about l'Empereur extending the limits of glory and such, but the root of the matter to me is that war was, and remains a nasty and, more often than not, a futile undertaking. I'll not be blinded to that by the pretty uniforms and the charisma of any one man- I put no-one on a pedestal.

Not to say I have no respect for Napoleon, I do. But while I of course acknowledge his undoubted ability, leadership skills and just plain chutzpah, I have a healthy distrust of demagoguery and dictators, no matter how much of a military or administrative genius they may have been, and irregardless of their height (or lack thereof).

Napoleon died many years ago. His feelings are beyond being hurt if I am less than enamoured with him. And I am pretty sure he wouldn't care a jot about the opinion of someone who just plays with toy soldiers!

As an aside, I feel Napoleon was a man of his times; more interested in establishing a dynasty than any kind of democratic meritocracy, and I doubt whether promotions to positions of power based on merit would long have survived his death even if he had remained Emperor of the French. He certainly had amazing talent, and left a lasting legacy. But being human he was as capable of making mistakes and of showing poor judgement as are we all.

4) Just two weeks in June, 1815! There are lots of other fascinating campaigns in the Napoleonic Wars to hold anyone's interest.

Finally, I recognize that others might not share my views and that is fine. However, doing it differently does not make me wrong, nor does it imply that I am ignorant of history. I'm not.
But ultimately it is my hobby, with minis I paid for, so for others to whine about the way I chose to do it is to spit into the wind anyway.

Friday, 9 January 2009

1/6 of a pledge...

But at least I'm making progress again! Iannick Martin has given me a mental "jump-start" on my Napoleonics project.

Certainly it had pretty much hit a brick wall my end.

I had about a month and a half at work when there was no time for any painting or hobby stuff at all, and when I did have the time again, the motivational fires had been all but extinguished.

It doesn't help that while I have a desk for painting, it has to be shared with my wife for her studies. This means that I have to take out and put away brushes, paints, and all the related project paraphernalia after each painting session. This can be too much of a chore at times, making it tough just to sit down and get in an hour or so a day as some people seem able to do.

In any event, after a summer of shako cords, piping, and backpack straps I was frankly just getting tired of Napoleonics. So when I did eventually get back to painting it was on my 18th C. miniatures, which had also been waiting in the (very long!) queue. A change is as good as a rest.

But Iannick seems to have recovered from his similar
malaise, so it is high time I did too. While neither of us reached the targets we set out- although Iannick, despite his lamentations, managed a lot more than I was able to do- I have to admit that I did learn some points that should make progress faster, as follows:

  1. Don't "re-paint" errors until everything has been added. I must have gone over the same areas a half a dozen times in some instances.
  2. Undercoat in black. It really DOES save a lot of time.
  3. Follow what I now call Iannick's Law; i.e. don't start another unit until the one you are working on is finished. It is the last stages- the tidying up of details, those last tricky straps, cap badges and epaulets- those are the hardest, but are where the mini can really come to life. It is also the stage when procrastination can really take over if one isn't careful.
My return to les bleus started with "landscaping" and painting the base of a sample stand of grenadiers, just so I can see some kind of flickering light at the end of the tunnel.

There they are at the top of the post, along with a stand of skirmishers.

Basing technique from the article in
Battlegames by Barry Hilton (mentioned in a previous post). I was looking for something bright, but not light-coloured. I was wanting to portray the soggy ground of the autumn campaigns in Saxony in 1813. Anything too dusty and sandy-looking would have been more appropriate for the Peninsula, far from where my Marie Louises would be taking on the Russians. I wanted mud.

I have never liked using flocking on the bases. I know that many painters out there have gotten excellent results using it, but I have never been satisfied with the outcome when using it myself. When I was using flocking for bases back when gaming in Canada, the colours weren't what I was looking for, and in time the foliage always seem to "shed", leaving a glossy area where it had been glued to the PVA.

So, I decided to use fine sand for texturing the "vegetation" areas and paint for effect. I like the look, because it reminds me of the bases used for the minis in the huge Peter Gilder Leipzig extravaganza back in those early issues of Miniature Wargames all those years ago.

Here is what I did- largely for my own reference when I'm ready to base the rest of the battalion!

Paints used are
Delta Ceramcoat and some (economical!) tubes of Amsterdam Acrylics from my local art shop (raw & burnt umber) .

  • use acrylic-based wood putty to texture the base
  • using white glue, add fine sand in patches for vegetation and leave to dry out thoroughly
  • undercoat the base in raw umber
  • wet-coat earth areas with territorial beige
  • wet-coat vegetation areas with medium foliage green
  • give bases a wash of burnt umber around the feet of the minis
  • lightly wet-brush apple green on the vegetation areas and palomino tan on the earth areas. Wash again with thinned-down medium foliage green and raw sienna respectively
  • dry-brush olive yellow over the areas of grass, and highlight with imperial yellow. Dry-brush palomino tan again over the earth areas
  • trim edges of base with raw umber.
Some close-up shots.

From the right flank.
(Their left flank appears to be supported by the I.J.N. Mikasa)

My photography skills and camera are not up to par, particularly for close-up shots. Natural lighting was out of the question today- dark skies with cold, heavy rain here in Tokyo (good day for painting, though).

The base effect is "dark-ish", but the yellow highlights on the "grass" makes it stand out nicely while without overpowering the minis, which after all should be the visual focal point.

The colours do not quite look like this in "real life". The brown of the base has washed out, and has picked up more of a greenish hue, as has the vegetation effect (the yellow highlight has washed out). The blue overcoat on the fellow in the back rank has come out a lot lighter than it is under natural light conditions. Blue has always been a bitch to photograph in my experience.

More to come, I hope to show the finished battalion this time next week.