Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Battle of El Río de Lágrimas

Some more pictures from December's game.  As I mentioned, a victory for the British and their Russian allies this time.  No doubt things would have been different had Gen. Bouillon-Cantinat been in overall command; but on this occasion the Tofusky Redoubt- manned by both Russian and British artillery- proved impregnable, as you can read here.

Rules used were Warlord Games' Black Powder, and as we are still building up our armies not all units are fully painted- especially the cavalry. Purists may want to avert their eyes from the photos, but in our defence we are making excellent progress so that in a few months we will have no more need of work-in-progress miniatures.  At this point, we just want to get on with gaming. 

The scenario called for the French to seize a strategically significant ford that allowed easy passage across the Lágrimas River.  To do this they would have to take possession of the Tofusky Redoubt, which had been constructed by the Allies to cover the approaches to the ford.

The Tofusky Redoubt was a strongly defended fieldwork, manned by a joint Anglo-Russian gun battery.  It was further supported by a brigade of British and Brunswick infantry, billeted nearby under the experienced command of the brave- if somewhat befuddled- General Graham Stuart MacDitherer, 6th Lord Ayrehead (Matt).
 click on map to enlarge.
The French were under overall command of a long-serving veteran of the Grande Armée, the pleasure-loving GdD Alphonse DeSpicable (Achilleas). 

French light cavalry piquets had determined that the far bank of the Lágrimas was defended only by a single battalion of Brunswick infantry, so a small detachment under GdB Bouillon-Cantinat (yours truly) crossed the river further downstream by night, and marched along the river so that by daybreak they would be in a position to overwhelm the Brunswickers.  This force consisted of a 6pdr gun, the veteran 28e Legere, and the 7e Chasseurs au Cheval.

After having dealt with the Black Brunswickers, they would then cross the ford and take the redoubt by storm.  Meanwhile the main French force would both hold the British at bay and draw the fire of the redoubt while Bouillon-Cantinat made his move.  When the far bank was cleared and Bouillon-Cantinat was crossing the ford, they would then join in the assault by attacking the redoubt from the opposite flank.
View of the battlefield.  The Casa del Cuspidoro in the foreground with the Lágrimas river flowing just behind it.  On the left on the other side of the river can be seen the Tofusky Redoubt, menacing any approach to the Lágrimas ford. 
Who put that pen there?  The French line from the left. Bouillon-Cantinat's detachment ready to move against the Brunswickers, with the rest of the French force on the other side ready to move in concert with the flanking advance. Or so was the plan...

The 7e Chasseurs au Cheval look painfully naked here, but since the game I've been beavering away steadily on this regiment, and the next time they see combat they will be fully clothed.
The Allied line from the right flank.  Brunswickers prepare to defend the ford at all costs. Very nicely painted Perry miniatures from Matt's collection. "Verdammt, unser General ist awfully far avay, is he not, Herr Colonel?" 

After scoffing a pre-battle breakfast of grilled pork slices and a few fortifying glasses of fine Bordeaux (or rum/ champagne/ vodka/ schnapps, according to taste, rank and inclination), the action started with the French being given the initiative. 

And what happened?  The flanking force advanced according to orders; but the main French army under DeSpicable decided to use a brigade order to advance en masse- and he promptly failed his command roll.  And I mean failed- double six, command blunder. Result- the whole force retreats off the table, and has to dice to come back.  

Cue look of horror amid cries of "Nous sommes trahis!" from French left flank, and Allied gunners drooling in unseemly expectation of a jolly good few turns of target practice ahead.

By the time the French recovered their composure and came back on the board, the Allies had managed to stop laughing themselves silly, and the artillerymen on  both sides had begun their devilish work.

One of the first French shots landed amid the Brunswickers, causing them to receive a disorder marker.  Then the Allied guns in the redoubt opened up on the French left.  The Russian Horse Artillery are quickly gaining a reputation for accuracy and effective fire, and managed to disorder both the French artillery and voltigeurs.  

The French artillery replied, and in contrast to the efficiency and skill shown by their Russian counterparts, managed to defy the laws of statistical averages for the remainder of the game by steadfastly rolling a succession of "ones".  But what else should one expect of a newly painted unit?
Under fire from the fearsome Russian Horse Artillery, the left flank French 6pdr battery acquires itself an unenviable collection of hit and disorder markers.

On the British side, the 60th Rifles were ordered forward to do some ineffectual skirmishing with the (depressingly tardily) advancing French columns of the main force, while the 78th were ordered to the centre in anticipation of the coming assault.  
This required all of Lord Ayrehead's attention, while the Brunswickers on the flank traded shots with French voltigeurs, both sides inflicting disorder and casualties.  
Meanwhile, the 7e Chasseurs au Cheval moved steadily ahead.  

They would have moved a lot faster had I remembered that French light cavalry get to use the Marauders rule, meaning that they don't need to modify their command rolls for being out of command radius.  This was not turning into a banner day for the 1er Empire.  

Still, they managed to work their way up the far side of the Casa del Cuspidoro to outflank the Brunswickers.  The Germans, being engaged with the voltigeurs to their front and suffering from disorder, were unable to reply. C'était un moment très délicieux.
Meanwhile back to the centre and right of the French battle line, where GdD DeSpicable had ordered forward the French en masse in mixed formation, battalion columns screened by skirmishers.  Sound the Pas de Charge!  

Here the 9e Legere, closely supported by the 18e de Ligne, ploughs into the 78th Foot.
The 78th yet again failed to write its name in glory across the history books,  and it didn't do nearly as much damage as it could have at this range, and given its first-fire bonus.  In fact, the next turn at the first break test they all decided to high-tail it back to the rear again, as they did last game.  Matt wasn't pleased!
But while all this was taking place, the 88th Foot, blatantly disregarding any threat posed by the  French cuirassiers,  boldly wheeled towards the French attack and poured a nasty fire into the exposed flank of the 18e de Ligne.  

And as luck would have it, this was one really devastating volley- it sent French soldiers down like nine-pins, more than decimating the hapless regiment, which soon broke under the pressure.
Lord Ayrehead knew he could afford to take the risk of exposing the flank of the 88th by wheeling.   The French cuirassiers, despite their ferocious appearance, posed less of a threat than they looked.  They were in a poor position to deploy effectively, a situation made even worse by poor command rolls.
Note Achilleas' great casualty markers. 
Time was running out for the French, and the Allies still had the 45th Foot in reserve.  But most importantly, it was becoming clear that the French would soon not have the strength to take the redoubt, for their centre had begun to crumble away.

While the attack of the 9e and 18e was being beaten off,  the 45e de Ligne, as the photo below shows, had been slowly advancing directly into the teeth of the crack gunners in the Tofusky Redoubt.  During its painstakingly slow advance, with many stops to reform its tattered ranks, it had taken hit after hit from both Russian and British guns.
After too long having had to endure considerable punishment and mounting casualties,  the unfortunate soldats of the 45e de Ligne finally vote with their feet;  the regiment duly fails one break test too many, and routs. 
Clearly its largely unpainted state had resulted in a detrimental effect on unit morale.  

This now opens up wide vistas of fire for the elated Allied gunners, who are not slow to take advantage of the situation.  They soon direct a hot fire onto the vulnerable flanks of Frenchmen both to the right and left of them. Merde!  
On the Allied right flank, all is not well as the Brunswickers get charged in flank by the 7e Chasseurs au Cheval, who have now deployed into line.  "Sonnez la charge! Vive l'empereur!"
They survive- barely- but take many hits, are disordered and cannot form square.  While the French cavalry reform for another charge, the voltigeurs open up on them again.  Not a good day to be wearing the black, but they behave gallantly.
Again, Matt did a great job on these Perry Brunswickers.
At this point Bouillon-Cantinat, standing on the rise at the base of the castle sees that the Brunswickers are neutralized and about to be charged again by the indefatigable 7e Chasseurs.  Seeing the French attack in the centre in dire trouble, he decides to risk all ,and to order the veteran 28e Legere- the last French unit at full strength and not suffering from disorder- to advance across the ford and directly assault the redoubt. 
Meanwhile the French gunners on the left light up their pipes and rue their generals while continuing to see how many "ones" they can keep rolling up.

But alas for France, time had now run out; GdD DeSpicable remembered that he must take his leave shortly if he was to meet his mistress as arranged for an evening of gastronomic fulfilment and agreeable feminine companionship.  What is more, the British 45th Foot was about to see off the remnants of the French attack in the centre, and the Tofusky Redoubt still commanded the crossing with its well-served guns.  

So the French call it a day. But who will tell the Emperor of this failure....? 

Another fun game, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  We are still having to get ourselves fully acquainted with the rules, but a few more games under our belts, and things should start moving a lot faster.  As it was, we got six or seven turns in over four hours of gaming, which we consider pretty darned good.  

The only truly annoying thing was the discovery that Achilleas had these in his box, but didn't use them in the game!  
Sure they were Guard, but as this was the Peninsula, they would have come in handy as converged grenadiers.  Certainly they were just too pretty not to have out on the table.  Miniatures as good as these should not remain hidden in their carrying cases, for shame!

Another Black Powder game in January, and this time we need to see some Allied cavalry on the table.  Some Russian dragoons to go with those horse artillery would be nice.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

River of Tears!

For the French, anyway!  

The West Tokyo Wargamers had their monthly games day this past Sunday, and Matt, Achilleas and I had our second game of Napoleonics using Black Powder.
Brunswickers in trouble; disordered and unable to change formation, while out of view at the bottom of the picture are the 7th Chasseurs au Cheval busily forming line for a charge on their flank! 

It was a real blast- almost literally, as the Allies (Russians, Brunswickers and British) were aided by the redoubt I built last week, and which was ably crewed by Russian and British artillery.  But ultimately it ended in a French defeat, as les crapauds failed to take the redoubt which protected the river crossing.  

At least it was certainly no walkover; both sides had their share of heroism- and of craven cowardice!  

Suffice for now to say that the 8th Russian Horse Artillery Battery managed to perform wonders again, while my new French 6pdr- painted just in time for the game- put in an overwhelmingly underwhelming performance.  

My very-much-unfinished unit of the 7th Chasseurs au Cheval, on the other hand, behaved most gallantly; wiping out the stain of their most shameful behaviour in the last game.  They have now earned their place in the front of the queue on my painting table, and will be awarded the privilege, unique among French light cavalry units, of being able to carry their eagles on campaign.

Once I get some more pictures of the game, I'll put up a full report.  No apologies for not having everything fully painted, but we are in the early days of Napoleonic gaming here, and the number of painted troops is growing steadily.  We find that nothing inspires painting quite so much as does playing a hard-fought and enjoyable game with good company.


I was lucky to be able to get anything painted at all this month, as work has been really eating into my time.  But tomorrow marks the beginning of almost three weeks vacation, and I'm itching to take up the brushes and to get painting.  My first task will be to finish off the almost-painted miniatures on my desktop, and clear the decks for some new units.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Redoubts for the taking!

I finally finished that redoubt I was working on.  
View of the Tofusky Redoubt.  Russian Horse Artillery ready to dish out some Licorne cannister to Johnny Crapaud and his chums 

I'm really pleased with this one.  You can see more pictures here, where I've detailed the whole (at times heartbreaking!) story of its construction.  

With this project of the way, I can now work on getting some more miniatures done for next Sunday's game. Some French artillery, and more infantry.  If we decide to have another game in January, there will be some horseflesh on parade as well.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Distant Thunder of the Drums...

I realize I haven't posted here for a good while now;  the last couple of club games have been WW2 actions, as you can see here, so my hobby time has been devoted to that project in recent weeks.  

However, this December we we have another Napoleonics game using Black Powder coming up, now that Achilleas is available with his growing French horde, so it is time to put on my bicorne again and to sound the pas-de-charge. 

Not only that, but after spending the last month on plastic models and khaki drab for my Soviet army, my Nappy painting mojo seems to be back.  

"It's only a bit of cannister!  What are you waiting for,  mes amis?  En Avant!!!"

Today was a national holiday here, and I took the opportunity to work on some more sections of my long-neglected French and Russian artillery, which I hope to get finished before I hit the road/ air lanes for a couple of business trips over the next few weeks. The next three weeks are going to be hectic at work, but I've a couple of weeks off on the horizon, so I'm looking forward to some serious "Quality Time" with my paintbrushes.

A photo from our first Black Powder game.  As you can see, our collections are still very much works-in-progress.  But we are all steadily recruiting and training.  Since that photo was taken there have been a number of fully-painted stands ready to take the places of those who, had it not been for the exigencies of the service, would otherwise have failed inspection!

I'm sure by now it is no news to anyone reading this post that Calpe is coming out with a range of French Napoleonic infantry and artillery!  As it happens, the news came out just after I received my first order from Peter.   

Aside from the excellent service, I have to say I am impressed with the quality of sculpting and with the refreshing lack of flash and heavy mould lines.  Some quick work with a needle file, and they were done and ready for priming. 

And of course, Peter's new French range will be for the 1813 campaign; none of this hackneyed, done-to-death, 100-Days campaign fixation for a change.  So that means it will fit right in with my plans!  Safe to say that a battalion or so of these are likely to find their way into my recruiting depot.

Finally, that redoubt is coming along nicely.  I have it in mind for December's game scenario, so I need to get it finished within a few weeks.

I've added the duck-boards to the base, and have only the revetments to do now, along with some sandbagging around the tops.


Saturday, 30 October 2010

Raided, Looted, and (almost) Burned.

What a ride these last few weeks have been!  

Our club had a great session last Sunday.  We had the best turnout ever, and on this occasion we had to book a larger room.  Four games on the go at the same time.  It was great to see both new and familiar faces enjoying a variety of nicely laid-out games.  

The continued growth of our club, and the amount of interest in miniatures gaming evident in the Tokyo area, is really satisfying to see. 

Unfortunately, Achilleas and Matt were unable to make it with their French and British, so no Napoleonics this time.  But I did have a fun Blitzkrieg Commander II game instead, set in 1945 with my Russkis taking on British (i.e not enough Germans to go around, as there were two BKC II games going on at the same time).  I really enjoy that rule set for WW2 games.

I also received two boxes of Warlord Games' new Landwehr.  I actually think they are really neat, even if they are not the most accurate out there.  They match well in size with my Front Rank figures, were good value with free postage, and will be easy to paint.

That was the good news.  

Much less fun was the fact that my wife and I fell victim to identity theft this past week.  Some low-life had gotten hold of a whole slew of credit card numbers- ours included- from a very reputable company in the UK.

We found out from the card company after the jerks (a professional job most likely) had gone on what seems to have been a global spending spree.  Fortunately the banking system was on the ball; they had caught wind of something fishy going on, and decided to put a tentative stop on the card while they contacted us.   

After many phone calls and time off from work (at a busy time, of course!), the good news is that it is all covered by the card insurance, and we won't find ourselves out of pocket.  

But you can imagine the hassle and pure waste of time we are having to contend with. We have had to contact other merchants and services we deal with, to let them know what happened and to transfer all other payments to a different card.  We keep another card just for emergencies like this, but any new purchases of any kind are ruled out until the matter is officially settled and we get another card number.  

Needless to say, je suis très pissed-off.  

To be fair, the company in question from whom the information was stolen has been up-front and very communicative about it, sending regular updates to all involved.  And certainly we live in an age where electronic transactions are a necessary part of life, especially for me living here in the Far East.   But merchants take note, from now on it is bank drafts or PayPal purchases only.

At least things are calming down now, and I can slowly get back to hobby stuff.  We will most likely be able to have another Black Powder Napoleonics game on November 14th, so I will try to get the redoubt finished (coming along nicely now after some surgery and having added the gabions), as well as to finish up some loose odds-'n-ends on my painting table.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Protecting the Armoury

With the prospect of more Napoleonic games on the horizon, and more gamers at the club, it was clear from our last session that we need more terrain- buildings, woods, rivers, roads- the lot.  So I've been working on my allotment of trees as well as some buildings and structures for 28mm games.

I've made good progress with a redoubt I've made from old tofu tubs, and prepared bases for a row of resin buildings I ordered years ago from Hovels.  These are great buildings, and will look good once painted and glued on the base with a surrounding fence.  But being resin, they are heavy.  I've also got  the Hovels' carriage house, but that will be for later as it will be quite an undertaking.
In the background is the basic shape of what will be a small(?) armoury, something which seems suitable for opposing forces to fight a battle over.  

I knocked it together this morning in about thirty minutes from various pieces of foam packing material- the crumbly white stuff- which I cut into shape and glued together with cocktail sticks and PVA.  The whole was covered with packing tape to cover gaps and prevent the foam from crumbling away, and then I brushed it liberally with undiluted PVA to seal it.  

I will then face the whole structure with foamcore panels, and add doors, beams, gables, chimneys and the like before the laborious task of roofing it.

Being Styrofoam it is extremely light, so should transport easily to the club despite its size.
The 10 pdr. howitzer in the redoubt protecting it is the next in line in my French for priming and painting.  I've just about finished its companion, the 6 pdr. gun, and will post pictures of that once it is base is finished off.

Yes, I know I should be spending more time on painting miniatures! But to me good wargaming is a coming together of good companionship, fun rules, well-painted miniatures, and attractive terrain.  

As terrain is notoriously difficult to cart around, and I have only a short distance to travel to the club compared to others having to take the train half way across Tokyo, it makes sense that I work on the buildings as others are already painting up a good number of miniatures as well.  

And I do love making terrain, even if I keep on avoiding the annoying problem on how I'm going to store it all.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Blood and Black Powder!

Today was a day of firsts. 

Our first game of Black Powder, the first time my 28mm Napoleonics have ever seen combat, and the first victory for General Victor-Eugène Bouillon-Cantinat!
The 1/28e Regt. Légère takes it's place at the end of the French line.  It was to be one of the few French units to survive the game, albeit taking significant casualties.  The game ended in a French victory, but with a huge butcher's bill on both sides.

The British were provided by Matt, and many of the French by Achilleas.  Between them, they fielded a good number of extremely well painted and inspiring figures from Perry Miniatures and from Victrix, mostly plastics.  In detail I found these the equal of many metal models out there, the proportions were better, and they were a lot easier to carry! I'm becoming increasingly sold on plastics.

I'll be posting more pictures later on the West Tokyo Wargamers blog.  But for now suffice to say that it was a great game and very much a "near run thing".  So far the Black Powder rules seem to be giving us what we are looking for in a club game.  Something that can be picked up fairly easily by those unfamiliar with the rules, which can be played to conclusion in the time available, and which is both fast and furious.  
With French cuirassiers chomping at the bit ready to puree the British 45th Foot at the first opportunity, the much-depleted 1/28e Regt. Légère fires the final volley that will cause the last remaining British infantry unit to fail its break roll and retreat back off the table, as Bouillon-Cantinat looks on.  Vive La France! 

The way we played it, the game had a very "Featherstone-esque" feel to it, as we determined to finish it to the end with no brigade morale rules (we wanted to try out as many of the rules as possible, so voluntary retreat was not an option for either side!).  

Despite the usual mistakes and omissions that is the case on both sides whenever a set of rules is being played for the first time, loads of fun was had by all.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Black Powder- Roster Chart

Napoleonics coming to Tokyo!   I have been looking through the Black Powder rules, and am cautiously optimistic that they can make for a good Napoleonic game.  Cautious, because we haven't yet tried them, optimistic because they seem quite tweak-able.  And I have always liked to tinker with rule sets.  

The mechanics seem simple, and given that we have to wrap things up in an afternoon, this will mean a lot as to how practical the set is for club use.

I've prepared a Roster Chart- a .pdf file for my force based on a download I got from the Black Powder Yahoo! group.   I've added it to the sidebar.  One very small brigade, units organized into 36 miniatures for the infantry, twelve for the cavalry, and only one gun model.  

Not every unit will be painted for the game.  I'll try to get as much done as time allows, but I can see us gaming with a bunch of figures blu-tacked onto temporary bases.  

Purists may gasp in disgust, but at this early stage I think it best that we just muster what we can and get gaming.  If past experience is anything to go by, if the game turns out well, then painting speed will go up exponentially.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Back from Elba...

I haven't been active on my Napoleonic miniatures lately, and unlike the situation that le petit caporal found himself in well-nigh 200 years ago, in this case the exile has been self-imposed.   

I have always tended to drift from project to project like a drunken moth with Alzheimers, and with time these days being short both for gaming and for painting, it was high time to develop some project discipline for a change.  

So for the past three months I have been making a conscious effort to devote my wargaming attention exclusively to my other favourite period; the Second World War, in particular the Eastern Front and my collection of 1943-44 Soviets.
This is a period that a number of us are gaming here at the club, and it made sense to focus my energies on it.

And I have done so, quite successfully so far.  As a result, we have been getting in some great games over the last few months.  My collection has been growing steadily, with the pile of unmade model kits getting smaller and smaller- despite having constantly added to it!

All the time, though, I found myself looking behind my back at my Napoleonic figures, but as we were not gaming the period, there did not seem much point in getting myself distracted from the khaki horde.

Well, all that is about to change, and it appears that we actually have a Napoleonic game scheduled for September!  If all goes to plan,  three of us will be having a small game to try out the Black Powder rules to see how they go.  Nothing is carved in stone, and we may try other systems as time goes on. 

But the important thing is that Napoleonics are finally on the table!   I need the discipline of meaningful deadlines, and I know now that what keeps me at work on a project is to actually be gaming the period I'm painting.  Nothing pushes me get my miniatures past the finish line like knowing that others are depending on a contribution  of troops for the next gaming session.  So it bodes well for my commitment to the Napoleonic Wars. 

I'll still be working on my Soviets of course, and we do have a big game scheduled for October.  But now I've the motivation to get on with the units of French I've already got so tantalizingly near to completion.  And if interest in the period can be maintained amongst other club members, the potential of sizable Napoleonic games becoming a regular feature may be realized. 

In the meantime, there have been a number of notable developments in the hobby recently, what with a number of companies entering the arena with ranges from the Russian army of Suvorov and of Austerlitz, and very recently Perry Miniatures and Warlord  coming up with plans for plastic 1813 Prussians.

The plastic "revolution" is an interesting one, and given my recent return to plastic modelling, I find myself looking more and more favourably on the development.  The quality gap is closing- has closed in many instances-, the price is right, and as anyone who has had to transport large numbers of miniatures to a club game might know, the weight saving is not one to be ignored.

In fact, the plastics are what is making the appearance of Napoleonics here possible, but more of that in my next post.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Happy Anniversary M. le Archiduc!

This week saw the third anniversary of Clash of Empires, Iannick Martin's (a.k.a Archiduc Charles) excellent site and home of the La Bricole forum.  

Iannick is one of those people whose whole-hearted enthusiasm for the hobby, and for Napoleonic wargaming in particular, has been instrumental in keeping the flame alive in me even at those times when I wonder if the whole thing is worth it. 

Even while I envy his project discipline (apparently beginning to crack these days, mind!), he has been both an inspiration and a good friend.

So as a present to Iannick, and as a mark of respect to his beloved whitecoats, here is a musical salute to the Kaiserliks.  

The Weiner Alexander March, an Austrian march written towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars to celebrate the Allied ascendancy, and itself a parody of the French Revolutionary anthem, Ça Ira.  It was also a favourite of Czar Alexander at the Congress of Vienna, hence the name.

Never mind the Prussian flag, it was a popular march that soon found its way into the Prussian Army book of marches, and can still be heard played today. 

Thanks Iannick, and keep posting!

Saturday, 15 May 2010


Work, home projects and painting miniatures have been keeping me busy recently.  

The painting has been productive, and I've been focusing on trying to complete the half-finished or nearly finished units that have been taking up space on the painting table.  

Pride of place so far has been this vignette for my 18th C. project, but I've also been working on my Napoleonics, so I hope to have some eye candy here very shortly.

One setback has been physical.  Over the last few weeks I had been spending a lot of time at the computer at work finishing off some reports and a textbook draft.  This was followed by a weekend of intense painting.  

Well, I spent so much time huddled over my desk painting without taking the occasional stretch and walk, so that on the Monday I woke up with such severe back/ shoulder pain that I couldn't move.  I had to take the day off and just lie in bed with pain killers until the agony subsided.  

Moral of the story- I need to remember to pace myself.  I'm not as young as I used to be!

Other news is that I received my copy of Republic to Empire and it looks good!  It is complex, but not necessarily complicated.  At first reading, in fact, it reminds in in some ways of my old and beloved Complete Brigadier rules that I used to play back in 1985.   

The photos and overall design are just gorgeous, but it is obvious the rules contain a lot of "meat" as well.

Even if it means using unpainted or half-painted figures at first, (shame! Shame!), I intend to try out the starter scenario that Clarence Harrison developed, and which was played out by John in his excellent post on the Battle of Puente de Piedra.

On the subject of blogs, I've added a link to another one here.  "Grognard" is a French wargamer living in Rouen, and his blog, L'épopée, showcases some very excellently done Front Rank figures. I can only drool in admiration!

Finally, I received my latest copy of Battlegames magazine, and this edition came with a free sprue of Perry plastic dismounted French dragoons.  
The detail is amazing, and honestly these are more than the equal of any number of metal miniatures out there these days.  While some purists insist that plastic models don't have the definition of their metal brethren, I'd have to say that the gap is closing mightily fast with these models.  

And when you factor in the adaptability, conversion potential, and of course price, I cannot see why anyone would not want to have at least some plastics in their collection if only to bulk out the army.  

Not to mention that a brigade of French infantry in plastic will be a lot easier on my back to take to the club than would be the equivilent in metal!

Of course I am not about to throw away or stop buying metal miniatures.  No way.  I see the best of the plastics as complementing my existing collection, not replacing them.  There is room for both metal and plastic miniatures in my wargaming world.   

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Not *quite* an impulse purchase...

...but I had promised myself not to buy anything new this month.  However, put a few glasses of Pinot Noir under my belt and I'm more than willing to live life dangerously.

I have been considering this set of rules for Napoleonics for a long time now, but had held off seeing that I already had General de Brigade and Black Powder.  Not to mention a host of older rule sets as well!
But R2E looks interesting, and is set at a level of representation and detail that appeals to me.  Some of the recent reviews I have been reading (such as those found here and here) have pushed me off the fence, and have led me to the conclusion that these are indeed a set of rules worth having a look at. 

Anyway, R2E is the rule set that is leading in my poll.  Not exactly a meaningful sample statistically I'll be the first to admit; but nonetheless they are the rules leading the pack by a two-to-one margin!

So off went the order today.  While not cheap, they are not overly expensive either, as rule sets go these days.  They are certainly gorgeous, illustrated with mouth-watering photos and being very attractively laid out by Clarence Harrison.  

Now, eye candy may not a good set of wargames rules make, but all things being equal it can't hurt either.  One reason I'm still interested in Napoleonic wargaming today is the eye candy that made the front cover of Bruce Quarrie's Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature and Pete Gilder's articles in the earliest Miniature Wargames mags.

Clearly I have developed a sweet tooth when it comes to wargaming publications-  and I am not about to make any excuses for it.  A visual hobby demands a visual treatment!

I haven't yet felt the pull of Sam Mustafa's Lasalle, as I am waiting first for the latest incarnation of the GdB rules once they are available.  In any event, there is no reason why I have to stick just to one set of rules alone.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Je vous présente...

Hippolyte-Garçon de Vallée, Chef-de-Bataillon of the 2/28e Regt. Légère
A native of the town of Bouaye near Nantes on the Loire, as an irresolute youth he was sent by his parents to work as a assistant to the town surgeon.
But upon finding that much of his apprenticeship was being spent merely in painting the doctor's country house and in tending the grounds and lawns, he left the doctor's service in disgust and in search of adventure. 
Caught up in the revolutionary fervour of the times, he joined the army as a simple soldat in the light infantry. Over the years he took part in many a campaign, and rose slowly up the ladder of service to find himself in command of the second battalion of the 28e Légère in the 1813 campaign. 

Rumours persist that he was unable to progress further in his career due to the result of repeated overindulgence in Burgundy and Pinot Noir, ultimately leading to a claret-fuelled fracas that resulted in de Vallée haughtily challenging an officer of the Old Guard to a duel.

This officer was a veteran of Rivoli and Marengo, and a favourite of the Emperor.  Thus it was widely circulated that the fight proved fatal, not only to the grognard, but also to de Vallée's chances of any further advancement in the service.  

However, evidence is sketchy and the story remains unsubstantiated.

As usual, he wears the green leather gloves affected by officers of this regiment. 

Very heavily converted Front Rank miniature.  While their Napoleonic French range has many uniform variations, Front Rank doesn't go for a lot of variation in poses.  Not a problem for me as far as most rank-and-file go, but I like to see flair, movement and elán in my officers!  

So I took an advancing officer in overcoat, and swapped the head with one from a Russian infantryman (who had lost his bayonet).  I then replaced one arm and repositioned the other, and finally perched a spare shako to the top of the sword.  En Avant!

I've done a lot today.  I started on the metalwork of the last remaining infantry of the 1/28e, but this will take a week or so yet as I'm pacing myself so as to preserve my eyesight.  I find that after an hour or so of that kind of detail work,  I need to work on something easier on the eye muscles.  

So I've also been working on the less arduous task of blocking in the main colours of the 1/69e de ligne as well as the 2/28e légère.   I hadn't planned on working on the latter unit yet, but when going through my boxes of figures "in progress", I found to my pleasant surprise that I had already had all the miniatures I needed for it primed and ready.  Some of them had already been worked on, with coats, faces and trousers blocked in, so that the unit itself is about 1/4 of the way done. 

While in complete breach of "Iannick's Law", I now find that doing things this way actually keeps me motivated as well as reducing eyestrain.  

The trick for me is to keep to the period rather than go off into five or six other projects at the same time (to this end I'm flogging off a bunch of ECW figures and books to Iannick, who will now know how easy it is to become a wargames butterfly!).

I've added a new page to the blog, "Official" Inspection Returns, that will track the (pitiful!) progress I'm making.  The goal for the French is to have four infantry battalions, an artillery battery, and  two squadrons of cavalry in action by the end of the year.  Not so unreasonable, I think.


One thing that has been evident is that the club has very little in the way of horse-and-musket era terrain and buildings, so I also dragged some Hovels buildings out of the closet, which I'll work on from time to time as a change from painting minis. 

I have to say that making terrain and working on buildings are some of my favourite aspects of this fascinating hobby.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Wine, Women, Sakura- and a Poll!

Cherry blossom season is upon us here in Tokyo, and is at it's peak.
Chez Stavka as seen through the cherry blossoms
Anyone out there who has had even a passing acquaintance with Japan knows that Spring here is heralded by the coming of cherry blossoms.  This is a major event, and makes the home celebrations for SuperBowl look like those for the the Annual Snakebite County Tax Collector's Appreciation Day in comparison.  

The spread of the cherry blossoms across the country are reported eagerly by the media, and everyone looks forward to the annual Hanamikai, or cherry blossom viewing party.  

It is the occasion, not so much for quiet contemplation of the brevity and fragility of life, than it is for wild and unrestrained drinking, partying, and general merry-making.

Over the years I have come to "get with the program", and confess I look forward to it myself.  Many parks here have had cherry trees planted just for this express purpose, and despite the urban growth, there are many very attractive parks and temples in Tokyo that offer a refreshing break from the daily grind.  

So, and seeing as (unlike in Vancouver) there are no statutes against drinking in public, my wife and I made a good day of it at Seiseki-Sakuragaoka Park, a large park on a hill not far from where I live.

Formerly the Meiji Emperor's hunting grounds (hares and pheasants) and located on top of the local heights, the park is now a large and very well maintained natural attraction in the area.  It also has a great view of Fuji-san when the weather decides to cooperate.
What has this to do with Napoleonics?  Not a heckuva lot!  Except that the long (and very pleasant) walk up to the park and back, along with the beer and fine Tuscan wine we imbibed while we were there, pretty much guaranteed that there wasn't much hope of getting any painting time in today! 

Back to the painting desk tomorrow, though.

This week I learned that our club seems to have attracted another Nappy enthusiast- who is also collecting French, in 28mm, and at a 1:20 ratio for General de Brigade or Black Powder!  So things are looking bright for Napoleonic gaming at our club. 

And here is a question to anyone who has experience with any of the many new rule sets now out there:

What rules would seem to do well for, say, no more than a brigade of four battalions a side?  The trick is to find a game that would be challenging- and most of all fun- and yet could handle additional units as newly-painted regiments came "on line". 

I used to play the Compete Brigadier back in the '80's, which while were fun with a brigade of five or so a side,  (as its name would suggest!) got unwieldy big time when one had seven or eight units each.  

I've added a poll to the sidebar on the right.  If you do choose to vote, it would be much appreciated.  But it would also be useful if you were to make a quick comment as to why you chose the way you did.

This is not a question of which rule set is better overall, just which rule set people think may best handle smaller engagements (not just skirmishes).

The only ones I have currently are GdB and Black Powder, but I haven't yet tried them out.  I'd be interested in hearing about R2E and Lasalle, but other suggestions are welcome.

Oh, just don't even mention Empire.  Not goin' there in any way.

Monday, 5 April 2010

In Sight of the Finish Line...

...but I'm not breaking out the box of cigars just yet.  

However, I did have a productive evening last night working on the last two chasseur companies of the 1/28e Légère.  All the faces, straps and equipment have been done.  That just leaves the highlighting and the final details; the cuff piping, shako details like the pom-poms and cockades, and finally all the metallics such as shako plates, musket ironwork and buttons which I always leave for last.  

I also worked on the final two skirmishers and a couple of artillery crewmen- although I'm still hesitant on how best to base the skirmishers, but more on that later.

I've been running on a bit of a motivational "high" right now as far as Napoleonics go, so all things considered I feel that I am making reasonably good progress (by my standards anyway!).  

Here are a few- as can be seen there really isn't that much far to go, and the remaining figures are all at or very near this stage. 
It's nasty what a Cossack sabre stroke can do...
The artilleryman below will be modelled sponging out the piece, so the rammer itself isn't broken- it's supposed to look that way!  Aside from a pre-1812 forage cap, I gave him heavy wool trousers and a rather natty red waistcoat.
The final touches are always the most demanding in terms of time and concentration, but are the most enjoyable aspect of painting for me as I see the miniatures begin to look a lot more like the soldiers they are supposed to represent, at least in my mind's eye! 

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Peninsular musings...

One of the very first uniform books for the Napoleonic Wars that I ever bought- probably the first when I think of it- was this one by the ubiquitous Philip Haythornthwaite and illustrated by Mike Chappell.  Fantastic plates of troops in all their tatty splendour.  
I've read it countless times over the last quarter-century and more, and took it off the shelf again last night for some light bedtime reading.

While skimming through the order of battle section at the back of the book, I noticed that the French Army of Portugal under Marmont contained at least three regiments that were to send battalions to the 8th Division in Europe.  

Foy's Division at the Battle of Salamanca included the 6e Regt. Légère and the 69e de Ligne, while the 59 de Ligne can be found in Clausel's Division. 

The 16e Légère and 40e de Ligne also fought in the Peninsula, if not at Salamanca itself.  

Now these would have been almost certainly have been wearing the pre-1812 uniform- which was almost certainly not worn in the Peninsula at all, at least not in in any significant numbers.

However, most- not all- of my French infantry are uniformed according to the Bardin regulations.   C'est la vie.  Fortunately, my wargaming has never been tied too tightly by the bonds of historical exactitude, so I can live with the anachronism.

Therefore, and in my alternative universe, it is an accepted fact that early in 1812 an ad-hoc brigade of the above units (under the brave and battle-seasoned Gen. Bouillon-Cantinat) was formed for service in the Peninsula, consisting of  veteran regiments who were chosen to field-test the new Bardin regulation uniforms under combat conditions. 

That Richard Sharpe rogue will get his come-uppance, you just wait.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Je reviens à la selle!

After visiting some of my favourite blogs out there (just check out the links on the right), and seeing some quite excellent photos of peoples work on Napoleonics, I have been inspired to take up the brush again and work on my long-suffering French.

I managed to do quite bit- by my standards!  I  have been ploughing through the penultimate stand of the 1/28e Regt. Légère- now getting tantalizingly close to completion- and I forced myself to spend some time on painting the ironwork of the 6pdr. gun.

Here are the 3rd. Company so far.  Six figures for this stand.
The soldat on the right is a bit of a departure.  I painted the overcoat a light brown as usual, but this time I gave it an ink wash to give a shaded effect and then went over the highlights again with beige.  

It's hard to tell from the photo, but it came out pretty well; the ink really seemed to "deepen" the colour.   I don't know if that represented much of a saving of time over my usual method, though.  But I'm still experimenting with the effects that inking can produce.

It certainly works well for the hide backpacks, and I'll probably do all the French backpacks with a variety of brown base coats given the Citadel brown ink wash.

Looking ahead, Matt is in the middle of working on his Victrix and Perry British, so it looks like some fun and games in the Peninsular before these boys end up taking on the Russians.  

This is good, in as much as it vindicates my purchase of these some ten years ago.
Just prior to getting married, I splurged on the seven-volume reprint of Sir Charles Oman's classic History of the Peninsular War.  

I should state immediately that this was not the result of some kind of fearful anticipation of the door of opportunity being slammed forever shut afterwards!  Rather, I remember having drooled over the copy in the university library,  Greenhill was only doing a limited edition reprint, and at the time I had more money than sense; so... we wantss it sso bad, my preciousss... 

It was- and remains- a good read. But a few years later, I found myself sending off what few Peninsular British and Portuguese I had off to Roly Hermans in New Zealand (where he certainly put them to good use!), and promptly decided to do forces for the Leipzig campaign instead.  

Part of the reason was simple; I found the British uniforms a pain in the butt to paint with all that lace, and for some reason they just didn't turn my crank in the same way as did the Russians.

The books have been gazing reproachfully down at me from the bookcase ever since, but now that it looks like the Peninsula is an option, I find myself looking at the volumes again for scenario ideas, and to check the orders of battle.  I don't believe the 28e Légère served in Spain (lucky sods!), but the 69e de ligne as well as many other regiments of the 8th Division certainly sent battalions there.   Not that it matters much, as I'm not that much of a stickler about such things.

And of course the Peninsula does give me an excuse to get some of those Perry Dragoons, and for Gen. Bouillon-Cantinat to add glory to the family laurels...(and to add some loot to the coffers!)

Saturday, 27 March 2010


First off, I see that my blog has just passed the 20,000 hit mark this last week.  While I'm sure that a lot of those hits were probably spammers or the like, it is still something of an achievement, and I really appreciate all those who have checked out this blog over the last few years.  Especially those who have shown faith despite those long periods of inactivity as I have flitted from project to project, or was otherwise kept busy with other real-life issues!  Thanks to all of you.
March 2010 is coming to a close, and I have to report minimal work on my Napoleonics during this time.    

I've actually been doing a lot of painting and it has been a productive month- but not for Napoleonics.  My main activity with the West Tokyo Wargamers has been to concentrate on WW2 using Blitzkrieg Commander, and a lot of fun we are having with it too.  Our collections for WW2 continue to grow, and we are rapidly reaching a stage where we will have enough to field varied forces for good-sized games.  

Once that point is reached, the painting pace can be geared down a bit, so I can turn my attention back to the world of shakos and czapkas as well as on Shermans.

But with Matt here building up a force of 28mm British using Perry and Victrix miniatures, and me preparing to send of my Russians to Roger for him to paint, I'm confident that we will start seeing some decent Napoleonic games in the not-too-distant future.  It looks like Black Powder will be the rule set that first gets used, but we're not adverse to trying others out either to see what suits the bill.  Vive l'empereur! 

So even if I can't provide much in the way of eye-candy, there are a few things I've realized since we've started gaming regularly at the community centre here:
1) Unless you have access to a van, transporting figures and terrain not a lot of fun.  Packing carefully is a chore, the figures themselves are prone to any number of mishaps along the way, and metal gets heavy.  Very heavy when you start getting brigade size or above in 28mm! I'm starting to look at plastics in a new light after lugging boxes of lead back and forth; and that was just in 20mm!  
2)  Terrain makes a game just as much as do the figures; good looking buildings need to be bright, yet not too vivid.  Likewise, a lighter green table covering seems to suit the horse-and-musket period the best, especially when gaming in fluorescent lighting.
3)  I realize now that nothing spurs on my painting as does the pressure of getting ready for a game!  It also forces me to be less of a perfectionist; seeing a painted unit set against the backdrop of a good-sized table with terrain cloth and buildings makes me realize that it is the unit that really stands out- not just the individual miniatures.  The whole can be much, much greater than the sum of it's parts. 
The reality of #1 above means that I am going to have to accept the probability of taking at least a few casualties both on the field of battle and on the "approach march", as it were, and the hard plastics may well be the way forward. They are light, relatively robust, increasingly well detailed- and if one gets damaged or broken it is less of a heartbreak financially!  Likewise, no matter what I use for varnish metal models are going to get chipped and have their bayonets bent or broken from time to time.  

Now I'm not about to turn my metal figures into landfill, but for fleshing out a collection and making larger Napoleonic games a reality, plastics will be serving proudly shoulder-to-shoulder with their white metal brethren in my French army. 

Finally, I suspect there is a shift underway in my approach to the hobby as I find myself once again gaming on a regular basis.

The hobby has certainly changed since the last time I was in this position in the mid-1980's or so.   Nowadays, many wargamers are used to expecting the same amount of detail in 25-28mm  miniatures that could once only be found in 54mm collectors models.  Indeed, some of the more recent releases easily put a lot of older 54mm models to shame.  Accordingly, many 28mm gamers want to do that detail justice in their paint jobs- myself included.

But for me at least, and I suspect I'm not alone, the narrowing gap between these two related hobbies- painting miniatures intended for the display cabinet on one hand, and painting miniatures for the gaming table on the other- has resulted in a switch in hobby focus.

For example: while a high school and university student, I was very much into gaming medievals using the old Chainmail rules, and I'd regularly go up to Tama Hobbies in Kerrisdale on a Saturday morning and buy a pack or two at a time of the old Heritage (Hinchliffe) 25mm medieval miniatures.  I'd prime them the same evening after I got home, and paint them up the following morning.  In the evening I'd be gaming with them.  Instant gratification, and no one to pee on my parade by telling me I was doing it wrong.

But even allowing for the fact that in those days I had more time than money, these past years it has been more a matter of building up the lead mountain, agonizing over orders of battles, the kind of headgear the unit should be wearing, whether to go for a three-colour or two-colour painting technique, and what shades to highlight white and blue uniforms with. Simply put, the figures take that much longer to both research and paint.

Now there is nothing wrong with this in itself.  I love painting, and I wouldn't go back to the days of white metal blobs passing themselves off as Prussian grenadiers when they looked little if at all different from French line.  But the hobby appeals to me not just because of the detail in any one particular figure; it is the whole concept of the moving diorama that I've always hankered for, and that means giving other aspects of the hobby equal weight as well- terrain, basing, and getting the troops out in numbers! 

So it is worth reminding myself from time to time that I should stand back, not get too hung up on individual figure detail, and look at what am trying to achieve overall.  And make compromises in order to get there.  

Over the last twenty years or so, I have been a miniature painter as opposed to a miniature wargamer as I simply had no opportunity for actual gaming.  Now that gaming is back with a vengeance these last few months, it is time to recalibrate my sights and just get figures on the tabletop again. 

Exciting times!