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!)