Friday, 30 December 2011

Sapeur Postma

Painting, painting, and painting.  I'm beavering away on a light infantry unit I want to get finished before I start on anything else.

Yesterday evening and this morning I spent long hours on getting this one finished, as he is quite a bit more complicated than the rest of his comrades in the battalion.
Sapeur Garrin Postma, who, as a young blacksmith's apprentice in Lille, ran away to join the light infantry after Valmy, and whose strength and ferocity on the field of battle was legendary.  Very handy with an axe whenever a gate needs beating down (or heads, in).
His colonel was clearly a fan of les Habitants.  

This was a tough one to photograph.  Lighting wasn't what it could be- too bright or too dark, and the reds and blues came out much brighter than what they actually are.  The colours are really a lot deeper than this and the shading more subtle, especially on the apron.  

But it will stand out well enough on the tabletop, which is where it counts.

A Front Rank miniature, of course, and a remarkably clean and detailed sculpt.  It was a real pleasure to paint.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Grand Strategy

Hope all of you who do celebrate Christmas had an enjoyable one.  Mine was very relaxing, with good food and (of course) wine. 

I've already posted my painting target for the la Bricole painting competition on the forum, and I'll share it here.  It's a fairly tall order, too- at least for me.  Three separate tasks to the project, which means trying to get about one done per month.  

I'm almost sure that getting all three done by the end of March is unlikely to happen.  But if I can get at least two out of the three finished and out of the way, I'll be satisfied. 

TASK #1: For the French, more cavalry- the 4e Regt. Chasseurs a Cheval. These are in the 1812 Bardin regulation uniform, and are very nice figures. Along with my 7e Regt this will give me two regiments of light cavalry (not including my Guard lancers). They will look sharp in dark green with yellow facings.  Twelve miniatures.
Painting cavalry (especially the harness) is always a laborious task for me, so including these as part of the painting target should give me the motivation to grit my teeth and get on with it for the sake of achieving a personal victory over my perennial foe, procrastination.  I mean there are only twelve of them, right?  How hard can that be? 

TASK #2:  Wurttembergers! These excellent new figures from Front Rank will be the painted as Regt Nr.4 (von Franquemont).  Four stands of seven figures, with three stands of two skirmishers. I've yet to order the bases and flags, but no immediate hurry on those yet. 

These hard-fighting fellows will be sporting the latest in fetching pink facings!  Which should make for a great looking unit, especially as they are to be brigaded with the 1st (Leib) Regiment in their yellow facings.
The 1811-pattern uniform for the 4th Wurttemberg infantry is on the right.

(Image clipped from the Histofig plate.)

I've added a new page to this blog where I will post uniform, flag and other related information about the Wurttembergers. 

TASK #3: Not related to the French, but I thought I would post it here anyway.  I really need to get moving on my battalion of Nassau-Ringgworm Freikorps.  Never heard of them?  Not surprising,  seeing as they are completely fictional!  

You can find their "history" here, with that of their leader, the Black Landgrave.  This is to be their flag, which I modified from a design provided from Not by Appointment, David Linienblatt's excellent blog on 18th C. flags.
They are actually Lützow's Freikorps figures from Calpe Miniatures, with some metal Warlord Landwehr thrown in the mix. They have been cleaned, primed, and undercoated for about a year, but as the allies have been outnumbering the French, allied troops have been put on the back-burner. 

However, all those figures mounted on bottle caps really take up space, and I really need the more room on my painting desk.  Therefore I want to try and get them finished in the coming months.   

They are all in black with orange facings, so what could be simpler?  Well, they're not so easy to do convincingly.  Some time back I had painted a test figure, but I wasn't really happy with it; since then I haven't been quite sure how to approach painting black uniforms. 

Friday, 23 December 2011

'La Bricole' Painting Competition Launched!

First of all, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you out there.  It's been a pleasure chatting with everyone over the last year, and being able to take part in sharing the enthusiasm we all have for this wonderful hobby. 

This season marks a number of milestones for me.  As I mentioned, I celebrate my fiftieth birthday on Christmas Eve; and if memory serves, it is now forty years since receiving my first plastic Airfix Napoleonic figures as a present from my parents back in 1971. 

This month also marks the end of the first (tumultuous!) year of my stewardship of the La Bricole miniatures forum, having taken over from our honoured founder, Iannick Martin.  The good Archduke had gotten the whole thing going as part of his Clash of Empires blog. 

Last but certainly not least this happens to be my 100th post on Serrez les Rangs!  Let there be rejoicing, followed by the copious consumption of turkey, stuffing, fine wines, and mince pies.

And of course, what better way of celebrating all of the above than by the official launch of the La Bricole Painting Competition!

If any of you out there feel inclined to participate, please do, you'd be very welcome.  Starting Christmas day, the contest closes March 31st, so hopefully that will leave plenty of time for everyone to get their entries in.  The theme is common-and-garden line and militia units, so a good opportunity and incentive to add that solid and necessary "meat" to your wargaming army.

Although I obviously won't be contending for the prizes, I'm looking forward to it.  For my part, I'll most likely be entering some French cavalry and Wurttemberg infantry, which you will be pleased to know are still untouched in their box (largely because I haven't had the time to open them).

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Bratwurst and Glühwein with Christmas Dinner this Year!

If there are any other things out there as certain as death and taxes, it getting an order shipped promptly from Front Rank and getting it delivered equally promptly- and in one piece- by the Japan Post Office.

My Wurttembergers are here!  Only seven days after I placed the order, and six after they were sent, despite the seasonal volume.

However, being a present, they are destined to remain in their box and under the tree, away from my grubby digits, until Christmas Eve.  I'm chomping at the bit to open them, but why spoil the fun- and anyway I've lots of other stuff to do in the run up to the holidays and beyond, including finishing some more command figures. 
Note the festive wrapping paper?
I have been trying to develop a quicker painting strategy for rank-and-file miniatures, which so far seems to be working.  I've given up trying to speed up the painting on drummers, sappeurs and the like- I simply enjoy painting them too much.  Once I get a bit more time (holidays start on Friday here, the Emperor's birthday*), I'll take and post more photos of what I've been able to do.
*The Emperor of Japan that is, not that Corsican Chap. 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

France's finest...

Got some time in this weekend to finish painting my converted mounted officer of light infantry, Major Guillaume Vendredi du Bonton.   Here he is, ready to lead his battalion into combat against the enemies of Napoleon.
I like the way the horse turned out.  Various shades of browns and flesh, judiciously shaded with GW brown ink.  As usual, the blue has turned out brighter in the photo than it is when seen under natural conditions.

He is a man of fashion, and, he wears the green gloves that are the hallmark of light infantry officers in his brigade.

He will spend a few days perched on the bottle cap waiting for the paint to cure, followed by a coat of matte varnish, while I paint up the rest of the command stand.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Pour la France, l'empereur, et Stuttgart!

Of course I needed more miniatures like I need a hole in the head. 
From Front Rank's newsletter
However, when Front Rank announced the release of their new range of Wurttembergers, the temptation was enormous.  The fact that Front Rank also announced that there would have to be a price increase in January also made me think that it might be a good idea for me to get a couple of battalions before this would take effect.  

I mentioned this to the Geisha-in-Chief (she being a bit of a history buff herself).  And as this December 24th happens also to be my 50th birthday (ouch!), she suggested that said I could go ahead and order them as my birthday present.  So with no vestige of guilt remaining to be reasoned away, order them I did!

Front Rank has always been among the best as far as mail order service is concerned, and these tough Teutons are now winging their way towards Tokyo as I type.  

The contingent will be based on the order of battle for the Russian campaign in 1812, and the first brigade will consist of the 1st and 4th infantry regiments.  Light troops are scheduled for sometime in the first half of 2012, and I'll be getting some of them as well.   I'll be ordering the flags from GMB Designs as usual.

Wurttemberg troops had a very good reputation in the Napoleonic Wars, and easily meet my requirement for a contingent that can be used to fight for or against Napoleon, as the gaming situations and scenarios dictate. 

I had first thought of going down the Bavarian or Saxon route.   But Bavarians, however, could never quite turn my crank. Saxons certainly did, but I fear it will be some time before Calpe get around to expanding their so-far limited range, seeing as they intend first to re-model their Prussians and have their hands full with their (excellent!) French releases.  At least with Front Rank, I know that the range will be completed within a reasonable time.

Wurttembergers, like Swedes, Westphalians and Saxons, have always been one of the more underrepresented nationalities in 28mm as far as figure manufacturers have been concerned, so these are a very welcome release, and will make for a relatively unique wargaming force.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

"By God sir, you've lost an arm. And a head!"

In between the rush between trying to meet year-end deadlines at work on one side, and preparing for the holiday season on the other, I managed to sneak in some painting and modelling time this week.

Some French infantry are now sporting natty overcoats and habit-vestes, and I was able to texture the base of an artillery piece.  But a sudden- and, these days, rare- creative urge flew in through the window from out of nowhere, and perched itself on my usually lethargic shoulder.  

Before it had a chance to take flight again, I quickly took out the razor saw, pin vice, epoxy putty, and some wire in order to do some converting.
This is to be the chef de bataillon of another regiment of French light infantry I've been working on.  He was converted from this Front Rank mounted French officer.
A nice miniature, but unarmed, and as this unit is to be modelled assaulting its enemies with ferocious élan, I wanted something more dashing and more evidently eager to inflict some serious GBH on his foes.

I like my French officers to be unrepentant dandies, so this one is sporting a colpack, with a flamme waving behind him in the breeze.  Both were modelled from epoxy putty, and I used a filed-down shako as the frame for the new colpack,  texturing the "fur" using a sewing needle.
I added a plume that I had lying around, left over from a previous conversion done some time ago.  I swapped the arm with that of a figure waving a sword, re-positioning the angle of the hand so that it looked more natural given the pose of the figure.  After some judicious work with a rat-tail file, I then added epaulettes, a new collar and a gorget, all from Tamiya epoxy putty.

Not Perry sculpting by a long shot, but I really like the way he turned out.
Tomorrow should be clear and dry here in Tokyo, and he will get a coat of primer.

I have decided on which task I would set myself for the La Bricole painting competition, part of which you can see in the photo above.  On the agenda next week is trying to set aside an hour or so every evening on the necessary- if tedious- task of removing the flash and cleaning up the moulding seams.  

I like green uniforms, I do...

Update: the weather cooperated, so here it is primed and ready for painting, once the primer has had some time to cure.
"En avant!!"

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Appelez la Cavalerie du Garde Impérial!

This one will take some people here by surprise!   

Voila, Le 2e régiment de chevau-légers lanciers de la Garde Impérial.
My first unit of "mercenaries", in that I didn't paint them myself- although I touched them up quite a bit.

When I was back in Vancouver earlier this year, I was at a game at Walt's place where my old friend Dave was selling off some professionally-painted Napoleonics that were surplus to his requirements.  Among them being this regiment of Imperial Guard lancers.
This was not a planned purchase, the 2e régiment de chevau-légers lanciers having to my knowledge no place in any order of battle with or alongside the 8th Division.  In fact, I had no intention of including any Guards at all in my collection, having always preferred to get the job done with good 'ol line units.  

But the price was very good, and like most of my collection they were Front Rank miniatures, so I snapped them up. Besides, any addition to the French army in our group right now is a good one, seeing as how badly outnumbered we are by the Allies.  And Guard lancers will go some way towards redressing the imbalance!

Now, when I say professionally painted, I would use that term loosely. We are most definitely not talking talent anywhere near the likes of Giles Allison or Sacha Herm here.  Think more of a very inebriated Blind Pew given a paint roller, and you'll be closer to the mark.

On close inspection, I realized that:
  • bits of flash had not been removed from manes, lances, etc.  Not a major problem, but why not do this before painting the figures?
  • lances, riders, and horses  had been assembled using two-part epoxy seemingly applied with a trowel...
  • some riders had been glued to the wrong horses, for example a lancer on a trumpeter's horse, and vice-versa
  • The flag was...unique.  More on that later.
Dave is very much a wargamer first and a painter/ modeller/  uniform buff second, and these painted miniatures he had commissioned met his requirements nicely.   But for a more anal collector like me, there were so many problems with this unit that I came close to deciding to strip the paint off and starting over again.

However, that would have defeated the purpose of buying a painted unit in the first place, as the reason I bought them was to be able to get units on the table as fast as possible.  And as they say, you get what you pay for!  

So I decided I would do my best to try and fashion a silk purse out of what was very much a sow's ear, and here is the result.  I'm rather pleased with how they all turned out in the end.
Before heading back to Japan, I had taken them off their (long-warped) cardboard bases, and for those which had been placed on the wrong horses, I separated them from their mounts.  I did the same with the lances and riders where the join was weak, or where the epoxy had dribbled down like lava.  I then packed up the whole lot and sent them on the long voyage home to Tokyo, for what would clearly be a major refurbishing.

I got back to work on them just after our last game, where it had become painfully evident they were very much needed!  It took me about an hour's labour every evening for a week to get them where they are now.    

I can't speak for accuracy, as the Garde Imperiale is not one of my areas of expertise.  But I've a hunch here that the less I know, the better.  Otherwise the errors will leap up and gnaw away at the grognard in me.  Nevertheless, while they still won't bear too close an inspection from an expert eye, they will certainly look a lot more presentable on the tabletop now, especially after having been properly based.

The first thing I did was to replace the broken-off lances using superglue, and trimmed off some of the offending flash as much as I could where feasible.

After gluing the horse and riders back together, and mounting them all on their new 60mm x 60mm Litko bases, I then turned to seeing if I could take the paintwork up a level.  

I had decided that I would at least touch up those areas which were more visible when seen on the tabletop.  The paint job was very basic, and not too much attention had been paid to avoiding the paint from slopping over belts and the like.  

The red paint had bled through the white crossbelts, so I did these over with white in those cases where it was more glaringly obvious.  I also took the opportunity to retouch the trumpeter's uniform along the way.    

The miniatures had been block painted in solid colours, with no shading whatsoever.  The horses themselves really were basically done, and oh-so-blah.  So I added highlights and drybrushed the manes and tails.  This had the immediate effect of improving the look of the unit considerably, as did highlighting the blue of the shabraques, plastrons and collars.
The last thing to fix was that flag.  For some reason (quite beyond my comprehension) someone had attached a Thirty Years' War cavalry flag!  Off it came, to be replaced by a spare dragoon flag I had lying around (the word "dragon" having now been conveniently removed by a cannonball!). 
Note strategically-placed battle damage on the standard.
Now, I suppose I could just have replaced the offending drapeau with one from GMB Designs, and I probably will the next time I get around to ordering from Grahame.  But honestly, there is already so much wrong with this unit as regards authenticity that paying the price for a high-quality GMB flag may well just be putting pearls before swine. 

At least they are carrying a French flag now, and from the right war! 

Once the bases were textured and painted in line with the rest of my collection, the final product ended up looking a lot better than I had ever hoped it would.  Certainly they will look quite acceptable on the tabletop, which was the target I set myself.  I'll just have to squint to avoid noticing the remaining imperfections- and there are still quite a few.  

Most importantly, they are ready to enter service, and should make their tabletop debut at our next game sometime in January.  

And their arrival on the field should cause the Allies to sit up and take notice.  In Black Powder, Guard lancers are a real force to be reckoned with; a hand-to-hand factor of 8, morale rating of 4+, and they get the special rules Reliable, Marauders, and Lancers.  The Lancers rule means that any hits scored on the enemy while charging or counter-charging are inflicted with a -1 morale save if they are cavalry, and -2 if infantry or artillery. 

Potentially an extremely lethal regiment, given the opportunity and a bit of luck with the dice!

So should they end up skewering some irritating British riflemen, or seeing off Matt's pesky regiment of light dragoons, I'll readily forgive them for not being as well dressed for service on le champs de Mars as they could be.
And having broken the "no guards" policy, I'm now wondering just how cool it would be to have some Polish lancers with which to brigade alongside their Dutch comrades.

Next up some artillery.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Muckin' out...

Today is games' day at the West Tokyo Wargamers, but for the first time I have decided to give it a miss.  Just too much to do this weekend for me to be spending the better part of a whole day gaming.   I'll miss my "fix", but that gives me until January to get more miniatures and buildings done.  

November had been a busy month on the home front.  First I had to spend an inordinate amount of time giving the kiss of life to the La Bricole forum, which, except for a nagging refusal to remember passwords, is back to normal.  Then, what with the cooler weather arriving here in Tokyo, the Geisha-in-Chief and I took the opportunity to reorganize, clean house, and to go on a "possessions diet".  This meant throwing away or sending off to the recycling depot all those useless or seldom-used items that accumulate over the years.  We also discarded and/or replaced old furniture, and just generally arranged things so that life can be run that little bit more efficiently.  

It was amazing the amount of crap which had accumulated, and as the bags of garbage on the curb started piling up ever higher and higher, the neighbours had begun to assume we were about to move out.  

The "Great Purge" included hosing out the Augean stable that my hobby room had become, and I've never been more organized that what I am now.
While it still looks a cluttered mess, it is an organized cluttered mess, with everything put back where it should be.
The results were immediate, and I've been finding myself sitting down and painting Napoleonics again.  What's more, I've been enjoying it!

The voting on what theme we should choose is now over, so I've  been working on threshing out the details for the La Bricole painting competition.   

I've been thinking about what my entry will be.  One thing for sure, it will be painting figures I have rather than ordering anything new.  That lead mountain is distressingly high.

I've a number of posts to make over the next few days, including some reinforcements for the French.