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.


paulalba said...

This all sounds very familiar to my ears!

Glad to hear that there are more of use picking up extra troops when and where we can and doing our best to knock them into shape to fit with our armies!

They will look grand running down russinas/Brits/Prussians!!!

Schrumpfkopf said...

Great wargaming unit. Also the painting doesn't make me bleed from my eyes.

Great basing.

Rafael Pardo said...

Surely all of us own some Imperial Guard Cavalry. The Red Chevaux-Legers Lanciers are so fancy, that is almost imposible do not fall in the temptation!

Scott said...

They look like a nice colourful unit and I a sure they will do you proud on the tabletop. Indeed I tend to find that how well and unit does on the table is usually inversely proportional to how well it is painted... ;-)

Der Feldmarschall said...

Very nice! They definitely need some Polish buddies. :-)


Phil said...

Beautiful! Figures of the most beautiful effect!

Achilles said...

great work Robert! It seems that you had quite a challenge in repairing these guys! I have to say that maybe they are not the most authentic guard unit but at least they look good :)

Are the allies still badly outnumbering us?

The Perry Russians are coming out in January.... and in theory I am still working on my Prussians...

Curt said...

Good job! I think that with the amount of work you had to put into getting them ready for action they've truly become 'your figures'. Nonetheless, you're right, you might as well finish off the brigade and the those other lancer fellows... ;)

VolleyFireWargames said...

Excellent repairs i have polish infantry and polish Lancers for sale too bad your all the way in japan

DeanM said...

That is a nice unit and as you say it was a good deal - plus matching the rest of your Front Line figures. I too may someday get some Red Lancers. Best, Dean