Sunday 11 September 2022

Tercio of Barón de Gramont, 1642-43

Tercio de Barón de Gramont; el ejército español de Flandes 1642-48

Recruited from Burgundians (Franc-comtois). Fought alongside the veteran Spanish tercios viejos in the first line at the Battle of Rocroi in 1643, where it was brigaded with the other Burgundian tercio of the Conde de Saint Amour.



A new period for the blog, but not really a new project- just a newly-unveiled one.

The Thirty Year's War has long been one of those pet interests of mine. But for some reason or another, it never really got off the ground- mostly due to a resounding lack of interest from other gamers. Interest in the Pike & Shot era has usually been limited to the ECW- when there was any interest at all. Most often there wasn't.

This is actually a third incarnation of my TYW efforts, the first being a (now long gone) Swedish army in 15mm back in the 1980's using Freikorps 15/ Minifigs, and the second never really getting past a few packs of Foundry figures in 25mm. 

Finding a decent set of rules has always been an issue- typical 70's and 80's fare like WRG and the obscenely complex Tercio really didn't grab the attention of my gaming circle at the time- me included.

But third time lucky. 

This time the plan is to do a later Imperial Spanish army, from post-Nordlingen to Rocroi/ Lens. Swedes were off the list this time, as there always seems too much controversy about both tactics and costume. 

And for me, the Spanish were a natural choice. One of my fondest memories of UBC back in Vancouver was taking a European history undergraduate course, where we were lucky enough to have been lectured by a visiting professor from St. Andrews University, Geoffrey Parker. 

Professer Parker is a leading authority on the Dutch Revolt, Thirty Years War, and on the Spanish Netherlands in particular. A good dose of military as well as political and social history kept me well and truly engaged. He was an inspiring lecturer and very accessible to undergraduates (in contrast to many other leading lights of academia who had to interact with us unwashed masses). His lectures on the TYW included everything from geo-political context to demonstrations of pike drill, so I was well and truly hooked on the army of Spain and the Spanish Road.

Unfortunately, when I decided to start this project back in 2015, there were no dedicated figures out there for TYW Spanish. Not so now, given the wonderful range recently produced by 1898 Minuaturas and also available through Empress Miniatures.

But long ago I had inherited a bunch of ECW miniatures from Bicorne and Renegade, along with a few from Redoubt. These were way bigger than Foundry and Perry, but I liked them- the Bicorne/ Renegade sculpts in particular- although all three manufactures needed some major cleaning up. 

Despite the excellent sculpting of the range by Nick Collier, Renegade were going through one of their many (and eventually terminal) crises at the time, the moulds were the worst for wear and the figures had a lot of flash. Redoubt in their turn were a mixed bag; stylistically varied and really huge. Some were great, others aren't worth even trying to remove the flash. However, they had a useful range of separate heads, including helmets and some wonderfully-voluminous floppy hats. 

Most TYW miniatures on the market these days are for the earlier part of the war, from Bohemia up to Lutzen. As has ever been the case fashions did change, and I think few wargamers out there would be willing to use, say, 1914 BEF infantry in a 1944 Normandy scenario. 

Thirty years is a long time, and Rocroi was fought during the later "French Phase" of the conflict, at about the same time as the First English Civil War. By the mid-1640’s the earlier "frilly" neck ruffs were on their way out and breeches were becoming more tubular than was the case earlier. Cravats were beginning to replace the earlier stand-and-fall collars, and the doublet was rapidly falling out of style. Fortunately for me, the Spanish tended to dress more conservatively than the ever-fashion-conscious French, so I can make use of quite a few figures meant for the earlier period.

Armour was being lightened but probably more was worn on the continent than in the Civil Wars. 

So with a bit of cherry-picking, I found that many ECW figures I had could pass muster as TYW infantry, although with some caveats.

Most of the figures had (appropriately) been sculpted wearing either knitted Monmouth caps or monteroes. Okay for the French, who could be seen wearing a similar hat to the montero, but with more plumage, called a boukinhan- spelling seems to vary. Indeed Redoubt does a nice one- on those rare occasions it has been properly cast. But these appear relatively rarely in contemporary paintings of the Spanish army in action, where brimmed hats of various sizes predominate. These hats also tended to have taller crowns than what was the fashion in the British Isles. 

Quite aside from wanting to make the best use of the miniatures I had to hand, I'm just too anal to just proxy ECW figures for TYW Spanish-Imperial troops "as is", without putting in at least some effort at making them look a bit more historically accurate.

Besides, converting the figures would allow me to field an army that is set apart a bit from a lot of the ones I see online, many making use of the ubiquitous (and questionable) Warlord plastics.

So turning to the minis, I sorted out the ones that would need surgery; out came the clippers and off went their scalps, to be replaced by new heads or floppy hats.

I started by doing a few head swops and, using some Tamiya epoxy putty (cheap as chips here in Tokyo), I added some rough cloaks, new hats, cassocks,  ribbons, etc. that also gave them more of that "ragged campaigner" look. And the cloaks can hide a multitude of sins.

I hadn't intended to do a lot of these, just a few to throw in on each stand for variety. But it was an addictive activity, so now a good third or more of my collection has been modified to some extent or another.


It was tricky business at first, but with experience and through trial and error it got a lot easier. 

I did add more miniatures as time went on- Horcata, more Bicorne, and even Warlord. As a general rule for the TYW German/ Imperialist armies, I would want to get as many figures wearing cassocks as I could get my hands on (Warlord actually do really well here with a very nice pack of veteran musketeers (in metal- their plastics, frankly, suck).

I originally intended these to be Spanish tercios, but decided instead to painted up and flag them to represent the Walloon/ Burgundian and German units that will make up much of the army. I'll order the Spanish proper from Empress once funds allow, and the painting queue gets shorter.

It will take time, for it is not a mainstream period among gamers here (no khaki or internal-combustion engines); thus I will need to do both sides. I've another Spanish unit to finish and then it's on the Bourbon hordes. These will consist of both French and Weimarian troops.   



Uniforms and painting: In the 1640's there was still no (official) uniformity in the Spanish army, partly out of traditional preference by the veterans, but also not surprising given the dire financial straits of the Spanish state at the time.

That said, a captain was responsible for seeing that his company was decently outfitted and properly equipped (or at least not in absolute rags). Consequently, he would on occasion arrange for purchasing bolts of cloth or even sets of clothing for his men (and certainly for any recruits) after time and campaigning had taken its toll. Thus individual companies in the tercios might actually present a more uniform appearance, although with some variation.

As to the colour of any material procured in this way, I strongly suspect it would have been subject to cost, availability, and lastly the individual whim of the company captain. There were certainly no official guidelines.

To reflect all this, I've been grouping figures together on the stands so that some files or ranks of between two to four figures might have the same colour jacket and/or breeches, although hat colour is pretty random.

For inspiration, I closely observed the excellent and inspiring paintings by Peter Snayers and his studio, done in the 1640's and 1650's. 

French troops the Battle of La Marfee, 1641

Ragged French infantry
The Spanish victory at Honnecourt, 1642

These are an amazing series of topographical paintings of various battles involving Imperial armies of the TYW.  On display at the Prado Art Gallery in Madrid, which has a website where you can look at the paintings online and zoom on the images to reveal an amazing amount of detail.

Whether the actual colours used were really representative of how the armies of the time looked, I don't know; but certainly they give a good indication of what colours would be considered plausible- in most cases nondescript browns, greys, dull blues and ochres.

As a bit of artistic license (this is just a pastime, after all), and to tie the whole unit together given the lack of uniformity, I have been giving my Spanish Imperial troops red stockings, with red and yellow lacing just as a device to aid identification on the tabletop. 

These of course were a gift given annually to the brigade from Dona Isabella el Saliva d'Aquavelva, Marquesa del Marsupial y Cuspidor  as a mark of distinction for their valour during the storming of Venlo in 1637; where, after the last of repeated costly assaults on the breached defenses, the victorious survivors were seen to have immediately fallen onto their knees, staining their stockings in their own blood, as they offered up prayers of thanks to the Holy Virgin Mother for their victory and salvation.

You really can't make up stuff like that.

Well, actually, you can...

Regarding flags, we have no information on what colours were flown by Gramont's tercio, I had asked Iain at Flags of War. if he would do a set based on this contemporary painting from the Dutch painter Peter Meulener, and he kindly came through.

Iain is a first-class fellow to deal with, and his flags are gorgeous and very reasonably priced for the quality. In fact, all my TYW flags are from his range- Spanish, French, and Weimarian. Highly recommended.

I agonized for years over basing. I need to balance a desire for numbers with the reality that I don't have a huge amount of table space for gaming. But basing figures closely together can give a good impression of density. So all my tercios will be based in two ranks, although for future units I will be basing the pike onto a single 60mm x 60mm base. Same overall depth, but the pike packed closely together in three ranks.

Note that during the latter stages of the TYW, the big tercios of Tilly's days were a thing of the past (and weren't even that big in 1618). By the time of Rocroi a Spanish tercio (actually meaning a regiment, and largely an administrative unit) was about 500-750 men or so, similar to an ECW batallia, and typically being much wider than they were deep. 

A few of larger tercios were divided into two batallia, and smaller ones converged into one; batallia of around a theoretical 1000 men seems to have been the tactical unit, the building blocks being the individual companies, which contained a mix of pike and muskets (and in the Spanish case, even arquebuses- well until the late stages of the conflict, well after they had been discarded by other armies).

In gaming terms- and I am organizing them for FoG:R, even if I end up using a different ruleset- it's therefore only 27-29 figures to a batallia. Not excessive; certainly no more so than building up a typical 18th or 19th century wargaming force would be. 

The kicker is that a late TYW army needs lots more cavalry (more on that later), but on the other hand one probably needs fewer artillery. 


Rules: always a stumbling block with this period. The shortlist  is Simon Miller and Andrew Brentnall’s For King & Parliament, or (less likely) the old Field of Glory: Renaissance (although I like the size and look of the games featured in Madaxeman's FoG:R webpages). I have all the books, but being out of print I can't see myself being able to recruit new players into the period.

If these don’t fly, then it’s adapting Clarence Harrison’s Victory Without Quarter, Warlord’s Pike & Shotte (or even a version of Black Powder, which might work even better with suitable tweaks).

In all cases a certain amount of rule-smithery will be required to reflect the differences between armies and warfare between the continent and the British Isles. 

I have to say that I have been really enjoying working on this project. More on the way.

Thursday 23 June 2022

Fixing Broken Bayonets

Second post in a week! Blogger seems to be less temperamental for me these days, so if this continues I should hopefully find myself posting more often.

I thought I would share one thing I learned this past year; an effective way to make lasting and solid replacements for broken-off bayonets. 

Now while I accept that casualties are unavoidable in war, I draw the line at knowingly fielding miniatures with broken bayonets in my units. Some years ago when coming across miniatures whose bayonets had broken off I would have cursed and just binned them, perhaps cannibalizing some for the odd conversion or two. 

But given the price of metal miniatures these days, that’s not something I’m comfortable with doing any longer.

I was sorting through my (long neglected) Napoleonic Russians from Front Rank and I found that inevitably there were a number of figures whose muskets and bayonets had been bent to breaking, or had even broken off completely, while in storage. A lot of these were older figures, and the metal used was softer than what most manufacturers use today. Having left them jumbled together in bags for some years had taken its toll.

Fortunately, last year I had managed to successfully “rebuild” a missing bayonet on to a Dixon ACW figure. So using the same technique, I saved these from the scrapheap. 

I took a dressmaker’s pin, cut it a little longer than the length of the bayonets, and bent a bit near the back end into an “L” shape. Taking a small drill bit the same diameter as the pin, I then carefully drilled a matching hole through the end of the musket.  

Before that I had mixed up some of the JB Weld epoxy, leaving it to set up a bit. Then I used the glue to attach the small "L" -shaped part of the pin horizontally into the barrel, and covered both the join and the length of the pin with a good coat of epoxy. 

The JB Weld sets slowly, so from time to time I checked it to make sure the new “bayonet” was setting at the correct shape and angle. 

Once the glue hardened off, I placed the figures in front of a space heater to cure. Then out came the files and after a bit of work (and taking the sharp point off the pin for safety), I was left with a good, strong join, and a bayonet that will survive the roughest of handling. 

The figure on the left has had the pin attached, but it hasn’t yet been filed down into shape. The one in the centre is finished.

The one on the right had it’s musket broken in half where it had already been weakened by a casting flaw. This was an easy matter to fix, again using a small diameter drill to make deep holes through each part, to take a piece of thin brass rod to hold them together using the JB Weld again. 

Took less time to do than to describe, and with these three alone, I was able to rescue £4.50’s worth of miniatures at current prices. 

The JB Weld has become one of the most useful items in my hobby toolbox. It's a slow-drying epoxy that actually contains metal powder. It comes in two tubes, one white and the other black, and when mixed dries to- you guessed it- a dark grey. It dries as hard as rock, and can be drilled and sanded very easily once it has cured.

Tuesday 21 June 2022

On Ships, Shakos, Secession, and Skirmishes

Yearly update! I haven't been blogging for ages- way too much time spent at the computer already what with teleworking most days of the month. But gaming life has been relatively good as things slowly return to some kind of normal (or at least as normal as they are likely to get).  

GdB François Bony, 8th Div/ III Corps 1813
GdB François Bony, 8th Div/ III Corps 1813
So a mixed bag today. This past year has seen a modest number of games; by no means anything regular, but enough to keep the fires burning. 


These have included: 


Naval games (age of sail, WW1 and WW2). These are always fun and easy to set up. The WW2 game was a first; Giovanni here had been chomping at the bit to try the old (as in originally 1937- vintage) Fletcher Pratt rules. Frankly I wasn’t sure they would work on a ping-pong table, despite the mods given in the updated rules. But it was something he had long wanted to do, so we gave it a shot. 


It played out much as I had anticipated; while it has some good points, firing is a bit too deterministic, being a purely step-reduction system and with no provision for special damage. And estimating firing ranges on ping-pong table, even if scaled down, is just too easy, something the original game didn’t have to contend with given the humongous gym-floor distances and use of umpires. And it was evident just after three turns of play and some exchanges of gunfire that subsequent turns would just be steady and mathematically predictable slogs. 


But it was still quite an enjoyable afternoon. Giovanni has definitely been bitten by the naval bug, and it was fun to see the WW2 ships on the table again after many years. There are a number of rule sets we would like to try out, and see which of them best suits us.


When my friend Dave Morgan, owner of Sentry Box West Hobbies in Vancouver, closed shop back in the 1990’s he gifted me big parcel of 1/2400 GHQ US and Japanese warships- everything from CV’s and BB’s down to a destroyers. This past year I put a few together, and while fiddly to work with and to paint, they incorporate a phenomenal amount of detail and certainly look gorgeous when done.  


Here are the USS North Carolina and USS Northampton.


I love the US treaty-era heavy cruisers in particular, ever since playing all those games of SPI's CA as a teenager.

I have a number of Japanese ships on the painting desk as well, and have been experimenting with basing them. Very nice to feel the iron deck under my feet again. 
However, I have to admit that fast becoming a gaming favorite is the 18th C. Age of Sail, using the Fighting Sail rules from Osprey; the more games I play with the rules, the more I like them.


Rod and I had an excellent game just last week. This game had it all; lots of turns, fair shares of good and bad luck, shore batteries, boarding actions, and shifting winds causing problems for both sides.


A French victory, but hard-fought as two out of three ships made it into port past a British blockading squadron. We even had both a French and British ship grounding on the lee shore within broadsides of each other, with their crews having to have them pulled off by their ships boats (the British ship was also under fire from a French fort, but managed to row itself just out of range of the guns). 


The rules seem to give us the kind of game we want. As with Black Power, they are easy to tweak and I have already made a few house rules- for example, adding rules allowing for bow and stern chasers- to make it a bit more “meatier” for those games when we have less than four or five ships per side. But the rules play fast, we got a lot of turns in, and a real ‘story” developed.  


No pictures, alas. The ships remain unpainted- partly because space is at a premium on my painting table with miniatures I need to finish first, but also as I still have cold feet about rigging the ships. And at some point I need to order ratlines, or else try to fashion some on my own. Given the number I need, and postage/ exchange rates these days, the latter is tempting me.

Napoleonics- yes, Napoleonics!  We had a small refresher game of Black Powder, which somehow petered out due to the fact that Giovanni and myself hadn’t seen each other for a while, so we spent most of the time chewing the fat and getting a bit… tipsy. 

The most recent addition to my Napoleonics collection!
Front Rank figures, with a heavily-converted saluting officer.

Fact: when you’ve painted more division and brigade commanders, than you have painted divisions and brigades for them to command, you’re doing it wrong. 


Still, we enjoyed the game and are looking forward to staging more Napoleonic scenarios in the future. But I really need to get more Prussians and Russians painted first.


American War of Independence (!) Coming somewhat out of left field was a skirmish game using the Song of Drums and Tomahawks rule set, featuring Rod’s well-painted woodland tribesmen from Warlord, and my much older (and much less-well-painted) Front Rank equivalents. 


These were supported by five, hurriedly-block-painted (and even more hurriedly-based) British light infantry. That handful of redcoats represents the grand total of what I have for gaming that period, bar some old Front Rank Prussian grenadiers that might pass for Hessians. 


The game was an interesting change of pace for us, and proved to be a lot of fun. It was a good scenario, with lots of drama; I’ll likely post a full battle report soon. 


But despite that, and given all the other projects I have on the go, I can’t see myself going much further with the AWI. More likely the FIW if anything, as I already have more miniatures I can use for that one, both here and in Vancouver.

One of the problems is that the rising costs of miniatures, postage, and a crummy exchange rate are really making me think more carefully about what I need/ want / can justify spending money on. In many cases (Warlord!) the total costs of ordering abroad are well beyond my current comfort zone. 

But truth be told I really do need to work on what I have- and indeed to radically rationalize cull the increasingly out-of-control herd. 

Not on the endangered list, however, is my growing ACW collection for use with Rebels & Patriots

We haven’t even gamed this yet, as it is another of those projects where I need to reach critical mass for both sides, Yanks and Rebs, as no one else here has miniatures for the period.

But I'm steadily getting there. I’ve nearly finished the core of my Union force of infantry, artillery and (most recently) dismounted cavalry, but the traitorous Secesh need more work before they are ready in numbers to take the field.  

I also need more terrain- I’ve already posted pictures of the church I finished, but there is also now a barn and house. However, I still need to work on the fences I bought from Renedra- and that is a lot of fences! But one can never have too many fences for a decent ACW tabletop.

I'm very happy with the MDF barn, though.

And this sniper; a freebee from the Warlord Black Powder ACW supplement I got some years ago,

I have a skirmish campaign in mind for these, but more on that later.

Lastly, but by no means least, a shout-out to Richard and his new wargaming blog here. I've had the pleasure of chatting with him in some Zoom calls and in a number of fora, and he is always an entertaining poster- an all-round top dog, in fact.

Sunday 18 April 2021

Up, Men! And to your Posts!!

Long time no post! The reasons are the obvious ones- the Great Pestilence putting the kibosh on gaming being the biggest one- but also more problems with Blogger (grrr... if it ain't broken, don't keep trying to fix it, Blogger!).
But most of all was the fact that with teleworking from home almost 99% of the time now, I spend so many hours at the computer that I sometimes just couldn't be arsed to sit down and spend another hour or so blogging on top of what I was already putting in. 
But I have been painting, and in recent months gaming, so at least I feel I have enough of potential interest to people out there actually to justify a post, Several, in fact. Here's the first- the latest addition to my ACW forces: 
Battery “I”, 1st NY Light Artillery. 

Organized at Buffalo, N.Y. from a German-American militia battery attached to the 65th New York State Militia under Captain Michael Wiedrich.

Fought at the Battle of Cross Keys (part of Jackson’s Valley Campaign), Second Bull Run, and Chancellorsville. In July 1863 it was in tough fighting at Culp’s Hill on the second day at Gettysburg. 

September 24th, 1863, sent west with the XIIth Corps to Tennessee after Rosecran's defeat at Chickamauga. Captain Wiedrich resigned to take command of the 15th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment, and instead First Lieutenant Nicholas Sahm was promoted to captain and took command of the battery.
Captain Sahm later died, and First Lieutenant Charles E. Winegar of Battery M, First New York Light Artillery was promoted to captain in command of Battery "I".
In April 1864 the battery was attached to the 1st Division, XXth Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, where it was to participate in the Atlanta Campaign (Resaca, Kolb’s Farm, Kennesaw Mountain, etc.). 

Later part of the later Army of Georgia, during Sherman’s March to the Sea, where it's guns played their part in helping to make Georgia howl.

Although my infantry are all Dixon, I don't care for their artillery at all- too chunky by far. So instead I opted for Foundry artillery. These look fine alongside the Dixon figures as they are in different units. The guidon bearer is himself a Dixon miniature, but I think it looks fine here.
I had bought a number of the Foundry ACW artillery packs years ago, just at the time they started jacking up their prices (that being the days when Brian Ansell set out to make himself the Martin Shkreli of the wargaming world). As a result, I ended up just ordering the crews by themselves. For the guns, I had opted for Old Glory- the price was right, and you got a lot of them.
However, either the Union 3" Ordnance Rifle was designed with a flattened oval tube that undulated in profile lengthwise like corrugated iron, or else the Old Glory castings were seriously flawed. Turned out- unsurprisingly- to be the latter.
Having shelled out for the Old Glory guns, I was reluctant to just chuck 'em, Instead, I tried stubbornly to rework them; building up the tube profile with JB Weld, and laboriously filing and sanding them to something resembling their proper shape.
This proved patently unsuccessful, as well as being an unsatisfying waste of time.
So off to the bin they went. I then bit the bullet and ordered some plastic sprues from Perry Miniatures. These arrived in no time at all- in fact just one day after I had discovered that in some trade I made a year and a bit ago, were a bunch of ACW gun carriages with 6pdr guns. These were of unknown manufacturer, but they were nicely sculpted indeed. So in the end I used these carriages, but with the better (and lighter) plastic Perry wheels and (excellent) gun tubes.
Frankenstein's artillery, but I'm pleased with the result.

The Foundry figures were a bit harder to paint than the Dixon's, as I had to develop a slightly different technique while painting them. But if I don't say so myself, I think they came out great- and I enjoyed working on these very much (once I threw the Old Glory guns away).
I was fortunately able to source a NY artillery guidon from GMB, but they only did versions for Batteries “A” and “B”. So I got to work with a good pointed brush and sharp pencil, and converted the “B” to an “I”. 

It looks good, and if nothing else I think I’ve a potential career as a successful forger ahead of me.
This past Christmas Day I finished the Renedra American Church. An appropriate day, although being pretty much no-fixed-address in any religious way, it wouldn’t even have occurred to me had not my wife pointed it out.
It was a true swine of a kit to assemble, and I had to use all the tools of the trade I had developed over years of making plastic models to get the pieces to fit together and to fill in all the gaps. I had also decided to remove the rather crude cross moulded above the front door- which I believe would have been fairly uncommon on American churches of the time anyway.
But here it is: my Episcopalian chapel, the social and spiritual hub of the parish of Crabapple Corners. 

It’s a church on Sundays, schoolhouse from Mondays to Saturdays, once every two years a polling place; and every year, on the anniversary of statehood, it hosts the Crabapple Corners Annual Pie and Cider Festival- an event not to be missed, with visitors coming in from all over the county.
Quite the scandal in 1858, when Reverend Willie Johnson was discovered between the pews with young Ella-Mae Muffinbutt- she was found wearing nothing but her best silk bloomers, and the Good Reverend's remonstrances that he had merely been helping her find a nickel that had fallen off the collection plate fell, alas, on deaf ears.
But it kept the conversations over the cracker barrel at Judson’s General Store going for weeks on end.