Major projects in this blog
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
(More photos and relevant history are on the Mendelstadt blog).
As an exercise in conversion, this proved quite time-consuming. On the TMP group, I was called "mad" for doing this, and I think that viewpoint has some validity. However, I've very much enjoyed doing it. And I've produced a unique regiment which also, because of the work involved, feels very much a personal endeavour, meaning I identify with them much more than if I'd merely done a decent paint job. (Which almost certainly means they will turn tail and run at the first opportunity on the battlefield: C'est la guerre, chez moi.)
I've learned quite a lot about how to model with greenstuff, and developed a few ideas for possible future work. You'll perhaps see that I've modelled flames around an eagle (Napoleonic French, I think; or perhaps Austrian) on the head of the flagstaff to turn it into the phoenix of Mendelstadt. Little touches like this make fanciful warfare a la Tony Bath that much more interesting.
Of course, this is not for everyone. I'm simultaneously developing the 10mm and 15mm World War Two collections and these are as close to authentic as I can be bothered to make them. I had my first taste of Flames of War the other day (I'm usually well behind the fashions in rulesets) and was quite taken with them, though I did find the complexity of looking things up in rules, helpsheets, army books and so-on rather too reminiscent of the worst excesses of Games Workshop. I don't know which generation of 40K it was, but I remember with irritation and frustration old games where more time was spent cross-refencing different variants of the rules than actually playing the game. (Needless to say, I gave up playing 40K a long time ago).
A couple of posts ago I mentioned a comment from Adam pointed me towards some Youtube videos which show how to make a mould and cast simple components in green stuff. Thanks, Adam, for this really useful suggestion.
Essentially the process is like casting in metal, except you use green stuff both for the mould and for the casting. Adam's idea was that I could make some of the parts of my figures, such as the hats, this way and thereby speed up the process and ensure a higher degree of uniformity. (You'll see, if you inspect the cuirrassiers, that their hats are quite varied, and the turnbacks, not really visible in the photo, are different lengths, too).
I've found that, once I had my turnback mould I was able to produce 10 pairs of turnbacks in about 15 minutes, a massive increase in speed. And they were pretty similar to each other, meaning that once I'd figured out how to attach one pair, I knew how to attach the rest.
I still needed some judicious filing to make it work, so the process is not yet ideal, but I think with a little more forethought, I shall be able to produce my conversions pretty quickly now.
Which has inspired me to think about sculpting my own masters on a dolly, and perhaps casting my own figures. I've not yet taken this step. But....watch this space....
Saturday, 6 September 2008
Then onto the Borders of Scotland, up to Edinburgh, then Durham and the seaside resorts on the east coast of England, of old the host to my childhood summers and, some years later, those of my own three children.
Amongst other places, we visited Abbotsford, near Selkirk, the gothic "castle" built by Sir Walter Scott which bankrupted him. Here he wrote "Ivanhoe", amongst others of the Waverley novels, in order to pay off his debts (which he did, shortly before he died). The house was built in the 1820s, so is hardly an eighteenth century edifice, but it strikes me as the kind of building that might exist in Mendelstadt, my ImagiNation, where everything is a little over the top and off the wall (can you be both these things at the same time?)
Although we passed several battlefields, especially in the much-disputed Borders, we only stopped briefly at one, Redeswire Fray (1575), to see a mist-drenched drizzly moor.
Passing Hadrian's Wall is always interesting, too. Many years ago, in the days when the wall was much less policed, and much less visited, we walked its length, walking actually on the wall for much of its length (not allowed now). Sometimes we camped in the vallum (the ditch), once in a field with a Roman fort, once we awoke to find ourselves snowed in, once had the guyropes wrenched away in a thunder-storm. Simpler times. Happy times.
If you ever get the chance, you must visit Hadrians Wall and the Roman sites nearby: Vindolanda, Chesters, Housesteads. Even if ancient warfare is not your thing, there is nothing like the sense of history you get merely from seeing the wall.
Whitby Abbey, which we also visited, is another dramatic place steeped in history.
As is Scarborough Castle (Scarborough is my favourite of the British seaside resorts, preserving very many of its traditional pleasures). The Castle was held by the Royalists in the ECW, and besieged by Parliament with cannon sighted in a local church (where Anne Bronte's grave now is). You can see the scars. Then in WW1 it was fired on by a German destroyer. You can see the scars of history in its walls.
Anyway, 700 miles of travelling meant that nothing got painted, modelled, converted or, indeed, read! But I hope you like the photos (all taken by my dear Protectoress, except Abbotsford, which was mine.)
Now, the troops of Mendelstadt beckon me..............
Monday, 25 August 2008
I've been trying to advance several projects simultaneously, which means each of them goes slowly, so there's not much to report or show. However, here are the first three of the Hundred Years War figs, from the wonderful Perry's range.
On the WW2 front, the Russians have been suspended for a while as we ordered some Pendraken models for North Africa, and I decided I'd try to "speed paint" these, to compensate for the other projects which need more time. First stage is to spray paint both sides (8th Army and Afrika Korps/Italians) Army Painter Desert Yellow as undercoat. This covers pretty well.
Next stage is to "dip" the models. Except I don't dip it, because this generally gives effects which are too extreme for my taste, and also limits your control, as well as potentially wasting dip. So I brush it on.
I decided to use two different dips for the opposing sides, so they could be more readily distinguished on the table.
I'm using Army Painter "Strong" for the 8th Army. This gives a rather greyish, stone coloured effect. And for the Axis forces, I'm using a teak woodstain/varnish mix. This gives a reddish brown result. Both these "dips" result in a gloss varnish. Being a confirmed matt varnish man, I've surprised myself by quite liking this gloss on some figures and may start a more "toy soldierly" project to use it - but it's not right for these 10mm models. So I had to matt them down before further work.
Then I apply the same technique to both forces, a simple drybrush with Vallejo Sand Yellow (916) and then a further, much lighter drybrush on the edges with a whitened highlight of the same sand yellow.
The result of this process using the two different dips is shown below (Axis on the left, 8th Army on the right):
I think this is pretty effective, and the two sides are distinct. Of course, some detailing is still needed on the models, but basically they could be played like this. The actual time it took to paint these models to this standard is probably less than five minutes per model, in total - just a lot of waiting time between stages.
The SYW ImagiNation project is progressing along several lines at the same time. I've learned that I get bored easily (with everything!) so try to have different irons in the fire all the time, then I can move from one to the other as the mood takes me.
Presently, for the SYW, I have three foot regiments underway (one of them nearly completed can be found on the Mendelstadt blog), I'm three quarters of the way through the ACW to SYW dragoon/cuirassier conversion (12 figs), and have some jaegers on the go as well (aiming for 12 figs).
But I've actually spent most time following a suggestion from one comment on this blog, for which I'm very grateful: to do some "green-stuff casting" of the compnents I need for my conversions. Basically this involves making a mould out of greenstuff (from a previously made master) and then casting any number of copies using greenstuff again in the mould.
So far I've had mixed success. I made two moulds for turnbacks, and one for a tricorn. I made all three were too thick, pressing the masters too deep within the mould, meaning I've had to do some sanding and carving to get usable components out of them. In addition, the tricorn was a badly chosen master, with not enough definition, so I will need to make a better one. I ended up spending more time shaping it to fit than I would have if I'd started from scratch. But the turnbacks are working very well, and have speeded up part of the conversion process enormously. I think if I can get a decent tricorn cast, I can convert a regiment of cavalry (12 figs) in an afternoon. So that was a great tip.
It's not going to help a great deal with the major conversion, though: the hussars. It should work for the mirlton and sabretache, but each pelisse will remain a patient labour of love. So don't expect to see a completed squadron in the near future!
Saturday, 16 August 2008
We're building two armies: mine, for the Landgraviate of Mendelstadt, and hers, for the neighbouring Protectorate of Pelarcona. Her concept is egalitarian and romantic; mine is autocratic and megalomaniac. (So, she'll say, 'nothing new there'.)
She likes Front Rank figures, so the bulk of her forces will be Front Rank, probably mainly Austrians, supplemented by any additional uniforms that take her fancy.
Mendelstadt, on the other hand, will have core troops from Minden Miniatures, supported by my plastic conversions from Perry ACW, and then all sorts of oddments of figures lurking from previous projects, which include a handful of Front Rank, some Minifigs Naps, Foundry, two Spencer Smiths cannon, Hinchcliffe AWI and cannon, a few Old Glory, plus some of uncertain provenance. Problem is, figuring out how to use these oddments sensibly.
My guiding idea is that Mendelstadt is essentially a rag-tag of a country, really an association of brigands and minor nobles, all out to get what they can, united more or less under the government of a mad Landgraf who sees himself with the mission of a latter-day Alexander. This allows him to bring together forces of quite disparate kinds, drawn from many different sources, some antiquated, some perhaps experimental, being various in quality and appearance.
Two smaller countries are also available, Hamartia and Levander, as allies to either side, and as opportunities to use other figures that may attract. I particularly like RSM figures as a possibility here, and maybe as cavalry for Mendelstadt, though as I'm in the UK, the strengthened dollar and the possibility of hefty customs and excise charges, coupled with the hazards of international post, have caused me to hesitate so far.
Additionally, you're probably not aware that I've discovered the area between Austria and Prussia is a mid-European Lake District, filled with a complex network of waterways. The Landgraf consequently has an "inland fleet". His aim is to connect these waterways to the North Sea and to the Gulf of Venice, and thereby become a naval power despite being landlocked.
I told you he was mad.
This means I'll have excuses for naval and marine forces, and scenarios, as well as the occasional pirate-like activity, allowing other miscellaneous exotic forces to appear according to how the wargamer's whim alights. I wouldn't be surprised if some Turks appear, for example, seeking a strategic outflanking of Austria.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
I think this regiment will become the Landgravine Musetta's Own Hussars, the light cavalry of the Mendelstadt Guard, and the bodyguard of the Landgravine herself. (Rumours have it that some of these handsome gentlemen may perhaps guard her body just a little too closely.)
Their uniform is a design of the Landgravine's own, as no doubt Major Wittering will report on the Mendelstadt blog when a full squadron has been recruited. And the mounts will all be greys, especially imported at outlandish expense from Spain.
But I suspect recruitment for the hussars may take some time, as I'll have to model each one separately. Mind you, the twelve strong cuirrassiers (who are being considered for possible demotion to mere dragoons, given the poor quality of their mounts and their generally drunken behaviour - of the riders, not the mounts) are nearing completion already, much faster than I'd expected. I've been bitten by the modelling bug.
You'll probably see that some of this "conversion" is merely paintwork: the thighknot, Polish cuffs, and lace on the dolman, for example. So what have I actually modelled (just in case you are mad enough to want to do something similar)?
Mirlton: green stuff in a cone (easier than I thought, but it may be hard to make the next one the same size!) with a plume of the same, the cone wrapped in a thin flamme of paper, very much like the original. I used greaseproof paper, after a couple of false starts with ribbon and tissue as this was flexible and yet tough, so when I soaked it with dilute white glue, it didn't dissolve into shreds. My flamme was a little too wide, so that in wrapping around the angle of the slope it creased a little, meaning a lot of teasing was needed to get something that was both flat enough and overlapping enough to be plausible.
Shabraque: the original Perry shabraque has squared corners, so I've shaved the front corner to a rounded edge and built the rear corner to an elongated point.
Pelisse: sculpted entirely from greenstuff, one layer at a time (first a draped diamond for the basic jacket, then two sausages for the sleeves, which are probably not long enough on this model; then greenstuff roughed up by the scalpel for fur around cuffs and the pelisse edge. Finally I used a thread of cotton to model the cord holding the pelisse around the neck (visible on the second photo). I drenched this in thinned white glue so it adhered across the model but also so it was stiff and had a good surface for subsequent painting.
Queue: modelled from greenstuff.
Barrel sash: modelled from green stuff, but with only three cords (not the more reasonable five or seven). As it's almost invisible on the model, I might not bother on the remainder.
Sabretache: made from green stuff as a component separate from the main model, then glued on when it had dried. I originally made a more satisfactory shape than this, but it was so small I lost it. Once it was gluedin place, I added two thin strips of scrap paper for the straps holding it on. (A more historical model would probably use three straps, but I found it hard enough manoevering two pieces into place. Three would need to be thinner, so more difficult to shoft about, and must end up placed in parallel to look right). I've been wondering about trying casting for the first time, so small pieces like this or maybe the mirlton might be a starting point.
What I didn't do:
- worry about the bucket stirrups. Instead, I painted them as if they were part of the boot, using the line of the stirrups to disguise this somewhat.
- worry about the sword and scabbard. These are (obviously) the same as the ACW original and therefore idential to the swords used for my cuirassiers/dragoons. But light cav swords are generally curved whilst heavy cavalry are much straighter (although this by no mean a universal difference). Fortunately this sword is both suffificiently straight and sufficiently curved to get away with being either.- give him a fusil/musket. I'm reconsidering this as it would be more accurate, and the pantaloons are not really as tight as a proper hussar's ought to be, so a weapon on the thigh would disguise this somewhat.
- put cords on the mirlton. Although having no cords is fine historically, of course, I'd quite like to go the whole hog and add them, but I can't figure out how to do it convincingly and eptly. An attempt with green stuff created cords the size of ropes.
- model lace on the pelisse. I didn't think about the frogging until I'd modelled the rest of the cape, and by then I'd not even left enough room to paint any lace. I'll perhaps try and model the pelisse a little larger on the next figure.
- shave the saddlebags. To me these are the most glaring anomaly on this model, so ought to go, but I'm not sure that I'll be able to model the "missing" bits of the blanket roll and shabraque, if I do. This may be one area where I'm simply saved from the need by sleight-of-imagination.
- paint a dog's tooth border, or a national emblem on the shabraque. It seemed too arduous, really. Also, any such emblem should be the golden phoenix of Mendelstadt, but I've not yet managed to render it free-hand in any way that doesn't look like a five year old's cartoon. (Although there is just a hint of it on the sabretache, pretty much invisible in the photo). More practice needed here.
Even so, I'm quite proud of this one. But now I've three more cuirrassiers to finish, fifteen jagers and five (or maybe even eleven) hussars. SO it might be a while before you see my next effort.
Although, I've begun thinking about dragoons....How would they be different from cuirassiers?
And what about some irregular lancers????
Thursday, 7 August 2008
I've also been sorting a few figures to go onto Ebay, mainly from old projects, to raise cash for Mendelstadt's army, especially as Minden Miniatures have promised some tasty new offerings. So for those of you who like eye candy, here are a few pics of the figures (painted by me) that recently went up for sale.
Firstly, a Wargames Foundry oriental chieftain, from my colonial collection, which doesn't get out of the cabinet much these days.
Next, six Perry miniatures: ECW skirmishing dragoons. I really like these figures, but they are the last of my 28mm ECW armies. Maybe I'll return to the period in 10mm sometime.
Here are a group of Mexicans, painted for Wild West skirmishing, really. I like the WHB "Old West" rules, especially as the same mechanisms, roughly, are used in GW's Lord of the Rings game and, I guess, the WHB pirates game (which I've never played). I'm expecting that pirates will figure in Mendelstadt, as there's to be a naval element to my Imagi-Nation: it's a central European area of big lakes and mountains, ideal for ambitious predators with low morals. So maybe I'll use the WHB rules for these games.
Here's a surplus fantasy figure, Morrigan, from the Celtos range. I was quite pleased with this one. We've played fantasy games since the 70s, starting with the original D&D, so've built up quite a collection of adventurers and monsters over the years. But now it's taking up space that newer projects might better use.
Finally, a Jes Goodwin Eldar exarch. I fell in love with Goodwin's Eldar designs when they were first released in the 80s, and built quite a beautiful army of them, but I've never really enjoyed playing Warhammer 40K. My sons played it a lot, with various weird and wonderful armies, but to me the games always seemed too numbers driven, as well as needing very expensive figures. So, over the years, my Eldar have gradually deserted.
I'm expecting that there'll be some ACW, Late Roman, Sikh Wars and Biblical figures following these into the uncertain future that Ebay offers, so probably post a few pix of them, too, before they seek their new homes.
Saturday, 2 August 2008
I could use markers which are more scenic , e.g. bodies littering the table, but this seems a little macabre (I know: the whole idea of a game of war seems rather macabre, but that's no reason to make it look that way). In fact, in my 10mm Napoleonic games, where typically I have 10 figs to a base, I use cotton wool smoke markers to indicate casualty/morale/cohesion. (My rules here are as simple as I can get away with, in the interests of getting 1000 figs on the table yet completing a game in a few hours).
So I think the best approach is to mount figures individually and use magnetic basing for multiple stands: 4s or 8s. Current thinking will build 24 man battalions, in 28mm, with a battalion (or regiment, really) being three companies of 8 figs. Companies can then become independent tactical units (a la Grant and Lawford/Young) and I can use casualty removal, but this approach also means I can:
(a) use occasional figures for skirmishes. I plan to have some pirate games, naval boarding and perhaps skirmish-sieges, as well as full scale battles.
(b) I can combine two 24-man regiments on occasion to build 48 man "brigades" for true OSW big battles. Whilst this won't quite fit the rules of Charge! or The War Game, it'd be close enough to require only minimal tinkering.
(c) As I'll have two colours per regiment, I'll also be able to divide them into 12 man, single rank regiments, each with their own colour, for games where I want a lot of units (e.g. for reasonable simulation of a historical set-up)
(d) I don't plan to have grenadier companies, only grenadier battalions, but with single figure basing, I can always change my mind later, if I want.
However, it does mean quite a lot of work on making magnetic bases and movement trays (or "sabots" as I believe some know them).
Any advice, chaps?
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
It's more difficult to work on the foot figures than the cavalry (for SYW, at any rate) because there are more variations in equipment, uniform and poses. Also, the ACW trousers (that's "pants" for my American readers) are a long way from the tight-gaitered Adam Ant leg-revealers of the eighteenth century. So it isn't just a question of adding judiciously placed green stuff, but also deft wielding of a scalpel to remove offending creases and folds.
I didn't think I'd be able to sculpt (read "gouge") the required shapeliness (but highly military, of course) of the calf-muscles effectively, so for my sample figure, I decided on a jaeger, based loosely on the Prussian jaeger in Blandford's uniforms of the SYW plate 41 (also in Osprey Men at Arms 248, plate E), because these guys wore cavalry boots. Other possible original models might be the Russian Corps of Observation (basically your standard Russian uniform, plus boots) or perhaps some of the Freikorps or light troops (either as "dismounted" cavalry, or else more irregular trousers than the norm).
Of course, mine aim is entirely fictional, so I can apply some license. So, without further ado, here is the entire jaeger Corps of Mendelstadt:
You might notice that I forgot to shave his beard, so, despite the conversion, he retains a somewhat un-C18th look. I only realised this mistake during painting, so I added slightly more Germanic points to his moustache by way of compensation, during painting, and decided that Mendelstadt's jaegers, being recruited from the wildmen of forest and hill might generally be a little less than couth in their coiffure. The paint scheme I've chosen is almost traditional jaeger, except that I went for a slightly brighter green than might be thought sensible.
Other slight oddities are:
- the ammo pouch from which this guy is retrieving shot, though hidden in this model, is not really suitable. If I wanted a fully credible SYW figure, he should perhaps have a large rectangular ammo pouch centred on his abdomen - but I couldn't figure out how to do this convincingly
- I've modelled the boots as if there are loose trousers gathered into them, rather than the gaiters that seem endemic to SYW. On the next model, I might try to be more correct. The boots are also rather dumpy - I think more plastic needs shaving away.
- the emblem of Mendelstadt is a phoenix. I'd like this on the cartridge box on the figure's hip but no way can I paint a convincing micro-phoenix. Any tips?
- eyes. I've seen photos of these ACW plastics with convincing eyes. Unfortunately, my eyes are no longer good enough to make sure this guy has any eyes at all.
Otherwise, I'm quite pleased with him. In time, there's likely to be a full regiment - though it might only be sixteen figures.
What have I learned so far from these Perry conversions?
1) It's possible, even easy. I think to get reasonably accurate SYW figures from the Perry figs would take rather more skill than I can muster, but, if you're prepared to accept the occasional compromise some good figures can be created quite cheaply. (In the UK the cavalry work out at £1, infantry at 34p).
2) You need patience. This is a bit of a problem for me! I'd like a complete battalion here, now, please. I think each conversion takes me about an hour in total - perhaps a bit longer. Moreover, you can't do the whole thing in one go, because each time you add a new blob of green stuff, you risk damaging the previous pieces if they haven't quite hardened. Really, you need a day for hardening between each stage of the work.
3) Even small changes can make a big difference. Just putting tricornes on ACW heads makes a huge difference. You can always paint on coloured cuffs and other facings, if you don't want to mould them.
4) Be creative. The turnbacks on the jaeger, for example, are partly created by trimming down the existing model and partly by building up with green stuff. The key was to spot the point at which shaving should stop and building begin.
5) Think about how the figure might be painted. For example, the Prussian original of this jaeger has no lapels, so I'd no need to paint or model them. This obviously makes conversion easier.
6) There's lots of possibilities for originals. Of course, if you want exact historical accuracy, you're unlikely to find many of these ACW figures a good starting point, unless you trim them right down to their basic architecture and build up a substantial part of the uniform itself. (Using the Perry model as a "dolly" is, I think, the right way to put this). But if all you want to do is create interesting units for a plausibly historical context, you can look around between different armies and theatres for starting points. For example, shell jacket ACW figs are probably the easiest to give turnbacks to, but sack coated ACW might be better for coats without turnbacks, such as early French and many officers. No reason why you couldn't have both in the same army, perhaps even in the same unit.
Anyway, I'll continue to experiment and report on what I find.
Oh - and I've just noticed that Victrix have issued lots of info and some pictures on their forthcoming 28mm plastic Napoleonics. (See http://www.victrixlimited.com/) Maybe there'll be possibilities here, too. But they won't be around till September.
Monday, 28 July 2008
I occasionally write stories. None published (at least, not for a very long time). One novel, a fantasy titled "Exspelling the Dragon" [sic], was set in the world of Adderphue, a rag-bag of a place into which I threw about every idea and bad fantasy joke I could think of.
It seems a good title for an arbitrary collection of random musings.
From that ill-fated narrative, I herewith offer an etymological extract for the edification of those of a loose and indolent disposition.
"On the Creation of the World"
Naturally there are many explanations for where this glorious world of ours came from. Some look to its name for clues: Adderphue.
In Tekmarada, seat of the most noble and idle of religious archivists, the Reverend Floppy Eared Bun-i argues that, in the Time before time, in a Space without space, in an Impossibility without impossibilities, they used to serve snake curry. The effects of such meals on daemons and the Frogs (praise be to the sticky-tongued!) was bound to leave a distinctive stench in the lower parts of Paradise. The Reverend Bun-i suggests that the Frogs, being tidy beings, decided to fumigate the place, so gathered all the errant whiffs of after-snake into one neat bundle and hung it somewhere obscure in the heavens where no-one was likely to look. Hence this world. Hence the name: adder-phew.
Others disagree with the Reverend Floppy Eared Bun-i, notably the Right Mrs Reverend Floppy Eared Bun-i (divorced). She lays out an interesting hypothesis. Summarised, (and we apologise for any oversimplification which might result from this summary), she states that a concept as complex as snake curry could not have existed before there was a world in which such a thing was possible, so arguing that the smells of snake curry gave us Adderphue is therefore an argument a posteriori, without fundament, a logical absurdity and just plain silly (but, wouldn't you know it, absolutely typical of the Reverend Floppy Eared Bun-i, who couldn't even starch his thurible without an illustrated manual).
Much more likely is the argument a fortiori, namely that the Frogs downed forty or more double scotches and, inspired to see things they'd never seen before, decided to tinker with reality just for the hell of it and bring their rather wobbly visions to life. It follows from this perfectly tenable assumption that the world was created when they'd adderphue, but obviously well before they got to the curry stage.
Others in Tekmarada prefer not to be involved in family squabbles, especially when one of the family concerned has been champion hippo flounderer three times on the trot.
It must be said, however, that whilst the theory of the Reverend Floppy Eared Bun-i (that the world is the redolence of spiced reptile) accounts for quite a lot (such as the smell of the River Zitsphil), that of the Right Mrs Reverend Floppy Eared Bun-i, (that the world is the incomplete ravings of a few drunken adolescent Frogs), accounts for everything. And a whole lot more besides.
From The Book Of Contradictions to The Book Of Commotions, Hexaglint vs 93 - 93. © His Leaklessness, Philosophus of Arlene.
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
http://www.wargamesfactory.com/AnnouncementRetrieve.aspx?ID=15206) by producing SYW figures in the next few months.
Let me explain. I'm building fictional armies of roughly SYW vintage. The core troops are beautiful Minden miniatures, supplemented by a whole ragbag of bits and pieces salvaged from my lead mountain which appear broadly eighteenth century and broadly compatible: I've Front Rank and Old Glory command figures, with a Hinchcliffe AWI and a Minifigs Napoleonic thrown in for good measure; Front Rank artillery for one side, but a mix of Old Glory, Foundry, Front Rank and an unknown soldier for the other; there'll be a small naval contingent recruited from Foundry, Citadel and Dixons pirates; cannon are Front Rank, Foundry, Hinchcliffe and Spencer Smith. You can see it's quite a hotch potch.
But what I lack is cavalry. Minden will produce some, no doubt wonderful, figures in time, but what am I to do till then? Both Foundry and Front Rank are attractive ranges, but they're expensive (especially since Foundry's price rise, which has taken the price of 28mm to ridiculous heights). As the project is an "Old School" imaginary nation, Spencer Smith suggest themselves and, whilst they have charm, I'm not sure that mixing them in with more detailed figures will be satisfying.
RSM95 look highly compatible and attractive, and are a good price even when overseas shipping is taken into account, but they may take months to appear from across the Atlantic, given the vagaries of the postal service. Other ImagiNations have been built around 20mm plastics, some of which reach 25mm and so ought to be compatible in height, but the slenderness of the mouldings makes them look distinctly odd next to a true 28mm or 30mm figure.
I went round and round these possibilities for ages, and then had, for me, a brainwave. What about the new Perry plastics? I'd seen an article in Wargames Illustrated showing that they were easy to convert, and surely converting plastic figures into something completely different was a highly "old school" idea, perfectly in keeping with my rather rambling project.
So I bought a box of Perry ACW cavalry. I was both impressed and slightly surprised by these figures. Impressed because they carry many of the virtues of Perry metal castings, yet are only £1 per cavalry figure; surprised by the one or two weaknesses in the designs (e.g. lack of clarity in the moulding in a couple of places).
Well, I thought, I could simply add a tricorne and away I'd go. To add a tricorne, I simply needed to adapt one of the soft hats included in the box. Didn't I? (I should perhaps say here that I've virtually no sculpting or conversion experience. I did convert a load of Airfix Indians to "Numidians" in 1968 (!) and I once armed a Foundry Mexican peasant girl with a rifle for my daughter in a Wild West RPG - but basically I'm a duffer in this department.)
But I am also a cheapskate. So I tried this. I tried building a tricorne around a kepi. I tried making a tricorne from scratch. I tried several approaches. In the end, my best bet was to scuplt the hat directly on the head of the figure. Which worked quite well, I think, given my complete and utter lack of sculpting expertise. First create a disc of green stuff. Then get it to adhere to the top of the figure's head (not too easy - the green stuff seems to prefer to stick to the sculpting tool, even when suitably moistened). Then bend up three sides. Adjust the corners. Stop it from slipping over the eyebrows. Then correct for the previous over-correction. And, eventually, you might have a tricorne hat.
Though probably stuck to the knife!
In the course of this sophisticated millinery, I realised that a few other touches would be needed to turn my shell-jacketed ACWs into plausible 18th century cuirassiers or dragooons (at least I wasn't so touched by the sun that I believed I'd be able to create hussars!) Each model needed its tricorne, a queue, cavalry boots and turnbacks. So I used green stuff to build each of these in turn.
Results were mixed. As I say, I've neither skill nor experience, so there are problems with the finished results. Different figures have hats of different sizes and turnbacks of differing lengths, and there's some uneveness in the sculpted lines where I've not created a smooth enough line but, essentially, it worked. By adding this little shopping list of variations to the commercial ACW, a reasonably convincing (18th dragoon/cuirassier can be created.
Here's the first two models, painted last night:
There are some oddities, of course. I only realised when it came to painting that some of the horse furniture and pistol holster are rather inappropriate. These should probably have been shaved off. I'll try this on the next figures. Also, the bucket stirrups are not C18th (which is why I've painted boots and stirrups black, to disguise them).
Hopefully the sculpts will get better as I learn more.
Sunday, 20 July 2008
World War 2: Flames of War: Foolishly, in our house we have WW2 models in just about every scale you could name. But the focus is mainly on 15mm Flames of War at the moment, with 1944 Brits, US and German forces under construction. I'm in the UK, but my son, Owen, in the US is also building two forces (Panzer Lehr and US opponents) so we're hoping to develop some sort of cross-Atlantic campaign.
World War 2: Blitzkreig Commander (10mm): I've only come across this recently. I really like Warmaster, so am keen to try this. We're starting with the Russian Front, c. Winter 1942 (ish). Again, I'm painting both forces, so it's slow going. This has introduced me to Pendraken's 10mm (really 12mm) WW2 models, which are great, and a good price, so already plans are underway for a Desert War campaining, too. And, hey, if that means we need different models, well, so be it.
Field of Glory (28mm): I'm not sure if I like these rules yet. I bought them because I needed something to read in hospital recently, where I couldn't game, and the release of Warlord Games Celts gave me a great army to paint for them once I was discharged, at relatively low risk whilst I recovered. It was going to be a fast, fun project, also testing out the Army painter "magic" washes. But this has stalled somewhat due to eyesight difficulties, though this might improve soon. I'm also really waiting for Wargames Factory in the US to produce their Celts, so I can get a really good mix of figures, but they've been having development problems.
Imagi-nation: this is what really excites me at present, and where most of my painting time goes. As what we eumpemistically might call a veteran gamer, I've become interested in the Old School Wargaming idea. It seems like putting the fun back into historical games. So I'm building an imaginary Eighteenth Century army, and a country to go with it, like many people before me, following the models of some of the ancient heroes of wargaming, Charles Grant and Peter Young. (You can find the begininnings of this project at a separate blog at http://majorwittering.blogspot.com/)
As with most of my other projects, I'm painting both sides here: the Landgraviate of Mendelstadt is vagely Prussian in origin whilst its suspect neighbour, the Freistadt of Pelarcona (run by a lady very close to me) appears to admire Austria. Figures are to be Minden as much as possible, though to start with I'm using any and everything I've been able to lay my hands on, so we have Minden, Front Rank, Foundry, Hinchcliffe and Minifigs all working together. This is one of the advantages of a fantastic approach to wargaming, you can get away with anything you like, as long as you enjoy it.
Napoleonic (10mm): The grand plan is to refight the 100 days campaign with all brigades represented (I'd like to get down to battallion level, but probably could never field the figures required, even in 10mm). I'm mainly using Old Glory figures, though most manufacturers of 10mm also have a look in. So far the armies of Wellington and Napoleon are well developed, but Blucher is a poor third. As it stands, there's probably around 2500 figures committed to this project, but it's on the back burner for a while. (Long term, I'm hoping to get around to Leipzig, too. My plans are nothing if not grand!)
Hundred Years War: in 28mm. The aim is to use mainly Perry Miniatures, and Foundry's "Medieval Warfare" rules, but in order to get a game soon, I'm recruiting all odd medieval figures I can find in the lead mountain. I'm painting up both sides, so that slows things down. Despite the superficially high production quality of these rules, there seem to be some flaws in them, so I'll be interested to see how workable they are.
I'll be posting pix of the state of play of each project from time to time. Here's some from the Russian Front for the time being: