Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Another Perry conversion

I was so pleased with my Perry cuirassier conversions (which will soon be a 12 figure regiment) and the feedback from my courteous visitors has been so positive, that I decided to see what I could make of the Perrys' ACW infantry, too.

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 Maybe there'll be possibilities here, too. But they won't be around till September.

Monday, 28 July 2008

What is Adderphue?

No-one has asked me what I mean by "Adderphue" (the name of this blog). So I've decided to tell them anyway.

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

Perry Plastic SYW Cavalry

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were some? But - I know - there aren't. Nor likely to be in the the near future. If we're waiting for 28mm plastic C18 the best we might hope is that Wargames Factory respond to their poll (at 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

First at the Post

This is an occasional blog for my wargame projects, most of which never get finished. The aim is to push them all along, and maybe get encouragement and advice from anyone else who happens to drop in. Presently, I've six major projects:

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

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: