Monday, 25 August 2008

Latest update

First I want to acknowledge what I should've done to start with, that all the photos on both my blogs are provided by my lovely wife, the Protector of Pelarcona, who is a wizz with the digital camera.

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

Building armies for an Imaginary Nation

Someone asked about the figures I'll be using for my SYW ImagiNation (see my other blog). I'm one of those rare and lucky wargamers whose wife is also pretty keen on the hobby: at least, some parts of it (WW2 leaves her cold, for example, but she's keen on fantasy wargames), so this project is for both of us.

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 told myself I wouldn't attempt a hussar conversion from the Perry plastic ACW cavalryman, as it was too complex. But I wasn't listening to myself, apparently. So here's my first hussar attempt.

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

A few pix

No painting projects are progressing at the moment, because I've been focussing on the Perry conversions to finish my Mendelstadt cuirassiers and jaegers, and I've also begun a hussar. Ambitious, or what? When he's presentable, he'll make an appearance here.

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

Thoughts on basing

Having read Adolfo's musings on basing ( Il Desto Fante at I've been thinking about basing for the Mendelstadt C18 armies. I want games that are quick to set up, play and take down, but I also want an OSW approach, with casualty removal. I don't like "casualty rings" - what's the point of all that time spent on beautifully painted minis just to obscure them with abstract counters?

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?