Monday, December 30, 2013

Hugging the Huguenots - My new wargaming passion Part 1

Colin Napier explains how he came to love his Huguenot Brigade!

Divine inspiration! Bob Talbot's lovely Regiment Du Cambon

Call me soppy, call me naive (trust me I’ve been called a lot worse at home) but I firmly believe that at heart wargamers are gentle, romantic souls. Why else would they spend their time refighting long forgotten wars; researching failed causes and ineffectual dramatic gestures; worrying about shades of grey (of uniforms before the Google bot gets excited) and cuirass fashions.

And there’s nothing much more romantic than an exile, just ask any passing shortbread salesman who’s on his tartan tin.

Colin's very own Huguenots muster from their camp to defend the lines at Athlone.

I was aware of the Huguenots in the same way I’m aware of say the X Factor or Marmite, astoundingly important to some people and likely to elicit a strong opinion one way or the other but I’d never really come across them until one Saturday morning in Derby when Barry (of this parish) introduced me to a brigade of grey coated infantrymen.

Whilst my eyes gradually squinted the finely painted (by Bob Talbot) Warfare minis into focus (there had been a long, heated and most importantly lubricated discussion in the bar the night earlier that morning about… something vitally important to Western civilisation that alas eludes me) Barry explained a little of the background to the three foot regiments and their history and in passing mentioned that giving La Caillemotte’s regiment some pikes was a bit of a joke, which I gave a weak smile at and resoundingly failed to get.

Despite my infernal die rolling, the Huguenot’s carried the day for that battle and acquitted themselves well in the longer engagement that followed over Saturday afternoon and in to Sunday (for those aficionados of my gaming style there were no officer casualties that weekend – the only weekend blip in the general carnage I tend to inflict on the upper echelons of any army that falls under my command). By the time I was trundling back up North (I was on a cross-country train – trundling is a generous adjective) I realised that another period bug had bit and my shelves were about to strain under a further weight of alloy in the shape of little metal men. Those who know me might wonder if I needed another army but when it comes to metal men and the wargamer, where does need come into it?

More Ireland action: Bob's Huguenot's at Partizan in 2012.

As Barry had mentioned at the weekend, the Huguenots make a good starter project for the Williamite Wars in Ireland if you’re considering nailing your colours to the Orange mast. There are only four units, three foot and one horse and the regiments were involved in many of the major engagements in the 1689-91 campaigns. Add a cannon, maybe a sprinkling of commanded shot and you have an effective brigade sized force for BLB provided you don’t bump into the fabled Saxon Horde.
And there’s that romance I mentioned too. How did a bunch of French Protestants find themselves in Ireland fighting for an English King against Bourbon troops (not to mention another English king)?
In part 2 Colin will treat us to more details of his Huguenot project.

Friday, December 27, 2013

I wanna tell you a story..Tales with toy soldiers HEIGHT

Barry Hilton - Sometimes when we painted something fine it is frustratingly lost amongst the welter of other figures placed in front of it. I long ago decided that height (within reason) could be a legitimate component of figure basing and have used some successful and admittedly not as successful attempts over the years.

Pirate command group atop the high ground Aharr!

The best way to approach it is not to make it up as you go along but to have a clear view in your head of what it will look like when finished before you begin.

The piece above is rather dramatic and is part of a Pirate crew which one a couple of painting prizes way back in the late 1990s. The height works perfectly for the figure placed atop the rock which was actually gathered from a beach.

A busy group from the same unit as the previous piece. Scrambling amidst a rocky coastline to protect their hard won spoils.

Having judged painting and modelling competitions many times I have been frustrated to see good work miss the mark when some poorly thought through basing spoils an otherwise excellent piece of work.

This iconic piece attempts to convey the King's triumph and majesty through height and his progress through the desolation of the battlefield wielding his baton of office and not a weapon. The prostrate nature of the fallen soldiers intensify the perception of height which in reality is less than  25mm or 1 inch from the base material.

This piece is a personal favourite as so much is going on in it. From every angle, all details should lead the eye to the officer at the highest point. He is the centrepiece of the regiment and the top of the standard pole is more than 100mm from the table level. Layers of action move up from the prostrate guardsman in the lower left centre to the wounded drummer behind and the different heights of the soldiers clustered around the colours. This is the centre stand of James II's 1st battalion of Foot Guards. Perhaps it's the Boyne or Aughrim or maybe even Flanders.

'Axel is hit!' Part of Ducker's Dragoon Regiment

This is a fairly extreme piece of work. Two of the riders are extensively converted and all of the horses are at different heights. As part of a unit containing six 60 x 60mm bases with similar ideas it is one of the most ambitious unit vignettes I have attempted in the Horse & Musket period.

These Swedish fellows are also converted and at varying heights. They are also part of Ducker's Dragoon Regiment. The bulk of the height was created by gluing layers of 20mm card of different shapes on top of each other.

Try and keep the height differentials in proportion if possible. Try not to put figures in unfeasible and in accessible high spots with no 'story line' to say how they actually got their in the first place. Occasionally figures appear to have been either parachuted or beamed down to locations which neither a mountain goat nor an eagle could have reached.

Excellent perspective of Ola, Sven and Lars

Don't coat the base in tonnes of plaster or wet basing materials as this will simply make it too heavy and susceptible to warping. Build the height in successful layers with flat bits of card, lego bricks, coins, pieces of rock, cork bark or similar economic components which give height and bulk without necessarily adding huge amounts of weight. Milliput is good for anchoring, blending and filling. Plaster or filler can provide texture. Use wood glue watered down and heavily dusted over(when wet) with different grades of sand. All of these techniques will produce interesting ground work.

A most dramatic example; King Karl XII leaps into the void bowling over a Russian sergeant as he does so. The King is converted from metal parts from 3 models. The horse has been adjusted somewhat. The trench is scratch built. There is a dragoon protecting the king on his right side.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Festive Foto Feast! GNW

Swedish Horse as they should be seen!
Barry Hilton - Never mind GA PA! (or as the 'initiated' love to tell us GO PO!), how about YO HO... HO! and a merry wargaming Christmas to you all out there! Having recently returned from long and distant assignments I am savouring being back in Bonnie Scotland despite the near continual twilight during daytime and the incessant rain and wind. Aah... lovely, it's great to be home in the world's best wee country (according to Alex the Salmon).

So, equipped with my trusty Finepix 20i and not being compelled to photograph the Burj Khalifa, Dune Bashing or yet another beach, I resumed work at the old stand and got some toys out to get me back into the wargaming groove.

Since releasing the new Swedish Troopers they have turned into the fastest selling code Warfare have to date. So, I thought it would be nice to feature them in a few action shots together with the new Swedish and Russian test figures.

Also making a guest appearance in these pictures is my Front Rank Russian gun position, built a few years ago as a homage to my original French Grand Alliance pieces which I foolishly sold at SALUTE about 10 years ago. The 'extras' for this quick shot are veteran stars of my collection; Swedish Cavalry from the original GNW collection created between 1996 and 1998.

So, whether you are trying to escape the incessant carols, adverts, Christmas radio hits, turkey, in-laws or some other seasonal cliché.. I hope these images keep you happy until you can get your dice or paints out once more following your Christmas duties!

Glorious Obsession Part 2; The War diaries of my toy soldiers 1990 -

Barry Hilton - Here we go! Finally, a look at the service records of my Grand Alliance Collection since it began in 1991. This first shot shows a typical  page

This particular entry is in the record of the Danish battalion Prinds Jorgen which is also known as Prinds Georg. Parts of three different  Glorious Revolution scenario entries can be seen. The orange highlighted paragraph details an 'afterward to Prince Willem's failure to force an English capitulation resulting in a withdrawal back to Holland. The blue highlighted paragraph details some related facts pertaining to the repatriation of Danish prisoners of war. The skull symbol signifies that the battalion surrendered at the Broadlands action. The small entry in between is from a solo game in which a Danish Brigade was bested by English dragoons.

The double page shot above is also from the records of Prinds Jorgen. They do seem to have been a unit with mixed fortunes. In this selection of actions they have routed twice, retreated once, surrendered once, performed well once and received a distinction at the Battle of Ramillies! In the Ramillies entry they seem to have most unusually, captured an enemy cavalry standard. This was I think, the only instance of Foot taking a cavalry banner in all of my battles and entries. I believe the enemy unit was shot to pieces and wiped out in front of the Danes who advanced, picking up the fallen trophy as they went.

The final shot is an extract from the records of the Brunswick unit Prince Wilhelm August. On this page they have taken a Jacobite colour in Scotland during an action against Claverhouse and his Irish allies.

They have also lost their colours when they surrendered in a Glorious Revolution encounter at Senlac Hill which was I recall based on the Battle of Hastings.

In the final part of this tell all tale I'll how details from the volume covering my British regiments.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Abbey of Vaca Sagrada - Part Eight

Clarence Harrison - It's all over! Just a few pics of the finished piece. Hopefully this has been useful for some of you! We'll try to do more on terrain in the future.

Friday, December 20, 2013

I wanna tell you a story.. Tales with toy soldiers - FIGURE GROUPINGS

Determination in the face of the enemy

Barry Hilton - Personal preference I'll grant you, but I find lines of toy soldiers in the same pose, painted the same, spaced evenly and based unimaginatively as a bit of a lost opportunity. Basing is a very personal aspect of the hobby. Sometimes but less and less so, it is dictated by the restrictions of rules. That is perhaps which basing is such an unimportant aspect of all rules sets I have written. I want the models to look great on the table and I believe their is a strong argument to say that in some respects how a unit is based will have more impact than how the models themselves are painted.

Advancing with purpose

Form a distance of two metres it may well be the base you see first. You will be doing well if you can distinguish the colour of a figures en masse at about two metres.

Fatalistic Veterans who know what s in store
I try and group figures in clusters that imply something is happening. Determination, hesitancy, fear, hopelessness, conspiracy, companionship, pride, distain. I think this has limitations but it is surprising what can actually be achieved with some thought.

"Hear me men! Today we will carry all before us"

In this blog post I have included several interesting clusters of models which I hope to your eyes are coherent an at the same time suggestive of something happening.

"Pikes Forward!"


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Glorious Obsession Part 1; The War diaries of my toy soldiers 1990 -

Barry Hilton - I would admit to having some form of OCD. I recheck plugs and door locks a lot. I am always looking at my passport (yes I have forgotten it on the odd occasion so that possibly justifies the frequent safety checks). I think all of that is trumped by my strange need to record my wargaming exploits in private journals. These secret dossiers have been seen by a handful of other people apart from myself over a 20 year period.

Racy stuff for a12 year old to read
I recently cleared out the loft in my late Mum's house (my childhood home) and came across acres of stuff I had typed on an old Remington manual typewriter belonging to my Dad (he never used it like most of the gadgets he bought). I found campaign stories following the epic fights of my Airfix Assault Regiment Wotan (converted with bits of loo paper painted as SS camo capes). This unit was fired by my consumption of the Leo Kessler (aka Charles Whiting) novels popular around 1972-76 which were quite racy reading for a 12 year old!

I found naval battle narratives from my other obsession which was drawing plan views of warships on paper, cutting them out and fighting sea actions on my bedroom carpet (authentic blue acrylic weave). Hardly C.S. Forester but I seemed to enjoy writing it. All of this was done before my 13th birthday.

At high school I ran a NATO v Warsaw Pact Naval campaign and recorded it in the form of newspaper cuttings and articles illustrated with pen drawings and harbour diagrams of air raids. This was done in a series of little red notebooks which I also found.

I recorded every single battle fought using WRG 6th Edition with my two 15mm armies: Viking & Mongol. In two hardback ledgers I drew up every battle map, orbat, points value, casualty and enemy casualty in points loss.Each entry has four disposition drawings; The set up T3, T7 (if it got that far) and End. I have no idea why.I remember when first married, coming home from the club on a Sunday evening, lying on the floor in front of the TV and writing up my journal with my coloured pencils. My wife has stuck with that for 28 years! The Viking-Mongol phase was back in 85-87.

When I finally got into the Grand Alliance (aka Grand Dalliance or Glorious Obsession in my case) my compulsion to record seemed to assume pandemic proportions. I created eight enormous ring bound books (on a binding machine borrowed from work!). A4 sized, 200 pages in each, plastic covers with occasional sketches. Each 'volume' represented a different army and army of service. I had books for Louis XIV's Foot and Horse, Grand Alliance Foot and Horse, Swedish & Russian units, British regiments and two battle compendiums. Things were truly getting out of hand.

I have decided to allow you fellow obsessives a peek into these strange volumes mainly because it is something that people have asked about many times but never been able to see.  Read more in my next Blog on my chronic wargaming condition!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wargames Illustrated 315

Clarence Harrison - The January issue of Wargames Illustrated just hit the stands (or you can now get a digital copy) and it features the most in depth look yet at Donnybrook. Barry and I layout many of the basics of the rules and give a look into the reasons behind some of them. There is also an overview of what else is contained in the book. Finally you can read about how I tricked Mr Hilton into far more work than he planned on...

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Abbey of Vaca Sagrada - Part Seven

Clarence Harrison - After letting all of the glue dry (again), it was finally time to start painting! I painted swatches of the colors from Games Workshop paints and carried them to my local hardware store to have pints mixed to match them. It is not important to use the same colors I use as you can get great results with many different earthtones, but I will include them here and use them in the following explanation simply because I know someone will ask. Listed from darkest (the first coat I apply) to lightest (final highlights): Scorched Brown, Dark Flesh, Bestial Brown, Bubonic Brown, and Bleached Bone. They greys for the stone are basically dark, medium, and light and tend toward a cooler blue grey - I don't think I had specific GW references for those. Again, any brand of paint will work and I suggest you go with whatever you are most familiar with.
The entire model with the exception of the grass and the roof was painted a dark brown
textured with a small amount of sand. Then I painted the roof with the same color, but left out the sand.
Dark paint textured with sand provided the base for the rest of the painting.
Although my original drawing called for a cross on the wall, I found this great Wargames Foundry monk
to use as a statue that I liked better.
I picked out the rocks and some of the heavier areas of rubble with a dark grey.
The courtyard and stairs were painted with the same color.

The entire model with the exception of the roof and the grass (though it is fine to let some of the textured paint blend out onto the grass) was painted with Scorched Brown mixed with a small amount of fine sand to provide a textured ground for the rest of the painting. The roof was given a coat of Scorched Brown without the sand. The remaining colors were painted in successively lighter coats using a technique called drybrushing. Basically, the brush is dipped into the paint and wiped over a paper towel before lightly being drawn across the model. It's always better to have too little paint on the brush than too much since you can go over the same area several times to build up the color. Dark Flesh was carefully applied to the entire model including the roof. Bestial Brown and Bubonic Brown were painted on the walls (Bubonic Brown is a golden tone and was also lightly brushed on the grass in spots to add variety) and earth areas and finally Bleached Bone was applied only to the walls. The roof was given light highlights of dark red and orange. Then the rocks and courtyard were painted dark grey and highlighted first with the midtone and then sparingly with the light grey.

The first highlight is applied to all of the earth sections, the building,
and the roof. Paint is applied roughly so that some of the base will still show.

The rocks are highlighted with a mid-tone grey that brings out the detail.

The second highlight is warmer and applied only to the earth and walls.

The third highlight is again applied to the earth and walls.
Each coat is applied a little lighter than before. You can really see the texture starting to pop!

The fourth highlight is almost white and is applied only to the building
so it will stand out from the earth around it.

The last steps are details. I picked out the door in dark tones and painted the metal as dark iron. I painted a few model accessories like a barrel and wheelbarrow and simply set those in the courtyard. Finally to add a last layer of variety and texture to the hill, I painted on patches of white glue and sprinkled static grass. You continue this process for as long as you like, adding shrubs or small trees to the slope, random bits of fencing, or anything else you can dream up, for my purposes the model was finished!

The roof is highlighted with red and finally very lightly with orange.
Note the broken tiles in the foreground by the wall. These are painted to match the roof.
When all of the paint is dry I add one more layer of detail with scattered static grass. Next week we'll look at a few more pics of the finished model!

Friday, December 13, 2013

I wanna tell you a story.. Tales with toy soldiers - INCIDENTS

A grenade explodes!

Barry Hilton - Things that have just happened are great for vignette pieces whether these are used for command bases or integral to a unit. I try as much as possible not to resort to heavy conversion work for several reasons;

If done quickly they can often look wrong. If too complex they can be fragile and thus your heart skips a beat every time someone picks them up or manhandles them. This is one of the situations I want to avoid most. The last thing you want to do is get mad at a well intentioned friend who is a bit careless. We all know that feeling when a piece of treasured work is accidentally damaged. You want to sound magnanimous whilst suppressing the desire to shout loud and angrily! It is often as bad if you are the offender. You wish the floor would open up and swallow you and profuse apology sounds really pathetic. So avoid fragile constructions wherever possible!

Heavy conversions also take time and often the effort put in is hidden amongst a mass of other detail. Finally but not the least important, I am pretty poor at sculpting and using putties so 'the less of that I do the better' is my motto.

The power and impact often comes from the idea not the real detail. Imagining something interesting and modelling it will make the most impact with the casual observer. People crawling all over the figure checking button numbers or hat trim are missing the point.

This 60 x 60mm base is part of a Swedish unit which I wanted to use both in Flanders fighting for the Dutch and in the early Great Northern War. An explosive device; grenade or mortar shell has exploded in the advancing ranks. A musketeer is thrown backwards, another side ways a third is already on the ground. There is no conversion work here only bending one figure way back off the vertical and appropriate painting of the others. The explosion is steel wool anchored in a milliput crater. The earth thrown up into the air was put their by daubing diluted PVA into the explosion after painting and dipping into the sand tray. Run a dark ink was over those areas afterwards to produce the clods of earth. The positioning of the figures and flags is all important to the overall effect.

This 75 x 80mm stand of Jacobite cavalry shows a wounded trooper newly unhorsed in a charge. A dead enemy infantryman lies in front of his fallen mount. The Jacobite trooper examines his wounded foot and his bloody boot stands stuck in the mud to his right. A comrade charges by shouting and cheering in the charge. The only real conversion here is the dead horse. Cut from its base with the legs compressed down. A deal of filing its right side flat to sit evenly on the base was needed. The boot in the mud comes from an old booted leg on a spare figure. The mounted trooper has his sword replaced with a cavalry standard. The groundwork around the fallen mount depicts wet mud using some gloss varnish over the low highlight paint job.

The fallen rider motif is one I have had great use out of. Here are two other examples one using Foundry models representing Bavarian cuirassiers the other with Swedish GNW cavalry. The wounded rider is a Redoubt ECW torso with a grafted Foundry head.

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