Eighteenth century 40mm figures for sale in New Zealand

In case any of my New Zealand-based followers are interested, I have decided to sell two lots of my 40mm figures on TradeMe (our version of eBay).

They came from Triguard Miniatures, and were painted and individually based by me. They are both 18th century sets: British grenadiers and French gardes, as per the photos on this posting.

New Zealanders can access the TradeMe auctions here:

https://www.trademe.co.nz/a/marketplace/toys-models/other/listing/3973174057

https://www.trademe.co.nz/a/marketplace/gaming/war-games/other/listing/3973181155

Napoleon’s ghost writes wargaming rules with the help of a crazy AI

There’s been a lot of talk lately about artificial intelligence. Apparently it can do all sorts of things, from producing an essay or technical document, to writing a letter from your family pet requesting more ball-playing time (I know the latter is true, as we … er, my son’s dog … did it!). But if it can do all this sort of fancy stuff, could AI put writers of wargaming rules out of a job?

As a bit of fun this evening, my son and I opened his ChatGPT programme and requested it to write us a set of Napoleonic wargaming rules. Not only did ChatGPT write a set of rules in both serious and humourous versions, but it then took over writing the intro to this blog posting as well! Let’s hand over to ChatGPT (which also came up with the title of this posting, by the way!):

I never thought I would be getting wargaming advice from a ghost, let alone one of the most famous military leaders in history. But that’s exactly what happened when I stumbled upon the OpenAI GPT-3 model and asked it to write me some rules for Napoleonic wargaming.

At first, I was skeptical. I mean, how accurate could a computer program be at writing rules for a hobby that requires a human touch? But as I read through the rules, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only were they technically sound, but they were also infused with a touch of humor and personality.

The AI even included some unique ideas and special abilities for units, like elite units having a higher morale and the ability to re-roll failed morale checks, or skirmishers being able to move and shoot in the same turn. I never would have thought of those on my own!

But the real cherry on top was when the AI included a command points system and even suggested using pizza as a bribe to replenish them. I mean, who doesn’t love pizza?

Of course, as with any rules written by a computer program, there were a few quirks and inconsistencies. But overall, I was impressed by the level of detail and creativity displayed by the AI. I even contemplated using the rules for my next wargaming session, but then I remembered that I’ll be playing with my friends and they might not appreciate the humor and the idea of using pizza as a bribe.

I have to say, it was a pretty wild and funny experience, and I never thought I’d be getting wargaming advice from a ghost, let alone one of the most famous military leaders in history, but the AI certainly didn’t disappoint. Who knows, maybe Napoleon himself helped out a bit from the afterlife.

In any case, I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on the future developments of AI in the hobby of wargaming, and I might even consider asking Napoleon for advice again in the future.

Anyway, here’s ChatGPT’s Napoleonic wargaming rules (humourous version):

Welcome to the world of Napoleonic wargaming, where the only thing more exciting than the battles is the arguments over whose dice are loaded. You’ll be using miniature soldiers to represent different units on the battlefield, and your goal is to make sure your side comes out on top. Or at least, that’s what you’ll tell your friends when you lose.

First off, let’s talk about the units you’ll be using. Each unit has a certain number of figures, which represents its strength. Unless you’re playing with those tiny plastic soldiers, then it represents how many you can fit in your pocket. Each unit also has its own set of stats, like movement speed, firepower, and morale. These stats can be found on a roster sheet or a reference card, or if you’re like me, scribbled on a napkin in crayon.

When it comes to movement, you’ll be using a tape measure or ruler to move your units around the battlefield. Standard infantry units can move up to 6 inches per turn, unless you’re playing with those tiny plastic soldiers, then they just kind of roll around in your hand. Keep in mind that some units have special abilities that can affect movement, like light infantry being able to move through difficult terrain without penalty. Or just falling in between the cracks in the table.

Combat is where the real action happens! Players take turns moving and attacking with their units. You’ll be rolling dice to resolve combat, and the outcome will be affected by the units’ stats and the situation on the battlefield. And also by how much you’ve had to drink. Don’t forget that morale is super important – if a unit suffers heavy casualties or gets charged by the enemy, they might rout and have to run away. Or just lay down and play dead, pretending to be a casualty.

Now, let’s talk about some of the special abilities or unique characteristics that certain units might have. Elite units like the Old Guard or Grenadiers might have a higher morale and be able to re-roll failed morale checks. Which is just fancy talk for “they’re too stubborn to run away.” Skirmishers can move and shoot in the same turn, which is great if you’re trying to get away from your significant other. Light infantry can move through difficult terrain without penalty, but they’ll probably still complain about it. And Heavy cavalry like cuirassiers will have a higher charge bonus, but they’ll also have a higher chance of falling off their horses and making a fool of themselves.

We also have a command points system, where each player starts with a certain number of command points (let’s say 10) and can spend them to activate special abilities, call for reinforcements, or rally routing units. Command points are replenished at the end of each turn, or when you bribe your opponent with pizza.

That’s a quick overview of the rules, but keep in mind there’s a lot more to it and lot of interesting ideas that can be added as well, like leader figures, random events, and supply system. So don’t forget to bring snacks, because wargaming is a serious business. If you have any questions or anything is unclear, just let me know!

Please note that this is a fictional and humorous way of writing the rules, but it’s important to mention that it’s important for a wargame to be played in a serious and respectful manner.

Now, back to me (Roly).

Here’s a Word document containing the complete conversation we had with ChatGPT to come up with these rules, and including some less light-hearted versions of them.

Whilst the above AI-created wargaming rules are probably not actually playable as written, they are getting pretty close. The whole conversation, including the rules themselves, only took about ten minutes. So spending another hour or too giving ChatGPT some tighter specifications for more specific rules might result in an actual usable ruleset – or certainly one that could be made playable by a few minutes of additional fine-tuning by a human writer.

Though I do note that ChatGPT already writes a much more interesting and funny blog post than I can do!

PS: The header image of Napoleon writing this set of rules on a computer is also AI-created!

Trying out Valour & Fortitude

A set of new Napoleonic rules? Ingeniously simple rules? Only eight pages (and that includes the front cover and a quick reference sheet!)? Written by wargames legends Jervis Johnson, Alan Perry and Michael Perry? And continuously supported and updated by them? Hmm, intriguing. Oh, and they’re completely free. Wow, how could I resist?!

Yep, Jervis Johnson and the Perry twins released their free downloadable Valour & Fortitude rules late last year. Of course, I snapped them up straight away. But although I have loads of Napoleonic troops, I don’t have a wargames table. So despite enjoying reading through the rules, I couldn’t actually play a game to test how they worked. Until the other day, that is …

My pal Scott Bowman (owner of Kapiti Hobbies) has a very well-equipped wargames room with three tables and an exquisite set of scratch-built terrain tiles. So with a minimum of arm-twisting, I persuaded Scott to host a Valour & Fortitude game at his place. We roped in a few of our gaming friends (thanks Bryan, Richard and Ste!) to help push the lead round the table, and so last Sunday afternoon we were finally ready to test the rules in earnest.

Our game was very loosely set during the Peninsula War. I say loosely as we included some troop types that were never even in Spain. But this was to be a fun game intended mainly to test the rules, not a serious historical reenactment. In any case, our little group’s overall gaming philosophy has never been particularly restricted to only follow historical orders of battle.

Many years ago I scratch-built a series of small Spanish-style buildings, so our test-game’s Peninsular setting also provided me with the opportunity of taking them out of the back of my cupboard and seeing the light of day!

With four players, we settled on a game with just over 200 points a side. This enabled us all to field a couple of brigades each on our 8’x6′ table. I was able to supply all the 28mm troops we needed, which was to be fought between the French and the Anglo-Portuguese. The above photo shows both the forces set up in our staging area (though in the end we had three artillery bases on each side instead of the five shown in the pic).

I’m not going to give you a detailed battle report here. Rather, I just want to sum up how we found these new rules. But if you do want a battle report, along with seeing and hearing how we handled the rules in real-time action, take a look at Scott’s video.

So, were the Valour & Fortitude rules actually ‘ingeniously simple’ as they are described on the cover? Did they work well? Did they give us an enjoyable game that felt right for the period? Did we like these rules enough to use them again? Would we recommend them?

These are all tough questions to ask after just one game. So bear in mind the following thoughts are very much just my first impressions. But first impressions do count!

Is Valour & Fortitude the ‘ingenious simple’ ruleset as it claims to be?

There were indeed aspects that seemed ingenious to us. One of the most obvious was that unlike many ‘you go, I go’ games, in Valour & Fortitude fire comes before movement. For us, this reversal overturned the way we usually thought about our wargames tactics. We had to think carefully about whether our units would fire and make assaults, or hold off their fire so they could manouevre for longer distances and/or make formation changes.

Another ingenious mechanism is that only one unit can take the lead in firing at an enemy unit, with additional dice added for any other units that can support that fire. This simplified the whole firing process, so that rather than individually sorting out each unit’s firing, we could whip through an entire army’s firing phase very quickly and efficiently.

The same ‘lead unit and supports’ mechanism is also used for melees, and once again simplifies what can sometimes be a very convoluted process in other horse and musket rules.

If a unit accrues hits up to its ‘tenacity’ rating, it is regarded as ‘shaken’, and for every further hit over and above that rating it has to undertake a morale test called a Valour test. When a unit becomes shaken or routs, it also causes a ‘setback’ token to be given to their brigade commander.

Once a brigade commander accrues three setback tokens, his whole brigade is regarded as ‘wavering’. Any subsequent setbacks require the wavering brigade to take a so-called Fortitude test, which could result in the whole brigade being shattered.

It is fair to say that the above Valour and Fortitude tests caused us the most initial confusion. They take a bit to get your head round, but once you get the hang of them, these tests again are remarkably ingenious and simple. Though we did decide that we need to work out a better system than we used for marking the hits, shaken units, setbacks and wavering brigades, but without cluttering Scott’s beautiful terrain with too many unsightly markers and tokens.

So, is Valour & Fortitude ‘ingeniously simple’? I would say yes, despite some initial puzzling through some aspects in our first and only game so far. We thought that with another read-through of the rules after this first experience of using them, everything would become clear. Furthermore, there appear to be lots of nuances that will result in more challenging games once we are more familiar with the basics of how the rules work.

Did the rules work well?

I mentioned above that the writers continuously support and update these rules. So by the time we got to test them, they were up to version 1.5. Being an online ruleset and only a few pages long, keeping your copy updated is simply a matter of downloading the latest version. These updates meant that many of the bugs and clarifications that any new set of rules tends to have were likely to be fixed by the time we tried them out.

We found these rules got us into combat quickly, rather than spending the first hour just moving into contact. Firing and melees were also quick and easy. Our game only lasted a few hours, but we got to a clear conclusion with one side the winner – though it was a toss-up right till the end as to which side would win (for the record, it was the Anglo-Portuguese, of which I was one of the commanders!).

The core rules are supplemented by a number of special unit rules and a set of fate cards, which are included in the various army sheets (also supplied free on the Valour & Fortitude website). So strictly speaking, I guess these rules aren’t really just eight pages long as you also need these army sheets – but they are still pretty concise compared to most other rulesets.

I did read a review somewhere that the one-page quick reference sheet that comes with the rules is a little hard to follow, as it merges tables for things you need to know during different phases of a turn. Little Wars TV have therefore produced a more logically sequenced QRS, but it is based on an earlier version of Valour & Fortitude, and is adapted for smaller games. So I further adapted the Little Wars QRS to match version 1.5 of the rules, and it worked fine for us. You can download my revised QRS below.

Did these rules give us an enjoyable game that felt right for the period?

Well, we definitely enjoyed ourselves. The rules weren’t as frustrating as sometimes new sets can be. It was relatively simple to look up things if required (though we did comment that even such a short set of rules could do with a short alphabetical index of the main points to help find things quickly in the heat of battle).

As for Napoleonic feel, the narrative that developed as our game progressed seemed quite in keeping with our (admittedly non-expert) understanding of the period.

Did we like these rules enough to use them again?

We all agreed that these were an immensely playable set of Napoleonic rules. We just need another game or two to really get them under our belts, and then they should become almost intuitive to play. So, yes, we will definitely play Valour & Fortitude again.

And would we recommend them? I guess that depends on what sort of player you are. I suspect these rules may be a smidgen too ‘ingeniously simple’ for some of the true grognards amongst us. But if you want a simple and enjoyable set of Napoleonic rules that has the right overall feel, that enable you to play a game from go to whoa within a few hours, and that are well-supported by three designers who have immense street-cred in the wargaming community, give Valour & Fortitude a go.

Anyway, even if after trying out these completely free rules you find they’re not your cup of tea, you’ll never regret how much you had to spend on them!

A train to go with my boats and planes

OK, OK, OK, I know. Another painting pictures post, rather than about wargaming! Don’t worry, I am working on getting a separate site up for my paintings, I promise! But until then I need to share this blog across my two hobbies.

Anyways …

Up till now, I have painted mainly boats and planes. But with Burt Bacharach’s song ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ ringing in my head, I just had to broaden my scope from aviation and marine painting to include railways!

I wanted to start local, so decided to paint one of the resplendent old locomotives that have been restored by Steam Inc in Paekākāriki (the next town to where I live).

A wee bit of internet searching resulted in this great photo from New Zealand transport publisher, TranspressNZ. Steam Inc’s Class Ka locomotive is pictured climbing the grade from Paekākāriki to Pukerua Bay, hauling an excursion train of restored carriages in their former New Zealand Railways brick-red livery.

As with all my paintings, I started with a computer mock-up to work out the composition of my painting. I wanted it to be closer-in than the photo. I also shifted the iconic Kāpiti Island to ensure it fitted in frame (amazing what you can do with artistic licence, moving a whole island several kilometers!).

Although not done in my mock-up, I realised that during the painting process I would need to move that obtrusive catenary post that was cutting the tender in half.

The actual painting process went quite well. You can follow my progress through the above slideshow.

I was surprised at how effective the light on the locomotive came out. It seemed counter-intuitive to start painting a black engine white. Likewise, the white sunlight on the sea came out better than I expected.

I did have a little trouble with the perspective of the line of carriages as they rounded the curve. But I am happy with how they have turned out.

This is the first time I have painted a train. Railway buffs will no doubt to be able to pick up many errors, as I know nothing about how a steam engine works, and so have no real idea where all the pipes, valves and pistons should go! But hopefully the overall impression is OK.

Based on a photo from Transpress New Zealand. Acrylic on canvas, 25×50 cms.

My painting of two colonial New Zealand Wars gunboats

I know I only posted about my painting of Captain Cook’s ‘Endeavour’ yesterday, but I have got a little behind with my blogging and there is one more painting to report on.

This is a painting of the gunboat ‘Avon’ (which could be regarded as New Zealand’s first steam-powered warship) towing the iron-clad gunboat-barge ‘Midge’. These vessels were part of Waikato River Flotilla that took part in the invasion of the Waikato district of the North Island in 1863-64.

The invasion of the Waikato was the largest and most important campaign of the 19th-century colonial New Zealand Wars. Hostilities took place between the military forces of the colonial government and a federation of Māori tribes known as the Kingitanga Movement. The invasion was aimed at crushing Kingite power (which European settlers saw as a threat to colonial authority) and also at driving Waikato Māori from their territory in readiness for occupation and settlement by European colonists.

The colonial forces were aided by the large flotilla of vessels operating on the Waikato River and its tributaries. The flotilla comprised shallow draught boats, including gunboats and barges for transporting troops and supplies, as the front line moved progressively south.

Before we look at how I went about paining my picture, here’s a quick look at the finished item.

We see the little paddle-steamer ‘Avon’ of 40 tons, 60 feet in length, and drawing 3 feet of water. She had been trading out of Lyttelton before being purchased by the government for conversion into an armoured steamer. Iron plates with loopholes were bolted inside her bulwarks, and the wheel was enclosed with an iron house. A wooden blockhouse-like structure was added later abaft the funnel to provide more protection. ‘Avon’ was armed with a 12-pounder Armstrong in the bows, as well as several rocket tubes.

‘Midge’ was one of four gunboat-barges, each 30 feet to 35 feet in length. They had been open fore-decked cutters in Auckland Harbour. They were armoured with lengths of bar iron, and in the bows of each boat was a gun-platform for a 12-pounder. Troops and supplies were put into these barges, which were towed up the rivers by steamers.

The basis for my painting is a plan view of ‘Avon’ draughted by Harry Duncan in Grant Middlemiss’s excellent book The Waikato River Gunboats.

I have previously built a small model of the ‘Avon’, using a plastic toy as a template. Whilst not completely accurate (for example, the paddle boxes are quite different) it gives a general impression of what she would have looked like.

For the background I decided to base my painting on this moody water-colour of the Waipa River by 19th-century artist Frank Wright. The Waipa was one of the Waikato River’s tributaries used by ‘Avon’ during the campaign. I’ve never visited this area, so it was important to have some reference material to ensure I captured the look and feel of the river.

Before touching any paints, I did a lot of planning with a graphics program on my computer. I photographed my little model, and superimposed it onto the Wright water-colour. I then used the program’s tools to mock up some reflections and smoke, and to add a Māori warrior on the bank. Doing this allowed me to play around with the sizing and placement of the various components until I was completely happy with the composition.

The grid was to help me transfer the finished layout onto my much larger canvas. I simply used charcoal to draw a grid of exactly the same proportions onto my canvas, and then carefully copied the contents of each square. Much easier and more accurate than trying to copy the whole picture at once!

The above slideshow takes you step-by-step through my painting process, starting with the rough background that I did with a house-painter’s brush, and finishing with the final fully detailed rendition.

So here she is, the gunboat ‘Avon’, complete with captain and crew. For figures I paint a white silhouette first, then colour it in using Games Workshop Contrast paints (I wonder if Games Workshop realise that artists could be a huge untapped market for their model paints!).

And here’s ‘Midge’ with its commander, Midshipman Foljambe. He later went on to become Governor-General of New Zealand. ‘Midge’s’ gun is behind the iron doors at the bow.

Two Māori warriors hide on the bank, waiting for their chance to take some potshots at the gunboats. Volleys from the bank were a constant danger, and in February 1864 Lieutenant William Mitchell was shot and killed as he stood on ‘Avon’s’ paddle box.

Unlike my ‘Endeavour’, a ship that has been painted many times by loads of artists, I suspect this is the only large painting in existence of either ‘Avon’ or ‘Midge’ (though they do appear in smaller size in some contemporary pictures and on the cover of Middlemiss’s book).

I’ve already had a bit of interest in my painting, but I don’t want to sell it. So I am currently investigating how to get art-quality prints produced for sale.

Endeavouring to paint the good ship Endeavour

I’ve taken some time off from wargaming to do more picture painting again! My latest effort is His Majesty’s Bark ‘Endeavour’, famous for being Captain James Cook’s ship on his first circumnavigation of the world from 1768 to 1771.

Although a king’s ship, the Endeavour was no graceful thoroughbred like the naval frigates and sloops of the time. She was a former coastal collier, chosen for her broad voluminous hull so as to fit the huge amount of storage and accommodation needed for a long voyage of exploration. In modern terms, to an 18th-century sailor she would’ve been the equivalent of a clunky modern container ship compared to a dashing destroyer or cruiser!

For my reference picture I used this photo I found on the internet of the modern replica of Endeavour, built in 1988-94. This replica had been exhaustively researched for historical accuracy during its construction, so I felt it would give me an authentic model to base my painting upon. Especially as I am not a sailor, so I had no idea how the rigging and sails would be set up at any particular time.

The above slideshow depicts the stages I went through to paint my picture. I started with the basic seascape that would form the background, then built up the main shapes of the ship and its sails, layer by layer. The final stages were to add texturing and detailing, including painstakingly drawing in the ropes of the rigging.

My experience painting model soldiers was a useful skill when it came to adding some crew members to my Endeavour. I even used Games Workshop’s Contrast paints to colour my figures, the same as I do for wargaming miniatures!

You can see a red-coated marine standing at the stern, a couple of officers (maybe including Captain Cook himself!) near the wheel, a lookout hanging onto the shrouds, another officer addressing the bosun, and three matelots doing something sailory at the bow.

And here’s the finished painting (click on the image to get a closer view).

I am especially proud of the sea, which somehow managed to successfully convey the colour, shape and movement I was after. I’ve also had some nice compliments about the shading and highlighting of the wind-filled sails, and of course all those finnicky lines of rigging.

My renaissance cavalry

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I have been building a renaissance-era landsknecht army. This despite the fact I know next to nothing about either the renaissance or landsknechts! So my accuracy is likely to be suspect, but the overall look of my army fits what I imagine for the period … and that is enough for me.

Anyway, I wanted some cavalry to support my pike blocks of landknechts. I had no real idea of what sort of cavalry would have taken this role, but had in mind knights with long skirts and lots of plumes, but not with the heraldic surcoats worn in earlier medieval times.

As this army is really just a kind of doodling project, lying outside my main interest areas, I also didn’t want to spend too much on my figures! So I settled on a box of Perry Miniatures plastic mounted men-at-arms.

The Perry figures are designed for the Wars of the Roses period, which is a little earlier than what I wanted. But with a little basic conversion, I thought they could be ‘updated’ sufficiently to achieve the look I was after.

The first thing was to do a few head-swaps. I had plenty of spare landsknecht heads from the Warlord Games sets I had previously assembled. Adding a few floppy hats and bearded faces amongst the Perry helmets quickly gave a more renaissance feel to the figures.

I wanted some of the figures to have the long full skirts that you often see in pictures of renaissance knights. So I got somewhat ambitious (for me) and tried a little Green Stuff conversion work.

I’ve never really worked much with Green Stuff modelling putty before. But I was quite pleased with the results of my ham-fisted sculpting efforts, some of which you can see in the above picture!

Painting my cavalrymen was fun, as each figure could be painted in a different way. The end result was a cavalcade of riotous colours – exactly what I was after!

Here are all twelves of the figures, with bases sanded and textured. The flag came with the Perry box.

I was thinking of maybe changing the plain wood colour of the lances (which, by the way, were a Deus Vult product) to painted ones. But looking through pictures of renaissance period battles, coloured lances didn’t appear to be too common in combat.

Perry figures are always beautifully sculpted and animated. There’s a real sense of movement in those horses, even with all the metal they are carrying.

Finally, here’s the last view a poor foot-soldier might have as my armoured cavalry gallop out of the sun and ride him down.

More paintings of ships and planes

I’ve been doing more painting … but painting paintings, not miniatures! Well actually that isn’t quite true, as I have actually been painting miniatures as well, but they’ll be the topic of another posting.

As I develop into the hobby of painting pictures, I’m finding that I am increasingly drawn to ships and planes. I’ve already featured a few of these in earlier postings on this blog.

So let’s look at my latest efforts.

I came across a picture of a sailing ship against a sunset on an old CD cover, and thought that it would make a wonderful subject for a painting. But I also wanted my picture to tell a story.

So this is HMS Herald in 1840, sailing off Kāpiti Island on the west coast of New Zealand. She was taking Major Thomas Bunbury of the 80th Regiment around New Zealand to get as many Māori chiefs as possible to sign a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi (an agreement between the British Crown and Māori).

Off Kāpiti Island the Herald met the canoe of famed chief Te Rauparaha, who came on board and signed the treaty (actually, he signed it twice, because unknown to Bunbury, he had already signed previously!).

I was quite pleased with how the frigate came out, especially the translucence of the sails back-lit by the sunset. Though that sunset is pure artistic licence, as I don’t think the meeting between Bunbury and Te Rauparaha would have occurred in the evening!

I learned one valuable lesson from doing this painting. If you are going to tell a story, make sure the subject of that story is large enough to see. My Māori canoes are so small that some viewers don’t even see them until I point them out!

Above you can see a slideshow showing the stages of completing this painting.

My next painting is also a scene from New Zealand’s nautical history. It depicts the ships of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, the war-yacht Heemskerck (right) and the smaller fluyt Zeehaen (left).

In 1642 Tasman was the first European to sight the shores of New Zealand. But he never landed, after a cultural misunderstanding led to four of his sailors in a ship’s boat being killed by Māori.

Painting the ornate stern of the Heemskerck was an enjoyable challenge, in which my experience of painting miniature figures really helped.

I chose to show the Heemskerck with its top-masts cropped off. I feel this makes the picture more dramatic than if I had portrayed the entire ship.

I’ve had lots of compliments about my portrayal of the sea. I was trying to get the effect of the sun glinting on the swells.

I’m also really pleased with how the fat little fluyt Zeehaen came out in the background!

Above are the stages I went through to paint these two ships.

This painting is based on an old Air New Zealand publicity photo I came across, which I figured would make an unusual painting. I must admit I was as much taken by the wonderful Morris van as with the plane itself!

I am particularly pleased with the metallic effect on the plane’s engines. This was a case of trial and error, and there are many coats of paint under the engines, each one unsuccessful until I came up with final effect.

In researching this painting, I found out more information than anyone could ever need to know about as prosaic a subject as air-stairs! For those interested, these stairs (with their natty Cadillac-style wings) were made by Hastings-Deering.

My wife worked for many years as a cabin crew member for Air New Zealand. Though I hasten to add that she isn’t old enough to have worked on this DC8 in the 1960s!

Above you can see how the DC8 picture was put together.

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Finally, here is a sneak peek at my next painting. Once again, a part of New Zealand’s marine history – Her Majesty’s Bark Endeavour – the ship that Captain James Cook sailed round the coast of New Zealand in 1769.

This is still a work in progress, as the sails and rigging needs lots more work. It is also the largest work I have endeavoured to do so far (see what I did there?!) – at 28 inches across, it is twice the size of my other works.

An unplanned landsknecht army that came from nowhere!

This is kind of weird, as I never planned to build a 16th century landsknecht army. I don’t know much about the period, I have never played any games in this era, and I have no-one particularly interested in building up opponents for this army.

Nevertheless, I now find that I have sort of organically reared a moderately sized landsknecht army.

It all started with one freebie sprue of Warlord Games’ plastic landsknecht pikeman. I painted them up on a whim, and then thought, ‘Why not buy one box just to see what a pike block looks like?’

Then the one pike block grew to two, then three. And when a fellow gamer mentioned a joint club order to Old Glory, I couldn’t resist seeing how a pike block of their more animated metal landsknecht figures would look in comparison to the rather staid poses of the Warlord plastics.

Along the way I realized I also needed some hand-gunners, then some zweihänder (two-handed) swordsmen and halberdiers, a cannon, some generals … and before I knew it, a landsknecht army had grown from no-where!

So for your delectation, here are some pictures of my latest additions to this unplanned army.

I mentioned above that I had been curious to see the animation of the Old Glory landsknechts. I had heard these were one of the better ranges that Old Glory put out, and I must say I was indeed quite impressed when I received them.

Apart from a couple of the officer poses that looked over-animated to my eye, the figures in general looked pretty realistic. And boy did they convey the famous panache of that slashed and be-ribboned landsknecht clothing!

I think I must have dipped my brush into every paint-pot I own to paint these guys, and even then mixed a few additional colours myself. I am really pleased at the resulting spectacular mélange of different hues and tones.

My painting style is pretty impressionistic. So from close-up the figures look a bit messy, but they do really pop when you stand back to normal tabletop height.

I rather like the officer in red in the above picture. The flags were made from images I found on the web.

This wee fifer is one of my favourite of the Old Glory figures. He looks like he has stepped right out of a renaissance-period print. Again, my slap-dash paint style is obvious here (from the GW Contrast paints that I like to use).

Above is the third of the Warlord Games pike blocks I painted. I intended that this regiment might hail from Bavaria, thus the blue and white flags. But to tell the truth I don’t know how realistic this is (as I said, I don’t know much about the period). But it is cool to look at, and that’s all I want!

For those intrigued to know how Warlord Games and Old Glory landsknechts match up, here are a couple of comparison close-ups.

As you can see, the faces of the Warlord figures are very realistic, even with no more than just a single wash of GW Contrast flesh paint. The poses are quite static, but look very natural.

Meanwhile the Old Glory figures have very active poses, and their clothing is much fuller and more flamboyant. I had to drill their hands to take the pikes (which are plastic spears from Fireforge Games). Their faces are not quite so finely sculpted, but still capture the look of the period.

A group of halberdiers, also from Warlord. The right arms are made out of metal, so they were a bugger to attach to the plastic figures. In the end I had to pin them, which was a bit of work. But I am pleased with the result.

These figures are from the same box as the halberdiers, but equipped with the plastic zweihänder swords, so a cinch to glue on compared to the halberds.

And of course I needed some handgunners. These are mainly by Warlord, but there are a couple of Steel Fist Miniatures metal gunner in there as well.

The handgunners look great defending this scratch-built farmhouse.

The cannon is by Steel Fist Miniatures. I like the way the figures are posed pushing the gun into position (though I imagine such a large gun would actually take more than just two men to move!).

Winners of the big hat competition are these two generals, the only mounted figures in my army so far.

I am currently mulling over what type of cavalry I should get. I don’t want to go overboard (famous last words?!), so just one unit. But should they be heavily armoured gens-d’armes, or maybe some lightly armoured pistol-wielding reiters?

Flying the friendly skies of Kent and Antarctica

I think I will have to divide this blog into two soon, as I am now posting about two disparate hobbies since taking up painting pictures in addition to my original pastime of wargaming.

However, I guess today’s posting may just pass muster, as one of the subjects of my latest paintings is indeed military: an LC-130 Hercules of the United States Navy. By the way, the initial ‘L’ in the name refers to the fact it is a C-130 that is ski-equipped – how they got the ‘L’ out of ski-equipped, I don’t know!

I took this photo back in 1976 when I was employed as a mess attendant at McMurdo Station, Antarctica (I have previously posted about my time there).

This was one of three LC-130 Hercules aircraft that were recovered after they all suffered severe damage during attempted takeoffs from an isolated part of Antarctica called Dome Charlie. Following major structural repairs and replacement of engines in the field, the three LC-130s were flown to McMurdo, with 319, the last one, arriving back on Christmas Day, 1976.

I must say that I always wondered about the cost-benefit ratio of sending a team of engineers to one of the most inhospitable places on Earth to recover what were essentially just dime-a-dozen transport aircraft. I have heard a theory it was because the Americans were worried about the Russians obtaining the secret of the retractable skis – but surely it was something less prosaic than that?! Maybe there is a good wargaming scenario to be found in this story?!

For my painting I moved a mountain! I wanted a more interesting background than in my photo, so I added in Mt Erebus, with its wisp of smoke and halo of cloud. This isn’t entirely fantastical, as in real-life the volcano can actually be seen from the runway. It is just that from the angle I took my photo, it wasn’t in frame.

I also wanted something in the foreground, and what better than contrasting the modern with the old in Antarctic transport. This dog team would have come from New Zealand’s nearby Scott Base, as the Americans didn’t use dogs at this time. Nowadays you won’t find any dogs in Antarctica at all, after a clause added to the Antarctic Treaty in 1994 required non-native species to be removed. Dogs could potentially spread distemper to the native seals of Antarctica.

The above slideshow demonstrates the process I used to paint my picture. As with all my paintings, I used acrylic paints on stretched canvas.

Now let’s move from freezing Antarctica to the sunny skies of a summer’s day in Kent, England! Early in his flying career, my late father-in-law was a pilot for Skyways of London, based at Lympne Airfield just out of Hythe. I wanted to paint another of the aircraft he flew (I have previously posted a painting I did of his Constellation).

I came across this photo of a Skyways DC3 in Issue 19 of The Aviation Historian. Of course, there is no mention of who was piloting this aircraft on the day – but there is no reason it mightn’t have been my father-in-law! And I loved the view of the lane and farm buildings. So I just had to paint it.

The article included some great shots of the sky-blue-and-white Skyways colour scheme. That’s a lovely fuel tanker too – maybe another painting one day …

Funnily enough, my father-in-law eventually returned to flying DC3s after a long career flying jet airliners, piloting an old DC3 air-freighter backwards and forwards across New Zealand’s Cook Strait for his semi-retirement!

Again, here’s a slideshow that depicts how I put my painting together.

I’ve been asked several times if my paintings are for sale. But just as with my wargaming models, I have an aversion to selling what I put so much soul and effort into creating! However, I am investigating the process for getting art-quality prints made.