Basing the Barryat of Lyndonia’s big battalions

Whilst waiting for an overdue shipment of figures to complete my current painting project (hopefully just held up by the international supply chain issues at the moment) I have done something I have been meaning to do for some time now – rebasing the regiments of my 18th century ‘imagi-nation’, the Barryat of Lyndonia.

When I first began painting the various foreign contingents that make up the Barryat’s army, I was inspired by the big battalions in old wargaming books like Charge! Or How To Play Wargames, with large regiments of several companies of fusiliers and grenadiers being led by figures depicting the officers and NCOs.

I achieved the look I wanted by combining six-figure bases for the soldiers with single bases for their officers, standard-bearers, NCOs and drummers.

But whilst this certainly looked good, it made the units very fiddly to set up and move on the table. So I decided to try something different.

I have now introduced a new basing system that I hope retains that same nostalgic look, but that is much easier to handle and manoeuvre. By using 40x60mm bases, I can fit two ranks of privates with the supernumeries marching in front and behind.

For flexibility, I have kept the standards on separate bases. These bases are narrow, but still as deep as the main bases, which means they line up perfectly when incorporated in their parent unit.

The flag-bases also work perfectly fine when the standard bearers are out of the line, albeit the long narrow bases are a rather odd shape.

I cheated a bit with rebasing, as I didn’t remove all the figures from their existing bases, but merely glued the existing six-figure bases on top of the new bases. As both the old and the new bases were quite thin, the combined height was still acceptable to me.

I then built up the terrain to blend the bases in. Although you can still just make out the line of the old bases (as in this French regiment), it isn’t too obvious.

I did un-base the supernumeries from their old single bases though, such as the officers and standard-bearers in this picture. But as there weren’t so many of them, this wasn’t too onerous a task.

Another advantage of rebasing was that it helped solve a problem I had with charging figures, whose muskets stuck well out in front of the old bases, and were in danger of being bent or broken. The new deeper bases will give them some extra protection frm clumsy fingers.

By the way, for the above picture of a re-based Irish regiment in French service I lined them up on a textured plank that I sometimes use for photographing my miniatures. But note that that plank isn’t part of the basing.

As you can see here, the effect of the drummers and sergeants trailing behind the line gives a great effect.

Likewise, having the officers stand out in front adds an extra dimension. This worked particularly well with my Gardes Françaises, with the officer stepping out to politely doff his hat to the enemy.

For the Gardes Françaises, I massed the drums together to form a ‘drum corps’ standing behind the line. But with all my other regiments, which are organised in a totally fictional way of three companies of 18 privates, each company has its own drummer.

One of the reasons for the separate flags is because I wanted to be able to capture the idiosyncratic way that flags are deployed in the movie Barry Lyndon. For example, in the movie the Prussian regiment carries three flags together that actually belonged to three different regiments.

But if I prefer to pose them as a real-life regiment, I can just remove the flag-bases I don’t need.

Anther advantage of the separate flag-bases is if I choose to play a game using smaller regiments, I can just divide the unit into two, and give each half a flag. Simples!

My light troops had also used the same size bases as the line regiment, but with only three figures per base. I again just glued the old bases on top new 40×60 bases, and arranged their officers and musicians behind or in front.

By staggering the figures, they give the irregular look of troops engaged in la petite guerre (the little war), like these Hanoverian Freytag Jaegers taking on French Volontaires de Clermont-Prince.

The larger bases for the light troops still work fine to depict skirmishing, as you can see with this picture of the Volontaires Étrangers de Clermont-Prince taking pot-shots from behind a fence-line.

My original artillery had separately based gunners, as you can see in the picture near the top of this posting. But I have now reverted to the traditional system of mounting the gunners on the same base as their weapon, as with the above Royal Artillery.

I didn’t feel the cavalry needed re-basing, as their existing system works quite well. So I will leave well enough alone.

So that’s my re-basing done and dusted. Now I just need to head down to my letter-box and hopefully find that my overdue parcel has finally overcome the supply chain problems and arrived safely, so I can get on and finish my next unit!

The nicest-looking AWI game I have ever played in

My most memorable American War of Independence wargame took place nearly 20 years ago at the Wellington Warlords’ (the wargaming club of New Zealand’s capital city) annual wargaming competition, ‘Call to Arms’.

At the 2002 event, one of the demo games at ‘Call to Arms’ was a refight of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, put on by three of the Friday Night Fusiliers – Paul Crouch (3rd from left), Steve Sands (far left) and [a very young-looking!] myself (2nd from left).

A few years after this game, Paul moved to Australia and sold all the wonderful troops in these photos. However, I heard from him recently that he has decided to re-do this project, buying up and painting the troops all over again. He has set up the Sons of Liberty blog to follow his progress.

In talking with Paul, he told me he still has hardcopy photos of the original 2002 game. So I suggested he copy the photos so we could look back at what I think was one of the finest AWI wargames ever, even though it took place nearly nearly two decades ago!

The original Battle of Guilford Courthouse took place on 15 March 1781, between General Cornwallis’s 2,200 British troops and the 4,500 Americans under General Greene.

In the above photo, the British redcoats march out of camp on their way to do battle against the Americans. In the foreground are two cannons and some of their Hessian allies.

The figures and the scenery used in this game all belonged to Paul Crouch. In the main, the figures were by Front Rank, but there were also a few Dixons and Foundry figures.

Paul, Steve and myself were all firm “visual” wargamers, rather than “competitive” or “simulation” players. For us, the main thing was the game had to look good – to be a moving diorama, in effect.

A closeup of the British advance. You can almost hear the drums beating and the fifes trilling The British Grenadier! Behind the redcoats is a battalion of Loyalists, wearing green coats and white trimmed hats.

The British flags were by GMB, who made the best flags around. Paul made the Loyalist flags himself. Note how the flags are realistically shaped – too often the effect of such beautiful flags is spoiled by having them standing out straight like boards.

On the left flank of the British advance are some British light troops, some German Jägers, and even a few Indians.

Paul’s bases were beautifully done – each base was like a mini-diorama. And his figure painting was absolutely exquisite. He used a black undercoat technique and acrylic paints.

The British advance steadily across the clearing towards the first fence-line, where a line of Americans can be see waiting. Behind them, way off in the distance, are more troops in front of the Guilford Courthouse.

The base cloth we used really set off the figures well. It was green baize, but had been sprayed with a mixture of colours. Under the baize was an old carpet which had been laid over some pieces of wood, giving the effect of slightly undulating ground.

You can also see this same photo at the top of this posting, but retouched to make it look a little more real.

Nervous American militia await the redcoats behind a typical switchback railing fence.

These are not the steadiest of troops. But if they can get off a good volley or two before they run, they might slow the steady British advance.

Steve Sands was busy for several nights producing much of the fencing used in our battle.

One of the features that really made this game was the fact that all our battalions were big (at a time when 12-figure units were the popular standard). Each unit had at least six bases of around three or four figures each. Anything smaller does not look anywhere near as good.

The British have forced back the militia through a line of trees. The militia stop, rally bravely, and try to hold the next fence-line. A British and Hessian volley rips through the air.

In the foregound is the last line of American defence. But these troops are no mere militia. These are the regular American infantry, the Continentals. They’re made of sterner stuff, and the British might be worn down by the sniping of the militia before they get to Continentals’ line.

A close-up of the British and Hessian volley. We were using a very simple set of rules called Gentleman Johnny’s War, which made calculating the effect of volleys such as this very easy.

You can never have enough trees in a demo game, especially one set in America. Paul had a huge amount of Woodland Scenics trees, which really looked good on the table.

For the sake of the simplicity, it was decided that trees only interrupted visibility, but didn’t hinder troop movements.

One of the British units charges towards the militia.

By sheer coincidence all the figures in this photo are posed perfectly, as if this was a set-up shot. The charging infantry are in a running pose, while those firing are pointing their muskets. Behind the fence, the militia take pot-shots.

No, the militia can’t stand yet another British volley, so they turn tail and they’re off. But, just as in the movie The Patriot, have they done enough to whittle down the British before they come to grips with the waiting Continentals in the foreground?

Our first sight of the magnificent Architectural Heritage model of the Guilford Courthouse itself. This is a miniature of the actual building. If you look very carefully, you’ll even see the judge standing in the doorway, no doubt encouraging the steady Continentals lined against the fences.

Paul always liked to dot his games with little bits of scenery such as the haystacks you can see in the picture. These were for visual appearance only, and didn’t effect play at all. They were simply moved out of the way when troops passed through.

From behind the Continental lines, you can see the last few militia, and way off in the distance a Hessian flag denotes the British advance.

During March in America, there wouldn’t really have been autumn (‘fall’) trees! But the occasional touch of autumn colours in the trees just gave a lift to the table appearance.

The white house in the far background was hand-made by Paul.

The judge looks on as the battle rages between the British and the Continentals. In the end, the British manage to puncture the Continental centre and creep round their left, so the Americans have to yield the field, just as happened in real life.

Note the barricade of barrels in the foreground – another nice scenic touch.

You would think that General Cornwallis must be feeling pretty pleased with himself. However, in real life the battle cost him 532 casualties against the Americans’ 260.

So instead of pursuing his defeated enemy, he retired to the coast. If this game had been part of a campaign, the result might have been pretty much the same.

There is more fun with scenics in the background – an ammunition dump and wagons to bring powder and balls up to the guns.

One of the most asked-about units in the game, but one which never really came into play, was Tarleton’s Legion. This was because the main protagonist in The Patriot was apparently modelled on Tarleton (though one cannot say that the film representation was at all accurate!).

In the real battle the cavalry did get to grips, but in the game the day was won before they even got onto the scene.

So, just as in real-life, a marginal British win. But more importantly for the Friday Night Fusiliers, a win for presenting the sheer beauty of hundreds of exquisitely painted figures marching and fighting across a gorgeously terrained board!

A special thanks to Wayne Stack, a fellow Fusilier, who took all these wonderful photos as part of an assignment for a police photographer’s course he was on at the time! He was enthusiastic when I told him that Paul still had his photos, and readily gave us permission to publish them here.

I hope you have enjoyed looking back at this spectacular game, and that you’ll follow Paul’s progress on his blog as he recreates his exquisite armies.

A sideline into the hobby of landscape painting

Yeah, I know it has been a long time since my last posting. And to make matters even worse, this posting isn’t even of a wargaming nature!

I’ve got some figures on order from the UK to complete the big battalion of 18th century infantry that I have been working on. However, they must be caught up in the current supply chain problems, as they are a month or so late now (especially considering the first half of the unit that I ordered earlier in the year made its way here to New Zealand in a matter of days).

So whilst I’m waiting, I’ve decided to give a new pastime a go. I’ve always quite fancied painting a landscape, but have never really had the time. So, armed with a new box of artists’ acrylic paints and three blank canvases, I’ve made a start into this sideline hobby.

Oh, don’t worry, I’m not giving up wargaming! With retirement due at the end of the year, I’ll have more than enough time for two hobbies.

My first painting was inspired by this lovely photograph of the Tararua Ranges as seen from the Wairarapa side, which I saw in an online newspaper travel feature (oddly, in a British online paper, The Guardian!). I really liked how it portrayed so much in one deceptively simple scene.

Because of the long shape of the three canvases I had bought, my painting would need to based on just the middle third of the photo. But I thought this might give a really cool forced perspective effect, with the road and telegraph poles, rolling fields, foothills and mountains in layers, one above the other.

I worked from the top down. I found the mountains worked well, and was especially pleased with the folds in the hills and the misty effect at the bottom of the foothills. Whilst the end result is quite different from the photo, I guess that’s what the phrase “artist’s licence” means!

My road is not quite as bumpy as the photo either. In hindsight it would’ve been more interesting if I had tried to copy some of the bumps. And I wish now that I had left out every second telegraph pole, as I think there are too many of them.

Nevertheless, for a first effort at landscape painting, I was happy. I think the forced perspective that I had really wanted to recreate from the photo worked very well.

Having painted one mountain scene, I decided that my other two paintings would also be of mountains so as to make a series, and would feature other places that my wife and I love here in New Zealand.

My wife was actually away on a skiing weekend with her friend, so I picked the mountain where she had gone, Mount Ruapehu. OK, she wasn’t staying in the lovely Chateau Tongariro (she was staying in a much more modest ski lodge), but it is such an iconic scene of Ruapehu, so that is what I chose to paint.

Again, I worked from the top down. The mountain and its lower slopes worked OK, though maybe the lighting is bit odd, as if something is shining from behind the second and third ridges. However, that effect does add some drama to the painting.

I loved doing the Chateau. I guess having made so many wargames buildings, I’m a bit of a detail man. And I love how its angular lines are such a contrast to the irregular shape of the volcano looming above it.

For the last of my three paintings, I decided to portray one of my wife and I’s favourite places in New Zealand – Queenstown. Its backdrop of the rugged Remarkables Range would continue my mountains theme.

There was also the added bonus of being able to try my hand at painting water, and also depicting the gorgeous old lake steamer, the TSS ‘Earnslaw’. This was going to be fun!

I tried something quite different with the mountains this time, using somewhat different colours than what you would usually think for snowy mountains. I also tried out a poster-like effect with lots of hard edges to the ridges and valleys.

The trees were fun, especially that Norfolk pine on the right. But, as I suspected it would be, my favourite part was painting the old Lady of the Lake, the ‘Earnslaw’. And, boy, I’m pleased with how she turned out.

The water worked quite well too. I was especially happy with the slight reflection of the steamer, though this was really the result of a ‘happy little accident’ than an actual planned part of the painting!

So here they are, the three paintings of my ‘Mountains Triptych’, which fit nicely above our mantelpiece. And you can see that one member of our family seems suitably impressed!

By the way, the other painting hanging on the wall to the right isn’t one of mine, but was a birthday present from some years ago. And, no, those aren’t wargaming houses on the mantlepiece, but glossy porcelain souvenirs from our travels to the UK and Europe!

Now, hurry up with my British fusiliers, Mr Deliveryman – I want to finish that big battalion!

Un-painting the Renedra ramshackle house

The above scene could have come straight out of a western movie, with the gunfight taking place at a dilapidated old farmhouse on the prairie.

However this photo isn’t a movie still, but a shot of my latest project: building the Renedra kitset of a ramshackle house. This 1/56 scale plastic kit replicates a typical North American cabin or farmhouse. The style and construction means that can be used from 1750-1900 … and beyond.

The designers (the Perry twins, I wonder? They certainly did some of the other Renedra kits) have done a great job of representing a house that has been left to wrack and ruin, with the roof caving in, the porch falling to bits, and the weatherboards rotting away.

My aim in painting this model was to make it look un-painted and un-loved! The method I used to ‘un-paint’ this house was similar to how I did Renedra’s earlier ramshackle barn kit, seen on the left in this picture. There’s a detailed description of my un-painting method on this posting from 2013.

Here’s the rear view of the house. The kit comes with a number of accessories to dress it up (or dress it down, if you like!), such as the rickety ladder and broken cartwheel you can see in this picture.

Other than the planked floor, there is no interior detail on this kit. So I didn’t attempt to do any painting inside. However, I did make the roofs so that they can be removed if required.

Completing this house spurred me to photograph it with my collection of western figures, even though I only have five of them – my smallest gaming period! But I suspect my main use for this model will be for games set in the colonial New Zealand Wars.

Painting guide: British grenadiers with Contrast paints

After my previous posting showing off my latest project in which I used GW Contrast paints to complete a unit of 18th century British grenadiers by Crann Tara Miniatures, I’ve been asked by several people for tips on how I went about it. So here we go!

Undercoat

After the usual preparation involving cleaning up any flash and washing the figures in water with detergent, I spray them with GW Wraithbone undercoat. This is great fun, as it really brings out the detail.

I understand this undercoat is especially formulated to go with Contrast paints. But how much difference it would make to use another brand, I don’t know.

Equipment and lacing

When I paint with ordinary hobby paints, I usually do the coat and breeches first, then equipment and facings last.

However, with Contrast paints I find it works better the other way around, starting with the equipment and lacing, then filling in the uniform colours later. When the uniform is a darker colour than most of the equipment (eg red or blue), this technique gives a clean edge.

  • Lacing: Skeleton Horde (you might prefer Apothecary White for other regiments)
  • Belts and haversack: Aggaros Dunes
  • Cartridge box and sword: Black Templar
  • Sword handle and belt buckle: Basilicanum Grey with a second coat of Aggoras Dunes
  • Fur knapsack: Wyldwood
  • Waterbottle: Basilicanum Grey

Mitre caps and flesh

This was the part I was most anxious about. There is a lot of detail on those mitre caps, but it is all so minute. But if someone could sculpt it, surely I could paint it!

I start by giving the whole cap a coat of Apothecary White to bring out the white lacing. I then use a very fine brush to paint in the crown emblem with Aggaros Dunes, and squiggles of Blood Angels Red and Leviadon Blue between the raised white detail. This is where Contrast paints come into their own, as they flow quite easily into the gaps. I finish with the lightest of dry-brushing with normal white paint.

The backs of the caps are done exactly the same way – a coat of white over everything first, then filling in the red and blue gaps. Again, this is sort of a reverse from the normal procedure, where I probably would’ve painted the white lace last.

By the way, I use really cheap fine brushes by the truckload which a friend bought me from the online seller Wish. Although cheap and nasty, they actually work better and last longer than I expected. But when the point does get ragged, at just a few cents per brush I can simply throw the brush away and grab another from the box.

Adding the flesh is one of my favourite tasks, as this makes the figures come alive. I use one light coat of Gulliman Flesh, and that’s it. All the shading, eyes, fingers etc appear by themselves!

Weapons and boots

One of the parts I most dislike (and I have no idea why) is painting weapons and shoes. I start with the strap, then the barrel, and finally the woodwork. I add a highlight of normal silver paint to the bayonets to make them look a bit shinier.

  • Straps: Aggaros Dunes
  • Barrel: Basilicanum Grey
  • Bayonet: Basilicanum Grey with a highlight of normal silver
  • Woodwork: Gore-Grunta Fur
  • Shoes: Black Templar

Uniforms and leggings

Now at last the best bit – the uniforms. This is quite a painstaking stage, but great fun. The Contrast paint flows really nicely into all the little gaps, using a fairly small brush.

The leggings are done with a coat of Apothecary White. This makes all the buttons pop, and gives a line to the bands that I can later follow with black.

Up till now my figures have looked sort of French or Austrian. But now they are definitely British!

  • Coats: Blood Angels Red
  • Facings and breeches: Leviadon Blue with a highlight of normal medium blue paint
  • Leggings: Apothecary White with Black Templar bands

I paint the officers and drummers using exactly the same technique. The only additional task is the sash, painted first in normal violet paint, then covered with a light coat of Blood Angels Red, which turns it into a nicely shaded crimson.

And there we have it – a company of grenadiers all done!

But how do Contrast paints on a light undercoat come out versus using normal hobby paints on a black undercoat. Well, you choose! The three grenadiers on the left are Minden Miniatures painted the normal way, and the three on the right are the Contrast-painted Crann Tara figures.

Using Contrast paints for 18th century British grenadiers

Last night I completed painting this company of 18th century British grenadiers from Crann Tara Miniatures, the first part of my latest big battalion. They’re not based yet, but I just couldn’t resist forming them up on my desktop for a photo opportunity.

Crann Tara Miniatures (now owned by Caliver Books) make a beautiful line of 1/56 scale figures that are much more anatomically correct than most other ranges.

I decided to paint my battalion as the 8th (King’s) Regiment of Foot. My main painting reference was the above illustration by Frédéric Aubert of the Kronoskaf website.

Whilst this famous painting of the Battle of Culloden 1746 by David Morier isn’t actually depicting the 8th (instead, it shows Barrell’s Regiment), the uniform is very similar, with blue facings and breeches.

I used GW Contrast paints almost entirely for this project. The only exception was that I added a top coat of Foundry medium blue to the turnbacks, as I felt the shade of Contrast dark blue I used didn’t stand out enough.

The beauty of Contrast paints, besides providing their own highlighting and shading, is that they flow so easily. The back of those mitre caps were actually quite simple to do, as the paint filled the gaps between the lines of lacing by itself.

The biggest challenge was doing the fronts of the mitre caps. However, once again Contrast paints came to the fore. These caps won’t bear too close scrutiny, but from any distance they look the part, as you can see.

Next task will be another two companies of the same size, but of hatmen in tricornes rather than mitre caps, as well as a variety of various officers and NCOs.

PS: I’ve now posted a detailed painting guide on how I did these figures. Enjoy!

Lockdown and the Barryat of Lyndonia’s latest big battalion

On 17 August New Zealand’s long streak without local transmission of COVID-19 came to an end. This was the first coronavirus case detected in New Zealand for nearly six months.

Almost immediately the whole country went straight into what we called an Alert Level 4 lockdown, which had worked successfully for us during the initial outbreak last year.

Based on what had happened in Australia, where some states had delayed locking down when their first cases of Delta appeared, our government opted for the ‘go hard and go early’ approach. To us wargamers this strategy sounds somewhat like rolling a double-6 to seize the initiative before the enemy can!

This approach has so far appeared to be the right way to go (touch wood!). Though we aren’t out of the woods yet, especially as New Zealand’s vaccination rates are so low.

My wife and I were on holiday in the South Island when we went into lockdown. Travellers were initially given 48 hours to get home, but this was too tight for us to get a ferry booking. We actually weren’t too dismayed, as where we were staying in the town of Cromwell looked like a pretty nice place to lock down!

But despite the undeniable beauty of Cromwell, home is always best. So when the government gave travellers another 24 hours to get home, we managed to catch the last ferry to Wellington.

Of course a benefit of having made it home is that I now have access to all my hobby stuff, and time to work on it! So I have started to paint another big battalion for my ‘imagi-nation’, the Barryat of Lyndonia.

An additional British battalion means I’ll have an equal number of real-life opposing forces if I want to play a game based on actual history (British/Prussian vs French). I’m using 1/56 scale Crann Tara Miniatures, half of which arrived just before lockdown, whilst the other half are currently on their way from the UK.

I especially wanted a unit that had the blue breeches worn by royal regiments, so as to differentiate them from my other British battalion in red breeches. So I’ve chosen to depict the 8th (King’s) Regiment of Foot, which was commanded from 1745 to 1759 by Edward Wolfe, father of General James Wolfe of Quebec fame.

The King’s Regiment (centre figure above) used the White Horse of Hanover (the symbol of the Royal Household) as its badge.

Why this regiment has managed to make it into the Barryat’s army, no-one knows! But I’m sure I can come up with a suitable back-story.

This will likely be my most challenging paint job ever. These guys have lots of little bits of lace everywhere. They don’t call this period the Lace Wars for nothing! Look at those cuffs and sleeves, the lacing on the fronts of their coats, and the intricate lace wings on their shoulders. And let’s not even mention the grenadiers’ mitre caps!

Note that the above picture of the 8th Foot uniform in 1756 was created by Frédéric Aubert for the Kronoskaf website.

With my current basing system for my 60+ figure battalions, as shown with Gale’s Regiment of Foot above, I have nine bases of 6 infantry figures each, and all my officers, drummers and NCOs are on small freestanding bases. But this makes for really fiddly setting up and moving.

So for this latest unit I am going to experiment with a new basing system of just six bases of 10-12 figures each, on which character figures will also be standing alongside or behind the ranks. The only figures left freestanding will be standard-bearers and the mounted officers.

Keeping flags freestanding will allow flexibility in which units I wish to represent. And it will also allow the big 60+ figure unit to be broken into two or three smaller ones if required for a specific rule-set.

If this new system is successful, I see a major rebasing project for all my existing Barryat of Lyndonia units!

As a side project, and completely unrelated to the Lace Wars period, I have also finally assembled the Renedra ramshackle house kit I bought from our local pharmacy (true!) a few weeks ago.

It still needs painting, but looks good. I plan to use the same colour-scheme as I did with Renedra’s similar ramshackle barn kit a few years ago. This could be said to be more like un-painting than painting!

Tree-ferns for colonial New Zealand Wars

To play the colonial New Zealand Wars, you need lots of trees to form the bush-covered landscape that was a feature of so many of the actions.

Whilst any old wargaming tree will do the job, if you really want to replicate the look of New Zealand, you want ferns. Not just any old ferns, but big tree-sized ones!

At a recent model railway show I purchased a couple of plastic boxes of fern and undergrowth detail produced by Brian Roulston, a rail modeller from Paekakariki for his Scenic Textures range.

The boxes were filled with all sorts of miscellaneous shrubbery. I am guessing it uses as a base the plastic stuff you sometimes find at budget stores, but it has been painted and texture-coated to take away the bright shiny green look.

Amongst the plastic plants were some ferns with pre-textured stalks (none of these are visible in the above photo), which I thought could make excellent tree ferns, or ‘ponga’ as they are called here in New Zealand.

I bought some large heavy metal washers to make the bases. I used a hot-glue gun to attach the ‘tree-ferns’ to the bases. I then glued miscellaneous bits of the other shrubbery from the Scenic Textures box around the base of each tree.

I coated the bases with my usual recipe of PVA glue, followed by mixed-grain sand, and then two types of flock. The final touch was to add some dead ponga leaves on the floor or hanging from the trunks.

To celebrate the completion of my grove of ponga ferns, it’s time for my 28mm Empress Miniatures Māori warriors to perform a haka (traditional war dance).

Renowned Northland Māori chiefs Hone Heke and Kawiti seem quite pleased with their new shrubbery.

Oh oh, trespassers! A British officer and his two men make their way cautiously through the typical New Zealand bush.

Perhaps a little more at home in the bush than their British comrades, these local militia are ready for anything.

So there we have it – a little more greenery for my colonial New Zealand Wars games.

A Zulu War game and a South African feast

Searching through a bric-a-brac stall at the local market the other day, I found a couple of tattered old photos of soldiers and warriors in combat.

Looking more closely, these pictures seem to have been taken during an action of the Zulu War of 1879.

Well, actually, that’s all a lie! These are actually photos taken during a wargame a group of us here in Kāpiti, New Zealand, played last night.

Our game pitched Zulus against British, in a test run of Dan Mersey’s colonial skirmish wargaming rules The Men Who Would Be Kings.

Mine host was Herman van Kradenburg, whose collection includes a whole cupboard of figures depicting the wars of his former homeland, South Africa (like the rest of the pictures in this article, click on the photo for a closer look).

Our initial intention was to play the scenario where the British are trying to get a wagon train across the board. However, our memories had obviously failed us, as there is no such scenario in TMWWBK! So we changed to playing a simple meeting engagement, but left the wagons in place anyway. This was just a fun game after all.

The mass of figures that Herman produced from his magic cupboard looked absolutely spectacular on the table.

During the game Herman regaled us with his knowledge of the history of the Zulu War.

Particularly interesting was what he told us about and the different types of warriors and how they used their weapons.

The British also looked splendid in their scarlet coats and white tropical helmets.

The British weren’t all regular infantry, but also included these irregular allies wearing part African, part European clothing.

Right through the game this giraffe was quietly chewing on the leaves of an acacia tree, totally ignoring the tumult of human combat taking place around him.

Here are four of the happy wargamers – Scott Bowman (owner of probably the only pharmacy in the world that has a well-stocked wargaming department!), mine host Herman, fellow South African Rudolf Pretorius, and Ste Haran (like Scott, a British ex-pat).

The fifth happy wargamer was of course yours truly, seen here poring over the TMWWBK rules, whilst Scott considers his next move. [photo by Herman van Kradenburg]

Adding to the African flavour of the night, Herman cooked us a delicious pre-game meal of South African delicacies, including boerewors (sausage), chakalaka (spiced vegetables), samp (maize) and beans, pickled curried fish, bhajia (chilli bites), green fig preserves and home-made bread.

Our pre-game meal was so delicious, and the atmosphere so companionable, that our game started late and we didn’t have time to play to a full conclusion. But, hey, it isn’t about winning or losing – especially with such a wonderful night of feasting, fine figures, friends and fun!

Vignettes of Napoleon and his staff

Continuing on with my recent Napoleonic mini-projects, I’ve painted a few figures I’ve had lying around for years. They depict Napoleon (centre) with some of his staff (left), a sentry and a courier (right). They’re pictured here standing in front of an old resin model of La Belle Alliance, the French command post during the Battle of Waterloo.

You would think a model of Napoleon himself would be very important for any Napoleonic wargamer, so would never have been left lying around unpainted! But for some reason this Perry figure (right) has sat round for a number of years, and has only now got to the painting table.

Perhaps this is because I already have another Napoleon or two in my French army. However, just as I have a number of Sharpe and Harpers in my collection, and also at least two Dukes of Wellington (here and here), I’m obviously not too worried about clones!

I actually painted the group around the table (left) many years ago. But all the other figures in this picture are from the set that has been languishing up till recently without paint.

Perhaps discernable in this picture are the two distinct painting styles I have used over the years:

  • I painted the table group on the left with my old method of a black undercoat followed by the Foundry paint system of layering three colours to build up the shades and highlights.
  • Whereas I painted all the other figures in this picture using my current style of a creamy-white undercoat, and then GW’s Contrast paints to automatically deliver the shades and highlights with just one coat.

In this closer look, we see Marshal Ney with his distinctive red hair, leaning on the map-covered table. Marshalls Soult and Drouot stand on either side.

Even if you knew nothing about the Napoleonic Wars, you would surely recognise the figure of Napoleon himself. This is no accident. Napoleon cultivated an easily recognisable image by keeping his wardrobe simple. In the midst of the finery around him, Napoleon stood out by dressing in the green and white uniform of a colonel of the Chasseurs à Cheval (light cavalry) of the Imperial Guard, topped by his famous bicorne hat, and often wearing a grey overcoat.

Napoleon is depicted here standing with his ordnance officer, Gaspard Gourgaud, wearing a light blue coat and grey overalls. Gourgaud held this position from 1811, and was to eventually accompany the Emperor to his final exile on St Helena.

On the left is a stalwart sentry from the Old Guard. Napoleon took great care of his Guard. The Grenadiers of the Old Guard were known to complain in the presence of the Emperor, giving them the nickname Les Grognards, the Grumblers. The Guard received better pay, rations, quarters, and equipment, and all guardsmen ranked one grade higher than all non-Imperial Guard soldiers.

To the right a courier salutes after dismounting his horse. I’m not 100% sure what unit he is from, as I merely copied the colours of the example on the Perry Miniatures website. But I have always liked the French penchant for red trousers (which became more evident in the later period of Napoleon III).

Well, that’s it with painting miniatures for the moment, because I have reached the very bottom of my ‘lead pile’. So I now have the enjoyable process of deciding what to purchase next. And now that the Perrys have started a brand new Franco-Prussian War range, maybe there is an opportunity for more of those madder red trousers!