My Napoleonic British army on parade

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I’ve been wargaming since the 1990s, and during that time have amassed many miniatures across a range of periods. However, I’ve never really catalogued them all, and some of them haven’t seen the light of day for many a year. So I’ve decided that over the next few weeks I’m going to parade each army for inspection, and take stock of what I’ve got.

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From 2003 to about 2009 I collected a British army of the Napoleonic period. It hasn’t seen very much wargaming action since then, so I thought this might be a good army to start my inspection tour.

The commanders

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Of course, every army has to have a commander. And if you’re playing British, why not go to the very top – the Duke of Wellington himself. This is a lovely set produced by Wargames Foundry.

Circling clockwise from the instantly recognisable Duke himself, you can also see Captain von Streerwitz (2nd King’s German Legion Hussars, and aide-de-camp to Uxbridge);  Lt-General Sir Thomas Picton (wearing civilian clothing as he did at Waterloo); Lt-General Sir Rowland Hill; an ADC on foot; and in the foreground, Lt-General the Earl of Uxbridge, who lost his leg at Waterloo.

I obviously didn’t know much about painting horses’ eyes back then! In fact, the way I used to paint eyes on human figures at that time ended up with them looking like Thunderbirds puppets. Nowadays I just hint at eyes with some dark ink.

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Also in the Wargames Foundry set are these four figures depicting a helmeted Dragoon Guards officer; Major-General Sir James Kempt; Major-General Sir Denis Pack; and Adjutant-General Sir Edward Barnes.

I painted this set in April 2003, using a simple block painting technique with very little attempt at shading or highlighting. I think this clean style actually stands the test of time surprisingly well (apart from those googly eyes!).

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Here are some more command figures from my army – General Robert Crauford and a mounted officer of the 42nd Black Watch. These are produced by Front Rank Miniatures, whose figures are a painter’s dream, with clean surfaces and crisp detailing.

I always did wonder a bit about that pose of using a telescope one-handed. I would’ve thought that would make the view very shakey!

The infantry

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One of the pleasures of collecting a British army are those resplendent red coats worn by most of the infantry.

This picture also shows how I break each infantry unit into six bases. Regular infantry have about four figures per base, whilst light troops are represented by only two figures per base.

In many rules the number of model figures per base doesn’t actually matter, as casualties are recorded by a set number of hits required to remove a base, rather than counting and removing actual figures.

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The other pleasure of a British army are the huge and stately colours (flags) carried by each battalion. GMB Designs produce exquisite paper flags that really set off this army.

Note that I make my flags wave by curling them diagonally, rather than vertically like many other wargamers do. The diagonal fold gives them a more realistic draping effect.

The smaller Union flag held by the chap in the middle of the photo is actually cast onto this metal Warlord Games figure, and had to be painted by hand.

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When I started my British army, I had a vague idea that instead of following any real-life order-of-battle, my force would represent the series of fictional ‘Sharpe’ novels by Bernard Cornwell. So these Front Rank 95th Rifles are led by Richard Sharpe himself (left), accompanied by his faithful Sergeant Patrick Harper (centre). Both figures were made by Chiltern Miniatures (now defunct, but possibly available from SHQ Miniatures).

The prone figure on the right isn’t a casualty, but a rifleman aiming his Baker rifle whilst lying on his back.

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The 44th East Essex was the very first British unit I painted. Again, I had in mind the Sharpe novels and was planning on giving this yellow-faced unit an alternative flag for the fictional South Essex Regiment from the books – though I never got round to doing this in the end.

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This is one of my favourite units, the 42nd Black Watch. These are once again Front Rank figures.

The individually based officer is a later addition to the unit. He’s a so-called ‘big man’ required for driving the action in the Sharp Practice rules for small-scale engagements. You’ll see that several of my units have had such single figures added.

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The challenge with painting Scots, of course, are those fiddly kilts. I’m really pleased how these came out, giving a nice impression of the Government tartan worn by the Black Watch.

Since painting this unit many years ago, I’ve tried painting other figures wearing kilts, but have never again succeeded  as well as I did with this unit. It’s odd how sometimes one’s painting skills seem to decrease with experience, rather than the other way round!

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And here’s yet another photo of my favourite unit, with the bagpiper leading the way. Note that the piper’s tartan is a different colour from the soldiers – this was actually the case in the 42nd.

Those criss-cross stripey stockings were also a challenge to paint!

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Besides my five line infantry battalions, I’ve got a couple of units of light infantry, which (as mentioned above) only have two figures per base to represent skirmish order.

My light infantry don’t carry colours, and the figures are posed much more haphazardly in various stages of loading and firing.

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Here’s a close-up where you can see a couple of my light infantry ‘big men’ for Sharp Practice, in this case a bugler in a yellow jacket, and an officer with the typical metallic epaulettes of the light infantry.

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A sergeant with his private pack-donkey, no doubt carting some illicit loot away from the battle. Yeah, I know, my donkey looks more like a large dog giving his master a baleful sideways look!

The cavalry

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The most flamboyant figures in any Napoleonic army were the hussars, and the British were no exception.

I chose to paint these Front Rank figures as the 10th (Prince of Wale’s Own) Hussars. The reason for choosing this particular regiment was simply because I recalled as a teenager assembling and painting a 54mm Airfix 10th Hussar plastic kitset!

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Hussars are rather difficult to paint, but it’s definitely worth the effort for the panache they bring to the table!

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Much more sombre light cavalry than the hussars are these light dragoons.  They’re wearing an early uniform with the Tarleton helmet – in the latter parts of the Napoleonic Wars they wore shakos.

On the right is another of my command bases, showing a mounted messenger handing orders to a light dragoon officer in the later uniform.

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Now for the heavies! These dragoons are once again wearing an earlier uniform, rather than the later uniform with the classical-style helmets.

My horses, by the way, are all painted with oil paints. I paint the entire horse with a light highlight colour, wait for it to dry, then paint it with a darker colour and immediately wipe it off with a clean cloth so the highlight colour shows through.

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This photo is somewhat reminiscent of the famous painting ‘Scotland Forever!’ by Lady Butler, depicting the charge of the Royal North British Dragoons (or Scots Greys) at Waterloo. In reality the Scots Greys didn’t charge at the gallop due to the broken ground, and instead advanced at a quick walk – though nevertheless they did capture the eagle of the 45e Régiment de Ligne.

By the way, the Scots Greys didn’t get their nickname from their grey horses, but from an earlier grey uniform they wore in the 17th century.

The artillery

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The artillery gives some heavy firepower to my British army.  Unlike the redcoat infantry, the Royal Artillery wore blue uniforms.  These figures and guns are once again from the ubiquitous Front Rank.

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The Royal Horse Artillery wore a snazzier uniform than their foot artillery compatriots. The Tarleton helmet looks impressive, but I wonder how practical it was to keep on in the heat of loading and firing the guns.

Again I’ve got a ‘big man’ for this unit, whose flamboyant uniform is very hussar-like with its golden frogging and fur-lined pelisse.

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I only have one limber for my artillery. I’d love to have one for each gun, but with all the equipment and horses, limber models are just so expensive, not to mention time-consuming to paint and put together!

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Part of the fun of wargaming with a British army is the ability to deploy rockets, as shown here with the 2nd Rocket Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery. These models I think were from Old Glory Miniatures.

The Congreve rocket was a fearsome albeit unpredictable weapon. Different wargames rules replicate their sporadic accuracy in various ways, that can even include an out-of-control rocket endangering its own side!

The navy

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Along with Sharpe, another popular fictional character from this period is Horatio Hornblower. So adding a naval landing party to my British forces was a must!

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The sailors are from Wargames Foundry. They’re wearing a variety of clothing, and armed with a motley range of weapons.

The two individually-based ‘big men’ are by Brigade Games Miniatures. The naval officer at the left represents Hornblower himself.

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The sailors are accompanied by a party of Royal Marines. These figures are (I think) by Britannia Miniatures.

The ‘big man’ is a Wargames Foundry figure, and is one of my favourite figures in the whole army – I really like his pose and natty uniform.

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Of course, a naval landing party has to have a boat to row them ashore. This impressive model is by Britannia Miniatures.

Like the artillery limbers, it is an expensive luxury, as boats most likely won’t play an active part in a game. But as a model it is irresistible!

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So that’s it – my entire British army, mostly painted between 2003 and about 2009. Keep watching for my next inspection parade of another army from my collection.

  • See the next inspection parade: Spanish

 

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Napoleon – Tinder profile vs reality

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Have you ever happened to pick up a miniature you painted many years ago, but which you’ve hardly taken any notice of since, and examined it afresh? That happened to me today when I was clearing a wall-shelf in preparation for some house repairs we’ve got coming up. As I was moving a group of rather dusty figures off the shelf, this 28mm model of Napoleon drew my attention.

A handwritten note underneath the base informs me that I painted this figure (made by Wargames Foundry, if I recall correctly) fifteen years ago. Since then, I’ve walked past the shelf where it sits numerous times every day. But only today have I actually picked the figure up again and studied it carefully through new eyes.

Speaking of eyes, back in those days painting eyes was probably my biggest problem area. I mean, jeepers, creepers, look at those peepers! He’s like something out of Thunderbirds! Nowadays I only hint at eyes with a wash of a darker shade, rather than trying to paint them in detail.

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The figure is based on the famous painting of ‘Napoleon Crossing the Alps’ by the French artist Jacques-Louis David.

This painting is a strongly idealised view of the real crossing that Napoleon and his army made across the Alps through the Great St. Bernard Pass in May 1800. In reality Napoleon made the crossing a few days after the troops, led by a local guide and mounted on a mule. However, as this painting was first and foremost propaganda, Bonaparte asked David to portray him mounted calmly on a fiery steed.

Sort of a Tinder profile vs reality!

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Revisiting a spectacular Battle of Saratoga game

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Some of the games I’ve played over the years really stand out in my memory. From time to time I’ll feature these old games here on my blog.  

This particular game stood out because of the amazing terrain and figures.  To my eye, this was a convention-grade game, but played in a garage! I never recorded the date this game as played, but it would be a good decade or two ago now.

This game impressed me so much at the time that I even put together a website about it, from which I’ve copied the following text and pictures.  Much to my surprise, the site still exists – thought my amateur hand-coded HTML doesn’t seem to have preserved the formatting too well.

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Before the storm.

The year is 1777 – General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne’s expedition to cut off New England from the rest of the rebellious American states has reached the clearing of Freeman’s Farm. The lines of redcoats form up around the farmstead, whilst a redoubt has been rapidly thrown up on their right. They steadfastly await the Americans advancing from out of the woods in front of them.

Myself and two other New Zealand wargamers, Paul Crouch and Steve Sands, had recently bought a copy of the British Grenadier rules, and we were determined to try them out. One Sunday afternoon the three of us finally managed to get some time off together, and this is the game that ensued.

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British lines around Freeman’s Farm.

This closer view of British redcoats from General James Inglis Hamilton’s brigade around the farmstead shows some of the amazingly detailed 28mm miniature soldiers and terrain owned by Paul.

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British redoubt.

The scenario rules for this battle state that the troops of Brigadier-General Simon Fraser’s brigade can only leave the confines of their redoubt on the British right after a throw of double sixes. “I never get double sixes,” says Steve, throwing the very first dice of the game – you guessed it, double six!

So Fraser’s light infantry and an artillery piece emerge from the redoubt in the first move of the game, throwing the American plan into disarray before they even start moving.

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Poor’s columns advance down the road towards the waiting British.

On the American side, Roly commands General Enoch Poor’s brigade of infantry and artillery. The scenario calls for them to enter by a road on the left of the American position. But instead of heading diagonally towards the British (visible in the distance in this photo), the threat of Fraser’s troops making their sortie out of the redoubt means that the Americans have to change their orders to make a right turn and form their lines more to the centre.

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The American advance in the centre.

Poor’s brigade has now been joined by that of General Ebenezer Learned, played by Paul. Meanwhile, General Benedict Arnold and his aide can be seen in this photo, directing the commencement of the assault on the British line. Unfortunately, another double six means that Arnold is lightly wounded, and so has to temporarily leave the table.

You can also see the amazingly realistic ground-cloth that Paul inherited from the late Jim Shaw. Thrown over a piece of carpet underlay, which in turn is draped over strategically placed objects, it gives a realistic rolling ground effect.

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The British line awaits the onslaught.

After moving their line back slightly to form a better defensive position around the farm, the British lines stolidly await the American attack, with some loyalists skirmishing to their front. The redcoats’ objective in this scenario is to hold the farm position.

All the figures used in this game belonged to Paul. They included castings from Front Rank, Foundry and Perry Miniatures. The exquisite flags were mainly by GMB Design.

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The lines close.

Slowly, inexorably, the American lines advance towards the British. Because of the extended maneuvering that Poor’s brigade has had to do to avoid Fraser’s light infantry and artillery, it takes quite a while to reach this stage of the game, so we “fast-forward” at this point by doubling a few moves to bring the troops into action.

Movement distances in British Grenadier are randomised, and generally must be taken the full amount. This makes coordinating an attack quite difficult, but true to the period.

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Charge!

Finally the first regiments of the assault charge forward.

The mounted officer in the background is not just for show. These rules have an innovative system where units earn ‘disruption points’ from movement, firing and melee. The more such points, the harder it is to do anything. Generals can help units shake off these points, but only one unit per move, so they have to pick and choose. Thus mounted officers realistically gallop to and fro all over the battlefield.

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The second American line in support.

American troops in hunting shirts form the second line.

Under these rules, an attack needs to be well supported, as the disruption points can cause havoc to the first line. On the other hand, you don’t want the second line too close, as they have to move their full distance, so can actually collide with the rear of the first line, causing even more disruption!

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The British line holds.

The American regiment on the far left has defeated a British battalion and forced it back. But the British battalion on the right holds out valiantly, whilst General Burgoyne dashes up to bolster its defence. Here yet another double six is thrown, but Burgoyne survives and it is his ADC who is killed.

In the foreground are Colonel Daniel Morgan’s riflemen and light infantry, who have been in front needling the British lines all during the big American assault. Now they can pull back out of the way to let the line infantry do their job.

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The Hessians arrive.

The Americans have only succeeded in pushing back one British unit, when to their right they hear the beating of drums as Baron von Riedesel’s Hessians arrive on the battlefield, thus extinguishing any hope of the Americans forcing the British out of the Freeman’s Farm position.

So in our game the British win. This would possibly have had a major effect had this happened in the real battle. It was the British surrender at Saratoga that finally induced the French to take part in the American War of Independence. In our game, this might not have happened ….!

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Map of the battlefield.

This overview of the battle shows how the game progressed. You can see where Fraser’s men issued out of the redoubt at the very start of the game, and how they forced Poor’s brigade to make some complicated manouevres instead of directly attacking Hamilton’s position. Meanwhile, the British backstepped to form a better defensive line closer to the farm, and then the subsequent huge American assault on the centre took place. Right at the end of the battle, the Hessians arrived on the British left to cement their victory.

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The players – Paul Crouch (Generals Learned and Arnold), Roly Hermans (General Poor) and Steve Sands (British/Hessian), all members of the [then] Kapiti Fusiliers Historic Gaming Club in Paraparaumu, New Zealand.

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Paul’s son Rylan enjoyed the game too!

 

‘Send a gunboat’ to colonial New Zealand

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When we think of gunboats for colonial wargaming,  we normally picture a chunky  paddle-steamer chugging up the Nile, or a little steam launch chuffing down the Congo. However, few people know that gunboats were also used in New Zealand during the colonial period.

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I’ve been working on a project to model one of New Zealand’s earliest steam warships, the ‘Avon’. I’ve previously posted about how I converted her from a cheap Chinese toy tugboat. She is now finally finished, complete with Foundry crew figures.

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‘Avon’ was a 58-foot iron paddle steamer, launched in Glasgow in 1859, and shipped to New Zealand to work as a pleasure boat on the River Avon in Christchurch, New Zealand. She was purchased by the government in 1862 and converted into a gunboat.

James Cowan, in his book The New Zealand Wars, describes the ‘Avon’:

The work of making the hull bullet-proof was carried out by the engineer, Mr. George Ellis (now of Auckland), who states that the ‘Avon’ was converted into an armoured steamer by having iron plates bolted inside her bulwarks. These plates were ¼ inch thick and measured 6 feet by 3 feet. The wheel was enclosed by an iron house of similar-sized plates, with loop-holes. …

… The paddle-wheeler ‘Avon’ was the first steam-vessel to float on the waters of the Waikato. She was towed to Waikato Heads on the 25th July, 1863, by HMS ‘Eclipse’ and Captain Mayne, the commander of that ship, took her inside the Heads and anchored that night eight miles below Tuakau. Next day, watched with intense excitement by the Maoris, friendlies, and hostiles alike, she reached the Bluff, otherwise known as Havelock—Te Ia-roa of the Maoris—just below the junction of the Manga-tawhiri with the Waikato. She was not fired upon, contrary to the expectations of her crew, who expected a volley from the southern bank of the river at the narrower parts. Mr. Strand, of Kohanga, assisted to pilot the ‘Avon’ up the river.

On the 7th August Captain Sullivan (HMS ‘Harrier’), senior naval officer in New Zealand, took the vessel on a reconnaissance up the river, and near Meremere she became a target for Maori bullets for the first time. A volley from some Maoris under cover on the river-bank was replied to with the 12-pounder Armstrong. On several occasions later in the campaign the ‘Avon’ was under fire. This little pioneer of steam traffic on the Waikato proved an exceedingly useful vessel. When the army reached the Waipa Plains she carried stores up as far as Te Rore, on the Waipu; it was near there that Lieutenant Mitchell, RN, of HMS ‘Esk’, was killed on board her (February, 1864) by a volley from the east bank of the river. …

… Mr. George Ellis, of Auckland, who was engineer of the ‘Avon’, says: “Lieutenant Mitchell’s death occurred in this way: We carried out rather dangerous work in the later stages of the war when running up and down the Waipa River. Sometimes we took shots at anything that offered on the banks, and even landed to go pig-hunting. One very warm summer day, when steaming up the Waipa near Whatawhata, Mr. Mitchell remarked that it was too hot to remain in the iron wheel-house and that he would go outside; he declared that he would not be shot that day. He walked out on to the open part of the bridge-deck, and Lieutenant Easther (in command) and Midshipman Foljambe (father of the present Lord Liverpool) followed him. They had not been long there before a sudden volley was fired from the scrub-covered bank of the river—the east or proper right bank. The three officers were close together, with Mr. Mitchell in the middle, and, curiously, it was only the man in the middle who was hit. The volley was fired at an oblique angle. Mr. Mitchell was shot right through the breast, and died next day. We never saw a Maori, so thick was the cover on the bank.”

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‘Avon’ displaced 43 tons, was nearly 18 metres in length, and mounted a single 12-pounder Armstrong breech-loading gun on her bow. Her shallow draft of just one metre made her ideal for river operations. Besides the metal plate armour, a wooden shed-like structure with loop-holes was later built on the aft deck to provide cover for troops.

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She even had her own rudimentary self-defence system: pipes were fixed in connection with the boiler, so that a stream or jet of scalding water could be thrown upon any party attempting to board.

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I’m not how, or if I’ll ever use her in a wargame. But it has been an interesting little project to bring to life a little-known piece of New Zealand maritime and military  history.

Napoleon and Wellington at my house

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It’s such a nice day today at my place, and I have the house to myself for a few hours. “What can I take pictures of in these perfect photography conditions, to put up on my blog?” I thought to myself.

Then my eye was caught by two command bases in my display cabinet. These two 28mm Wargames Foundry sets were both painted back in 2002 (what, 12 years ago already?!). “Aha,” I thought, “it would be interesting to look at these to see how my painting style has changed or stayed the same over the years.”

So, firstly, Napoleon and his staff …

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This command base is based on the famous painting by Vasily Vereshchagin, depicting Napoleon and his staff at the battle of Borodino in 1812.

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Well, the first close-up shows one thing that I hope has changed – those EYES!  Oh my, oh my, how couldn’t I see at the time that they were far too big and Tunderbirdish?!  These days I have given up painting eyes at all, just hinting at them with dark wash.

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My basing style has remained remarkably the same since 2002.  I still use natural sand and crushed shell sprinkled over a thick coat of PVA [or white] glue. Unlike most wargamers, I don’t paint the sandy surface at all – I just leave it the natural sand colour.  Then I finish off with patches of several shades and textures of static grass and flock.  So this basing technique has stood the test of time.

Now, the Duke of Wellington and his staff …

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I think by this time I had begun to use the rubbed oil-paint technique for horses.  But white horses (or greys, to be exact) can be really difficult, and I’m not sure I carried it off well here.  The horse furniture came out great, though.

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Check that horse on the right with the human eye?!  Nowadays I paint horses’ eyes plain black.  I add the tiniest spot of white I can do in the middle to give a sense of gleam.

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Back when I painted these figures, I hadn’t leaned about shading or highlighting.  And, actually, I think these simple block colours come out tidier in photographs than my current three-levels of shading.

Musing and enthusing on samurai

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For the last couple of months, I’ve been experiencing a  lack of major motivation for painting or gaming.   Nothing has really grabbed my fancy for a new project, and in fact I’ve been starting to think that perhaps my time in this hobby had finished.  But in the last few days my imagination has finally been stirred anew, and I’m finding myself enthusiastically day-dreaming again about a potential new period to game – samurai!

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This new enthusiasm first emerged from watching a re-run of the old TV 1980 mini-series, Shogun.  This series, set in Japan in the early 1600s, really brings feudal Japan to life.  It features an English ship pilot, whose vessel is wrecked upon the Japanese coast. He is forced to deal with the two most powerful men in Japan, who struggle for the title of ‘shogun’, which will give ultimate power to the one who possesses it.   Whilst quite slow-moving, the story is beautifully told and filmed – every scene is so exquisitely Japanese in its setting, colour, custom and language.  I was entranced.

child of vengeance Then on a recent trip to my local library, my eye was caught by a novel about samurai, David Kirk’s Child of Vengeance.  With an endorsement on the front cover from well-known historical writer Conn Iggulden, this looked like it could be an entertaining read. And so it turned out.  As the Amazon blurb states, this novel is ‘a bold and vivid historical epic of feudal Japan, based on the real-life exploits of the legendary samurai Musashi Miyamoto’.  I couldn’t put it down until it was finished (and, fussy reader that I am, that really says something!).

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makers_foundry_1 Truth to tell, this is not the first time that samurai have caught my attention.  A couple of years ago I also began thinking of getting into this period.  I was initially inspired by the Wargames Foundry range of wonderfully characterful samurai figures.  These were originally old Citadel figures from the 1980s, I believe, before Wargames Foundry re-released them.

bushi no yume I even went so far as to purchase a set of skirmish rules, Rich Jones’ Bushi No Yume.  These are a very interesting set of rules, written by a guy who has been into Japanese ‘bujutsu’ (martial arts) since he was a child.  The core rules themselves are deceptively simple, but they have oodles of character-adding special rules and ‘karma’ cards covering both history and (if you want) Japanese fantasy.  So you can easily recreate the feel of a ‘chanbara’ movie, the Japanese equivalent of a spaghetti western.  

But something else must have distracted me from my burgeoning interest in samurai, because I never took this project any further. However, the idea has remained lurking somewhere in the back of my mind, and has now re-emerged as a result of watching Shogun and reading Child of Vengeance.

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But what really inspired me this time was reading about North Star’s forthcoming release of factions (or ‘buntai’) of 28mm figures as a tie-in with the new Osprey skirmish wargames ruleset, Ronin.

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This is a set of skirmish wargame rules set in late 16th century feudal Japan. Players build small warbands of models and battle each other, as well as non-player factions, in duels and skirmishes. The rules pay tribute to the films of Akira Kurosawa such as Seven Samurai and Yojimbo.  North Star have produced four buntai so far:  samurai and ashigaru, Buddhist warrior monks, martial arts school students, and bandits.

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As you can see above, the North Star samurai/ashigaru buntai looks fabulous painted up.  Colour schemes can vary wildly depending on which clan you’re representing.  All in all, I feel these figures capture the look.  Right now there is also a special deal, in which you can buy all four buntai plus the Ronin rulebook for 100 pounds, with free postage anywhere.  I’m tempted by this, maybe as a shared project with other locals …

maker_perry_samurai fightingHowever, North Star aren’t the only options for samurai miniatures.  One maker in particular that is really worth considering is Perry Miniatures.  Their samurai figures look just as nice as the North Star ones, albeit not so heroic in stature (though that could be just the photos).  However, they don’t sell the figures as ready-made packs for each buntai, as this range seems to be aimed more at larger armies.  So it would be a matter of picking a number of poses and mixing them into a themed buntai myself.

maker_perry_samurai everydayLike North Star, there is no doubt that the Perry figures have captured the Japanese look and feel.  I especially love this set of samurai in everyday clothing.  They look as though they’ve just walked out of the Shogun TV series.

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One thing I’ve learned from this latest rush of enthusiasm is that (like Western history) there are huge differences between samurai over the period of time.  The North Star and Perry miniatures figures are set in the 1500s and 1600s, or the ‘Sengoku’ (warring states) period.  Armour by this time had simplified from its hey-day.  For the much more lavish and boxy samurai armour, you have to look at earlier periods before the introduction of gunpowder.  And one company that makes figures for these times is Westwind Productions.  

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Samurai warriors of the early periods were skilled archers.  These figures show the unusual quivers and asymmetrical bows used in Japan.  Whilst the figures themselves, from these photos, don’t look quite as good as those by North Star and Perry, there is something about  the boxy armour and the typical side flaps to the helmets worn in this earlier period that I really like.  And they appear to my eye more like those old Japanese samurai prints, such as the one heading this article.

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Another maker of samurai from the earlier periods is The Assault Group.  They also look like quite nice figures.

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This photo from The Assault Group’s gallery shows just how colourful the early armour is (in this case from the Gempei War that took place from 1180-1185).  What a wonderful challenge to paint! This particular figure was painted by Kai Teck.  

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Back to the later Sengoku period, and there is yet another option – plastic!  Wargames Factory have put out a number of boxes of samurai troops. You assemble these figures, and can end up with a very reasonably priced army.  As can be seen here, they paint up well.  My only gripe is that they look a little wooden in pose.  I would prefer something akin to those dramatic exaggerated  poses seen in the old Japanese prints – which I think most of the previously mentioned ranges gave captured to some degree.

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However, wooden poses or not, there is no doubt that painted up,  these figures can indeed look superb.
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Yet another option – going bigger!  Steve Barber puts out a small range of 42mm samurai figures from the Sengoku period, which look rather well-done judging from  the photos I’ve seen.

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At their large size, these would be awesomely impressive models.  That spear must be about 8-10cm long.  I also like the way Steve Barber has captured the asymmetrical bow correctly – many makers have their archers holding the bow in the middle as if they were European bows.

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If I’m looking at bigger figures, then I should also look at some smaller ones.  These are plastic 1/72 scale samurai made by the Russian firm Zvezda.  According to Plastic Soldiers Review, the Zvezda samurai are very good miniatures indeed.

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The posing of the Zvezda figures in my opinion is great, with lots of dash and vigour.  If I was to go small-scale, these figures would certainly be worth considering.  And at the lower price, they would make large armies possible.  But I must say that I’m not used to painting figures this small, and I’m not 100% convinced about soft plastic.

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So far as scenery is concerned, most of what I already have in the way of roads, rivers and trees will suffice (though with maybe a bit of cherry blossom added to some of the latter!).  However, to give it that Japanese feel, it would need some buildings or other typical Japanese bits and pieces.  Sarissa Precison do some attractive 28mm Japanese buildings as pre-cut wooden kitsets.

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Another interesting scenery maker is  and Plast Craft Games (Fukei), whose simple but characterful buildings would really give that oriental feel.

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Plast Craft Games also make some nice resin pieces, such as this Japanese grave set.

Anyway there it is – as you can see, my mind is churning over with the possibilities of collecting samurai figures and terrain.   Even the process of writing this posting has got me more enthused.  There are just some major decisions to make first, not the least being what scale, what manufacturer, what period, what rules …   Ah, the daydreaming will keep me going for some time!

さよなら, everyone!  

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Pirate raid in Kapiti

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Today I put on a pirate display at the Kapiti Wargames Club’s open day.  I say ‘display’, because it wasn’t a game as such, but just an excuse to lay out as much of my piratical terrain and figures as I could, in a static display piece.  

I guess I could’ve just as easily played a game on the terrain, but I was too lazy to do so.  Anyway, I just wanted to enjoy talking to the club members and any other spectators, and convincing people that good terrain needn’t be too complicated. 

The display was very much ‘Hollywood’ rather than ‘History’, with various anachronisms evident (eg a Napoleonic landing party in a Golden Age of Piracy game from a totally different century), and some definite confusion in architectural styles (ranging from a Spanish Main village to an American colonial boat-house and church).  

I took a pile of pictures, so here they are for your enjoyment.  They’re all quite large photos, so that you an click on them to get the full-size effect.

IMG_lg_1941An island, somewhere in the Spanish Main.  The terrain is a bunched up felt gaming cloth arranged over a commercial sea terrain mat, with some judicious use of real rocks and sand.  Simple, but eye-catching.

IMG_lg_1964Teddy-bear fur provided some fields of wheat.  Does wheat grow in the Caribbean?  Who cares? … this is Hollywoood, remember!

IMG_lg_1963This was a great excuse to drag out my home-made Napoleonic Peninsular War village, and the Perry civilians for that period.

IMG_lg_1962My Royal Navy longboat rows past a Dutch merchantman to battle the pirate invasion.

IMG_lg_1960The Renadra dilapidated barn kitset made a perfect boat-shed, just by adding some ladders and broken fences as ramps.

IMG_lg_1959To any small kids who viewed the table (and there were quite a few), I gave the mission of finding the pirate treasure.  Looking carefully, they would soon spot this cave …

IMG_lg_1958Outside the town the local garrison are on parade in front of the town worthies … little knowing that a pirate raid is eventuating beneath their very noses.

IMG_lg_1957The Dutch merchantman has now been overtaken by the navy boat as it heads round the point to engage the pirates.

IMG_lg_1955And whilst the pirates attack one side of the island, smugglers are busy on the other coast, moving their contraband inland on a convoy of wagons.

IMG_lg_1953The peaceful churchyard – one of two religious institutions on the island.

IMG_lg_1952And meanwhile the garrison continues its preening and parading in front of the ladies …

IMG_lg_1951… and the ladies continue their preening in front of the handsome officers.

IMG_lg_1950But some soldiers are hard at work at the fort on the point, firing the first shots at the pirate fleet.  The fort is a simple plastic toy I bought at a bring-and-buy.

IMG_lg_1949Some of the pirates have landed, disturbing a trio of young ladies who have been picnicking on the beach under the twirling sails of the (Grand Manner) windmill.

IMG_lg_1948The pirate fleet – including a scratch-built brig by my friend Scott, and my own converted Disney ‘Black Pearl’.

IMG_lg_1945If you look carefully, you’ll see a man praying at his father’s grave in the country churchyard.

IMG_lg_1944Another look at that fat Dutch merchantman – the fat ship, not the fat merchant!  This ship was originally a plastic toy in a boxed game, though it has been given a heavy makeover.

IMG_lg_1943Meanwhile the smugglers are making their way over the bridge and up to the village to dispose of their contraband.  The river, road and bridge are by Australian company Miniature World Makers.

IMG_lg_1940Here’s another look at those pirates landing on the beach, almost under the guns of the fort.

IMG_lg_1939The pirates’ flagship waits off-shore, ignoring the puny gun in the small fort on the point.

IMG_lg_1938One of the the lookouts in the fort tower is blowing the alarum trumpet.

IMG_lg_1937It’s a good thing this is Hollywood rather than History, otherwise that skeleton pirate would be right out of place.

IMG_lg_1936The table attracted a lot of interest right through the day, despite it being a static display.  The longboat is a terrific model by Britannia Miniatures.

IMG_lg_1935Here’s that boat-shed again.  You can also see how a sprinkling of real sand makes an effective touch.

IMG_lg_1934Life goes on in the the higgledy-piggledy village on the hill.

IMG_lg_1933Oh dear, they’re STILL parading.  Haven’t they heard the alarum yet?

IMG_lg_1932Nope, I guess not.

IMG_lg_1947Here’s a couple of the other games we put on … Scott and Paul did a great Flames of War game, with plenty of action.  They even had the screaming sound effect whenever the Stuka made an appearance.

IMG_lg_1946Stephen and Steve put on a lovely 15mm Seven Years War game.