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!
This posting is a combination of two articles that first appeared on the now-defunct Kapiti Fusiliers website in around 2005 and 2007. I am republishing these articles because they describe how I made the Spanish buildings that sit in the background of several of my more recent postings.
Making buildings for wargames
Can’t afford miniature buildings? Fusilier Roly Hermans shows you how he made his own complete 25mm Spanish village for less than $NZ40.
Since I started back into wargaming a few years ago, almost all my hobby finances have gone into miniature figures. So the terrain for them to fight over has been sadly lacking. But no longer – I’ve now made a whole village for myself.
I’d often thought about scratch-building some houses, but never really known where to start. The breakthrough came when I discovered a product called “foamboard”. This is a 5mm-thick sheet of foam, backed on both sides by paper. It can be easily cut with a craft knife, yet is sturdy enough to make a strong model. It also has another neat advantage, which I’ll come to later. Foamboard can be bought in large sheets from stationary shops – I got mine coloured black, which saved a lot of undercoating later on.
The first step in planning to build miniature houses is exactly the same as that for painting miniature soldiers – research. I wanted my terrain to go with my Peninsular War miniatures, so visited the library and got out some landscape books about Spain. I also looked for design ideas in catalogues of commercially made wargames buildings.
From the library books, besides learning about the design of Spanish houses, I was also able to extract some doors and windows from the photos, and scan them in to use on my miniature buildings. The resulting sheet is shown below, for anyone who wishes to use these doors and windows (click on the image to see the fullsize version).
Once I worked out the design of my houses, I drew the shapes of the walls onto the foamboard and cut these out carefully with a craft knife. I also cut out the openings for the doors and windows, all sized to match the windows on the above mentioned sheet.
Now comes the bit where foamboard has a really neat feature: the corner joints can all be easily rabbeted (I think that is the technical term!). I got this idea from Major Tremording’s Colonial Wargaming site [sadly this site is now gone too, but the article concerned can be found on Wayback Machine]. Rather than explain it in detail here, I suggest you look at the illustrated instructions on how to rabbet corners on this page of his site. The technique is surprisingly easy, makes tidy corner joints, and also saves the complicated mathematics of allowing for the thickness of the construction material at the design stage.
If you want to add features such as corner-stones, do so now. I used cardboard from a cereal packet, cut into small strips and folded around the corners of a couple of the houses. Rather painstaking, but worth it for the effect (see the house on the right, above). I also glued on some random patches of brick-paper which would represent where the plaster had fallen off the building.
Once the house is constructed using the rabbeting technique, then comes the exciting part – texturing and painting. I coat the walls with thinned-down PVA glue, then sprinkle them with a mixture of fine and coarse sand. Once dry, another coat of thinned-down PVA is applied to seal the sand onto the walls. They look pretty terrible at this stage, but, never fear, the next step of the process will fix that!
Painting is done with several colours. Firstly I outline the patches of bricks in black. Then I apply a dry-brush of yellow oxide artist’s acrylic to the walls – the sand is very thirsty, so you have to use tons of paint to do this! Next, a dry brush of arylamade yellow, and finally a dry brush of titanium white.
Now the house is ready for its windows and doors. Simply glue these in place behind the respective openings. I then glue some scrap foamboard behind the paper windows to make them stronger (I don’t want anyone poking a finger through them!). I make shutters out of corrugated card, and some windows have foamboard window boxes with scenic flock plants.
The final stage is the roof. I was planning initially to use a technique described by well-known terrain modeller Gary Chalk, in which he uses cordouroy cloth, set with PVA glue, and dry-brushed. However, I found a perfect product in my local hobby shop – a sheet of plasticard that has been pre-moulded into pantiles. This was the costliest part of my project (all of about $NZ20!), but the resulting roofs do look the part.
And there you have it, one complete Spanish village. By using the buildings in different configurations, and using a few freestanding wall pieces to connect them, the layout possibilities are endless. Now I am inspired to set up a scenario game at the next club night, involving the British and French fighting over my village terrain.
And here is the second Kapiti Fusiliers article, which appeared in May 2007.
A peaceful little village somewhere on the Peninsula
Recently Fusilier Roly Hermans added a few new Spanish houses to his terrain, and painted some Perry civilians to inhabit them.
A year or two ago, I made some Spanish houses out of foam-core board for my 25mm Peninsular War games, and wrote an article for this website on how the construction was done [i.e. the article above].
Being a regular visitor to Paul Darnell’s beautiful Touching History website [now no longer existing] I snapped up his book on terrain-making, and used it as a guide to make some more buildings to add to my collection.
I was also impressed with a fantastic 40mm game put on by the Durham Chosen Men [yet another defunct website] and liked their half-timbered ‘bodega’ so much that I copied it to give a bit of variety to my otherwise plastered buildings.
Looking at all the resulting buildings, I realised that they looked a bit spartan without any landscape detail, such as streets, courtyards, gardens and so on. So my latest project has been to tie all my buildings together as a fully landscaped village.
I laid out the village as a crossroads with a small plaza in the centre. Each quadrant of the village is a separate small baseboard, so I can break it up into several smaller hamlets if necessary. I’ve made the buildings themselves detachable from their baseboards, so that I can still use them individually.
The village now needed some inhabitants. Just in time Perry Miniatures released a very nice range of Carlist Wars civilians. Although this period is a few years after the Napoleonic Wars, the costumes would not have changed that much, and so they were perfect for my purposes.
This is a very nicely sculpted miniature, depicting the Earl in hussar uniform sitting astride his horse. He is in a casual stance, hand resting on his horse’s hindquarters as he turns to look behind him. Man and mount are a single casting.
The Earl’s horse looks every bit a thoroughbred, rather than the sturdier horses my cavalry are mounted on. I usually paint my horses with oils, which is a messy business. But for this one I tried something simpler. I just painted it with Humbrol red matt enamel, darkened the lower legs with black wash, then coated the whole horse with GW’s ‘Grunta-Fur’ Contrast paint.
I also painted the Earl himself entirely with GW’s Contrast paints. The elaborate gold frogging on his uniform was very simple to do with just one quick coat of Adrodas Dunes. The paint does all the work of shading and highlighting by itself! I am really pleased with Contrast paints, especially their flesh and other lighter colours, and also their red. Darker colours such as blue or green don’t come out quite so well in my opinion, but are fine for the lazy painter that I have become lately!
Most of the buildings in the background of these photos are ones I scratch-built quite a few years ago. They’re made of foamcore board, coated with glue and sand, then dry-brushed with beige, yellow and finally white. The windows and doors are simply printed-out paper fund on the internet, and the roofs are textured plasticard intended for model railway buildings.
Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey, KG, GCB, GCH, PC (17 May 1768 – 29 April 1854), was styled Lord Paget between 1784 and 1812 and known as the Earl of Uxbridge between 1812 and 1815. He took part in the Flanders Campaign and then commanded the cavalry for Sir John Moore’s army in Spain during the early part of the Peninsular War. His liaison with Lady Charlotte, the wife of Henry Wellesley, made it impossible for him to serve for the rest of the Peninsular campaign when command passed to Wellington, Wellesley’s brother.
During the Hundred Days campaign, Uxbridge led the charge of the heavy cavalry against Comte d’Erlon’s column at the Battle of Waterloo. The most famous story about Uxbridge was when one of the last cannon shots fired at Waterloo hit his right leg, necessitating its amputation above the knee. According to anecdote he was close to the Duke of Wellington when his leg was hit, and reputedly exclaimed, “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!”, to which Wellington replied “By God, sir, so you have!”
In 1810 the Anglo-Portuguese army had a network of optical semaphore stations that ran in lines forming an inverted Y, from Lisbon to the frontier fortifications of Elvas and Almeida. Each station was manned by a small group of soldiers from the Corpo Telegraphico.
Signals were passed using a moveable 3-foot square panel that could indicate six numerals. Combinations of these numbers corresponded to hundreds of words or part-phrases in a code book.
The Perry models include a cross-legged engineer officer reading a message from next station in the line, his telescope supported on a stoic telegrapher’s shoulder. Another man notes down the code-numbers as the officer calls them out.
Behind them a fourth telegrapher is busy re-sending the message further down the line, using a rope to control the pivoting semaphore arm.
The above extreme close-up photos show my somewhat impressionistic painting style. They really do look better than this when held at arms-length!
But despite my untidy paintwork, the character that the Perry twins have instilled into the faces of these figures is undeniable.
I’ve based this set so they can be placed on top of a tower I converted many years ago from a plastic toy in the old ‘Weapons and Warriors’ pirate playset.
Here’s a rather bucolic scene sometime during the Napoleonic Wars, with British infantry and cavalry relaxing in camp.
These are all Perry Miniatures figures from their 28mm metal Napoleonic British range. They come as separate sets depicting various scenes of camp life.
The fun with these sets is arranging them on a base to tell a story. Here a couple of soldiers and a female camp-follower tend their large cooking pot. Behind them another soldier chops wood for the fire, whilst his mate makes a welcome arrival carrying a goat he has caught to add to the broth (tastier than the rats on the crates!).
This bases tells the story of the changing of the guard. On the left a sergeant directs his men who have just come in from patrol duty to remove and stack their heavy packs.
Meanwhile a portly young officer inspects one of the relief party heading out on guard duty. This officer figure doesn’t actually come from this particular set, but I thought he added a nice touch to this scene.
In the background another of the incoming patrol wipes his brow tiredly whilst his mate stacks their muskets.
The last of my vignettes shows a group of dragoons playing a game of cards, surrounded by their discarded helmets and even a saddle.
In contrast to the dragoons’ campaign uniforms, the two hussars ambling into camp are very ornately dressed.
These figures exemplify the amazing talent that the Perry twins have for lifelike anatomy and naturalistic posing.
They are all painted in my usual rather impressionistic style – they don’t bear too close a look, as you can see if you expand these photos! I used GW Contrast paints exclusively for all these figures.
The bases are MDF coated with real sand and dotted with a few pumice stones, roughly sprinkled with static grass and clumps of long grass. I don’t paint my base terrain – it is all ‘au natural’, as I think why paint your sand when that is what real terrain is made of!
Whilst these figures won’t play much part in any wargame other than for decoration, they are still a welcome addition to my Napoleonic British army.
British and French third-rate ships-of-the-line battle it out, as a Spanish brig circles warily. This photo was taken with a simple hand-painted sky background, and sitting on the paper sea that comes with the Warlord ‘Black Seas’ starter set. (Warlord Games)
This is a sight that would strike fear into the heart of any Frenchman – a whole company of Sharpes and Harpers charging down onto them from oe’r the hill and far away!
The two figures on the left came free with the original release of the ‘Sharp Practice’ rule-set from Too Fat Lardies. Next to them are foot and mounted versions made by Brigade Games. Beside them are a pair by Chiltern Miniatures, with Sharpe wearing the tatty raincoat from the Sharpe’s Waterloo video. Finally, the 40mm versions on the right are by Sash and Sabre.
Here’s a closer look at the Sharpe and Harper figures by Brigade Games. From amongst my collection of Sharpes, I think Brigade Games have best captured Sean Bean’s likeness.
Brigade Games also make a set of 95th Rifles figures that are very obviously based on some of the characters from the TV series.
First comes Francis Cooper, born and bred in the London slums, where he learnt his trade in thieving, pick pocketing, and housebreaking.
Then there’s Isaiah Tongue, an educated man, but also an alcoholic. He could recite passages from the Bible, and was one of the few soldiers who was able to read.
To the right of Sharpe and Harper is Rifleman Harris, red-haired and ever cheerful, clever, well-read, amusing, and loyal.
The oldest rifleman is Daniel Hagman, a former poacher who, when caught, was given the choice of prison or the army.
Finally there’s Ben Perkins, the youngest Chosen Man in the 95th Rifles.
Brigade Games also make a range of other characters from the TV series. Many of them come in both foot and mounted versions. Here is Michael Hogan, the middle-aged, snuff addicted Irishman of the Royal Engineers, who also serves as an exploring officer for Wellington.
Sharpe married Spanish guerrilla leader Teresa Morales the day after the sack of Badajoz She fights under the nom de guerre, la Aguja, or The Needle, a name given to her by Sharpe.
One of my favourite characters is William Frederickson, or ‘Sweet William’, a captain of the 60th Royal American Rifles. He suffered serious facial wounds which destroyed his left eye, tore away most of his right ear, and knocked out several teeth. When fighting he takes out his false teeth, and removes his wig and eye patch, to terrifying effect.
Then, of course, there are Sharpe’s enemies.
Pierre Ducos is a political animal, spymaster, and master manipulator. He was a protégé of Joseph Fouché, the notorious secret policeman of the revolutionary period. Weak and timid when physically confronted, he claims to detest ‘unnecessary violence’ but is utterly indifferent to the suffering of others.
And who can forget the evil Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill. He fears nothing, truly believes he cannot die, and thoroughly hates Sharpe as a man who does not fear him, and as an upstart. In his shako he carries a stolen painting of his colonel’s wife, which he talks to as if it’s his mother.
I have used a pinning technique for the mounted figures,so that the horse can be easily displayed with or without its rider.
The figures are mainly painted with GW’s Contrast paints, apart from Ducos’ jacket (which I wanted in a different shade of green than the Rifles’ coats) and the oil-painted horses.
This Austrian infantryman ambles along nonchalantly smoking his pipe, musket held languidly across his shoulder. He appears to be ignoring the revolutionary French soldier shouting an angry challenge and thrusting his bayonet out in front of him.
So, does this mean I am about to start a new period, painting armies of the French Revolutionary Wars? Nope, this is just some more of my doodling whilst on lockdown, painting various miscellaneous figures I’ve had lying round for years.
These very characterful figures are by Trent Miniatures. Where I got them from, I have no idea. They’ve just been sitting in by bits and bobs box for as long as I can remember. Lockdown has finally spurred me to give them a lick of paint.
I must say I rather like their charm, even though the anatomy is very suspect. There is just something about their cartoon-like look that feels a bit like Asterix comics would if they were set in the late 18th century. If I ever were to do another period, I would certainly be looking at this range.
I have once again experimented with GW’s range of Contrast paints. They certainly do a wonderfully quick and easy job. I did no shading or highlighting at all on these figures – it all happened by itself. The faces in particular came up very well.
Whilst these figures wouldn’t win any painting contest, they look great from the distance you view them at on the wargames table or in the display cabinet.
I also had some Royal Navy sailors by Brigade Games lying around. They’ve also worked quite well with Contrast paints.
I do think the matelot on the right has a rather too long bayonet – it must be about as long as his entire leg!
These figures are the very last in my lead mountain. Though I do have a few miscellaneous plastic freebie sprues from ‘Wargames Illustrated’ magazines if I feel so inclined.
However, I am awaiting a couple of orders of metal figures that will complement two of my current periods … you’ll just have to wait and see what they are!
When I bought Warlord Games boxed Black Seas set recently, it came with a free figure depicting none other than Captain Jack Aubrey, ostensibly from the Patrick O’Brian novels, but more specifically based on Russell Crowe’s portrayal in the movie ‘Master and Commander’.
Whilst it is indeed an exquisite figure, the model is quite large, more like about 35mm. So it really doesn’t fit with any of my 28mm Royal Navy figures in my Napoleonic period armies.
However, with my lead mountain reduced to scraps during the Covid-19 lockdown, I decided to paint this figure for something to do. And what a pleasure it was!
I decided to restrict myself to Games Workshop Contrast paints, and they worked beautifully. No part of this figure has been shaded or highlighted – what you see here is how the Contrast paints come straight from the bottle.
Actually, the model in real life looks even better than these pics (which in such extreme close-up show how I wasn’t quite painting inside the lines!).
But, as Aubrey himself would doubtless say about Contrast paints, ‘Quick’s the word and sharp’s the action!’
When I attended the Partizan wargaming show in the UK last year (back in those heady days when one could still travel abroad!), I made an impulse purchase of three wooden kits of Napoleonic French caissons and wagons.
I’d never made any wooden vehicles before, and thought they would probably be quite crude. So when I got back to New Zealand they were placed in a drawer and promptly forgotten. They probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day again, but then along came the Covid-19 lockdown, and I found myself scraping the bottom of my lead mountain for projects to occupy myself with. Then I remembered these little kits.
And how utterly and completely wrong I was with my prediction that these would be crude models! In fact , these models by Warbases turned out to be exquisite little miniatures. They went together beautifully, and were cleverly designed with very few of the visible joints that mar so many MDF kits.
I spray-painted then dark green, then dry-brushed them with a lighter green. I then just had to paint the wheel rims and, hey presto, the caissons were done!
I happened to have four very old Hinchliffe draft horses that someone gave me years and years ago, so I quickly painted them up – so now I had some motive power for at least two of my new wagons. Although a little on the small side, they work OK.
I also borrowed the driver from the Perry Miniatures supply wagon (which you can see in the background).
The wagons are based on the same ingenious system that Lieutenant General Jean Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval developed for the real French artillery, where the front wheels formed a separate limber to which any cart or gun could be attached. This means that by removing the caissons from the front wheel assemblies, I now have three limbers that can sit behind my artillery pieces if I want.
Unfortunately the guns were painted many years ago, so aren’t removable from their bases to attach to the limbers. But limbered-up artillery don’t feature often in my games anyway.
One of my wagons is a mobile field forge. This comes with a stand for when the front wheel assembly is removed, presumably so the farrier can move unobstructed round his furnace. I based the little stand separately, so I could either have the forge on its wheels or on the stand.
I already owned one other limber in my collection (another old Hinchliffe model). I found I could put one of my new caissons behind this limber. Although the Hinchliffe wheels are a bit small, the overall effect is fine.
With these models, it is now actually possible to envisage the long tail of equipment that sat behind an artillery battery: guns to limbers to caissons to support wagons. So often in wargames we see a battery of artillery as a kind of narrow line of guns, whereas this shows that other units moving too closely behind their artillery would be disrupted by all the ancillary equipment.
At the same time as I painted my wooden caissons and forge, I also painted two metal Crann Tara Miniatures limbers for my 18th century imagi-nation, the Barryat of Lyndonia. This certainly shows how the design and horse furniture for limbers changed in less than a hundred years.
But now the bottom of the lead mountain looms yet again!
Finally, on a more sombre but much more important note, here’s the latest animation about Covid-19 from my heroes scientist Siouxsie Wiles and cartoonist Toby Morris. Whilst (as at writing this) we have had only four deaths in New Zealand, the nature of this coronavirus means that we need to steel ourselves for more tough news in the coming weeks. That should only firm our resolve to keep to the lockdown.