Sunday, 21 October 2018

Painting 40mm British Napoleonic infantry - recording colours.

Yesterday I got a couple of good long painting sessions in, and the result was four more British Infantry completed. I'm really beginning to find my stride now with these 40mm figures and I have just four more figures to paint to complete the first four full Battalions. The decision to add four flank company figures per unit was taken mostly because I had the figures and that one unit (The Buffs) arrived with them already painted.

As I'll soon be turning my attention to rounding off the four large French battalions (35 figures per battalion including a mounted officer) I thought it a good idea to jot down a few colours for when I return to painting more Brits in due course.

The British redcoats are painted starting with Flat Red (all Vallejo paints used), then highlighted with Amaranth Red whilst still wet. The latter is a nice orange red and once fully dry I add a wash of red ink to add depth and shading, wiping the highlight areas as required. This gives me a very satisfactory redcoat. For officers I add some Orange Red to represent the better quality cloth.

White trousers had been a bit of an issue, I had been highlighting with Ivory but it was still too 'white' for campaign trousers. I have now settled on Light Grey highlighted with Sky Grey and this seems to give a much better look.

Everything is of course painted over a flat Black undercoat, the Vallejo paints being able to cover well over this. As I paint carefully picking out the details etc I find that I don't need to use black other than to touch up, but the black alone is a little flat and I have found that highlighting with Black Grey works really well on backpacks, shakos, bicornes etc.

Faces have been a little more problematic. I have now reverted to the two shades that I used for years on smaller scale figures, Light Brown base and a careful highlight using a size 000 brush and Flat Flesh, down the nose, dot in both sides of the nose, dot in above the lips, the chin and the cheekbones and ears. Recently I have started mixing in a small amount of red to the Flat Flesh and slightly highlighting the cheeks and beneath the lower lip and I must say I really like the impact this gives my 40mm faces, maybe too 'toy soldier' for some but I really like it. Previous attempts using various browns (on the Highlanders for example) resulted in far too strong a finish, the subtle 'rose' giving a finish I'm far happier with. Eyes I just try to add the whites with tiny single dots, sometimes I overdo it! I like to paint in teeth where figures are open mouthed.

Before I paint the final four British Grenadiers (?) ready for the Grand Review next week I'm going to paint the foot command figures for the fourth French battalion as you see. As I found a bare head in the spares box I decided to cut the sergeants shako from the face, file it flat then drill it out so that it sits on the bayonet, a minor conversion but gives him a slightly different appearance.

Pictures show before and after Vallejo Satin Varnish and as I found a few smaller scale figures in the spares box too I thought a photo illustrating the size of these 40mm figures might be fun. Image shows a Blue Moon 15mm, Hinton Hunt 20mm (I don't know where he came from, must have been when I was painting for Roy) and a 25mm Hinchliffe figure. The 40mm is interesting as I can't see him in the Sash & Sabre lists, he looks very Spanish to me, any ideas? Whatever he is he's a real character, cigar in hand.

Enthusiastic Frenchie!

After varnishing.

Little and Large!

Friday, 19 October 2018

A busy painting desk this week in 15mm & 40mm!

I'm home alone again for a week -well I have the dog and cat for company of course - but Shaz is back in the UK for a week with the kids and Gran children. She will be back on Thursday and once again will be bringing back some more hobby goodies in her suitcase. I'm planning to keep busy painting soldiers and getting in some long dog walks, my legs are aching this morning as yesterday I walked Poppy to the top of Monte Corona from where the views are magnificent, if I go again today I'll take the camera. It's rainy season here in La Safor Mountains, but the sun still shows it's face most days, today is dry and bright at 22 degrees.

 I have been quietly beavering away on a little background project for a month or so now, the aim being to replace the Commands and Colours blocks with individual 15mm soldiers. Some might recall the huge box of 'Blue Moon' Napoleonics that came with us to Spain 7 months ago, sufficient to replace every type of British and French block with a figure. You can see below progress to date, British infantry, line, light & rifles and the first of the French infantry. 4 blocks per unit, 3 in the case of rifles. I have 6 British heavy dragoons undercoated (3 per unit) and will then hack through loads of French line in campaign dress. When I tire of the demands of painting 40mm soldiers I find I can whack through 12 or so 15mm figures in a couple of hours painting session, which is quite rewarding.

I have no plans to do anything more than replace the blocks and play on the board just as it is, I much prefer the feel of such playing pieces and the visual impact, they are robust enough to be scooped up and knocked about a bit. As you can see all will be based on 6mm steel washers with the intention of storing them in boxes lined with magnetic sheet. This combination of board games and models is something I am keen to take further in the future and C&C offers an awful lot of potential.

By next Friday I hope to present the four completed 40mm British line battalions, just eight flank company to paint this week and they will be done. I painted the two standard bearers and a drummer to complete all of the command figures required, as said before each battalion will be of 29 figures including a mounted officer. Then it's back to the French, slotting in more 15mm's as and when I feel like it!

40mm figures by Sash & Sabre, 15mm figures by Blue Moon, all available in the UK from good old Andy at Old Glory UK.

Busy, busy!

Rifles to the fore, 3 blocks per unit.

The board is darker than shown here, but I might yet lighten the figure bases to match.

The light infantry are distinguished from the line by the loading/firing poses.

First French - in greatcoats to begin with!

Sunday, 14 October 2018

British cavalry on parade in Spain!

I have just finished the basing off this morning which completes the first eight British Heavy Dragoons. I do have another eight in the pipeline, but they will probably be pushed back until later in the year as my plan is to finish off all of the infantry of both sides first and then to paint the first eight of the line Chassuers a Cheval castings that I have here.

I'm pleased with how these turned out, I built the red up to a nice bright orange red highlight which seems to set them off. I did make one cock up, the trumpeters head was stuck onto another trooper and I failed to notice it until only yesterday when they were all based up and varnished! Shaz and I popped out for an afternoon drink and I was clearly pre occupied as she said to to me " You're still thinking about those heads aren't you?" I knew they had to be swapped and decided to go for it when I got home later, and it was with much trepidation that I prized the damn things off and stuck them back on again. Not perfect, but after a bit of cleaning up and retouching I was glad that I did it.

So here they are, I'm not which regiment they will represent yet. The breeches were repainted white and then washed over with a grey wash before highlighting with ivory, I think they look about right now. I'm trying to improve my horse painting method, still not 100% but getting better. I think they have real impact in 40mm scale, they are big chunky castings, and I thought it would be nice to show them with the Light Dragoons as this represents the British cavalry so far completed.

Next up are three more British command figures then eight line flank company, four per battalion to finish them off. This will give me four battalions each of 24 rank and file, 2 standard bearers, a drummer, a foot officer and a mounted commander. In addition there is the twelve figure unit representing the 60th Rifles. After that I need to just add a few more French command figures to complete five battalions organised as per the British, each of 29 figures total plus a unit of 16 Voltiguers. It's all starting to come together now slowly. I might then add more guns to bring the artillery up to battery strength of 3 guns per side. Further down the line I want to do a British Light infantry battalion and may well go with Perry Miniatures for these as they do really nice figures in loading and firing poses which will make a neat close order battalion. Perry's are somewhat expensive at £4.25 per figure (?) but I think they will be worth it.

Friday was 'Columbus Day' here in Spain, Spanish National day, the second public holiday of the week as Tuesday was Christians and Moors commemorations day! 12 public holidays a year here, and everything closes except the bars and restaurants of course. It's family time as generations eat and drink together in a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. Shaz and I booked for Paella at our favourite little bar, we have been in Spain now for 7 months and here in Ador for only about 4 months but we already feel like locals here and always get a warm welcome when we walk in to Ca Elsa. There is something very special about the warmth of the Spanish people that we love, everyone talks to you and smiles at you.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Heavy Dragoons underway!

To return to the painting of model soldiers - with my mind now pretty well made up as to how to proceed with the building of the wargame table - I have made a start on some Sash & Sabre British Heavies. A session yesterday followed by a nice relaxing Sunday morning session today has enabled me to paint the first four troopers. I found it a tad difficult obtaining solid reference material for these chaps, representing as they do a unit on campaign in the Peninsular war, pre1812 when the helmet would appear to have been widely introduced. Breeches for example are shown as buff, off white or frequently as depicted here in the blue grey overalls with riding boots. I may yet alter some details, the cuffs I think need lace adding as these are not cast wearing gloves. For now they're not too bad I think. I'll probably assemble and paint the next four before painting the eight horses together. I have another bag on order which will eventually bring them up to sixteen figures.

Whilst browsing Facebook yesterday I came across Steve Barber Models and his 'Commission a miniature' service. Steve is clearly a very talented sculptor of miniatures and his page featured the first of a 40mm commission of Napoleonic characters. I'm sure all of us 'Sharp' fans can guess who he is, and Steve informs me that he will be available for purchase in about a months time and others will follow in due course, although for now they are under wraps. I will definitely be down for a set of these.
Copyright Steve Barber Models.

Copyright Steve Barber Models.

Friday, 5 October 2018

'Thinking out loud' ... a response to comments.

The comments left on my previous blog post have given me much to think about, and again I thank those who take the time to comment. I know I am not the greatest of wordsmiths, but it was important to me that I managed to get some of that stuff out of my head. I am now probably more decided now as to how to proceed than I was before the post, so firstly to answer some of the questions posed and then to try to expand upon points raised in the post itself.

To begin with the grid itself, I should emphasise that my plan was/is to make the table look as grid free as possible by only dotting in the corners, and then in a way that is barely visible to the eye. Whilst I know that grid games work for me and have done for many years now, I do believe that a more conventional terrain layout is what I'm looking for this time round. Back in 2012 when I was playing Commands & Colours Napoleonics with 6mm figures on a 3 ' x 4' table I tried to do the same thing, at least with the basic bare board. I think I got close to achieving what I was looking for, but of course there was no way of 'disguising' all of the terrain features that were built upon hexes, especially the hills, but I'm sure that with a square grid, very subtly marked out I can do even better this time. So what is the point of using a grid if I want to try to hide it? It's because I can't get my brain around grid free games these days, they just work for me, but as 'Norm' pointed out, beautiful they are not.

Here are a couple of images of my 2012 C&C set up to illustrate the method I used to try to blend in the actual hexes, it took a lot of work to get it to look like that, this time I have a different method in mind.

Terrain features aside you have to look hard to see the dotted hex pattern.

You can just make it out here.

I think this illustrates what I have in mind for the new playing surface.
Next the issue of what units represent when placed in the grid. Twelve infantry figures in 2 ranks occupy a frontage of 120mm so sit comfortably in a square grid of 150mm, and when several such groups are placed side by side the appearance is that of a continuous line of troops, be they representing companies or battalions with a 30mm spacing between them that looks about right with 40mm model soldiers. Same for cavalry, four such occupy a frontage of 120mm by 70mm deep, and when placed in adjoining squares give the appearance of larger formations. The activation system I have in mind allows for adjoining formations to be moved together, so three infantry groups for example can be advanced on a common front to retain cohesion, with a command base attached to the centre group giving morale and control benefit to all three groups as per C&C. As for the artillery, well I see no reason not to deploy two such together on adjacent squares, treating them as a section but firing individually, they a big pieces in 40mm  scale and each will only fit into a single square.

Norm made a good point about the narrow depth of my infantry groups being only 50mm for the two ranks being quite wasteful in terms of table depth, but I want to be able to represent terrain features such as roads, rivers, woods, fields etc and especially buildings so the depth allows me to do this. Even with cavalry being 70mm deep it still allows depth for terrain features to be placed around them, if I were to double the cavalry to eight figures in two ranks it would leave no room for buildings sadly. This is the big compromise of using grids.

Ross Mac made a very good point about British infantry forming square, and of course one can't have a series of companies forming squares! So I guess this kind of decides the fact that what goes into one of my grids is going to have to represent a battalion at least, I can live with that. This means command bases will be at Brigade level, again something I can live with.

I have also had interesting discussion via email with David Crook, who is also working on grid based wargames ideas, and many of the points made have been absorbed into my plans. Conrad Kinch also kindly sent me a set of grid based rules he has been working on, and as one might imagine they are written in his usual humorous style and are a very good set of rules I could see myself using. What is clear to me is that there remains lots of options for using grids in wargames, my next stage is to get the table painted up and dotted out so I can illustrate some of these points raised above.

On the figure painting front I'm taking a short break from the infantry to paint a squadron of eight British Heavy Dragoons, the first four of which are assembled and undercoated as you can see. These are lovely chunky Sash & Sabre castings, and unlike the Light Dragoons the arms are cast on and only the sword hands need to fitted into the drilled out sockets. The bicorne heads are sculpted at slightly different angles which adds character to the soldiers. Should have these finished for next weeks update, I'm really forward to starting them. They will also eventually form a sixteen figure unit. In the pipeline I have French Line Chassuer a Cheval and also Cuirassiers - only the one unit in the Pensinsular I know, and wearing somewhat drab brown coats, but you gotta have some cuirassiers! I also have plans for a British Light Infantry battalion, so plenty of enthusiasm going forward.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Thinking out loud..... part 1.

Somewhere between these three publications lies my ideal wargame.

I have been doing an awful lot of thinking and mental planning recently with regards to how I want to be able to use my 40mm Napoleonics. I needed to get a few ideas 'down on paper' and out of my head, in order to be able to see where I am with this. So this post will probably consist of numerous bullet pointed notes that will hopefully come together to assist me in better understanding the shape and form and type of wargame I want to be able to enjoy, and I invite comments and suggestions of course.

1. Grid or no grid?  So this is the starting point for me, and believe me when I say it's been buzzing round my head for weeks now as I weigh up the pro's and con's of both. My instinct is to go with a grid based game using a very subtle 6" square grid, indeed I would like the challenge of doing this and I think a lot about how I could make this look as conventional as possible. Grids just work for me, when I place a unit within a grid it instantly defines the ground occupied, the type of terrain, the movement options available and the range bands for shooting. I don't have to worry about the finer points of facings or formations too much, my unit can be assumed to be doing all that, but the important thing is that it sits within that grid and everything else is obvious at a glance. Units can be placed in formation that best suits the nationality and training of the troop type, in my case columns for the French and line for the British. I am adamant that I will not go back to hexes again for three main reasons, firstly I have done it too many times before, secondly because it's sodding hard work marking them all out, and thirdly because I'm looking to achieve a grid based game that will feature conventional terrain features such as rounded hills,  roads and rivers that can be laid straight across the table, square or rectangular fields and such like. I have in mind Bob C's Portable Wargames rules with the addition of a dice driven random activation system along the lines of Bolt Action where the advantage can potentially be with one side for a few moves before it swings back again which I always found great fun. I'm also keen to avoid the 'you go, I go' thing where all units of one side are moved together, fire, melee etc.

2. How many model soldiers can fit in the grid square and what do they represent? This one has been going round and round my brain almost to the point of torment! I think I now have it nailed however, I'll try to explain. Let's say I want to deploy x number of model soldiers within a 6" grid, there has to be space to represent the terrain type that area represents, so the units need to be fairly small, and 12 x 40mm figures allows for this. I can place 12 British infantry in two ranks, or 12 French infantry in a column of 3 ranks. Now, I am mentally unable to see those 12 figures as representing anything but a single company, they simply wont do as a regiment, brigade or division etc, it works for others I know, but for me it's an infantry company or a troop in the case of 4 cavalry. The next stage is to deploy several companies representing larger formations, so my 12 British infantry based on 120mm frontage can be formed up alongside other companies forming a realistic long firing line, with only a 30mm space between the companies, this really don't look bad at all on the table and the French columns look equally good to my eye as allowing space to deploy into line, although of course this is not relevant to my game. Table size I have decided to use is 5' wide by 6' long which equates to a 10 x 12 grid of 6" squares.

3. Nice flags, musicians and mounted officers. 12 infantry figures representing a company does not allow for lots of flags and officers etc, they would look silly and unrealistic, but of course we all like to see a few on the table don't we? Again I have agonised over this and finally come to the conclusion that I can create command stands representing 'officers', not too big but large enough to accommodate 1 mounted officer, standard bearers and the odd character etc. I think nice round bases maybe 60mm will do as they will need to fit within a square with a unit when they choose to attach and give the morale advantage (ignoring retreats) etc. 60mm is just about workable and will look very pretty I think.

4. What about cavalry and artillery? At the moment my 2 cavalry units (French 2nd Hussars and British 16th Light Dragoons) are each of 16 figures, and in 40mm they are huge! To sit in a 150mm grid square I have to break them down into troops of 4 figures, no choice in that given the size of the bases. I can live with this, especially when 2 such are deployed beside each other. As for the guns, they have to represent a single piece at this level and again I have no problem with that. I will only ever be fighting small scale, low level actions I know, but in 40mm I'm more than happy with that, I just want to push my lovely toy soldiers around the table.

I'll leave it there for now, but will next try to explain in more depth my ideas for the actual rules as outlined above. I'm hoping that Bob C's next book 'The Napoleonic Portable Wargame will expand upon the original rules - I have a hardback copy of 'The Portable Wargame - and address the issue of cavalry charging formed squares and the reaction of the infantry in such cases, most certainly Commands and Colours does this very well and it's something I would like to incorporate into my games, which will be set in Spain around 1810 - 1811.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Blushing French Officers and (slightly) better photos!

Firstly I'd like to thank those who commented on my last post, and especially to 'Norm' who took the time to write a detailed and informative comment that has really encouraged me to persevere with the DSLR camera.

This last week has seen much progress on the basing front, with only a few units to finish off. It has helped that I have decided upon the finish that I want to use, it's pretty simple, coloured filler mix applied by knife and textured, a few stones added here and there, 6mm static grass mix,  Vallejo Flat Earth over the bare areas and then a final highlight/drybrush with Buff. You can see it in the images below.

I have added two more mounted French officers this week, the chap with the bicorne being particularly pleasing to me. I don't normally blush up the cheeks but I did in these cases and I really like the impact it has on bringing out the faces. If it's old toy soldier style I don't mind one bit! I have a couple of French standard bearers and a drummer up next, after that I want to get stuck into a squadron of 8 British heavy dragoons with laced coats and bicornes.

40mm Sash & Sabre Peninsular Napoleonics - note only the mounted officers were painted by me, the infantry are part of the painted collection as purchased, I'm just basing them all up!

Figures have been given one coat of Vallejo satin varnish.

More French infantry get the new basing treatment.


I am holding back on a post tentatively titled 'Thinking out loud' wherein I have tried to get some of the thoughts and ideas on how I plan to use these figures to game with out of my head and down on the blog. I hope to have it posted here by Sunday and hope it will prove thought provoking.

Finally for now, we were in 'Merca China' this week, one of those Chinese sells everything cheap kind of shops, actually buying decorated plant pots, and as usual I always keep an eye out for anything that might prove useful hobby related. Imagine my delight when I spotted large sheets of balsa wood, perfect for constructing scratch built Peninsular style buildings! Again this is something I have had in mind for some time but been searching for a base material. I plan to build 40mm scale houses but in slightly low relief and the balsa will form the basic shell of what I have in mind.