Wednesday, 26 March 2008

The Artillery

This has been the topic of much thought. I'll be painting only one battery of two guns for BlastHof - each army receiving one gun for the battle. This reduction in the amount of artillery present will make, I think, for a better game.

As discussed in previous posts, there a limited choice of figures for use in a 30mm army. This problem is made more difficult by my own personal preferences. Figure manufacturers, not unreasonably, create gun crews hard at work serving the guns, and no doubt sending a hail of roundshot and grape to bowl over their enemies in great heaps. Indeed, so enthusiastic are these metal heroes that one must take care to avoid having a rammer who is merrily ramming home at the same time as, at the opposite end of the gun, another gunner is firing the piece. This is pretty much the opposite of what I want. I am really looking for a range with figures with choices such as 'gunner peering gormlessly into space while waiting for the smoke to clear'. My gunners are not to be the energetic warriors whose fire have dominated so many battlefields both real-life and miniature.

My final choice has been to go with my original instinct and to use the Suren French gun/crew set. I decided I wanted an 'unreformed gun': ie. a heavy piece unaffected by the great reforms of artillery that started around the middle of the 18th century in most first rate powers. My two Imaginations are both crumbling princedoms, barely able to escape out of the medieval, and so it seems inappropriate to have them possessing any of the more elegant pieces (such as the Elite Miniatures Austrian Four Pounder) that are available. That in itself is something of a strange choice: prefering the 'realistic' over the aesthetic when constructing an imaginary army. But then, as I have only to please myself, I don't need to care over much about such trifles as mere consistency.

As usual, I will paint the guns so they can also serve as pieces in the Prussian Army. This just means simple colours of blue-grey woodwork and blackened ironwork. I don't think these elderly guns would be too out of place in Frederick's Army because, while that monarch did recast his artillery to a lighter design prior to the start of the Seven Years War, he contrived to lose most of these pieces early on. So for much of the war the Prussians were served by older, heavier, cannon hastily gathered from service in various fortresses.

Converting the Suren French gunners into Prussians is rather more laborious than I'd prefer. Their cuffs are of the voluminous type associated with the War of the Austrian Succession and I therefore have to file down these admittedly elegant items to achieve the more utilitarian cuffs of SYW Prussians. As usual, pigtails can be added using cotton thread coated with epoxy glue. Fragile scabbards will be cut off and replaced with wire ones. The French officers are clad in heavy boots: these must be filed down to give gaiters.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Dragoons Done

My squadron of dragoons - the last contingent of cavalry I need for my first battle are, at last, complete. There was one rather crass mistake I made on these. I forgot to repair their manes with milliput where I had carved off the original reins. I didn't discover this omission until very late on in painting them, and any repair will have to wait until after the battle.

I'm planning on using two squadrons of cuirassiers against only one squadron of dragoons. This is a rather bigger difference in numbers (16 vs 6, rather than 16 vs 12) than was used in the original OOB for Blasthof. I will only partially compensate with this by a change in the infantry units used - I think the original OOB favoured Soubise. As my opponent will have choice of sides, hopefully if this produces an unbalanced contest, it will be me that suffers as a consequence.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Bits And Bobs

The flag for the Grenadiere-Garde has finally arrived. It transpires that the owner of GMB Designs has moved premises and this has caused him a few problems. I moved house just two years ago, and still remember the hassle I had: in a simple move that could have gone easily if everyone in a small chain of four people had only possessed three digit IQs. So Graham has my sympathy. The photo below shows my Grenadier-Garde regiment's Fahnenjunker finally ready to join the regiment.

My Dragoon test piece has proven to be as easy to paint as I had hoped: probably taking about half the effort of a cuirassier. The photo below shows him awaiting varnish and metallics.

The rest of the dragoon squadron has just completed the milliput, solder and epoxy glue stage, so I'll be painting them over the next few days. I've also started work on the artillery, gluing the pieces of each gun together.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

More On Bases

Well some things never change. Day one I make a plan. Day two something unforeseen happens and all plans must be recast. In this particular case my pin drill was the cause of the problem. The one millimetre drill, clearly exasperated by my inept fumblings, broke while I was drilling holes in the horses heads to take their reins. So I have only one horse ready for the next stage. I wasn't going to bother with painting a test figure this time round but, as there'll be a few days delay until I can get to a hardware shop, it looks like I'll be doing one after all.

As that won't take much time, I have to move ahead with other items. First up is basing my already completed figures. The cavalry have the worst stability problem so I'll tackle them first. I don't want a large base that overwhelms the figure, so I'm using dimensions of only 18 x 40mm. I am confident that this will be stable enough as the Suren personality figures of Frederick and Soubise have bases of roughly this size and show none of the wobble of the Stadden horses.

Construction is cheap and simple, using only materials at hand. The card I use is thin so I don't significantly raise already tall figures any more than necessary. I build the base up on its upper surface using milliput (I usually have a lot spare that gets thrown away whenever I do any other modelling so this should be cheap) to hide the original metal base of the figure itself and add some weight to it (thereby lowering the centre of gravity). The base is then painted black with sand PVA'd on top. I have the option to add all sorts of niceties later - bits of rock, static grass etc., but thats all I have time to do at the moment. The photo below shows some figures completed to this stage, and spaced roughly 24mm apart, as Im intending to use them in the wargame.

I am pleased with the result. Having a black border around the edges of the base accentuates the fact that the figures are still individuals rather than being mounted into indivisible units.

Correction 15/3/08: base size of 18x40mm not 12x40mm

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


I have to admit to having treated these as poor cousins to the cuirassiers. I suspect the reason for this has a lot to do with the photo on page 52 of Charge!. The Dragoons of Montmort make a very poor showing compared with the glorious display of the Erbprinz Regiment that precedes them.

If you inspect the Charge! photo closely you will probably come to the same conclusion as I did - the horses are too small for the riders. This was the photo that convinced me to use Stadden horses with Suren troopers - something in which I am not alone, having seen it alluded to on the Old School Wargamers messageboard. There was a certain irony here, as I'm now not sure whether or not the Charge! regiment is using Suren riders or horses.

Well, the first squadron of Dragoons is now on my table demanding attention. And I am delighted to say that these figures are actually very good indeed - better I think than the cuirassiers. One problem I had with the latter figures was that their carbines were molded as an integral part of the figure and tended to break when I straightened them out. On the Dragoons they are supplied separately, so there is no such problem.

My photo shows these gentlemen cleaned up. The next step is to repair manes with milliput (damaged when the original reins were cut off), attach wire reins to horses, attach shouldered swords to the riders, and then fix horse and rider together. I won't be using paper saddlecloths this time: the figures sit very well on their horses with only a little filing, so that will do. I won't be attaching the carbines immediately - leaving them off will make it easier to paint the detail around them.

Dragoon uniforms are a lot less fussy than those of cuirassiers. These guys were the workhorses of 18th Century cavalry and, for their pains, got worse horses and fewer distinctions than their more exalted brethren. No fancy lace, for example, on the carbine sling or on the turnbacks. So I'm hoping to get these figures completed a lot faster. I'm guessing at three days for all the physical modelling, and then another four for painting. So that gives me a week to decide on how I'll tackle the artillery.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Those Cuirassiers Again

Progress towards Blasthof continues: the box that can be ticked off today is that for the second cuirassier squadron. The photo below shows this along with its sibling. So I now have what Brigadier Peter Young would refer to as a 'weak regiment of sabres', others as a full division of cavalry. The Imperial Horse is now complete except for a single officer. I already have the figure but it will wait for now, while more important items are attended to.

It will be obvious to the observer that I like a relatively sedate pose of figure (I think Charles Grant makes a similar remark somewhere). Figures that are energetically charging, waving their swords about, somehow seem inappropriate for a SYW battle. Anyway, I like to think my cuirassiers are behaving as they did at Leuthen. To quote Christspher Duffy:

The celebrated Bayreuth Dragoons opened the attack, watched by the cuirassiers of Bevern's old army, who were still under something of a cloud. They were not altogether sorry to see the magnificent dragoons being mauled in the first clash with the Austrians. 'It is true that the cuirassiers in the second line could have given immediate support, but their best officers said: "Let the king's favourite dragoons stew a little first!" Finally, when the danger for the dragoons became too great, the cuirassiers arrived and saved them.'

With the completion of this squadron, I was expecting to be able to idle about for a few days while waiting for the next batch of figures to arrive from the manufacturers. However, they arrived yesterday: so the opportunity to be lazy, while striking a noble air and complaining about the laxity of the postal service etc. has been missed. I now have at hand the dragoon squadron and the artillery needed to complete the orders of battle for both sides.

The dragoons will be next as they are a fairly simple job. The artillery will be delayed while I decide exactly what I want to do with them: there's the potential for a considerable amount of remodelling (or figure mangling depending on your opinion of my skills). Of this, of course, more anon.

I still haven't resolved the issue of how to base my figures. Thank you, everyone, for your comments: you have given me a lot of ideas to go through. I shall give it all some heavy duty mulling before making the wrong decision.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

A Brief Connection To Reality

With my first battle within sight, it has been time to pay (however unwillingly) some attention to the practicalities of the thing, So today I set out the few terrain pieces I have made so far (still unpainted) and set up some figures to see what difficulties might occur.

Cuirassiers watch IR Rheinfels marching past an Inn

My soldiers suffer from the wobbles. It seems that their original bases do not provide enough stability for either horse or foot, given the style of terrain I am using. What is sufficient when playing on flat surfaces as in Charge! is not sufficient when using textured terrain. The bridge is the terrain piece that is worst for this problem. Foot figures on this have a distinct tendency to fall backwards into the arms of their comrades: not a very encouraging observation given that the bridge is the focal point of the first battle.

The obvious solution is to rebase them. Best of all would be to combine multiple figures onto the same base. This latter I reject out of hand - I want to be able to engage in individual figure combats as in Charge!.

Rear view of IR Rheinfels

There is a second, not so obvious, consideration as well. At the moment a 58 man battalion of infantry still fits into quite a small box. If I use large bases that will no longer be the case. So my solution must be to continue experimenting with different base sizes to determine the minimum required to do the job. One important determinant of stability is how high off the ground the figure's centre of gravity is. So I will try and make the bases fairly heavy to lower this.