Sunday, 25 January 2009

A Bit Of A Bore (Part 2)

More than 200 Stadden infantry have passed through the recruiting sergeant's hands since I started this project. While the rest now march proudly in the ranks of the four battalions so far embodied, one unfortunate individual - known locally as the 'The Not So-Good Soldier Švejk' - has been separated from his fellows and left to languish in the spares box.

His problem stems from a little bit of crud that found its way into the mould when he was born into this world. Although it missed all his vital organs it found its way into the musket - the most vulnerable part of the casting. As a result, said musket was found to be fragile and, with a minimum of force, broke in two when tested. At the time I had no ready solution to the problem and so 'Švejk' was put to one side. He does, however, provide an opportunity for some experimentation. In my last post I expressed my reservations about the qualities of the 30mm musket: with the offending article broken on this casting I can try some surgery without risking a perfectly decent figure.

As John Preece noted in his comment on the last post, there was a time when Minifigs spears were noted for being rather more like the trunk of a tree than the bough from which a spear was made. One of their main competitors - Hinchliffe - addressed this problem by providing a length of steel rod with every spearman. I intend to use the same approach: using a piece of brass rod to replace the barrel, and to form the bayonet by beating the end of the rod flat. Having epoxied the rod onto the figure, some milliput can then be used to hide any gaps and replace parts of the wooden stock that were also lost when the musket broke.

Our Eponymous Hero - A Reformed Švejk

The accompanying photo shows Švejk as he now is. The task of fixing his musket turned out to be relatively simple: the one 'trick' of note is to avoid thinning the musket until after attaching the brass rod. The rod acts as a guide that can be used to slide the craft knife along, as well as strengthening the softer cast metal so it doesn't merely bend when attacked by the knife.

With Švejk summoned back from the dead. The final question was into which regiment I should put him. This was an easy one - where else should a soldier with a dodgy musket held together with brass rod and milliput go, but into the Reichsarmee? I have painted him in the uniform of IR Furstenberg, details being copied from Project SYW, except I have given him white gaiters.

Comparison shot of unmodified and 'improved' figures

As a repair for a broken figure, the method is (for me at least) a success. I am not entirely convinced that improvement to an unbroken figure would be sufficient reward for the amount of work involved: the last photo allows comparison with an unmodified figure. The original Stadden musket does not need replacement so urgently as on other, cruder, figures. However, the improvement is not only in original looks but also in durability - something that will only become apparent after the figure has seen some use.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

A Bit Of A Bore

By the standards of modern firearms, 18th century muskets were a crude device. The Prussian musket of the Seven Years War had a bore of roughly three quarters of an inch. The outer diameter of the barrel must have been a little less than an inch. Yet despite all this, if you look at an example of a musket, you will find it is elegantly shaped and is quite slender when compared to its length.

Firing A Brown Bess Musket (Image from Wikipedia)

Elegant and slender are not two adjectives that can be applied to typical wargames figure muskets. I recognise that we are limited by having to work with figures that can cope with rough handling. The best painted battalion in the world would still fail in its looks if its muskets were bent into a myriad of shapes or, worse still, broken off at the shoulder. But does this really force us to equip our metal heroes with weapons that look like ancient medieval arquebuses?

A musket correctly scaled would be no more than 1/60th of an inch in diameter. A certain thickening of the barrel is going to be necessary if we are to have muskets cast of ordinary metal that last for longer than a single campaign. But is it really necessary to decorate the barrel with metal hoops that scale up to a thickness of half an inch? These might be appropriate on a fantasy dwarf, but I find it hard to accept on an 18th century musket.

The Stadden figures that I use have relatively thin muskets compared to the common crowd. So slender that I find it difficult to store the figures: even just laying them flat, the barrels are prone to slight bending. Minden figures (which I do not own, but admire greatly) have slightly thicker muskets. Indeed their muskets do look rather ungainly to me, although I suspect this is partly because they accompany a figure that is otherwise very elegant indeed.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The Plot So far

It was my plan to refight Action! this Christmas. This was a bad idea: if ever there is a time of year when it is difficult for two men to both find time to fight a wargame, then I suspect that Christmas is that time. It must be recognised that although this is the season of goodwill, the female half of the species will not extend the principle to wargamers who want to sneak off and play with 'toy soldiers'.

And so the only activity has been to muster all my forces, the product of about 20 months work, and see what exactly I have acheived in that time. As the photos show, there are a number of holes in the units currently enrolled that need to be fixed. The two infantry regiments that I painted first don't have static grass on their bases. This is not the kind of distinction I want for my senior regiments. The junior regiments are frequently missing officers and musicians.

The biggest decision I am struggling with involves a possible change of plan. I had originally intended to use all Prussian units for both sides. But I am now thinking about building the 'Imperial' forces using historical prototypes from the Reichsarmee. I have always been fascinated by this, possibly the worst European army in history.