Thursday, 26 February 2009

A Frivolous Action! Part 2

Turns 4 and 5 saw the musketry duel in the centre develop. Kornberg was struggling to form a better battleline. His grenadiers reformed in four deep line behind the cover of the stone wall, and his gun was moved to fill the gap between them and the fusiliers. The dragoons moved up to the right flank of the fusiliers and deployed into two deep line.

Some poor shooting from his men prompted Soubise to advance slightly to close the range. Meanwhile, his jaeger circled around the left flank of the grenadiers.

The musketry duel was largely ineffective, both sides losing little more than a handful of men. Kornberg was fortunate not to be more severely punished, his forces generally having fewer men able to fire due to the evolutions being asked of them. The Gensdarmes lost two men to enemy fire in these turns: while not severe, this discouraged them from advancing further and they were therefore unable to deploy into line.

Turn 6 saw the critical moment: one squadron of the dragoons charged the Gensdarmes. The resultant melee saw the Gensdarmes lose two men to the dragoon's one and thereby decide to go rather precipitously to the rear. Elsewhere firing continued to take a steady, if small, toll of both sides.

Turn 7 added to Soubise problems. Kornberg's jaeger emerged from the woods to pour fire onto the Gensdarmes, and knock down another 3 cavalrymen. If Soubise's problems were not bad enough, the fire of the fusiliers shot down two officers from the left flank musketeers regiment. As that regiment had already lost one officer earlier it was suddenly looking very fragile despite having the fullest ranks of any regiment on the field.

Turn 8 added to Soubise's misery with another officer falling and, inevitably, the regiment now gave way. Soubise had moved to join the Gensdarmes and was now struggling to reform them while they were being tormented by the fire of Kornberg's jaeger.

Soubise's Left Gives Way

The last four turns saw Kornberg able to gradually mop up. Soubise did finally manage to get the Gensdarmes to charge the jaeger that were tormenting them. However, they lost another four men in the charge and fell below half strength. On the other flank, the second musketeer battalion found itself engaged by the main strength of Kornberg's forces and inevitably gave way, albeit after a splendid resistance. Soubise's Jaeger and gun were left to absent themselves by devious paths.

Monday, 23 February 2009

A Frivolous Action! Part 2

The opening two turns saw both armies advancing at a reckless pace. It seemed that neither General was prepared to hold back and take a defensive position. Soubise was displaying signs of unusual energy (it is possible that some carousing on the previous night had got his blood up) and was enthusiastically talking about 'not letting the enemy take the initiative'. Kornberg was living up to his fiery nature with a headlong advance, with little regard for tactical niceties.

Turn 2 complete: Kornberg's grenadiers wonder if he's trying to get them killed

Turn 2 complete: View from Soubise's left flank

By turn three the range had rapidly closed and a musketry duel could not be long delayed. Kornberg halted the leading grenadiers, while the remaining companies were ordered to seek cover behind the stone wall on their left. His fusiliers, nervous at the sight of the Gensdarmes massing opposite formed a four rank line on the grenadier's flank (note 1). His jaeger, continued their lone advance along the edge of the woods on the extreme right.

Soubise had played his hand well and viewed his position with satisfaction. His jaeger continued pushing around the enemy's left flank, and with plenty of bad terrain to provide safe cover, were happily positioned for an good day's bickering. His gun (note 2) now unlimbered, having an good position from which to play on the grenadiers. His infantry halted and presented their muskets ready to fire, while the Gensdarmes covered their flank, occupying what little space remained before the second stone wall.

At the end of the turn both sides engaged in long range musketry. Kornberg ordered the leading two companies of grenadiers to fire: four enemy musketeers falling. Soubise replied with the leading companies of both his regiments: the grenadiers losing five men and an officer, the fusiliers (to whom only a small proportion of shot was directed) losing a single man.

At this juncture, Kornberg was confronted with the possibility that there was more to generalship than shouting 'Forwards' and waving one's sword around. His army was badly positioned and a good drubbing seemed likely to be the result. As to whether he managed to do anything about this, well, I shall relate this as soon as I may.

Note 1) Neither general had played the Grant rules before, and both were rather fixated by the breakthrough mechanism by which cavalry can punish infantry drawn up in less than four ranks.

Note 2) As both forces were little more than advanced guards we ruled that only light guns were present. We decided to use Charge! rules for firing cannon (I find templates both slow and hard to use) and used 6" range increments (ie 36" max range). This meant that the guns were little more than a minor irritant, something that I much prefer.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

A Frivolous Action

Soubise reined in his horse and cast his penetrating gaze over the field of battle. Summoning his staff with one imperious gesture, he addressed them with the confidence and poise that only centuries of breeding can confer. "Where exactly are we?" he said (note 1).

And so we have finally arrived at our frivolous version of Action! I hope to write it up over the next few days, but for now here's the photo of the starting positions. Orders of battle for both sides were as in the original battle, save that each had only the one company of light infantry, both possessed a single cannon, and we have used the names of our favourite generals.

The Position At Dawn Viewed From Kornberg's Tent

Note 1: What Soubise said was "Là où sommes exactement nous", but Soubise's schoolboy French was always eccentric. It is a sad fact that, long ago, Kornberg and Soubise sat next to each other in the special duffer's class for linguistically challenged boys in their grammar school.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Pale Rider

My experiment with sculpting is continuing: I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun doing something that I am not very good at. Despite my initial cynicism, I am seeing some progress and there does appear to be a chance that something usable will result.

Dobbin the horse is almost complete. I am still struggling with his head, and there is still his tack to put on. The mane is also proving problematic - getting a texture that indicates hair without going over the top is proving harder that I thought.

Dobbin and Master

I decided to try and sculpt a Reichsarmee cuirassier, with cuirass under his coat, for Dobbin's rider. This is a lot easier than doing foot figures. I found that getting a convincing looking gait on a marching infantryman was beyond me at this stage. My efforts all resulted in various knock-knee'd individuals, or unfortunates hunched over with a severe case of piles. While neither of these are particularly inappropriate for the Reichsarmee, well, it would be nice to put on a better show than that. With a rider the legs must conform to the shape of the horse's back, so that's easier as there's one degree of freedom less to worry about.

I have gotten the basic bodyshape, minus arms, complete. There's no details as yet: I am still adjusting the work done so far. Mostly this consists of paring off pieces of milliput to slim down the figure to more elegant proportions.

Progress is horribly slow. If I was trying to do this professionally I'd certainly starve. The difficulty is not merely in getting the shape of something right, but in avoiding damage - mostly in the form of breaking off recently applied milliput. I suspect that much of this is caused by my doing a lot of the work by carving milliput after it has set, whereas the professional does most of his work while the milliput is soft.

Monday, 2 February 2009

A Survivor's Guide To Sculpting A Horse

I noted in my previous blog entry that my first attempts at figure sculpting were a convincing demonstration that I am not able to create a decent wargames figure. At least not using the standard method of wire armature and epoxy putty: this blog will describe a further attempt, using a modified technique.

The problem, as I see it, is that the wire armature method does not provide a sufficient guide for the geometrically challenged. Once the wire is covered by putty it is entirely hidden, so the sculptor is left to compare his figure with whatever reference art he has at hand. I find this horribly difficult, attempting to find the correct position of a surface in 3D space with no adequate reference point. It occurred to me that, with access to a computer, an easier method could be used. I could take a silhouette of the figure I wanted, and create a 2D template of the correct size. This could then be rounded out to create a fully 3D figure, the edges of the 2D silhouette giving me the reference points that I need.

The method is obviously limited in scope, and is likely to produce a quite 'wooden' pose. But there is one common wargames figure, the standing horse, for which the method is entirely suitable. This would be a handy practice piece and the happy coincidence that it would have a fair chance of creating a usable figure encouraged me to give up on human figures for the moment.

The first step was to find an image of a horse in the public domain that could be used for the template. The one I found came from wikipedia, although with a digital camera there would be little difficulty in taking one's own shot. The image was scaled so that it could be printed out at exactly the size of the completed figure.

A layer of milliput about 2mm thick was applied to upper body parts of the image. Some bent wire was pushed into this at the root of the horses tail to add strength at that point. Once the milliput had set, the paper was torn off, and leg armatures made out of bent brass rod were added, more milliput being used to attach them and give the correct spacing. After this, successive layers of millput were added to give the body its 3D shape. I used a different colour milliput for the later stages so that I could easily see the edges of my original template.

Early Stage Horse

This could all be done quite quickly and without any great skill being required. The greater part of the work lies ahead: where I have to shape the detailed contours of the horse, trying to accurately model its musculature. This is where I suspect that Charles Stadden's wartime service in No.1 Mule Pack Transport Company, RASC aided him in creating some of the best wargames horses ever seen. In place of this I shall be using reference images from the web - a search on 'thoroughbred' in Google images has netted be a huge amount of material to use.

Horse With 'Rough Shaping'

Sunday, 1 February 2009

A Man Called Horse

There comes a time in every man's life when he goes a bit mad. He gets married, or he joins the Foreign Legion (or, possibly, having sampled the first he feels impelled to do the second). It seems that it is now my turn. Fortunately, being a wargamer, the forms of madness that are open to me include options that are not quite so hazardous as those available to the mere bulk of humanity. All of which is a painfully long way of saying that I have been having a first few attempts at sculpting my own figures.

There are a number of tutorials on the web on sculpting. While they are useful, I happen to think that they are all in error for one pretty fundamental reason: nobody will be able to create a figure that is up to standard on their first attempt, and they should recognise this before they try. Fortunately it isn't necessary to do this: you can develop your skills by working on less ambitious projects first. In my case I have been using milliput for 18 months now, using it to make a few simple conversions of commercial figures, and making very easy things like trees. What I intended to do next was an evaluation of how far I have gotten along the path to creating my own figures, and the answer was very likely to be somewhere between 'nowhere at all' and 'not very far'.

My first idea was to attempt to sculpt a Grenze infantryman. This did not go very well: two mishappen lumps later I really hadn't anything to show for the effort, although I have to admit it was fun trying. But I had gained a little insight into the problems involved, and my own limitations. Creating an armature and filling that in to create a basic humanoid shape was easy enough. But going beyond that; creating a body correct in all its proportions, and then cladding it realistically was still beyond me.

If I lack artistic ability then I do possess at least sufficient intelligence to look at the processes involved and try to find ways of making things simpler. And I think I have hit on a method that will do this. I'll go into this in a later post, but for now I'll simply show a photo of the progress so far.

'Dobbin' (Right) with Stadden Horse For Comparison

So far I have gotten the basic body shape fairly complete. The legs are still in a very crude state (and parts of the armature are still uncovered) but as they are the most delicate part of the figure I plan on leaving them until last. The hardest part is next: capturing the nuances of a horse's musculature is probably the part where I will fail. But it has been an excellent morale raiser just to get this far.