Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Hougoumont in 2mm

As regular readers of this Blog will know, when it comes to the 2mm output of Irregular Miniatures, there isn't a lot that hasn't already crossed the surface of my workbench, nor are there many periods of history that I haven't dipped into using these diminutive minis.
The one that got away, as it were, and perhaps the most glaring omission, is without a doubt the Napoleonic Era.

I have to warn all here assembled, however, that my resolve is weakening, and with 2015 not so far away, have been playing around with some ideas on paper. Characteristically, perhaps, this led to the customary itch to put brush to mini, yet I did not want to rush headlong into battalions of redcoats or grognards just yet.

It was the competition to paint the Irregular Miniatures' 6mm sized Hougoumont that is now drawing to a close over at the Angel Barracks Forum, however, that gave me an idea for a quick Napoleonic inspired task:

See Michael's own brilliant effort here:

Being typically contrary, I did not want to paint this 'giant' version, but rather had in mind the hidden gem amongst Irregular's 2mm Terrain pieces: namely the BG138 Hougoumont Farm.
This is a truly amazing small scale version, the only thing lacking being the large formal gardens that were positioned to the East of the Chateau complex; some research here:

gave me a template to work with so that I could sketch these out on some 1.6mm thick Artist's card:

Roughly drawing out the various tracks and the edge of the orchards and wood was done, leaving a gap for the Irregular model itself:

Next I needed an idea of how the Chateau and farm would have actually looked, and there are a number of good models and depictions available online, although in terms of the actual colours to use, one of the best I found is the short guide over at Hovels -
See here: (Warning will download as a PDF)

The Irregular model itself measures 50mm x 38mm, and is very nicely proportioned, its scaling being somewhat larger than the normal building groups in the 2mm range, which allows some nice details in terms of doors, windows and the various gates.
The formal gardens, appearing at roughly twice the width of the Hougoumont complex, gave me a base of some 100 x 80mm, which is pretty hefty, but would not be out of place against the battalion sized 80x40mm bases I used in the 2mm FIW project.

A quick turn around the model itself , now, starting with the North side, and the famous gate which saw the intrusion of the French at the height of the battle:

The range to the left of the gate was made up of stabling and cow sheds, to the right was the Great Barn, which was burnt down late in the day. The centre of the courtyard had a well covered at the top by a Dovecot.

The northern and southern courtyards were connected by an archway and door to the left of the Chateau itself, which at the time of the battle was unoccupied and unfurnished. There was a small door in the Western wall which gave out upon the kitchen garden and lane beyond.

The Southern courtyard held the Chapel, which still survives today, and terminated in the Southern range made up of the Gardener's House and offices. The exit here was an arched passageway with doors at both ends.

To the East, a gate penetrated the wall and led out into the formal gardens, these were surrounded by a 7 foot high wall on their East and South sides.

The mini in place, then, on the scenic base, now in better shape with some flock standing in for the trees of orchard and the wood which screened the Chateau from the French lines.

A view from the West:

As I have yet to invest in hordes of Hanoverians, Nassauers and Coldstream Guards, Her Majesty the Queen stands guard in their stead, giving a good idea of the overall size of the mini and base:

I've deliberately left the gardens flat and without trees or bushes, so that unit bases could fit into the space, either two 40x20mm, or a single 40x40mm.

There's a bit to do yet to pull the whole together, but not looking bad so far; if you're interested in how the Chateau looks today, the charity project to preserve the remains for posterity has lots of good information, definitely worth a look:

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

1/4800th Naval: Painted Examples

A look now at some painted examples of the 1/4800th Napoleonic Naval vessels from Tumbling Dice, after some amateurish daubings applied by yours truly.
A little short on time in the past week or so, I've had a go at a number of representative vessels from the selection provided by pack 48N.MSP1, rather than attempt the whole lot!

First off, I found when removing the small pieces of flash, as well as filing down the mould line visible on the bottom of the bases, that the metal/pewter used in these models is particularly hard; either that or I need some new needle files! Luckily the very small amount of flash present made this not too onerous a task, and the minis accepted a coat of PanzerGrau as an undercoat without further complaint.
Once putting brush to mini, you become aware of the excellent the job the sculptor has done in representing the various parts of the ship, and even at this tiny size, there are clear areas of detail which pop out here and there on the models; stern-castles, figureheads, ratlines, sail seams and even some deck gratings. Some of the sculpts are 'heeling over' slightly, and there is a sense of some wind filling the foresails which gives a sensation of movement, rather than being merely at anchor. The masts are somewhat caricatured, perhaps, but given the limitations of a scale this small, hold up very well.

Painting progressed with some attention to the decks and hulls, and this is where for me at least, some of the problems started. The minis are so compact, that particularly with the shorter two deckers and frigates, it is really tough to maneuver the brush to get at the detail; you really have to let the undercoat do the talking, and line or block out with colours to leave some dark areas, to hint at the detail rather than try to paint it.
This is re-inforced when you come to the sails, in that these too can be very close together, so are quite fiddly to be consistent with.
Finally the depiction of colour strokes and gunport hatches to the hull sides need a very steady hand, certainly one better than mine, as although in the larger sculpts there are definite indentations showing gun ports, these aren't always easy to paint in.
As a whole however, once you've gone through these various stages of slight frustration and compromise, the whole comes up pretty well being greater than the sum of its parts, and looks good; a better painter than myself could probably produce a better finished article.
First up, two Three Deck 1st raters from the 48N1 pack:
(I must correct an omission from my previous post in that I suggested that only the 2 decker and frigate packs had different sizes of vessel; this pack also contains two differently sized sculpts, one longer hulled, and two slightly shorter ones...)

The longer hull, which would make a nice 120 gunner, perhaps, and has the easiest gun ports to paint:

and one of the shorter hulls, nicely delineated sense of being a three decker:

The longer hulled example from the 48N2 2 decker pack:

and her smaller sister ship; this one was pretty frustrating to work on with those close-together sail sets!

The larger frigate hull from 48N3:

and the smaller:

Finally, the Sloop from 48N4; the photos of the Brig and Cutter didn't come out, too small really for even Macro to pick out, but very nice nevertheless:

Overall, I'm quite pleased with how things have gone so far; I've decided on a 'generic' ship approach, with individuality being added by perhaps removable name-plates on the bases, enabling a wide range of ships to be depicted, although just what shape these bases will take has yet to be decided....

If I was feeling churlish, I might say that the results obtained involve quite a lot of work for a mini this small in size, in that having to paint each side of numerous sets of sails doesn't produce the effect you might obtain from a larger miniature, say 1/2400th or even 1/1200th, in that there is quite a lot of time spent for perhaps an average outcome, with a small visual impact.
Then again, once finished, there is something really quite charming about the 'cut of their jib', and the more I painted, the fonder I became of them; anyway, they certainly provide plenty of possibilities for those working on a budget, or just wanting to tackle something a bit different as a weekend project.
I think mine probably need some more attention, and I neglected to apply an ink wash before photographing them, which should serve to bring the look together somewhat better overall, I think.
So perhaps 7 out of 10 then, although a better painter/modeller could probably do a lot more with them than I could, and probably quicker, too!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

1/4800th Naval: Tumbling Dice Napoleonic

The wargaming devil that sits upon my left shoulder always seems to speak louder than the angelic presence hovering over my right. It's as if when it comes to buying new metal for wargaming, sinful temptation is so much better than abstinence!

I was perusing the Tumbling Dice catalogue pages the other day for no better reason than the mini-devil told me to (!), and looked past the excellent 1/600th aircraft they are normally associated with, to the relatively new range of 1/4800th Napoleonic Naval/Age of Sail.

Now we are not that far from the anniversary of Trafalgar, so what better reason to have a look at some Napoleonic ships? It's not as if I don't have time for a whole new project, or I am in danger of slipping behind on my normal ones - is it?.....is it...(plaintive sigh).

So, whilst pretending to look in the other direction, I went ahead and ordered their 48N.MSP1 Squadron pack, which if it is not up to doing Trafalgar, at least will give you a good base, for say, the battle of the Nile.
Now why 1/4800th rather than the well-represented 1/1200th? - Well, with my usual 'self-justifcationing', I thought dipping the toes in the water here would be easier without the need for amateur attempts at rigging, and furthermore, why try 1/2400th, when you can go as small as half that size - you all know my preference for the small and perfectly formed! Yes, there are of course 1/6000th, but the ranges there are, perhaps quite rightly, mainly concerned with 20th Century shipping.

So, let's have a look at what my profligacy bought me! First up, the Three Deckers pack, 48N1, these are nice sculpts, rat-lines moulded on, and although tiny, the rows of open gun ports are visible:

Here's one on a UK two pence piece (around 26mm diameter) to give an idea of size; you'll notice they come with a cast-on base - I'm not yet sure as to how this will figure in attempts to base them - seems a bit small on it's own, and of course you would be tempted to pick the mini up by the sails....hmm...

Being rather tiny, Tumbling dice have helpfully inscribed the identity of the vessel on it's bottom, here 'III' represents the three decker, Frigates get an 'F', smaller vessels have 'BRIG' etc...

Next we have the 48N2 two-deckers, you receive two types in this pack, two tight-looking vessels that might make good British 'Commons' 168ft 74 gunners, and then a longer length ship which might be better for a French 174 foot-odd vessel, of course, if you have a particular ship in mind, you could chose the appropriate hull.
The gun ports on these are less well defined than on the three-deckers, perhaps, but are still visible:

The longer hull on a two pence:

then the smaller one, the sails are going to be quite close together for painting, might struggle a bit there, some expressionistic strokes called for here, I think!

Next we have the three vessels from the Frigate pack 48N3, which again goes with a two smaller, one longer combo; the longer vessel in particular is very nice; I suppose this might make a 50 gunner versus a smaller 40:

Tuppence mounted long:

and the smaller hull:

In addition to the main Squadron pack, I purchased an additional Wrecks pack, 48N8 - you receive three floundering hulls in this, which don't look so great in the flesh, but I think will paint up a treat, with falling sails and submerging hulls:

The larger vessel drowning into a tuppence:

Finally with the Squadron pack came the six-ship 48N4 Unrated vessels, pairs of Sloops, Brigs and Cutters - a good value pack here, with the mast numbers delineating the ships -three for the Sloop, two for the Brig, etc, nice sculpts here, again given their diminutive size:

The Sloop brings news of the victories of Nelson to the British mainland atop a tuppence:

Overall, I am very pleased with the minis as seen - the sculpts are nicely defined with masts, sails and ratlines all clearly visible, and they came relatively free of flash, just a slight mould line to the base and a few strings atop the masts/bowsprits - easily removable, as I roughly did before taking these pictures.

I guess getting in a chequer-board pattern and gun ports on these might turn out to be quite a challenge, but for an-all in one package, I think they should turn out quite well, without the investment in time or effort that 1/1200th might require. Besides, they are as cute as a button!

I'll hope to put brush to mini in the coming ten days or so, so stay tuned for some more photos of the finished article.....

Monday, 5 October 2009

Interlude: Public outdoor wargaming tables in London?

A recent weekend spent indulging my significant other's hobby of photography, saw the SteelonSand caravan traipsing the highways and byways of our great Capital, and brought yours truly into contact with some intriguing bits of 'Public Art'.

These art works brought to mind the often plaintive requests for information you hear on the Message Boards at TMP and elsewhere, from visitors to London who are looking for something gaming-related to visit, particularly shop-based. Whilst of course there are excellent military museums and historical artefacts, there is sadly little left in the way of wargaming emporiums in the centre of town. So if you find yourself in either of the two following locations, have a look at these curiosities, which should at least set your imagination running wild, if not giving you a practical solution to a wargaming-free trip!

First up in Bishop's Square next to Spitalfields in the East of the City of London (Near Liverpool Street Station), lurking amidst the glass and steel of the commercial district, is what I can only describe as a wargamer's wet dream, if said wargamer had a mind to construct an outdoor table upon which to game 6mm English Civil War, that is....

With each square measuring approximately 40cm per side, you have 2.4 metres by 2 metres worth of scale model depicting the Civil War fortifications around the city of London circa 1642, shining a spotlight on an oft forgotten part of this period, when the Parliamentarians rebuffed the King at Turnham Green, only to continue in genuine fear of a further attempt at attacking the capital, and therefore enlisted the good gentlefolk of the town in constructing miles of Bulwarks, Hornworks, Batteries and Bastions to defend the city. All long gone now under the urban sprawl of course, although a few street names survive to commemorate them, Mount Street in Mayfair, for instance, calling to mind 'Oliver's Mount(ain)', the large earthwork bastion that once guarded the Western approaches there.

The first photo at the head of this post depicts an overview from the West, looking across the city, with this large bastion in the centre bottom foreground; the next picture sees us hovering south of the river Thames, and spying on the line of circumvallation that cuts across Southwark and Lambeth of old, and below we see the centre at the Thames itself, with the Old London Bridge topped by houses as it was all that time ago before the Great Fire:

Next up, a good view of the old St. Paul's Cathedral in the middle, rising amidst row upon row of houses and buildings -if only they had been individually made and painted by Timecast rather than cast in this architectural art-form!

I think I'll definitely have to inaugurate an annual wargaming event here, with a few thousand Baccus, Irregular or Heroics and Ros 6mms on hand to fight out a fictional siege; don't know what the Artists themselves might make of that, though; an interesting Wikipedia page describing the artwork and the fortifications depicted thereon can be found here:

Next is quite a hop skip and a jump away, on the south side of the river Thames near Tower Bridge, outside of the newly iconic 'motorcycle helmet' of City Hall, currently inhabited by the buffoonish bouffanted Mayor Boris.
This would make a great little board for some sort of Kaiju / attack of the X-Monster type nonsense, with each target for stomping clearly outlined in all-weather bronze (Flock has no place in the outdoors!):

Never seen a circular wargaming table, of course, nor one that helpfully points out the location of the nearest WC facilities:

For those amongst you that are navally minded, how about a 1/900th-ish representation of the WWII light cruiser HMS Belfast, a definite magnet for the weapons of any passing Martian War Machine, if ever I saw one.....of course, the 1:1 scale version is docked nearby....

So then, really just some publicly-minded works of Art, but nevertheless, grist to the mill of my own wargaming imagination at least, which might be worth your while seeking out, if you are ever in the neighbourhood!

So, where would you mount your attack from? The eastern approach looks pretty well defended...hmmm....how about a riverine assault, Renaissance style.....? :-).

Friday, 2 October 2009

6mm Romans: Year of the Four Emperors

Nero may or may not have been a 'fiddler', but by the middle of AD68, his rule was universally unpopular, and he was openly challenged by a number of Provincial governors, principal amongst whom were Lucius Clodius Macer, Gaius Julius Vindex and Servius Sulpicius Galba.

The Army of Germania Inferior, including the Legio I Germanica, V Alaudae, XV Primigenia and XVI Gallica, were despatched to Hispania to confront Vindex, but whilst Nero's back was turned, Galba marched on Rome with a newly raised Legio VII, and was promptly recognised by the Senate as the new Emperor. Nero just as promptly committed suicide.

Not everything was to be wine and roses for Galba, however, as the Army in Germany were miffed at having backed the wrong horse, particularly as they had defeated Vindex, and were now likely to be slighted by the new Emperor rather than rewarded for this feat of arms.
They therefore acclaimed their own commander, Vitellius, and lickety split, Galba was in big trouble.
Before he knew what was happening, another contender, Marcus Salvius Otho, plotted with the Praetorians, had him murdered, and declared himself the next incumbent.
The Othonian dynasty, however, was only to last for less than three months, when Vitellius defeated him at Bedriacum, and drank from the poison chalice of Imperial rule for himself; Otho, of course, comitted suicide.....
Not to be outdone, however, by the Western Empire, Vespasian in the East decided he would also have a go at the top job and headed for Italy, eventually defeating the Vitellans at Cremona and thereby ushering in the Flavian Dynasty....

Phew, confusing isn't it! In, out, in out, shake it.....well anyway, all this infighting forms the backdrop for the 6mm Romans project in that it sets up some great possibilities for Roman on Roman action, (as Caligula once said!) and saves me the trouble of painting up hordes of Gauls, Parthians or Dacians.

As you might remember from previous posts on this subject, the idea is to paint up some representative Legions to cover this period, and things are rolling along now that I have settled on the mixing of Irregular's blocks alongside Baccus minis for command and artillery. Some command bases are next up on the workbench with some Germanic allied troops, and this should give me enough to begin campaigning on behalf of whichever Imperial candidate takes my fancy.

You can see here some of the almost completed bases, which are just in need of some finishing off; they are distinctive in that they are examples of my first ever use of 'Static Grass', as up to this point I've normally just relied on painting, drybrushing and flocking. To be honest the jury is still out as to the appearance of said grass, as at this scale, it does rather resemble the shedded fibres of a tired old jumper rather than luxurious, verdant stalks of green.

I guess some more practise might improve things, although compared with some of the horror stories one comes across online (Green eyebrows on the user, etc), I think I got off lightly with most of it sticking to the bases, rather than to everything else.
One thing I did learn, if using a puffer bottle applicator as I did, then a plastic funnel is a very useful item in dealing with it, in order to decant the grass into the bottle beforehand, and after using it.
Another top tip is to have a small household paintbrush ready in order to brush up any spills, rather than using your hand, which can have hilarious green-coating on extremities-type consequences!

The campaign will start, I think, with the ambush at Locus Castorum in March AD69, when the Vitellans, led by Aulius Caecina Alienus, took on the Othonian forces led by Gaius Seutonius Paulinus, who as governor of Britain had defeated Boudicca/Bodicea some eight years before.

This will be followed up with the Battle of Bedriacum, which was a right old slanging match with eagles being taken, gladiators being slaughtered and outflanking moves aplenty.

I'll then move on to Cremona in October AD69, when the Western forces of Vitellius clashed with the Legions of the East supporting Vespasian. This grudge match was so closely contested that unusually the fighting went on right through the night, with a dawn finale and the death of Vitellius himself.

So, quite a bit to get through, and a lot more to paint in order to give enough troops for some nice big battles, but as you may see, the 'Mass' that I'm always going on about is gradually coming into effect:

The cunning plan of using the cast together blocks from Irregular as the backbone, means we can see 612 little Legionaries arrayed for battle below, although there are always plenty more to add!