Saturday, 31 July 2010

2mm Napoleonics: Some Musings

I've been thinking for a while now about doing another 'large' scale project using 2mm miniatures, and in particular, with the bi-centenary of the Hundred Days campaign just a few years away, having a plunge into Napoleonics.
This is an era I have so far avoided, mainly due to the complexity and sheer scale of most combat, which would necessarily need a cast of thousands to do it justice.
Of course this should be a shoe-in playing to the greatest strengths of 1/900th, but for a number of reasons, which will I will be going into in this and future posts, I'm having some difficulties in pinning down a satisfactory balance between figure ratio, historical formations and numbers, and how to present them in a visually pleasing and meaningful way on the table top.

To start with, let's put down some context.
I am going to concentrate, I think, on the battle of Quatre Bras, rather than its more well known neighbour, firstly because I feel that the size of Waterloo itself is just too monstrous to take on, and also because I enjoy researching the underdog, shall we say, rather than the more well-known historical headliners.
I want to have generic brigade-sized formation bases, or at least ones that will depict multiple battalions (For the British-read regiments), very much in the spirit of rule sets like General de Brigade or, say, Polemos. No better illustration can be currently found on this, than in the work done over at Mike's Leadpile in 6mm, looking at the battle of Borodino:

I think what has been achieved there shows just how well a brigade base can be depicted, and of course not being able to replicate such quality work in the larger scales (not that my bank balance would stand it either), I've chosen to do a similar thing in 2mm.

I've been toying around with a number of possible base sizes, as well as how this would affect figure ratios, and this will be the first look at some of these ruminations.

First up, then, would be two battalions of a French regiment in their classic columns of attack, here side-by side on a 40x40mm base template:

Now using three of Irregular Miniatures' BG2, 24 men in three ranks, gives a fair visual representation of the typical formation, with a single strip of BG3 skirmishers out front as Voltigeurs, and a single BG12/13 command at the rear. If we are counting, then, that is 81 'figures' depicted on these blocks, with 162 on the whole base.
If we compare that to the First Brigade of Bachelu's Division at Quatre Bras, then this neatly fits with the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 3eme regiment de Ligne under Husson, which most sources place as historically having 1,196 men at the start of the campaign.
So we might be looking at a figure to man ratio of about 1:7 ish, but this is where the problems begin!
Unfortunately those real-world regiments have the annoying habit of fielding vastly varying numbers, and if we wish to be as accurate as possible in making a recreation of QB (as I shall call it from now on), then within the limitations of the base size, it becomes difficult to get a balanced formation - you could go really large on the size, and have plenty of room for bigger units, but then be left with acres of space on others, and moreover, how would this relate to possible gameplay, or a ground scale on the table top?

An illustration of this would be the 2eme Legere in Baduin's Brigade, which fielded four Battalions with a total of 2,377 - if employing the 40x40mm base standard above, you end up with a greater number of bases for ostensibly the same sized gaming formation.

This factor is compounded when you look at the orders of battle on the Allied side, where you can go from a formation size of over a thousand men for a Battalion in the British Guards' Brigades, down to as low as 482 in the Belgian 5eme Milice.
The 2/1st Guards under Maitland would need 140-odd figures, and therefore potentially multiple bases, whilst a similar 'Battalion' would only require 66.

This is where, and being such a fan of 2mm figures, I say this with a heavy heart, the limitations of Irregular's cast together blocks become apparent - adding varying numbers is difficult as you are operating within the boundaries of the 52, 26, 20, 16 man and so on blocks, and disparate blocks on a base looks a bit of mess, plus goes against the idea of hopefully showing a resemblance to the actual battlefield formations.

So, as we all know, an element of regretful compromise has to creep in (Calm down, Steel, this is Toy soldiers we're talking about!), and a move towards a generic 'shape' rather than ratioed 'size', begins to appear.

Perhaps the 2/1st Guards might appear like this on a 40x40mm base, albeit just a single Battalion, rather than the two of the French base above:

A nicely 'thin red line' BG33 fifty two man block is at the front, and this is backed by two BG14 twenty six man ones, and topped of by a command block as usual.
You would of course need two of these bases to represent Maitlands 1st Brigade, so it would be at odds with the French Brigade of, for instance, Baduin, that as a whole fielded 4,229 men in seven battalions against Maitland's 2087 in two; four bases versus half that number.
Of course, this is only right and proper, in that a larger formation would necessarily take up more ground and have more 'oomph' in reality, but this means for me that the idea of a generic 'Brigade' gets all out of whack in gaming terms.

A smaller Allied battalion might appear like this, but again would be taking up a whole 'regiment' base opposite the first French one in the pic at the top of the post, having only 580-odd troops to the French 1200:

If we were to completely even out the depiction of the Allied units, and rigidly enforce a two-Battalions to a base, perhaps two bases to a Brigade rule, we might end up with something like this:

Doesn't look too bad, but would completely ignore the accurate balance of forces on the day. I guess I am torn between the practical and the historical approach, much more so than in many other projects that I have attempted.

Light troops really begin to screw things around - here we might have the 340 men of the Feld Jager Corps in Kielmansegge's 1st Hanoverian Brigade:

Of course, their deployed nature might see fewer men occupying the same space of a larger unit of formed men, but then how would these balance with the historical 589 men of the 95th rifles, or the 672 of a Brunswick Avant-Garde Battalion?
Accurate means more bases, perhaps some with very few figure blocks or strips on, whilst generic would mean we have a spread of 3-600 figures shown by the same thing?

Artillery fares a little better in both possible ways, a quick and arbitrary "two guns equals one table top model" gives us a Foot Artillery battery of eight coming out thus, for instance, probably allowing a reasonable attempt at the best of both worlds:

Cavalry is also a simpler proposition, particularly if not worrying too much about fudging the numbers. The three Squadrons of the 8eme Cuirassiers in Guiton's Brigade would occupy an extended horse base of 60x30mm thusly:

Irregular's BG5 Close Order Cavalry strips give us fifty figures to represent the 427 men on the day, not so far off being pretty close to the 1:7 ratio mentioned above, whilst having the right look for a generic regiment of cavalry, I think.

Light cavalry however, begins to complicate things again, here squeezing the four Squadrons of the 6eme Chasseurs a Cheval in Huber's Brigade onto the same base size:

Again fifty figures, although we are wandering in terms of ratios, as we have a historical number of 560.....

So, I am currently tying myself up in knots at this very early stage of just thinking about how to form the historical units, let alone actually calculating the blocks required, and ordering and painting them!
Thankfully I have around five years to sort it all out in order to meet he centenary......

Lots to think about as to which way I might go with all of this, and the next post on this subject will see me looking at how larger base sizes might allow a more coherent depiction in putting on QB.

I should just say that the troop numbers quoted above are pulled from a number of sources, and are necessarily not sacrosanct; a fantastic online resource for the battle is the work done at the Waterloo Campaign in miniature Blog, which is a creative tour de force examining all aspects of working on this in miniature, with some amazingly useful uniform and OOB charts, well worth a look through in its entirety:

(Look for the Archive drop-down menu in the right hand column of the page, and start at the beginning)

TMP also has some useful (although sometimes rather heated) discussions available as well, principal amongst which is this one:

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Robur's Albatross Update

I thought I'd post a quick update outlining the small progress on Robur's Albatross - there has been far to much 'sand' and not enough 'steel' in my commitment to the Blog recently, so I wanted to show that at least some wargaming related stuff has been taking place!

As per the excellent suggestion of El Grego after a previous post, I have uprated the drive propulsion, with the addition of two further propellor booms at the rear - these I wanted to look as scientifically unfeasible as the rest of the flight apparatus, so came out rather long and spindly.
As you can see, therefore, I added a pair of canard wings forward, in order to balance things out a little visually. She's also of course had a matt black undercoat slapped on, which has helped to homogenise her previous rather Frankenstein's Monster appearance.

So then, we have gone from this:

To this:

I think she is coming together now, although of course the next, and perhaps most important phase is the colour scheme.
I would be comfortable enough doing a Pre-Dreadnought pastiche, I suppose, but I think Robur, being similar to Nemo in disdaining the conventional world and society of Man, would have something more distinctive.
Strong, dark colours might predominate; even black would be nice and threatening I suppose, but whatever it turns out to be, it has to be unique, I think - any suggestions welcome!

I have been very lucky in stumbling across an excellent Blog page that discusses the insignia of Robur, which is described by Verne in the books, so I think some part of the scheme should reflect the flaming sun of the protagonist's coat of arms:

The upper bow section is looking a likely contender for displaying this.

For some more conventional and contemporary views of the Albatross as originally conceived, some excellent illustrations can be found here:

Each is 'clickable' for an enlarged view - I particularly like the last frame showing the Albatross in conflict with the retrograde lighter than air 'Go Ahead' !

Monday, 19 July 2010

2mm Colonial: Mini Mahdists!

"Our orders was to break you, an' of course we went an' did.
We sloshed you with Martinis, an' it wasn't 'ardly fair;
But for all the odds agin' you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the square...."

[Rudyard Kipling.]

In typical fashion, perhaps, the VSF-based Colonial forces I had planned working on have turned into something more traditional, and the chief architects of this temptation have been the few bases that I had originally intended as native levies. These have become the basis of a growing Mahdist Army, some shots of which you can see throughout this post.

Below we have some Camelry, which are an easy job with Irregular's ABG23 from the Ancients range - the detail on the riders is perhaps none too clever, although the camels themselves are nice and chunky, which divides them visually from the horses on the cavalry stands. Five blocks to a 40x30mm base here:

Next some Ansar Cavalry - I went for a mix of strips here, mainly to use up some spares I had floating around. The first line on each base is formed from two blocks of I think Horse and Musket era sabre cavalry, whilst the rearmost are Ancients ABG9 Light Horse Archers. I thought this would represent the better armed, and more motivated richer warriors to the front, followed by their retainers to the rear, six blocks on a 40x30mm base:

As seen in a previous post, the ever-useful BG23 blocks stand in as irregular types, here as Ansar, six placed randomly on a 40x30mm once more:

Lacking discernible weapons or standards, these blocks can stand in as many different types, but are sometimes a little bit ill-defined:

The Hadendowah make it even harder to be seen with their brown palette, so the palm trees mark the rear of each base - I was kicking myself when I realised, however, that I had placed these in the same place on each base, making the irregular seem much too 'samey' - at least this motivates me to produce more bases, if only in order to randomise the placement!

I think some flags and banners would also lift these bases somewhat, although I don't know if my printer will be up to reducing stuff to a size that will be feasible...

I'm keen to expand on the bases done so far, with some captured artillery pieces for the Mahdists , and maybe the odd dhow or felucca to sail down the Nile - this will of course mean scratch-building a 1/900th British gunboat in reply, of course!

Details of a fascinating project to restore an original Nile Gunboat can be seen here:

and there are some characterful Wargaming versions on view at this always useful site:

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

6mm Dalek Heavy Metal Update

Some progress photos of the 6mm Dalek Heavy units for you now, just to show how things are getting on. The units are yet to be based, and I'm not totally satisfied with the colour schemes as they are, but it's a start, anyway!

The walkers went together quite nicely with their 'drivers', and I thought I'd go with a sort of futuristic-looking camouflage scheme, but so far, this has only evolved into a few splotches of random colours - these are echoed on the Dalek units themselves, but given their size, have ended up making them look a bit grubby, rather than sleek and menacing!

The Naval units were a bit more straightforward, although again the scheme is not 100 percent; I had toyed with the idea of doing them in Pre-Dreadnought colours, but the this got me thinking of a whole new project involving 'Victorian' Daleks taking on pre-1900 Martian Invaders, and I had to go and have a lie down in a darkened room before I got distracted into new territory yet again......

These make some good riverine units, I think, although they could do with a bit more detailing, as well as an ink-wash to pull things together.....maybe some more added antennas/radar dish type thingies would give them a more workmanlike look, and...well...make them seem less like metallic ducks? (!).

Exactly how would a Dalek say "Quack"?

I've also been thinking about taking these units further, by playing around with some Marine Daleks to work alongside them - this has so far only got to adding a blue scheme to the standard grey, but might yet evolve into more camouflaged types.....or will I be drawn back towards those Colonial landing parties ideas yet again?

Some close-ups of the walking Daleks next - I like the proportions as they are, so not sure if I should go with an 'up-gunning' with various weapon pods or arms, as yet:

The bases, of course, need finishing,these will probably end up being mounted on UK 2 penny pieces, for ease of storage. (The newer coins have a ferrous core, so handily stick to magnetic sheeting)

I suppose if I'd been really clever, I would have chopped one off at the legs, and had it emerging from the river - being this tall, units like this could merely wade across such an obstruction - an idea superbly carried through here, with Martian war machines:

So, coming along slowly then, anyway, but these have got me thinking:

The second link is from a blog which has loads of VSF/Steampunk goodies, BTW, well worth a look.....meanwhile, where did I put those spare 1/300th tank chassis?