Wednesday, 22 March 2023

2mm Napoleonic: Some Ruminations and Resources


I thought I’d put down some of the impressions and conclusions I’ve come to in the course of working on the 2mm test bases, and also take a look at some of the inspirational and interesting approaches to the same subject provided by others.

I’d always shied away from plunging into Napoleonics due to what I perceived as the sheer scale required to do the period justice, and was hoping that the more simplified methods of painting and basing that worked well with the recent Ancients project would make things more accessible. I think that to some extent that has worked out to be true, in as much as realistic-looking units come and go under the brush quickly enough, but there are compromises to be made in the level of detailing that perhaps take away from the martial splendour that is so attractive about the era.

Take for example, the humble Irregular Miniatures 2mm BG2 block - 24 ‘figures’ in three ranks on an 11mm frontage posing as French infantry- rudely eschew an undercoat, slap on a base coat of Prussian blue, almost dry-brush on white to pick out the legs, a blob of the same at chest level, and then at rear a drab brown spot for each backpack  - top it off with individual touches of black to each bobbled head for the shako and done…..

Given that the same block, diminutive though it is, has enough sculpted detail for you to pick out individual faces, some hands, muskets at port to their front, a flagpole for the ensign, a small flag, bed rolls on top of the rear backpack, it seems rather churlish to ignore them in the name of mass production…. 

That said, of course, none of those details would ever be visible on the tabletop, let alone to my ageing eyes unmagnified even in front of my nose - I suppose in the same way that a general has to rationalise casualties in the service of strategy, I have to admit defeat in reaching too far to accomplish the impossible.


This might lead to rude suggestions about moving into larger scales and enacting the heresy of abandoning smaller minis for the giant-sized 25/28/32mm soldiers out there….. but I can’t really countenance that if I wanted to achieve the broad sweep of battles fought by Napoleonic Brigades and Corps, without breaking the bank (ever the Hobby skinflint, me !) or becoming all consuming of both time and effort (roll on retirement !).

So I think overall, I’m satisfied with the progress so far, but I think that there are definitely some lessons to take into future production, so I thought I’d break the methods down as I see them….

First off, bases: - I’ve been using 2mm depth 90x60mm from Warbases for the majority of them, with of course the loss of 10mm strips at the rear to enable my idea of spaces for labelling - these are then textured with fine basing sand and some colour dry-brushed on in layers to resemble vegetation.

I think this has worked out fairly well - the large ‘ground’ covered by what is supposed to be an area covered by hundreds of men means the abstracted look mitigates against adding further detailing - I had initially hoped to have trees and other scenic elements, but realistically this just takes away available space from the blocks/formations themselves. The edges of the bases are completed by using a paint pen to cover the raw MDF - quick, easy and neat - but I have to say that I am finding the labelling as envisaged coming across a bit cumbersome and fiddly to do - one of the reasons that not too much of it is yet visible in the photos on here !

I am also finding the loss of space more restrictive than I imagined the strips at the rear would be - making some of the more populous Brigades look a bit crowded - one of the main reasons for going with 2mm was to enable the more accurate depiction of formations, movement, etc - I suppose I could have gone with larger bases, but getting the balance right for a smaller unit would then be problematic - they’d look a bit adrift in acres of space…..

Perhaps I might look more seriously at the method of incorporating a rare earth magnet into the basing texture to enable labels to sit on top of corner to corner detail, but then again it will only end up sitting on top of whatever units populate the space, given the size needed to show the information I decide to add, whether designation or strength points, capabilities etc…. So probably a dead end…..


Referring back to my simplified painting method, this has proved to be effective, if, as suggested above, somewhat unfulfilling….. the actual act of painting is a bit mechanical, and for individual blocks a bit underwhelming, but I think when posed en masse on the base, gives the look I was going for without the time consumption required to make a better effort - up close, slapdash, at arms length, enough colour to evoke the units, whilst representing those big battalions.

In terms of simplicity, I did have the option of doing more with the flags - perhaps even replacing them with larger, printed ones, but again this would be a drag on the production rate of the project, so a simplistic caricature of colours was used - this is one of the reasons that all of the Austrian flags are the more visible yellow OrdinarFahne, rather than having the white LeibFahne for 1st Battalions - and why I have not attempted the distinctive multi-coloured borders of the same - just too much for such a small effect !

Placing of the blocks themselves has been relatively straightforward, although some fiddly use of tweezers and superglue has been required, and I haven’t alway succeeded in keeping things straight on the ground… my approach of course, means that the minis ‘float’ somewhat above the terrain, with the small integral bases being a bit of a contrast with the basing material and colouring - I prefer the visual ‘pop’ this adds to the figures, but might it not be to everyone’s taste…. I have considered the method of sticking the unpainted blocks down prior to painting, and then doing the base as a whole, but I have found that I am too cack-handed to get any detail on intervening ranks and rear facings, although of course, the utility of this might be debatable when placing blocks close together.

Certainly one of the inspirations I took for this project made superlative use of just such a method:

I wish I had the confidence to try something similar, as it would help further in simplifying the production line method whilst maintaining pleasing visual results, but I am not that sure of getting a similarly effective results !

Talking of results, another inspiration for this project was the superlative output of Jon Bleasdale, who has really caught the look I wanted to achieve - his Blog is a great resource of of stimulating projects, and his use of colours and basing materials make for some excellent visuals effect in 2mm:

Going deeper into my list of online resources, one of the original primers for tackling the period in a effective way was the work of Thaddeus Blanchette here:

Going through various iterations over time, his methods and results show what can be achieved with a keen eye for the period, even on smaller bases and fewer blocks of minis.

Another blast from the past, worthy of consideration as another classic exponent of small scale minis, namely Nik Harwood - his clean looking and smart Austrian and French Blucher bases gave similar grist to my mill:

And bang up to date with a thread on 3D printed miniatures from 6mm Wargaming:

And also on the YouknowhatTube from Project Wargaming:

I found in all these pages, lots to inspire, and of course put my own efforts to shame !

Going forward, I think I will make an effort to tie back into my initial ambition to work on Davout’s versus Rosenberg’s Corps battle at Wagram and buckle down and get their OOBs onto the painting table and then be better able to have an overview of what might be achieved - I guess it might be easy to feel that small scale miniatures, painted simply would be a shoe-in for depicting a battle like Wagram in its entirety, but I think that has to be tempered by what I will realistically be able to achieve given the demands of ‘Real Life’ versus our hallowed Hobby !

Saturday, 28 January 2023

2mm Napoleonic: Test Bases Progress


I’ve made good progress with the balance of the blank test bases I made up for the 1809 campaign as detailed in my last posting - I’ve been experimenting with various block types and the positioning thereof, as well as playing around with some temporary labelling.

I’ve thrown in a couple of MDF rounds as Corps commanders, and also some stand-alone artillery bases on smaller sized 60x60mm squares - these might be batteries of position, or grand batteries, independent of the cannon integral to most Brigades.

For the most part, I’ve stuck to the ‘keep it simple, stupid’ school of painting, and avoided too much detailing, enabling the production of enough blocks to do the bases justice, I think, although more thoughts on that later:

Below we see a French Dragoon Brigade, perhaps Guerin’s with various squadrons from the 7th and 30th, as well as the Italian Queen’s Dragoons and lastly the Cacciatori di Cavallo -  backed up the Cuirassiers seen in the last post:

Throughout these bases, I haven’t been too fussy about which of Irregular’s cavalry blocks I have been using  - although I stuck with the BG5 close order 8-horse strip for the ‘heavies’, I’ve been mixing and matching the BG4 Carbine Cavalry with BG11 Sabre Cavalry elsewhere - adds a bit of variety to the linear strips; BG12 Cavalry Commands with guidon are also randomly included:


The Dragoons got a mixture of lighter horse colours, a uniform green topped by a gold headgear dot, and some red dashes at rear/sides of the strips for the saddlecloths - I have not been worrying anymore about being strict on the figure/man ratio as such - although at Wagram, Guerin had respectively four squadrons each from the French and the Queen’s Dragoons, and then two squadrons of the Italian Chasseurs - so you might say a strip here equates to a squadron….

In reality, I was governed by what I could fit on the base, bearing in mind the 10mm strip at rear affecting the depth, whilst wanting to give a flavour of the formations being used - not sure I am entirely satisfied by the columnar look here - on later bases I might go for a more pleasing ‘charging’ line - across the base width to give it a bit more L’Arme Blanche ‘oomph’ - they seem a bit clinical as-is.

Next up, some of the half-sized artillery bases, probably depicting heavier calibre batteries, here made up of Irregular’s BG6 pieces with various limbers, caissons or wagons to give a sense of the depth of a deployed artillery unit:

I had a fancy to think in terms of visually identifying the calibre of such batteries by the amount of pieces on each base - so the Austrian one above, with nine items, might be a 9lber unit, a quick calculation for the player’s eye - but to be honest with the labels just behind, it should be easy enough to have that information there.

Next up, a look at some infantry formations from both sides - I wanted to give a sense of the Battalion Masses employed by the Austrians in 1809, as well as the characteristic French Columns - again, no hard and fast rules in these test bases, but a trio of BG2/BG40 blocks might equate to a French Battalion, whilst three or four BG15/BG42 blocks for the historically larger Austrian units.

So, a six Battalion French Brigade above, and below a view across two Austrian ones - the centre one with some skirmishers deployed to their front - Irregular’s BG3 in this case - as before, working with more what fits on the base, rather than strictly depicting every part of a formation.

Next up, a look at the temporary labelling I printed up - I say temporary, in that just like my previous Ancients project, I eventually want to work on some magnetic labels to enable swapping out identifiers for different units, but am ‘back burner-ing’ that as it is a bit too much faff when I want to be spending the time painting troops !

Here we have the French Garde Imperial Grenadiers, using Irregular’s BG35 March columns so that they look suitably beefy ( eagle-eyed readers might recognise these as the ones I painted appearing amidst the 2mm listings on Irregular’s website - the blocks have somewhat shamefully remained un-based since I did them, what, eleven years ago ? ):

I’ve included a national flag, from the 6mm ones produced by the superlative Tony Hughes at Tiny Tin Troops, just to see how that looks on the label - which is a bit rough here, as I cut it a bit too shallow for the 10mm space….

The Austrian one is for a Dragoon Brigade, although I employed ‘heavies’ strips by mistake for the front line - although they look quite good here with a supporting battery deploying,and a small unit of Chasseurs behind:

The actual text on the labelling is something I’m undecided on - there are some space limitations, after all, if you want a font size that is easily legible at tabletop distances, and in retrospect, it seems a bit redundant to have the word ‘Brigade’ - we knew in advance that was the ‘scale’ of these bases - it might be better to use the space to add in the Divisional or Corps hierarchy, but then you’d end up with things like “ IV / Reserve/Nostitz/ Rothkirch/Dragoon or some such, which is all a bit much. 

In play, I’m more likely to say: “I’m attacking with these dragoons”, than pronouncing the foregoing word salad….. but then again, the hierarchy style would be more ‘military’-looking - definitely something to ruminate whilst poring over Nafziger et al…… !

The Corps command circles also got a small name label, although these look a bit out of scale/place to my eye - might have to have a think about these - particularly given there are lots of Austrian commanders with very long names…… Erzerhog Franz etc etc….. ! Maybe the ‘III Corps’ might be better here…. ?

Irregular’s BG24 Army Command Group appears alongside the useful 20th Century Range’s IK4 HQ base, with a BG13 mounted pair and a guard formed of a BG40 block.

Overall, I’m fairly happy with the progress so far, although I think I need to tighten up my ideas on how to decide on showing the make-up of each Brigade, whether to include skirmishers, integral artillery, etc, etc - I also think that the bases could use a bit more aesthetic appeal - it may be difficult to add trees or structures to scale in what is a large, abstracted plot of land - so will have to ponder this with the next tranche of troops.

As a personal aside, I’ve managed to bust the index finger on my right hand, so it might be a while before I put brush to mini whilst I wait for the swelling to go down….. at least I am being authentic in suffering for my Art…. Although I’m thankful I have not yet made a base with a Napoleonic surgeon - he would probably be prescribing amputation without anaesthetic !

Anyway, battle scars permitting, I’ll be returning to this test run soon…..

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

2mm Napoleonic: Test Bases


So, a return to a subject that has been tugging at the edges of my Wargaming consciousness for a number of years; namely depicting Napoleonic tabletop forces using 2mm miniatures….. so much so that I last blogged about it 12 years ago (!) without any satisfactory resolution !

For a number of reasons, I just couldn’t get comfortable about plunging into what is arguably the ‘core’ era/subject matter in wargaming, and had tried, or rather prevaricated about taking the plunge time and again - now I own Napoleonic troops in a number of scales from 6mm via 10mm all the way up to classic 25mm Minifigs, but most languish in a shamefully bare metal state, shunted to the side until I could resolve my conundrum in how to make effective use of 2mm minis, as not only my main scale of choice, but surely the best one to truly show the epic sweep and size of that era’s battles ?

Having recently taken a minimalist and pragmatic approach to painting 2mm for Strength and Honour Ancients, I think what was holding me back was sticking to the idea of being forced to scribe out every practical detail from the small scale blocks to truly do the periods’ panoply of uniforms justice; whilst also finding the time to do so with the hundreds of strips that would be required to match the scale of the battles…… I realise now that this is not a circle that really needs squaring….. or at least my current intent is to not get too hung up at what might be missing from the visual aspect, but rather embrace the simpler approach in order to produce armies that are ‘large’ enough to look more like the real thing on the tabletop.

With that in mind, I’ve taken the plunge and started work on some test bases to see how I might take on this bugbear of mine, and finally clear this case of Wargamers’ Block……

I’ve settled on a base size and unit depiction that has taken it’s starting point from systems such as the Blucher rule set, and so each will be roughly a Brigade group, hopefully depicting a historical unit, with enough of the differing troop types to show the makeup of each, if not covering every part….

A recent reading of the various books in John H. Gill’s excellent series on the Austrian 1809 campaigns has given me inspiration with a starting point of Aspern-Essling /Wagram, and I will probably look to eventually field the Corps of Davout versus Rosenburg as a jumping off point.

So, based on 2mm thick MDF bases of 90mm by 60mm, representative Brigade sized units, with a good mix of blocks to give some Mass, as well as visual appeal:

In the same vein as the recent Strength and Honour bases, a strip at the rear to contain a unit label, and as flat a terrain to the front as possible, made up of fine basing sand with painted-on detailing - in the photos in this post, we have perhaps Raynaud’s French Heavy Cavalry Brigade of the 4th and 6th Cuirassiers, supported by a 6lb Horse Artillery Battery, and Weisz’s Austrian Brigade with the regiments of Stein and Erzerhog Karl’s Infantry, alongside the 4th Vienna Landwehr.

Rather than looking to pick out faces, weapons or other such details, I’ve gone from an undercoat in the national colour to adding dots of either black or yellow and black for the headgear, white or grey for the trousers - a brown square at the rear for a backpack, and an expressionistic stab at the requisite national flag….. cavalry get a bit extra in that after a grey undercoat, individual horses get a variety of browns or black, and the riders have an overall uniform colour with only the barest of details - for the Cuirassiers here I restrained myself to blue, followed by a gold helmet dot, more dots of silver for the cuirass, and dot of red at each shoulder. 

Artillery is also kept simple with the base colours of horses, equipment and men, and a splash of bronze to the gun barrels, and here a red dot at the headgear for the French….. the whole idea to keep it straightforward and simple, whilst allowing the time to work on a lot of blocks at once, without getting too overwhelmed by the numbers required…… Napoleonic skirmishes - Pshaw ! - these will be for battles !

I’ve made up a dozen bases to test out various troop/unit types and hopefully, if I don’t falter, and fall back into old habits of overthinking and overcomplicating things, be able to actually make some progress….

Anyway, watch this space for hopefully more to come….

Sunday, 1 January 2023

New 2mm Buildings from Irregular - Painted examples


Thought I’d show some progress on the new 2mm Ancient buildings from Irregular Miniatures - mainly to prove that I’m still working on things when time allows….. don’t know where November went…. And now it’s already the New Year ! …. Sigh…… Anyway, Compliments of the Season to All, and let’s crack on with some photos….

I’d had an itch to mount a pair of Irregular’s temples onto a piece of area terrain - an Acropolis on a mountain sort of thing, that at a pinch could also be used as an island for naval games / galley warfare, so with an off-cut of blue foam and a a few adhesive bushes/Brigade Models trees, I whipped up the following:

Hopefully it gives off a suitably Homeric vibe, something for Titans to have a Clash over….. or at least something a bit different for Strength and Honour armies to attack….

Moving on, a variety of the Irregular buildings with a more Roman flavour - as yet unbased - I’m still thinking about whether to mix these with the ones I produced earlier from Brigade Models, or to have them on their own - I’ve thrown in a large funerary monument from the latter company at the same time:

All of them painted up nicely with a straightforward colour scheme - on close inspection, the more ‘organic’ sculpting from Irregular meant there was the odd bulge or skewed angle in the casting here and there, and some mould  lines, but nothing to really get in the way or see the overall appearance suffer too much - I’m still very satisfied by how much they look the part.

Finally, I had a go at a more Carthaginian piece by working on Brigade Model’s Quasr Bshir fort:

It’s mounted on a 60x60mm base that still needs some finishing off - I envisage it as a sort of caravanserai built around a water cistern - hence the vegetation in the centre - I also had a go at some ‘Mother Goddess’ iconography to give it a more Carthaginian look.

Anyway, plenty of plans for the coming year, in a variety of scales, so onwards and upwards into 2023 !