Saturday 29 November 2014

Saturday 22 November 2014

WWI 1914 German test elements

I wanted to do a test paint on the Lancashire Games figures in between jobs for Geoff. I did these guys up last night to test colours and how well they would paint up. I have to say that I'm happy with the final result. The colours I used were those provided by Mark Hargreaves from his blog 'Over Open Sights' - he has painting guides available upon request.. As always, by the time you switch on macros and go for the fine detail 18mm figures lose some of that effect that they have from three feet, but they still look alright.

Advancing and firing figures
And from a slightly different angle - the photo makes them look more blue-grey than they really are.
Marching figures
And again from a slightly different angle.
It will probably cost me a fortune, but I'd like all of my 1914 bases to have summer flowers because I really thin kthey bring that August and September in the north of France to life.
The figures themselves paint up very easily and have just the right level of detail. There are incised lines on the cuffs which you can follow to paint in the red piping.
OK, the next week is going to be a bit messy - I have 70 junior exams to mark, their reports to write and Year 12s to prepare for their Classical Studies examination on Friday. Then I have the last of the figures that I'm painting for Geoff - some Hasslefree Apocalypse survivors - and then I need to finish my secret project. Then and only then, will I get into finishing the Crimean War project. After that will be the 1914 WWI. No plans beyond that though, as I'm notoriously fickle, and I have a hankering to get that ECW 28mm project underway. I will also fit a couple of test-paint elements of WWI French in there somewhere as they will only take one session to do, and I'm always more motivated when I have some painted figures to add to, rather than starting from scratch.


Thursday 20 November 2014

Samurai Commission

The latest figures that I've painted for Geoff are these Samurai and civilians from Perry miniatures. I have to admit that I was a bit flummoxed when it comes to the colours of Japanese clothing, so it required a bit of internet searching and a bit of imagination. Without any further ado, here they are.
The Samurai themselves in everyday clothes.
Three women and a monk (?). I took his colours from the Perry site as i'm not sure what he is. I thought he might have a flower in his hand so I painted it red, but if anyone has a better guess I'm willing to repaint it.
The peasants - an old man and three labourers.
I don't know if they came out as pretty as I expected them to in terms of the time that I put in, but I did enjoy painting them. Oriental flesh was something new for me, but I think it looks OK, and suitably different from my normal caucasian skin tones. I hope Geoff likes them. I still have the apocalypse survivors to paint, which I'll get stuck into as soon as I paint a trial stand of WWI Germans.


Monday 17 November 2014

Early War arrives

My birthday present arrived three days ago, only three months after the event itself. I was OK with this because it was my preorder for Lancashire Games new early WWI range. I worked out what I would need for a French and a German army for 1914. Initially I had planned to buy the British rather tha nthe French, but after reading Ian Senior's Home before the leaves fall I changed my mind. If you haven't read this book and you enjoy WWI, I heartily recommend it. I borrowed a copy from the library and was so impressed that I ordered the paperback version entitled Invasion 1914 in order to be able to refer to it regularly to devise scenarios.
Anyway, I thought I'd post some pictures of the figures as they are very nice, but they are also very big - 18mm rather than 15mm - and people wondering whether they mix with figures like  Peter Pig might want to have some comparisons.
A base of Lancashire Games WWI Germans Marching next to a base of Battlefront Late War Germans.
Left to right: Battlefront, Lancashire Games, ESCI 1/72 (20mm), Perry Miniatures 28mm
So calling them 15mm is a definite case of scale creep! I'm not perturbed though, as I had not planned to mix these figures with any other companies. The Marlburians that I painted were of the same scale, and it made them very easy (and enjoyable) to paint.
Lancashire French Dragoons on the left, my 15mm Crimean Cossacks on the right.
The same sizing is true for the cavalry, which is just as well, or the horses might look a bit silly next to the infantry. I am really impressed with the cavalry figures - the ones with the upright lances are particularly well molded with virtually no flash in he difficult area between the lance and the trooper's leg.
An example of the German artillery and 77mm field piece
The artillery is of the same scale. The gun sculpts are utilitarian rather than excessively detailed. For instance, the seats on the gun shield of the 77mm are not sculpted. They come in three pieces - the gun and carriage are one sculpt with two wheels to glue on. I like this because fiddling around with lots of parts on 12 small guns (6 German and 6 French) doesn't sound like my idea of fun. They should paint up quite nicely.

A German unit
Finally here is a German platoon that I based up just to see how they fit together. They are on standard sized Flames of War MDF bases that I bought from Sarissa Precision. In Flames of War this is a platoon, but I'm looking calling it a 'unit' - which could be a platoon, company or a battalion depending on how people want to see it. In my mind it is a battalion. That makes having an artillery battery in support make sense.

I'm looking forward to painting some trial figures once I've got the next part of Geoff's commission out of the way - the Samurai and peasants are about 1/3 finished.


Sunday 16 November 2014

Two book reviews

Back in July I won a prize from Millsy and Evan's giveaway on their Canister and Grape blog. The prize was a copy of War at sea in the ironclad age and I promised that I would do a review of the book. Well, it is only a couple of months since I finished reading it, so I guess a review is possibly ever so slightly overdue.
Yes, this is exactly the same image I used last time.

This book is part of Cassell's History of Warfare series, of which I already own two other volumes - The Renaissance at War and Warfare in the Eighteenth Century. This is a great series written by some very good historians (Jeremy Black writes the 18th Century volume and it delivers a broad narrative of the period without being Eurocentric), and Ironclad Age is no different. For such a small period of time that the era covers, Richard Hill has written a comprehensive and easily digestible tome here.
One thing upon reading through is that the title of the book is misleading. This is not just a book about war at sea, but the impact that the ironclad age had on military operational strategy. This was the era of 'send a gunboat', and the book reflects this admirably.
The chapters start with the technical background, and this is written in a way that landlubbers like myself have no problem understanding. The technological changes of the nineteenth century had a decisive effect on the way that wars were waged, and it is important to summarise just how revolutionary those changes were.
Next up is navies and their people. This short chapter looks into the personnel who were in charge of the fleets throughout the nineteenth century, and the fashion of a naval career.
Following this is theories of sea-power. This follows the key naval thinking of the era, from British strategy as espoused by John and Philip Colomb - 'the frontier of our empire is the enemies coastline'- to the French jeune ecole , to Alfred Mahan. Tirpitz is considered, and his influence on Wilhelm II. It continues naturally to look at the different approaches of either seeking a decisive battle or of imposing blockades and raiding tactics. Finally it looks at tactical theory and the manoeuvre drills that all went so horribly wrong with the Camperdown in 1893.
The fourth chapter focuses on the American Civil War. To be honest this was a chapter that I thought I would gloss over. It isn't a war that overly interests me and I felt that having read about Hampton Downs once before, I had enough information for my little brain to hold onto. However, I found the chapter really interesting, from the coastal actions and blockades to the Mississippi River campaign it tied up the naval element of the war very succinctly. I guess what I found from this chapter was that I now know more about the American Civil War's naval dimension - probably all that I really need to considering it isn't an area of intense interest for me.
Chapter five is navies and imperial expansion, and this is where this book really comes into its own. Not only do we have naval actions covered, but also the influence of naval personnel and guns on colonial campaigns. One does not normally expect to see a map of the battle of the Modder River in a book with the title 'war at sea' - but it is here along wit hthe siege of Ladysmith because of the involvement of the naval guns in these battles. The Taku forts, gunboats on the Nile in the Sudan, the French in Taiwan, are all covered. There is even mention of the naval brigade and river gunboats in the New Zealand Wars!
Chapter six is the one we have all been waiting for - Fleet Action. Except that there aren't many. Lissa in 1866 is covered and it is interesting to see what an influence commanders can have in pitched naval battles. Von Teggethoff, the Austrian commander was aggressive and dynamic compared to his Italian opposite di Persano, and the result reflects this despite the inferiority of the Austrian fleet. Angamos Point where the Chileans and Peruvians faced off in the War of the Pacific is covered. It is a relatively minor skirmish really, but the results were decisive in terms of Chilean control of the sea and their eventual victory in this war. The same can be said of the battle of Santiago Bay between the US and Spain.
Finally we come to the masters of fleet action in the Ironclad age - the Japanese. The Sino-Japanese War and the battle of the Yalu is covered in depth, as is the Russo-Japanese War with the Battle of the Yellow Sea and Tsushima. The book ends with Tsushima, commenting that the same month HMS Dreadnought was laid down and the Ironclad age was effectively over.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Naval warfare is not my forte, but I do love the nineteenth century and War at sea in the ironclad age had me looking around various sites at the possibility of building some ironclad forces to complement a land based project. The Russo-Japanese War, War of the Pacific and Austro-Italian War 1866 are all contenders. Especially given my latest acquisition...
The Battle of Tsushima, just for some inspiration.

I'm a fan of Neil Thomas's wargaming books. His rules are simple, but well thought out. I've used them for ancient games and for Napoleonic games very successfully, although I always tweak them a little, usually with morale and skirmishers. So it was with eager anticipation that I bought a copy of his Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878.

I bought the Kindle version from Amazon, as the bookshelves are really a bit overloaded at the moment. It is a pity, because there are none of the colour photos (which usually have nothing to do with the rules but always make nice eye-candy) in the Kindle version. What there is is one of the best wargames books I have bought in a long time. 
Neil starts off the book with a survey of the evolution of warfare in the nineteenth century. He then goes on to explain the thinking behind his rules. He consistently harps on about the importance of simple rules that do not detract from the game, and I can imagine that this might annoy some people, but as I agree whole-heartedly with him, I'm not too bothered. What he does do is boil down some key observations of the warfare of the period into some effective and simple rules. Some people might be a bit taken aback by things such as infantry lines that cannot move or units may either move or fire but not combine both, but Neil argues cogently the theory behind these mechanisms.
The rules themselves are simple but effective. The only thing that I don't like about them is the morale rules as I like my units to stagger and then rout when they get into trouble. I find the expedient of removing a base for a failed morale test to be a little too simplistic. I also like to have generals with the ability to rally troops. The other thing I want to take into consideration is the effect of losses on a unit's morale. As a result I have put together a table that gradually decreases morale with every lost element so that the odds of a unit routing when it has only 1 element left are increased. I also like the idea of skirmishers who can form up as close order troops and of being able to add figures to a picquet line from line battalions. As such, my skirmishers are based 2 to a 1/2 base, and one element of the each infantry formation is also based the same way in order for them to join a picquet line if so required by the scenario. I have to emphasise that the picquet rule is a special one which I apply only to certain armies like the British in the Crimea. Neil accounts for skirmishers operating around their parent units in his rules, and I accept his rationale.
Where this book surpasses his previous works is in the scenario sections. There are five general well thought out scenarios that will all give an enjoyable game in any rules system. Then there are the army lists followed by specific scenarios based on historical battles. Unlike previous books there is no attempt to stick to 8 units a side - forces contain anywhere from 13 - 18 different units. I realised that I don't have enough figures to wargame the Alma scenario - is that a sign that more buying must happen? 
The army lists contain special rules - for instance the British can advance in line; the Russians must use column etc. There are also optional command mechanisms to reflect the increased difficulties of battlefield control in this period. All in all, this book is very well thought out.
I bought this book mostly for my Crimean War project, but what I have found is inspiration to delve into other periods. I've always had a soft-spot for the Franco-Prussian War, but at the moment it is the 1866 Seven Weeks War that is really calling to me. I'm not sure if it is the Bohemian theatre or the Italian theatre I find more interesting - maybe I could do both! The other possibility is The War of the Pacific. Outpost Wargames do a nice 15mm range for this little known conflict at very reasonable prices.
So here I sit, enthused about the prospects of wargaming nineteenth century (and early Twentieth Century) battles thanks to both of these books. Both are highly recommended.


Monday 10 November 2014

Latest commission work

When I sent Geoff the Zulu Wars figures I let him know that I'd be interested in painting up small groups of figures if he wanted me too. He replied that he did indeed have some figures that he'd like to see painted, and sent me through 30 odd to work on. This is the first group - pulp adventurers from the Copplestone Castings range. These are really nice figures to paint, and I hope he is happy with the result.
The full group.
The archaeologists.
'I hope the opposition don't include mummies...'
Some splendidly adventuresome chaps.
I did take some inspiration for the colours from the Copplestone website, but there are some variations of my own in there.
Time to start on the next group which are some Perry Samurai era villagers. I'd earlier considered the possibility of a small skirmish force for Ronin, so depending on how much I enjoy painting these figures I might head down that route in the near future.
I'm also slowly painting up a secret project which is going to be a gift for a friend. I managed to do quite a bit of work on this in the last two weeks, which is why the blog has been so quiet - can't post piccies or it won't be a secret anymore! Hopefully some Samurai will be ready by next week.