Saturday, 11 September 2010

Seelowe Nord

Apart from earning a living, the other thing that keeps me from painting is reading. I commute for about an hour and fifteen minutes each morning and evening on the Tube so I have plenty of time for reading and can knock off most books in less than a week (roughly seventy pages each way per day). I have the same issues with books that I do with my soldiers - my purchasing outweighs my consumption and I have a "slush pile" in my bedroom of epic proportions. And these are real books - "E Readers" or whatever you call them just don't do it for me, I have to have the smell of a new book and the feel of turning a page.

Anyway, this last couple of weeks I've been reading a couple of novels set in WWII. One, called The Kindly Ones: A Novel by Jonathan Littell won the Prix D'Goncourt (sort of French Booker Prize) about three years ago - this caused a bit of a fuss for two reasons. First, it was a 976 page novel written in fluent French by an American (and it was his first novel), and second because it was a fictional memoir of an unreconstructed SS officer who had served with the Einsatzgruppen in the East and then became a kind of management consultant (for wont of a better term) for the labour camps. I'm about two thirds of the way through this and it is a super book (in the sense of being well written and accurate) but obviously it is about a serious and grim subject - how apparently normal everyday people can commit mass murder. This is the first book I've read on the Tube where I've been very conscious of who is sitting next to me - there is quite a big Jewish community that live in Finchley and I am well aware that anyone who peeked over my shoulder and read some pages of this book out of context might well be shocked and upset at what they see - and I really wouldn't want to upset anyone. It's a pretty disturbing and heavy novel.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with wargaming - but after six hundred pages of The Kindly Ones I needed something a bit lighter and Amazon came to my rescue. If you are a regular user of the site I'm sure you are aware of the "recommendations" function where if you buy a book the site recommends books that other people bought that you might like. This has the unfortunate side effect that after buying some books you get some recommendations that are bizarre (not rude but I was a bit surprised to be recommended the game KerPlunk after buying a book on Gettysburg). Anyway, I was in need of an Amazon fix after a very boring morning in the office (what do you mean, you never log on to non-work related sites during the day?) and decided to get some books that had just come out. To make up the order to the point where I got free postage I added a volume of short stories on the theme of "alternate histories" - at which point I got the "if you like that you might like this" - and there was Seelowe Nord: The Germans are Coming by Andy Johnson.

So I thought I would give it a spin, and I'm glad I did. The basic premise of the book is that Admiral Raeder began to look into amphibious warfare rather earlier and more seriously than he did in reality, enabling landings to take place. However the Operation Sea Lion that was picked apart after the war (landings on the South Coast) is revealed to be a deception plan to enable the Wehrmacht to throw their forces ashore between Scarborough and Bridlington (hence "Seelowe Nord"). While Andy Johnson doesn't ignore the problems this causes the Germans in terms of air cover and logistics it is perfectly apparent that what he wants to do is write about WWII land combat in East Yorkshire - and on those terms it is a very good first novel. The story follows characters on both sides at all levels of command (think Red Storm Rising and you'll have the idea) and generally it is very well done. The Home Guard are very plucky, the Germans aren't ogres and the combat scenes aren't too Boys Ownish - Andy Johnson was a career soldier serving in the Coldstream Guards so he certainly knows about men under fire.

So, if you can suspend your disbelief, it is a good first thriller. I had a couple of whinges though - there are no maps in the book so I would definately recommend that you have access to Google maps while reading the book so you can follow the actions. Secondly, there were a number of typos in the book (not a huge number but enough to irritate me - in this day and age there is no excuse for this). Thirdly, the wargamer in me would have liked to see OOBs for both sides included.

There were a couple of areas where I'd need to read more to see if Andy Johnson had it "right" - there were a few scenes where General Alan Brooke was briefing Churchill that sounded "modern" to my ears. I'm not sure if WWII generals spoke about "shaping the battlefield" in 1940 - but this is a minor niggle and I may very well be wrong and that is exactly the kind of language used. I'd also like to read more about 1940 British Army defence doctrine (which presumably was undergoing huge changes based upon the experience gained in France) - I can't help feeling that the tactics used in the book were more 1980's BAOR than 1940, but again, I may well be talking utter rubbish. Either way the book is a jolly good read and I'd recommend it.

The book has lots of actions that could be the basis for wargames and with Battlefront pushing early war gaming I could see modellers moving their Vickers tanks to defend Driffield over the next few months.

Perhaps not so co-incidentally I've continued to work through my half painted pile to finish off a Battlefront MG platoon (four HMG teams and some command) this week. Pictures later this weekend.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Back to Painting

So, again, my traditional apology for not having posted more frequently. I'd like to say thank you to everyone who was kind enough to wish me well over the past few months. My hands are now back to normal (I'm still having bouts of pain in my legs and arms but I just get up and walk around until it goes away or, confusingly, if I'm walking around at the time, I sit down for awhile). Apart from the course of drugs I haven't actually done anything (neither injections nor surgery on my spine appeal to me and I think I'm going to need another bout of problems to convince me I need to do something).

I recently had a conversation with a woman who works for one our customers who told me that everyone should buy private medical insurance once they are forty because that is when your body falls apart - obviously she's onto something because I'm 48 - when I mentioned this she pretty much suggested that I'd been on borrowed time then and was lucky I hadn't had this happen before.

So, this weekend I've finished the first nine Poland Uhlans (who, possibly confusingly, are Russian), a mounted French Line Infantry officer and six 10mm Pendraken AWI British Line Infantrymen. I've also got some more Uhlan at an almost finished stage. I'll post a picture up in the next couple of days - I must confess the 10mm Pendraken figures had been sitting in my half-finished pile for some time. I wanted to put some scores on the board as I'm desperately behind schedule.

I've done a few things while I've been "away" - one is to get a super-duper new PC after my old one died (excellent value and service from an online company called PC Specialist - -who were really good). Some time ago my step-daughter moved out to live in Reading where she now works. So the spare room was spare again and I wasted no time in moving my "stuff" back in - this involved quite a lot of reaching into the back of cupboards throughout the flat to pull out "stuff" that I "had" to buy seven or eight years ago but which then never saw the light of day again. Less embarrassingly, I pulled out a number of books from the cupboard that have been my friends for the last thirty years or so - so in no particular order:

Wargames by Donald Featherstone - I first came across this in my local library when I was about nine or ten and immediately put it to use with my Airfix plastic soldiers. I had many happy hours with this book (and it's successors - someone in my town must have been asking for these things because every book by Big Don was there or was bought as they came out). My copy is an ex-library issue that I bought at some point since.

Solo Wargaming by Donald Featherstone - this one was a Christmas or birthday present. A hardback from 1972 (price £2.40 - decimalisation was a new fangled thing at the time) I loved the article about Lionel Tarr stolidly recreating Barbarossa in his back bedroom - I think his level of megalomania has been a consistent influence upon me, or at least upon my aspirations.

Napoleonic Wargaming by Charles Grant - this was from 1974 and cost £3.00. Again I'm pretty sure this was another Christmas present and this was one of the books that really fired me up - I loved looking at the pictures of the terrain and troops from the Wargames Holiday Centre.

Operation Warboard by Gavin Lyall - from 1976 and published by Pan in paperback (£1.00). WWII wargaming - this book (along with "Battle: Practical Wargaming" by Charles Grant) formed the basis for my own set of house rules for WWII, and a happy time was spent moving US infantry (Matchbox) and German Fallschirmjager (Airfix) across a town made of houses intended for model railways - I loved urban combat rather than it's rural counterpart for some reason.

Setting Up A Wargames Campaign by Tony Bath - I have the 3rd edition (1986) but I must have bought this one when I first got back into the hobby after my "wilderness years". My school library had this book (my geography teacher was a wargamer) and I loved the idea of creating a fictional continent and populating it with characters.

Goths, Huns and Romans by Simon McDowall - I went through a period of being fascinated by ancient history (and as my local library had a copy of the WRG ancients rules I had the means to put together a properly based (if poorly painted) army. My main problem with ancients was that none of the rules I looked at seemed to give a result that matched what I imagined ancient warfare to be like - and then I realised that once battle was joined the general had little chance of influencing anything as he was in the middle of the fray so I was onto a loser - any set of rules that reflected reality would just give the chance to set up your troops in the order you want them and then roll dice for the result, without influencing how units moved or acted after first contact. I've been told Armati does just that - but it doesn't appeal much.

Some time ago I asked on TMP and GdeB if anyone could recognise some cavalry in bicornes - I managed to identify them as Austrian Chevau-Leger from the BH 15mm French Revolutionary Wars range. I'm now wondering what alternatives they could be painted up as. Someone on GdeB suggested Spanish cavalry as an option so I'm looking at that - I seem to be edging towards a small force for the Peninsula without intending to...

Saturday, 24 July 2010

So six weeks without a drink......

The anti-inflammatories have largely done their stuff and the various pains have subsided into the odd twinge here and there - the pains in my legs are pretty sporadic, essentially it only hurts when I walk. I've had a full spine MRI (thank God for private medicine) and I have a number of herniated discs. Essentially I can hope that is it and the pain goes away for good (which is unlikely) or I can opt for a set of injections in my spine, or I could have a full surgical procedure (that neither my consultant or I are too keen on) to replace the discs with metal plates. I'm still thinking about the caudal epidural injections - I know epidurals are given to women having babies every day but the thought of having needles put in my spine is somewhat giving me pause for thought, and it'll take six weeks or so to tell whether it has alleviated the problem (and these injections aren't a permanent solution).

Anyway, I've largely finished the drugs I've been taking and the side effects are wearing off. Working for a wine importer and not drinking has been something of a shock to the system - I've been excused tastings (one of my favourite aspects of the job) and have avoided going to the pub after work as I cannot stand orange juice and lemonade....and don't get me started on non-alcoholic lager. So on Wednesday it was my wife's birthday and we went to Texture in Portman Street for dinner - the account manager had made the booking on my behalf and it was rather nice to find that he had set me up with a bottle of champagne on the house. I thought I'd give the champagne a try as I was almost off medication..only to find that my mouth wasn't tasting properly (normally I have quite a good palate) - the food tasted marvellous but every wine I tried (the sommelier was making a bit of an effort because of who I work for) tasted a bit off - not corked (and every other indicator apart from flavour was bang on) but not on song.

It was rather embarassing because the sommelier was obviously thinking I was a bit of a prat for not appreciating the wines he was putting in front of me properly. Apart from this it was a marvellous meal and I would highly recommend Texture.

Anyway the next day we had some Alsace wines open at work and I went through them with our MW comparing my notes to hers - everything seemed a bit dull to me. I've been repeating the experiment on a daily basis (we generally have something open every day) and I'm relieved my senses seem to be returning - although I'm mystified as to why I seemed to be able to taste my food at Texture without problems but found the top-end champagnes hard to taste properly.

So, what does this mean for my model soldiers? Well my hands are settling down and I've been doing some basing, prepping soldiers for painting and so on. I'm thinking another few days and I can pick up the brush and do some detail work again.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Okay, So I've Been Ill....

Since my last statement of good intentions a couple of things have intervened. First, my wife and I went to Malta for a week (I'd highly recommend it, good weather and lots of things for people like us to look at) which was great. I spent lots of time clambering over fortifications watched by my long suffering wife - and Valletta must be one of the most fortified cities on Earth.

Anyway, while I was there I started to experience a pins and needles sensation, mostly in my left leg. As this seemed to be mostly associated with exercise, I put it down to being essentially unfit and decided I'd get it checked out if I still had the symptoms when i got home and returned to my normal sedentary lifestyle.

Upon returning to London and work the problem continued - in fact I started to develop pains in my arms as well. I went to see my GP, who said I'd pulled a muscle - essentially he mis-diagnosed the problem entirely as when I took advantage of my company's health insurance scheme and visited a specialist I learnt I had a problem with my spine (actually I have several problems but most of them don't hurt). Now you wonder how a bad back and pains in the legs can translate into no painting or updating of this blog?

Well....the drugs he gave me to reduce the inflamation have a few side-effects (most of which are highly anti-social but have no bearing on this blog) one of which is that my hands now tremble - and this isn't because I'm not drinking alcohol. legs are now mostly okay but I'm still getting severe pains in my right arm and shoulder - my spine is pressing on the nerves that control my arm and so far the drugs have only been of marginal benefit.

What this means is that, apart from being very grumpy (partially the no wine / beer thing but mostly because I can't sleep in a bed because lying down is painful) I've been finding it difficult to type, let alone paint toy soldiers. So here are some painted by DPS of Hong Kong that I picked up on Ebay some time ago.

I have enough figures for six 32 figure battalions of Russian line infantry (although they need to be based for GdeB) and have a few other other odds and ends including an artillery battery and some casualty figures. I've got to say the quality of painting is pretty damn good for the money that DPS charge for them.

So, as I haven't been getting much sleep I've been doing a lot of reading and generally grumping around the house - my wife says I don't deal very well with pain. Anyway, apologies for the lack of posts.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Apologies, Apologies

I'm sorry I haven't been posting consistently - well my painting has been just as inconsistent (and lacking). It's been about four weeks since I began my latest project (the Poland Uhlans in 1812) and still haven't completed that unit - or any others.

When I began this blog it was an attempt to overcome the procrastination that led me to paint less than 40 figures in 2009, despite buying oodles more than, if I were being positive, I'd say that having painted 52 to date was an improvement of sorts. However, I've been falling further behind on my target every week - to the point where I had become embarassed to post just how little I'd done. To my surprise, this hasn't gone unnoticed - I was talking to Trevor Jackson about his super terrain for Bussaco at Salute ( for pictures) when he mentioned my scorecard hadn't been updated for awhile.

So my next step after this post is to update the scorecard - and it won't be pretty.

I haven't been totally idle - but my Poland Uhlans still need some work. I mentioned in my last post, I think, that I had gone to Salute with the intention of buying some standing light horse remounts to suit the BH Uhlans - but Ian Marsh didn't have any - so I bought a blister of AB Uhlans. My plan was to use the horses for my BH Uhlans already on the painting table and then buy some remounts at a later date. So I've painted the horses and have reached the "tidy up" stage (you know - the bit where you look at the figure and realise you have only painted the coloured stripe down the leg seam on only one leg, or forgotten to do the plume or something) with about nine riders. So, I could point to 18 Olley Painting Points for the week (remember horse + rider = 2 OPPs) - or should I say for the month - except...I'm not happy with the horse rider combination.

The BH riders are lovely, and the horses are of course fine, but they don't quite match with one another. The BH riders just don't quite fit the horses. I've looked and a small chunk needs to be taken off the bottom of each rider so they don't rock (either there is a gap at the front or a gap at the back depending upon how you sit them on the horse).....I'm thinking I need a dremel but I'm finding it hard to justify spending another £60 this month on my hobby.

Anyway so mid year resolutions are to;

a) Post once a week and update the statistics (regardless of how embarassing they are).

b) Finish units once started - before starting new ones (in my case that means completing one battalion of French Line Infantry, one battalion of British Peninsula Line Infantry and the Poland Uhlans).

Saturday, 24 April 2010

My Salute

So, yesterday was one of two days a year where I venture out to a wargames show. Infuriatingly, I forgot to take my camera with me (I had planned to take pictures of the games and introduce them into my blog whenever I hadn't painted anything - which seems to be rather more than I would like), which is a huge shame as there were a few very nice games at Salute.

If you recall, I began this blog with a list of things I would like to achieve - and one of those things was to paint twice as many figures as I buy. On that basis I went to Salute with a limited agenda - I wanted to get the figures necessary to produce a vignette reproducing the Vereshegin painting of Napoleon at Borodino shown above, I wanted some remounts for the Russian Uhlans I'm painting (yes I'm still working on them) and that was about it. All in all, I had no intention of buying much.

So, quite how I came to be struggling with several carrier bags at the end of the day I'm really not sure....

So, to the Vershegin painting. Vassili Vereshegin was born in 1842, trained as a Russian Navy officer, graduating first in his class, but upon graduating immediately resigned his commission to study painting. He was somewhat controversial as he believed that showing war's horror on canvas made peace more likely - some of his paintings were fairly gruesome. Towards the end of his life he settled in Moscow and painted a series of paintings based on Napoleon's 1812 Russian campaign (and on Tolstoy's War and Peace). He painted the picture in 1893 (I've also seen 1897 quoted).

The painting depicts French staff officers anxiously peering through their telescopes at the battle raging before them as they seek to distinguesh what is happening through the smoke - meanwhile Napoleon sits, his feet resting on a drum with his head on his chest (perhaps suggesting that he realised that trying to go head on with a large Russian army rather than seeking to flank them was a mistake).

Fantassin (or as they insist upon calling themselves these days Warmodelling) produce a Vereshagin Napoleon (Code NP-04) sitting head upon chest, feet upon drum accompanied by an officer peering through a telescope and very nice the two figures are (see picture above from their website) - but I couldn't help feeling that the Fantassin designer had missed a trick, after all he had left the job half finished. If you are going to try and reproduce a military painting why just do two figures from the group? After all there aren't that many sources for dismounted 15mm French Napoleonic officers looking through telescopes and if you would like to reproduce the image two figures is nowhere near enough.

Fantassin also do a staff HQ set (NP-06) which has several figures that are of use - I'm thinking I can press some of the officers into service as "hangers on" and, while there is no table featured in the Vereshegin painting I'm sure there was one around nearby. However there is one glaring omission from the pack - officer with telescope.

Anyway, after asking on The Miniatures Page forum for where to find supplementary figures suitable for such a project I was pointed towards the Old Glory French Marshalls pack number 2 (NMG4) which features (as well as said marshalls) another table, a sentry, a mameluke holding a horse and (hallelujah!) an officer looking through a telescope - so that gives me two (I had hoped for rather more). I also think that OG have taken a crack at Napoleon as there is a figure in this pack with his feet resting upon a drum - but it isn't quite right so we'll be using the Fantassin Napoleon which is much closer to the original picture.

The OG Marshalls pack also features a cuirrassier officer sitting on a chair (presumably at the table - I wouldn't have thought that sitting at a chair while wearing a cuirrass would have been terribly comfortable) whom I'll make use of and a couple of figures that are nice but will not make it onto my table. One is a busty young lady wearing a hussar uniform, and one is of an officer with a pretty girl (again in uniform) sitting on his lap - I seem to recall one of the Marshalls (in Spain?) brought his mistress along on campaign and dressed her in uniform so I guess this a reference to that.

As well as these interesting figures the pack also includes several marshalls on horseback - now I'd like to think I wasn't this anal (but I know I am) so I guess at some point I'll list out which marshalls were at Borodino and separate them from the rest for painting. I can build a corps commanders base for each of them.

Coming back to the Vereshegin project this still leaves me with a shortage of telescope peering French officers. Any suggestions for more options gratefully accepted.

By the way, Vereshegin died in 1904 - he had been invited along for the ride by a Russian admiral during the Russo-Japanese War and his ship was torpedoed, drowning Vereshegin. According to Wikipedia he not only has a town named after him but also a minor planet (now how cool is that?)

Monday, 5 April 2010

Inventory II

While searching through the cupboard earlier today I came across a box that had been shoved to the back....and found more Napoleonic 15mm figures:

AB - Line Infantry Battalion in Kiwers March Attack x50 or so (enough command for two or three battalions plus enough rankers for one and a bit).
BH - Enough Pavlov Grenadiers to do a second battalion
AB - Ammunition Wagon
AB - 16 Russian Dragoons at rest (with horses) + 12 without horses (I need to check whether these are early or late)
AB - 9 Hussars In Kiwer at rest (no horses)
AB - 16 Hussars In Kiwer charging (no horses)

BH AUBN34 3x Austrian Howitzers and 12 Crew
BH BAU3 German Infantry Shako March Attack (3 bags)
BH BAU8 Grenzers & Jagers
AB KK76 Austrian Limber Set (Walking)
AB Austrian Casualty Set

BH BFR5 Line Infantry Greatcoat Assaulting (3 bags)
BH BFR2 Line Infantry Marching
BH 4407-GC08 French Horse Artillery Crew (12 figures)

Additionally I have one bag helpfully marked "92 AB Cavalry Figures" (without horses) - I haven't yet identified the figures although quite a few are Russian Dragoons.

I rather suspect I am going to be putting in a hefty remount order to Ian Marsh.....

Sunday, 4 April 2010


So, yesterday I stuck the Uhlan to their nails (easier said than done as they had no wish to stay mounted) and while I wait for the primer to dry I thought I'd take stock of what was in the "big box".

So here we have it:

OG RGC2 - Russian Greatcoat Marching (1812) - an old bag so roughly 100 figures.
AB RA10 - Foot Artillery Heavy Limber Team (x2)
AB RA11 - Foot Artillery Light Limber Team (x2)
AB R26 - Kutusov, Bagration & Platov
AB R04P - 1812 Russian Grenadier Battalion (32 figures)
AB ER38 - Russian Hussar (1805-11) 12 figures
BH ST5 - Generals & Aides (maybe a dozen mounted figures)

AB KK02 - German Fusilier Helmet Marching (48 figures)
AB KK03 - German Fusilier Helmet CHarging (24 figures)
AB KK22 - Hungarian Grenadier Marching (12 figures)
BH BAU7 - Landwher Marching (50 figures)
OG AMH2 - Hussars In Reserve - an old bag so 30 cavalry

AB IG26 - Guard Grenadiers a Cheval - 31 figures including two lots of command
AB IG01 - Guard Chasseur a Cheval - 9 figures including command
AB IF73 - Limber Set (walking) x1
AB IF74 - Caisson x1
AB IF75 - Limber Set (galloping) x2
BH FR115 - Line Infantry Greatcoat Assaulting
OG FLL1 - Legere Command - old bag so 100 or so figures
BH FR12-3 - Old Guard Command (dozen or so figures - command for three battalions?)
BH AB12-6 - French Horse Artillery
BH AB12-10 - French 1813-15 Artillery (Confederation of the Rhine)
BH AB12-7 - French Guard Horse Artillery
BH FRBN10 - 1809-12 Old Guard Foot Artillery
OG FAF1 - Foot Artillery Full Dress
Fant - French Foot Artillery Gun & Crew x2
Fant - Line Infantry Firing Line (3x12 figure battalion bags)
AB SET04 - Napoleon & Aides
BH ST6 - Revolutionary War Generals & Staff (14 mounted figures in bicornes)
OG Marshalls - A mix from the sets by OG - Kellerman, Victor, Lefevbre, Brune, Augereau, Marmont, Jourdan, Serurier + 15 mounted aides. Plus "Marshall Dillon" (a cowboy) which I presume was someone at OG's stab at humour.
AB F27 - Early French Hussar In Shako x12 inc command
AB F27A - Early French hussar In Colpack x12 inc command
HUGE BAG of AB/OG & Fantassin Line Infantry + Legere

AB Peninsula Line Infantry Battalion at Order Arms (30 figures)
AB Peninsula Line Infantry Marching (20 or so figures)

I haven't counted these up but I suspect I could be painting French artillery figures for the rest of the year alone. I also haven't really looked into the plastic box containing the odds and ends - but there is probably another hundred figures there (certainly 20 or so cuirassiers). I didn't want to open the bag of Line & Leger Infantry - I suspect I'd merely get depressed at how many I had.

Anyway looking at this I suspect I need to get rid of the French Early Hussars - really nice figures but not suitable for 1809-1812. And of the Marshals only Brune served in Russia. As for the Russian Hussars - had they changed their uniforms over by the Summer of 1812?

Friday, 2 April 2010

Russian Uhlans

I used to hate painting horses - they took me a long time and never looked very good. But, having found a simple method to produce good results I'm now on a cavalry painting frenzy - so here is my first test figures for some Russian Cavalry - troopers of the Poland Uhlan Regiment.

Please forgive the poor photography. I'm more concerned with the uniform colours - I suspect the shabraque is actually too pale a pink, but given that you need to paint smaller figures with paler colours I think they'll work out okay. If I give them a black wash that'll darken them down as well. The good news is that they were very quick to do - so I suspect I might be able to finish them this weekend. However, there is a slight fly in the ointment. The bag of figures they came in contained charging light cavalry horses (which are very nice). Unfortunately the riders, as you can see, look like they are in reserve - so a standing horse might be better, I think I'll have a look through the big box to see if I have any standing light cavalry horses. I don't really want to place any more remount orders with Ian Marsh at Fighting 15's.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Paint On Lead

So, after the debacle of taking the best part of three weeks to paint 8 cuirassiers and seven horses (only to find that I'd used the wrong horses!). I thought this week I'd throw caution and pride to the wind and just try and finish off a lot of my half finished figures to get some "scores on the board" - so this week's figures are a real grab bag.

I painted (another) light horse to mount my final cuirassier on - I did consider remounting them and re-using the light horses for something else (and in fact bought some "heavies" from Ian at Fighting 15s to do so) but then thought better of it - I'll just blame inferior remounts from the quartermaster instead. It's just occurred to me that this is my first complete unit (ok it's just a squadron but nevertheless...)

I finished an Austrian mounted infantry officer, a couple of French Line Infantry in greatcoats (not march attack but advancing at high porte - BH figures) and I'm working on an Austrian 3lb artillery battery (twelve figures and three guns) - again by BH - touch wood this should be completed by midnight.

I've also primed about a dozen horses, the unidentified bicorne cavalry and three Russian Uhlan (I glue my riders to nails so I can hold the nail while painting the figure - unfortunately I couldn't find the box of nails I use so I was limited to re-using the nails vacated by the cuirassier and Austrian chappie.

I've been looking at my Hourtelle book on Borodino and there appear to be only two Uhlan regiments at Borodino - the Poland Uhlans (rather fetching in a purple and dark pink outfit), and the Lithuania Uhlans. Needless to say, I don't have the right colours for these units in my paintbox - so another delay - at this rate I may well have to buckle down and try and paint some French Line infantry in campaign dress.

I also have a large bag of OG Russian infantry marching in greatcoat - I'm thinking that for next week I might just see how I go on painting a big lot. I usually prefer to paint in small groups and have some completed every session - I find painting one hundred bayonets at a time a bit dull.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Slight Deflation

After asking on TMP what the bicorned cavalry are I feel somewhat deflated - Colbert (who paints rather better than me) identified my French Cuirassiers as AB figures mounted on light cavalry horses (the embarrassment of it!). I thought they looked a bit small but as all the rank and file were identical I thought they must be BH - which generally speaking are smaller than their AB brethren.

So I looked through my "big box" and, needless to say, I have no standing heavy cavalry horses. I did find another dozen or so cuirassier but no horses to go with them. I suppose the good news is that as AB have gone up in price again (for completely understandable reasons) lots of my toy soldiers are worth more than they were a few weeks ago - the bad news is I was putting off buying my AB's until Salute. So now I'm thinking I need remounts for my Cuirassier, a command group for my Pavlovskii, and some Cossacks to make up the numbers.....

Well that didn't take much thinking about - which also means I've breached one of my aims for this year already, to paint twice as much as I buy. Which I suppose means I need to keep plugging away.

I've also kept my Borodino "thing" going by buying the old Talonsoft PC game, "Napoleon In Russia" - I was astonished to find it is now selling for about £15-20 on eBay. The last time I saw these things in the shops they were being remaindered for a fiver.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Apologies, Apologies, Apologies

After saying I should post more frequently what happens? I don't post for three weeks - mostly because of a dodgy video card in my PC (which was "state of the art" a few years ago and is now more "state of the ark") which meant I was off line for sometime.

You would think that not being able to surf the web I'd spend some quality time painting - and I have. Just not enough to keep up with the ten figure a week mantra. And I seem to be remarkably incompetent - I promised myself that I would finish a complete unit for once, and what did I do? I've painted eight French Cuirassier but only seven horses!

So here is (almost) a squadron of French heavies:

The figures are Battle Honours by Anthony Barton I believe. I'm quite pleased with how they turned out but they were very time consuming to do, I found the detailing took ages so finding that I was a horse short was rather annoying to say the least.

I also worked on a second batch of Pavlovskii Grenadiers - realising too late that I had painted the first batch of figures with their mitres in 1798 colours and the second batch in 1812 colours (orange and red respectively - or is it the other way round?) - I haven't decided whether to repaint the first batch or the second.

I'd like to paint the figures pictured below - but I have no idea what they are. I'm sure they are by Anthony Barton but I've looked through the Fighting 15's and Eureka websites and cannot see these guys. I asked awhile ago on the GdeB forum and it was suggested that they might be Austrian Chevau-Leger from the Revolutionary War. This is certainly possible as the "big box" includes some Austrian Revolutionary War generals.

It was also suggested that I could paint them as Spanish Cavalry (as I already had some Peninsula War British infantry) but that doesn't really appeal. I'm thinking more and more of the Russian campaign of 1812 - so if anyone can suggest a unit that these chaps could fill in for, then please let me know.

Finally some time ago I bought a number of lots from eBay - all French Line Infantry. As I didn't have enough to produce full 36 man battalions from any one of the lots I decided to mix the together. So the following pictures are of figures from four makers painted by four different painters - the only thing tying the units together is the basing I've done on some of the stands (on a couple of stands I've also painted the pompoms to match one another - and obviously I'll get round to doing the rest at some point).

From a few feet away the differences aren't too noticeable, I think. The makers are OG, BH, AB and Fantassin - of the four brands I think the Fantassin figures are the weakest in this instance. I'm frankly a lead snob - I can't see why anyone would want to paint roughly designed figures when there are much nicer ones out there.

AB are simply superb - okay there has been a bit of scale creep between ranges but overall Anthony Barton's body of work is incomparable and I'm very pleased to see him producing a few new figures now and then for Eureka.

Battle Honours (BH) now subsumed within OG are also designed by Anthony Barton and are not quite so nice as his later work but more than serviceable (I've bought some bags from eBay that were a bit rough - I haven't bought any from Timecast who now sell these figures so I can't comment on their current production qualiy).

Old Glory (OG) are a producer that, I believe, uses different designers for different ranges - unfortunately they have not enforced a "house style" meaning that some ranges are good and some are verging on the awful. They have a fluid style that usually includes in every bag some figures that are in "tussock tripping" poses that look like they are about to fall over flat on their faces. The production quality in the past has sometime been a bit iffy - many bags of ACW infantry that I've bought include some whose faces are simply not there. I think the moulds are run on beyond their lifespan and miscasts are the result. I haven't bought any recently so I can't comment on current quality levels. Given that OG have a fluid style I suspect that ranges where you want lots of variation in figures (like ancient Celtic warbands for instance) are extremely suitable for OG figures but Marlburian infantry (whom in my mind's eye I see striding along like automatons in neatly dressed ranks) not so much. So my advice for buying OG is - see them in the flesh before you buy them.

One thing I've been doing instead of painting the last three weeks is read "The Battle of Borodino" by Alexander Mikaberidze. It's very good but my lack of detailed prior knowledge is counting against me - I find his discussion of what previous scholars have written about the battle confuses me somewhat. I've also found it difficult to find a really good map of the area so I can try and follow the actions on the map. Anyway, I'm plugging away at it - the fault is not Mr Mikaberidze's but my own for being so dim.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Week 4, 28th February 2010

I must apologise for the paucity of my painting this week - I had some kind of bug that meant I was rather shivery (which kind of put paid to what little brush control I have) for several days. I did manage to finish the eight BH Pavlov Grenadiers, and mount a number of figures on their painting sticks to be primed, so the week wasn't a total loss.

As I have nothing really to show you this week I thought I'd pull out another picture from the Wagram game last year. The figures were painted by "Greystreak", aka Bryce Allen, who normally paints rather beautiful 28mm 1812 Russians. He put his Foundry figures aside for awhile to pick up the challenge of painting 15mm AB's. The unit advancing in the blue jackets represent part of the Hesse-Darmstadt Brigade (Bryce painted the whole thing for GdeB but scaled back by 33% to fit the OOB on the day), the Leib-Garde Regiment - the balance of the infantry are in line behind them. Tony Barton unfortunately didn't sculpt any Hesse-Darmstadt figures so 1806 Prussians were substituted (there are some minor uniform differences but short of wholescale conversions these were the best options) - I think they are just gorgeous, and would happily have sneaked them off the premises and into my collection.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Week 3 21st February 2010 Final Result

Ok, so as well as the 12 British Line Infantry (I'm still going to count the two guys that are superfluous to requirements, I'm only going to need to change the facings to make them usuable for the next battalion) I sorted four more French Line in greatcoats (3 AB flankers and a BH centre company advancing at high porte figure - have you noticed how Timecast seem to have integrated the BH range into the OG ranges?)and, am almost there with 8 BH early Russian Grenadiers painted as Pavlov Grenadiers.

So that is 16 figures for week 7 of 2010 and week 3 of my blog.

Week 3 Update

I really should start doing this midweek rather than posting twice on a Sunday...

Anyway, this week I finished the twelve British Line Infantry that I should have finished last week, I'm also confident that I can add a few more figures to the finished pile before midnight tonight. Overall the AB British Line are a pleasure to paint - I just wish I could do them more justice. The picture below shows them before they have received a wash of Dervlan Mud which should give them a bit more of a campaign look. I have to confess to being a bit annoyed with myself - I'm painting this as a 30 figure battalion (a full strength British battalion of the time would have been 40 figures strong) and thought that I had pretty much cracked it with the dozen figures this week plus the figures I had painted earlier - I thought I had the rank and file covered and just needed to do a drummer, two standard bearers and a mounted colonel to finish it off. Then I realised that I had painted two more Centre Co figures than I needed, and was two short on the Flank company (the British Flankers are distinguished by their "wings" at the shoulder - Centre Co guys just have white shoulder tabs) - my excuse is that these are very small in 15mm... and plainly my eyes are not what they were! Well you can tell my eyes aren't what they were just by looking at these fellows.

So I'm hoping to pop them safely off their painting sticks and attach them to their stands this evening - at which point I'm certain to see some more errors I didn't spot before.

I've been looking this week at the Foundry paint system - going to town on this one could easily spend £500 if one took up the "basic" offer, plus the "extension" plus the "authentic Napoleonic uniform" colours (to distinguish them from the "authentic Napoleonic artillery" colours). I currently use a mixture of Citadel/GW (which seem to dry out quite quickly), Miniature Paints (which conversely seem to last for ages) and Vallejo (which I seem to need to shake forever before using).

As far as I can see, you can buy much the same colours from Vallejo with the same variation in shades if you look hard enough, and what you are buying with the Foundry Paint "System" is the convenience of having all the hard work done for you. The first place I looked for Vallejo paints had a set of 72 paints plus a few brushes in a carrying case (do people really carry their painting gear around with them?) for £118.99. And buying them individually costs £1.85 - as opposed to £2.50 a pot for the Foundry paints. I've no idea how they compare in terms of quality (I've been very happy with the Vallejos I've used - just not so happy with the tennis elbow from shaking the damn jar). Anyway, after a day or two's temptation I've put aside the thought of buying some - after all, I mostly paint 15mm with basic block painting and washing so highlights and lowlights would be rather wasted on me. But I'm tempted nevertheless.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Week 2 - Failure

Okay, so I have 12 almost completed figures. But almost isn't success. The British Line Infantry have come along very nicely - well okay I did drop something on one of the painting sticks with the result that one figure lost his plume and another is leaning drunkenly backwards (I think I looked like that on Thursday evening) but apart from that... - but I simply didn't devote enough time to painting this week. I'm now 46 figures behind schedule.

Fortunately this week I'm assured by our sales team that they have not double-booked themselves with the result that I need to go and do their job for them in my spare time. I've also done with celebrating my bonus (well at least until I see it in my March paycheque anyway!) so there is nothing to stop me pressing on this week to finish the 12 British Line - rather than fanny around with WWII German infantry I plan to do a few more French in greatcoats as well. I'm hoping I can catch up a little.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Week 2 Update

After my confident prediction that I would be beating my target of ten figures this week it looks like I might only scrape through. I neglected to consider that an emergency might occur at work and I'd need to spend two evenings pouring wine for people (I work for a wine importer) - the good news is, that rather to everyone's surprise, my company made a profit this year. As recently as October this looked doubtful at best - but November and December were storming months for us. I guess it remains to be seen whether this was the last twitching of the consumers' credit cards or whether it is a sign of recovery (naturally my money is on the former). Anyway, this means that my bonus will be rather better than expected - well actually a lot better than expected. And obviously that required an evening in the pub.

So to get back to the point - I haven't done much painting this week. But I think I can work through the twelve British Line Infantry that are partially done in time for the tomorrow evening deadline. The figures above are from the first batch that I painted awhile ago. As you can see they are essentially block painted and washed. I prime in white as I find that black priming makes it hard for me to see the details on the figures - I then use a brown wash to add shade and paint over this. I think they come out looking suitably grubby as though they had been on campaign for some time.

So tomorrow I plan to do an update with the rest of the Brits - assuming I've finished them that is. I'm thinking of a bit of a change for next week. I have a large pile (I don't really have small piles of figures) of 15mm Battlefront German infantry that are calling me - I also have some BH Austrian Artillery that I'd like to knock off, and some Cossacks (useless on the GdeB battlefield but very pretty) so I'm not sure in which direction I'll go.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Week 1 Results

Well. This was a successful week despite some distractions. As I said last week the main intention behind this blog was to motivate me to paint up some of the leadpile at a rate of ten figures a week in 2010. Unfortunately, my procrastination led me to leave actually starting the project until the end of January (Week 4 of 2010), so I was already 40 figures behind schedule when I first started the exercise.

The prime distraction this week was not so much the joy of seeing a webpage that I had created appearing on the Net (believe me the joy of Blogger is that it's designed for idiots - and I'm bang in the middle of their target demographic!) but the associated fascination of another Google product: Google Analytics. I can only describe this product as genius (at least the half of it that I understand - there's a whole new vocabulary to be discovered here that is only loosely related to English!). Google Analytics lets you see how many people visit your site, where they come from (both physically and from whence on the internet), how long they stay, and how many people take one look, decide I'm not very interesting and go away again (this is called the "bounce rate" evidently).

I have to say that for the first two or three days I was totally hooked on seeing how many new visitors had come to see what I had to say (or more probably just to look at the pictures) and where they had come from (the Analytics programme can tell you what city or region someone hails from, and not just what country). I mean, I had never heard of Valparaiso, Indiana until Wednesday!

Anyway, despite all that, I managed to exceed my target by painting 14 figures and and make a sound start on a further 12 British Peninsula Line Infantry such that they may be finished early in the coming week.

I did consider taking a leaf from Giles' book and not posting a picture until I had completed and properly based the whole battalion - but then thought that anyone who is reading this would die of boredom in the interim. In the picture above you can see this weeks efforts - the start of a French line infantry battalion. The grenadier company stand is made up of four AB and two BH figures (I had a couple that I had already painted so I popped them on - I'm not counting them towards my target by the way). The BH guys are much smaller if you stand them side by side with the AB (or OG French Line Infantry come to that) individually but if they are painted in the same style I don't think they look too out of place on a stand. The two skirmishers are by BH again and would be fine for "Marie Louise" troops as one guy is barefoot (a not uncommon occurance on campaign). The standard bearer and officer were part of an eBay lot and I believe were originally painted by Dragon Painting Services - again they are AB figures.

The stands are obviously unfinished but are 30mm x 30mm MDF from Timecast for the main body and 30mm x 20mm for the two skirmishers. This leaves the voltigeur company (I've made a good start on the first two figures for this) and two further centre companies to complete - I also need four more skirmishers to complete the set. So, we are talking 22 figures to go (I have a painted drummer I can pop on the command base to fill it out).

One thing that is left unpainted is the guidon (actually, looking at the pictures I can see a couple of other errors / bits missed) - I'm not sure how this arrangement worked in practice: I would have thought that the easiest thing to do in reality was to just shove a small pole with the flag on it down the barrel of the musket (and remember to remove it before you fired!)- but it doesn't look as though that is what is modelled on the figure - does anyone have any idea just how I should handle this?

Overrall I'm fairly happy with how these came out - as you can see, I am neither gifted, nor fast in the painting department.

Here is a picture of the Napoleonic box - although I'm pretty sure I have some other Napoleonic stuff around "somewhere". If you don't recognise the name - Imperial Miniatures were the name that AB was marketed under in America, as I mentioned before I bought a large joblot of figures from a guy in California and he must have had them for years himself. I also have an ACW box that is slightly smaller - but more tightly packed - and a 15mm AWI carrier bag, a 15mm WWII carrier bag and a lot of other stuff.

I shudder to think how many weeks at 10 figures a week that lot represents....

Monday, 1 February 2010

Wagram Big Game 2009

I promised a little something while my first batch of figures was finished and it doesn't get much bigger or better than this. Wagram 1809 refought at the Grenadier Guards Officers Mess in October 2009.

The battle was, as you can see, fought on a large scale in just about every way. The rules used were General de Brigade, which uses a 1:20 figure ratio - so a full strength French battalion would be 36 figures strong while it's Austrian counterpart would weigh in with 48 little men. Needless to say, the wargaming gods must be sniggering at the idea that I, a glacial painter, should like rulesets that have large numbers of figures per unit. What can I say? 12 castings doesn't do it for me as a battalion.

There were several thousand figures on the table (indeed I'd be happy to own the the reserve divisions held off-table) and it has to be said they were mostly by AB - although I did recognise the big bottomed horses of 15mm Minifigs as well scattered in amongst them. Almost the first thought that crossed my mind was that Anthony Barton's bank manager would be very pleased (obviously the figures are now sold by Fighting 15's in the UK and Eureka Miniatures in Australia see links to the right).

So you can see the quality of painting I aspire to (and there were some very fine figures on the table that day) and the kind of battalions I want to build. For the Napoleonic period then it's GdeB rules and the armies I am interested in are: 1809 Austrians, 1812 Russians and 1807-15 Imperial French (I'm sorry but in 15mm scale I refuse to get upset about Bardin uniforms etc - once they started wearing shakoes that is my cut-off point for worrying about uniform differences).

So what is on my painting table at the moment? A half finished British Peninsula battalion and a squadron of French Cuirrassier awaiting two things - for me to paint one last horse, and for me to base the damned things. Now why would I have a British battalion when it isn't one of the armies mentioned above? Well....a few years ago I bought a very large box of unpainted 15mm Napoleonic figures (mostly French, Austrian and Russian) from a gentleman in California courtesy of eBay (it's about 12"x14"x6" and it is chock full of "stuff") and in amongst the "stuff" I can't identify was a bag of about 40 AB British. And they called out to me for several years to paint them but I resisted manfully - until last Summer when I had the urge to paint something. So I started them up and found I was doing (by my standards) a respectable job - unfortunately there were only about 20 figures marching and 20 figures standing at ease, not enough for a GdeB British battalion - so of course that meant an email to Fighting 15s and an order for two battalion bags of British ifantry (they have 40 figures in each and I could build two 30 man battalions with what I already had). So you see how it goes, I make an attempt to clear something from my leadpile and instead I add to it by 80 figures. And this has to stop, I mean it, really I do.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Ten Figures A Week

I suspect that I am like the majority of "wargamers" in that I seldom wargame. What I do is buy wargames magazines, peruse websites like TMP and fora like General de Brigade and think about wargaming. I have so much unpainted lead in my flat that should the bomb ever drop I'll be well shielded from radiation (I figure the boxes of books stored in boxes in my loft only add to the quality of insulation up there but that is another story).

In 2008 I played in two wargames, in 2009 I attended one wargames show and viewed one wargame in the flesh. I can't even claim to be a figure painter as I seldom pick up a paintbrush. I DO buy figures though....lots of figures. My interests are Napoleonics, ACW, AWI and WWII (although if I see pretty figures for another period I can be tempted - I'm a bit of a tart) and, generally speaking I try and stick to 15mm figures (although if I see pretty figures in another scale I can be tempted - like I said I can be a bit of a tart).

So I've decided that my New Year Resolution is to do the following:

1) Paint and base to completion 10 15mm figures a week.

Given that most units I will be painting are based on 6 or 8 figure bases for infantry (and 2 or 4 cavalry) I've decided that I will need to utilise the system created by Phil Olley (known as Olley Painting Points), wherein an infantry figure or cannon counts as one point and any mounted figure counts as two points - so, for instance, two guns with four crew each would meet the ten figure target.

2) Paint (or sell) twice as many figures as I buy.

In short, I need to start making a dent in my leadpile. I don't buy as many little lead troopers as I used to, but the blood still rushes to my head sometimes and I "splurge" on something - now a little splurging every so often is fine, but the results of my splurges are still unpainted many years later. So, I plan to reduce my leadpile this year.

3) Inventory what I own.

Allied to the above is the embarassing knowledge that I actually have no idea quite how many troops I own (or exactly what) - I therefore propose to inventory my unpainted collection and eBay anything extraneous to current requirements. Naturally I'm not planning to fritter away the proceeds on anything as silly as drink or women (or food or taxes come to that).

4) Host (or at least contribute substantially to) a wargame.

Pretty much what it says. The wargames I have played in the past couple of years depended upon the kindness of others. I'd like to contribute something for a change. This might be a bit of a challenge as I live in a small flat and the game would need to take place upon my dining table.

5) Begin to build some terrain boards.

Following on from the above, as well as buying toy soldiers I haven't painted, I've bought a lot of stuff to build scenery and then never done anything with it. I want to change that. Again, living in a flat limits my space available to do messy stuff - my wife is forebearing but not quite that forebearing! Anyway I have some grandiose thoughts but that is for another time.

So, as we are four weeks into the year I am pretty much 40 figures behind schedule already - I had better go and do a little painting. Next time I'll talk about what I'm painting, show you my painting desk, and find some pictures of the wargames I've attended in the past - after all you need some eye candy until my figures are done!