Sunday, 29 December 2013

Army Painter Undercoat & Some Spanish Militia

So, having resolved to empty my painting desk of half finished units (see my last post) I've made a start. This is likely to result in figures being finished in a somewhat random order - as I have a lot of random half-finished units where I ran out of steam / was enticed by some new figures before I could finish older ones.

Back in March 2011, I had the urge to splurge on eBay and was lucky enough to pick up a couple of bits and pieces including some 15mm AB French horse artillery crews. At about the same time, I came across the Army Painter dark blue undercoat. Essentially, the AP argument goes that one can paint one's army quicker by spraying your figures in the main uniform colour undercoat, blocking in the other colours and then dipping the figures. My eyes glazed over as I looked at the pile of French Legere in the big box and suddenly this seemed like a wonderful idea. So at Salute 2011, I bought a can.

On the basis that I wanted to test out the theory before plunging into battalions of Legere I thought I'd do a French Horse Artillery battery first. My first thought was that the AP Dark Blue went on a little heavily (my normal undercoat is the Evil Empire's Skull White spray (it's expensive but I've never had a problem with it). The picture below shows the figures right after they've been sprayed.

Now I'm slightly underwhelmed by their argument for reasons I'll go into  - first, because the spray seemed rather thick I was loathe to to work the can like I do with the GW sprays - this meant that there were a couple of areas that didn't get great coverage and I had to go in with a paint brush (and this was prior to the Army Painter people bringing out pots of paint so I had to touch up with some mid-blue from Miniature Paints - which seemed close enough in tone to work). My next issue is probably because I'm used to working from a white undercoat - I found it quite hard to get good coverage for things like flesh over the dark blue base. My other problem was that I'm used to painting things like jackets up to the edge of the colour, and leaving things like crossbelts white - I just come back at the end and touch up where i've slopped over. Obviously, with this method I had to reverse my normal practice and maintian a steady hand whilst painting the white belts. To be honest, I'm not sure if it actually saved that much time painting these figures - possibly I need to try a battalion of Legere after all to see if it is any easier when one does a lot of figures.

Below is a picture of the gun crew after they were given a coat of AP Dark Tone (I went a bit too heavy on at least one figure and the AP pooled on the brim of his shako). Apologies for the poor picture quality. And before anyone says anything, I know they are manning an unpainted gun - it was all there was to hand (cannon are going to be the subject of my next post) and I didn't want them to be standing around an empty space. The flash has made them look a bit paler than they are in real life - they're actually a quite dark blue.

And the final pictures are of the other unit finished this week (apart from basing, and the flag being added) - a battalion of Spanish Provincial Militia (32 figures) wearing the M1805 uniform. As with my previous Spanish these were sprayed white, colours blocked in and then Army Painter Dark Tone was brushed on - they still need the flat varnish to be added. Figures are again by AB.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Ocana 1809 & Desk Tidy

So, a couple of weeks ago I was looking at my painting desk, and for obvious reasons decided to have a bit of a tidy up (there is also a shelf you can't see that has various figures primed but not yet painted). My next thought was that I should clear up the numerous half finished projects (in 15mm alone there are Spanish ABs, AB French artillery, some AB early Austrian Chevau-Leger waiting to be painted as Spanish cavalry, AB Austrians and a few OG French).

As I returned some figures to the Bollinger box where they belonged I resolved to have a clear out. So a few figures were despatched to Paul ( Napoleonics In Miniature ). And since then I've been fitting in a bit of time whenever I can painting up odds and ends. One thing that has irritated me no end is the number of Citadel Paints (particularly the new pots) that have dried solid over the last few months.

I've also been admiring one of my new acquisitions - the French Histoire et Collections volume, Ocana 1809, this is a very nice English language volume in the same style as Hourtelle's books on Wagram, Austerlitz and so on. It has maps, reports from French officers after the battle, and the very useful uniform plates we expect. 

The other book (in Spanish) is also called Ocana 1809 and has better maps and some uniform plates - it also has an OOB with numbers for each battalion. It is an Osprey style of book - they have quite a selection of books on other subjects too - I picked up two of these while in Valencia in late September (Medellin 1809 and Almonacid 1809) but my Spanish isn't good enough to make much out of the text. I think if Guerreros y Battallas were to publish these books in English they would do really well - many of the subjects aren't covered elsewhere at all. 

Ocana was quite an interesting battle - at the end of 1809 the Spanish, emboldened by their success at Bailen, made a dash for Madrid with an army of 53,000 men. The French, taken by surprise, managed to concentrate 40,000 men under Soult - although smaller in numbers, the French units were mostly veterans, whereas many of the Spanish were freshly raised units. The French attacked against a strong Spanish position (there was a ravine across the front of much of their position), their dragoons drove in the Spanish cavalry on the flanks and the French infantry attacked, the Spanish broke, thousands were captured and Madrid was secured for Joseph for some years. Ocana was one of the pivotal battles of the Peninsular War and, because the British weren't there, mostly ignored by English writers.

I've started working on more Spanish infantry, and have bought appropriate flags from Adolfo Ramos, and recently a couple of sets from Pete's Flags - both of these produce very nice flags. I've also been looking at 15mm artillery for a review (this little project has turned from a short post into a very long post - but hopefully I should have something up next week), and now have a glut of guns to join the excess of everything else in my leadpile!

Have a very happy Christmas everybody!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Napoleon's Waterloo Campaign: An Alternate History

Napoleon's Waterloo Campaign: An Alternate History by Steven Marthinsen is an interesting book - I picked up the first volume back in March of this year whilst browsing Amazon (I'd been buying books on the Spanish  Army and this popped up in the "other customers bought this..." section), and got the second volume soon after. The book imagines what would have happened had Grouchy marched to the sound of the guns, disrupting the Prussian march to aid Wellington and catching the English on the flank.

In some respects it reads like a Victorian military history book (the kind you see reprinted as facsimile copies), and this image is enhanced by the maps, which look are drawn in an old fashioned style. It is a slightly odd merger of quotations from individual soldiers which open each chapter, operational history and novel. Marthinsen clearly has a well developed sense of  how Napoleonic armies worked and uses this knowledge to paint quite a convincing picture of several days of fighting - I say several days, as the book covers the early part of the campaign "as written" - so Quatre Bras and Wavre are handled as they really occurred - but once Grouchy determines to march to the sound of the guns things quickly take a new direction (in the most literal sense).

Now I have a few issues with the books (there are two volumes) - the first is that they are quite expensive (this is a self published book produced by exLibris which I think is the reason), and the second is that they seem to be written by Marthinsen as if they were a fantasy where Napoleon wins - lots of things go well for the French, and not so well for the Allies. I couldn't help feeling as I read the book that Marthinson would be the kind of wargamer happy to have national modifiers in the rules he played. However, I'd emphasise that this isn't too overdone and is more than made up for by Marthinson's handling of the battle scenes (which is the bulk of the book).

I'd say that if you had built armies covering the Waterloo Campaign but had grown bored with trying to take Hougomont for the umpteenth time that there is ample material for a scenario author to work through, whatever the scale of action covered by his favourite rules. There are lots of incidents and actions, both small and large that would work as a subject for a game.

In short I rather recommend the two volumes - whilst I've never been that interested in the 100 Days (although the cobbling together of the French Army in such a short space of time fascinates me) I really rather enjoyed these books.

Apologies for being rather invisible over the last few weeks - as I work in the wine trade the run up to Christmas tends to be rather hard work (no days off this month and several late nights too). On the other hand working at wine tastings is great fun and gives me the opportunity to try new wines and make new friends. This last weekend was the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter which is the highest quality wine tasting in the British calendar (and probably, on the face of it, the most expensive at £50 a ticket) - I was pouring both days which allowed me to sneak off a bit and try wines from producers I'd read about but not drank. My big "find" of the weekend was Alpha Estate from Macedonia (the Greek region, not the country) - I'd read about this producer in the trade press and seeing their table was quiet (it always amazes me that even the supposedly wine-literate attendees of Decanter breeze past the winemakers from the less well known regions and countries in favour of crowding around some jerk from Bordeaux or Napa who isn't making anything near as interesting) I thought I'd take the opportunity.

And I was blown away by them - the Malagouzia was a super cool melony white wine that I just adored - perfect for seafood or meze type meal and the Xinomavro was an absolutely delicious red leathery wine with great structure and body - would be great with lamb. My new best friend, Kostas the Export Manager, took me through half a dozen of the estate wines. I wasn't quite so convinced when they went with straight classic varietals (Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc - although Jancis Robinson scored their S/B at 17 out of 20 so she likes them) but they did some blends (so Sauvignon Blanc & Malagouzia, and Syrah / Xinomavro) that were vary successful. And the RSPs were good too between £13 and £26 if I understood Kostas correctly.

So when the consumers (I work for an importer so "customers" are wine merchants and supermarkets - the people who finally buy and drink the wine are "consumers") asked whom I recommended to try Alpha Estate were the first (Bischofliche Weinguter Trier from the Mosel, and Chateau Ksara from Lebanon were also high on my list). And at the end of the weekend Kostas gave me a bottle of their top of the range red which was a lovely surprise - "enjoy with friends" he said as he headed back to his own table.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

15mm AB French Line Infantry And A Minor Disaster

I had a minor disaster yesterday. I subscribe to Miniature Wargames / Battlegames now that Henry Hyde has taken on the editorship and the new issue arrived on Friday morning. I left it on the coffee table whilst I went and did the grocery shopping and Archie (the younger of my two dogs) decided to eat it for lunch - here are the results:

Obviously Archie is severely in the doghouse - although he doesn't seem too upset about it:

Clearly he isn't a fan of the new editorial direction at MW/BG!

I haven't done much painting over the last few weeks So, with little further ado, here are a couple of photos of the other super-duper unit I bought from eBay along with the Highlanders. I think it is a really beautiful unit - whomever painted these added patches to the trousers of some of these figures and you can actually see the stitching painted on the patches. And the faces just look wonderful - way more brush control that I have ever been able to manage.

This one is again based on four bases - this time though there are four grenadiers and four voltiguers. This means that I could just break it up and rebase it as a 24 figure battalion, but I have a few painted French Line that I did some time ago that I think I could possibly try and match in. I'm thinking that if I took all these great figures off their current bases they could make up the front rank of the unit, and my inferior efforts could fill out the rear rank (which would only become a concern if they were forced to retreat). I have some AB greatcoated flankers that need painting so purloining four of those would give enough figures to make up the grenadiers and voltiguers to full strength.

And today it just bucketed down this afternoon. We had a small flood in the street outside as the excess water flowing down the hill from High Barnet popped the manhole covers:

Saturday, 19 October 2013

28mm Perry WotR Figures Possibilities and a Flight Of Fancy

My main focus is 15mm Napoleonic (although I also have rather larger 15mm ACW armies as well) but a few years ago, when the Perry plastic Bills and Bows set appeared at Salute I was smitten. Despite knowing very little about the period I pressed my money into the hands of the Perries and made off with three boxes (so about 120 figures). I then found I was a bit intimidated by these figures - people like Captain Blood and Admiral Benbow on Lead Adventures Forum were producing beautifully painted figures (and really neat conversions). And then just look at the Je Lay Emprins and Stuart's Workbench for just wonderful use of these plastic figures.

But I still loved the idea of doing something with these figures, so I added three boxes of the "Mercenaries" set, and a box of Mounted Men at Arms (all picked up from eBay at a bit of a discount). I've added some Swiss and European heads and a box of Unarmoured Swiss Pikemen but haven't really gone in for the metal figures - but the news of the price rise at the end of August has made me look at these figures again. It would also help if I could think what to do with them - after all, it isn't like buying a box of Perry British Line Infantry where the big decision is "stovepipe or Belgic" - these figures could be used pretty much anywhere in Western Europe at the time.

So I could build a couple of contingents for the Wars of the Roses - after all, there were foreign mercenaries, English longbowmen, nobles stabbing each other in the back at the drop of a hat - lots of things that appeal to the wargamer.

Or I could slavishly follow Je Lay Emprins (if you are going to slavishly follow pick the best, I say) and build some Burgundians and Swiss. This has lots of appeal to me.

Or there are the early Italian Wars - French, Swiss and various Italians - all very colourful and again lots of backstabbing. I have the Fornovo book by Osprey.

It did occur to me that possibly I could "do" the Reconquista in Spain - rather disappointingly that was pretty much all done bar the shouting by the mid 14th Century - there was the Conquest of Granada between 1482 and 1492 but there isn't much info that I can find for this. I think the Spanish armies could be covered by the Perry plastics (with careful choice of heads) and probably some figures from the Foundry Conquistador range but the Emirate of Granada would be more difficult (I'm thinking the Perry Bedouins from the Muslim Crusader range might work as a base to build on but other figures would be tough to find). I've picked up the relevant Osprey books since I first typed this and the campaign really has lots of appeal - I've also got some flags from eBay that are suitable for Castile, Aragon and Naples and I think a Spanish army from the late 1400's is the way to go - the Perries don't yet do Spanish heads but I'm hoping they will, after all they would be useful in both Spain and Italy.

I also had one totally mental idea sparked by one of my younger colleagues in the office saying that Columbus discovered America in 1492 - the pedant in me said "no, he discovered the Bahamas, various Caribbean islands and Venezuela, John Cabot has a better claim for North America." This lead to a brief conversation where I explained Cabot led three voyages to North America and died on the third (which in fact is evidently debatable). Thinking about this later a little light bulb went on in my head - what if Cabot hadn't died?

Cabot led an expedition in the Summer of 1496 that failed. Upon his return, he met Henry VII, and managed to gain support for a second voyage "This year, on St. John the Baptist's Day [24 June 1497], the land of America was found by the Merchants of Bristow in a shippe of Bristowe, called the Mathew; the which said the ship departed from the port of Bristowe, the second day of May, and came home again the 6th of August next following." (From Wikipedia, quoting a 1565 source). Based upon this success he was given support to launch a five ship expedition (including one ship funded by Henry VII) - unfortunately he pretty much drops off the record after that and it is assumed his fleet was lost at sea (although there is now evidently a bit of debate about whether that was the case).

But what if Cabot hadn't been lost at sea? His final expedition included a number of interesting people including some monks intent upon converting natives. The voyage was backed by Bristol merchants (and the King) as a business venture. I can kind of see the meeting in my mind's eye: "Well yes your highness, the fishing off the coast is superb, there are lots of trees on the mainland, it looks like the Baltic with all the trees so I guess there will be furs available too."

Henry VII was a king who kept England out of foreign wars and aimed to build up trade. Fish was a key source of food (all those Holy Days), England needed timber for shipbuilding, and furs would be nice too. England already imported all these commodities from the Baltic countries but if he could get a source that cut out the Hansa cities that would be better. When Cabot returned from the New World Henry VII had just polished off the Perkin Welbeck revolt in Cornwall - this had gained Henry £13,000 in fines (his average annual income was £100,000 during his reign) and 6,000 prisoners. I can see Henry deciding that sending revolutionaries several hundred miles away across the ocean to live out their lives while earning a profit from them was a win all round.

So, what if John Cabot had established a colony on Newfoundland? The purpose of the settlement would be to support fisherman visiting the area to fish for cod by supplying fresh food (which would help with scurvy  -although this idea hadn't been thought of yet), and repair facilities should fishermen need them. The provision of timber for spars would be a useful cargo for returning ships too. The settlement could also act as a trading post for contact with the natives - allowing the Europeans to buy furs - and also act as a base for further exploration of the New World by the English. And obviously be a dumping ground for criminals, malcontents and the poor (ie the traditional English method).

From this would follow some quite interesting ideas based upon colonisation starting a 100 years earlier than in reality and England being early to the party - the first confrontations with the natives would be rather less one sided than they historically were, so possibly a rather different dynamic would develop (of course the natives would still come down with smallpox so the Europeans are still likely to come out ahead). French Canada might not appear. Instead England would confront Spain as they tried to enforce the Treaty of Tordesilles. Of course what would happen to the nascent North American colonies once Henry VIII came to the throne is debateable (he conciliated Spain and confronted France so a few piddling colonies in North America might have been considered an impediment).

For wargaming purposes it would be the Perry figures (plus some Foundry Conquistadors) versus the native Indians - Brigade Games King Philips War Indians perhaps? This would be skirmish wargaming, I guess. I suppose success in winning skirmishes could be translated into rewards for the ongoing campaign (a bit like in Dux Britanniarum by Two Fat Lardies).

Apologies for no pictures in this post - "normal" service will be resumed shortly.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

L'Iber Museo de los Soldaditos de Plomo - Valencia, Spain

Apologies for going quiet for the last few weeks. Work has been fairly busy (including visits to Scotland, and Champagne), I've also completed Battlestar Galactica and have moved on to watching another series I always meant to see - The Wire (I'm very much enjoying Bunk and McNulty). But the main distraction was ten days in Spain, visiting Barcelona and Valencia with my wife. I hadn't been to Barcelona in 15 years or so and had never been to Valencia so I was rather looking forward to it.

Barcelona was wonderful - but slightly spoiled by the hordes of tourists everywhere you went. We had a great time. However, what had sold Valencia to me when I was looking for where we should go was that Valencia is home to one of the world's largest toy soldier museums - L'Iber Museo de los soldaditos de plomo. 80,000 figures on display in an old mansion house in the centre of the old city in Valencia. When I saw this place pop up on Trip Advisor it was as if God had spoken!!

I've added a link to the Museo's website to the right - but for those of you too lazy to go look, the collection is the work of a gentleman called Mr Alvaro Gimenez who collected toy soldiers all his life, and in the 80's started a museum in an old mansion house in the city. Now I have to say, if you do not speak Spanish this place isn't that user friendly - once in the Museum itself all the signs are in Spanish, essentially, you pay the 5 Euro, are given a very small floorplan of the mansion and allowed in. After that you are on your own (literally, for large parts of my visit).

Each room of the mansion is home to numerous glass cases full of (mostly) 54mm toy soldiers. I'm not into 54mm toy soldiers too much myself but I defy anyone interested in our hobby not to feel their heart lift as they see rank upon rank of these little guys. Most of the figures are of Spanish subjects and are from a variety of makers (Almirall Palau, Elastolin, King & Country, Rose and Pheonix amongst many others)..

Amongst the rows of display cabinets are some diorama style displays - this is just a small detail of a large display loosely based upon Waterloo.

However, in amongst the ranks of 54mm lovelies there were at least two large dioramas - one was in 15mm and featured Greeks and Persians squaring off - as I understood the label, all the figures were by a small figure line by Almirall. From what I could gather they were originally bought ready painted in small boxes of two to four figures.

There were two dioramas that featured 25mm Minifigs and Hinchcliffe figures - one was the battle of Almansa 1707, and the other was an Egyptian battle (lots of chariots). I've got to say - I rather look down on both Hinchcliffe and Minifigs these days (although I had a fair few back when I was a small boy) but these two tables showed them to their best advantage en masse.

I spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour and a half wandering around the museum. It was absolutely delightful - I was particularly pleased to see some Pheonix Miniatures figures there (Napoleonics and civilian ladies mostly) - when I was about 12 I started buying their 25mm Napoleonics - they were beautiful figures (I was a lead snob even then).

Overrall, I'd recommend Valencia - Barcelona was wonderful but so full of tourists it began to be a bit wearing, whereas Valencia was a bit more laid back. I'd say it was an excellent choice for a long weekend if you just fancy mooching around the cathedral, hitting a couple of museums, shopping in the small shops throughout the old town or going to the beach. We also ate particularly well in Valencia - and I enjoyed one rather exciting local wine that particularly stuck with me - Dominio de la Vega Artemayor -  a single vineyard red from old vines made from the local grape variety, Bobal. Interestingly, it is a non vintage wine (the bottle I drank was made from the 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages vinified individually and then blended). Apparently it is a small production wine (<5000 bottles per annum) - and is the top of their range (47 Euro in a local restaurant so not too outrageous). Layton's are the UK importer for Dominio de la Vega (they also do quite a useful cava but I haven't tried their cheaper light wines) but the Artemayor isn't on their published list. I suppose I'll need to get my salesman on the case...  

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Fighting 15s At Colours 14/15th September

So, I don't have a Facebook account (or Twitter - I firmly believe that any idea that can be expressed in 147 characters or less is so obvious it doesn't need to be stated, or so shallow it shouldn't be discussed in that forum) so I missed this little drama when it first arose. Anyway, as Ian Marsh sells my favourite wargames figures in the world, and I'd like to see him continue to have food on the table (only so he can continue to very efficiently sell me figures that I don't really need whenever I have the urge to buy them) here is a straight lift of an entry on Oozlum Games blog from a few days ago. Please go along to Colours and buy some figures from him - but while you are there ask him to ask Mr Barton if he couldn't add some French line infantry marching in bonnets de police and such like.

Above is the advert that should have appeared in the Colours show guide and issue 365 (September 2013) of Miniature Wargames. Unfortunately, because of an error in Miniature Wargames’ ad production, the wrong advert will appear.
The above advert was to be used to key in to a new display of Eureka’s 18mm Seven Years War figures at the show, on which I have been working all summer. I am keen to promote this range now that it is being cast in the UK under licence, allowing me to reduce the prices, and advertising in the Colours issue of Miniature Wargames was a vital part of drawing wargamers’ attention to the range.
Over the past 24 hours there has been a moment of, shall I say, uncharacteristic fiery incandescence on my part directed at Miniature Wargames’ outsourced ad sales team at Media Shed. Editor Henry Hyde, however, rang me this morning, having talked to the publisher, and has settled the matter to my satisfaction.
So, I will be at Colours on 14 and 15 September, as usual with Black Hat Miniatures up on the first floor. I will have painted examples of Eureka’s lovely 18mm SYW figures on display in the cabinets. I will even have stock of the range at the show, but as usual the advice is order in advance to guarantee that I have what you want at the show.
Owner, Fighting 15s

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Something unusual in the back garden. And identify this castle?

I live in a street in North London that is plagued in the mornings by parents dropping off their little darlings at one of the numerous local schools. I used to walk or ride a bike to school - and I can't see why the blighters can't do that today - of course if you were to ask the parents that question the response would be that there was too much traffic for their children to walk safely to school (of course - it never occurs to them that they are the traffic at that time of the morning!).

Anyway, every so often on a Friday or Saturday night we sometimes get the odd drunk toss his empty beer bottle onto our front lawn. The following morning, I sigh, and pick them up. After all, I work in the drinks industry and I can hardly complain if someone enjoys the product a bit too much (although when they've been drinking Dos Equus I have to question their taste in beer). Anyway, I'm sure some of  you have had the same experience (or, - shame on you - have dumped an empty in someone's front garden yourself).

So, about a year ago my wife and I paid a quick visit to Beirut. While we there we visited a cousin, Sally, at her family home up in the hills above the city - they had built a beautiful house and garden by a steep hillside (practically a cliff), safe in the belief that nobody would be nuts enough to build there - and guess what? Over the next thirty years the house became surrounded by the usual sprawl of houses and apartment blocks (Beirut has no planning laws as far as I can tell).

Sally's Dad is pretty old and I said I'd help clear up the yard, which was very overgrown. And while we found some empties (the local brew, Almaza, is actually quite nice) what brought me up short was to find something Russian in the back garden - and I'm not talking empty bottles of Baltika:

So this is it a few days later after a clean up (don't ask where the clip came from). We think it was tossed over the garden wall by some fleeing militiamen during the war but at the same time seems to be missing some parts that I'd expect to see if it had been thrown aside in a panic.
And here am I the militiaman!

The other thing they had that caught my eye was a painting in the library:

Now this was a painting that Sally's Dad had picked up when he was working in London (he was a surgeon before he retired) but he knew nothing about it. It looks to me like a castle built by Edward I to secure the Welsh conquest but I don't recognise the castle. Of course it could be a stylised depiction, I suppose. If anyone has any suggestions for it being an actual place, please let me know.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent into Madness In Iraq's Triangle of Death by Jim Frederick

I guess most of the people who look at this blog will have read Band of Brothers by Steven Ambrose, or have watched the TV series of the same name. Band of Brothers was about the men of Easy Company, 501st Battalion, 101st Airborne in 1944-5. Black Hearts ( Link to Amazon page for this book )by Jim Frederick is about Bravo Company, 502nd Battalion, 101st Airborne during 2005-6 - sixty years on and warfare has changed immensely as has the pressures on the young men who fight their nations wars. This book has, at it's heart, a terrible crime committed by four drunken youths - the murder in their own home of a husband and wife and their two daughters, one of whom was raped before she was killed. The fact that the drunken youths were serving American soldiers makes the book all the more shocking. But, to put the crime into context, Frederick details the travails of Bravo Company in the Triangle of Death - and the whole book is appalling.

I've only read the book and not read more widely on the subject - so my views are based solely upon Black Hearts, which is always a bit risky. But, I've been told it is on the reading list at West Point - which I guess means at least someone thought it was on the money.

Bravo Company were sent to an area South of Baghdad referred to by the media as The Triangle of Death. The first surprise for many British readers is that the Americans fighting this war were not blessed with every technological advantage known to man and huge reserves of manpower to throw at situations. This is a battalion of "light infantry" (as in they don't have heavy APCs etc) who have been dumped in the worst part of Iraq at that time and told to manage an area that was several times too large for their numbers (at this point I started to get serious deja vu thinking of the book I read awhile ago on the Welsh guards deployment to Helmand). They also have the misfortune that their battalion commander, Lt.Colonel Kunk, appears to have stepped straight out of a Joseph Heller novel (by the end of the book you may well feel that Kunk is a mispronunciation of his name).

The book addresses the thinking that many people have that Iraq wasn't a "proper war" because it wasn't full on combat a-la WWII. Frederick addresses the pressures of low level counter insurgency warfare being fought on a daily basis for months without respite very well, pointing out that WWII soldiers were usually rotated in and out of the line on a regular basis whereas these poor guys were pretty much at the sharp end for the duration of their tour.

The men of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 502nd Airborne had the misfortune to be serving in the worst place in Iraq at the worst time - force levels were low, the search and destroy tactics used were clearly failing but it would be another year or so before senior command were prepared to admit this. The guys on the ground knew that what they were being asked to do was futile, given their level of resources, and yet nobody seemed to have any other solutions. They were in the butt end of nowhere being attacked on a daily basis, living in appalling conditions at the wrong end of a very long supply line. The lack of coherent strategy for the war flowed down from Pentagon to battalion and below with demoralizing results.

This book was an eye-opener for me on a number of levels. Apart from the fact that the 502nd were often short of equipment, Frederick writes extremely well describing the events that led up to the murders - this should be required reading for soldiers at all levels. He also covers the pressures (as of the middles of the last decade) that caused the US Army to recruit men like the four accused (one in five recruits had "moral waivers" that allowed the army to overlook prior criminal convictions), and how a lack of support and supervision in the field allowed them to do what they did.

He also covers the investigation and trial of the men involved. One of the final chapters includes a note of what the various people within the battalion were doing at the time of writing the book -if anything, this was the part that I found most shocking - as far as I could see these four boys behaved appallingly but their chain of command was responsible for where they were, how they were supported, their tactics and so on. And pretty much everything about that was screwed up by NCOs and officers at all levels within their chain of command who failed to appreciate the situation on the ground - or who ignored the issues knowing that in a "can-do" army that admitting that the mission couldn't be done with the assets at hand wouldn't help their prospect of higher command in the future.

This leadership failed at pretty much every level, from Rumsfeld on down. But, after reading the book, I defy anyone to think that Lt Col Kunk was anything other than a complete w***** who couldn't run a whelk stall let alone a battalion - and yet he wasn't dismissed from the service (which was what I expected to see when I looked at his entry) - his "punishment" was to be given a "letter of concern" (on the need for "an absolutely clear and concise flow of information down to the platoon level") - the minimum level of reprimand. No, he was promoted to Colonel in July 2009 and, at the time of the book being written (2010) was serving as "chief of current operations in the army's Operations, Planning and Training office at the Pentagon." Which seems quite scary to me.

Unsurprisingly, as a book about a war crime committed by US Army soldiers, this book hasn't sold as well as Band of Brothers. I picked it up remaindered for £1.99. Yet this book has just as much to say about how men react to war as Band of Brothers, or Sebastian Junger's War.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

42nd Highland Infantry (The Black Watch) aka The Collaborators*

Apologies for having gone a bit quiet over the last month - a few work related customer visits impinged on my hobby "stuff". The result of this is that I've done very little painting of anything over the last few weeks. However conscious that I haven't posted anything I thought I'd post some pictures of these figures that I bought from ebay some time ago.

Now they were labelled as Highland Infantry, and looked quite nice in the auction photos but it was quite hard to tell just how nice they were. I also couldn't tell how they were based, or the make up of the battaion. Anyway, I decided to go for it and got them for a bargain price. When they were arrived I was blown away by the quality of painting - easily up to the standard of the best I've seen, and much better than my own amateur daubing. 

However they aren't without issues - they are beautifully based on four 40mm x 30mm stands that don't match the rest of my "army" (I put inverted commas because I'm not sure you can call a couple of battalions of British Line an "army"!), and there are only four flank company figures - two light and two grenadiers. Although very nicely done I don't think the painter has quite caught the "Black Watch" tartan - the tartan on the figures is a shade or two too pale. The final problem is that 24 figures in GdB terms is only 480 men - and the 42nd (mostly) had rather more men under arms than this throughout the Peninsular War (see this link for a fascinating history of the battalions in the Peninsula, including their numbers at each significant point - PUA = Present Under Arms: 42nd Numbers ). 

Nevertheless, these figures look superb. The painted figures are AB, and I have some unpainted Highland centre company infantry (an ancient Battle Honours blister pack of twelve figures bought from Duke Seifried on Ebay which match perfectly). I'm currently contemplating whether I dare try to replicate the style - I'm fairly confident I can do them to a "good" standard but not so confident I can paint to this standard - whomever it was did these they even painted the lips on each face - and did it in a subtle way. Perhaps I can slot the additional figures into the rear rank where my incompetence won't be too obvious. Obviously if I add in some centre company figures, I'll need to add some flankers too (can't have a "project" that doesn't require buying some more figures!). 

* My mother, an occasional Jacobite and full time Scot, always referred to the Black Watch as "The Collaborators" - a reference to their origins  " In 1725, following the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, General George Wade was authorised by George II to form six 'watch' companies to patrol the Highlands of Scotland, three from Clan Campbell, one from Clan Fraser, one from Clan Munro and one from Clan Grant. These were to be "employed in disarming the Highlanders, preventing depredations, bringing criminals to justice, and hindering rebels and attainted persons from inhabiting that part of the kingdom." The force was known in Gaelic as Am Freiceadan Dubh 'the dark' or 'black watch' "

Of course my mother said the name was not a reference to the dark plaid they wore but to their "black hearts" in keeping down the Scots. My mum was not alway logical but there was always something of the rebel about her! 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

15mm Xan Mimiatures & Campaign Game Miniatures British Line Infantry

Well, last week the big news for me on TMP was that Xan miniatures had produced some new British Line Infantry in stovepipe shako suitable for the Peninsula. Now, I adore the AB sculpts and painted a battalion (in a rather poor fashion) last year ( ) but I'm always looking for some new figures. And these are much cheaper than the superlative ABs.

It so happens that I've been looking around at British infantry suitable for the Peninsula lately. I rejected Old Glory because of their inconsistency between ranges (or indeed bags within ranges), Fantassin (Warmodelling) were kicked into touch for the same reason. I don't like the stumpy Essex figures. Which rather left AB and BH in the quality 15mm field. Until recently that is.

Many Americans are admiring the Blue Moon 15mm range and I took a look at the British Line Infantry in Stovepipe here last year ( ) - if you recall I was fairly underwhelmed by the sculpting.

While browsing the Campaign Game Miniatures (CGM) website for some cavalry (CGM specialise in the 100 days Campaign so most of their stuff isn't suitable for earlier campaigns) I discovered that they had added a few codes from other nationalities, and some British infantry in stovepipes (there were a few battalions in the old gear at Waterloo). Now CGM don't have early command groups - typically the officers wore bicorne hats up until 1811 when the order was given for officers to use the shako (initially the stovepipe and after March 1812 the Belgic pattern) - although they continued to wear the bicorne with their undress uniform.

With that in mind I only ordered the rank and file marching and advancing packs, just to have a look at. You get eight figures in each pack (four variants repeated twice) for £3.60 (they are sold in the UK by QRF). Now lets get my big issue with these figures out of the way first - I'm convinced their legs are too short! Standing them next to an AB Brit it is clear that, while the torso and head are about the same size, the legs (even allowing for the fact the CGM figures legs are bent as they walk) are one or two millimetres too short. Added to this, the heads are broader than the AB figures, and the heads appear to have been jammed down into collars that look taller and stiffer than most illustrations I've seen of the British infantry in the field. Now, I know that a millimetre or two here or there can't be seen from a couple of feet away but the impression I get whenever I look at CGM figures (with the exception of their French Line in greatcoats) is that some giant wargamer has been pressing down on their heads! Having said that, the faces are very nicely sculpted and I think they seem to go well together with the Blue Moon infantry that I have (which, regardless of their other failings, appear anatomically "correct" to me) - both ranges feature the figures leaning forward so I think, once they have been painted, they'll do.

Now having having slagged off their basic posture, these are nice figures in many other respects, generally the detail is well sculpted. The sculptor has sketched in the lace on the jacket and cuffs, there are one or two areas which are a bit weak - I think the water bottle and rolled greatcoat are a bit small on the figures and there is no sense that the greatcoat is rolled up on some figures, it just looks to be a tube strapped to the top of the pack (I refuse to believe that a soldier in the field would be able to roll their greatcoat that neatly). The Trotter pack looks to be about the right size. The faces are nicely done. Essentially, these are good, workmanlike figures and I think they will paint up very well - I just can't find it in myself to get excited about them. And if you want your British officers in bicornes you will need to look elsewhere for a command pack.

Xan Miniatures
Now, I saw the news on TMP that Xan Miniatures had released a number of British Line Infantry packs and I got very excited. While his figures are generally not a perfect match height or build wise with Mr Barton's, his French Legere have the same sense about them (I think his Legere skirmishing pack is simply excellent) - so I had high expectations with the British.

So, how are they? Well, overall, they are very good - anatomically correct with facial detail nicely suggested, the packs and blanket rolls look the right size (possibly a tad large in the context of the size of the figure but not unduly so), the water bottle looks a touch small on one or two figures to me. On a couple of figures the cross belt sculpting is a little too fine but still workable. While the figures are anatomically correct in the sense everything is in proportion a number of figures that have the legs extended also have the torso at an angle to the line of march (so left leg extended to the front, right leg trailing about to be brought forward, and the torso facing to the right at an angle) - which isn't how I walk.

The only issue with flash was that a good proportion of figures had flash between the plume and the musket but this was easily cleared with a little care and a sharp knife. Unlike AB these figures have the musket joined to the side of the head and shako - where the join occurs there is the risk of a bit of difficulty concealing this when painting the figure, but as the shako will be black I don't think it will be a problem.

My big problem with these figures (and generally with the French figures too) is that Xan have taken the OG approach to bases so, instead of the big square base you get on an AB figure, the bases vary in size and are just big enough for the feet of the figure to meet the ground. What this means is that on some figures the bases are very small - so you will need something fairly industrial to stick the figures to your stand without them coming loose again.

One figure in NB2 (like CGM, Xan packs their figures in eight figures per pack with four variants included twice) is bareheaded and has a bandage wrapped over an earlier injury. It is well done but I'd have preferred a figure in forage cap to be honest (I think the bandaged head wound is both a bit of a cliche and that, given battlefield surgery of the time, not many guys would walk away from a head injury).

I had one niggle though - the shako looks too tall to me - it certainly looks taller and thinner than AB, Blue Moon or CGM (all of which look fairly similar to one another). So I embarked on some research.

I got out my ruler and the Xan figures look to be about 16 mm from foot to eye, perhaps 17mm to the top of the head - the figure with the bandaged head is 18mm to the top of the head - but if you look at the picture he looks tall compared to the others. So, if one assumes a 1/100 scale (risky I know) these chaps are remarkably average for the British Army of the time - the bulk of recruits were between 5 feet six inches and five feet eight inches tall (five feet seven inches is 1.70m - so 17 mm at 1/100 - 1mm = 4 inches in real life).

Measuring the shako height it looks to be between 3 and 4 millimetres tall and two millimetres across at the crown - this translates at 1/100 to about 12 inches tall and eight inches across at the top. Looking at Mr Franklin's book on British Napoleonic Uniforms he says that the stovepipe shako introduced in 1800 should be "some eight inches tall and seven inches broad at the top" - he also says a couple of paragraphs further on that "the improved second version of this shako was introduced for wear by other ranks about 1806. It was a lighter pattern, made of felt and slightly shorter, being about eight or nine inches high with a top diameter of seven inches" (my emphasis in italics). I've seen other statements that suggest the shako got shorter as time went on. So something seems a little awry with Mr Franklin's suggestion about the 1800 pattern shako, I think.

I also think in reality it probably wasn't Horse Guards laying down regulations that probably decided this kind of thing but the pattern book of the tradesmen supplying the regiment that had more influence. So, I think somewhere between 8 and 12 inches is probably good enough - use these guys for early arrivals in the Peninsula with early pattern shakos. I think the issue is also partly down to the Xan figures being a bit slighter than the other makers and having smaller heads - I think this makes the Xan shako look a bit taller and thinner than it really is.

Anyway, this is by the by - the Xan figures will make a fine looking battalion. The officers are very nice indeed (I thought their French counterparts lacked elan) and will fit nicely in with AB battalions if, like me, you like to mix different makers figures a bit. The command pack, NB7 contains two standard bearers, two drummers and two officers - each figure is different. As there are two packs of centre company marching (NB1 & NB2) and one pack of flank company marching (NB3) this means that a General de Brigade player can field a typical 30 figure British line battalion with four packs (and with no figure repeated more than twice).

I really like the marching pioneer figure (although he seems a tad short to me) and he will definitely be entering the ranks of my marching AB units. The skirmishing flank company troops are workmanlike rather than inspired but they will certainly do the job. Overall, these are another very nice set of figures from Spain.

So, next the comparison photos:

First up - the command figures from NB7 plus the Pioneer (NB11) - from left to right: Xan, AB, Xan, BH, Xan, AB, Xan, OG, Xan, Blue Moon, Xan, AB, Xan Pioneer - to the right are some British AB figures (awaiting standard bearers),

Next - NB2 (the Xan Flank Comany figures) and the CGM figures, from left to right: AB, Xan, Xan, Xan, Xan, BH, CGM, AB, CGM, CGM, CGM, AB
Finally, NB1 (Centre Co) and NB3 (Flank Co), from left to right: Xan, Xan, Xan, Xan, BH, Xan NB10, AB, Xan, Xan, AB, Xan, AB, Xan.

So, there you have it. I've actually done very little painting at all over the last week. I was distracted by a night out with Giles tasting South African wines, followed the next evening by a work night pouring champagne for some very appreciative customers (and once we had got the customers out the door at 10.30, we started on some very fine Bordeaux indeed - with the result I didn't get home until 2am). It was a very special evening - and I'm still tasting the 1986 Mouton Rothschild in my head. Friday (feeling very tired) I took my wife into hospital for a small procedure and then spent most of the weekend keeping Archie the dog away from her (my wife was grumpy from the anaesthesia so Archie and I spent most of the weekend in the spare room playing Total War on the PC - Archie won't let me paint).

Monday, 3 June 2013

15mm Old Glory SPN5 Spanish Militia

After May 1808 Spain was fragmented with several different regional centres of power (juntas) - most of these were united in one thing, they didn't like the French. Unfortunately they were also not keen on one another, and for that matter were frequently suspicious of the English, who rather reciprocated that feeling.

The Juntas, in an attempt to resist the French, raised a huge number of militia units. These initially used Spanish equipment, and, as time went on increasing amounts of British made uniforms and muskets. Unfortunately, prior to 1808 most Spanish defence expenditure had gone into the navy - the army was definitely the poor relation. Also the conflict between church, state and nobility prior to the war meant that the Spanish officer corps had undergone little formal training, was stultified in its practices, and generally incompetent. What this meant was  that when the Juntas sought officers for the new militia units they naturally looked at former or serving officers from the army - on paper these people looked qualified to train and lead, but unfortunately all too many were useless at both.

The men, saddled with poor equipment, hopeless officers and a lack of training, behaved as you'd expect when thrown into action before they were ready - given a fixed position to defend they were competent but all too often their officers sought to manoeuvre battalions whose soldiers couldn't manage basic drills. When Spanish militia went into battle they frequently ran like rabbits in the face of the French - the lack of Spanish cavalry meant that the French horse could ride down fleeing Spanish with impunity leading to horrendous casualties. The survivors would melt away or be reformed into a new battalion. Conflicting information, continual destruction and reformation of battalions mean that it is almost impossible to produce a comprehensive list of units created in the Peninsula War.

And yet, when they were given time to learn their drills, and were properly led, they could be steadfast in the extreme. It should be remembered that, even though they were thrashed time and again, the Spanish kept coming back for more....

The 15mm Old Glory SPN5 Militia bag allows you to build these ephemeral battalions of inexperienced, badly equipped, ill fed and ill led men from the first years of the war. As you would expect there are the usual 50 figures in the bag. My initial reaction upon seeing them was that they were very nice by OG standards - there are eight different figures in the bag. The figures are wearing bicornes and the "top hat" favoured by the Spanish (which looked very similar to that worn by Royal Marines of the period) and are wearing a smock-like jacket. All of the figures are in that rushing forward high porte sort of pose that OG favour. Amazingly, to me, the rank and file actually had faces that looked human (I've had figures from the OG ACW range - and OG Austrian Napoleonics - whose faces were shapeless lumps of lead). The musket detail was a bit rough, and weak points meant there is a good chance of losing a figure or two as the musket (not the bayonet, the musket) breaks apart.

Here are the four options for ranks and file - two in top hat, and two in bicorne. I've no idea whether the packing in these is consistent or not but there are twice as many top hat guys as bicorne chaps.

And here are the same figures from behind.

I think the command figures are weaker sculpts (see above). The top hat standard bearer, to me, doesn't fit with the mad charge of the other figures in the bag, and the left arm on the bicorne standard bearer looks like it has just been stuck on the torso (also the flagpole goes right across the face of the bearer - which means if you are planning on removing it to replace with brass wire, you'd best have a steady hand). The officer in top hat works pretty well but his bicorne counterpart looks awful to me. There is only one drummer  (in top hat) who looks okay. In all there are 4 command groups included (two bicorne officer and standard bearers and the same again with top hats - plus four drummers in top hats).

And the same figures  from behind.

So, overall, these weren't bad figures - nice energetic poses, some nice details but let down by the usual OG niggles of poor finish and occasional iffy sculpting. Thinking about it, I'm inclined to ditch some of the command figures and replace them with AB. Two options occur to me. First, as many of the militia units were commanded by officers seconded from regular battalions or brought back from retirement, use regular line infantry command figures, and secondly, as AB do some Spanish militia packs buy a pack of officers for those.

Next, a picture of the rank and file with the usual AB French Line figure, his Blue Moon French counterpart, and a Xan miniatures French Legere figure.

And the command figures with the same figures for comparison. I've also slipped in an AB Spanish Militia officer who seems, to me, to work quite nicely.

All in all, I liked these figures, in some respects they are the nicest OG figures I've yet seen. I think they'll be simple to paint and work quite nicely. Of course,

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Why Foreigners Get So Confused By The British...And A Diversion

As I work for a company owned by French & Portuguese companies this seems rather familiar:

Some weeks ago a friend and I were talking about modern life and I commented that the advent of satellite TV and the proliferation of channels meant that, as a nation, our shared experiences were becoming more dilute. When I was a boy (in the late Sixties / early Seventies) there were just three TV channels (in black & white to boot) and the coming of Channel 4 was a big deal. What this meant was that, as a country, a good chunk of the population watched the same programmes - I fondly remember "The Likely Lads" and "World at War" - which gave all of us some shared references - these days we're all watching different things. I also seem to have a busier life than when I was seven or eight years old - missing an episode of a series seems to be very easy for me these days.

Anyway I said I had a list of TV programmes that I wanted to watch but hadn't got round to yet - "The Wire" being one such. Anyway, to get to the point, my friend said I should watch "Battlestar Galactica" - to which I replied "I'll bear it in mind" (see image above for translation). To my surprise a DVD of the pilot and 1st series arrived in the post a few days later.

Last week, as I cleaned some 15mm ABs I'd got from eBay (you know the kind of thing - "50 part painted AB figures" that you can't really see - so I get them and they are ABs, and they have been part painted. But whomever started them was presumably using a house painting brush.) I put the first DVD on. The pilot was a bit slow (scene setting, establishing the characters, all that c**p) but the first series itself was quite fun - it is a rather grimy military drama that is set in space and covers some fairly serious ground without beating you round the head with it. It also is about as far from "Star Trek" as you can get - no photon torpedoes or phasers, no shields, and intelligent storylines that stretch over several episodes. The show ran from 2004 - 2009 and is definitely a product of it's time - themes discussed include suicide bombers, responses to terrorism, religion, identity, all kinds of stuff. I'm planning to pick up the remaining series (there were four).

But, best of all, it features a Canadian actress / model called Tricia Helfer - who frankly, makes me stupid whenever I see her on screen  - believe it or not, she plays a Cylon - and she does it very well (and before you ask I'm not being sarcastic here, she actually is very good in the role). I usually leave gratuitous shots of good looking ladies to Legatus Hedlius but for this woman I'll make an exception!

Monday, 20 May 2013

French Ligne Taking A Pounding Part Deux

About a year ago I posted a picture of an unfinished French Ligne Battalion in a firing line - I'd simply dug into the "big box" and looked through it looking for something I felt like tackling (like tackling the numerous half finished battalions was too much for me). I'd painted the AB French in firing loading poses I had but needed to bulk out the unit to thirty figures by using some casualties - I don't care what anybody says, if I've spent this long painting them the casualties are going to "count" for firing or melee purposes.

Anyway, it occurred to me that I'd not posted a picture of the completed unit. So here you go:
And what is the first thing I see - that I forgot to paint a musket barrel and bayonet on one of the figures!
And the sharper eyed amongst you will have realised I didn't paint the full 30 figures I intended to either.

But I'd like to think that this captures a unit that well into a firefight, as the ordered ranks start to get broken up by casualties and the regular volleys give way to each man firing as fast as he is able. I'd also like to think that this is a response to those people who say that AB Miniatures lack pose variety. They took ages to paint  and involved lots of colourful language - but I'm pretty pleased with them. And even more pleased that I can count them as done (okay, I know the wounded chap on the command stand needs a little bit more work).

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Battle Honours BSP3 Spanish Infantry Defending Review

Apologies for not posting for a few weeks - I had ten days in Scotland visiting my Uncle, and I've had a lot of work on.  Just a quick photo review of the first of the Spanish infantry packs I bought at Salute. This one was BSP3 Spanish Infantry Defending - £15.00 for 50 infantry including three command sets (although I got 10% off because I'm a megalomaniac who couldn't resist spending more than £90 at the show with the chaps at Timecast).

I've bought one or two bags of Battle Honours troops in the past that have been a bit rough (and I'm not the only one - after the show, Giles and I had a few glasses of wine with Dave Brown and some of the chaps from Loughton Strike Force and at least one of them had had the same issue previously) - the moulds seem to be coming to the end of their natural lifespan on some of the more popular bags and are rougher castings than they used to be. I'm pleased to say, these Spanish are very nice - not as clean as AB castings but generally fine. They all seem to have an issue with a bit of roughness on the lower side of the bicorne, particularly where the bottom of the bicorne and the figure's shoulders are in close proximity - but this is nothing that a few moments with a file can't fix. Apart from that it is the usual vent scrap, a little bit of flash on the bayonets (which seem to vary between quite long on some figures and quite short on others) and a few chunks on the bottom of the base. The metal isn't super hard so clean up is no problem.

So, the first thing to say is that BH don't do separate packs of grenadiers (which is odd as the Spanish generally used grenadier companies in converged battalions) so there are grenadiers wearing their distinctive bearskin mixed in with the regular line infantry in bicornes. Out of the 50 figures 16 are grenadiers. This is also a somewhat haphazardly packed bag (more on this later) in another sense: Spanish Infantry "Defending" made me think of chaps preparing to receive a charge, firing their muskets and so on. And I did see some of those in the pack (8 grenadiers and 12 chaps in bicornes) - the balance of the bag are troops standing with their muskets on their shoulders, and the command groups.

First Picture shows the two different standing grenadiers you get (6x of the one on the left, 2x the one on the right) - I really like these, good detail, a bit of character, nicely cast, excellent figures. The standard bearer I'm not quite so keen on - there's nothing terribly wrong with him, it's a good pose that will work with both the "standing around" figures and the "defending figures" - but he doesn't grab me (as I only got two of these I guess that is okay). And that flagstaff will need to be replaced as it is rather weedy. The drummer is another fine figure (3 of these in the bag) - the black wash really brought out the character on this chap - you can see the flash on the bicorne (I've removed excess metal from air vents and the small amount of flash from the bottom of the base on some figures but, otherwise, these are as bought). And finally the officer - when I first looked at him I really didn't take to him - frankly, I thought the pose looked a bit effeminate (which, given the poor calibre of so many Spanish officers, might be rather apt) but again, now that the wash is on, he is rather growing on me.

And the same figures from behind.

Next up, more rank and file including the two "defending" poses. As far as I could tell there were no pose variants with these two - you just got 12 of the bicorne defender, and 8 of the grenadier. The figures are very similar in pose but aren't just a head swap - the grenadier has gaiters, his cartridge case has a grenade symbol on it and he has the sword bayonet in it's scabbard. And finally we have the three "standing around" poses to finish off the pack - I got nine of the middle figure, three of the chap with the musket over his right shoulder, and two chaps smoking a cigarette.

And the same figures from behind.

Now if you've been keeping pace with the numbers of figures in each pose I've been mentioning, you will see that, while I got exactly 50 figures in the bag, only 20 were actually in what I'd term a "defending" pose - and of those you'd need to use the 8 grenadiers separately. So, unless you wanted to mix in the "standing around" figures with the defending figures (perhaps in the second rank? I have a mental image of the front rank being braced to receive cavalry while at least one chap nonchalantly smokes a fag), you won't have enough figures of any one style to make up a 24 figure battalion. And another problem - grenadiers had officers and drummers who wore bearskins, not bicornes - so the 20 grenadiers in the bag have nobody to command them.

All this means that, for me, the packing of this bags is a bit of an issue. At first glance, without counting figures you'd think "50 figures, 3 command groups - okay, two 24 figure battalions with a spare officer and standard bearer" - and you would be dished once you opened the bag and found what you actually had. Obviously, for me, the solution is to simply buy more (when the maths gets tough, the wargamer goes shopping). So, having a second bag of BSP3 in the drawer, I opened it and had a headcount. Now the chap from Loughton had warned me there was some variation between bags (ie it isn't like Wargames Foundry where there was one mould for each pack, and each spin produced one pack, so no variation in what you got each time). This time round I got the following (1st pack count in brackets):

Officer x3 (x3)
Drummer x3 (x3)
Standard Bearer x3 (x2)

Grenadier Defending x9 (x8)
Grenadier Standing Around x8 (x8)

Bicorne Defending x6 (x12)
Bicorne Standing Around x18 (x14)

So, you can see the proportion of grenadier figures is fairly constant, as is the command element, but the mix between standing around and defending varies a bit. Now, looking at the Deep Fried Happy Mice review of BSP1 Spanish Standing & Firing it looks like you get the same command, and standing around figures, along with some guys loading and firing. It would also appear he got some chaps defending too. Plus he got 16 grenadiers. Whether there was a kitchen sink in the bag too he didn't say.

I should also say that the second bag was much more cleanly cast than the bag I used for the photos - little or no roughness on the bicornes and mostly just vent metal on the rest of the figures.

I'm therefore thinking that you have two options with the BH figures. First, just take the bag and paint what you've got, and then use the grenadiers with bicorne command (they were a slovenly lot, the Spanish) and damn the historical accuracy, and mix up the standing and defending guys in bicorne. Secondly, buy three bags and separate the figures to make the best units you can. The AB grenadier command would work with either the standing around or defending poses so you should be able to get two grenadier battalions from three bags, and a 24 figure bicorne defending battalion and a couple of bicorne standing around units as well.

And, just to complicate matters even more, it seems that the foreign regiments didn't necessarily detach their grenadier companies (irritatingly I can't find the thread on TMP that I saw this), so, if you are painting a nice Irish or Swiss unit you could mop up a few grenadier figures by including a stand of those.  

And a picture with an AB French Ligne figure, a Blue Moon French Ligne figure and a Campaign Games Miniature figure, a Xan Miniatures Voltigeur and an AB Spanish marching figure for comparison purposes. Sadly, the AB and BH figures don't work terribly well together in my eyes - I think you'd need to slip a thin shim under the BH figures to make them go well together.

And this is a rather more "wordy" photo review than I originally intended - I do blether on!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Salute 2013

Annoyingly, I forgot my camera (for the third year in a row), so no pictures of Salute from me. But, there wasn't a great deal to photograph - not many big, big games but many more small "boutique" tables (nice scenery, nice figures but not much "wow" factor). This year, I wandered around with Giles (of ) - this was good as we had a nice catch up and I restrained myself from any wild splurging on figures that were totally "off topic".

So, without further ado - my shopping bag for the day:

28mm Perry Miniatures
EA1 Unarmoured Swiss Halberdiers / Pikemen Marching
EA6 Swiss Heads
EA7 European heads

I bought the WotR boxes when they first came out at Salute two or three years ago, have since added the Mounted Men at Arms and "Mercenaries" boxes to my plastic pile and have a general "plan" to do something European - Fornovo perhaps. At the moment this is handicapped by my being rather intimidated by the figures, a lack of knowledge about the period (I've got some Ospreys but nothing in depth) and have had no thoughts on rules.

15mm AB Miniatures
HO1/2 Light Cavalry Horses Charging x4
S14/37 Spanish Light Infantry Command
S23 Spanish Artillery Crew x3
S24 Spanish Generals
IF-06/12 French Elite Company 1806/12 (Greatcoat) x4

This order follows on from my recent interest in the Spanish War of Independence (the Peninsular War to me and you), and the purchase of some figures from eBay. Several packs of the old, old BH blisters that were sold as twelve figures (with cavalry being sold as separate blisters for horses and riders) needed horses so the remount options from Fighting 15s (superb service from Ian Marsh yet again as I pre-ordered these at the very last minute - one of the last orders packed before Ian loaded his car).

15mm Xan Miniatures
NFA01 French Foot Artillerymen
NFA02 French Horse Artillerymen
NFA10 Cannon (6lb &8lber)

Empress sneaked these out just before Salute. I'm not too sure about the gun but the figures are very nice - there are six figures in each pack that look like they will make up a very nice crew. As most people use four crewmen per gun I guess you could buy two packs and three guns and have something workable at the end of it. Apparently the next thing in the pipeline is British Line Infantry - which, with my new found interest in the Peninsula, is great.

15mm Battle Honours
BSP2 Spanish Infantry Advancing
BSP3 Spanish Infantry Defending x2
BSP7 Spanish Heavy Cavalry
BSP8 Spanish Dragoons

Unfortunately some blighter had beaten me to the punch and cleaned Timecast out of BSP1 Spanish Infantry Standing / Firing. My plan is to do a review on each pack with some photos before I add them to the painting list - my first thoughts are that they are packaged really strangely (like someone threw the figures up in the air and just bagged what fell down in a random fashion). My second thought was that while the cavalry are fine sculpts they will need some work - the riders all seem to have their swords on their shoulders "at rest" while the horses are galloping...which will grate on me. If I'd known this before I went shopping for remounts I'd have done some shuffling (use the horses from the BH Spanish with my eBay purchase, and substitute a couple of bags of AB heavy horse at rest for the Spanish heavies).

15mm Old Glory
SPN3 Spanish Volunteer Infantry
SPN5 Spanish Militia

I'd read that the OG Spanish were one of their better ranges and these two packs look pretty good at first look - the volunteer infantry are in top hats and appear to have British packs, while the militia are in a mix of top hats and bicornes and seem to be wearing a smock or overcoat. Both packs are in the energetic high porte pose that OG use so much. The chap at Timecast told me none of the OG Spanish are in march attack, which is a shame.

15mm Blue Moon
15-FE-02 6lb Guns

These look pretty good on the website and just as good in the bag so I'm quite hopeful for these. My plan is to use them with the AB Spanish gun crews (AB charge £3.00 a gun, whereas the Blue Moon pack of six guns is £12.00 so I've saved a few pennies there).

My only other purchases were a copy of "The Spanish Army In the Peninsular War" by Charles Esdaile from Caliver Books (despite blanching slightly at the price), and a tin of Army Painter "Strong Tone" (I believe this tone is more brown than the dark tone so I wanted to experiment a little bit). I also bought the new Miniature Wargames magazine now edited by Henry Hyde - there were some comely young ladies around the hall selling these and it seemed rude to disappoint them. I was really pleased with this buy - MW has been, frankly, pretty rubbish for the last 20 years or so in my opinion, so I was really happy to see that Henry has produced a Battlegames reverse takeover. The style, artwork and pretty much everything else has been lifted from its previous execrable levels. I may well subscribe now.

Extremely restrained by my standards. I was sorely tempted by the Perry and Renedra American range of buildings - I've no idea what I'd do with them once built but I covet them. Apart from that, not much else grabbed me - I was tempted by Anteociti's 28mm sci-fi interior detailing sets but have nothing to use them with. I didn't buy the new Dark Age Warriors box from GB (which was on my "probable" list of purchases) but will probably get some if I see them on eBay at a good price.

So, a good fun day. Now to do some reviews of the BH and OG Spanish, and a 15mm French gun comparison between AB, BM and Xan - and show my first battalion of AB Spanish off (just waiting on flags from, appropriately enough, Spain).