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...