Sunday 3 November 2019


A musing post and, if I am honest, another 'filler' while I progress my early Russians and Grenzer sufficiently to be able to do a post about them. Hopefully this is not too self-indulgent.

The subject of this post was in-part sparked by a long and enjoyable conversation with John from the Serpentine group, during which I asked him, "What is your entertainment when painting?"

Do you listen to music, watch TV, watch DVDs, listen to podcasts, listen to audiobooks, sit in the room with what is being watched by family or 'better-half' playing in the background, or perhaps sit in peace and quiet and focus on the job at hand?

Being joined by my good friends is part of the joy and relaxation of painting in my wargaming room/shed.
Sometimes proceedings are interrupted as the young one has decided that a bit of play-fighting is in order!


My most preferred is to 'watch' (i.e. predominantly listen to) history documentaries that I have saved on my computer. They need not be of the era of the figures that I am painting. In fact, I find that those from periods other than my 'special subject' (Napoleonics) are preferable as, since I know less about them, I am not as likely to be annoyed by the generalisations that are included in productions for the mass audience.

Second to that are podcasts: history ones or Roy and HG and/or music. If the latter, usually something nice and loud and raucous.

The podcast of the latest show of Roy and HG's "Just short of a length" was part of my paintertainment today.
Note the painting of my 'girlfriend' in the background. She's still gorgeous at 243 years!

So, what is your 'poison'. I'd be interested to know.

Now that I have completed my little side show of the 1/32 WWII that I wanted to finish, I'll be focussing on these Russian infantry (1805–07) and Austrian grenzer, with some Vistula legion (and their talisman) thrown in.

Friday 25 October 2019

Reinforcements bring limited artwork

Some 'essential' reinforcements that I purchased recently featured limited box artwork that Hat are using for some of their re-stocked sets.

Set 8146 '1805 French infantry in greatcoats', one of Hat's sets featuring the limited edition artwork.

Not surprisingly, the use of this artwork has met with mixed responses. Some people consider that it belittled the figures, misleads potential purchasers, or fails to 'inspire' about the contents. Personally, while I would not like to see it used in all cases, I enjoy the creativity and humour and like it as a limited edition for restocks. I was particularly happy to get some examples as I like to keep the box artwork, cutting-up the boxes so as to stick them in a scrap book (or two!).

The original artwork on set 8146.

Box contents of set 8146, which is featured on both the original and re-stocks with the limited artwork.

For those who are not aware, polystyrene-plastic 1/72nd figures come in cardboard boxes, a feature of which is the artwork on the front. This is generally a representation of the arms and uniform(s) of the figures within or perhaps of the troops in action. It does not show the actual figures in the box, this is represented on the back by line drawings or photographs of the figures, usually to scale.

A 'new' set that was amongst my purchases is this Spanish infantry 'sampler'. It contains a sprue form each of the previously-released Spanish light, grenadier, line and command sets and also features limited edition artwork. This is a particularly nice touch as it is 50 years since the release of Abbey Road. Below: the back of the Spanish sampler box.

Another relevant point—which I only became aware of in fairly recent times— is that, while plastic moulded figures are less expensive than their metal cousins for the consumer, as they can be produced en-masse (and with plastic), the moulds are extremely expensive to produce and represent one of the greatest costs for the manufacturer. This means that the number of sets in any period or genre is limited and, generally, a single set is produced for each troop type.

Also, once a production run has been used up, i.e. purchased by collectors, wargamers or diorama makers, it will be unavailable until a run of restocks is produced by the manufacturer. This may take time to happen as it needs to fit with other sets of figures that the figure manufacturer wants to produce and, more importantly, must get into a factory's production line (between the other, numerous plastic items). A set of figures may therefore be unavailable for months or years. In some cases it may never appear again, if the mould that was used was produced using cheaper materials, meaning that it was destroyed or damaged in the production process.

Of course, these facts are all good, justifiable and perfectly 'rational' reasons for purchasing numerous copies of a set when it is available (ha,ha)!

The manufacturer Hat, who have produced over 300 sets of figures over 200 of which are of Napoleonics, have been particularly good at keeping their product on shelves. All this production, along with a change of ownership, caught up with them recently so several sets had become unavailable. They have therefore spent most of this year producing restocks, some with the limited edition artwork.

The runs of restocks is a pleasing development to me since there were some sets that I 'needed' that were out of stock. This has now been rectified. The use of the limited artwork means that I'll be purchasing some other restocks, that are not so 'essential' to me, purely to get a copy of the enjoyable, creative and limited artwork!

Images below are of the original and limited edition artwork for restocks of sets of figures for the Napoleonic Wars. The Dali-inspired image for the Spanish line infantry and old flat figure for the Prussian hussars are rippers!

Saturday 21 September 2019

They are going mad with books

Looking for a bargain? Naval & Military Press, that great on-line warehouse of books on military history, have discounted their entire 'catalogue' of titles related to the Napoleonic era.

Here are a few examples.

• My 'beloved' Anatomy of Glory for £8.99.
• Nafziger's 1813 three-volume series, all hard-back and 'heavy' tomes, recently republished by Helion & Company with 'a new set of images and newly-commissioned colour maps'; a mere £25 for the lot.
• Gill's magnificent trilogy of the 1809 campaign for £18.99.

That is but a sample of the 300 titles/sets that are available with plenty of individual titles starting at  £1.00.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Waterloo in 54 mm

A grand-scale wargame in all senses of the term!

I was so impressed with Phil's post about this marvellous game that I wanted to 'spread the word'.

Not a scale of wargaming often achieved. Well done to all involved. Superb!

Saturday 3 August 2019

Book Review: Napoleon's Imperial Guard Uniforms and Equipment: The Infantry

A few months ago, I reviewed my all-time favourite Napoleonic book; The Anatomy of Glory*. It is unlikely that Lachouque’s magnificent study of this legendary formation will ever be moved from this mantle, but every now and again a book is published that threatens to do so. Paul Dawson’s new book comes close.
(A relevant aside, Lachouque’s book is on a magnificient special at Naval and Military Press at the moment)

Now, you can never have too many books about the Imperial Guard(!), in my opinion, but this new tome by Paul Dawson is not another history of the units nor beautiful presentation of uniform plates. Rather, he has produced a novel and significant piece of research that is compiled into a beautifully presented book. Something that offers new insights as well as a feast for the eyes.

Dawson has combined a detailed study of the Archives Nationales and Service Historique Armée de Terre with extant uniforms and equipment from museums and private collections, as well as documentary evidence from memoirs and period artists’ representations to produce a detailed analysis of the uniforms of the infantry of the Guard—down to the piping on the lapels and stitching on the cross-belts! He uses this combined evidence to challenge some of the accepted representations of the uniforms and equipment of this most famous force, including such giants of modern Napoleonic uniformology as Rousselot, and Boucquoy, who have influenced many of the books that fill the shelves of wargamers and modellers.

The book begins with the briefest of chapters describing the formation and history of the Guard (a mere four pages). This is followed by a chapter on the organisation and equipment of the Guard infantry followed by a third, brief chapter describing the cloth and colours of the period. In the second chapter, Dawson includes important comments about the limitations of the archival records. He notes that the records are not complete for all regiments—those for the chasseurs being non-existent. He acknowledges that Rousselot filled this void with artists’ representations (such as David and Hoffmann). His own approach is similar, but focusses more on the archival material and existing uniform items, referring to the documentary and artistic evidence to complement them. His detailed and tooth-combed approach has yielded some important observations but, as he notes “We will never know exactly what some regiments wore”.

The majority of the book comprises chapters describing in minute detail the uniform and equipment items of each regiment of the Guard infantry. Dawson leads the reader through his research into the specifics and developments of uniform and equipment of each unit, complimenting his text with numerous tables and lists from the archives detailing the numbers of uniform items and materials to make them.

A visual feast: the book is filled with numerous plates of photographs of uniforms and items of equipment from museums and private collections, all shown in great detail and from various viewpoints.

For me, the piéce de resistance of this book are the photographs of the uniform items from private collections, the Musée de l’armée, the Musée de l’Empéri, Musée municipal de Pontarlier, Borodino museum and National Militair Museum Soesterberg. These are numerous, clear and include separate zoomed photos of the detail of each item, from a range of angles.

In addition there are some 88 plates of paintings of guardsmen by Hoffmann, Otto, Martinet and others. Then, in the centre pages six full-pages plates of paintings by Keith Rocco.

Orders articles and decrees notwithstanding, the reality ‘on the ground’ was often quite different, even amongst the privileged ranks of the guard. An example is this habit of a voltigeur of the guard, which includes epaulettes from the chasseurs.

Dawson provides detailed tables and lists of information from archival documents. My one gripe with the book is that the asterisks beside the names of commanders are not explained. I searched and searched, but could not find the explanation. I suspect that they indicate those who receive the legion of honour, but it is frustrating the the explanation is either missing or buried somewhere in the book.

This is a weighty book, in all respects. Its hard-bound 475 pages are printed on lovely, heavy, gloss stock. The photographs and plates are clear and 99.5% in full colour (417 out of 419 images by my count). It is a magnificent book to own, to admire and to read through. I recommend this for your book-shelf whether to leaf through, admiring the photographs of the equipment, the reproduced prints or Rocco’s artwork, reading about the equipment of a specific unit of the Guard infantry, seeking detail to paint, or simply to know more about the uniforms of the soldiers of this ‘immortal’ formation.

I shall enjoy leafing through and ‘drooling’ over this book again and again.

Sunday 16 June 2019

Book Review: Wargames Terrain and Buildings: The Napoleonic Wars

I became aware of this book when I saw Seb’s excellent review on his blog. I therefore jumped at the chance to do one of my own when offered a review copy by the publishers.

Cover art courtesy of the publishers.
Please seek permission before reproducing.

I enjoy making my own terrain pieces and it has always made more sense to me to spend available ‘wargames funds’ on figures and books before buildings or other terrain. After all, figures I cannot easily produce myself, but I can make buildings, no matter how rudimentary. In more recent times, even while the prices of buildings and other terrain have reduced (and available funds for wargaming increased), I am still reticent to purchase terrain, save perhaps for second-hand items or some of the MDF kits from Sarissa Precision (I discussed their 1/72nd La Haie Sainte previously). More on them later.

It seems that this is something that I share in common with Tony Harwood, although my attempts pale when compared to his beauties. Yet with the aid of this book, in which he shares some of his methods and ideas, I hope to be able to improve the quality of the buildings that I produce.

This book is marvellous in so many ways. The construction of the example buildings and other structures is described step-by-step with clear photographs of each. Mr Harwood uses simple, easily obtainable materials, chiefly of the ‘scrap’ variety. The construction process is straight forward and includes some great combinations of techniques that make so much sense. For example, layering strips of paper on the cardboard ‘shell’ of a building, glued in place with PVA glue in a kind of papier maché fashion. This rounds off the sharp or jagged edges of a cardboard-only construction while adding some texturing to the walls.

The construction of nine models is covered in the book. These are a Russian windmill, two-storey French house, La Belle Alliance, French pigeonnier, stone build well, Russian granary, small bakery, Hungarian chapel and Peninsula diorama. The Russian windmill is 15 mm, La Belle Alliance 20 mm and all the others are 28/30 mm. With the exception of La Belle Alliance, which is the 20 mm Sarissa Precision kit with modifications, the scales of the models are completely nominal. There are no plans, an aspect that may detract for some people, but one that I think is a bonus and adds flexibility.

Inspired by an image from a book or other source, Tony Harwood first produces a sketch.

From his plans, he produces the shell of the building. In this case strips of paper with PVA applied to one side are layered over the cardboard in a papier maché kind of manner.

The finished two-storey French house. Twenty-one pages with clear photographs show its step-wise construction.

In fact, the plans are not omitted as they do not exist! Rather, than work from a plan, Mr Harwood gets his ideas from images in various books, draws himself a sketch (something that he’s darned good at) and then roughly scales the sections of the building, using a figure of the appropriate scale as his ultimate guide.

Using this approach means that the step-wise construction of all of the structures in the book, with the exception of La Belle Alliance as it is a commercial kit, can be followed at any scale. Brilliant!

Furthermore, for those willing to have a go and adapt a theme and technique, the buildings/structures in the book can be used for inspiration to build something different. I intend to use the ideas presented in the construction of his Hungarian chapel as inspiration to make the church at Plancenoit.

Actually, ‘inspiration’ is an appropriate one-word summary for this book.

Thank you Tony!

Sunday 12 May 2019

Battle of Cape Finisterre, 22nd July 1805

Yesterday Julian hosted a fine naval game, the culmination of months of recent planning and testing of the rules, based on the Battle of Cape Finisterre, 22nd July 1805, aka 'Calder's Action'.

The scenario came straight out of the rule book (Grand Fleet Actions in the Age of Sail). After a bit of discussion, Julian and I decided to play it 'as given', so the English commanders were rated 'average', crews 'veteran', French commanders and crews 'average' and the Spanish command 'inept' and crews 'slack'. We had seven players with Mark H ('Marc'), Mark B (Biko), Olivier and Stephen of the NWS joining Julian, Mark (Wilko) and me. I took the Spanish as the descriptions sounded fitting!

What follows is a brief, pictorial account. No doubt Julian will post one of his excellent reports of the action in full account on our Avon Napoleonic Fellowship blog and Mark H will be posting from Villeneuve's point of view (his role), so I'll add links to those in time.
(Mark H has not done this excellent post about the game)

The Allied fleet in line ahead, heading east towards Ferrol. English fleet approaching in the distance, from the north-east, also in line ahead. Wind coming from the north-west.

The historic action was fought in foggy conditions, so the commanders used 'follow the leader' to keep their fleets together. The fog was reflected in the scenario by the simple, but significant, effect of halving the command range.

 The Allied fleet with Rear-Admiral Dumanoir's command (Julian) in the van.

The English broke into four groups with the aim of cutting the Allied fleet in several places and defeating it in detail. Captain Gardner (Olivier), Admiral Calder (Stephen), Rear-Admiral Stirling and Captain Butler (both Wilko), from nearest to furthest.

Dumanoir was first to come into action, inflicting some damage on Gardner's lead ships (Agamemnon and Hero (flag)).

 Calder's command soon joined in the action, ...

 ... as Gardner's ships opened up.

 An artist's impression, c/- Wikimedia Commons.

 A wider view of the action around this stage (Allied at bottom-left).

 Calder's ships unleashing on Dumanoir's vanguard.

 At the rear of the line, my ships were oblivious to it all.

On board Hero, Gardner attempted to board one of Dumanoir's 40-gun fifth (or are they sixth?) rates. It all went to pot though (the dice were not with the English, to be sure). The English attempt failed, and Hero was captured! She was sailed away as a prize.

 Villeneuve (Marc) came into action in fine style.

 The raking shot on another of Gardner's command resulted in a test for catastrophe.
 The 1 in 10 of a one,...
 ... ship explodes!

It was not all going the allies' way, Formidable, Dumanoir's flagship, was no longer so and the crew struck her colours!
(Addendum to original post: I forgot to mention that this, I recall, was as a result of our local land-lubber, Wilko, successfully executing a 'Nelson's touch' manoeuvre and breaking Dumanoir's line. He's starting to get the hang of this 'boating' lark!)

Magnon de Médine (Biko) now came into action, but his crews were not as accurate as Villeneuve's, firing an ineffective rake,...
 ... and inflicting little further damage on what remained of Gardner's (former) hard-pressed (and demoralised) command.

 Some wider photos of the action at this stage.

 Same again, showing Hero sailing away in the foreground.

My rearguard finally came into action, adding to ex-Gardner's woes (a lucky '10' making up a lot for my 'slack' crews).

The table at the end of the game. At the top, in front of Calder's hat, Rear Admiral Dumanoir's former command (demoralised) and Admiral Villeneuve's command are making east and safety of Ferrol. The central line are Rear-Admiral Magnon de Médine's and Admiral Don Gravina's commands that seem destined to safely by-pass most of the English ships that are past them and against the wind: part of Captain Butler's command at top-right, Admiral Calder's closest to camera, what remains of ex-Gardner's ships at front-left and Rear-Admiral Stirling's coming in towards the line in the centre.

With 50%-plus of their ships exiting or likely to, the east table edge, it was a French scenario victory.

It was a most enjoyable game, looked and felt like a Napoleonic naval game, and all seven players got to move ships and have a shot or two (several more for those in the van and centre).

Well done and thanks Julian for hosting such an enjoyable game. The testing, checking and investment all paid off. Trafalgar beckons...!