Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A New Project - The Franco-Prussian War

A new project...28mm French troops for the Franco-Prussian war - figures from Wargames Foundry.

Any sane or rational analysis of my hobby affairs would conclude that I need a new period to collect and paint about as much as I need another hole in the head.

Good thing my approach to gaming is neither sane nor rational! With that in mind, I introduce you a new period of interest - the Franco-Prussian War.

"La Ligne De Feu" by Pierre-Georges Jeanninot - 1886 - painting of French infantry in action during the battle of Mars-La Tour

For a good chunk of the past two years my painting interest has primarily been GW's Horus Heresy/30k setting - and I've loved it! But late this summer I wanted to take a break from the 30k brush mayhem, and, well, any time I lean back from one period or setting, you just never know what I'll do next. Enter this new project...

More artwork from the Franco-Prussian war...there is a lot of amazing artwork out there for the period

The Franco-Prussian War, known sometimes as the War of 1870, started in July of 1870 with a declaration of war by France (helpfully torqued by the machinations of Bismarck) on Prussia.  As the power of the Prussian state had been growing through the latter period of the 19th century, a conflict between France and Prussia had appeared inevitable.  A dispute related to the succession of the Spanish throne provided the pretext (as a side note, WTF is with the Spanish throne? Can't they ever manage to hand that thing off properly? Sheesh!).

A battalion from the French 74th Infantry regiment.

The coming war would prove to be a disastrous one for France. In a short period of weeks the French Imperial Army would be broken apart, isolated, encircled and destroyed.  The Imperial government of Napoleon III would be swept away, and a Republic would arise to take its place and try to carry on the struggle.  Paris was put under siege, and the battle continued through the winter and into the spring of the next year.  But France could not win, and the Treaty of Frankfurt concluded affairs with the annexation of Alsace and the humiliation of France.  Germany would be unified under Prussian leadership. Seen in a very broad historic context, the Franco-Prussian War was a short war, but one with significant consequences and ominous signs for the future.

Battalion from the 50th French Infantry regiment.

Why game this period? For starters, just check out the uniforms! Kepis! Baggy red trousers! Zouaves! Epaulettes everywhere! And the Prussians are all wearing those goofy spiked helmets! A cavalry charge called "The Death Ride"!  The incomprehensible idiocy and indolence of the French senior officers! The incredible bravery and sacrifice of the French line troops! The mitrailleuse! The numerous near-disasters of the squabbling royals on the Prussian side! The scheming machinations of Bismarck! Lots to get hooked on here...

Just for the look alone, I was drawn to this period.  Toss in the drama and the tragedy and you have a very compelling setting, one that is not all that common on wargaming tables. I was hooked on the idea of eventually doing a Franco-Prussian War game for the group.

Aerial view of my first brigade for the French.
What scale to do? The set-piece battles of the Franco-Prussian War were pretty large affairs, so that would point towards smaller scales, like 6mm or 10mm.  Baccus has a tremendous and complete range in 6mm, while the excellent Pendraken and Magister Millitum offer very complete ranges in 10mm.

But I am so hooked on the uniforms, and this in turn dragged me toward 28mm. Much less choice here. The only range that is even close to comprehensive is the Wargames Foundry collection, which were sculpted by the Perrys.

(I should note here a new range, for skirmish gaming, is on the rise from an outfit called "Eagles of Empire" - they have beautiful figures, but they are closer to 32mm in size, and the range lacks the elements required to truly represent battalions etc. in brigade/battalion gaming.  I'll have more to share about these figures in a later post...)

Officer in the foreground will serve as a Brigade command figure in games of "Black Powder".

All options appealed to me - I couldn't decide. I didn't want to just roll a dice, but I did leave it to fate. I ordered a little bit of everything, just to see what might grab my passion.  In the end, my course would be fixed by three words many hobbyists dread - "cast to order".  This is a business trend that many figure manufacturers are compelled by market circumstances to follow.  But it also means for long, long lead times when you want to purchase figures.

Basically, in the time it took between placing my order with Pendraken and receiving the figures, I was able to place two orders with Wargames Foundry and get about 20 of the figures painted...(Baccus, meanwhile, has yet to arrive as of this posting but should be here soon).

Skirmishers to the front!
And so 28mm it is! I have decided on relatively small infantry units - 24 castings, 20 of which are based and four are out on rounds.  The four individual models will represent the deployment of skirmishers, which was pretty common.  I'm hoping the increments of 24 figures will allow a fair trade-off between large-ish units on the table while still being small enough to make decent progress adding new units.

For cavalry regiments, I'll use 12-figure units - more on those to follow later.

For rules I'll use the ubiquitous and very-flexible "Black Powder".  The Franco-Prussian War runs right up against the end of the period covered by those rules. The infantry are armed with single-shot, bolt action rifles (including the incredible French "Chassepot" rifle) and the Prussians are sporting steel breech-loading rifled artillery - it's the very sunset of the age of linear tactics on European battlefields, and using the large size figures will stretch the distortion of time/size scales on the table to the limit (I doubt I'll even have much Prussian artillery on the table, as the range would be huge).

We'll never play Mars-La Tour in 28mm, but a smaller action using "Black Powder" rules is something I'll figure out. 

Will I just decide to paint some of the other size figures at some point? Of course! I'm terrible at focus, and the only way we will ever play, say, the Battle of Froschwiller on a table around here is in 10mm or 6mm.  But for now, I'm stuck in with the 28mm figures...

I have finished only two French infantry units so far, so this a long, long, long way away from appearing on a gaming table.  But the journey is underway - and Curt's next Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge is almost here.  I hope the Challenge will see me complete a fair number of units for the period.

And who knows how long I will last before I paint some more 30k stuff?


Iannick said...

You are completely insane!


Because yes, like any good wargamer I once entertained the idea of doing the period, which is great (although I'm slightly more drawn to the the 1866 Austro-Prusso affair). But I quickly realized it's one of those neverending affairs, and doing it in 28mm is especially crazy.

So yeah...best of luck. If anyone can do it it's you ;-)

Iannick said...

Oh yeah, great start btw! Very colourful period! What the ACW could've looked like if the Americans had any sense of style ;-)

tim said...

These look fantastic!

It is an interesting period - so much change going on in terms of military technology - but still the colourful uniforms.

Dallas said...

Outstanding, dude. Looking forward to a game with these shiny new models.

Jason said...

Good choice with the Foundry figures! I started collecting my Franco Prussian War figures over 20 years ago and love them. For sure the large battles are pretty difficult to do (I didn't realise this till much later and looking into it propely!) but Black Powder still gives great Division sized games.

For the massive games of FPW i'm looking at using 10mm Pendraken figs and using Bonnie Blue Flag Rules with a few home rules. I too seriously don't need to start a new range though...but it's fun! ;-)

Pete. said...

I've had a long interest in the Franco- Prussian War so I'll enjoy following your progress with your project.

Going for 28mm will look magnificent.



Moiterei_1984 said...

Wonderful work Greg! Really like what you’re doing here.

john de terre neuve said...

You truly are BARKING MAD Greg, but great looking figures!

Bill said...

Looking very sharp, Greg! Good luck!

ByronM said...

Amazing looking work as ussual Greg! It amazes me how fast you can crank out amazing looking figures like this..

Curt said...

Brilliant brushwork dude! I'm really looking forward to seeing how this project develops over the coming Painting Challenge and beyond.