Wednesday, March 28, 2018

First Franco-Prussian Clash

Prussian troops surge...the wrong way...furious Franco-Prussian action from three weeks ago!
As you will have seen here and there amid recent postings I have started collecting and painting figures for gaming the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 in 28mm.  While I do aspire to do larger "Black Powder" type games, getting all the necessary figures done will take a bit of time.  But skirmish games can come along a lot quicker! I have been painting some amazing figures from "Eagles of Empire" and basing them individually for skirmish gaming purposes.  They finally saw their first action a few weeks ago!

Curt was in Winnipeg for a brief visit, so I took the chance to drag into the maiden game for the figures.  The scenario was simple - a skirmish on the outskirts of Wissembourg in the opening phases of the war.   
Dallas trying to encourage his figures with proper the foreground to the left, my Jagers were a touch skittish...shouldn't the regular chaps be leading this thing?
For rules we used...well, Black Powder! And it worked very well for an all-skirmish engagement.  Curt and Bill took command of the French forces, trying to defend a ruined farm house from what they told themselves were small probing attacks from a Prussian screening force (in the actual battle, these in fact would be among the lead elements of a Corp-sized German formation that would roll over the French division in the area).  The French had four squad-sized infantry units, with one forward-deployed in the ruined farmhouse, offering excellent cover and firing positions. 

Prussians moving forward...a possible coordinated assault is looming...

Uh-oh! Command blunder!! That will not help the attack go in...
Dallas and I took command of the Prussian forces.  Dallas led four squad-sized elements of Prussian regulars, and I took command of two squads of Jagers. We would have six turns to drive the French away from the objective - and could even call up an extra squad of regulars should we deem one to be spent.  
The French reinforcements were slow to arrive, but why hurry - and interrupt such a gallant defence of the building to their front?
Both sides features many unfortunate command rolls.  For our part, we could not get the Prussians to make the most of their advantage in numbers, and while we held out under the Chassepot rifle fire, the squads attacked the target building piecemeal, and were driven back. 

The Prussians try to force the matter...
But with no success, the Chassepot rifles continue to pour out a cracking fire...
The French, for their part, seemed reluctant to move forward and support that one squad in the building, with order rolls often coming up short.  They compensated, however, with a gallant defence, clinging to their position even as losses increased.  In the end, a victory for the French! The Prussians would have been forced to bring up the artillery to deal with the pesky French troops...

Big thanks to Curt, Bill and Dallas for playing.  It was super-fun to get these figures out on the to table and play a first Franco-Prussian war game, I hope the first of many, as I am really, really loving the period. And special thanks to Curt for driving in to visit from Regina, AND for taking ALL of these photos! Was wonderful to see you dude. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Painting Challenge Wrap-Up - More 28mm Fanco-Prussian War

Troops for the Franco-Prussian war continue to mass in my kitchen...
As the end of this latest edition of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge approached, I thought it would be a good idea to get back to the project that drove my first several submissions - the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.  This final submission contained another group of Prussian infantry and a group of French cavalry in 28mm.  All of the castings are from the excellent "Eagles of Empire".

Lots of character and animation in these sculpts
As always the ubiquitous coats are wrapped around the bodies of the Prussian troops
The infantry are intended to round out my initial Prussian infantry force. "Rounding out" is one of the primary mind tricks that leads to an enormous unpainted lead pile in my basement, but can also prove useful.  I had four Prussian infantry groups, three of seven models and one of just four models, and I had it in my head that I wanted all of the units to be eight models strong.  So this batch did the trick!

Dreyse "needle" rifles at the ready for the assault on France
Up next, some cavalry, the first cavalry I have painted for this period.  These are French Hussars - six mounted rankers and an officer (on the rectangular base to stand out a bit).

Officer ready to lead a valiant (and probably fatal) charge in defence of the Second Empire

Tremendous animation in the cavalry sculpts - the officer looks like he is going to charge right off the base!
I found it challenging to get clear references on the uniforms the French Hussars wore in this period.  References are never perfect, and an added challenge is that the French light cavalry seemed to be in the middle of a change to their uniform pattern when war came in 1870.  Those sorts of processes never were smooth in peace time, never mind war, so I don't really know which unit was wearing what, but I ***think*** this might be the look of the 2nd Hussars, although I might have goofed on several elements (including the colour of the pompom etc).  Oh well.

For the Emperor! And later...the Republic!
Incredible animation in these sculpts
While the "Death Ride" of the Prussian Cavalry at the battle of Mars-La Tour is infamous in the minds of cavalry fans, the Franco-Prussian War was a graveyard for cavalrymen.  With bolt-action rifles and breech-loading artillery, massed battle cavalry mostly ended up with terrible losses.  So the fate of these fellows on the table is likely to be grim...

In 1870 these units looked glorious, but in the thick of battle, the time of cavalry was coming to an end...
As before, the Eagles of Empire sculpts stand out, with a tall, lean character.  This style of sculpting was not my favourite, but over the months of working on these figures I have really come to enjoy them a lot. They are real beauties, and Soren and the group at Eagles of Empire are just fantastic to deal with - I recommend them highly!  The cavalry in particular also have a tremendous energy and animation to them, like at any moment they will come alive and charge.

Hussars - flashy boys of the light cavalry arm
One additional note to share with you all - a big "thank you" to Challenger JohnM.  Back in early January I submitted a group of French infantry from the period which included a command base and a regimental standard - but the standard was lacking an eagle.

A new eagle for my 1870 French forces!
JohnM was kind enough to mail me a few spare eagles! I fixed one to the previously finished command stand.  A few weeks ago these troops saw their first-ever action on the Fawcett Avenue Conscripts gaming tables, and the Second Empire French troops had a regimental eagle to defend proudly!  Thank you so much John!!

Action from the gaming table last week - French infantry defend their country against a Prussian assault, the presence of their eagle stiffening their resolve!
With a total of seven mounted 28mm figures and another eight 28mm foot figures, this submission was good for another 110 points, taking me past my 1,000 point target from back in December!  Unfortunately work went bonkers, and I wasn't able to add anything else before the Challenge concluded, but I'm still glad to have beaten my target.

So, another Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge has come and gone.  Was little tougher this year due to some outside issues, but still a lot of fun, and a lot of great stuff finished. Looking forward to next year!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

More AdMech Rehab!

One of the hobby things I love most is rescuing unloved models and getting them back up to tabletop shape. There are two reasons for this. One is the pleasure I have in taking castoffs and making them usable, but the other is a bit less altruistic: it's that the models are already (mostly) assembled and (sometimes) even basecoated, so that saves me valuable hobby time on tasks I find a drudge.

This Sydonian Dragoon came in a lot of AdMech models I came across on kijiji. It was actually reasonably well assembled and basecoated so the extra work required only amounted to a few hours replacing missing/broken parts, converting others, finishing the painting and basing, and applying decals and weathering.

Kind of a neat model, but not one I'd immediately be drawn to having in my army. Cool though.

The lot also included another Onager Dunecrawler. This one required a bit more work in ordering some of the missing parts, like ladder rungs. It was already basecoated but I finished it similarly to my other Dunecrawler.

 Turned out nice eh?

I've read that the autocannon/missile array thing was the loadout to have in 7th, not sure about 8th. I guess we'll see when it gets on the table.

The Sicarian Infiltrators required more work yet. Although some basecoating was done, the heads and some other parts were quite messed up and I was thankful that the seller included a large bits tub with my purchase.

I was eventually able to get them in a semblance of order and I think they turned out OK. I love the Matrix-like scary helmets and tentacle tubes.

No AdMech leader is complete without a servo-skull or two!

Sicarian Ruststalkers. Same kit as the Infiltrators but some different parts used. Again, required some head swapping and general tidying.

 This guy gets a laptop computer as well as a servo-skull. Spoiled or what??

Here's the whole lot so far. Still have a squad of Skitarii Vanguard and a few Rangers to finish up. Once they're done it will be high time to get them out on the table for a battle. I've been toying with the idea of an Adeptus Mechanicus task force fighting Tyranids in an underground complex (Space Hulk tiles) while on a search for some item of lost tech or other...?

Painting Challenge Wrap Up - 28mm Byzantine Kataphracts

Byzantine Kataphractoi cavalry in 28mm - castings from Gripping Beast
Apologies for the blogging blackout of the past couple of weeks.  Work has been a real bear - and dealing with Google and their stupid products has been even worse.  Hopefully I can get Blogger working again for a bit...anyway, the 8th Edition of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge has wrapped up.  It's a sign that so-called "spring" is supposed to be here.  You wouldn't know that looking outside in Winnipeg today...but anyway, I digress.  I did manage to submit a couple more rounds of figures prior to the conclusion of Curt's painting Challenge last week.  Here is part one of the final submissions, and it is one that has a bit of personal significance for me.

This is a unit of Byzantine Kataphractoi heavy cavalry (like, really heavy) in 28mm.  There are 16 models in the unit, all from Gripping Beast.  The shield decals and banner are from LBMS. What is the personal significance? As I said, it's silly, so I hope you will laugh at me, or maybe with me! Allow me to elaborate...but I apologize in advance for a lengthy post.  Feel free to skip and go back whatever Dallas recently posted - it will be cool AND more to the point.

View of the full unit - 16 models, in two ranks of eight models each - two models per base, on 50mm square bases

I think we all have a gaming period or setting we wish we could/would try, but just can't seem to get to, for whatever reason. Often those reasons are practical - after all, it's a hobby, time is limited, real life gets in the way etc.  The subjects are too complex (anything Samurai) or nobody has sculpted the figures you need (Patagonian Tree Lizards with AK-47s in 15mm - where's the Kickstarter for that?)

But sometimes it's all in your friggin' head - and so it has been with my head and the idea of collecting and painting a force of Byzantines.

Unit command figure and standard bearer..I tried to pimp the ride for the commander a bit, as he would be fairly high ranking and/or bad-ass (or both) to lead a group like this in the Byzantine military
I have always been absolutely fascinated with the Byzantine period of history.  Its roots (the reforms of Diocletian, the rise of the separate "east" of the Roman Empire...these things are compelling when you are a student of, and work in, politics and government as I was and I do). The sheer duration of the  Byzantine empire throughout history. The military successes - and pretty spectacular catastrophes. The endless conflicts, the political maneuvering, scheming, plotting, assassinating etc. that defined their politics and gave rise to the use of the word "Byzantine" as an adjective. The look, feel and sense of Orthodox Christian art, design and structures. The sheer variety of enemies they struggled against - Persians, Bulgars, Rus, Avars, Normans, Germanic tribes, assorted Islamic caliphates, Turks etc...not to mention each other.  They would fight them, bribe them, then fight them again, then bribe them to fight each other, on and on. The number of times the Empire recovered from the brink of disaster and survived - and often go on to thrive for a time - is really incredible (disclaimer: I'm just a civilian of history, but still seems amazing).

Long spears - kontarion (I think) - and note the maces hitched to their belts for "follow up" work...
And also..."Iconoclasms"!! WTF is with iconoclasms? That's wild! I chuckle when people use the word "iconoclast" today to describe some bold and/or purposely provocative or offensive public figure. I don't they they truly understand the root of that word...such people might be loud-mouthed douche bags, but those folks don't even begin to reach "iconoclast" status...

Archers were integral parts of the Kataprhactoi formations

Much less armoured than the fellows up front, but those horses still say "we're ready for real trouble" and they have some barding to back it up...
The look of the Byzantine armies captivates me too (yes, I'm a big dork), as you can kind of instinctively make out so many aspects that might be said to be connected to Roman heritage, yet are so affected by the circumstances of Byzantium they take on a look and feel I find to be rather exotic and fascinating. They also had cavalry - a LOT of it. And heavy cavalry. Really, really, really heavy cavalry - SO cool.  I love heavy cavalry in games - they either charge home and leave tears, dust and broken units in their wake. Or, the charge fails, their momentum is shattered and they fade out, along with your chance of success in that particular game...super fun, and never boring!

And painting stuff that looks cool is a primary motivator of the wargaming hobby/affliction, right??

Musician is the only one with his face exposed...can't blow that horn through the chain mail!
So ever since I really started to get into gaming, and realized that gaming ancients was real thing you could do (i.e. raised my awareness beyond Warhammer), I have wanted to collect and paint a Byzantine force.  This goes back to around 1998-99...around the time I met Dallas and Curt for the first time, and got to know the Fawcett Avenue Conscripts. In fact, Dallas and Curt have been listening to me say I wanted to paint Byzantines pretty much as long as I've known them...

Kontarion lowered for action at the front rank, while a fellow rider brandishes a siderorabdion in preparation to whack someone who really has it coming...
So with all that in mind, and given that I am the sort of miniature gaming nerd that will, on slimly-provoked-yet-fully-animated inspiration, just suddenly decide to attack a new project out of the blue (recent example: Franco-Prussian War), you would think by now I would have some Byzantines painted, nearly 20 years later, right? Well, before today, you would have been wrong! Hah!

Why the hang up? Well, the reasons are pointlessly complicated and really only valid in my own rat-maze brain.  You might say they are a touch...Byzantine.

The shield decals and banner are from LBMS.  I can confidently report that I hope this will be the only LBMS banner I will ever fiddle with again, but as always the shield decals are top-shelf...
Some periods are intimidating to contemplate as a wargaming project, maybe too intimidating. For me, the prospect of painting Byzantines was just that.  Something always held me up.  I couldn't figure out the shields. I couldn't figure out the weapons. I couldn't decide what rules to use.  I couldn't land on a basing scheme, or decide on a scale. The more I researched, the more confused I would become...did I want to do "early" Byzantines? Thematic Byzantines? Tagmatic Byzantines? WTF was the difference between those last two again anyway? So much thinking...easier to just paint other stuff...and so the years go by. Over time the prospect of painting Byzantines evolved from a serious plan to just another potential life prospect, like learning Spanish or meeting actress Robin Tunney - sure it would be fun in theory, but I'm not going to focus any available energy on it.

Fast forward to Painting Challenge VII in 2016-17, and MartinN's submission of many beautiful Roman figures, in particular his "West" Theme entry that year of Roman heavy cavalry.  Not only was his brushwork incredible (no surprise there, of course!) but it immediately brought to mind the Byzantine Kataphractoi I have obsessed about for years. So exotic, menacing, devastating and cool looking, they echo the Persian clibinarii of ancient times. Nick's submission brought all of my interest in Byzantines right back! I resolved the day I saw that post to finally get off my @ss and get painting some Byzantines.

Yet even with that resolve, it took a lot of time to get going...lining up the figures, the banners, some shield decals etc...and the many other projects and passions like 30k, Team Yankee and other things popping up of course devoured brush time, energy and passion...but finally, finally, first unit Byzantine in now completed! These heavy duty bad-boys are COVERED head-to-toe in armour, and so are their poor horses.  It all looks a bit alien and a bit familiar all at once. The chain-mail face covering in particular seems like a 7th century version of NBC gear. If you see people wearing the stuff, it projects extreme authority, order and power, without any actual reassurance those things might normally confer - their mere presence indicates your immediate surroundings are likely in some manner of dire peril...

Kataprhactoi would have been the central core of a Byzantine force, probably from the mid 7th century through to the 11th century (and maybe later?), particularly in the eastern theatres. I'm not sure these chaps would be much use tramping through the mountains in pursuit of Bulgars. But kicking ass in the middle east? Oh yes. Bring. It. On. 

Kontarion lowered to sort out some contrarian issues of the Byzantine era...
The Kataphractoi formations are believed to have combined ranks of heavy horsemen and archers - with the archers found towards the rear/middle. The horsemen up front would be armed with very long spears (kontarion, 10 to 12 feet long or so), and some pretty hard-assed-looking maces for up-close-and-personal face-smashing work (siderorabdion - no idea how to pronounce that, but I bet it sounds menacing-as-hell).  As if all of this wasn't enough, they also carried swords - spatha (I think).  Talk about heavily armed!

The overall formation would charge to contact, skewer their opponents with the long spears and fill them with arrows. Meanwhile, up front, the maces came out for smashing purposes, and once the enemy wavered and broke, the whole group would ride them down and smash them to particles under the hooves of the heavily armoured horses, with further mace-and-sword-work applied on an as-needed basis.  Thanks for coming out...

Another view of the command group, backed up by the mounted archers
Representing this assortment in a miniature wargame unit called for some variety in the armaments.  The realities of the limits on 28mm figures precluded using three ranks, so I opted for a slightly larger overall unit (16 models as opposed to 12) in two ranks, with the mid-rear-rank made up of archers, the flanking riders armed with lances and the chaps in the front sporting those scary maces. 

For colours I meticulously researched ancient scrolls at an archive in Instanbul regarding the military regalia preferences of the Heraclian period just made my best guess and hoped for the best.  I wanted to use a strong religious image for the shields, as it just screamed "Byzantine" to me.  The shield decal with the image of Jesus seems to make them look extra-ominous, and adds a final dash of character to the unit.

Another profile view...this post is so long and boring, at least I'm trying to compensate with a bunch of photos...
No doubt I have screwed stuff up in the portrayal...for example, the chaps with the long spears maybe should have smaller "buckler" shields instead of the teardrop shaped ones, as those spears would be tricky/impossible to use with one hand...oh well...but you have to start somewhere. 

The castings from Gripping Beast were not the easiest to work with in terms of assembly ("fit" to the horse was not well-achieved), but they are so fun to paint!  The shield decals were OK to work with. As for the banner, I loved the graphics, but in terms of process I would rather get a root canal than use LBMS stuff for another banner. It would be so much better if it was just printed out on nice paper, instead of the runaround of sticking it to paper, then cutting that out etc. But overall I'm thrilled to have these fellows finished! As they sit on the shelf, I will imagine them riding down at the forefront of some assault as part of Nikephoras Phokas' run of re-conquests in the 10th century while I prepare to add further units to this collection down the road.

One more photo of the whole lot for kicks
Special thanks go to Challenge participants MartinN for inspiration and for answering many, many dumb questions, and to PeterD for pointing me to many books that were helpful in bringing a wargamer's perspective to the period.  The Painting Challenge is a lot of fun, and all of your work and your comments are inspiring - even if it takes a while to get around to the work!  And I hope Curt and Dallas mock me mercilessly for finally painting some of these things. After years and years of being all-talk on the subject, I've got it coming...

If you have read this far and are not yet asleep, I salute you - you have great patience, a heroic attention span, or possibly a procrastination problem. Maybe a blend of all three!  With 16 mounted castings, this notched another 160 points toward my 1,000-point painting goal.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Yuri's Wolves and Luftwaffe Tornado for Team Yankee

Over at Conscript HQ we're getting ready to stage a big Team Yankee game at Legions Maxximus (nee Legio-Con) next weekend. So I've been motivated to paint a bit of Soviet armour to balance out the masses of lovely West German and Canadian models that Greg's been turning out.

I picked up the new "Yuri's Wolves" boxed set. What a bargain! Five T-64s, two BMP-1s or -2s, decals, crew, AND a mini rulebook for less than $60. That's gotta be a deal in anyone's book.

Here we go with the BMP-2s.

Great little models, easy to assemble and accurate enough for me.

The models were sprayed black, then basecoated with a spray of Krylon Camouflage ultra-flat green - just about perfect for Soviet armour. Wash of Agrax Earthshade, drybrush with Ushabti Bone... tracks painted rusty brown, dust weathering completed with more Ushabti, lenses painted, done.

If the BMPs are nice, the T-64s are AWESOME. These are the machines you want as a Soviet player: a few more points than T-72s, but better armour and the amazing range of the AT-8 "Kobra/Songster" ATGM make this tank the one to have.

Paint technique was identical to the BMP-2s.

Nice, eh??

Now let's balance things out a bit with some NATO love. Here's a Tornado attack aircraft.

This is a 1/144 scale plastic model kit purchased off eBay for a very reasonable price, at least when compared to what Battlefront want for their resin aircraft.

Not being an expert in ground attack loadouts I just assembled the plane per instructions. Swing wings were fixed in position as well. Paint scheme was cribbed from the excellent "Wings Palette" website with kit decals. Sorted!

Well, as noted, I hope to get these models into action next week at Legions Maxximus. See you there!