Monday, April 30, 2018

Commandant Berbegier - Franco-Prussian War Command Vignette

"Mort de Commandant Berbegier" in 28mm from Eagles of Empire
This is a nice little 28mm Franco-Prussian War command vignette - Commandant Berbegier, seen here in action leading the first battalion of the 70th Infantry Regiment during the battle of Gravelotte-St. Privat in the summer of 1870.  He is sitting atop a horse which has already fallen in battle, and continuing to sound the charge to his men. This miniature is from the amazing folks at "Eagles of Empire".

The sculpt is top shelf - "Eagles of Empire"is just great, can't say enough about them
This excellent sculpt is based on a painting by Edouard Detaille, "Mort de Commandant Berbegier".  When I saw this at the "Eagles of Empire" online store I knew I wanted to have one! I felt it would make a very cool command vignette, whether in a skirmish-style game or as a brigade-command model in a game of "Black Powder".

The poor horse!
I wish I was more cultured and could share more about art, but I don't know much about Detaille the painter or the generally amazing amount of incredible artwork that the Franco-Prussian war seems to have inspired.  The painting itself certainly paints a grim setting for the French infantry, capturing a hopeless determination in the face of defeat and destruction...
Liberal use of tufts from Tajima - no wonder I run out of them so fast...
Commandant Berbegier apparently was Chef of the First Battalion, 70th Regiment, and the scene in the painting is set at the Battle of Gravelotte-St. Privat.  I did a little research, and it seems the 70th was deployed toward the northern end of the French line in that pivotal battle, between St. Privat and Ammanvilliers - in which case they likely saw action against the enveloping attack by the Prussian Guard regiments late in the day.

The combination of excellent Chassepot rifles, strong defensive terrains and pretty uninspired generalship by the Prussians (matched only by the even limper senior leadership of the French high command) led to very, very high losses for the Prussians during the battle.  But at the northern end of the battle line the Prussians were ultimately able to turn the French right by capturing the village of St. Privat.  The Prussians managed to prepare the ground for their assault with a bombardment by something like 200 guns...the 70th would probably have been heavily exposed to this bombardment, and driven back by the subsequent Prussian assault.

For the Emperor!!!
It seems to me in the painting that Commandant Berbegier is trying to rally the remnants of his battalion to continue the fight as the Prussians seek to the roll up the French line.  Again - I don't know if my imagination matches the actual situation that the painting is portraying or not, but it will do for now! Hopefully smarter people can point you in the right direction for more accurate information. There sure is a lot of beautiful artwork out there!  But I love this vignette - it is really something, and the folks at Eagles of Empire have done a great job sculpting the figures.  I can't wait to get this out on the table for a game sometime!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Mitrailleuse! 28mm Reffye Mitrailleuse from Foundry

Mitrailleuse and crew in 28mm - gun and crew from Wargames Foundry
Mitrailleuse! Yay! Mitrailleuse! This is a 28mm Reffye Mitrailleuse and crew, all figures from Wargames Foundry and their outstanding "Franco-Prussian War of 1870" range.

Today the French word "mitrailleuse" roughly equates to "machinegun" in English - there are a lot of modern weapons you can apply the term to. Back in 1870, however, it applied to this specific weapon, thought to be a real ace in the hole for the Army of Napoleon III. Most of the information I have found speaks of how the French treated the weapon as some sort of state secret, so secret that it impaired the training and proper use of the weapons when war with Prussia came in the summer of 1870.

Great sculpting by the Perrys as always - particularly love the gunner figure
It was fired using a hand-crank.  The bullets were 13mm, and were loaded onto a plate placed into the rear of the weapon.  There are no rotating barrels or anything like that, but rather a series of individual barrels inside a larger tube that otherwise approximates the shape of a light cannon common to that era. I found a neat video here that offers an idea of how the weapon was fired. In an era where weapons were single-shot (I mean, getting rifled and dangerous, but still) and when troops in Europe still moved around in dense lines and columns, one can imagine how this sort of weapon could have been devastating.

One of the gunner figures is sporting a carbine
In the end it did not have much impact on the battlefield, much less a decisive one. So many things went so wrong so fast for the French army in the Franco-Prussian war, and "should have made better use of the Mitrailleuse" is generally one of the top parts of any set of talking points in a review of the French defeat.  The French gunners had little training with them, the French commanders had little understanding of their potential, and the doctrine of their use was based on using the weapons as artillery pieces.  They were seen, essentially, as an alternative to an artillery piece firing grape shot, rather than something that would work closely with the infantry.  As such, they were deployed like artillery, and not attached directly to infantry formations.

The weapon was tricky to use at range - it threw off a lot of smoke, and it was hard for the crew to track the effectiveness of their shooting when operating at artillery-style ranges (even short ones).  Meanwhile the big plumes of gun smoke that appeared when in use made the Mitrailleuse batteries easy to spot - and they seemed to have been priority targets for the lethal Prussian breech-loading artillery, who duly hammered them as soon as they spotted them on the battlefield.

Excessive use of Tajima wonder I run out of them so quickly....
While there is quite a lot to criticize when looking back at the performance of the French Imperial Army in the Franco-Prussian War, I think picking on the Mitrailleuse is a touch too easy for we of the Monday-morning-quarterbacking-military hobby-types today.  Of course, as wargamers, we can perceive the Mitrailleuse within its proper place on the spectrum in the evolution of military weapons.  It's a rapid-firing, proto-machinegun, and we ask - why didn't the French use it that way?  The French infantry already could out-range and out-shoot the Prussian thanks to their superb Chassepot rifles - just imagine how much tougher those French infantry battalions would have been with a battery of Mitrailleuse right up there in the line!  When you consider the later 19th century overall, and think of the deadly effect the Nordenfelt and Gatling guns had in the various Colonial conflicts that flared up in the period, the French use of the Mitrailleuse seems extra bonkers.

But the contemporary military planners of the day did not have that context...they were coming to this as something to augment artillery. In hindsight, it was not that successful, but I can kind of see what the French were going for, and why they went about it - not sure the excessive secrecy was helpful, as it impaired the training and deployment, and understanding of the commanders regarding how these might be employed.  On the other hand, the performance of the overall French high command was so dismal in 1870-71, I don't think the Mitrailleuse could really have changed what happened.

Prussians in sight...
In gaming terms, this will be fun to use on the table for several reasons.  For one, I feel like it's a bit of an iconic piece for the setting and the period - players will see it and immediately think Franco-Prussian War.  Second, we can do "what-if" type situations where the Mitrailleuse is deployed, perhaps due to evolving or accidental circumstance, in a much more "front-line" position - and do this in a "Black Powder" mass-battle setting, or a skirmish setting.  Finally, use of these early proto-machinegun type weapons, it's always fun to have rules for jamming and other mishaps, and see what happens when the players start employing them...

Imperial Wall Project

 Since I started collecting my 30k Imperial Fists, I've been thinking about how to best represent the Battle of Terra. There are a few examples such as this and this, but these are more of diorama displays and not quite playable battlefields. The breaching of the Imperial Wall protecting the Emperors inner palace has been a part of the Horus Heresy story for as along as I can remember (which was 2nd edition). How do you capture the grandeur of the wall and still make it playable? My solution was to make the entire battlefield the breach in the wall and the remaining wall sections bookmark the table. I envision the Traitor forces rushing into the center of the table to exploit the breach which is being defended by loyalist forces. The loyalists have thrown together a desperate defenses out of the wall rubble, while more loyalist reinforcements rush in to plug the gap. This would be a mega game befitting the Battle of Terra.

To make the wall I used some large pieces of Styrofoam I found in my garage rafters (the previous homeowner liked to store stuff in the rafters apparently) that served as the wall and various rubble pieces. The Styrofoam wall sections were then covered in drywall patching tape followed by several layers of drywall mud. Once dried, they were sanded and given a thick coat of primer.

 I then sprayed textured paint over it. This still caused some sections to be eaten by the spray, but I persevered and repaired these sections through a process that is too ridiculous to lay out in this blog. At times I thought I was actually building a wall!
I then cut strips of plastic I found at Lowes and glued them onto the front of the wall to represent some metal details. Furniture nails were used to represent studs.

That is an actual tube of caulking in the bottom right.
 I bought some MDF and resin pieces from TT Combat to add some details to the walls. These include firing steps up top, stairways at the back and a resin hatch to enter the wall. The entire structure was painted with craft paint, GW leadbelcher and Nuln oil wash.
I quickly set up a 6x4 board to demonstrate the scale of the wall. The green flocked board doesn't work with the wall in my opinion, but Dallas has several options that would work better I think.
Imperial Fist groundskeepers are the best in the galaxy.

Large sections of broken wall litter the breach. These serve as improvised defense.

Air defense also from TT Combat

Hatch and stair from TT Combat

. Will Malcador the Sigillite resist pressure to call a public inquiry after Iron Warrior "stress testing" revealed that DornCo was skimping on construction materials?

So hopefully after I get a few more units painted for the Fists, we can roll this out for a mega game this summer.

Monday, April 16, 2018

From Faith, Cometh Honour - Massive Heresy Iron Warriors Update

So, as prep for the New Year's game, some desperate last-minute escalation occurred on the Iron warriors front, in the form of a Leviathan Siege Dreadnought, two squads of Iron Havocs, and a mighty Typhon Siege Tank!

The best thing about the Iron Warriors, though, is how quickly the models paint up. Even assembling the Leviathan went quickly. I used magnets to attach the arm weapons for quick swaps, so the model can be equipped with any two of the Siege Claw, Cyclonic Melta-Lance (!), or Grav-Flux Bombard (!!)

As a side note, it was pointed out at the game how comical the naming conventions are for the Heresy-era Forge World weapons. It's like the designers take one adjective from column A, one from column B, and stick a noun in from column C, and there's your weapon name:








Magnets are fun... and the economy that results from easy swaps is undeniable.

Five missile-launcher equipped MKIV Marines add some flexible firepower...

...while a lascannon squad adds some vehicle-killing capacity.

The Typhon Siege Tank is another key addition to the Iron Warriors contingent.

Assembly was mostly straightforward. The sponson lascannons were a bit tricky but still went together OK.

Decal is from the Iron Warriors transfer set with an added numeral.

The Typhon is a mighty chunk of resin for sure! The main gun itself is ridiculous, but cool-ridiculous, if you know what I mean.

Tracks are ready to roll over the enemies of the Emperor Warmaster!

Of course, all new models acquitted themselves admirably as detailed in the battle report!

Prussian Artillery and 28mm FPW Odds & Ends

Some Prussian artillery and a few foot-slogging odds & ends for my 28mm Franco-Prussian war projects
Over the weekend I finished a few more bits for my 28mm Franco-Prussian War project(s), and here they are!  Up first are a few spare 28mm figures for my skirmish-gaming side of things - these are the extremely awesome sculpts from "Eagles of Empire".  The more I paint these castings, the more I love them.  They have some new figure releases lined up for 2018, and I'm pretty excited to see them - especially the French Turcos!

Chasspot rifles being prepped for action in defence of the Second Empire!
There are four French infantrymen here, intended to "round out" the four squads of French infantry I have painted from seven models to eight models each.  While that difference makes no difference in many skirmish rules, if I can ever sort out "Sharpe Practice" from Too Fat Lardies I think the base elements of four/eight in the infantry units will make a difference.

So much detail on these lovely "Eagles of Empire" castings
These fellows show all of the lean, tall beauty of the "Eagles of Empire" sculpts, with all sorts of excellent detail.  The uniform of the French infantry from this era is just beautiful, and I love to paint them up.
Drums of war! Prussian drummer beats the charge - need to close the range on those Chassepot rifles!

The animation of the "Eagles of Empire" sculpts is really something - you can feel the beat!
There is also a lone Prussian figure - a drummer.  Again, this is mostly intended to "round out" my collection of individually-based 28mm Prussian troops.  Each package of Eagles of Empire Prussians includes both a drummer and a bugler...since the bugler is also carrying a rifle, I used the bugler as command figures, and did not use the drummer.  Now that most of my individually-based Prussians are completed (well, for now, at any rate), I thought the drummer would be a useful figure to have around, so I finished painting him up over the weekend.

And then, we move to an artillery piece! While this may have some application for skirmish-type gaming, the gun piece is intended to accompany the 28mm Prussians I am painting for "Black Powder" type games.  The gun and crew are all from the War-games Foundry FPW range, which was sculpted by the Perry brothers.

Prussian artillery - gun and crew castings from War-games Foundry
The Prussian artillery was devastating in the Franco-Prussian war. While the Prussian infantry were out-gunned by the Chassepot rifles of their French opponents, the steel breach-loading artillery of the Prussian army was a great (over) equalizer.   The Prussian guns out-ranged the rifled muzzle-loading French artillery and would generally blast them to pieces before turning their attention to the French infantry positions.

You can see a bit of the breech-loading mechanism for the artillery in this shot

Ready to fight for the King, and blast those upstart French to pieces! This Krupp weapon will come in handy...
Gaming certain periods in 28mm calls for some distortions, and the FPW games will be subject to this as the ranges would generally stretch beyond most tables, at least for the Prussian guns.  Indeed, when the time comes to finally play a 28mm game, I expect I will be telling the players that the Prussian guns are somewhere off-table...

Still, having some of the lighter guns represented on the table isn't the worst thing in the world - it's always fun to give the players control of some artillery, and then some of the issues that come with it (watching for the firing lanes etc).  Vague off-table threats are one thing, but having the artillery piece on the board will be useful for focusing the minds of the players.  This will be a useful addition to the forces of the Kingdom of Prussia when that distant time arrives for a game of "Black Powder" using massed 28mm figures...