Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Some more Prussian infantry

It's been a bit quiet for me recently on the hobby front. The hex terrain project I mentioned in my last post only got so far before my enthusiasm hit the buffers. I may return to it at some point, but at the moment I'm still searching for terrain ideas and inspiration.

I did manage to reorganise my hobby room so that I now have a permanent 6 x 4 foot table set up, which feels like a great luxury - even if my battlefields are still rather sparse!

I've also been reading a lot of Napoleonic rulesets, trying to find one that might be good for solo play and which is not hex-based. Although Commands & Colors is my favourite game to date, I would like to have a more traditional, non-gridded look to my games sometimes. Field of Battle by Brent Oman is the current forerunner, so I think I'll spend some time trying out those rules over the Easter weekend. Hopefully a standard 6 x 4 tabletop will be big enough for a decent sized game using my 20mm collection.

In the meantime, I decided to paint up some more Prussians from the lead pile. I still need to finish the bases and attach the flag, but it's nice to have another unit of musketeers added. I now have enough for five such 24-fig units, with another unit half done.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A new terrain project with hexes

A few weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and buy the Hex Terrain Toolkit (HTT) designed and sold by Ross Kearns here in the UK. The HTT was originally available via Kickstarter but is now on general sale.

The idea behind the HTT is that you use a series of wooden jigs to build your own modular hex terrain out of polystyrene. The hexes measure 100mm from corner to opposite corner, which is about 87mm across the flats. At the most basic level the HTT allows you to make simple flat hexes and sloping hills, but additional jigs allow you to add rivers and cliffs, as well as a 'snowflake' style system for securing all the hexes in place on the table.

It's a neat little design, and given my liking for hex-based gaming it's something which I should have plenty of use for. Although I already have a growing collection of Kallistra terrain (which I intend to keep using), I liked the idea of using slightly smaller hexes, particular for my 10mm collections. There is also something very appealing about the natural, organic flow of the HTT's sloping hills, and the fact that using a polystyrene-based modular system offers a lot of possibilities, if one is able to use a bit of imagination.

This week I snatched some time here and there to start practising with the toolkit, starting off by using some waste polystyrene packaging to cut basic hexes, a few river sections and a couple of hills. Yesterday I also received some extruded polystyrene in the post, which so far I've found easier to work with than expanded polystyrene.

Above, you can see my first efforts. The grey tiles are the extruded polystyrene. It's much denser than the white packaging stuff, and gives a cleaner cut. Going forward with this project, I intend to use this material rather than expanded polystyrene.

From this angle you can see the hill hexes at the back. Each tile is 15mm deep, and a basic hill is two tiles high, then going up in 15mm increments. Hills can be made with one, two or three high corners (the two you can just see in this photo both have two high points), and there's a option to use a steeper slope for higher hills. It will take a bit of practice cutting the hills to ensure they look as natural as possible, but I think I should get the hang of it quite quickly. The two models in the picture are 6mm buildings by Total Battle Miniatures to give you an idea of scale. Although these hexes will work especially well with my 10mm minis, I think they'll also have great potential for use with my Newline Designs 20mm collections.

Here I've given some of the tiles a bit of paint, prior to adding some static grass etc. I'm still experimenting with what will look best. The rivers you see are cut more or less freehand rather than using the jig. The jig will give you very clean, uniform river straights and bends, but I wanted something a bit more natural looking. Cutting them freehand is easy enough - the main thing is to make sure each end is the same width so they match up. When using my 20mm miniatures, single-hex waterways will be more like a stream, while rivers will be two or more hexes wide.

The extruded polystyrene is an interesting material to work with. I'd never used it before, and hadn't really been aware of just how widely it's used with crafters and model-builders. It's a very easy material to cut and shape, but still reasonably sturdy. This stone wall is something I did in about 10 minutes, playing about with an off-cut. It glues easily with PVA, and the surface takes paint very well. I imagine it should be easy to add filler and other textures to it, too.

At the moment I'm using a handheld hot wire cutter to make the hexes, but I think I'll invest in a tabletop hot wire cutter - probably the one by Proxxon. This will speed the whole project up a bit, and allow me to make use of the styrene for other modelmaking projects.

In the course of starting this project I found some wonderful examples of hexes made by people who are using the Hex Terrain Toolkit, and people who use styrene to make some fantastic models.

Some great examples of hex tiles made using the HTT:

Gerard Boom from Shifting Lands is a great source of inspiration for making styrene models. He also designs and sells mdf tools for use with the Proxxon hot wire cutter:

Ross Kearns, the HTT inventor, also has a series of YouTube videos with tips on how to use the various jigs

More hex terrain goodness to follow...

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Some more Prussian landwehr infantry

A hastily taken picture of the latest unit to be added to the Prussian army - some more landwehr. Painted with red facings this time to represent an East Prussian regiment, instead of the Silesian yellow of the last two landwehr units I did (just for the sake of adding some variety).

As always, figures are by Newline Designs. The Prussian landwehr infantry were the very first figures I painted when this project began a few years ago, and I am rather fond of them. They have a slightly chunkier style compared with most of the other Newline naps I've painted, which perhaps makes the job of painting them a touch quicker and easier.

At the time of writing this, I'm planning to just keep working on the Prussian and French collections, but I seem to change my mind about just about everything from one day to the next, so anything I say might not hold true for long!

The lead mountain for the Prussians is suddenly looking not much like a mountain any more, which is why I'm tentatively thinking it makes sense to push on and get it done. It total, still to do:

  • 1 x 24-figure unit of reserve infantry
  • 3 x 24-figure units of regular line infantry
  • 2 x 24-figure units of jägers
  • 12 x dragoons
  • 12 x hussars
  • 1 x horse artillery
  • 1 x foot artillery (howitzer)
  • assorted command figures

In terms of gaming, Commands & Colors is still my main focus, but I'm beginning to think about some sort of modified version of the rules to suit my own style of gaming, as well as something which fits around my own collection of miniatures. This is all in a state of flux at the moment, but I hope to have a firm idea soon. In the meantime, I'll just keep working through the lead pile.

Hope to show more progress soon!

Friday, December 27, 2019

French dragoons

I finished painting my first unit of dragoons just before Christmas, but with all the festivities I'm only getting round to taking a couple of photos of them today.

Considering how long I've been collecting this French army, this is a long overdue addition, and there will be more to follow at some point soon, along with some other French cavalry I think.

Next year will see me start work on my British Napoleonic army, as well as some Portugese and other allied contingents. I'm not exactly sure when I'll begin this - and it may be on the spur of the moment - but for the time being I would like to press on with the French and Prussians. There's still more to do for both these armies, and it would be good to see them more or less finished before starting a new project.

My dragoons performed well in their first outing on the battlefield yesterday, claiming two victory banners during a replay of Dennewitz 1813 using Commands & Colors (sorry no pics - I did take some with my phone but they're awful). The French won fairly comfortably in the end with a final victory banner count of 7-5 and most of the fighting taking place in the centre and on the Prussian right flank. I'll try to be better organised next time so I have some photos to share of the game.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Some more uhlans...

I added to my Prussian uhlans this week with a few more bases. It's always nice to get a second rank finished to swell the numbers.

My thanks again to Sean from Newline Designs for taking the time to add these new sculpts to the range. They were absolutely worth the wait.

I'm looking forward to getting them onto the table for their first battle.

I'm not done yet with the Prussian cavalry, but this week I think I'll turn my attention back to the French army and work on some light infantry and (finally!) some dragoons.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Prussian uhlans!

A while back, in the course of building up my Prussian army, I got in touch with Sean at Newline Designs to ask him what he thought would be the most suitable figures in his range to use to represent Prussian uhlans. The Newline range is pretty extensive, but one thing I noticed that was missing for the Prussians was lancers.

My main reason for wanting to add lancers to the collection was that they are represented in the Commands & Colors game as a distinct unit type - plus, I've noticed many other Napoleonic rulesets have separate rules to distinguish uhlans from other types of Prussian cavalry. Regardless of rule requirements, though, I think lancers were a pretty cool feature of the Napoleonic battlefield, so I thought they would make a great addition to the collection.

So, my plan was to do some sort of conversion, perhaps using dragoons or mounted landwehr models as a basis, or something from one of the other nations. However, being the throughly nice chap that he his, Sean at Newline (after going away and done a bit of research of his own) decided that he would sculpt some new minis and add them to the range.

Fast forward a number of months to last week when I received a very pleasant surprise email from Sean saying he was sending me some goodies in the post. Needless to say, I was more than just a little excited, and sure enough the next day our postie delivered a very generous bag of 20mm metal goodies. Uhlans!

All other painting was immediately put on hold as I got stuck right into the first batch of these guys. And a real pleasure to paint they were too!

I'm pleased Sean decided to depict them wearing the kollet rather than the litewka, since it helps add a bit of variety to the Prussian cavalry units, which already have dragoons and landwehr wearing the litewka.

Prussian uhlans have quite an interesting history in terms of the formation of the various regiments and the different uniforms that they sometimes had. These ones I've painted are meant to represent the 1st (West Prussian) regiment, which had yellow buttons and white shoulder straps.

As with the French line lancers I did a while back, I decided to use wire lances instead of the cast ones that are supplied. The cast ones are perfectly fine, but I just prefer using the slightly slimmer wire ones.

For reference, I used Digby's Smith's The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of the Uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars, which has some cracking illustrations. And I've also recently expanded my reference library by picking up the Blandford Colour series of books on the Napoleonic Wars, which are also very insightful. Peter Hofschröer's book from the Osprey series was also an excellent source of information - the second volume covers the Prussian cavalry from 1807 to 1815.

Illustration plate from the book by Digby Smith on Napoleonic uniforms. I can highly recommend it!

A plate showing Prussian uhlans from Uniforms of Waterloo by Philip Haythornthwaite

With the other uhlans I have still to paint, I am contemplating using some of them as a basis for a unit of Prussian National Cavalry. The illustration above of the trooper from the Pomerian National Cavalry regiment got me thinking that I could basically use the same uhlan miniatures to represent this regiment because the uniforms are pretty much the same. However, I'd need to give them sabres instead of lances, so I'll see.

Anyway, if like me you've been waiting for the chance to add 20mm Prussian uhlans to your army, then I'm sure Sean will have these excellent new miniatures available on his website in the near future!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Paper buildings

Although my 20mm collection of Napoleonic Prussians and French is up to a fairly good size now, I still have very little in the way of suitable model buildings. My original plans was to use buildings one size down (ie. 15mm), since it keeps the footprint smaller and should look reasonably ok. However, before going down that path I decided to explore the possibility of using paper terrain as a cheaper option.

These are the few models I've built so far. They're all from 'European Buildings' - a book by Peter Dennis and Florian Richter that is part of the Paperboys series published by Helion & Company.

The designs are printed on heavyweight paper, so you can cut them straight out and start assembling, but I decided to scan and print these ones instead, just to give myself a bit of practice first.

In terms of size compatibility, I was pleasantly surprised to find they're pretty much a perfect fit for my 20mm figures from Newline Designs. I had expected I'd be printing them at a slightly reduced size, but not so. They're just fine as they are, which is excellent news since it means I can use the printed pages straight out the book when I'm ready.

The farmhouse (in three sections). The gate (which I thickened with a layer of card) even has paper hinges!

The book contains a good selection of buildings like churches, village houses, a chateau, a farmhouse and windmills, as well as bridges, walls and trees. With a bit of imagination I'm sure one could combine the various designs to create customised buildings. The artworks is superb, as you might expect from Peter Dennis, and all in all I think they look great on the tabletop. From a distance it's not even immediately obvious they are made of paper.

The buildings are advertised as being suitable for European warfare in the 18th and 19th centuries, although not all areas are covered geographically. For example, there are Spanish buildings that would be good for the Peninsular War, but nothing with, say, an overtly Russian flavour for 1812. However, for the price tag it is fantastic value and gives you more than enough to fill a table without having to spend ages painting everything.

This building comes with a separate privy. "Guard the loo!"

Some bits were a bit fiddly to assemble, such as the small dormer windows, but on the whole I found the experience very straightforward and rather enjoyable. In fact, I feel I'm pretty well sold on the idea of using paper buildings, perhaps combined with proper model trees and other things. I can also see the potential to reinforce the buildings using card or foamcore, which is what I've already done with the stone dykes. I could even use the buildings as a template for building my own model versions of them, if I ever find the time. But, for now at least, it's great to have an 'instant' supply of buildings for my 20mm games.