Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A red that works

Those of you who regularly apply brush to miniature know that there are certain colours that are, shall we say, reluctant participators in this whole painting thing. I'm talking about reds and yellows of course.

Reds and yellows, because of the way these pigments work physically, do not cover easily. You will usually need more than one layer to get a good coverage with any yellow or red, even with miniature paints where the amount of pigment in the paint is higher than usual. And if you do get coverage with a reddish or yellowish colour, I'm certain you'll find that it is more of a brownish colour, which is cheating really.

Until now that is. I've discovered a red that actually covers a black undercoat in one go. [Games Workshop](http://www.games-workshop.com) (yes, the vaunted evil empire and bugbear of many supposedly stout hearted historical wargamer) do a range of paints called [Foundation Paints](http://www.games-workshop.com/gws/catalog/armySubUnitCats.jsp?catId=cat470012a&rootCatGameStyle=) which are specifically formulated to be used as base coats and intended to cover in one layer. I'm guessing what that means is that they have so much pigment in them that they're just a midsomer nights sigh away from being chalk.

But, never one to shy away from some experimentation (I blame my education) I bought the red ([Mechrite Red](http://www.games-workshop.com/gws/catalog/productDetail.jsp?catId=cat470012a&prodId=prod810840)) and one of the yellow ([Ivanden Darksun](http://www.games-workshop.com/gws/catalog/productDetail.jsp?catId=cat470012a&prodId=prod810844)) ones to try them out. You'll notice that I went straight for the difficult customers here.

Earlier this week, I used the red one as the shade coat for the piping on a bunch of Bavarian light infantrymen I'm painting and you can hit me over the head with a flabby flounder and call me flaky if it didn't cover the black undercoat in one go. Even thinned (I almost never use paint straight out of the pot) down to my preferred consistency it still covers the black. I'm sold.

Now only to find something to paint yellow to try the other one.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Meeples & Miniatures painting specials

While painting the last few days, I've been listening to two episodes of the [Meeples and Miniatures podcast](http://www.meeplesandminiatures.co.uk/): episodes 65 and 69 which form two parts of a special on painting miniatures.

Host Neil Shuck and guest presenter Steve Archbold talk about painting miniatures (obviously) for someone who is only just beginning to paint. So they go into all the basics such as material, painting techniques and painting styles.

A few things I particularly like about it is that they have a firm emphasis on army painting, i.e. painting a miniature to a standard that works on the tabletop in a time frame that actually gets said miniature on the tabletop with a few tens or hundreds of its friends and enemies. Additionally, it hits upon a few of the things that I know are true (I have a bit of experience painting miniatures myself) but haven't really heard or read in much other places. Things like brush control, brush size (the bigger the better - which is somewhat counterintuitive) and the amount of contrast you need on a wargame level figure (more than you think).

Of course, there are areas where I disagree (I *do* dip figures in Army Painter, as real men do - you can be the judge as to the [result](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000295.html) ) and the hosts accent is thick enough to host an elephants picknick on, but in general these are two very good podcast episodes to listen to, preferrably while painting miniatures. Heartily recommended.

[Meeples and Miniatures episode 65](http://traffic.libsyn.com/meeplesandminiatures/meeplesandminiatures_ep65.mp3)

[Meeples and Miniatures episode 69](http://traffic.libsyn.com/meeplesandminiatures/meeplesandminiatures_ep69.mp3)

Sunday, 21 November 2010

US Cavalry

These are some of my last unpainted Old West type figures (they're Foundry figures if you hadn't guessed). They were half (well, a quarter) painted what must have been almost 10 years ago and then abandoned. They ended up in a shoebox that made it through about 4 house moves before I rediscovered them when rearranging storage in my attic last week.

US Cavalry

Anyway, they've been painted over the last few days. Three of these figures were three quarters done 10 years ago, when I still painstakingly mixed my own colours and used upwards of 4-5 layers on each colour. The rest of them are painted in my current army level 2-layer style. If you can spot which is which, feel free to comment with your guesses :)

Next up on the painting table is a battalion of 24 Bavarian light infantry (Napoleonic). They'll make up the 1st Light Battalion.

Great Northern Powder

27 April 2016: links updated, and downloadable document restored.

As reported here earlier we played a Great Northern War scenario using Black Powder as the ruleset. As the Great Northern war falls just outside of the purview of these rules -- not in chronology but rather in weaponry and tactics -- we used a number of adaptations to the rules.

The below document, now christened _Great Northern Powder_, repeats these adaptations, with a few modifications brought upon by the experience of the game and with everything dolled up a bit as well.

Great Northern Powder (606Kb)

Differences with the earlier version are:
  • Slight rewording
  • Further clarified pike rules
  • Upped cavalry HtH stats
  • Included sample unit stats 
Feel free to use and adapt these in your own games. The version linked above is the low resolution version. If you want to print it, send me an email and I'll send the hires version (though be warned that that's a lot bigger).

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Battle of Ingenstansby

Update February 2016: Link to pdf document restored.

Last Tuesday we played a Great Northern War game, this time using the Black Powder ruleset with [a number of modifications](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000386.html) to adapt it to that period, theatre and set of opponents.

The scenario was the battle of Ingenstansby, a fictional battle which I've played three times now using two different rulesets (Beneath the Lily Banners and now Black Powder), adapting it to lessons learned each time so it's close to getting well balanced and playable :):

Battle of Ingenstansby (504Kb)

The game went pretty well, for a first game of a new ruleset. Eddy, as Swedish player, chose to attack the Russians behind the stream immediately while advancing on his left flank in the hope of drawing out some Russian troops there. Phil, as tsar Peter, defended the stream and Ingenstansby with his best infantry brigade and advanced on both flanks with the cavalry.

One of the nice things about Black Powder is that is meant to give a good game in a single wargame evening, which in this game meant that units were in contact at the end of turn one. Unfortunately for the Swedes, their attack in the center faltered when it met the concentrated fire of Golitsyn's brigade and two field guns - one regiment broke and streamed away to the rear, while two other were stopped in their advance by the murderous fire.

On the flanks it went a bit better for the Swedish player. On his right, the cavalry managed to chase of an attack by Russian dragoons and horse grenadiers, while on the left a hastily formed infantry line bounced another cavalry attack. However, in a brilliant move by Phil, one squadron of Russian dragoons managed to outflank this line and wreak havoc in the Swedish rear, overrunning two struggling battalion guns and forcing the king to seek refuge among the right flank cavalry for fear of being overrun.

All in all a good game, of which more pictures can be seen in [this set](http://www.flickr.com/photos/robartes/sets/72157625288357287/).

I did however have the feeling that the players had little tactical decisions to make, largely because of the move distances of the units in Black Powder. After a turn, and at the latest two, the major lines of the battle had been set and it became essentially a dice rolling exercise with little maneuver left. The battle was set in concrete after two turns. Next time, I think we'll reduce the move distances by a third - my table is 6x8 while most of the games by the author's group is on a 6x12 table. The excellent summary sheets [here](http://perrysheroes.free.fr/spip.php?article259) make this conversion easy :).

Apart from the movement distances, I'll make some adjustments to our Black Powder adjustments :), mostly in the unit stats. I'm thinking of giving the Swedish infantry 'Elite' to make it more likely they will continue to advance through enemy fire, and upping both sides' cavalry HtH scores. But that will be the subject of another post.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Black Powder adaptations for Great Northern War

We're planning a Great Northern War scenario soon, and we intend to use the [Black Powder rules](http://www.warlordgames.co.uk/?p=3177). These rules cover the entire horse and musket period, basically the era in which the musket was the most important infantry weapon.

I feel the Great Northern War falls just outside of the range for these rules. This war, more so than the contemporary War of Spanish Succession (the Marlburian wars), really straddles the 'pike and shot' era on the one had and the 'horse and musket' on the other. Both parties still carried around pikes, yet the units they were organised in were classic horse and musket battalions as opposed to pike and shot tercios or their later Protestant versions, and the musketeers had bayonets.

So, a number of adaptations are necessary to use the Black Powder rules for this period. This post will list them. This is very much a first stab at this, as next Tuesday's game will undoubtedly provide more insight into whether they work or not.

That said, here goes:

### Units

Our infantry battalions are based 18-20 on three stands. A 'standard' infantry unit is thus in this range of figures (18-20). Cavalry squadrons are based 6 to two bases. A 'standard' cavalry unit is thus 6 figures.

There are no skirmishers in this period. Undoubtedly, units did fight in skirmish order, but the concept of formal skirmishers or light troops did not exist yet. So, no skirmishers.

### Formations

There are only two formations for infantry and cavalry: line and march column. There are no attack columns or squares (but see pikes).

### Firing

One die of firing per musket stand. For our troops, that works out as two dice for the Swedish and three for the Russians. If your troops are based differently, it also works out as the ratio of musket to pike in the units. Swedish had a third of their battalions as pikes, so they get 2 thirds of normal fire, i.e. 2 dice.

Units that are all musket armed get +1 on their fire (so would without other circumstances hit on 3+ instead of 4+).

As the fact that you're firing from a live firing platform that tends to shy away from loud noises is much more important than what you're actually firing with, I'm giving cavalry on both sides (most of which were armed with a carbine) the standard 1 dice in fire.

### Melee

This is an area where it is important to differentiate the Swedish and Russians correctly to keep the historical flavour. For those unfamiliar with the period, the main Swedish characteristic in this war (apart from a propensity for half -- or fully -- rotten fish) is their aggressiveness: they trained to close with their enemy and engage in hand to hand, as opposed to the linear firefight type of combat all other infantry was trained for. So that needs to be reflected. Pikes, which both sides still used, also add to the hand to hand capability of a unit.

I decided to give Swedish infantry a 7 for hand to hand combat value, and Russian infantry a 6. Further differentiation can be done using unit special properties. I selected 7 vs 6 as opposed to 6 vs 5 for two reasons: the pikes and the fact that I like things to move on, and I'm guessing they will with higher factors.

Cavalry in this period, again with the exceptions of the Swedish, were not intended to be battle winning chargers. Their main function was to eliminate the other side's cavalry and then fall upon the flanks of the infantry line. Only the Swedish cavalry was trained to aggressively close with and destroy the enemy. So, I'm giving Swedish cavalry the standard 7 in hand to hand and downgrading the Russian to 6. I'm also not differentiating between different types of cavalry. Whether they were termed 'Horse' or 'Dragoons' or whatever did not matter much - they pretty much performed the same function on the battlefield.

### Pikes

Initially I had thought these to be the hardest part of these adaptations. However, I've kept it quite simple (though that might change after the game :) ): on the one hand, pikes give the higher HtH factor mentioned above. On the other, they enable to unit to function as a square. While a pike armed unit does not actually form square, when it is frontally attacked by cavalry, it can form up with pikes in an anti-cavalry formation (i.e. spread out over the entire frontage instead of only in the center). The rule for this is exactly the same as that for 'Form Square' (p.75 of the rulebook). So, essentially, the unit tests and if it succeeds, it forms an anti cavalry formation with the exact same advantages as a square (for the frontal fight).

There are only two differences with the Form Square rule:

* A unit that is Disordered can _not_ form up pikes
* Forming up pikes is always optional. The unit may choose to deliver closing fire instead of forming up in an anti cavalry formation.

### Special unit rules

Infantry units on both sides have First Fire. Swedish infantry have Ferocious Charge. These are the standard special rules I'll try for all units. Others such as Guards on both sides will of course have other special rules.

A final word of warning: giving these units such good hand to hand factors only makes sense within their own period. If you plan to use them out of period, you will unbalance things. Gentlemen would never do that, of course.

And that's it. We'll see whether this all makes sense soon - stay tuned.

_Update_: a new version, incorporating what we learned when playing the game, is [here](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000388.html).

Friday, 12 November 2010

Great Northern War resources

This post came about because of a fellow gamer (sorry, I didn't get your name) showed a lot of interest in our game at Crisis and, having bought quite a few boxes of the Zvezda 1/72 figures for the Great Norther War, was wondering where to get the information to paint them. I'll list some of the books and other resources I used (and still use) to get the information for building my armies.


First the two books which were my main source for the uniforms (such as there were) and flags of the troops. That latter part can be taken literally, as many of the flags on the miniature units are scans from these books.

* _The Great Northern War 1700 - 1721, Colours and Uniforms_. Lars-Eric Höglund and Åke Sallnäs, Acedia Press
* _The Great Northern War 1700 - 1721, II. Sweden's allies and enemies, Colours and Uniforms_. Lars-Eric Höglund, Åke Sallnäs and Alexander Bespalow, Acedia Press

Both these books can be bought from Pete Berry at [Baccus Miniatures](http://www.baccus6mm.com) (check under Products/Publications).

Next are two books on the history of the Great Northern War and more specifically the Russian campaign and the battle of Poltava:

* _The battle that shook Europe. Poltava and the birth of the Russian empire_. Peter Englund, I.B. Tauris
* _The dawn of the Tsarist empire. Poltava and the Russian Campaigns of 1708-1709_. Nicholas A. Dorrel, Partizan Press

Both are good books, the second going more into the military detail of the campaign and providing good scenario material. The OOB of the units on our Poltava game was based on this latter book. The first should be generally available, the second can be ordered from [Caliver Books](http://www.caliverbooks.com).

And finally there's three Ospreys that deal directly with the campaign:

* [Campaign 34 - Poltava 1709](http://www.ospreypublishing.com/store/Poltava-1709_9781855324169)
* MAA 260 - Peter the Great's Army 1: Infantry
* MAA 264 - Peter the Great's Army 2: Cavalry

Unfortunately, the book on the Russian infantry seems to be perpetually out of stock. Also, there are no Ospreys on the Swedish army of the period (apart from some plates in the Campaign book on Poltava).

On the web

Dan Schorr's [Northern Wars](http://www.northernwars.com/) page had some great information on various aspects of the Great Northern War, but the page has gone offline recently. I mention it in the hope that it will come back someday.

Wikipedia has a good page on [the Great Northern War](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Northern_War) and on the [battle of Poltava itself](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Poltava).

Finally, there is good content relating to the Great Northern War at [Wikimedia Commons](http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Great_Northern_War), much of which is in the public domain.

The above list should get any gamer interested in the Great Northern war started in this fascinating bit of history.

*Update 13/11/2010*: the Wyre Forest Games Club has a number of very good pages on the Great Northern War. Start [on this page](http://www.wfgamers.org.uk/resources/C18/gnw.htm) and then explore using the menu at the top of the page.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Crisis 2010 - Poltava game thoughts and documents

Update January 2014: Links to documents at end of document restored.

We took our Poltava game to this year's Crisis. The game was well received we thought (at least it seemed there was nary a moment when there was not at least one person taking photographs of the game) though we did not win any prizes with it. Some pictures (among many others) can be seen on various forums:
Let me just copy one of the last forum's pictures here, which shows what happens when you let one of our more enterprising members umpire the game :) : the ahistorical collapse of the Russian left flank.


Anyway, while there have been some rumblings and musings in the extended gamer group (all four or five of us :) ), we had fun on the day and we got two 18th century horse and musket armies out of it, which we intend to use quite a lot.

I'll leave you with two documents for the game: the (English language) handout and the list of cards (and thus the rules) we used for the game.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A mule and some new lighting

This post, my first in a long time, hits two birds with one stone. It is a picture of what I just painted and it talks about a new photography gimmick I found. First the picture:

It's nothing special, just a pack mule (Foundry I think). I've been reorganising storage on the attic a bit (to make room for more figures, of course) and came across a box with a few Old West type figures that were half painted years ago. I'm now finishing them, and this is the first of them off the table.

Now to the second point. Notice how the picture is one of the best lighted I have taken in a long while. As you all know, [lighting is everything](http://www.nirya.be/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search.cgi?search=photography+lighting&Template=ttm) when taking good miniature photographs. I've experimented with a lot of lighting setups (see some of the posts behind that last link) and while I have been able to get occasional good results, many of them were unwieldy (several lights) or not readily available (sunlight of the right sort).

That's when I came across this silly looking gizmo on eBay (clicking it takes you to the item listing):

Flash diffuser

It's a flash diffuser. You slide it in the hot shoe for an external flash and the white bit then sits in front of the pop up flash on the camera and diffuses the light (a bit). The result is seen in the picture of the pack mule - it was taken with the flash diffuser, and I only did a quick adjustment of output levels and a crop in iPhoto afterward.

Highly recommended! You get the advantage of a flash (no fiddly lights, no long setup) without (most) of the disadvantages (overexposure, washed out harsh highlights).

Monday, 8 November 2010

Kevin Dallimore's Painting & Modelling Guide: Master Class

So there it is, a follow up to master painter Kevin Dallimore's first painting guide which Bart V reviewed [some time ago](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000211.html), giving him "mixed feelings". Now for someone who has long mastered the very same layering technique as advocated by Mr Dallimore and once thought that 6-layer paint jobs were the bare minimum, there was not much 'new' in the first volume. Nor is the 3-layer technique the stuff off hyper-complexity so even modest painters don't 'need' the full 176 pages to get the hang of it. However, the book is always in short reach of my painting desk as it offers a huge source of inspiration and its amazing pictures yield you great info on what color schemes work and which not. I find myself often oogling over the horse paint schemes for instance.

Now onto its 308! page follow up. It starts with a short recap of the 3-layer technique to dive into somewhat more advanced methods such as Non Metallic Metal, Glazing, Textured leather, Blending and 7 layer paint job extravaganzas etc. Then there is a large section with painting examples from different 'periods'(Fantasy and science fiction, Ancients to Medievals, Napoleonic and Franco-Prussian, Pioneers and Adventures and finally WW2). These periods are interspaced with modelling and conversion articles, where Kevin goes really overboard on a couple of Science Fiction tanks (A bit too elongated if you ask me), buildings, dioramas and an odd river boat.

As the input was delivered by many of Kevin's painting pals the feel is less uniform as the first volume and there is a certain level of repetion (yes they all remove flash, yes they all gloss/matt varnish) but overlooking the repetition there are several bits that give you the "ahum I might try this at home" feeling. Also depending on the style of the writer some subjects are handled more elaborately than others. The part on blending for instance only covers three pages and 5 figures. The part on painting vehicles covers 21 pages and 70! figures.

In short, it is not the Holy Painting Grail that shares you the dark hidden secret of ultimate painting skills. Most off the content is plain sensible down to earth stuff. That said, I really enjoyed reading it, well more just looking at it really, and the book will probably give you some ideas to work with (This applies to normal mortals, Bart V). However,if you really want to field an entire army using the more advances methods as outlined in this book you probably go bonkers.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A 40 year old mystery, thanks to Nazaire Beeusaert

A few weeks ago I visited a special exhbition in the [Belgian Army Museum](http://www.legermuseum.be/) in Brussels. On display was part of an extensive collection of toy soldiers of collector Jacques Witmeur. Although I had some trouble in actually getting to this special exhibit (apparantly museum personnel seems to think closing off a special exhibition is in the interest of their customers, but a special thanks to the friendly man at the reception desk for summoning his minions to open it for me), it was worth it. Several thousands of toy soldiers, of all periods and manufacturers, were organized along several historic themes. A pleasure for the eye, especially the eye of someone who likes to play with toy soldiers.

In the museum shop I bought the booklet that was published together with exhibition (“Figurines Made in Belgium” by Paul Herman and Jacques Witmeur), and which lists all the Belgian manufacturers that at one time or another made and sold toy soldiers. I was particularly interested in this work, since I was hoping to identify some soldiers that have been in my collection for over 40 years. As long as I remember, I do own some soldiers that once belonged to my dad as a child. These were 'Belgian' soldiers, and as a kid, I happily mixed them with my plastic 'Cowboys and Indians' playsets. Needless to say they have taken quite some beating over the years.


Anyway, the only identification I ever found on these figures read 'NB' on the bottom of their base, which - after consulting the booklet - seems to stand for the Belgian toymaker Nazaire Beeusaert. Just the sound of this name makes it come from a different era! A quick Google-search turned up some more facts. There is a [website dedicated to Nazaire Beeusaert](http://www.vanwanzeele.com/beeusaert/), on which I could actually see some photographs of exactly the same figures as in my collection. A 40 year old mystery solved after all.