Sunday 30 October 2011

Napoleonic naval game at Conquest 2011

For the past few years I promised myself that I wouldn't get caught in the trap of having to paint up units at the last minute for demo games at the annual 'Conquest' convention held in Christchurch during October. Sadly, yet a gain I set a low standard and failed to achieve it in this regard.

This year the Southern Strategists decided to have a Napoleonic naval battle using the superbly detailed 1/700 ships from the Skytrex range. The bulk of the fleets had been painted by Dave Houston who had introduced the group to naval wargaming last year. As a sign of 'solidarity' (a socialist term frowned upon by Dave who is our resident law firm partner and card-carrying member of the ultra-conservative 'Act' Party here in NZ), we all decided to buy and paint up at least one ship each to provide a sizable game. Several months out from the event another member of the group pushed for the demo game to be a 28mm Victoriana Dark Africa skirmish game. 'Great' I thought as that meant I didn't have to supply any newly painted troops. However, the gaming gods were against me as three weeks out from the convention our Victoriana specialist panicked at the thought of transporting all the required terrain to the show and suggested we revert back to the naval game. 'Bugger' I cried as I that meant I now had to rush to paint up two 3rd Rate ships that were languishing in my lead pile. So, yet again I was still finishing off the ships in the wee hours of the morning before the game, cursing at fingers glued together while try to add rat-lines and rigging. As it turned out my ships entered the fray without any 'colours' and banners due to frustration and tiredness getting the better of me.

Fortunately the effort was worth it as our game received plenty of public attention throughout the day and was a novelty for those use to gaming tables covered with armies instead of model ships. Although not based on any specific battle, the game played using Warhammer Trafalgar rules proved somewhat historical in that both fleets (Franco-Spanish alliance against the Royal Navy) fought until they were near exhaustion, with wind direction determining manoeuvring.

Sadly, my two ships, the 'Berwick ( a French 74-gunner) and the HMS Defiance (another 74-gunner that was seconded to the Franco-Spanish fleet for the game) came to a sticky end on their first outing; the 'Berwick' blew up after leading the vanguard of the Allied fleet, with the 'Defiance' having to strike it's colours after losing all it's cannons and crew. Still, a very enjoyable wargaming genre that provided some variety to the convention and hours of satisfying gaming and convivial banter.

The Southern Strategists table at Conquest...only a few paces from the bar as usual!
Rodger Wood took some images of the game and convention which he will put on his blog 'Rebel Barracks' and the Southern Strategist blog in due course. The convention and swap-meet was well supported as usual, but the most striking image he took records the only female gamer at the convention fully engaged in the 'Flames of War' competition. This sparked some light-hearted suggestion amongst our group that she had an unfair advantage over her opponents in that most male gamers would feel distracted by her womanly qualities and fail to ruthlessly attack her forces, giving her victory. It was certainly unusual but refreshing to see a woman getting involved in such a male dominated hobby.
The valiant but hapless "Berwick" - blown to pieces in it's first engagement

The Berwick before sinking

The fleets collide...the Berwick about to take on three British ships (top centre)

Is that the rule book or a Womens Weekly that she's reading?

HMS Defiance firing a broadside

The Defiance in action before losing her cannon and crew

Now that these ships are done I can get back to my French & Indian War/ Seven Years War project that I have struggled to finish.....    

Saturday 8 October 2011

1st (Royal) Regiment of Foot -Seven Years War

It's been a while since I placed a post of the blog, which is mainly due to my slow painting of figures. I've got a few projects on the go, but watching the rugby World Cup, which is being played here in New Zealand, has been a bit of a distraction as well.

I've just finished painting and basing the 1st (Royal) Regiment of Foot for my Seven Years War project. These are the superb 28mm Front Rank figures that I love due to the detail that makes them easy to paint. This is only the second British regiment that I have painted so far and this time I changed the painting style; previously when painting faces I left black shading from the under-coat and painted in the eyes. However, this time I just gave the faces and hands a wash using Citadel's Gryphonne Sepia wash. This certainly cut down on painting time but the jury is still out on the final 10-year-old son is my greatest critic of my painting and he prefers my previous painting style.

These units should prove very versatile as I intend to use them in my '45 project, along with gaming the French & Indian War and the Seven Years War in Europe. I'm currently in the process of finishing off some 25mm Dixon Seven Year War Highlanders that I'm painting up as the 42nd Foot (The Black Watch). I have these troops wearing buff facings so that I can use them for the '45 project, as well as for the French & Indian War. The only problem that I have struck with them is that the Dixon standard bearers come with the flag pole attached and are too small for the GMB flags that I use. To remedy this I had to order a couple of Front Rank standard bearers so that the regiment could proudly display their colours. I'm not too worried about the size difference as I have also included in the unit the 'Wee Wully' Highland officer that was free with the Last Argument of Kings supplement for the Black Powder rules; this figure is larger than the Dixon figures but should fit well with the Front Rank standard bearers on the same stand. The blue facing of this unit is much darker than the photos portray, using Vallejo Imperial Blue to get the right dark shade required. 

I've also included in this post my newly re-based British Legion cavalry from my American War of Independence British Army. I've had this unit for some time but they suffered casualties in the September 2010 earthquake that struck Christchurch. Hence, they have received a fresh coat of paint and have had their balsa wood bases replaced with mdf ones....and nicer flocking.

Another long term project has been the building of an 18th century brigantine from the plans Gary Chalk published in Wargames Illustrated in the 1990s. Again, this has been a slow process but I thought I should provide a photo of the progress made so far. At this stage I have the 'bones' of the ship together but with plenty of work still to come. Originally I intended this to be a pirate ship but will ensure I have a number of different flags to attach to it to provide some versatility in what I can use it for. I've already decided to call it the 'King James' in honour of my Irish Jacobite ancestors, so I suppose that prevents it from being part of the Royal Navy....meaning I'll have to produce a second ship to fight against it.

1st (Royal) Regiment of Foot
Royal regiments had dark blue facings and, in the case of the 1st Foot the officers & drummers, had Royal gold/ yellow lace

Tarleton leads his British Legion cavalry

Front Rank British Legion cavalry 'refitted' & ready for action
The brigantine 'King James' under construction- fortunately I haven't glued the masts and bowsprit in yet as it appears the bowsprit is too long and I need to swap the masts around....still a work in progress!

Oh, I just about forgot to mention that the book I recently wrote for Osprey, 'The New Zealand Expeditionary Force in World War 1,' is due to be released on 18 October. The artwork by Mike Chappell is simply superb and I'm thrilled that he has agreed to be part of the second project covering 2NZEF in World War 2, which won't be released until late 2012/ early 2013.            

Monday 15 August 2011

25mm North American buildings

Christchurch is in the grips of a polar snow storm today, with businesses and schools closed. This meant that there was little chance of me getting any writing done with my wife and kids home for the day as well. The silver lining was that it gave me an opportunity to introduce my 9-year-old son to painting terrain. He has been keen to start painting paint figures but I thought he could start by undercoating some stone walls that have been languishing unpainted for a number of years. A wargaming colleague from Wellington has a teenage son who does the basic painting of his figures, and if I'm ever to see the end of my lead mountain then I will eventually follow the same path.
This afternoon I also photographed some 25mm North American building that I finished painting in the last couple of weeks. I 'rescued' them second-hand from one of my fellow Southern Strategists who had them for sale in the annual wargaming swap-meet here in the 'garden city.' I think they were originally purchased from Military Miniatures in Auckland and designed by Mark Strachan. When I received them they were in a semi-painted state and gave the appearance of being from a long-forgotten project that had died through lack in interest. So, one man's junk became another man's treasure.

After a new black under-coat, a top coat and then some dry some basic flocking...they were ready to make an appearance in any future AWI or ACW games. The general store, log cabin and barn are smaller than the Hovels buildings that I have for the same periods but should be ok if placed together as a small hamlet or farm.    

Friday 22 July 2011

Napoleonic- 12th Light Dragoons

Way back in 1994 when I last visited the UK I had a bit of a spend up at the Guardroom wargaming shop in Dunstable. They specialised in providing ready made armies for those gamers who were starting out building up new metal armies. I had purchased four of these armies when I had been in the UK in 1991 and by 1994 I needed to fill some gaps in these. To that end, the purchases in 1994 included a 12-figure regiment pack of Essex 28mm Napoleonic British Light Dragoons that I needed for my Peninsula project. For 16 years they languished in a box unpainted until last year when I determined to paint them up for a demo game that the Southern Strategists put on at the annual 'Conquest' convention here in Christchurch.

Although another gamer got to command them in their first outing...and I got to fight against them...they performed well. However, at the time they didn't have a standard, which I have recently rectified. Hence, these images were taken recently to celebrate them receiving their new superb GMB standard.

I chose to paint them up as the '12th' mainly because I had access to some colour photos of the 12th Light Dragoon reenactment group to use as references, plus I liked the yellow facings that made a great contrast to the dark blue jackets. I still have a unit each of heavy dragoons and Hussars to paint for the project, but they will probably remain in their packets until next year.       

Thursday 21 July 2011

New Osprey Men-at-Arms title- New Zealand Expeditionary Force in WW1

Some followers of this blog may be aware that over the last couple of years I have been researching and writing a PhD thesis on the Officer Corps of the New Zealand Army, covering WW1 and WW2. It has been a great journey so far and along the way I thought that it would be good if somebody wrote an Osprey title covering the NZ forces of this era. When I suggested it to Osprey they asked if I would be interested in doing it. As a result the first title 'The New Zealand Expeditionary Force in World War 1' is due for release in October. A second title 'The NZ Expeditionary Force in WW2' won't be released until early 2013 due to the number of projects Osprey already have pending, but work is already well underway.

Researching and writing the book was certainly a learning experience for me, especially in regard to the various uniform details covering the different corps within the force. I have been fortunate in receiving expert advice and guidance from a number of other NZ military scholars which has ensured the book is more accurate than it would have been without their help. I have also been able to reproduce a large number of photographs that have never been published before which will make this book unique.To top it off, Osprey secured the services of Mike Chappell, an outstanding military illustrator, who has provided the superb colour plates of various uniforms and equipment.

I have a sizable collection of Osprey titles which I have gathered over the years, but I never thought one of them would be one I wrote myself. Although I know all the information inside the book, I can't wait to get a printed copy in my hands.      

Saturday 16 July 2011

Dark Ages Saxon Cavalry

Last week I finished off a unit of Saxon cavalry to complement the two Huscarl war bands that featured in a previous posting. I rushed to get these done for a fortnightly game that Rodger Wood was putting on for the Southern Strategists here in Christchurch. Sadly, I was AWOL for the game due to rugby coaching duties but the fantastic lay-out can be seen on Rodger's blog at

I found these figures easy to paint and had intended to 'tart' them up a bit by using commercial slide transfers on the shields from Little Big Men Studios. However, I ended up painting them myself so that they would be ready for the game...alas, it wasn't an issue in the end. I intend to use the figure on the grey horse as the overall leader of my Saxon horde. I still have two 'Fyrd' war bands left to paint up but these will have to wait as other projects have priority at the moment. Perhaps I will have to purchase a small contingent of archers to provide some missile firing to soften up the enemy, which I think will complete my small Saxon force.

I may have mentioned before that my main interest is in the 'Horse & Musket' periods, and to this end I'm currently working on a Seven Year War project. I'm half way through painting up a British infantry regiment to add to the one I had painted a few years ago. It's been a bit of a drawn out process, being distracted by other projects taken on by the Southern Strategists, but I'm determined to see this through over the next year or so...time will tell.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Zulu War - Natal Carbineers

Late last year I discovered the superb 28mm range of Empress Miniatures. I initially purchased some of their dismounted Natal Carbineers to be included in my small Zulu War British force. I had already painted up a company of Black Tree British infantry and the Carbineers were needed to provide a mobile scouting element.

 Once the Carbineer figures arrived I realised that they were slightly smaller than the Black Tree troops, but when painted up and mounted the difference wasn't a problem. These figures had come under some criticism on the TMP forum regarding the over-sized spikes on the helmets, but in my opinion they look fine.

Earlier this year I purchased the newly released mounted Natal Carbineers so that I could portray the unit scouting and skirmishing dismounted. At the time there was no mounted officer available in the range but this has since been rectified. The officers now come in a single pack that has one mounted and one dismounted officer wearing a braided jacket...which is on my purchasing list.

The figures have lots of detail, almost no flashing to remove and are easy to paint.....and the quick and friendly service I received from Empress makes me want to spend more money with them.

Friday 27 May 2011

Saxon Huscarls

Although 'Horse & Musket' is my favourite period, somehow I managed to allow myself to be convinced by several of the Southern Strategist boys to delve into the Dark Ages. I'm not sure how this happened but their argument that I wouldn't have to paint a whole army...only 2 or 3 warbands...may have clinched the deal. The other blokes had already bought a horde of 28mm Renegade figures, so I followed suit. To be quite honest, it was fairly painless buying the few figures that I needed as Renegade remain some of the cheapest 28mm metal figures on the market.
As usual, I ended up buying more figures than I had originally intended. However, they were quick and easy to paint compared to Napoleonic or Lace Wars battalions that I'm use to. The agreed size of the warbands was only 12 figures per unit, so I decided to initially paint up two units to begin with. The most fun was had deciding on the shield designs, which I painted myself in the end after initially toying with the idea of buying the superb slide transfers from Little Big Men Studios. I'm sure they would have enhanced the end result but I took the cheaper option.
In the past I have painted in the eyes of my figures, but now rely on washes to bring out the facial features. This technique works well with finely sculpted figures, such as Front Rank, but Renegade are not as defined which gave a less than desirable result. That said, Renegade figures are robust and solid, which I like...and competitively priced as well.

This project also gave me an opportunity to attempt to make my own cloth banners. I had read several articles where gamers had used cotton cloth to make flags, so I thought I would give it a go. I thought I would keep it simple to begin with by tracing the outline of Celtic crosses on the pieces of cloth that I had cut out...then I painted the whole piece with watered down PVA glue to stiffen it. This was followed by adding the colours using Vallejo acrylics. The banners were then glued to cross standards that I put together using florist wire. A fairly average result but I intend to be a bit more adventurous when I paint up the mounted troops and two units of Saxon fyrd that are still in their packets. The figures were based for skirmish games but I painted and flocked a couple of Citadel unit bases to move the unit around when they are to be used in large battles.                 

Saturday 14 May 2011

AWI Black Powder game at the Redoubt

The British left flank advancing from Freeman's Farm to engage the rebels. All the 28mm figures are from Front Rank.
British grenadiers advancing and supported by light infantry, Royal Artillery and Hessian grenadiers. The farm house and fences were scratch built by Rodger Wood.

The 5th Foot advancing to the beat of the drum in parade ground fashion.

The British centre and left flank attacks engaging the rebels.  

The 42nd Foot (The Black Watch), supported by the 47th Foot, exchange volley fire with rebel militia.

The 5th Foot in melee with rebel militia.

My Royal Artillery supported by Dave Houston's superbly painted Hessian grenadiers.