Saturday, 28 May 2016

French Infantry

Things are a bit chaotic at the moment (at work and at home) and my small workbench is barely visible what with half painted figures, bottles of glue and bits of polystyrene and cardboard all over the place.  All the signs of frenetic multi-tasking.  Anyway, here are some figures that I finished last week or so: Italeri French Napoleonic infantry.
These are very nice figures and far outstrip any other 1/72 scale plastics I've seen (mainly on Plastic Soldier Review, rather than in the flesh).  Being later period figures they are wearing trousers over their breeches which makes a change from the old Airfix figures I have painted previously (see here and here).
I also took the opportunity to make them a bit more campaign style with some of them wearing brown trousers.  The poses in the packs are fairly static but they are nice and robust looking and the detail easily rivals things like the 28mm Perry plastics (in my opinion).  In fact these figures are actually quite tall, being closer to 25mm than the regulation 20mm.
There are voltigeurs and grenadiers in the mix but for my units I just painted them all as fusileers (although I left the red strips on the grenadiers' shakos - I may paint over them later).  I quite like the figure reaching back into his cartridge box, although from some angles he looks like he's massaging his lumbago.

Having bought two packets of these I can make six 16 figure units (based on 60mm x 20mm bases as per WRG 1685-1845) and because there are three officers, drummers and standard bearers per pack that means I don't have to scrabble around in my spares box looking for figures to convert for the command elements.
For information, my painting style for this scale (and 15mm) is to undercoat in black and then paint a shade coat (light grey for white areas) and then overpaint the main colour, letting some of the shade layer show through.  I'm not patient enough to do that whole three layer system thing required for larger figures.

For the faces I paint them a sort of rust colour and then dab four points of flesh on the chin, nose and cheeks, which does the trick.  Finally, I base them using coarse shelly sand stuck on with PVA glue, giving it a wash of dark earth, followed by a dry brush with a sand colour and then with some Javis flock added leaving plenty of earth showing through.

Friday, 13 May 2016

French Artillery

It's nice to be back painting again and here is what I finished last week, some French Napoleonic artillery.
Esci cannons with Airfix crew
These are 20mm plastics and the guns come from the Esci foot artillery set, which actually has guard artillery crew.  Being a bit more down to earth I prefer to have fewer rather than more guard units and therefore I paired the guns up with some Airfix (line) artillery crew.
The Esci set is quite generous and comes with two normal cannon (12pdrs I think) plus two howitzers.
The howitzer
I had managed to misplace one of the howitzer barrels over the years (it turned up just after I'd completed all these, of course) and so I used a cannon from the Airfix set.  The Airfix gun carriages are far too small and have the wrong number of spokes on the wheels, amongst other problems, but the gun itself when put onto the Esci carriage doesn't look too bad.
Airfix cannon on an Esci carriage
As the cannon I used was from the Airfix set I nostagically crewed this piece with the few figures I had remaining from the the very first Airfix artillery figures I got, from sometime back in the 1970s.  Not many of them left but they still paint up OK (I had refurbished the remaining marching figures as an infantry unit previously).

The guns and crew are on 40mm x 60mm bases and my usual basing technique of coarse shelly sand painted in Revell Dark Earth, with a bit of dry brushing and then selective flocking, completed them nicely.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

There is Nothing Like a Dane

I've only been to Denmark once, and that was a school trip when I was 17 where I ended up in hospital with food poisoning, meeting a number of charming Danish nurses in the process... Anyway, back to the real world (sadly).
On the contrary, these are exactly like Danes
We managed seven wargames last year, which was pretty good for us and I'm hoping we can fight more than that this year.   If you were counting I feel I should confess one of them from last year wasn't blogged because I lost the camera on the way home so nothing survives of it apart from the sketch-map (I'm thinking to rerun the scenario again this year).  Anyway, here is the game we played last weekend.
Battle of Oeversee
The scenario was taken from Neil Thomas' book Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878 and was a recreation of a rearguard action between retreating Danes and advancing Austrians, the Battle of Oeversee (Second Schleswig War, 1864).
The real battle was an incident in relation to the intractable 'Schleswig-Holstein Question', the solution to which Palmerston remarked was only understood by three people: Prince Albert (who was dead); a German professor (who went mad thinking about it); and Palmerston himself, who claimed he'd forgotten it. In fact the book gives an excellent overview of the situation and the political background to the 'question', as well as the lead up to this particular encounter.
Initial Danish positions with Colonel Müller leading
In essence, the Danes, after being defeated by the Austrians at Jagel-Overselk, were trying to retreat northwards to a line of fortifications, the Danevirke.  A rearguard of around 3,000 men under Colonel Max Müller was tasked with holding up the Austrian army (comprising an advance guard of around 4,000 troops), which, after being bested during the Italian Wars of Independence five years previously, a) now relied heavily on the bayonet attack and b) had much better artillery that was used more aggressively.
View from behind Danish starting positions
The Austrian's objective therefore was to force the Danes off the road and to disrupt the orderly withdrawal of the main Danish army.  The scenario gave the Austrians two bronze rifled guns and the 9th Hussars to start with, to be reinforced progressively by Jägers, skirmishers and three units of average infantry.
Austrian 9th Hussars ford the River Trenen
The Danes on the other hand were to have four units of 'levy' infantry (due to low morale) plus an understrength gun.  However, reinforcements comprising another unit of infantry and some artillery was allowed for (in the real battle it never arrived).
Austrian infantry - looking suspiciously like Airfix French Foreign Legion...
The Austrian's scenario objective therefore was to ensure that there were no Danish units within 12cm of the road by the end of turn 10.  The rules used were those set out in Neil Thomas' book, which are fast-play and simple.
Austrians start to pour across the river as the Danes form up
The initial moves allowed the Danes to form up in line across the road and to move through the woods in order to extend the line.  The Austrians advanced across the river rapidly, with the intention of decisively steamrollering the jittery Danes at bayonet point.
Disgraceful evidence of fly-tipping encountered in the woods
Unfortunately for the Austrians there were a number of problems.  The Austrian artillery placed on a hill next to the river was just out of range of the Danes, who, wisely, decided to stay put and not advance into said range.  Secondly, the Austrians, conscious of the game's time limit, were advancing piecemeal over the river to attack straight off the march.  Thirdly, the Danes' reinforcements turned up nice and early (move 3).
Austrians start to deploy, but Danish reinforcements have arrived already
However, despite not being able to soften up the enemy with artillery, the Austrians continued their inexorable advance, hoping to make contact as soon as possible.
Austrians getting closer
As the Austrians advanced their Jägers were able to start peppering the Danes on their left, whom they outranged.  Meanwhile, the infantry and hussars moved into charging range.
Hussars make contact; though half of them didn't get that far
Initiating a charge into the Danes on the right, the hussars lost a significant proportion in the approach but still managed to make contact.  The Danes recoiled, but due to a quirk (or misunderstanding) of the rules the cavalry was not able to follow up immediately.
Danes retire briefly, but cavalry stopped (for some reason)
At that point, the Danes that had been pushed back were able to fire again at the milling hussars and basically wipe them out, mainly due to poor die throwing from the Austrians.
Hussars wiped out: offending die score foregrounded
Meanwhile, some Austrian infantry had made contact with the Danish centre, but again, with a series of brutal die throws the centre held and the Austrian attack faltered.
Austrians faltering
Another round of melee saw the Austrians actually manage to push the Danish centre back, but the attacking infantry was too damaged to follow up.  Again, the Danes who had been pushed back were able to fire into the Austrian infantry who had just beaten them and they were decimated.
Depleted Austrians in centre, about to be blown away
So, with two units lost and the clock ticking down (we were on move 11) it was clear that the attackers were not strong enough to break the Danish line and therefore the Austrians conceded the game.

So, a bit of a frustrating game for the Austrians, and an easier than expected one for the Danes (me).  Overall though, I think our main problem was with the rules.  Neil Thomas sets out clearly his rationale for the rules he produces in his books.  However, for us I think that the rules are generally too simple and sacrifice more realistic mechanics in order to create a fast-play framework.

That said, a frontal attack by hussars against steady infantry is unlikely to succeed in any rule-set, although the fact that the Austrian artillery was out of range at the start was mainly because our table was longer than the set up envisaged in Neil Thomas' scenario.

However, the period is an interesting one (particularly when you compare it to what was going on in America at the same time) and there are a lot of good ideas in the book.  Geoff had spent a good few months preparing and painting his armies (a combination of converted Airfix, Italeri and Zvezda pastics, with some Irregular 20mm figures thrown in) and no doubt we will be fighting some more games from this period this year, though perhaps with different rules.