Friday, 19 March 2010

First Battle!

Today John Preece and myself set up and played through a quick ACW game using the 30mm Spencer Smith and SAE figures that have been completed to date.

John took the pesky Rebels, and I the stolid Union forces.

OOB was as follows.
1 x Mounted General Officer.
3 x Infantry Regiments @ 20 figures each
1 x Infantry Regiment @ 16 figures.
1 x Cavalry Regiment @ 15 figures.
2 x Artillery Batteries @ 1 gun and 4 crew each.

1 x Mounted General Officer.
6 x Infantry Regiments @ 20 figures each.
2 x Artillery Batteies @ 1 gun and 4 crew each.

The table was about 6 x 4 foot.

Scenery was scattered around to give an ACW "feel", and care was taken to ensure neither side had an obvious advantage in terrain.

The battle was a Meeting Engagement, with no real attempt to outline any victory conditions. We really just wanted to play with the shiny toy soldiers!

The rules were slung together by me over the last few days, and were based on the old 1962 Featherstone ones, with a little (but not TOO much) Warhammer Fantasy Battles thrown in.

They actually worked okay for a first run-through. A tweak here and there is certainly needed. But the game was fun and I think John especially enjoyed the Artillery rules, which worked very well indeed, much to my dismay when one of his guns managed to enfilade a whole Infantry regiment in column, using roundshot. Ouchie..!!

Anyway, here are some photos. They are pretty much in the order taken.
The dark blues are a little light in the shots. That's down to the camera's flash.

Ouch! That's GOTTA hurt! The effect of roundshot down the length of an advancing Infantry column.

Those damned Rebel guns!

Steady, Boys! Here they come!

Two Reb Infantry regiments advance across the railway line.

Hitting back!

Rebel Cavalry moves up.

Bracing themselves fo the Rebel Cavalry charge!

The flanking move comes to grief, routed by the Rebel's very accurate Artillery.

The Confederate horse routed a Union regiment on the Reb's left flank, but was too weak to follow up the advantage. Instead it swung around to attack the rear of of the Union regiment by the woods, and its survivors were shot from their saddles by the Union infantry in the forefront of this picture.

And STILL they held..!!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Looking For Pretty Uniforms.

It's been a bit on the slow side as regards painting. I've not been in the mood to tackle whole regiments, but instead have concentrated on researching some of the early war ACW units, and completing single figure "templates" for each one that takes my fancy. Of course at a future date, when finances allow, I shall buy more lead and use those single figure templates to paint up whole units, but until then I am just appreciating the painting joys offered by the variety of such one-offs.

Yesterday's attempt was of an old SAE figure of a mounted cavalryman, with a brimmed hat pinned up at one side, and with a large feather in it. My good friend John Preece identified it as Black Horse cavalry. He was correct; the figure is certainly a representation of the early war 1st Virginia Cavalry, under the command of Jeb Stuart, as it appeared during First Bull Run. Now I only have six castings of this figure, and ideally would like some more. But even so I decided to research the uniform and paint one up.

It was quite fun. Not the prettiest early war uniform out there, but it will add a little flavour to the Rebs. Oh, and I know the horse is brown and not black, but it seems that they were not slavish adherents of the Advertising Standards laws, and didn't feel the need to stick to the letter of their product description.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Brothers In Arms

Today was a day for a slight change of direction. Whilst I did crack on and block-paint a load of Union Cavalry and a few odds and sods of Union and Reb Infantry, I also decided to complete one of the little vignettes that came in the box of lead from John Preece.

There're some charming little groups in there, many of which I have identified. This particular one I have not yet managed to, though. I suspect, from the other sets I have seen, that this is supposed to be two wounded Rebs staggering back from the battlefield.

But I thought it would have rather more impact if I made the two figures a Johhny Reb and a Billy Yank. Perhaps they are brothers or past friends, both wounded on the same battlefield, and helping each other escape. OK so I'm a bit sentimental, but why not?

Anyway it seemed to work OK, and I was happy with it.

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Joys Of Painting Spencer Smiths.

Actually, sometimes they are NOT a joy.

As there's no detail to speak of, it's usually a matter of how much one can be bothered to paint on. The thing is that sometimes there is just a HINT of something there in the casting, but one is not quite sure.... For example, I painted up several Regimental officers for the Union forces, and just gave them a black leather sword belt. Even that was barely visible, but as they had a scabbard I knew the belt had to exist. There was a rather vague blob under the scabbard (which seems to be empty, so where's the damn sword?). I assumed that the sword was there and that the blob might well be another leather belt attachment. I painted the blob black.

Once I saw John Preece's Reb officers, I noticed he had painted in the officer's sash on each figure. and that the vague blob was in fact a tassle or two. The fact that the casting HAS a sash is a little more evident on the old plastic Spencer Smiths. And after checking out a few similar poses in the SAE castings I had, the sash could be clearly seen. Oh Poo!!!

OK, I knew ACW officers often wore a sash, but just as often they didn't bother with it. But now I know it's supposed to be on the casting, I am in a dilemma as to whether I paint it in on the Union officers. I've done it on one, and it's a chore on an already painted and varnished figure! I guess I shall not bother, even though the afore-mentioned blob is there... Will I lose sleep over it?

Aside from that, I managed to complete the first Union Brigade commander. This is the first mounted Spencer Smith I have attempted, and I am happy with the results.

And yes, I know I forgot the stirrups! They've since been added. Doh!!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Slow Down. You Move Too Fast.

It's been a slow couple of weeks, certainly as regards my painting. I've not been in the mood, post-Xmas housework and tidying/sorting has been higher on my To Do list, and I also had to take a few days off to visit a very sick friend who is just recovering from a major operation. Lots of excuses, and not a lot of work done. But that's the way of things.

I re-started the other day, and cracked on with the ACW figures. I have now completed the painting on all the Union Infantry and Artillery, and am working on the Brigade and Division commanders. I have a few Union Cavalry in kepis, but am in no hurry to start on them. I also did a couple of mild conversions of Reb Cavalry who's slouch hats were a bit mis-moulded. A few quick snips and a bit of filing quickly turned the slouch hats into kepis and added a couple more figures to my Union Horse. The centre figure is the conversion; the headgear is now close enough for me to be happy.

As far as the Johnny Rebs are concerned, I have based the two Infantry units and the Cavalry unit I swapped with John Preece, and have added two guns and their crews. I am currently working on two more Infantry units and the Reb Brigade and Division command.

I am looking at adding at least one colourful Zouave regiment to each side. But there things are a bit problematic. Spencer Smith produce but a single ACW Zouave, and that one is turbanned. One pose is rather a limited choice, especially as SAE produced many poses for these regiments. So I have to look elsewhere and am wondering how well the Tradition 30mm figures will work. Granted they are over double the price of Spencer Smiths, but they have a larger range of Zouaves including the command figures. Now sadly there are no images of them on the Spencer Smith website... So does anyone know if the Tradition ACW ranges will be a good match for 30mm Spencer Smiths? The last thing I want is bulky modern caricatures alongside the "toy soldiers".

It would not look right.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The 30mm SAE ACW "Themed" Figures.

Here's a shot of the SAE vignette "themed" figures. They will all add a little character to the armies.

I paint all my 30mm ACW in an old-fashioned "Toy Soldier" style. These SAE have much more detail than the current Spencer Smith figures and one doesn't have to paint in what is not there. But even so, they were designed to be toy soldiers, and to be honest even if I had the inclination to do a modern paint job on them, I think it just would not work as art.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Having A Break From Battle!

Finally the routine of painting drab, dull uniforms and AFV camo wore me down, and I put aside the Battle! project for a while. So far I have painted perhaps 100 soldiers, and maybe a dozen or so vehicles and guns. Not bad going. However, I now know that there is no way I am going to be able to stick to the original budget. I have perhaps 60 more infantry to paint and another dozen vehicles and guns, but much more is needed just for the basic one battalion and support per side. I had hoped that I could pick up cheap kits on eBay and elsewhere, but lately the prices seem to have hardened. Never mind. I shall just have to slow down a bit so as not to break into the household budget..

So I broke out the ACW project and had a go at that. I just felt like bright colours and glossy varnish for a change!

I am in the process of basing a load of Johnny Rebs that John Preece swapped with me. He got a load of 20mm WW2 early British AFVs and trucks and a fair bit of infantry, and I got a load of his painted 30mm ACW Spencer Smiths, the original plastic ones. John has done a very nice job of painting them, and puts more detail on them than I do.

He also tossed a lot of other stuff my way; a heavy box full of old lead. This box contains some strange stuff. Essentially the figures are what looks like first generation copies of some of the old SAE 30mm ACW range. Very few of them are in the present Spencer Smith range. All of them seem slightly larger and bulkier than Spencer Smiths, too. I would expect that is because they are first generation copies, whilst Spencer Smiths are third or even fourth generation, and thus have shrunk over time..!

SAE used to do many different boxed sets, some of which were themed "vignettes". Many of the metal figures in the box seem to come from such sets. One batch represents wounded men, either on the battlefield or being treated in a field hospital. Although their use is limited on a wargames table, I have started to paint them up just for the hell of it.

There are also some figures that seem to be from a HQ vignette. Certainly one looks like a mounted Robert E Lee. There are standard bearers, a few buglers and drummers, similar to those currently in the Spencer Smith range but a little larger, a cute campfire scene along with a camp follower, and lots of cavalry, none of which are in the currently available range.

The infantry is a mixed bag. A few Advancing in Kepis look similar to the latest Spencer Smith offerings but again, as they are larger, they look a little out of place in a unit with them. So in the end I took the two dozen or so various foot poses and decided to make a Reb regiment from them. Usually I like all my troops to have the same pose, but in this case I shall make an exception. And it's OK if they are Rebs, as a degree of unconformity is surely true to form?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Here's Some I Did Earlier 2.

Some fantasy bits and pieces I did a long while back. Based for Hordes of The Things (HoTT), Warhammer 40K and, naturally, Warhammer Fantasy Battles.

The Necron Lord on the left was not one of mine....

HoTT Goblin Riders.

HoTT Goblin Hordes

HoTT Orcs & Goblins General

HoTT Troll Behemoth

Warhammer 40K Plague Bearers.

The HoTT armies were the first metal miniatures I had ever painted. I still have them. I dare say I could tidy then up a bit and improve on the paintwork, but they have sentimental value as they are, and I can't be bothered...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go Shopping!

I popped down to the South East of England over the past weekend, to visit a very good friend of mine who had just had a (successful) major operation in Brighton. As it's such a long way to go, I always tend to make a short holiday of such journeys, and this time was no exception. I spent a few relaxing days with my sister, and apart from a nightmare trip through the blizzard to visit my friend Nicky in the Sussex Nuffield Hospital, I also managed to get in a visit to the large Modelzone shop in Holborn. This is on the site of the old Beatties store (not the old, old Beatties store, which was in a tiny shop just across from the Underground). They had a fair-ish selection of stuff I wanted for my Battle! project. I picked up a box of the new Italeri US Infantry, as the old re-issued ESCI set has no radio operators, and the mortars in the new set are much better.

And after a twenty minute hunt through the rather badly organised shelves of kits, I did eventually find several of the fast-build Italeri M3 Halftracks, and bought three boxes, six vehicles in total. I also checked out the Sale shelves and found two very useful Revell 1/76 Wespes SPG's. These are the old Matchbox kits, re-issued under the Revell label. They are nice little models and easy to build, and as the sale price was £2.99 I bought two of them, which covers my Vulgarian Artillery contingent nicely.

Today I found some spare time between getting the little one into school, the usual housework, shopping, and picking up the kid from school. So I cracked on with slinging a couple of the M3's together. The fit of parts is mostly good, but the one-piece front bulkhead/instrument panel/windscreen needed a little carving to get it to fit inside the front hull. Failure to do so on the first one I built resulted in a small gap 'twixt bonnet and screen. I failed to notice this until the glue had dried, so I left it alone. But the next one was carefully checked for fit and the piece had some plastic trimmed away from the sides to make it sit better against the bonnet top.

I then tried to prime the thing. Now lately I have found this to be a frustrating process. I do wash the sprues before construction, to get rid of any mould release agent that might still be on then. But lately this has not been working. Is there a new agent being widely used? Who knows, but none of the plastic kits I have made so far on this project have liked being undercoated with my usual matt black acrylic. The plastic just seems to repel the paint, as can be seen in this photo of the back door on one of the M3's.

I eventually resorted to an undercoat of black enamel, which worked OK. Most odd.

Anyway, aside from that brief annoyance the project is rolling along nicely. The first three M3's will be painted as Moldovian vehicles, and the second three as Vulgarian, just to keep the forces balanced whilst the project continues.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Battling On.

I eventually decided that it was time to break out the painting kit again and push on with the Battle project. I had just started the Moldovian forces before the Christmas break, and so cracked on with the Infantry and a few AFV's.

The Moldovian AFV camo scheme is quite complex. A base coat of GW Catachan Green is applied, and then GW Vermin Brown and Bubonic Brown are rougly stippled in irregular blotches and patterns over the base colour. Once dry, those blotches are then outlined with GW Chaos Black.

Then the two colours are filled in with another coat of each, and then the Catachan Green base coat, and the Chaos Black lines, are tidied up. Finally the tank is weathered by dry-brushing with GW Kommando Khaki, and areas like the engine deck, gun muzzle and exhausts are stained with a thin black/brown ink wash.

The tracks are painted Boltgun Metal, and then stained with the same black/brown ink wash.

Vehicle tyres are painted with Tamiya NATO Black, which is THE best colour for tyres I have ever found. It dries quickly to a VERY matt black/grey, and the effect is tyre-like.. Is that a word? It is now.

The Moldovian Infantry are the old Esci US Infantry, re-released by Italeri. They are under-coated in black and then base-coated with GW Camo Green. The webbing and gaiters were Cote D'Arms Faded Khaki, the boots were black, and grenades, equipment and helmets were Catachan Green. The uniforms were then given a wash of GW Dark Green Ink. I did have a go dry-brushing a few with Kommando Khaki, but to be honest it made little or no difference to the look of the figure, so I left the rest with just the ink wash and saved myself a hour or so of work.

Incidently, the little Pagasus BA6 Armoured Cars are a delight to build. The fit of parts is perfect; they virtually snap togther, and produce a dinky little model that looks the part.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Second Battle of Nisibis.

Thanks to a heavy fall of snow yesterday, the original family plans were stopped in their tracks. Instead I set about doing some urgent housework, and sorting out the piles of re-cycling generated by the festivities.

But after that, I had enough free time left to have another go at the Nisibis scneraro, in another solo game. I was intrigued by the situation, and the new units and rules, and over the last 24 hours had been pondering on the right tactics for the Parthians. In short, I was aching to have another bash, and as the board and remaining units had not yet been packed away, it was the work of a moment to set the game up anew, and get down to it.

The Parthian army is a tricky one to handle. In this, and the other scenarios that feature it, it is mostly Cavalry, and perhaps 50% of the army is Light Bow Cavalry. Whilst this gives the advantages of speed and long-range firepower, the disadvantage is that any Cavalry-strong army can pose serious command and control problems. In C&C: Ancients this is simulated by the fact that some command cards are used to activate Infantry, and only if one lacks any infantry can one use the alternative activation on the card, ie, activate a single unit of another type.

Although I did not mention it, the first game saw the Parthians spend the initial three turns getting their Cavalry organised and ensuring enough command cards to keep them moving. Luckily the Romans did not take advantage of this, and just stood back waiting for the enemy to come to them

In this game the Parthians initial command cards were far better. From the second turn they had a full command hand that would allow their cavalry full rein over the battlefield.

And they blew it.

I hate to admit it.... Even with my usual objectivity at solo play, as the Parthian commander I messed up big time. I took counsel of my fears of the Light Foot and their caltrops, and instead of using my army's advantages (mobility coupled with long-range firepower), I threw them away and then allowed the other side to find and punish my force's weak spots.

After the Parthian Cavalry's heavy attrition in the first game, at the hands of the caltrop-tossing Roman Light Foot in the centre, I instead sat back and used my long-range bow fire to try and whittle the Roman Light Foot down and force them back.

But that takes time, and when I switched to the Roman side, I made the obvious move for them. The Romans pushed forward their fast-moving (for foot) Infantry on their right wing, and then followed with a similar move on their left, and all of a sudden the Parthians were in a mess.

Their Cavalry, especially the Light Bow Cavalry, needed room for manoeuvre but were suddenly denied that room. Pressed back against the second Parthian line, and suddenly in range of a Roman army in which EVERY unit was missile-armed, they started to get trapped and chopped up. And as Light Cavalry retreat four hexes for every un-countered Flag rolled against them in combat, they need a LOT of retreat room. Taking a hit for each hex of retreat that was blocked, the Parthian Light Bow Cavalry were pinned and suffered terribly.

The Parthian moves became little but unplanned reactions; desperate attempts to ease the pressure on their flanks, especially on their left. And as the Roman centre moved into contact, the Parthian plight got worse. They only managed one serious counter-attack, a Heavy Cataphract Cavalry unit led by Atrabanus himself, which slammed into the advancing Roman Legions and forced back two of them, then paused breathless at the main Roman line. Within another two turns, the unit was pinned and smashed as Legionaries surrounded and hammered it.

There was still the chance of a turning point. The Parthians poured a rain of missile fire onto the advancing Roman units. But it had little effect other than forcing those Romans back out of range of further missiles. When the Romans again advanced and retaliated with a deluge of javelins, arrows and pilum, an 8th Parthian unit (Light Cavalry) was wrecked and the battle was over.

A Roman Victory: 8 banners to 1.

No. I don't think this scenario is cracked yet. The command cards, and how one uses them, will always ensure that there can be no fixed forumla for a Roman victory here. I am once more thinking hard about Parthian tactics. Granted, as in real life the caltrop posed a huge problem for such armies, but finding a way around those weapons would have been vital.

That is one reason why I love wargaming; it puts one in the position of those people, helps one empathise with them, see what they faced and understand the decisions they arrived at, and why.

And that, after all, is how one REALLY learns History.