Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in review and a look ahead

2011 was, by any measure, a great year for miniature wargaming at my house.  I reviewed my 2010 plans and promises and found that I didn't necessarily stick to them.  The biggest promise being-NO NEW PROJECTS-yet the new projects I did take on were inexpensive or are largely finished. I did manage to paint nearly 600 figures this year, including cogs, 28mm figures and 15mm figures.  So from that standpoint it was a good year.

For the most part, the year focused on four major painting projects.  The first was getting ready for Hobkirk's Hill.  I finished all the figures necessary for this and ran the game successfully at Enfilade.  Hobkirk's Hill is important because it is an integral part of my overall AWI goal: be able to run all five battles from Nathaniel Greene's campaign in North and South Carolina:  Cowpens, Weitzel's Mill, Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk's Hill, and Eutaw Springs (yes, I'm leaving out the siege of Ninety Six, but that would spare me the embarrassment of  having to build a fort under attack by men carrying large hooks.) I don't expect this will be a year in which I paint many AWI figures, but I do have a couple ready to paint, and I could see myself painting Von Bose or the 23rd Regt.
AWI Hobkirk's Hill was just a step toward completion of my AWI project
The second project I took on was of limited duration and that was the cog-building project for Sluys.  I am most proud of this work.  From using David Manley's rules, to thinking through and building the ships, playtesting and running the actual game, I still believe it was about the best thing I've ever done.  It was a fun game built on a very limited budget.  It looked good and folks had a good time. I'd actually like to build a few more cogs and galleys and try to game with individual ships.  Not quite sure when that would happen.
My first cog-with the fighting castles reversed.  I have ten more just like it. Doh!

My first batch of completed English ships

The cog Thomas, leads the English fleet

The giant hand watches over the first Sluys playtest.
 The third project was kind of a "you must do this" activity and that was painting and mounting my 15mm Jacobite Wars figures for the Killiecrankie campaign.  I'm ready to go, but I haven't gotten them out of the box since.  Something needs to change with the latter, and I'll speak to this issue more.
Hallmark Highlanders

Lord Leven's Regiment.

 Last, but not least, is my Mississippi project.  This one, unfortunately, threatens to be a monster.  At the present time I have almost all the miniatures necessary to run my first campaign, the assault on Chickasaw Bluffs on the Yazoo River in 1797 and an assault on New Orleans.  Sounds like I know what I'm talking about, but it's all hypothetical.  I'm busy painting away as we speak.  But I also want to broaden this to a confrontation between more regular Spanish and American troops over the Louisiana Purchase boundaries after 1803.  This would require considerably more Spanish troops and more regular U.S. Dragoons than I currently own.  I think this latter hypothetical look at Spanish American relations may end up a phase two that will be built later.

So, looking ahead to 2012, I see myself working in a couple of areas.  First is the Mississippi project.  Not really that many figures to paint.  There are lots of Indians in the scenario, but I already have these painted.  I need eight 10-figure units of U.S. militia, and I believe I have most of these already.  If I paint my Christmas bounty (36 militia from Perry) and do some fiddling and a little bit of remounting that won't be a problem.  I also have 30 Wayne's Legion figures to paint, which will give me six 12-figure units of U.S. regulars.  More daunting to this is creating the terrain pieces.  The cornfields are nearly done, but there is the stockade and the bluffs themselves.  I haven't quite figured it out, but that's all part of the project.

The second project I want to progress is my War of 1812 stuff.  I am only interested the Chesapeake actions, particularly Bladensburg.  I have my tons o' Victrix plastic figures to build and paint, and I anticipate getting started after Enfilade, but all goes well with Chickasaw Bluffs, it may be earlier.  There are British regulars to paint, militia to buy and paint.  You name it.  In any case I'll keep you posted.

I plan to stick to my NO NEW PROJECTS pledge.  I have plenty of figures to paint and want to advance my old ones.  There are a couple of anniversaries in mind.  There is the 200th anniversary of the Niagara campaign and the Battle of Bladensburg in 2014 to prepare for.  The year after that is the 600th anniversary of Agincourt, so working on 1812 and Hundred Years War figures would seem to be the right thing to do in advance of the celebrations I see happening at Enfilade.

If I have one promise I'd like to keep, it is to get out and game more.  Miniature games, board games, hanging out with my gaming buddies more would be my my big new year's resolution.  I have stacks of painting figures that rarely see the light of day, and I need to do better.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DANG! I forgot my camera

Yesterday was the eleventh installment of Dave's Annual Naval Game or DANG, and I was once again in attendance.  Unfortunately, my camera was not, so I strongly urge you to take a look at whatever pictures Dave uploads to his blog, the excellent Naval Gazing in my featured blogs list.

 This year all the Civil War naval gamers have rallied around the release of Sail and Steam Navies, so it was only fitting that this year's DANG featured a SSN game. Dave created a mini-campaign on a river.  Each side had a points limit to choose from and create their riverine flotilla based on the points value of the ships available to them.  The Confederates had an iron-clad a-building at the head of the river. The Yankees's job was to brave the obstacles in their path and destroy the ironclad before it became a menace to Union control of the Mississippi.
Our beloved flagship, the barge, er scow, um ship Tuscumbia.
 I was a Union player and we had to make some decisions about the ships to acquire to dispute the control of western waters with our rebel counterparts. We ultimately decided on the Tuscumbia, an ugly ironclad scow, mounting three of the prettiest 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbores available.  We provided the ironclad Essex, timberclad gunboat Lexington, a pair of sternwheel tinclads, and the ram Monarch as escorts.  Together with unarmed transports and barges carrying troops and fuel we headed up the mighty Carnot River.

 We encountered numerous earthwork gun batteries along the way.  But all were dispatched fairly easily, except for the fifth and last one that inflicted a critical hit on the Essex, forcing us to withdraw and make repairs, and leaving us behind schedule.

There were also two surface actions, both occurring at night.  The Confederates attacked the anchored Union fleet with three spar torpedo boats.  Our deployment was fairly ineffective in terms of offering support so George Kettler quickly found his two tinclads horrifically exposed as the gnat-like Johnnies swept on to the table.  Though the tinclads found the range, they couldn't convert their hits into damage, and the Naumkeag was sunk by a spar torpedo.  A second torpedo boat seriously damaged the Lexington's paddle wheel forcing us to tow the vessel upstream.  The Confederates didn't get off scott free as they mostly expended their supply of spar torpedoes and the Lexington's tormentor managed to blow himself up in the attack.

The second night battle was, of course, the last turn of the campaign.  Weathering a host of delays and distractions, the Confederates gave battle before the Yankees reached the ironclad Missouri's birthplace, but just after it had a major engine failure. The pride of the Carnot River Defense Fleet was hauled into action by a tugboat.  Alongside the Missouri were the rams Gen. Beauregard and Gen. Bragg, as well as the last armed torpedo boat.
The General Bragg, captured at Memphis, eventually became the USS General Bragg.
The Rebs had a bit of an advantage, heading downstream, and we, again were faced with being anchored heading upstream. The Rattler, George's other tinclad, was the first casualty, rammed by the Beauregard.  Beauregard and Bragg both took a pounding from the two Union ironclads.  Missouri was towed toward the center of the board with it's unpleasant three gun battery.  My Monarch was the fastest of the Union vessels, and with no guns to fire, set out to use its chief weapon, its ram, against the slow and unmaneuverable Missouri. Braving two turns of fire, suffering little damage, Monarch skewered Missouri dead amidships, and that was pretty much all she wrote for the southerners.  The wooden rams were more or less intact though the torpedo boat was resting comfortably at the bottom of the river.
A famous engraving of the Monarch ramming the Beauregard.  Imagine an almost immobile ironclad gunboat in the place of the Beauregard and that's what happened in our game. Me! Me! I did that! Yes!
It was a great game and a lot of fun as usual.  I was on the winning side, which is rare for me, so that was nice too.  Great guys playing as always: David Sullivan, Mark Waddington, Arthur Brookings. Dave Creager, Dale Mickel, Scott Murphy, and George Kettler.  Great miniatures from George and David joined my sorry lot (Of course, you can't see them because I'm a dope.)  Daveshoe and Lynnshoe provided the eats and took the pics.  It was awesome.  

 This is my third game of Sail and Steam Navies.  There are many things I really like about these rules.  The firing charts are pretty easy to use, but it is not easy to convert hits to actual damage.  In doing this, the creators have really made SSN a rammer's game.  With the two movement phases, it's pretty easy for a fast ram to pickle his victim and not even be fired on.  I don't think it should be this way.  I'm hoping we can maybe make some house rules or get some clarifications that iron out some of these issues.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to all

It's early, and soon the family will descend on our little house for Christmas brunch and exchanging gifts.  For me, the best part of Christmas is seeing family.  Since my youngest son, Casey, moved to Seattle, I confess to suffering from a certain amount of kid withdrawal.  I love my boys, and there are times when I just wish we could be together.  They're smart and fun, and spending time with the two of them is the best time in the world.  I'm looking forward to seeing them today.

 Yes, just in case you were wondering, Lorri, er, Santa did bring me gaming goodies. I landed 36 figures from the Perry AWI southern militia range.  I love these figures.  They're simple but interesting and will serve well in my Mississippi project as militia.

I also received a couple of Osprey books.  First, I got the newly released Men At Arms book on the Spanish Army in North America 1700-1793.  The timing for this couldn't be better, and I'm beginning to have second thoughts about how I've organized my Spanish toops (in my mind and my figure collection.)

I also got the new campaign book on the Battle of the Wabash.  Also known as St. Clair's Defeat, or St. Clair's Disaster, this horrendous Indian battle north of the Ohio River in 1791 led to the formation of the American Legion under Anthony Wayne and the decisive battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794.  I've been poking through Wabash by John F. Winkler, and I think it has a lot to offer.  It is a topic not well covered by easily available books.

 I hope you've had a happy holiday and the opportunity to hang out with your families.  To all of you who read this blog, in Canada and Australia, Ireland and Great Britain, in Europe, Asia and the United States, the best Christmas to all, and the happiest of new years.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cavalcade French and Indian War Review

I painted some of the Cavalcade French and Indian War figures for my friend David for Christmas.  Dave has always been interested in the conflict and has read extensively about Robert Rogers.  When Cavalcade released a range of French and Rogers Rangers in winter dress, wearing snowshoes, I thought they'd make a great gift. 

 David plays FIW games in skirmish 1:1 scale, so picking up a pack each of the French and Rangers was fine. I picked up the rangers firing and the French marching.  The figures are large and bulky, the latter due mostly because of their winter clothing. There was some flash on the castings, particularly on the French between the musket and body, but I did my best to clean them up. 

 I primed them and mounted them on one inch square Litko bases. This takes some doing because of the size of their metal bases, necessary due to the snowshoes.  I started with the French.  Generally the figures are well cast, and anatomically consistent.  They are larger than OG or Perry, but not as chunky as Front Rank.

I started painting the French first.  The detail is uneven.  The muskets are almost delicate, but some of the musket stocks and musket detail is crude.  The hands aren't great either.  The figures are well accoutered with cartridge box and haversack, but the belts and straps seem to disappear as they head from the back, over the shoulder and down the front of the figure behind the hands and arms.  Two of the figures wore standard uniforms, and two wore blanket coats.   I liked the way they painted up.

 Then I turned to the Rogers Rangers.  I enjoyed painting these more than the French.  Same complaints with the muskets.  Three of the four miniatures wore mittens, which I thought was a nice touch.  There were several different versions of leggings, which was nice.  The figure in the blanket coat I particularly liked. I thought the cuff detail was clunky, and could have been a bit cleaner.

All in all I would rate the Cavalcade figures 4 points out of 5. Some of the  detail issues are offset by the uniqueness of the miniatures and I could see ordering a some figures for myself.

More Cornfields and Gunners

On TMP yesterday, Bill Stewart correctly reminded me it would be a good idea to photo figures alongside the cornfields in order to get an idea of relative size.  I've positioned some Old Glory Wayne's Legion figures right up against the cornfield stands.  Cut at 1 1/2", the cornstalks are just about the exact height I was looking for, being slightly more than head high.

 I'm also sharing the finished guns and gunners I finished during the week.  First up are the American guns and gunners by the Perry Brothers.  The first gun crew is in the firing position.  The second gun crew is in the aiming position.  Nice figures, easy to paint.  Typical Perry stuff.  I've already complained about the guns, so I won't re-run that.
Perry gunners aiming their six pounder

Perry gunners firing
 I also photographed the RSM Spanish guns and gunners.  The first gun is a 3pdr.  The second gun is a 12 pdr.  The Spanish adopted the Gribeauval system, and either painted their guns a light blue, or left them a natural wood and varnished them.  Given the American guns were blue-gray, I thought I'd go with the natural finish for the Spaniards. I like the gunners-a little clunkier than the Perry gunners, but very adequate. 
RSM Spanish artillery with 12pdr
Spanish artillery with 3pdr.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cornfields: WIP

"This place far excels in beauty any in the western country, and believed equalled by none in the Atlantic States.  Here are vegetables of every kind in abundance, and we have marched four or five miles in cornfields down the Oglaize, and there is not less than one thousand acres of corn around the town.(sic) "

 Lt. John Bowyer described these conditions at the Miami town of Auglaize on the march to Fallen Timbers in 1794.  The luxuriant cornfields he observed were typical of most large woodland Indian settlements encountered during campaigns on the frontier in the late 18th century. Maize in the fields were resource targets for Americans fighting those Indians.  General John Sullivan devastated the Iroquois in his summer campaign of 1779, burning thousands of acres of corn and forcing elements of the Six Nations across the Niagara and upon the kindnesses of the British for sustenance.

I decided that if I was going to do a hypothetical campaign on the Western frontier in the 1790's, I needed a big bunch of cornfields.  I didn't want to build just a big ol' cornfield to just plop down on the table and then store with difficulty.  Rather I wanted something I could morph into different shapes or scatter around, and remove bits of as it was destroyed.  I'd seen the very cool cornfields from BTC and reasoned I could make something like that for myself  at a more affordable price.

 I started with Litko bases.  I ordered fifty  40mm square bases.  These are heavy enough to hold the "corn" and not move around on the table top. $6.99, plus the ridiculous Litko shipping fee.  I also ordered ten packs of 12mm pine stems from This and That 4 Crafts.  Those are holiday craft items that look sort of cornish if you fiddle with them.  Ten packs of 15 pine stems was just over ten bucks with shipping. 

12mm pine stems from This and That 4 Crafts.  They were cheap, and the size was about right.  Also available in 20mm (refers to circumference) which seemed too large.  There would be lots of trimming. 
Litko bases and trimmed pine stem ready to go.  40mm worked for me.  That's the width of two individually mounted figures or one Regimental Fire and Fury base.
 Step one was to coat the bases with something that looked as a ground cover.  For the most part, the bases are going to be covered by the corn, so I'm mostly just after a quick cover with something that could be mistaken for earth.  I used Liquitex modeling paste because it's acrylic, dries fast, and can actually be mixed with paint in my little water cup, and easily applied to the base with a paint knife.  Because it's acrylic, I also believed it wouldn't shatter when I drilled holes in it, and I was afraid that wood putty would just disintegrate in chunks.  Can't have that. Liquitex products are available at Michaels and JoAnn fabrics.  Use their weekly coupons to cut the $12.99 bucket of modeling goo to a more reasonable cost.

I've used Liquitex modeling paste as basing material in the past.  It's easy to work with, dries fast, but isn't particularly cheap. However, I thought it was the best material for this project.
  Step two-I waited for the modeling paste to dry completely, and while I was doing so I began cutting the pine stems into lengths.  The stems have wound metal wire cores, but cut easily with hobby sized diagonal cutters.  I cut mine into 1 1/2 inch lengths.  It's best to remove some of the "corn" at the very base of your plant so the wire is completely exposed.  The stems get pressed pretty flat in storage and shipping, so it's best to twirl them in your fingers a bit and ruffle the corn, or your corn stalks will look pretty two dimensional. When you finally get around to gluing them in, you'll find some lengths are longer than other.  That's okay, not all corn stalks are equal in nature's plan. 
My first base ready to receive corn stalks. 
Step three, drill holes in your Litko bases.  I use a Dremel tool for drilling, with wee small bits, though finding the right size hole for the fairly significant sized stem wires was a trial.  I drilled nine holes in three rows and hoped the corn would literally fill the base. You might be able to do twelve stems to a base, but it would be awfully crowded.

Voila, a close up of corn fields.  There's more I could do if I wanted.  Paint some of the leaves yellow to look like corn ears, or finish the base edges with Woodland Scenics material.  I haven't decided. 

Step four, finally, glue your pine stems into the holes.  I make sure to remove some of the very bottom leaves to expose the wire and put a tiny drop of CA glue in the hole.  It usually sets up right away and you can move along.

I finished six squares of corn in a couple of hours of not very intense work.  I hope to have about forty squares or so which takes up a LOT of space on the board. This is the first of my terrain projects for Chickasaw Bluffs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I finished up the '84 Cubs this week, just in time for our gift exchange tonight.  Again, these are the Reviresco baseball players.  I've written about them before.  I chose this team and this uniform, because I knew Tim would like them.  He's a Cubs fan, and this is the team that started him down that road I think. 
Cubbies from the front

Cubbies from the back.
 This uniform offered some challenges.  The figures come with a traditional button down uniform, some with very bloused pants and shirts, other with a very straight appearance.  Unfortunately you have to have a minimum number of players to play the game, so everyone needs to look pretty much the same. I painted over the button down detail and really tried to paint in detail needed to make the team look unique.  The Chicago logo on the front and the cub insignia on the sleeve took some doing.  I also painted in the numbers and names on the back.  They should be in red, but I just couldn't get them to stand out very well.  This is my first attempt at painting in the names.  I was only sort of successful.  Bowa was a lot easier to paint in than Sandberg because there's only so much room on the figure. Oh, well. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On my painting table: gunners, ballplayers and Cavalcade Miniatures

Sometimes it's just hard to post.  It's not that I'm doing nothing, it's that my whole world is in process.

I've actually been painting my little (I wish) butt off.  Last weekend I finished painting up all those nice U.S. and Spanish artillerymen I wrote about.  They're finished, but the basing isn't done.  Not on all those silly American infantry either.  Why?
In the foreground are the Perry gunners.  Very nice, uncluttered figs.  In the back are the RSM Spanish artillerymen.  I'll get a final photo out when they are properly based.
Well it's the Christmas season dontcha know.  This year I've foolishly decided to paint some figures for two of my non-painting friends.  So as we hurtle toward next weeks's X-mas deadline I have to knock out twenty three 28mm figures. It's a lot but I'm making pretty good progress.

First on the list is 15 baseball players.  They are the last of my Reviresco baseball stash, and I wanted to paint them for my friend who is a big baseball fan.  He's equally divided between the Yankees of the Bronx Zoo era and those 80's Cubbies.  I decided to paint them up as the '84 Cubs that won the NL East title because I am an inveterate Yankees hater.  There was something very working class about that Cubs team, and I painted them up in their blue away pullovers.  There are some fiddly details on them that give the uniforms some character.  Should be finished with them tonight.
Tim's '84 Cubs from Reviresco.  The figs are pretty simple, and most of the detail has to be painted in.  Even so, every team I've painted has been fun. 
The other gift I'm painting is a batch of figures from Cavalcade Miniatures.  I first saw Cavalcade's French and Indian War figures on The Miniatures Page, and decided I needed an excuse to at least paint some.  I ordered a box each of the Rogers Rangers and French Marine figures.  The miniatures are all in serious winter dress and are wearing snowshoes.  The figures are quite nice with lots of detail  The muskets, in particular, are quite delicate and look very nice.  They are large and bulky in their heavy winter clothing, but anatomically consistent.  If I have a complaint it is that on a few figures the mold mark runs right down the miniatures' faces.  Though the flash is minor, on a couple of figures, removing this adequately was difficult.  They'll remain in queue behind the Cubs probably until Friday night.
In the queue are these Cavalcade French and Indian War figures on snowshoes.
The holiday vacation begins at 2:40 tomorrow.  You best believe I'll be blowing out on time and headed home to my painting table.  I have big painting plans for the break, and I'm hoping to get a lot done.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A Little of This and a Little of That

I wish I had something sexy to share like the hussars, but frankly things are going to be kind of uniform and boring for a bit.  I have painted, but not based, 18 American regulars for the project.  They were mostly figures I'd stripped and repainted.  The process was sloppy, and despite plenty of effort, I just didn't get all the gunk off from the previous paint and primer.  Thought I did . . .
OG Wayne's Legion figures.  They're awaiting basing-hopefully this weekend.  They actually look better than this-geez I hope so.

I also painted up my very last handful of usable Front Rank militia types, mostly command figures, and combined them with a couple of the Lewis and Clark figs to use with the militia masses I'll be calling into service at Chickasaw Bluffs.  I have an odd mix of figures to use for militia.  Lots of them are AWI figures from Front Rank and OG.  However, a fair number of them are from the Mountain Man range by Foundry.  I got them much cheaper than their present price, and they add some spice to volunteers out to chase off Indians and drive the Spanish of out of N'awleens. I need at least 80 figures in eight units for my planned scenario, and each unit needs command figures.  So I used the generic militia flags from Quindia studios to give them a bit of unit identification.  The flags turned out well-I really like them. Thanks Clarence.
A chance to show off my Quindia flags with my militia units.  I'll need about 80 militia figures in all for Chickasaw bluffs.
On my table right now is a bunch of artillery.  One of my purchases for this project were guns and gunners by the Perry brothers from their AWI range.  I've mostly painted the guns, and I've got to say I'm disappointed.  I've bought other guns from the same range, the six-pounders and crews for the Brits and the Americans and these were just lousy castings.  The gunners look great, but the guns look like the molds need cleaning.  These are the only disappointing miniatures I've had from them.  Just a simple Vallejo blue gray with a little gray dry-brushing before painting in the black hardware, Vallejo brass for the barrels, and then a follow up dry-brushing.  The odd gun is a Front Rank piece.  Not uniform with anything, I thought it might work as a militia-served piece.
Spanish guns in natural wood and American guns in blue-gray.  You can see the Perry gun carriage on the left is actually twisted.  Disappointing.
The other guns are from the RSM range now produced by Dayton Painting Consortium.  I can't say enough good things about these miniatures or DPC.  They were extremely easy to work with-great communicators for a small operation.  I'm really happy with the figures.  They have plenty of detail and love the elevating with the level figures.  My only beef is the figures,which came as a bagged set, create only three man crews, rather than the conventional four man crews.  I'll have to figure something out.
The RSM gunners by Dayton Painting Consortium are nice.  Not quite Perry nice, but cheaper and serviceable.
The guns, also RSM from DPC, are also nice.  The little three pounders are perfectly serviceable.  The twelve-pounders, while nicely detailed, seem undersized.  I can seem them as eight pounders, but the carriages and barrels should be larger.

More pictures when everything is done.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Mississippi Project: Scenario One-The Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs

After a week away from the paint brush and chain, I've begun thinking about potential game topics for my Mississippi project.  One that came to mind first was the American effort to chase the Spanish out of the fortifications they were building on the east bank of the Mississippi River prior to the Louisiana Purchase (1803.) One such place was at Chickasaw Bluffs, built on a promontory at the mouth of the Yazoo River.  It was intended to command the river and control approaches to New Orleans.

I was considering a fairly terrain heavy game with some interesting game pieces.  Because the Spanish allied themselves with the Chickasaw, I am thinking about a Chickasaw village and stockade.  This reconstruction of an early 18th century village will help guide my thinking.

I generally avoid terrain-heavy games.  I know it adds a lot to the scenario, but my chief objection is the problem it creates in storage.  Even so I'm willing to take on the travails of building and tucking away the stockade, buildings and cornfields, the earthworks and encampments because it will look cool.

I've been giving some thought to the scenario itself.  The Americans will have five or so units of regulars and eight to ten units of militia troops, with artillery.  Maybe one unit of light dragoons or mounted riflemen, and some artillery  They'll be able to split their units between a direct land assault on the Chickasaw fortification and an amphibious assault with five or six units on up the bluffs on the Spanish artillery position.

The Spanish will defend with a unit of mounted cuera militia, three units of dismounted militia, and eight to ten units of Chickasaw warrior allies, plus some artillery.

Play it all on a 16 X 5 table.  It should work.  How much do I have to paint?  Not that much actually.  The Indians are already done, as are almost all the Spanish.  I need guns and gunners for both sides and the Americans are a ways away from being finished.  Plenty of time, however, to allow me to concentrate on building the terrain pieces.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

From the Bookshelf: Midway and Guadalcanal

The primary activity that lured me into miniature wargaming was the reading I did as a kid.  Growing up in the 1960's, was a golden age for books about WWII and I read a lot of them.  That war seemed just a stones throw away.  The TV shows Combat and Twelve O'Clock High were drama staples.  Several of my friends had fathers who were WWII combat veterans.  And we were getting just far away from the war that we could laugh with McHale's Navy and Hogan's Heroes.

I was reading the abridged Official Marine Corps History of World War II, Incredible Victory by Walter Lord, and Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan by Mitsuo Fuchida.  These were books that revealed the disasters and triumphs of Japan and America in the Pacific and opened my eyes to the suffering and struggle of those who fought there.  Oops, left out The Two Ocean War by Samuel Eliot Morrison.  I read my little paperback so many times, it literally fell apart.

Forty years later and there are generations of new books about those same campaigns and battles, seen with new information and fresh eyes.  Neither of the books I'm about to recommend are brand new, hot off the shelf.  The Shattered Sword:  The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway was published in 2005, but does offer a completely different version of Midway than was told before.  James Hornfischer's book, Neptune's Inferno is new this year.  It's not so much that the story hasn't been told, it's the quality of the telling that makes it such a great read.

Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully's Shattered Sword is a remarkable analysis of the June 1942 carrier victory that halted Japanese expansion in the Central Pacific.  It is an interesting revision of the story that's always been told.  Parshall and Tully systematically dismantle old perceptions of the battle based, largely, on Fuchida's book, written in the 50's. Together, they submit a picture of the battle that is very Keeganesque in its approach.  In their analysis of the Japanese battle plan and its execution they examine philosophy, doctrine, and decision-making as well as a step by step look at the "battle piece."  If you read military history for analysis of those decisions, this is the book for you.

Without giving too much away, Parshall and Tully deconstruct the Fuchida story, suggesting the Japanese battle plan went way past the "victory disease" affliction he and others have attributed to Yamamoto and other planners.  He further suggests that the Americans, with their sizable air corps on unsinkable Midway Island, combined with their three carrier aircraft outnumbered the Japanese planes available.  Yamamoto's failure to include all six fleet carriers in his attack was a major failing.  Deconstructing the battle moment, by moment, they state Fuchida's contention the Japanese flight decks were full of armed planes at the time of the American attack was a fiction, that they were being armed below decks in the hangars, and were not "spotted" or being rushed to the flight deck for launch.  They devote much time at the end of the book to point fingers, and there are plenty to go around Japanese and American.  Very readable and very interesting.

Yesterday I finished reading James Hornfischer's most recent book, Neptune's Inferno.  Focused on the naval actions at Guadalcanal, the book has earned mixed reviews for offering little new on the topic.  Hornfischer's previous books were Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, on the Battle off Samar at Leyte Gulf, and Ship of Ghosts on the U.S.S. Houston.  Last Stand is one of the best books I've ever read, period.

In Neptune's Inferno, Hornfischer takes on a more expansive topic, focusing on the six month naval campaign to supply and support the Marines on Guadalcanal.  From the planning to the actions at Savo Island, the East Solomons battle, Cape Esperance, Santa Cruz, the night actions of Nov. 12-14th, and the disaster at Tassafronga, Hornfischer paints a gruesome picture of war at sea.  From both a sailor's view, and from a commander's eye, we get a look inside this desperate struggle in the Pacific as the United States wrested naval dominance from the Japanese at a terrible cost.

As a casual reader of World War II topics, I learned a lot.  The real strength of this book, however, is Hornfischer's gift for narration.  Regardless whether there is lots new here or not, the author's storytelling ability helps the reader understand the subject in bolder relief than before.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Week from hell at an end?

Some weeks are just harder than others.  Three weeks ago I saw the coincidence of two incredibly demanding activities--JagWire was going to be on deadline the same week as student conferences.  It was not a good nexus.  After the Museum of Flight get together last Saturday, I foresaw only doom. 

Deadline started last Thursday, so I was at school until 9:00.  Then this week there has been no time at school earlier than 8:30.  Combined with my usual bouts of sleeplessness, it's been a hard week.  The good news is that I picked up the paper yesterday for distribution this morning, so that's good, right?

Unfortunately I went out to get ready to come to school this morning.  My car wouldn't start.  So much for a restful evening of painting Wayne's Legion figures

Friday, November 11, 2011

Texas Hussars: Done at last

The Texas Hussars clearly showing off their shields
I guess it didn't take that long to complete them, but the Texas Hussars are finished.  I painted the adarga's black, as the Murillo prints showed, and the Spanish coat of arms as with the sabretache.  I may go with the blue on the cuera lancer.
More from the front

Frankly, I'm pleased.  They look nice and were relatively easy to build and paint.
Close up of the officer figure, clearly showing the adarga, or apple shaped shield

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Texas Hussars: carbine and adarga

Well, these are almost finished.  There are only two bits left to do:  the carbine and adarga, or apple shaped shield.
View from front right quarter.  The pants are highlighted, and the sword and hands are painted.  You might be able to make out facial detail

I'm taking a quick break from cutting the shields from .010 thickness styrene because it's tedious and I'm tired of it.  It also lets me take some updated pics of the Hussars so you can see the almost finished versions.
Front view of the horsemen

Texas Hussar officer.  He has silver lace as well as trouser markings. 
 After swapping an e-mail with Doug Hamm in B.C., I decided to go ahead with the adargas.  I was up in the air at first because honestly, based on the pictures I have it wasn't clear this shield was used.  The Murillo watercolors clearly show a round shield.  Second, it was unclear I had enough room for the shields.  However, Doug was right when he said the apple shaped shield defined the appearance of this unit.  Unfortunately the location of the pelisse over the left arm precludes mounting it on the hussar, so I'll have to place it on the left sheepskin where holsters would be located.
This illustration of a cuera lancer convinced me to go ahead and paint the adarga for the hussars.  My shield will be mounted in the same position.
 Doug suggested cutting a template and tracing out the design, which I did.  I cut and filed a way a small hunk of .040 styrene and used it to trace out on the much thinner plastic.  It's done the trick, though I still have some work to do.
Shields cut from thin styrene and carbines await my attention.
The carbines are awaiting my attention, but that won't happen until the shields are cut and the backs are painted.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Texas Hussars WIP pt. 2

I've made a lot of progress on my hussars.  They are to the point now where at least they look like hussars.  The dolman was tricky with it's looped braiding.  It's possible to make those loops pretty thick, but I wanted to allow the vermillion to show through.  I did highlight the Dolman, but not light enough.  It's one of those tight-fitting pieces without a lot of folds, so there's not many natural spots to lighten.  The buttons are Natural Silver by Vallejo.  I like Vallejo's metals very much, though they can get pretty thick and goopy with age.

The hussar's belt is Vallejo Vermillion and Vallejo Dark Blue, highlighted with lightened versions of each.  I used Ceramcoat white on all the belting and lace.  It concerns me a bit, because it doesn't cover real well, but I think it looks okay.  The trousers are Vallejo Blue Gray.  I haven't highlighted them yet, but I hope to do so tonight.

According to the Murillo picture and the other photos I posted, the Texas Hussars did not have a sabretache.  I should have cut it off but I didn't, and it's a little late now. I opted instead to decorate it with the arms of Spain.  It's small and looks alright.

I don't have a ton o of things to do.  Tonight I should be able to finish highlighting the trousers, paint and detail the hands and sword, and probably paint the faces.  That leaves me two challenges:  the carbines and shields. I should have left the carbines on the sprue to paint them, but no-dopey me.  I'll probably paint the base brown before gluing them to the belt and swivel.  Then have at it.  The shields are difficult.  I don't want to cut ten round shields from sheet plastic.  I know I'll get them wrong.  I've got some ancient shields that I'll dremel the bosses from, but the hard part is sticking them to the figures.  I've thought about just gluing them to the valises on the left rear, but I doubt they'll stay.  I've also considered trying to drill in a pin, but that will make a major mess.  I've even considered leaving off the shield altogether; they aren't right, they would need some sanding to get the "apple" shape.  But the shield is part of the charm of the Texas Hussar.  You'll see what I come with in my next entry.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Taking Stock

It is the last day of October, and addition to answering the doorbells for trick or treaters, I thought it might be worthwhile to review the month just completed as well as the year in terms of projects and purchases.

 Frankly, I find this to have been a productive year for a number of reasons.  I'd just like to focus on expense for a minute.  Three or four years ago I spent money on figures like a drunken sailor.  They might have been figures I might eventually have an interest in painting, but I basically just stockpiled figs.  Mostly they were OG figures I ordered through my membership in the OG Army.  I stockpiled huge numbers of Hundred Years War figures, American Revoltion Figures, War of 1812 figures.

 Two years ago that all changed.  I stopped using credit, and began paying cash for everything.  I'm in the credit card users protection program.  This year I've bought few figures, often using Christmas and birthday cash to buy the figures I needed.  No purchases on spec, all purchases directed at a particular project.

 At the same time I've been able to reduce some of my figure stocks.  I painted all of my 15mm Jacobite project in August, with the exception of some of the very cool baggage that go with them.  I finished all of the American Revolution figures I picked up for my Hobkirk's Hill game.  Though I still have figures to paint for AWI, and will also buy minis for future battles, they can wait until I'm ready.

I've also taken on two projects this year.  The first was my Sluys battle.  I still think of this as Sluys round one.  I learned a little bit about the period-though not as much as I'd like-and put together two fairly representative fleets.  David Manley's medieval naval rules also provide for some single ship battles and I'd like to build another round of ships to make use of them effectively.  It's a low cost, high labor activity, but I think I'm up to the challenge.

Finally, there are my Mississippi projects.  This is really a labor of love that can cover the Spanish-American tensions as well as Fallen Timbers.  I've purchased a fair number of figures for this project.  The Perry hussars I'm currently working on, the cuera foot, horse and Spanish artillery from the Dayton Painting Consortium are waiting to be painted.  That's about 45 figures.  I also have American dragoons and mounted militia to paint, plus regular infantry, militia foot, and artillery to paint for about 120 figures.  I also have about 80 unpainted Indians I would love to finish, but I have 100 or so painted figures, so they aren't exactly necessary to the project.

So that means I need to paint 165ish figures with some 80 figures optional.  Plus terrain pieces, plus deciding on a set of usable rules.  I'm thinking Brother Against Brother with some modifications for cavalry.

I envision running at least one scenario using the Mississippi figures at Enfilade.  That means figures need to be pretty much wrapped up by early April in order to playtest games before the convention.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

WIP: The Texas Hussars

My Mississippi Project is going to require a fair amount of painting for both side.  Foot, horse and guns-maybe 200 figures between now and Enfilade.  (Really?  What am I thinking?) Of those, 50 figures are mounted.  I've purchased all of them and they're just awaiting paint.  The Americans have twenty mounted militia from OG, and ten light dragoons also from OG.  The Spanish have ten of the mounted cuera from Dayton Painting Consortium and ten of the Texas Hussars based on the Perry Brothers plastic French Napoleonic hussars.

The Perry figures have the virtue of providing several different head choices, so it was possible to pick the mirliton shako worn by early French hussars.  The pieces fit well and and aren't ambitiously fiddly.  I've finished all the horses and am working on the riders.

I started by assembling all the bits-horses and riders and shooting them with white primer.  I chose my horse colors carefully.  All the colors are Delta Ceramcoat or Vallejo.  All colors received a drybrush highlighting followed by a dark wash.  The sheepskins are ivory washed with a grey-brown. I chose Vallejo's vermillion for the colored points and the valises, and trimmed them in Prussian blue.  The bridles, strapping etc were all in Ceramcoat black with a quick highlight of charcoal.  I found the horses to be fairly simple to do.

Right now I'm wrapped up with the riders, which are a bit more challenging.  Face it, hussars are pretty busy and the challenge is to remain patient enough to finish them.

Thus far I've focused on finishing their shakos and pelisses.  I painted the base coat of the dolman Vallejo vermillion.  Then I painted the pelisse Vallejo blue gray, highlighting with Vallejo azure.  Then I did the fur edging in Ceramcoat spice brown.  I decided to give the pelisse white lining, but because I wanted good coverage I used Vallejo foundation white. I worked for a while on the pelisses, but finding them fairly tedious I took time to do the shakos.  I stayed with a basic black, avoiding the red wing in one of the examples.

That's where they stand today.  I hope to have the pelisses finished tomorrow, and move on to the dolman.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ramon de Murillo and the Texas Hussars

Ramon de Murillo was a citizen of New Spain.  In 1804, according to historian Jesus de la Teja, Murillo sent a letter to King Charles IV's foreign minister, Manuel de Godoy offering his analysis of Spain's frontier forces in New Spain.  Murillo claimed six years experience as a cadet at the desk of the Interior Provinces as well as service in several Indian campaigns.

De la Teja published his analysis of Murillo's letter as well as the letter itself on the web.  Those with an interest in Murillo's proposal to modernize frontier forces in the Spanish borderlands. Murillo was highly critical of the cuera horsemen, their armament, their dress and their appearance.   The lance was too easily broken, though the shield was still valuable because it protected the horse and rider from Indian arrows.  The leather jacket, literally the cuera, was unsightly and too long.

Murillo, clearly influenced by Napoleonic military fashion proposed troop types to supplant or at least bolster the cuera militia.  First he recommended the cuera reduce their leather vest from thigh length to waist length. Murillo also suggested a reorganization of the presidial units defending the Spanish frontier.
Murillo's cuera with shortened leather jacket and leather leggings.  For all his complaints, the lance  is retained.

Finally, Murillo offered two new troop types to supplant or complement the existing militia units defending the borderlands.  First he suggested the cuera companies be replaced by a chasseur unit.  Though I am unable to provide a picture of this unit, it is it is depicted in Murilla's own watercolor on pg. 507 of the Teja article. These were to be deployed in "flying companies."  However the jewel of Murilla's reorg was to be, what he described as the heavy cavalry unit, the Texas Hussars or Usares de Tejas. I've provided several pictures of the Texas Hussars from a variety of sources, including the Murillo watercolor.
54mm figure of a mounted Texas Hussar.  The base colors are in agreement with the images that follow.  Red or scarlet Dolman with light blue pelisse and light blue trouser.  Sword and shield are deployed with carbine present.

The shield is round, unlike other depictions in modern modeling examples.  They have more of the "apple" or heart shaped shield similar to the genitor light horse of the middle ages.

I am presently working on the Texas Hussar, using the Perry French Hussars.  I'll provide you more of a play by play of their painting as they near completion.  Suffice it to say I like these miniatures very much.
Murillo's own watercolor of the Texas hussars, very similar to the example above and those that follow. 

The Texas Hussar found on a Spanish web forum.  The blue is darker, the pelisse fur is black and the "wing" of the mirliton shako is red. 

Another miniaturist's version of the Texas Hussar. 

It is unclear whether the Texas Hussars ever took the field.  Some sources say they served from 1803-05, but that would be a year before Murillo's letter to Godoy.  They are, to say the least beautifully uniformed and accoutered. However, as Teja points out, under-resourced, it is likely they would have devolved into a condition similar to the cuera: practical uniforms with practical equipage and armament according to their need.