Sunday, 21 September 2014

African Autumn: "...and you bought HOW many Tirailleurs...?"

There are some days when I sit down at my painting table, pick up a paint brush and start painting almost straight away. There are other days when I sit down, stare at the half-painted jumble of figures  scattered haphazardly across the table - usually at what I like to call the "dull stage" of their painting - and start praying for inspiration.

And then there are the - thankfully fairly rare - days like today.  The day when some of the exciting feeling of a new project disappears like the early morning mist on the Veldt.  The day when you actually count up how many figures need painting...and converting.   The day when reality makes first contact with your dreams!

Oops.  That's the day you look at the little metal figures and shake your head.  Sometimes laughing in disbelief.  Sometimes softly, trying to convince yourself this was a good idea.  And you slowly recount the figures.  No, surely there can't have been that many.  I must have miscounted.  No...I counted right the first time.  Oooops.

Yes, mes braves, its time to show you The Box.

Well, they they are.  Les Tirailleurs Senegalais.  Oh, and there's another layer below them of more Tirailleurs and French Legion Entranger.  And some machine guns.  And some casualties.  And some other stuff I don't need to trouble you with right now.... And some spare heads....actually, rather a lot of spare heads.

I know what you're thinking.  That's quite a few figures to convert ... and that really is a lot of heads to swap....

...and you'd be right!

It's been a slightly subdued morning in the painting room after I realised how much I had to do and just how small those lovely Woodbine Design Company heads are.

But every journey starts with a first step.  I've selected the first nineteen figures for preparation, conversion and basing.  I've chosen figures which are similar enough to give me a feel for how to manage the conversions over a larger group, but varied enough so I don't get bored.  And, because I keep convincing myself I enjoy a challenge, I've included a company command base in the first batch as well (with some Forgotten & Glorious Tirailleur heads).

And yes, that is a lot of modelling putty in the photograph below.  Sadly, perhaps even depressingly, no enterprising figure manufacturer has yet cast anything I can use for a coupe-coupe machete to be glued onto the belt of the figures. that's what the modelling putty is for...

All done by December?  What are the chances?  Ninety 28mm figures (including the Legion Etranger), in three months.  To be honest, there's maybe be a slim chance of that happening.  Which is just enough of a chance to go for it!

And, although books about the Tirailleur Senegalais are a little thin on the ground, I've plenty of inspiration for wargaming in Africa from other sources - some eminently respectable, some a little more eccentric!

So, wish me luck.  I better get moving.  Those Adrien helmets won't swap themselves!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Adieu to Horizon Bleu!

Here's the final Poilu in Horizon Bleu for the Verdun Project.  They've taken a while to complete but they are, at last, completed.

The figures are mainly Brigade Games miniatures from their late Great war French line.  The 37mm trench guns are from Old Glory, with a Forgotten & Glorious musician and Scarab field telephone operator added for good measure.  The Old Glory trench guns were worth persevering with and paint up very nicely - they should give the French assault formations some real force on the tabletop.

The company command group was a lot of fun to paint.  I'm currently toying with the idea of using a satin, or even gloss, varnish on the black leather jacket of Capitaine Moreau.

These are the first batch of figures where I’ve gone the full distance with ground texturing, adding grass tufts and leaves to a lot of the figures along with some barbed wire. I think the extra effort was worth it, and I’m going to be doing more of this in the future I hope.

So, after almost 18 months, I’m about ready to hang up my Horizon Bleu paint brushes and move on to the Tirailleurs Sénégalais. The figures, and their separate heads, have arrived in the post, I’ve a clean painting table, and have no more excuses.

Hopefully the next few posts will have a sense of exotic Africa about them!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

African Autumn and Partizan 2014

It’s been a busy week at Roundwood Towers. I’ve been busy preparing the first wave of Tirailleurs Sénégalais, and finishing off the last of the horizon bleu coated Metropolitan French infantry. I’ve posted a work in progress shot below of just about the the last of the Poilu.

As you can see, there’s a small number of spare French infantry, a battalion command group (which somehow kept being missed from the painting queue), a couple of 37mm trench guns and another Crapouillot trench mortar. All the figures are 28mm, and come from a mixture of Brigade Games, Scarab Miniatures and Old Glory.

Readers of this blog will know my love of the Brigade Games late First World War French range, sculpted by Mike Owen. These figures are really splendid. I strongly recommend them. I’m also a fan of the Scarab Miniatures command ranges, including the kneeling field telephone operator in the command group. The late war French range from Old Glory doesn’t get as much love online as it might do. The figures are very slightly smaller than Brigade Games’ figures, and certainly do not have the heft and weight of Scarab figures. But they are well proportioned, and in small groups of figures (such as the 37mm trench guns above, or the Crapouillot trench mortars below) they look very fine. On the table top, on a shell-pocked terrain, they really fit perfectly with Brigade Games’ and Great War Miniatures’ French and German figures for the 1916-1918 period. 

As for the Tirailleurs Sénégalais, these are next on my project list, along with a demi-section of the Legion Etranger. I’ve been reading as extensively as I can about l’Armée Coloniale and the Tirailleurs Sénégalais. I’ll be bringing the most relevant information for wargaming to the blog over the course of the Autumn, along with the work in progress conversions of a section of the Brigade Games’ standard late war French figures to Tirailleurs Sénégalais.

The vague, as yet not fully formed idea in my mind, is to stage a game at the club in late November or December featuring the African troops of the French Army. Finding the right scenario for the disparate elements is going to be interesting! I like to imagine my wargaming in terms of projects, with the thought in my mind of moving from the “Verdun Project” to an “African Autumn”.

Finally, it was the Partizan show in Newark, England this weekend. I was not able to go for family commitment reasons, but my chum Richard Clarke and Nick Skinner made the trip north. They very kindly provided me with some fine photos of the wonderful early Great War game staged by Aly Morrison and Dave Andrews. Both Aly and Dave have long been hobby heroes of mine, and to my mind they consistently set the bar of excellence with their amazing displays. From the photos, you can see that their game on Sunday was no exception. More photos are available at Phil Robinson’s excellent blog, News from the Front HERE.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Zouaves (or are they Moroccans?)

The dreadful weather over the bank holiday weekend at least gave me the chance to finish off some figures which had been on the painting table for some time.

First up, the small detachment of Zouaves, which could easily double as Tirailleurs Marocains. These were basically “left over” 28mm figures from Brigade Games when I was painting up the mainstream Metropolitan French infantry for the Verdun games earlier this year. I had bought some Woodbine Design Company Zouave heads a while ago, and it seemed like a perfect chance to swap out the Adrien helmets for something more exotic and characterful.

I can’t believe it was almost a year since I made these figures up – my blog post on these figures is way back in October 2013. I also cannot believe it has taken me so long to realise how much fun these conversions would be to paint. If I had known how much fun the Zouave chéchias would be to paint, I'd have painted them a long while back.

The Woodbine heads are an absolutely perfect fit for the scale of the Brigade Games figures. While the removal of the Adrien helmets is slightly tricky (using a very fine jeweller’s saw), once the Zouave heads are on, the painting is a real pleasure. And swapping heads opens up a world of possibilities, especially for the lovely Brigade Games late French figures with their accurate field packs and equipment.

Here’s some images from the work in progress, and the final painted figures.

And that's just the beginning for the late summer project of l'Armée d'Afrique and l'Armée Coloniale.

 All being well, in future posts there will be some Legion Etranger and some of my favourite French army troops of the period, the Tirailleurs Sénégalaise.  And its on the latter, the West African troops of the French army, that I'd like to spend a few blog posts, exploring some of the remarkable background, myths and battles of these soldiers, as well as painting up some of the converted figures I've been collecting.  It's been a while getting here - so thanks for your patience so far.  I can (cautiously) promise that you will enjoy what's coming!

Monday, 18 August 2014

WBQ, Mud & Blood and "From Empire to Revolution"!

One of the items of news which I have been unforgivably tardy about is the much-anticipated and thoroughly wonderful first issue of “Wargame Bloggers Quarterly”(WBQ). This is a FREE community driven electronic magazine in PDF format composed of the best wargames and miniature painting content from the collective blogosphere.

It’s the brain-child of Michael Mills (Millsy) and many others and, in short, its absolutely terrific. The purpose of the WBQ is to help promote wargaming and miniature painting and ensure that the best material generated by participants in the hobby is available to the wider community in the long term. Kind of like a “Way Back Machine” for wargames blogging, if you will.

For a long time I’ve been bowled over by the talent of the wargames bloggers working on the internet, but the speed and sheer professionalism of the first edition of WBQ has blown me away. A wonderful community project, and one which I shall be supporting any way I can.

You can find Issue One HERE, with an Official Charter for the magazine HERE. Millsy’s own very fine blog, "Cannister & Grape", provides more details, HERE.  Submission guidelines for future issues are HERE.

Other news which might be of interest is that TooFatLardies have been updating their popular First World War rules, “Through the Mud and the Blood” in time for the centenary of the War. The rules have been out of print in hard copy for some time, and I know Richard Clarke is keen to get them back on the shelf as they have been a steady and popular seller for many years. The new printed edition rules have been updated for some errata picked up in hundreds of games and play-tests, and we’ve been busy preparing some new photos to grace the interior pages.

Here’s some images from a photo-session this weekend to hopefully help direct your mouse to the TooFat Lardies’ shopping carts.

Finally, and also in First World War mode, my friend Chris Stoesen posted on his blog earlier that his Eastern Front Supplement for “Through the Mud and the Blood”, “From Empire to Revolution”, is nearing final preparation. Chris kindly sent me a very early draft of the supplement a few years ago and even at that early stage it was an excellent piece of work. Accounts of low-level platoon-scale actions from the Eastern Front of the First World War are hard to come across, but Chris has done a great job of tracking down more than a dozen. All of Chris' supplements which I have purchased have been well worth the cover price, with his supplement booklet "The Coming Thunder" (for the ACW in Virginia) being a real favourite of mine.   I am sure that "From Empire to Revolution" will be no exception. 

Head on over to Chris’ blog for updates, but in the meantime, here’s a copy of the cover which looks splendid.

Next up ... wargaming with Zouaves, Tirailleurs Marocains and l'Armée d'Afrique ! 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Terrain Inserts for Modular Terrain Boards

I thought I’d put together a brief Blog post on terrain inserts, using as an example the inserts I made for the Operation Gericht games at Partizan and Evesham in June.

By way of introduction, it might be helpful to describe what I mean by “terrain inserts”. A long while back, we made the decision to build our First World War terrain in modular sections of 600mm square Syrofoam blocks mounted on battened MDF boards of the same size. This decision allowed us to “dig” into the Styrofoam terrain boards to create the trenches, shell-craters and flooded areas on the boards. While that looked good and helped create the image of a First World War battlefield, there was one obvious drawback  – once you have built the terrain boards, your decision as to what terrain is featured on the terrain board is made permanently.

You can reduce this challenge by making all the terrain boards an identical size so that they can be re-orientated in any direction. But what’s actually depicted on the board is still fixed.

With this in mind we tried to find a way of making modular terrain more varied. We came up with the idea a long while back of trying to make “inserts” into the modular terrain. So, for any single terrain board featuring an “insert”, we can have two or three variants. A terrain board with a defensive bunker transforms (with a change of the bunker insert) into a terrain board with a crashed Fokker D.VII, or a board with a badly flooded series of shell-craters.

Making the terrain inserts is something you can do much later than building the initial terrain board. Or you can create them at the same time as the original board if you want to try and match the terrain colours and effects perfectly.

In creating the inserts for the Partizan and Evesham games, I wanted to build a couple of flooded and shelled areas, complete with French infantry who had fallen valiantly in their heroic defence of the village of Fleury in the battles raging around Verdun in 1916.



I also built a small shell damaged version of the cordwainer’s cottage on the edge of Fleury, which would be the target for the German assault troops in the games. I made sure that the ruin would, once built, accommodate a number of support weapons and command stands.

The terrain inserts didn’t take long to make. They were fun to do, and added a lot of variety into some of the terrain boards that we’d already been using for some time with their original inserts.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Summer Wargaming Plans

Judging by the absence of posts over the past few weeks, you may have thought that I’ve been a bit idle on the hobby front. It’d be a fair assumption, but not quite the full story. The truth is that I’ve been pulled in a number of different directions hobby-wise.

First, I’ve been enjoying painting through the “last few” 28mm late war French figures. The Verdun/ Operation Gericht games at Partizan and at Evesham made me realise how much I enjoy running games in this period, and the variety of battles and engagements we can create from the history of the First World War. Within this in mind I’ve steadily been finishing some of the figures which have been in the painting queue for some time, including this French battalion command group. I’ve also not forgotten about posting the Operation Gericht scenario oline, and adding a campaign diary – sorry for being late in doing this, but it’s coming…

One distraction has arrived in the shape of the temptation to recreate a small unit from one of France’s most famous formations. I picked up the excellent Martin Windrow/Mike Chappell book “Uniforms of the French Foreign Legion” a couple of days after returning from Evesham. Getting books like this, stacked full of fine illustrations, is a very bad idea for a wargamer! In the long term, I’m tempted to get some of the splendid Artizan Foreign Legion figures for the 1890s.

For now, however, I bought a “final” few more packs of Brigade Games’ late First World War French infantry to recreate a demi-platoon of the 1e Regiment de Marche from the Legion Etranger, for around 1916/1917. I’m planning some conversions of these figures, aiming for a battle-hardened look. I’m also hoping to add in a couple of Scarab figures to the Brigade Games figures to give the unit a bit of a less uniform appearance. I’m hoping this will be something I can model and paint during the work downtime in August.

Also on the holiday reading list is “Poilu”, a recently edited volume of the memoirs of Louis Barthas. Well known in France, this memoir is less familiar in the UK. I’d not heard of it before famed blogger, and all round gentleman, Curt Campbell very generously brought a copy over for me during his recent visit. I’m about a third of the way through and can thoroughly recommend it. 

The two big distractions for the summer have some in a smaller scale. For about two years, I’ve had a Pendraken 10mm late war French army in a box on my study floor. I bought these as a complement to a 10mm late war German force I painted in 2010. I have no idea why I never painted up the French, apart perhaps from the fact that the focus at my local wargames club in St Albans moved on in the interim from large scale games set in the First World War. However, somewhere, in the Verdun Project, I got the 10mm inspiration again.

This motivation is probably connected with the misery or carting around 28mm terrain to club evenings and wargame events like the Evesham games day. As you know, 28mm terrain looks wonderful, is great fun to create and is something people always seem to enjoy playing on. For one-off games, it’s unbeatable. But for every-week gaming, it’s a bit of a pain. There have been a number of evenings when the club has fallen short of a game last minute because of a scheduling problem. Stepping into the breach with a 28mm game is hard in those situations. Focusing on building some 10mm forces, and easy to transport terrain is one possible alternative I want to try to help fill in those last minute gaps.


I’ve cleaned and based up the French over the past couple of weeks. They've not taken long. The Pendraken sculpts are little things of wonder. Beautifully modelled and cast, they are flash free, and just need a little clipping on their base before gluing down. The artillery needs some care, but nothing too which is too much trouble. The main challenge was keeping the wheels on the axles of the 150mm gun carriages – but I found a thick superglue really helped with this. The German infantry have painted up en masse very well, and I think the French with the Horizon Bleu greatcoats may well look even better.  

I’m hoping to try out these figures in August or September, aiming to recreate some of the brigade and divisional actions from the Nivelle Offensive of early 1917. I’m not sure which rules we’ll choose. It’s a temptation to try and create our own ruleset, perhaps borrowing from the work Richard has been putting in on the Boer War. However, I have heard many good things about Great War Spearhead II, and I might well start there and see how they work. There are rumours (heard around the table at the Evesham curry) of a fine set of rules coming from Alex Buchel for the Great war, and I shall certainly be keen to try those out when the arrive.  So, all in all, more on the 10mm front to come, hopefully.

The other small scale distraction is in 6mm, but more of that in a later blog post. It’s French again (at least in part), but from an earlier period and with very pretty uniforms. I’m hoping that’s going to be a lot of fun.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...