Saturday, 25 April 2020

"Come And Have A Go If You Think You're Lard Enough!"- March 7th, 2020

One of the last days gaming I enjoyed before the (...hopefully, temporary...) end of “normal life” (pre-quarantine/ lockdown) was down in Southampton on the 7th March. This was the second running of “Come And Have A Go If You Think You’re Lard Enough”, the very enjoyable Lard “Games Day” organised by all-round friend of Lard, and great chum, Mark “Peaches” Backhouse.  Mark had brought together over 80 wargamers in a day of terrific gaming, featuring games covering the full spread of history from Roman Britain to the Second World War.

I took part in two great games, the first being a naval game set in the Danish Langelansbælt in the Napoleonic Wars, and the second set in the Northwest Frontier of the 1920s. I loved both of the games. Bob’s naval game was a really interesting challenge - balancing two British sloops against nearly a dozen Danish oared gunboats. What the British ships brought in gunpowder and fire-power, they lost in mobility, with the Danish gunboats literally trying to row rings around the British vessels as they sought to negotiate then shifting sandbars and islands of the Langelandsbælt.  I was the British commander, and I managed to inflict a fair bit of damage to the Danish gunboats, but only exited one of the British sloops off the table to bring supplies to the British fleet blockading Copenhagen,

In the second game, run by Colin, I helped out with the brave and ferocious religious rebels seeking to discomfort the forces of the British Crown. On a lovely looking table - with some terrific mountainous terrain - we had figured out a cunning plan to try and pin the British down. Well, that plan lasted for about 15 minutes, before defeat seemed to loom into view - at which point we decided to go for “route 1” - or “dusty road 1” - and simply charged everything in sight.  That seemed to work a little bit better, but - more to the point - was far, far more fun!

Both games were so much fun to play in - huge thanks to both Bob and Colin and all my fellow players for a great wargaming experience.

With Mark’s generous photo-sharing, here’s some other photos from the other great games from the day.

One of my favourite games of the whole day was an excellent kriegspiel run by Derek and Mark, featuring the 1809 campaign at Eckmühl.  Although I didn't play, I enjoyed dropping by to see the players' maps and plans, accompanied by some fine 6mm MDF figures which Mark had painted for the game.  Talking to the various players, enjoying their reactions ("Where are the French again?"), and watching the state of the players' maps during the course of the day was a really enjoyable sideline for the day.  Perhaps just as much as playing a kriegspiel, watching kriegspiel with good friends playing is a terrific way of passing the time.  Huge kudos to Derek, Mark and Nick for their work on this really fine game.

So that's all from "Lard Enough 2020".  it was the first, and sadly (so far) the only show I've attended in 2020 - for obvious reasons.  One of the things I've realised in the past seven week is how much I've missed games days and slows like this, and I am sure you feel the same.  So, here's to "Come And Have A Go If You Think You're Lard Enough, 2021"!

Sunday, 19 April 2020

A Bumper Apple Harvest

I like tinkering around with bits of terrain and scenery.  I always think this is most fun when the items being tinkered with are things you've had hanging around for a while - maybe they're even items you've been using in games and which need to be freshened up a little bit.  I've been meaning to try and produce a couple of apple trees in 28mm for some time, and the two small trees I had earmarked for the job (very nicely produced by The Last Valley) have been sitting on a shelf forlornly for at least two years.

One of the things about the current world isolation and lockdown is having the chance to pick up some of the projects we might have placed on the back-burner for some time.  I therefore "painted" the trees with very-slightly diluted PVA glue, which really made the trees a lot more solid, added them to a base (from Warbases), did the groundwork, and then started to produce the "apples" from green-stuff.

Errr..... yes, dear readers, I made the apples from green-stuff.  It's not as mad as it seems.  (OK, well, it is a little bit mad, but please - don't give up yet).  Here's some apples - Bramleys - from the trees in my garden last autumn.  Some big, some small, a great many are misshapen, and the colours are definitely non-uniform.  

So, in other words, they're perfect to be re-created in green-stuff.  They didn't take long to produce - I did about 50.  Put on iPlayer, Netflix or a DVD (I chose the very good "Richard II" in "The Hollow Crown" series) and the time flies.

Then, when the apples have set, superglue them to the branches.  I also did a few windfalls on the ground and also added a couple of green-stuff eggs for some chickens I had painted recently.  The eggs are a bit large - as some posters on Twitter correctly noted - but hey, it was Easter and that's the time for all sorts of miracles.

When the apples are securely glued on, they're easy to paint with a base of light-ish green (Vallejo Lime Green), and a glaze of red (Vallejo Red and Dark Vermillion).  I'm enjoying using the Vallejo Glaze Medium - just take Vallejo Red (or Dark Vermillion for some variety), and dilute with the Vallejo glaze medium, and the result is a (hopefully) realistic tone for the apples both on the tree and collected in the apple barrels.  The eggs got painted a shade of peachy-ivory.  (And a big shout out and thank you to Nick - Moiterei - for suggesting the Vallejo Glaze Medium on the comments on this Blog some months back!)

And that was it.  Hopefully allowing battles to take place in an orchard, and for the Flemish apple harvest to be looted for years to come!


The Regiment of Horse of the Duc de Luxembourg, 1688

“Never allow them to move unthreatened. Always watch their lines of approach. Deny them a direct line to the flanks of your foot, My Lord.  Force them to stand.  Place them under fire at every opportunity if at all possible.  Above all, never lose your sight of their location in the Field. The regiments of Horse of the Sun King are the thin, sharp knife of His army and, unchecked, will cause the shipwreck of all our hopes.”

From the journal of Don Fernando de Torrescusa, Marquess de Girona, Envoy of His Most Catholic Majesty, Carlos the Second, King of Spain, to the Flemish Free City of Laarden in 1688.


This has, dear readers and friends, turned out to be an unusual year.  I’ve not blogged here as much as I thought I would have done.  It’s time to redress that omission, with some of the things I’ve been painting and doing during the first quarter of 2020.

So, here is the French regiment of Horse, from 1688 of the Duc de Luxembourg. I first blogged these in February as part of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge X – and yes, given the events of this year, that does seem a long time ago!  The details of the uniforms are taken from Robert Hall’s book on the armies of the Sun King: "Standards and Uniforms of the French Cavalry Under Louis XIV, 1688-1714" (published by “The Pike & Shot Society”).   The extract from the journal of Don Fernando de Torrescusa, Marquess de Girona, is (of course) fictional - but does go some way to reflect how nervous his historical contemporaries may have felt when the French horse took the field in number.

The figures are 28mm from the older Wargames Foundry range - this is not quite a venerable range of figures, having first come out in 1989, but with a little bit of care I still feel they can still look very fine on the table. They are perhaps more “big 25mm” than "true 28mm", and are a perfect match for Perry Miniatures and 1st Corps and Old Glory figures. They also fit very well with 28mm miniatures from The Assault Group, although the TAG horses are a little larger than the Foundry ones. They each come with a couple of arms so you can chose the pose of the arm, hand and sword. This adds a nice flexibility to the figure but does require a little fiddling with. 

I swapped out the Officer’s arm for a sword - which is more martial than his original hand which seemed to be completing a ducal wave. I also changed a couple of horses around from the ones supplied.  As with other French figures I've been painting, I added liberal amounts of green-stuff for feathers, knots of ribbons on shoulders, cravats and some extra hat lace. The French troops were known (like earlier Spanish Tercios) to be fancifully equipped with such non-martial additions to their uniform.

No doubt this was to help distinguish regiments of different combatants, or maybe to engender pride in a unit formation. Whatever the reason, I think it looks fun. And, also, there is a certain black amusement in being confronted by a six foot angry French cavalier on a ferocious horse charging at you while being festooned in more ribbons, bows and spectacular Pom-Poms than would be stitched onto any Texan cheerleader’s costume.

The standard finial is from Bicorne and the very fine flag is from GMB Designs.

I undercoated all the figures in Halfords 'car primer' - sprayed on in a couple of smooth actions.  I have no idea why I had such problems with the spray priming about a year ago.  These (and other) figures which I primed over Christmas and New Year seemed to prime very easily.

The paints I used were Vallejo, with the grey coats on the figures being painted with a base of Vallejo VMC Light Grey and washed with a mix of Vallejo inks (Grey mixed with Umber and diluted with some Vallejo Glaze Medium).  I tried to keep the horses as simple as possible.  I feel I have some work to do in that regard, particularly on the chestnut/roan horses.  I might experiment later during this year with horses which are much more basic, ideally to make the mounted figures’ uniforms “pop” a bit more.  I’ll let you know how that works out.


Monday, 13 January 2020

"Shattered" French bases: Sint Vaalben, 1688

From the letters and diaries of the Marquis de Montchevreuil, Grand Écuyer to His Highness The King of France, French Flanders, 1688

"When an entire Victory is obtain’d, he who hath lost the day should not lose his Courage too, but ought to gather up his Shipwreck, rally his dispers’d and broken troops, get new recruits, dissemble his losses, encourage his party and draw to a head again; these are things practis’d by all intelligent Generals."  

Sir James Turner, Pallas Armata, Chapter XXII

I never had much time for English or Scottish writers on military matters.  Most of their experiences of battle were in the British Wars, before I became a soldier.  The King of England had sent companies and regiments to His Majesty's armies in French Flanders in '72, but it was a strange business.  The forces were tiny compared with the French regiments under our command, even if their commanders were of a most striking appearance.  But, more of Lord Monmouth another day.  

It is enough here to mention that writers such as Sir James Turner, however well-schooled in the warfare of the classical ancients, can never have seen a true "Shipwreck" on the Field of battle.  It is, of course, hard to "rally ... dispers’d and broken troops", and still harder to recover those formations once fully shattered in the Field, the Officers dead, the standards lost and the troops utterly spent.   

Being able to "...dissemble ones losses..." is, naturally, something I attempt to do on every occasion - whether at the gambling salon or on the Field of Mars.  But one's enemies are bound to conflate a gruesome butcher's bill in retaliation.  And as for the sentiment that "...he who hath lost the day should not lose his Courage too...", my thoughts are that such sentiments do rather depend on the extend to which the enemy has shot musket balls into your body or pierced your flesh with a rapier blade.

Fourteen years gone, and I can still see the place where the Flemish cavaliers had nearly killed me.  Not every single moment, perhaps, as much fades over time - as I'm sure you know.  But I remember more than enough to bring back the sharp pain in my shoulder and side whenever I think of that nasty, drab little Flemish village, nestling like a toad in the Autumn mud.  It had been raining, of course throughout the whole of that day before the village of Sint Vaalben.  It had still been raining when the Flemish horse had broken into the flank of the cavalry du Roi, scattering my squadrons in their moment of supposed triumph, our mounts forced down under the press of horses as we were pushed back into our infantry.

Hard to "....gather up his Shipwreck...." after floundering on such muddy shoals, Sir James.  


So, a brief snippet from the black bile-laden pen of our French companion, the Marquis de Montchevreuil to accompany some shattered bases of French foot and horse for the use on the tabletop.  Much as I love Sir James Turner's "Pallas Armata", I do wonder if some of his encouragement seems to be in the vein of an armchair general.  More from Sir James later this year, I hope...

In the meantime, for anyone wondering if these form part of Challenge X..... No, dear friends, they do not!!  I painted these figures last Autumn, but never got around to posting them on the blog, or anywhere.  

Part of my 2020 plans for the Blog is posting quite a lot of painting I've done but never got around to putting up here on the Blog.  What holds me up more often than not isn't so much the painting as creating the fiction and snippets of angry letters and diary entries which our Spanish and French fictional companions write to accompany the photos!  I know, it's strange - but sometimes life's like that, dear Friends!

So we have three "flight" or "shattered" bases for use with the French troops in the Field.  The standard being waved around is the Regiment de Flandres, which was a regiment of good-standing and (I think) one of the petit-Vieux regiments in the French army, denoting a very respectable but not ancient regimental lineage.  Whatever their provenance, they are having a very bad day.

The troops are from a variety of manufacturers, being 1st Corps, Wargames Foundry, Dixon Miniatures and Perry Miniatures.  The drum is by Redoubt, with some extra green-stuff denoting a ripped drum-skin.  I added some extra green-stuff feathers on a couple of figures, but apart from that the troops are shown as you can purchase them.  The Bases are from Warbases and the finial is from Bicorne.  The lovely tufts are from WSS Scenics.  The standard is hand-painted.

I love doing these bases, which can then take the place of routed formations on the tabletop battlefield.  While I hope they're still respectful, they do point to seventeenth century battles being unpleasant and bloody affairs, as well as raising issues for how formations of routed troops would move off the Field, or remain on it, during the battle.

And next time, I'll be adding some things from Challenge X.  Hope you can join me here for that, later this week.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Happy New Year 2020!

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope you and your friends and families all have a wonderful 2020 and thank you all for following this blog over the past year, and indeed the past decade.

As you'll have seen, over the last year my blogging has become less frequent - which is a great shame as it is something I definitely enjoy.  No doubt it's because - like many of you - I've been more active on Twitter than Blogger.  And the distractions of modern life, family, work and commuting have, again, been, present.

But, all this being said, I looked back at my blog over the past few days and enjoyed re-reading some of the nonsense I've been posting over the past year, a great deal of which has been about the fictional town of Laarden, set in the late seventeenth century Spanish Netherlands.

The good news for 2020 is that I don't intend anything different.  Shock... surprise... bewilderment!  No major announcements, or New Year's resolutions, Sidney?  No suggestions of any new periods, or changes of social media?  No, dear readers, none at all.

OK...OK.... I do promise to try and blog here more often - but that's only the softest of new Year's resolutions, I think.  But apart form that, I'd like to bring you more painting, figures, modelling and fiction from the strange, distant, through-a-glass-darkly world of 1688 Flanders.

So, with that in mind, perhaps this year you might: 
  • come face to face with the fearsome Gendarmerie of Le Roi Soleil;
  • trudge along the muddy roads of Flanders with a group of straggling soldiers;
  • witness the miracle of Sint Jacobus' golden fishing net;
  • inhabit the shadows of a town in darkness with a man who cannot be seen;
  • trade and negotiate for lucrative tulip contracts on the Laarden bourse;
  • discover the strange secret of a Prince of the Blood.

All that, dear readers, and much more nonsense besides...

A degree of this foolishness is being driven by Curt's Tenth Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, but hopefully this year's fun will stretch long past late March when the doors close on what will be another wonderful Challenge.

And, as this Blog has been going for almost a decade, since 26 January 2010 (..I know, how crazy is that?...), I'll be looking back at some of the past nonsense I've been posting here over the last ten years.

So plenty to look forward to in 2020, and (hopefully) something for everyone.

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