Friday, 6 November 2020

Pre-Crisis Eve - but not in Antwerp

Over the last ten years on this Blog, I've posted many times about the excellent "Crisis" wargames show, held every year in the Belgian city of Antwerp. It's my favourite wargames show of the year, with a huge amount of that credit going to the tireless members of the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp wargaming club, who year after year stage a terrific event. 


Yet, this year - 2020 - on an evening when I should be in Antwerp, with friends, enjoying a glass of De Koninck along a fine steak, I'm at home.  No doubt like so many of you, Dear Readers, from Alaska to Aukland - and everywhere in between - I'm "locked down", and the Crisis show is cancelled.

But that's no reason to forget the wonderful times we've had in Antwerp at the Crisis show, and to look forward with confidence and anticipation to a time when we'll all be able to travel again to wargames shows in places such as the lovely city of Antwerp.



Crisis is more than just another wargaming convention. It’s a perfect venue for wargamers and hobbyists throughout Europe to meet up and share ideas, experiences, roll some dice, play some games and buy (yet more) figures, terrain, tools, books and just... well, "stuff".

And perhaps the biggest star of the Crisis show is the city of Antwerp itself. Welcoming and friendly, and with a stylish and elegant old town, Antwerp is a great destination for a long weekend of wargaming with friends.









So, until we can all travel again to shows like Crisis, stay safe, Dear Readers!  Enjoy your Crisis-Eve, and Crisis weekend, even if at home.  Normal posting (and nonsense) from seventeenth century Flanders will be back in the next Blog post, rest assured.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

"...tennis balls, my liege..." : Le Grand Dauphin's Campaign against Laarden, 1688



KING HENRY : What treasure, uncle? 

EXETER : Tennis-balls, my liege. 

KING HENRY : We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us;


King Henry V, Act 1, Scene 2

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One of the things I’ve enjoyed in this strange year of lockdowns and home-working has been finishing off half-completed figures, and half-baked ideas. Saving time on a long commute has allowed me to work on some things that I never could have hoped to have painted, otherwise.

One of these was a suitably frivolous, and thoroughly French,  figure of Le Grand Dauphin - the eldest son of Louis XIV of France. A flick-through of the pages of French history books will come up fairly blank when it comes to Le Grand Dauphin’s achievements. A quiet, subdued man, he seems to have been over-awed by his remarkable father, and several dominating tutors. But that just serves to provide a perfect blank canvas for the alt-historical Dauphin of France, a character who I was hoping to create for my fictional campaign for the Free Flemish city of Laarden in 1688.

I wanted to model a command stand which was a little bit different for the Dauphin.  Something which was very French, slightly whimsical and which echoed the unpleasantly sarcastic and arrogant Dauphin of Shakespeare's Henry V, as opposed to the placid historical heir to the French throneOne of the great scenes from the play is when the Dauphin sends the young King Henry a set of tennis balls as a coronation gift, suggesting Prince Hal's mis-spent youth.  Which, naturally enough, gave me the idea of try and represent the Dauphin as a waspish, vain, and pampered tennis-playing prince, complete with a sycophantic courtier.  



I know, I know, total and complete nonsense to float our late seventeeth century boats, Dear Readers! 

Modelling the figures - essentially non-combatants - is a bit of a challenge in 28mm.  I used a very versatile Dixon Miniatures officer for the Dauphin, and a Wargames Foundry civilian for the vacuous courtier.  I converted them with the addition of green-stuff lace, elaborate wigs and some Hasslefree tennis racquets, which I 'strung' with some 1/1200th naval ratlines!  




The tennis balls were created with green-stuff and dropped around the scene.  No doubt, many were lost as a result of the Dauphin's questionable tennis skills.  I also made a suitably-baroque bucket to fill with champagne bottles, and added a few goblets by the set of playing cards and the gold Louis d'Or wager on the surface of the drum.




I also added a scratch-built plinth for a bronze cherub from Wargames Foundry, adding a tiny bit of verdigris to the painting.  I'm sure all French (and, maybe, Flemish) chateaus had such classical statues located in their formal gardens in the late seventeenth century.  Hmmm... well, they do in my campaigns, anyway.





I finished the base with some tufts and some autumn-themed leaf scatter.  Maybe a sign of the forthcoming autumn of the royal House of Bourbon in the Laarden campaign, perhaps...?  Ah, that would be unlikely, but who know what the fates have in store for the French armies of the Dauphin and his father, Louis XIV?

I also added the Dauphin's favourite Dalmatian, sniffing at a stray tennis ball.  I had fun finding that Dalmatians as a breed were popular in the seventeenth century among the noble classes.


And finally, in the ultimate act of historical sacrilege, I created the first of a new series of Laarden Character cards for the Dauphin.  And why not - 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us.  What the world clearly needs is a very self-indulgent, history-distorting set of character cards for the "Enemies and Adversaries of Laarden, 1688".  Of which I'll play the Dauphin's card as being the first of the "Enemies" suite of thirteen.  



Stay tuned for more "Enemies and Adversaries" soon, and collect the others in the pack, Ladies and Gentlemen!  And here's a reminder of the first thirteen in the playing card deck...




Sunday, 11 October 2020

“… as meer Mercenaries, and Hirelings to serve any Arbitrary power whatsoever…”: German Foot, 1688

"And for this cause also was the Army at first raised, formed, and commissionated, namely, for the defence of the just, civil, and religious Rights, Liberties, and Safety of the good people of this Nation; and not as meer Mercenaries, and Hirelings to serve any Arbitrary power whatsoever"

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So wrote the author of a pamphlet from 1659, entitled "The Army's plea for their present practice: tendered to the consideration of all ingenuous and impartial men" about the New Model Army, in its final year of chaos before the Restoration brought everything crashing down. "... meer Mercenaries and Hirelings" - it's so gloriously dismissive, isn't it?


One of my favourite blog posts of the past few years, since I went back to the seventeenth century as a wargaming period, was something I wrote about hiring German mercenary foot, recruited by the civic elders and burghers of the (fictitious) Flemish city of Laarden to brace and supplement Laarden's otherwise creaking military capacity.  

As I wrote that post, I loved thinking through the various restrictions which might be applied to a contract for the supply of mercenary troops.   Since then, I've tried to read more concerning what the term "mercenary" soldiers meant in early modern Europe - whether they were "meer Mercenaries, and Hirelings", or whether this term was really just another name for veterans.  Men who knew which end of a matchlock musket the powder and ball got rammed into, maybe.  Over the years since that post, I've painted the figures I blogged about, and added some more - in the shape of a battalion of Southern German foot.  I thought it was about time I added them to the Blog from my photo-backlog.

First up is the North German foot battalion of Graf Joachim von Bek.  Rather than pick an Imperial battalion from the (very) long list of Imperial regiments from the 1680s, I wanted von Bek's foot to be taken from a painting of the period.  There was an Imperial regiment of Bek, but what I had in mind was more alt-historical - a battalion which, having served in the Dutch Wars could then have experienced warfare in the Baltic.  Pieter Wouvermans' painting of the December 1672 assault on Coevorden has an amazing variety of both foot and horse in the foreground.  I really liked the look of the foot on the right of Wouvermans' painting, with the yellow damask silken standard.


I tried to capture some of the grey, ochre, buff and brown figures in the painting in the uniforms for Graf von Bek's Foot.  Being mindful of just how many light grey uniforms I've had to paint with Louis XIV's French foot, I was keen to try and find (or justify) German foot with some more varied uniforms.  I thought dark grey uniforms would set off the ochre- and buff-coloured stockings and cuffs, while staying true to the soldiery in Wouvermans' fine painting.  Also, as I mentioned in the earlier Blog post, I added brass frets of oak-leaves to make the Imperial, or Imperial-subsidised, foot to make them more distinctive on the tabletop battlefield.





The brass fret, from Scale-link, is really nice to use.  Easy to cut, and easy to add to the hats of the soldiers with super-glue or expoy, the brass fret just allows an alternative to a hat full of (green-stuffed) ostrich or partridge feathers.  


I tried to replicate Wouvermans' standard in the painting on the paper flag.  I don't think its my best effort - maybe the yellow damask-silk looks too clean, or not shaded enough.  Maybe the shield on the quarter of the flag isn't really shaking enough in the breeze.  Anyway, it's done now.  Knowing when to stop painting is one of the hardest things to master, sometimes!

I finished the regiment off with some Bicorne finials, 3mm MDF bases from Warbases and some grass tufts from WSS Scenics.  I would recommend all of them, just for finishing things up on a wargames unit.  




Unlike the Flemish or French foot in my collection of units for Laarden 1688, I wanted to include a couple of battalion guns for the German foot.  Not too many, but just a couple - maybe to test out if they would make a difference on the table.  I added this one from Dixon Miniatures, complete with a suitably uniformed gun crew.




I also had a few Bavarian foot left over from an older project.  These came to me from a friend, a long while back.  He had kindly sold me the shot, but I needed to add some pikes, add the standards and the bases.  As this unit was a little of an after-thought, I'd not purchased any Bavarian chequered standards in advance.  Casting around for inspiration, I found the following image on the front of Helion's fine book on the Bavarian army of the Thirty Years War - it looked a lot more practicable than painting Bavarian chequers...




The Bavarian blue is a lovely colour, which should hopefully look distinctive on the tabletop.  Bavarian forces were heavily committed in the later Thirty Years War and in the Nine Years War, so adding the possibility of Bavarians to one of the sides on a later seventeenth century tabletop doesn't seem too outlandish.  The regiment I found in Bavarian light blue and yellow ochre was L├╝tzenberg - so the uniform is accurate, even if the (alt-historical) standard is not!  Hopefully these are the first of several Bavarians over the next few years.





And finally, because I enjoy creating nonsense documents as a back-drop to future campaigns, here's a letter from one of my notebooks from an old friend of the Blog, 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, and so on...), commissioning more forces for the wars in Flanders.


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