Saturday 27 March 2021

The Last Stand of the Regiment de Louvigny, Flanders 1688


"Sound trumpets!  Let our Bloody colours wave!

And either victory, or else a grave!"

Henry VI, Part 3 (Act 2, scene 2)

Just about the final submission I painted for the eleventh Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge was a large single base featuring casualties and a dramatic last stand of the French Regiment de Louvigny from 1688.

I'd had this collection of figures on a single base in mind for a while.  You might remember that a few years back I did some 'flight' bases.  These were single stands of units in various stages of complete rout or terminal breakdown.  They were quite addictive to covert and paint.  Here's a section...

The idea behind these bases was to clearly reflect, on the wargames tabletop, the changed condition of battlefield units.  Instead of viable formations, a player would be faced with terminally damaged units. Or, as Sir James Turner, a veteran of the Thirty Years War would put it - "shipwracked" battalions.  

In the Thirty Years War rules I used for 2mm games a few years back, withdrawing terminally damaged units from the Field was important, as victory points were available to an opponent who could shatter such tempting targets.  

But with the last stand of Regiment de Louvigny, I wanted to take a different snapshot in time.  Here, I was trying to capture a stage between a viable regiment, and a shattered collection of soldiers.  I wanted to recreate the state of order being lost, but where the battalion is still fighting - a last stand, in essence.

I felt I only needed a single base.  The order would be lost, with the drill-book delineation of pike and shot broken down.  Men would be dead and wounded, but the colours would still be flaunting the sky.  Officers would still be leading.  Drums would still be heard above the chaos of battle.  The battalion would still have claws and teeth, although no one would know for how much longer.

What I had in mind was a single centrepiece for a large skirmish in which the "shipwrack" of a French battalion could (possibly) be rescued from Flemish, Imperial or Spanish enemy forces by a relieving friendly French brigade.  It would suit an evening's narrative wargaming, or perhaps be a smaller table in a day's gaming.

The small "slots" for two micro-dice are there to record casualties and cohesion.  As the regiment in its battered state is not really functioning as a working formation, there's no need to identify the pike and shot separately in any normal basing formation.  All that is now important is the remaining cohesion of the battalion as an entity - hence the dice marking that.  As the casualties, shock and chaos mount, so the dice can tick up, or down, depending on how you like to show such things.

So, rather than just a 'casualty base', I could use the Last Stand as a half-way house between functioning battalion and a mere marker for routed troops.  For that reason, it's about twice as large as the 'flight' bases in the photos at the start of this Blog post.

After deciding on the type of base I wanted, it was really just a case of deciding which figures I wanted.  I chose a blend of of pike and shot, officers and soldiers, a drummer, and a blend of dead, wounded and still-healthy troops.  

In retrospect, I should have done better in painting the standard, which looks a little too pristine for any 'last stand'.  And maybe the casualties could have been a bit more numerous.  But I didn't have long to prepare the stand at the end of Challenge XI and I'm hopeful it can pass muster on most tabletops.  

The perfect is, of course dear friends, the enemy of the tabletop-standard.

The Regiment de Louvingy is for my late seventeenth century 1688 Flanders collection, so I tried to make the figures fit with the other units and formations by adding green-stuff feathers, lace, ribbons and swapping the Officer's right arm from carrying a standard to more nobly raising his sword towards the Flemish and Spanish Enemies-of-his-Blood.  

I took the uniform of the Regiment de Louvigny from Mark Allen's fine book "Armies & Enemies of Louis XIV: Volume 1 - Western Europe 1688-1714" (published by Helion).  The real Regiment de Louvigny is a rather forgotten, anonymous regiment - so I felt it was time to bring its soldiers back to the grand stage of European warfare on the wargames table.

The figures are a mix of Dixon Miniatures and Wargames Foundry, with a Colonel Bill's casualty figure added at the front.  The splendid, and very versatile, gabions are from Frontline Wargaming.  The base is  a terrain base from Warbases, who also made the micro-dice slots.  The tufts are from WSS Scenics.

No one makes the standard for the Regiment de Louvigny - so I painted it myself.  And yes, from the angle below, it really still does look too pristine !

And because this is a submission featuring the ludicrousness of my fictional campaign for the Flemish Free-City of Laarden, in 1688, here's the Challenge XI Collectible Card for the "Last Stand of the Regiment de Louvigny" - another in my 2021 collection of the "Enemies and Adversaries of Laarden, 1688".  

I hope you enjoyed this post from Challenge XI.  There's more to come in this vein, but next time up, I'll have my crystal ball and scoresheet out, as we take a look at the "Portents of Laarden".  

Hope you can join me for that, dear readers!

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Le Roi Soleil, Master of the World - Versailles, 1688


"He's coming...Yes, of course it's him. Why? Well, everything about him is glittering and golden, so that's a good guess. And, well... he's handsome. And tall. Apollo-esque maybe. No, no... I'm not having second thoughts. Pass the the poison, quickly. Don't drop it! Oh, for the blood of Sint Jacobus.... how on earth did you get recommended to me as an apprentice assassin? Quick, quick - flutter your fan in front of my hands while you pass the poison over. QUICK... Oh...OH! Your Majesty....what a surprise to see you here. We were just taking a stroll in your gardens. Monsieur Le Notre was kind enough to invite us. But you've quite trapped us here, almost as if you had intended it...."

Louise de Gisoreux, Founder of Le Lapin d'Or, and would-be assassin, 1688

Way back in late December 2020 and over the New Year, I prepared this vignette for the 11th Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.  In some ways it bookends the other vignette I made last year featuring the Dauphin of France, although this one is perhaps a bit spikier, I hope!

In this vignette, we are a long way from the smoke-shrouded, war-torn battlefields of Flanders.  Instead, cast yourself into the royal gardens of the Palace of Versailles, in 1688.

One of the things which comes from reading about the courtly intrigues of Versailles, and the politics of Louis XIV's court, is the sheer sense of unease and danger experienced by its residents. Who was in favour, who was living on borrowed time (exile to Brittany being a terrible thing in 1688), and who was currently in the King's eye. A perfect place for traps and snares of all kinds (which was the theme of the relevant "Chamber" in the Painting Challenge).

So here we have a small cabal of would-be assassins, perhaps Flemish sympathisers or unusual allies for the beleaguered Spanish, plotting to ensnare Louis Le Grand in his own courtly gardens.

The scene is all set, as Louis' roving eye catches the sumptuous fabric of Louise de Gisoreux's dress. A tempting target for the infamous Royal Passion, no doubt. Unknown to the French King, however, the brave Louise de Gisoreux is the founder of the secret society of "Le Lapin d'Or", a league of wealthy nobles who despise the King (and wish to replace him with his easy-going brother, or the Man in the Iron Mask, or... well, almost anyone, really).

It's a scene which is almost foretold by the avaricious King's love of classical mythology; the statue on the plinth depicts the young, amorous Apollo being spurned by the river nymph, Daphne. 

Murder is clearly being planned among the slowly-turning, autumn leaves.

But wait ... just who has snared who in this strange, stately, baroque masque?

Behind the plinth, slyly creeping out of sight, the wily French fox has trapped a golden rabbit in its jaws, and is carrying away it's prize. What treacherous traps and snares does Louis, the Sun King himself, have in store for our brave heroine and her small cabal of (slightly hapless) co-conspirators...?

I've always loved those strange, baroque paintings in art galleries.  You know the sort - huge canvases, filled with things happening.  Almost like a code, or a message.  I'm not sure what my message is here - other than I'm slightly deranged!

And, talking of being deranged, I could not resist the temptation to prepare a couple of more of my ludicrous 'character cards' for this vignette - one for each of the competing traps and snares, French or Flemish (depending on whether you like the good guys, or the very bad guy).

For the figures, they're rather a disparate mixture.

Louis and Louise are from Wargames Foundry, Louise's accomplice is from Redoubt, while the Turkish servant is from Old Glory's Pirates range. The two classical characters on the plinth are a little smaller than 28mm and were really only dry-brushed bronze - 'Apollo' is a lovely Wargames Foundry cherub, and 'Daphne' being a diminutive, beautiful but (these days) politically incorrect Daemonette or Succubus from Games Workshop's range of Chaos Familiars.

I did some conversion work on Louise de Gisoreux - some extra lace and a silken bow on the back of her dress. The bottles and goblets littering the base of the plinth were from Scotia Grendell. The plinth was scratch-built by me, but the base is from Warbases, as is the fox and unlucky rabbit.

I added some autumn leaves to the base of the vignette.  Maybe there is also some foreshadowing there, dear readers.  There were similar softly turning leaves on the base of the Dauphin's vignette as well.  What does that foretell of the portents for the French campaign against the Flemish Free City of Laarden?  Or, do they foretell a most distant doom for the House of Bourbon?  Or, is it just October?

And here's the growing collection of cards for 2021 (and late 2020), focusing on the "Enemies and Adversaries of Laarden, 1688" (as promised, Andy, in an earlier comments thread).  This suite of "Enemies" is marked by a French fleur-de-lis in the top corner, partly to keep track of them!  

Stay tuned, dear readers, to collect the whole set of thirteen!!


Monday 22 March 2021

Gendarmerie de France, Laarden, 1688

"Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs in the receiving earth"

Henry V, Act 1, Prologue

"Liberated from the mud and the damp of a Flanders winter, on firm ground and in good weather, His Majesty's cavalry is unsurpassed.  Yet many things can conspire to thwart their time of Glory.  For the true art of fighting with cavaliers is not in using them, as much as deploying them where they cause the most distress to His Majesty's enemies."

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


Welcome back!!  It's been a while since I updated the Blog.  I've not been idle, though - rather, I've been preparing for, and participating in, the eleventh Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, which has run over the winter months from 20th December 2020 to 21 March - or, yesterday, in fact!

It's a seasonal mad-rush of chaotic brush-wielding, figure-preparing, terrain-making, plan-re-jigging and dozens of other miniature painting lunacies which has, for all of the Challengers, hallmarked the passing of the last few years.

Now that Challenge XI is completed, I wanted to post some of the figures I've been painting over the winter months, here on the Blog, for everyone to enjoy.  Or, for my fellow Challengers, to enjoy all over again.

I thought I'd start with two companies of the Gendarmerie de France - the Gendarmes d'Orleans and the Gendarmes de Berry.  The Gendarmerie were the inheritors of the mantle of France's aristocratic noble cavalry of the Hundred Years War and the Italian Wars of the sixteenth century.  By 1688, there were sixteen companies of Gendarmes which could be fielded by Louis XIV, comprising an elite cavalry brigade which could either be attached to the Royal Guard, the Maison du Roi, or deployed in their own right. 

Service as an officer in the Gendarmes was something of a status symbol for young French noblemen.  To have a noble family tree was a condition for all officers, and it was helpful for both sergeants and troopers to posses the sniff of nobility when applying to join a company.  One historian has written that service in the Gendarmerie was a "refuge of that part of the very numerous nobility that did not have enough [financial] means to buy or upkeep a regiment".  In other words, young noblemen, out to prove themselves, desperate for Glory, and prickly about their family provenance and standing.  Oh Lord, what can go wrong?

Oh, and these lads are all French.  

I mean, someone pass me the popcorn and watch the spectacle unfurl...

I can't wait to get the formations here onto the wargames table and watch the, near inevitable,  chaos ensue.  

I painted up the Gendarmes d'Orleans and the Gendarmes de Berry, using the colour prints from Rene Chatrand's volume "The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 (Volume 2: The Cavalry of Louis XIV)".  Rene writes at some length about the Gendarmerie (and his book is generally a great read about the Sun King's cavalry), noting their many battlefield triumphs and exemplary bravery.  

Other historians, such as Professor David Parrott give a more prosaic appraisal of how difficult the Gendarmerie could be for any general to control.  That gives a myriad of possibilities when deploying the Gendarmerie on the wargames table.  They might be the glittering nobility of France, fast, effective and much-feared.  Or they might be an uncontrollable, over-privileged collection of cavaliers who cause even more of a headache to the French High Command than to their enemies.  Best of all, I doubt the French player will ever be sure which Gendarmerie might turn up and take the Field.

The figures are 28mm cavalry form Wargames Foundry.  I added lots of green-stuff feathers on the hats, and green-stuff lace on almost every shoulder.  I swapped the Officers' arms for rather dashing sword arms and added some longer coats on a couple of the figures.  So, some conversion work, but not too much.

The flags are from GMB Designs, and the nice finials are from Flags of War (in a splendid fleur-de-lis and cravat fashion, as was accurate for 1688).

Painting noble officers for the late seventeenth century is always "an experience".  It's hard to go over the top.  On this occasion, I had some fun trying to paint in the officers' slightly dodgy teeth.  Being a nobleman, even in the Gendarmerie de France, didn't guarantee perfect dentistry, I'm sure!

Of course, being destined for service against the enemies of France in my ludicrously self-indulgent alt-historical campaign for the Free-City of Laarden in 1688, I created a Collectible Character Card for the Gendarmeries to add to the set for The Laarden Campaign, 1688.

You'll remember, dear Blog readers, that Collectible Cards for the Laarden Campaign are something I like to churn out prepare, working to the figure of 52 cards, plus a couple of jokers.  By my reckoning, I think I'm over halfway there, but there's still more to do on that front!

Eagle-eyed Blog readers will remember that I had planned to get the Gendarmerie painted last year.  Fear not, other things were painted instead.  I posted a list of things, in January 2020, of things I hoped to get done last year.  Notwithstanding the fact that 2020 was far from a normal year, I was hoping to give an account of how much of that got done in the next blog post or so.  So, stay tuned for that!


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