Monday, 28 July 2008

4th July Parade

It's a couple of weeks overdue, but then I spent the real 4th July 2008 lurching from one winery to the next in Marlborough. Last Sunday was the first day I've really had to myself since I returned from New Zealand. I have been meaning to parade the boys for a while now, and a couple of queries both here and elsewhere about the size of my collection and some lovely summer sunshine prompted me to let Mr Washington (as the British often insisted on calling him) inspect his troops. So here is the American half of my AWI collection. In total I have 37 regiments of infantry (including skirmish units), 1 of cavalry and 12 gun crews. Not all of these are on the table, but most are (missing are the 11th Virginia, which was in the wrong box, some skirmishers, Indians and extras such as artillery baggage, dragrope men etc).

This was a useful exercise for several reasons. First, I need more brigade commanders; that is easily solved as I have a pack of Old Glory generals that is waiting to be painted. Second, hunting shirts are still relatively scarce, and you can see that the majority of regiments are in uniform coats. Third, I probably have too many regiments. I haven't worked out as yet what one would need to do something like Brandywine entirely from one's own resources, but the reality is that many of these figures, particularly the older ones, will rarely see a game unless I make more of a conscious effort in that area. But I suppose that is the lot of many 18th century collections, which will contain several regiments that don't feature in orbats that often. Fourth, the older figures really pale beside my more recent units; I can see now why gamers "retire" their less well-painted stuff.

Anyway, I will let the pictures do the talking and not bother with captions. This, together with its British/Hessian counterpart, is the product of 5 years of collecting and painting AWI. The sum total doesn't seem all that much in Napoleonic terms...Everything is based for the "British Grenadier!" rules, hence filing this post under the rules' label.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

American dragrope men

This is the American version of Alan Perry's earlier British dragrope men pack (see here). Quite nice figures these, and a couple at least can be used for all manner of thinkgs other than hired help for shifting artillery (such as farm hands). The two Perry packs of dragrope men will, I suspect, see more "action" than the rest of my collection as they will appear whenever artillery is on the table, which is in most scenarios. Alan Perry must like sculpting figures like these, as I see he has made some for his 1815 French range. (Incidentally, my apologies for the lack of "background action" in these photos .)

I have spent some time recently thinking about my Continental forces. As anticipated at the beginning of the year, I think I am close to closure on American infantry. The next regiment is almost finished (the 6th Virginia) and I am half-way through the 2nd Pennsylvania. I have about 4 regiments' worth of unpainted figures and there are a couple of other hunting shirt-clad regiments I particularly want to do (the 1st Pennsylvania and Smallwood's Marylanders). Then of course there will be a few more militia battalions. But I should have finished the Yanks by the end of the year, subject of course to whatever else Alan Perry or Eureka decide to release (and I'm thinking here of South Carolina Continentals, light infantry, negro troops, the legions etc).

When the next couple of units are finished I will take stock of where things stand, perhaps taking the American troops out for a rather late 4th July parade if the sun comes out (and I can persuade the Kiwi to relinquish her usual weekend position of sitting at the head of the garden table). The touchstone here is the Brandywine orbat; I suppose no AWI collection is absolutely 100% complete until one can put on this battle in its entirety. But then one has to consider that the scope of an "AWI collection" has changed substantially over the past few years. When I first started out, at the time the Foundry range was being released, there were really only two choices: Americans in uniform coats, with a few in hunting shirts perhaps and some militia; and British in Royal warrant full dress, with perhaps a few "campaign dress" light infantry. That was it. Now, thanks largely to Eureka, Perry Miniatures and a couple of other ranges, you can pretty much build up different armies for each year of the war. Perry have given us the choice of northern and southern militia, and Brits for the 1777 Saratoga campaign . Eureka allow you to build a "Valley Forge" Continental army. One can also build "hot weather" Continentals in shirt sleeves and then "cold weather" regiments in coats.

Thinking about the forthcoming Long Island game has made me realise that Howe's British army of 1776 dressed very differently to Cornwallis' army of 1781 - with the figures available you have the option to model both forces in their own particular styles of uniform. In short, the AWI these days is rather like WW2, with manufacturers catering for "early", "middle" and "late" periods. It's all excellent news for the gamer/collector, particularly as research is bounding along just as eagerly and we are beginning to receive a much clearer picture of how soldiers dressed during the war. Howver, this also means that obsessives such as I will be painting AWI for much longer than anticipated when we started out....

Thursday, 17 July 2008

2nd North Carolina

As I mentioned previously, I wanted to paint up two 12-figure battalions in hunting shirts to act as the 1st and 2nd North Carolina Regiments for the "British Grenadier!" Eutaw Springs scenario. This is the second regiment. Whilst the first sported a wide mix of hunting shirt colours, I wanted this unit to be more uniform and be based on brown and beige colours. In this way I was hoping to simulate a supply of uniforms which contained some shirts that had been over-dyed and others that had been under-dyed, or perhaps faded from exposure to the sun. This way the unit retains some uniformity but also has the interest of slightly different colours. Further variety was added by painting some of the equipment belts in white and other belts in black. The rank and file from the 1st and 2nd regiments can be combined with one of the command groups to form a 20-figure unit, so these battalions are quite versatile.

I could not find any information about any flag that was specific to the 2nd North Carolina (and, to be honest, I have no idea whether the soldiers wore hunting shirts or not). I looked in my envelope of flags and found a rattlesnake flag from "Flags for the Lads" which was described (with one other) as being a flag of the 3rd South Carolina Regiment. It seemed more suitable than a standard GMB stars 'n bars, and the rattlesnake motif is fairly neutral anyway. Also, I have no plans to paint the 3rd South Carolina anyway (although I am hoping that either Perry Miniatures or Eureka will release some South Carolina infantry in their peaked caps).

12 figures. Painted June 2008. Flag from "Flags for the Lads".

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Back home...

...and again astonished by what a beautiful country New Zealand is. There was a lot of bad weather around, but we seemed to miss most of it and were lucky, having sunshine for most of the holiday. Compared to England, the winter sun in New Zealand is quite strong and so my failure to bring an overcoat and, in fact, any warm clothes was of no concern. Above are a couple of photos of the vineyards in, respectively, South Island's Waipara plain and Wairau Valley - a very quiet and peaceful place, which now makes some of the world's greatest wine. Driving down from Auckland to Christchurch we managed to visit 27 cellar doors in total: 5 in Hawke's Bay, 20 in Marlborough and 2 in Waipara. Winemakers were eager to talk up the 2008 vintage, despite reports of awful rain shortly before harvest; I suspect the results will in fact be pretty mixed.

I managed to meet up with a couple of wargaming chums. Dr "Valleyboy" Thomas in Tauranga provided excellent company for lunch and an afternoon's winetasting, before we joined his wife Nicky and the Kiwi for a marvellous home-cooked dinner. I took the opportunity to inspect VB's impressive (and extensive) 15mm Naps collection - a couple of photos appear below. A week later in Wellington I met up with Peter Halzedos of the Kapiti Fusiliers. After another inspection, this time of 25mm Calpe and Front Rank Naps, Peter drove me to the DIY shop in town that supplies him with some of his bases - I've been looking for round bases for ages, and was delighted to find some (they are drinks coasters, apparently...). Those meetings were highlights in a holiday that largely centered around meeting the Kiwi's friends and relations and then finalising the plans for our wedding in Napier next March.

But the holiday was really all about the wine, so for those who are interested in such things, wine highlights were as follows: Martinborough Vineyard "Te Tera" 2007 Pinot Noir; Nautilus Winemaker's Selection 2007 Sauvignon Blanc; Cloudy Bay 2007 Pinot Gris; Villa Maria Cellar Selection 2006 Merlot/Cabernet; Te Mata Estate "Bullnose" 2005 Syrah; Black Barn Hawke's Bay 2006 Chardonnay; Mount Riley "Seventeen Valley" 2006 Pinot Noir; Isabel Estate Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.