Wednesday 24 February 2010

Welcome the French

I recall Eclaireur (author of the "British Grenadier!" AWI rules) mentioning to me a few years ago that he'd asked Alan Perry whether he intended to sculpt any French figures for the AWI. The answer was "not for about 5 years", and I believe EC told me this 4 or 5 years ago. This might give an indication of how much advance planning sculptors (or some of them at least) put into their ranges, or may suggest that the Perry Miniatures AWI range is a long-term venture which will see everything one could wish for released at some stage. I mention this conversation because the Perries took a bit of flack on the TMP forum when they announced the release of their AWI French. Most Perry news releases seem to be met with replies of "why didn't you release [my pet wants] instead?", but the reaction to the French was more focused. The arguments against are: (1) there are more obvious "gaps" in the range (e.g. American light infantry) and (2) there just aren't many gameable scenarios that involve the French. To be honest, both points are reasonably made and justified. But I'm sure everything will appear in time.

Personally I'm delighted to see these figures. I'm sure that for every person who wants to see light infantry in caps or Rhode Island negro troops there's another who wants to see the French. More importantly for me, having the French allows you to wander off the American continent and look at scenarios in the Caribbean, India and elsewhere and even consider "what ifs" involving large numbers of French and British infantry going head-to-head. Those types of scenarios won't be of interest to everyone, but I'm happy to be able to stretch the boundaries of the period and learn about what the French actually did in the field, whether in American or elswhere, to assist the American war effort (and of course further France's own ambitions). Anyway, the purpose of this post is to set down a few thoughts on how I intend to approach the French forces. I should add that as well as the new Perries I have been looking at the Eureka revolutionary wars range for suitable figures.

Following the 1776 army reforms, each regiment had two battalions. According to Rene Chartrand's Osprey, Each battalion had 6 companies - 4 fusilier, 1 grenadier and 1 chasseur. Full strength seems to have been 107 for the grenadiers and 171 for all the other companies. In addition to these, there was an "auxiliary recruit company" that was "added in wartime". I've read elsewhere, however, that each battalion had either the chasseur company or the grenadier company - a result of the regiments formerly consisting of just one battalion. The flank companies, however, were apparently used on a regimental rather than battalion level, and often placed in composite ad-hoc battalions for particular battles.

There are currently only 2 published "British Grenadier!" scenarios that feature mainstream French troops (there is a third, Gloucester Point, but that only involves Lauzun's Legion). La Vigie is a Caribbean action from 1778 that requires 6 battalions of 18 figures each (Armagnac x 2, Auxerrois x 2, Viennois and a colonial battalion) and separate combined grenadier and chasseur units of 18 figures (the chasseurs appearing as 3 lots of 6-figure skirmish units). Savannah has more complex requirements: 2 named battalions of 12 figures each (Armagnac and Dillon); 2 composite fusilier units, of 16 and 18 figures; 3 combined grenadier units of 8 figures each; and more skirmishing chasseurs amounting to 24 figures. Savannah therefore reflects the practice of French commanders gathering together elements of several different regiments into composite field units; ideally for these units I'd want each stand to represent a different regiment. The Savannah scenario also allows the French player to add the grenadiers to the various fusilier units, so I need to ensure that the poses of these troops are the same. Therefore, the approach I'm going to adopt is to paint up the flank companies at the same time as the fusilier companies.

Most readers will know that the French army changed its uniforms during the course of the AWI. There are two relevant "ordonnances": 1776 and 1779. The latter uniform is distinguished from the former by longer coats tails and the replacement of grenadiers' bearskins with cocked hats (although it mnay have been the case that some troops still wore their bearskins). Troops stationed out in the West Indies are unlikely to have received the 1779 uniforms before the Savannah campaign in October of that year. Therefore, the figures required for the scenarios above should be in the 1776 uniform. Troops arriving with Rochambeau in 1780 and Saint-Simon the following year would probably have had the 1779 uniform.

Incidentally, Perry Miniatures are remodelling their grenadiers, to remove the bags on the bearskins - there is an announcement on the front-page of their website (scroll beneath the plastics announcement). I'm not too fussed - I shall use the figures I have already bought for bombardiers de la marine, which did have bags on their bearskins.

I was quite confused about flags until I asked around on various fora. It seems that as part of the 1776 reforms the number of flags carried by each regiment was 1 per battalion. The first battalion carried the "drapeau blanc", i.e. the white colonel's flag (which seems to have been the same for most regiments); the second battalion carried the more colourful and distinctive "d'ordonnance" flag. This is helpful for recreating the La Vigie orbat, as GMB don't currently have colours for the Armagnac and Auxerrois regiments - I can use the drapeaux blancs from other packs. French flags were topped by a distinctive finial - these can be bought from Front Rank.

The photo above is a wip pic of the Armagnac Regiment. These were painted using a mid-grey undercoat instead of my usual black one, and I'm happy with the overall look - quite crisp and snappy, I think. Lee's Legion and the Von Mirbach regiment are finished and going through the basing process; ditto more First Carlist War stuff. If the sun ever appears again in London (this has been the worst winter on record) I might even be able to take some decent photos...

Sunday 21 February 2010

Foundry flesh experiments (1)

I posted this on Thursday, but Blogger managed to delete it....Anyway, I've reached another basing bottleneck and in order to maintain momentum I thought I'd post on some other stuff that I've been painting. Specifically, I have been experimenting recently with the new Foundry flesh palettes. I am an obsessive buyer of paints (in the same way that some people are obsessive buyers of rules) and when I saw Foundry advertise sets for various flesh tones I didn't hesitate to buy the complete set. That was also because recently I've found myself painting stuff that falls outside the core remit of this blog and which lends itself to these new paints. Most of the sets concern a particular ethnic flesh tone: "near eastern flesh"; "oriental flesh", "south american flesh" and so on.

So I'm going to post a few observations on my experiments with these paints in the hope that people might find them useful. I've set myself some rules: I'm allowed my usual dark brown ink wash on the faces and hands, but otherwise I have to use the paints "as is", straight from the pot without any mixing or blending. I've tried 3 palettes so far, with more to come shortly.

First up are some Perry Miniatures First Crusade "Azabaijani swordsmen", painted using the "Expert Flesh 127" palette. I confess that I can't find these troops in any of the First Crusade army lists I've been looking at, but I suppose they are essentially Turkish light infantry from the southern Caspian Sea area. The "Expert" palette is a double set of 6 paints, rather than the more usual 3 paints. Foundry helpfully label the dark "A" paint "Dark" and the lighter "E" paint "Light" in case you can't work out which end to start with... The "A" shade is darker (or rather, more orange) than the original "Flesh 5" palette. However, "Flesh 5A" is clearly "Expert Flesh 127B"; "Flesh 5B" is "Expert Flesh 127C" and "Flesh 5C" is "Expert Flesh 127E", so the original colours are incorporated into the set.

I found this set easy to use. The tones blend pretty well "out of the pot" and I was delighted to find that the consistency of the paints was thicker than other recent Foundry offerings - I have not been impressed with some recent Foundry purchases which show a reduction in the amount of pigment and a general watery-ness. Personally, I think that the entire palette is probably best used on larger areas of flesh and would be excessive on faces and hands (i.e. the standard flesh areas for 18th century figures). On bare torsos and the like, however, the ease of use of these 6 colours means that painting is quite straightforward, if a little "by numbers". The "F" colour is very light and you'd probably want to blend it in to the previous colour. I'm sure that the results will seem a little excessive for some, but I'm reasonably pleased with the outcome.

Lots of stuff is being based at the moment, for te AI and FCW. Here's some Lee's Legion infantry:

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Iroquois (5)

These are more figures from a couple of years ago, which I realised I forgot to post at the time. They are Perry Miniatures "woodland indians"; lovely sculpts which are full of character. As I've noted before, I base indians on 25mm x 25mm squares, this being the standard skirmish frontage in the "British Grenadier!" rules. There's no reason why you can't base them in twos or threes on larger bases; I decided to go with single bases to give me some flexibility for skirmish games as well as larger AWI engagements. I have some 60 indian figures in total now, so an inter-tribal or F&IW skirmish game is viable.

I never used to worry about "indian flesh" being different to "white flesh"; it seems to me that in this scale and on the tabletop there's unlikely to be much variation in colour between the red man and the white man and much of the flesh will be covered by markings and war-paint anyway. I imagine that different tribes from different parts of America no doubt varied in colour anyway. That said, I've seen very effective techniques for native Americans, particularly Apache and the like. Foundry have recently released a "native American flesh" palette and this post is also a prequel to my next post, which will feature two Conquest Minatures figures painted using this new Foundry palette. In fact, I've been trying out the various new Foundry flesh colours over the past few days and I'll post what I think of them over the next week or so.

The von Mirbach musketeers are currently on hold, 5 figures from the end, because I realised I didn't have their flags and so had to place an order with GMB (which usually takes a couple of weeks to arrive). Taking their place are the new Perry figures for Lee's Legion, which I'm pleased to find are quick and easy to paint (once you've bitten the bullet and decided that it's ok to paint them in bright purple...). I'm also going to be painting some French infantry, which will be a bit of a departure for me in that I'm going to use a grey undercoat for the first time and may see what happens if I ditch "black-lining".

6 figures. Painted May 2007.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

British Auxiliary Legion Artillery (2)

As stated in my previous post on British artillery in the First Carlist War, the prohibition on regular army units serving in Spain was relaxed in order to provide the British Auxiliary Legion with trained artillery and engineering specialists. The legion did raise its own artillery crews, but these were supplemented by men from the Royal Artillery and the Royal Marine Artillery. The figures here are the Perry Miniatures pack of a Royal Marine rocket troop.

The Royal Marine Artillery was formed in August 1804, allegedly as a result of legal proceedings which held that Army officers were not subject to the Navy's orders. Its immediate purpose was to serve in bomb-vessels and gun-/rocket-boats (previously functions of the Royal Artillery) and to teach other marines and sailors how to operate guns. However, the men soon found themselves deployed in action on land at sieges and other engagements. 3 companies were raised initially but a 5th was added at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The corps was reduced to 2 companies in the early 1830s but expanded significantly in the following decades due to the demands of the British Empire and the need for trained artillerists on ships of both the Royal Navy and the merchant navy. By 1859 the Royal Marine Artillery comprised 16 companies and was formed into a separate division. In addition to Spain in the 1830s, the artillery saw service in the Crimea, Canada, China , New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt, the Sudan and Burma, usually as part of a naval brigade. The division was particularly heavily engaged in the 1882 Egyptian campaign and the Sudan. The marines seems to have specialised in capturing enemy guns and then turning them on their former owners - they did this at Kassassin and El Teb two years later. The Royal Marine Artillery's life as a separate division ended in 1923 when it was amalgamated with the rest of the Royal Marines.

These figures and equipment were painted the same way as before - Foundry "British Gun Grey 108" for the rocket launcher and "British Royal Blue 74" and "Deep Blue 20" for the crew. It seems that the men of the Royal Marine Artillery were called the "Blue Marines" because of their uniforms. I think this is an excellent set - certainly something you don't see on the tabletop that often and adds colour to the period. Again, I imagine that it's use is not limited to the FCW.

Painted January 2010.