Thursday 4 December 2008

The Imperial Gendarmes

The final unit to be shown on this blog was actually the first that I painted. The Imperial Gendarmes were created for the Game of Sittangbad that we put on at Newark almost three years ago. The bright uniform was originally intended to be complimented by black horses, but Phil Olley nipped in first and created a black horse regt so I switched them to bays and chestnuts, ce la guerre.

After the game was completed the regiment transferred from the electoral army to that of Bohemia where it is now the senior line cavalry regiment. 'Imperial Gendarme' conjures up sufficient atmosphere for the unit without needing any further history in my opinion.

So that is all that I have painted so far. The line infantry will eventually have ivory coloured coats. The facings will be taken from the liturgical calender as befits a staunchly catholic country. Dragoon wear vermilion and Heavy Cavalry Turquoise.

But all of that lies in the future, the next goal will be to get a couple of guns and the first line infantry unit completed so that I have a usable force for gaming.

The figures of course are again Holger Eriksson 30mm. To my mind their will never be figures like this around again. Not that the sculptors of today lack talent. I am blown away by some of the work of people like Richard Ansell and the Perry twins. But the way that figures are created has changed. Today people use putty and build up the figure on dolly. they are in effect creating a model. The old masters such as Eriksson carved their figures out of a solid block. In Eriksson's case they were carved from wood.

When I was painting them I was much taken by this passage from John Garratt.

"The models are conceived sculpturally and obviously worked with a chisel emphasising the planes which gives great structural strength and is this emphasis on planes that gives an Eriksson figure such distinction. He paints his models in oils and leaves the planes and contours to make their own contribution without shading."

I did not want to leave the figures without any shading myself but I did think hard about the way it should be used to keep the integrity of the figure. I decided to use fairly bold strokes of lighter colour and to attempt emphasis the lines and movement of the figure.

To what extent I succeeded you will have to judge for yourselves! The horse were done either with dilute Humbrol enamel or an Acrylic ink wash. Both over white undercoat.

The uniforms were painted with Placka Poster paint. One of the few really nice turquoise blue around and a beautifully deep crimson. Most of the other colours were Vallejo acrylics which I was using a lot at that time for 20mm plastics.

Finally thanks to everyone for the very kind comments. I am course pleased that people like the figures, but I am not preaching to anyone that my way is best. I just love to see what others are doing, and if they are ploughing their own furrow rather than slavishly following White Dwarf so much the better. It is not a question of whose figures are best. The best ones are those that give their owners most pleasure.

Happy Painting!

Monday 1 December 2008

Teutoburger Wald Jaeger

This post is by way of being a thank you to all those people who have been, patiently logging on the last couple of months. Also in response to the very kind comments on the last post. So especially for Jean-Louis, here is the unit history.

The Battalion advances in line

In the 17C the Imperial forces of Bohemia suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the lightly armed Hungarian Grenzer of their eastern frontier. In order to counter this the first established unit of Light Infantry was raised from the huntsmen of the extensive Tuetoburger forests of the western mountain ranges. This unit was an immediate success having fought in several campaigns during the first half of the 18C and can claim to be the oldest permanent unit of light infantry by several decades. Nevertheless it is with pride that the regiment claims Varrus AD9 as their first battle honour.

With drums beating and the Colonel at their head

The figures are of course Holger Eriksson 30mm. They have had slight conversion by cutting the musket and bayonet down to rifles. I had better give a formal link for those who want to look at the full range in detail.

Tradition of London:

Peter Johnstone of Spencer Smith Figures:

I tend to order from Peter Johnstone who has always been extremely helpful getting figures at short notice for a display game. but I hear good things about Tradition as well.

Skirmish order

The Battalion has deployed into skirmish order. The gentle reader will note that the formations are those advocated by the theorist J Evans Mudd in his famous drill book '38 movements for light infantry by which victory must be assured.' A best seller in 18c Bohemia.

Two infantrymen forget their drill and 'bunch' within 1" of each other. The Sergeant is about to demonstrate how this can be rectified by the use of an halberd.
Finally a word on paint.

I painted the coats with Liquitex Acrylics as I only had camouflage greens in enamel and I wanted a pure colour. Although a nice shade it had problems covering and has a strange translucent quality which with a gloss varnish looks a bit like glass. So its kept now exactly for that. The small clothes were painted with a 20 year old pot of Plaka poster paint and worked fine. However this summer I have been trying a new line of paint recommended by Mr Mike Siggins. Chromacolour, which seem to be a more user friendly substitute for the Plaka having great purity of tone and strong pigments but much more easily worked with. So far I am very impressed and will hopefully describe them in more detail in a later post.

Sunday 30 November 2008

A few extra photos.

These are for those who were kind enough to say they wanted more photos.

The camera gives a more truthful image of the horse colour than the scanner. The undercoat does not alter the colour as much as one might expect.

I would like to thank Mr Mike Siggins, for generously sharing his experience of working with oils. He is one of the real gentlemen of wargaming today.

So, moving swiftly on!

Well apologies to all who have dropped in found no one at home, especially Black Bob.

I would love to tell you all what I have been up to this autumn but as Dr Watson might have said, the world is not yet ready to know the full story of the Mongolian mountain of light and Mr Asquith's part in averting the collapse of western capitalism.

Anyway the doctors have saved the leg and I now feel strong enough to return to one of the most contentious issues of our time:

Toy soldiers and how we paint them!!!

I am not a huge fan of imaginary armies but I give myself the treat of designing and painting just one unit a year for my fictional mid 18C army. The last three years have produced units which were copied from Peter Young's 'Charge'. This year I was able to start from scratch and settled on another cavalry regt. This time one of dragoons.

Regular readers, (if any such are left) will know of my enthusiasm for the horse models of Holger Eriksson. The range that are available is really quite wide now and can easily be ordered through Tradition or Spencer Smith miniatures. A word of warning though. The legs are very delicate, don't be tempted to trim any flash from the lower legs of the horse. Just be grateful for the extra strength and paint it as foliage.

My army is loosely based in the mid 18C after an alternative thirty years war in which many states remained independent and Bohemia is a northernmost bastion of Catholicism with its independent army. One of Bohemia's oldest and proudest regts is the Winter Queen Dragons, so called because they provided the escort to the Empress Elizabeth during her campaign to consolidate her reign after the assassination of her husband..

Most of the painting is self evident. However I experimented with the horses. I am always looking to cut down the time and effort involved. I prefer to use a spirit based wash rather than water for large areas as it spreads more easily and runs into the depressions without those nasty bubbles that pop later and leave undercoat showing through. This time I wanted to try and get something of the effect of using oil paint without all the hassles of putting it on and wiping it off.

Cream and orange undercoats the same wash on top

I divided the horses into three and undercoated them with diluted washes of enamel paint in khaki, cream and bright orange. I then made a mix of about one part Vandyke brown oil paint, one part linseed oil and four parts white spirit. put in a Little bottle with a brass screw as an agitator it keeps well. Splash it all over and put aside for at least a week, maybe three. (Next time I will try quick drying linseed oil.) Overall I am pleased though the oil pigment is so strong the undercoat shows through less than I expected. Lastly I finished with several coats of gloss spray varnish to get a real porcelain glaze on the figures.

The Winterqueen Dragoons at exercise. This painting shows them manoeuvring on the harvest stubble fields south of the palace at the end of an Autumn evening. (scenery by merit, harvest field from Mrs Asquith's sewing basket.)

And finally, A Winters Evening... the view from the window by my computer desk, taken while writing this blog entry. I wish you all a peaceful and warm Sunday evening.

Sunday 31 August 2008

Gentlemen, consider Smykes!

It was my intention to maintain a dignified silence in the face of the salacious speculation regarding the true domicile of Mr Asquith. However yesterday I received a phone call which has changed matters somewhat.

It was from the head gardener Smykes, now this dear old man has never in eight decades mastered the use of telephonic apparatus. However he had walked the twelve miles to the local post office where the post mistress assisted him to contact me.

"Sur, I've 'eard the Young Master baint be liven at the Towers no more. They say it ain't really 'is. What shall 'appen to the missus and I? It's awful hard to lose our cottage at our age, and me as served the family, man and boy these many years."

the estate cottages
Well I must confess a manly tear rose to my eye. It was with shaking voice that I was able to reassure the dear old man.

"Well, bless my soul," he sighed when finally I explained the ways of the modern world to him. " Thank the lord that old Mr Asquith baint be ere to see it. E'd larn they buggers." he added with touch of asperity.

Old Mr Asquith, the family likeness is remarkable.

As a result I have resolved not to use any more of my private photo collection of Asquith Towers. Little did I think when I attempted to raise the tone of this blog of the tragic consequences so narrowly averted. Nevertheless I have added some final photos to this post that should put the issue beyond any shade of doubt!

The family church where Asquiths have found their final resting place since the 14C. The curious may find Mr Asquith reading the lesson the first Sunday of each month.

And to those doubters out there, (some of whom should know well the lavish lifestyle that attends editing a wargames magazine!) I say, please pause to consider the feelings of those whose lives are led within the shadows of Asquith Towers.

Thursday 28 August 2008

The modest contentment of Stuart Asquith

The 'scullery' at Asquith Towers

One of my favourite blogs
recently ended a post with a quotation from Horace, frankly I was impressed.

It strikes me that I learnt something in my youth that would sum up this entry very well. Something about some bod who had conquered the world staring with dissatisfaction at the vasty Afric plain or such. Alexander or maybe Cortez. Anyway it remains firmly not on the tip of my tongue so it will have to be prose once more.

Many of us are now veterans of many a wargames campaign, we have surveyed ranked trestle tables packed with figures, we have slept on the floors of village halls and Scout huts across the land. We have painted, with varying degrees of satisfaction, figures from Alberken to Zvesda. Now as we reach our more mature years how do we maintain our enthusiasm for painting even more units and armies?

Stuart Asquith, smiled and refilled my whisky tumbler as I explained my worries to him. Sinking back in his deep leather chair and surrounded by the accumulated volumes of a lifetime of military reading he explained his philosophy.

There came a point in his life when he got rid of his armies, though not figures and units that had sentimental associations, and for a time was purely a collector. Eventually he came to a realisation that he was not disillusioned with wargaming as such, merely with the way he was embracing it.
Getting suddenly to his feet he strode to the library door and called out. A few minutes later he reappeared with the butler helping him carry several oak boxes.
These were chosen at random he explained. The boxes were similar to those that would have been used to contain formal canteens of cutlery. about 2'x 11/2' they were beautifully stained and gleaned with brass fittings.

"Every time I have a new project I get a local craftsman to knock up a couple of these",he explained. "They form a limit to the project, I work out exactly what I can do within these limits and how to get the most enjoyment from it."

He lifted the lids on a few of the boxes and what treasure nestled in the green baize interiors. A box of exquisitely painted 30mm figures formed a small but perfectly represented 18C army. 54mm britains naval brigade dragged their little lead cannon across the veldt. My favourite though were two boxes that had Russian and Allied 20mm figures from the Crimean. Mini fig S range, Douglas, and Stadden, every piece a collecters item.

Stuart's normal table, complete with dice boxes laid out for play. Note the comfortable chairs and good lighting. Sensible concessions to advancing years.

"At our age size isn't as important any longer." He said picking up a new bottle of Islay malt from the side table. " Look, I'll prove it to you. The butler wants to get away early tonight so rather than have him set up the billiard table for a game we will set out on the scullery table and I bet you we will have just as good a game."

( I must say that is typical of the man, that he not only knows all the staff by name, but insists on them having at least one half day off a week to visit their families.)

So after dinner that evening we made our way down to the old servants hall, where Stuart has set himself up a very comfortable breakfast room. On the table had been laid out that old classic Blasthof bridge.

The story of that game must wait for another post however.

Readers wishing to know more of Stuarts 'game in a box' should read his full account of it in Battlegames magazine.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Summer Reading

A busy couple of weeks have gone past since the last entry. Initially a rush at the painting table as I painted figures for a manufacturer to display on their new trade stand at the Woolwich show. Barely finished in time and then an email from Battlegames reminding me that the deadline for my column was on hand. Finally I managed to finish a nice sized unit of 32 Les Higgins Civil War Cavalry that had been on order from another customer for some months.

All in all, I felt ready for a little light reading.

I am sure that most UK readers will be familiar with the Naval and Military Press. They have been sending out their newspaper sized catalogues for several years now. Their most recent advertised 20% off all stock including sales items till 26 August.

An hours browsing produced a long list and a further hour managed to reduce it down to five titles. Five books plus postage came to a very reasonable £30. I ordered two days ago and they arrived this morning. I have no connection with the company but I would recommend anyone interested to take a look at the website before the 26th of this month.

I picked up a couple of books relating to the BEF,I can see that the reissue of the vickers light tank kit by Airfix will see me covered in polystyrene glue before the years end.

Next a couple for the Victorian shelves in the library. I don't know how I have avoided buying Ian Knights excellent history of the Zulu war for so long but at £3.95 that had to be put right. I also picked up a collection of letters from the Crimean War; even the best history never has the 'feel' of reading a contemporary narrative.

The last book I chose was from Naval and Military's own list of reprints.They really have a wide variety of subjects in paperback and at prices we could only dream of ten years ago.

I bought Walter Money's history of the battle of Newbury. OK I have the excellent
Forlorn Hope guide to the battle and the latest book by Barrett. Nevertheless it has been a very hard to find volume and a splendid example of early military history besides at £8 how far wrong can you go?

Most of these books are paperback, which is fine for the book which is taken down from the shelf and read occasionally. I find that my Napoleonic books really need to hardback to stand up to the useage they recieve.

So its a large mug of Cocoa and an early nights reading for me. Tomorrow I will disclose the secret of Stuart Asquith's box system.

Saturday 2 August 2008

Taking Tea At Asquith Towers

The murmuring of bees in the lavender hedge, mingled with the gentle chinking of bone china as afternoon tea was cleared from the terrace overlooking the orchard. The ladies removed the last crumbs of honey scones and dregs of Earl Grey and left the garden to Stuart Asquith and myself.

Stuart delved in his waistcoat pocket and emerged with a 25mm cavalry figure.
"This was given me by Peter Gilder, after our game at Northern Militaire back in '79."

With trembling hands I took the Hinchcliffe personality figure of Prince Rupert. I last saw Peter Gilders painting back in the display cases that lined the walls of the Hinchliffe shop. Of course I have seen lots of photos of his figures since then, but photographs do not seem to convey the delicacy of his style.

In the Hinchliffe handbook he advocated using a thinned mix of humbrol enamel leather to stain flesh. What surprised me as I handled the Prince Rupert was the degree to which stains had been used. All of the main areas of the figure had been painted with thin washes and then a little detail had been added and edges defined with a very fine black line.

Most present days wargamers will think of Humbrol enamel as a thick gloop of a paint which is used in a relatively unsophisticated way to block in big areas. In fact it could be used on the palette and doctored with white spirit and oil to achieve some very nice effects. I use the past tense because the last few tins of Humbrol that I have bought have been absolutely dreadful, no use to anyone.

Prince Rupert absolutely glowed as the gloss varnish enhanced the jewel like quality of the painting. Stuart took it back and replaced it carefully in his pocket.

"If you care for such things," he smiled, "perhaps you would stroll back up to my study. Its possible that I have one or two things in the display cabinet you might like to glance at before dinner."

to be continued......

This photo is taken from the wonderful 'Battles of the American Revolution' by Curt Johnstone. It shows the Peter Gilder figures but only hints at the translucent painting style. I spent hours looking at these figures when they adorned the little shop in Meltham that was Hinchliffe's factory outlet. Next door to the Ferguson tractor garage if I recall correctly.

Friday 25 July 2008

A wargames weekend

As one grows older the memories of the games and enthusiasms for rules and figures grow steadily fainter. The real riches of the hobby are found in the friendships that one makes over the years. I have been exceptionally fortunate in that despite retirement and geographical isolation the last few years have brought a host of new friends made mainly as a spin off from the Old School Wargames Group and the two show games that were held at Newark.

So I was feeling doubly blessed as the car rolled up the gravel drive at Asquith Towers last Thursday. I had no doubt of the warmth of welcome that the wife and I would recieve from that Grand Old British Wargamer, Mr Stuart Asquith. And sure enough no sooner did our car pull up than the front door was thrown open and the under butler in person rushed out to receive us.

Later I was shown around the wargames room and library and indeed the private study room. The contents of which will provide the inspiration for several more posts here. Suffice it to say for the moment that I had a valuable chance to take a close look at Peter Gilders painting style and it held a few surprises. Also the Tradition 25mm figure range were a revelation not least in that they are completely compatible with Foundry and other smaller '28mm' figures.

Friday was spent on a grand tour of the Cotswolds, and Saturday had a wargame before a splendid wargamers dinner.

The best part of such a weekend however is the charge that it gives to ones own batteries. I came away completely revitalised to resume my own wargaming activities. Which brings us back to the beginning, the most important part of wargaming is the social aspect.

Thursday 24 July 2008

In praise of Bloggers

This post has been undertaken at the request of Mr Steve Gill. He has communicated to me that the details of his defeat have stood for too long at the head of this blog.

I am not sure I share his viewpoint but nevertheless I shall endeavour to oblige.

I stand lost in admiration for those souls who have managed to find something interesting to write about week in and out over years. Unrewarded and often abused I feel that bloggers embody the real spirit of wargaming. Motivated purely by a wish to share their enthusiasm and ideas for the benefit of the hobby.

I confess myself to be a most imperfect Blogger, but as imperfection is a part of the human condition I shall once more take up the pen and seek to emulate the deeds of others. I fear that my first post must be to deal with the absence of any further news on the Marlburian army.... But first just so that you know it really is me:


Over the last few months I have been taking advantage of the dollar in order to make a few purchases. Isn't it easy, when you think back to the sixties? Scruby figures could just as well of been produced on the moon for all the chance of buying them in this country. Now you click on a website, key in your credit card and and a few hours later the goods are underway to you. How twenty first century, well except for those bastards who operate the airmail services!

A small parcel of a couple of pounds typically takes about £14 ($28) in postage. What world do they live in? One hands it over at the desk, the assistant whisks it to the back in awed tones, "Certainly sir, we will dispatch a courier to Southampton immediately with a bit of luck it can be on next weeks Imperial Flying Boat. I am sure we can take a little of the emergency fuel out to accommodate the extra weight."

As the young people say "Hello?". The skies are crammed with planes begging for ballast. I can go to the supermarket and buy a couple of pounds of fruit flown here by express refrigerated container for a third of the price that I pay for my figures and I get the fruit thrown in for nothing!

And did I mention the customs?

Thursday 8 May 2008


For the next two or three moves the game swung backwards and forwards as the French attempted to force their way into the village and the Spanish inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing units. the main French attack was repulsed but a secondary attack by the Nassau finally broke into the village. French skirmishers were albe to bring the spanish guns under close range fire and prevent them from firing. Finally the Spanish cavalry holding the high ground by the wood broke.
Although a reserve unit launched a successful counter attack they did not have the numbers to be decisive.

On the opposite flank the French cavalry had driven the last Spanish units from the field, the sweating Spanish gunners dragged their guns around to try and establish a new defensive line.

The French had suffered heavy casualties in the centre, and would have found another direct assault difficult to achieve, but with both Flanks in the possession of the French the Spanish General decided that the time was opportune for a dignified withdrawal and conceded the game.

The French prepare for a last charge on the Guns. Fortunately the Spanish general conceded before it was attempted. Even when aware of the 30" charge move it can still take you by surprise. These cavalry are within charge range.

The game took about 9 moves from early afternoon to lunchtime the next day. There was not one uneventful move and once more the charge rules proved able to give an exciting and interesting game. The game was almost unique for me for two reasons. I had a plan rather than just winging it and even more unusually the plan worked.

Now to sort that bloody Garage out!

Edelweiss 2


The very first move had a cavalry melee, however looking through the photographs I find that whenever the game got exciting I forgot to take photos!

You will have to take my word for it that both flanks were heavily engaged throughout the game with whirling squadrons emerging from dust clouds and disappearing again to the flash of steel and the thunder as lines of the giant heavy cavalry collided. In fact in the first two engagements both Steve and I made the novices mistake of allowing lights to mix it with heavy cavalry. The difference was that he threw mediocre dice which allowed me to withdraw my chassuers dented but usable on the wooded side. But on the plain to the east his hussars were almost destroyed by the french cuirassiers.


On the west flank the dragoons advanced to fill the gap left by the Chasseurs rout. The infantry trudged forward and a battery deployed to fire at the village of Delft.
In the centre the infantry columns tried to swing away from the Spanish Artillery but the six foot range of the guns left little place to hide and the Marine regt marked its progress across the plain with a trail of crumpled blue overcoats.

On the second move the French artillery deployed within close range of the Spanish line.

The photo shows the guns with a battalion of Nassau deployed as support to replace casualties and help crew the guns. o the right the main french attach develops while the Dragoons move to the front and the Chassuers can be seen in the distance rallying. The counters on the guns denote gun crew casualties, already the Spanish Counter battery fire is weakening one unit.

The Spanish battery in front of the village proved a real nuisance to the French. Figures by Redoubt(early range)

The Spanish light Infantry occupy Delft. (figures by connoisseur)

In fact the luck of the dice throws affected things quite a bit, the French Grand battery consistently threw low and was less effective as a result. This was more than made up for by the cavalry melees where the french consistantly threw better dice. In fact the first melee on the plain was a decisive one for after that the French always had the advantage of a reserve unit which could be used to attack any spanish cavalry while they were rallying.

Here the Spanish dragoons have won a melee but they face fresh units which will attack when rallying.

Meanwhile in the centre the objective of the main french attack was clear.