Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year?

What a week it has been.  Familial dramas, PC malfunctions, birthdays and injuries - all par for the course over the supposedly Festive Season!

Today I intend to do the second stock-check of the Northstar/Crusader goods.  (As regular readers will be aware I ordered figures during their late October sale and it took them nearly two months to replace the 40% or so that were miscast.)

To be frank (call me Ol' Blue Eyes) I am dreading this as the whole affair has really soured my enthusiasm for a rather exciting project.   I greatly doubt that the "new" figures will be correct as nothing has gone smoothly with Northstar.  However I am steeled and, if need be, ready to take up the fight!

As a Christmas Present, from my children, I received some rather splendid figures from the excellent people at Front Rank.  These chaps are going to form the basis of a unique looking Regiment where the Flügelmütze/Mirliton is in evidence.  Razor saw is poised.

Tentative plans for the weekend include getting the components for a couple of Regiments arranged and full boxing and cataloguing of everything C18 that I have available.

Anyway, enough of the rambling.  I promise some decent and non-personal postings in the near future and hope that you all have a very


Saturday, 25 December 2010


I would like to extend festive greetings to all my readers and thank you for your continued interest in my project. Come the New Year, things will develop apace as the armies are assembled and the history of the campaigns explained.

As I write it is 10:10 here at Schloss Krautheim and the junior members of the family are playing with their booty.  Although considering their behaviour over the past year they deserved a visit from Herr Krampus rather than Saint Nick!

I hope that you did not over-indulge too severely and that you got just what you wanted in your stocking!

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


I apologise for the week without posts.  I will not cite the "extreme weather" or the "Festive Season" as excuses but will invoke the dual spectres of illness and annoyance.

The first is an upper-respiratory infection I was "given" by my children.  The malady is supposedly a virus although I have evidence to the contrary.   Over two weeks on and I am still feeling bad.

The annoyance has been caused by the near two month struggle to get my Crusader figures.  As of this morning I have not received the long-promised replacements and compensation.   Things like this tend to put a "hold" on my progress as I like to have everything to hand before starting a project.  Hopefully the delays are caused by extreme weather or the Festive Season and I will soon have my little armies ready to arrange.

I am starting to think I should have gone with Wargames Factory's Marlburians.  They would have been here a good deal sooner even if they were paddled across the Atlantic in a canoe...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Graf von Zsadány - A work in progress

The Colonel rides a Crusader nag.
It has been a slow few days here at "Schloss Krautheim".  Generously, the children have shared their various illnesses and the adults are not feeling too well.

In lieu of the article I wished to post, I thought this may be of interest.   Tentatively labelled "von Zsadány" of IR.3, this figure is intended to depict a Colonel of an "Hungarian" Regt.  He wears a plain jacket and drapes a pelisse over his shoulders for a touch of flamboyance.  I could have used an Hussar with dolman but I rather like the contrast between plain and ornate coats.

The origin of the components is partly unclear.  The figure is a Foundry Russian (I think) liberated from Dave T's "bits box".  He had a nasty face with protruding mouth - very Simian.  I transplanted a Front Rank Austrian head and affixed a spare metal pelisse to the torso - yes it is attached very far forward and this is intentional!  The latter was heavily ground-down to make enough space for the former to be seated.

As always, detail work is required but I think the figure "works".

Another "WIP" taster is the Iroquois man-servant that I have been planning for a fairly long time.  In the spirit of frugality *cough cheapskate* I have used the body from which I took von Heßlingshof's head.  His new head is taken from a Front Rank "Woodland Indian" and looks suitably grizzled.

Thus far he has lost his right arm and been drilled to receive the various pins.  In addition I have removed the scabbard moulded attached to the left leg.  There will a suitable substitution added to this area. A fair bit of clean-up and carving still to do on this one but I can see what is needed in my "mind's eye".

Hopefully work on these will progress over the next few days.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

28mm Cannon Review - Budget options

Irregular LM31 & 25/63 parts.
As explained before, your author is always on the lookout for a bargain.  In this spirit I decided to buy some artillery pieces from Irregular Miniatures and Parkfield Miniatures.  Both of these manufacturers offer products at what could be termed "budget" prices.  The artillery pieces available include some highly suitable C17/18 mediums and a pair of intriguing "Galloper" guns (destined for use as the infamous Beimbach-Schönau "Schmetterling"!).  Anyway, let's get to the meat of the posting - the reviews.

Irregular Medium Cannon

First up Irregular's LM31 & 25/63 (£2.50 as of Nov 2010)  These represent "medium" pieces from the C17 to early C18.  I ordered one of each and the only difference appears to be in the wheels (LM31 has the old-fashioned cleated type).

Upon handling, it is a nice solid model.  The woodgrain is not over done and there is a fair level of detail.  In some areas this is a little indistinct (vent hole and rear of the barrel especially) but I am not sure if this is due to the mould or the master.  Either way, this was not enough to prompt me to ask for a replacement.

The cleated wheels show a distinct mould line along the rim which will have to be removed.  This is not difficult but is tedious.

As can be seen the assembled model is quite substantial when standing next to miniatures (the artillerist trio comprises a brace of Dixon and a single Trent chap)

The model bears a startling resemblance to Dixon Miniatures' excellent "Marlburian 6 pounder EG4".  There are differences but these are very slight and the two could be used side by side with few people able to tell them apart.

Considering the price, I certainly recommend these models to impoverished Generals looking for something a little different.

Irregular Galloper Gun

Irregular LM32 "Galloper Gun"
Next to feature is another by Irregular.  This time "LM32 Galloper Gun" from their Marlburian range (£2.25 Nov.2010)

This depicts a much lighter (generally below 3lb) piece that was towed by a single horse or indeed two or three men!  I wanted a source for my "Schmetterling" Battalion guns and thought this was a strong contender.

The gun is suitably slender - some would say flimsy - and thus captures the feel of these pieces.  As before, the woodgrain and other details are pretty well done.  Sadly my example had a lot of flashing as can be seen in the picture to the right.  This will be simple enough to remove from the carriage and barrel but the wheel spokes would be very difficult to sort out.  I called Irregular and they duly sent me a replacement wheel.

Once the parts are put together the gun looks rather rickety but it must be remembered that it is a very light piece.  One thing I don't care for is the slimness of the wheels - they just look too thin to my inexpert eyes.

I will not be relegating this to the bits box but it will certainly take a little bit of work to make it look the part.

Parkfield Galloper Gun

Parkfield GRA100 "Galloper Gun"
Last on today's list is Parkfield's "GRA100 Galloper Gun" from their "Glorious Revolution" range.  I chanced upon the Parkfield stand at Warfare 2010 and saw this little cannon sitting on the shelf.

Priced at a very attractive £1.90 (Nov 2010) and supplied complete with tools the kit represents great value.

The carriage is less detailed than the Irregular version and shows little woodgrain.  However the barrel and wheels are slightly superior.

When assembled, the model is certainly sturdier looking than the Irregular version but as they depict different prototypes, it is rather unfair to compare them in this way.

I bought three of these at Warfare and sadly had some trouble with the wheels.  In one bag I had received large wheels and in one of the others a small wheel was miscast.  An email to Parkfield resulted in prompt mailing of replacements.

Due to the more compact look of the Parkfield Galloper, I have decided that this will be the best option for my army.  However, the Irregular model will find it's way into service somewhere - waste not want not!


Considering the fact that many suppliers charge £5.00 or more for a simple cannon, I think all the options above offer good value for money.  Although not as sharp as some of the higher priced options, they are nonetheless perfectly acceptable models of rather unusual prototypes.

I would recommend them to anyone after something a bit different (always good for the ImagiNation crowd!) and gentle on the wallet. Well worth a visit to the websites of Irregular and Parkfield.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

28mm Figure Review #3: Old Glory & Irregular

Always on the lookout for a bargain, I recently got my hands on some "Marlburians" produced by the above manufacturers.  In no particular order, I will start with Old Glory.

As most readers will know, Old Glory do not sell individual figures.  Most 28mm codes contain 30 Infantry or 10 Cavalry.  Unusually, the "Wars of Marlborough" range is sold in bags of 10 Infantry or 4 Cavalry.  A quick glance will show that the packs are categorised by their dress rather than any Nationality.  This could prove daunting for someone unsure of a given Army's details.  For me, it was a boon.   I could select exactly what I wanted.

Old Glory MW005 Infantry in Tricorn
In this instance I bought packs:  MW001 Infantry Command, NCOs Drummers and Standard Bearers & MW005 Infantry in Tricorn Marching, Coat with Collar & Fur Pack When Ordering I had a pleasant conversation with the proprietor of OG UK who answered a few questions I had about figure pose.  All very enjoyable - even for someone like myself who makes Larry David look sociable.

In general, I find OG offerings to be a mixed bag.   Some are great whilst others are a bit over-animated for my liking (I am a stick in the mud!)  I am pleased to say that these packs proved to be agreeable to my aesthetic.  Good solid poses and nobody looking like they were dancing or throwing a fit.  There are three basic poses and the usual variety of cast-on head variants.  The figures are dressed in a style that can certainly "pass" well into the 1730s and are thus of great interest to me for both eras of my ImagiNation.  Standing around 26/27mm at eye-level they will prove compatible with many of the other leading makers.  However, should you not wish to mix them there is certainly a comprehensive selection available from OG.

The generic Command pack was less good but by no means a waste of time.   A few of the figures have have some rather weird wigs.  Also my pack included a casualty - something I have little use for.   I knew "deaders" were a possibility but I had my fingers crossed!  

As is usual with OG, there are a lot of venting runners attached (easy to remove) and a few bent bayonets.  Pleasingly, there were NO MISCASTS!  All in all I think these figures are very useful and the smaller bag size makes for a good deal less wastage than the 30 man packs when you use a 24 miniature Regiment model.

Irregular LM1 (march attack) & LM2 (advancing)
Moving on to Irregular.  I wanted a few of their rather nice artillery pieces and decided to buy some infantry samples at the same time.   Priced at 75 pence (November 2010) these are some of the cheapest metal miniatures out there.

Standing a couple of millimetres taller than the OG offerings, these figures are somewhat "beefier" and definitely more narrowly "Marlburian".   Detail is good on the coats and acceptable on the feet.  However the faces are far more "Impressionistic" than most other makes.  This is especially noticeable around the eyes where a wide indentation is present rather than individual eye-sockets.  

That said, well painted and viewed en-masse these figures are going to look pretty impressive.  There are at least three variations in the "march attack" pose which has been realised in a manner new to me.   The muskets are held high up on the torso leaving a great length of barrel "in the air".   I must confess I do not know if this was a characteristic of the period but it looks a bit different - not bad just different!

The "At the ready" pose was not one I chose but rather a packaging error.   However, he illustrates another option and is thus useful.

These figures have a bit of flash present which will have to be scraped off and most probably sanded smooth.  After this is done, their simple lines will certainly give the painter a good, if unforgiving, canvas upon which to work.  It is my feeling that quality of paintwork is going to be key in determining whether these stand or fall. 

If you are able to paint details and add a sense of depth to a figure, I would say these are well worth looking at.  However, if your painting skills are negligible and you rely heavily on exaggerated details doing the work for you, there may be trouble ahead!  In short a "painter's figure" well worth considering - especially with attractive bulk deals available.

Below, as is usual, a side by side photo showing these chaps in my rogues' gallery (an improved version will soon be fabricated)   In this case, I do not think they would work well in the same unit but together in an army - perhaps.

Side-by-side comparison.
As I mail-ordered from both suppliers I can use my marking system this time.  I should add that there were problems but the suppliers sorted these out with politeness and alacrity.

Scores out of 10 - thoroughly personal ratings explained:

Sculpting - Quality of detail and accuracy
Casting - Mismoulds and flashing
Variety - How comprehensive is the range
Service - Was the seller easy to reach, polite and helpful
Delivery - How long did they take to get to me
Value - Are they a good deal overall

Delivery time based upon my experience - UK to UK delivery.

Sculpting:                 OG 7/10  -  IM 4.5/10
Casting:                   OG 10/10 - IM 5/10
Variety of Subject:   OG 8/10 - IM 5/10
Customer Service:    OG 10/10 - IM 8/10
Delivery Time:         OG -/10* - IM 8/10
Value:                     OG 8/10 - IM 6/10

* OG Delivery time was delayed by severe snow.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Freiherr von Heßlingshof - Pinning and Putty

Looking a bit like Donald Sutherland.
Shortly after taking the photos last night, I drilled the components and inserted various pins and pegs.  These are essential when converting metal castings as otherwise you are liable to suffer from a multitude of disastrous accidents.

I retained the nice bow on the neck of the Front Rank figure and I have counter-sunk this into the shoulders of the Crusader casting.  I was mulling over the whole right hand quandary and decided that the sword will have to do.  A cane looks a bit too "FdG" and a telescope is not really very good for a chap leading his Regiment to within sight of the Turk.  Myopic officers are something of a liability.

Moustache will need a bit of refinement but the plume is nearly done.   They are currently baking under a cheap IKEA desk light.

The Mastiff will go without appendages as I felt creeped out try to sculpt 28mm testicles.  We will just remember that it is a male!

For the putty I have used both pure Kneadatite and a Milliput/Kneadatite blend.  They have different properties and mixing allows the sculptor to take advantage of both.

I should be able to get the figure finished in the next day or so.  Now that reminds me, I need some laser-cut bases...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Freiherr von Heßlingshof & Gustav - The beginning

Having made my decision to bin Campaign Cartographer 3, I was freed to potter about with something else this afternoon.

Crusader Austrian General and Front Rank Baggot's Hussar.
I have mentioned before that I hate using stock figures for my Colonels and Generals.  With this in mind I decided to cobble something together from a few spare parts lying in my C18 boxes.

Wanting a fellow in "Austrian" uniform but with a twist, I decided to used one of the figures from Crusader's High Command pack.   The original is OK (ignoring that weird right arm) but rather boring - so I didn't mind sawing off his head.  As I have a whole host of miscast Baggot's Hussars from Front Rank, I decided one of these could donate both head and right hand to the project.

Gustav the Mastiff and the trusty steed.
I wanted to use a rather nice Dixon's horse for his mount but the rider's legs are spread (ooer Missus) rather wide for this to be practical.  I will give it a go but reckon it is safer to go for a Crusader nag (shown)

Gustav the hideous Mastiff is taken from the Vendel "Border Reiver" range and looks fearsome enough to be happy amidst the carnage of battle.

The Colonel's right arm is still "negotiable". I favoured a tobacco pipe or even a telescope as these are far more interesting than the drawn sabre - but I have the sword from the Hussar donor.  As the pinning and puttying happens I may well change the plan.

Mock-up to get a General (hoho) idea.
Other additions will be a plume, face fungus and an enlarged "bag" for the cap.  I may well rework the saddle - a furry shabraque would look somewhat different.  Gustav demands a little work, a pair of large "cojones" should add authenticity.

You may notice the little bit of putty in the last photo.  This is a push-moulded depiction of the "Order of Radegast" that Freiherr von Heßlingshof will sport upon his coat (if it can be made to fit)

Anyway - we will see how things progress.

Campaign Cartographer - a précis

Having tried this software for just over a week I thought it high time to write a brief review.  Sadly, this is unlikely to endear me to the folks at ProFantasy Software.

My reasons for purchasing Campaign Cartographer 3 (CC3) were twofold:  Firstly, I wanted an application that would enable me to apply a constant theme to a series of maps and deliver predictable results.  Secondly, I feel capable of producing what I want in pen and ink but the idea that one error could muff up the whole effort was daunting.  These days I am a bit ham-fisted - I blame child-related exhaustion!

Anyway, I viewed the rather good tutorial linked to ProFantasy's website and decided that if the application could render a "Pirate Island" sized 1000 x 800miles  it could certainly cope with Beimbach-Schönau.  (on a 200x200 mile background)  After playing around with the software, I can report that it is more than able to do so.  My first effort shows, in low-resolution,  the revised State boundaries.

The system works with "Sheets" and "Layers".  A new approach to me but apparently old hat to CAD diehards.  A good way of describing this to a layman would be to think of  "transparencies".  Your work is laid upon your background via a series of transparencies, each one laying upon the other with user-defined levels of opacity.   Thus some can show the details on previous sheets others block the sheets below.  

In practice this is simple to grasp, in reality things get confusing.  My confusion stemmed not from user error (well not too much!) but from the rather annoying way the software automatically adjusts sheets and layers when you choose various map building features.   For example you want (for your own peculiar reason) to add mountain graphics to your Contours layer.  The software will change the layer to what it thinks is best as soon as you click on the mountain tab.  This happens with sheets also and if you don't keep your eyes open you can get into a real mess.  

I am sure there is a setting to turn off the "thinking" process but I didn't want to dabble too deeply in the advanced user settings when making my first map.

Another problem was creating an infill up to a border.  Complicated jargon but in my case what I wanted was to show the State dissecting a given terrain feature without the terrain having to end just short of the border.   Try as I might I could not find a way to do this other than tracing the border in extreme zoom and hoping you don't slip.  This was the same annoying process that I had to use for the coastline and after many tries I was literally screaming at the PC.  Again, there is probably a command to do this but I didn't find it after days of exploration.

For the record, the software crashed when trying to open different symbol sets - disheartening as your progress is lost.  This was mitigated somewhat by the autosave but nevertheless such problems are annoying.

Finally comes the most serious, and in my case fatal, flaw.  Apparently, when your map is highly detailed  (mine is both small and simple) the ability to save your work as a large BMP, PNG or JPEG no longer works.  The file becomes too unwieldy at anything but low-res (seen above).  At this point higher-res images have to be saved in PDF format.  I had no idea this was the case when I purchased the software.  As I wanted to post various maps online and (eventually) use them in a work of fiction, it has really been something of a terminal problem.  To have to upload pdfs and then provide links to said is very clunky and not what I wanted.  Additionally I went ahead with the pdf save as an experiment and the damn process changed the properties of my map - making lines thicker and so on.   It looks not nearly as good as it does when opened in CC!  

ProFantasy suggest that this is not an error with their application but is due to the inadequacy of users' systems.  My Desktop is approaching three years old but has a fairly fast quad-core processor, decent RAM and  full gamers-standard graphics acceleration.

After much stress I think that, for me, CC3 is not worth the effort.  It is possible to create beautiful maps and once the interface is mastered, do so quickly.  However, the inability of the software to turn the lovely high-res images into high-res PC viewable graphics files is a deal-breaker.  

Your author will be taking advantage of the 14 day money back guarantee - pronto!

Steady that hand and get drawing!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

28mm Figure Review #2: Foundry & Front Rank

Following my trip to Warfare 2010 I thought it may be useful to review some of my purchases.  Most notably the Foundry Russian Grenadiers I picked up (at a very good price) from "Dave T" at the Perry Miniatures stand.

I am no expert when it comes to SYW Russians but I wanted something a bit different for IR.14 "Graf Zhlobin" and was looking for interesting miniatures at the show. These troopers with covered mitres look both flashy and battle hardened.  When coupled with Dave's knock-down price they are spot on!

As can be seen in the photo, they measure (base included) around 29mm to eye-level.  Depicted in the ever popular (and wargames friendly) "march attack" pose, they present a good martial air.  The faces display a good deal of character but nothing too eye-catching.  This in my opinion is a plus.  If a "character" figure with some colourful expression is featured repeatedly he gives your unit a comical air - not something I want.

I selected my figures from an "odds and sods" box but after visiting the Foundry site I have determined the majority are from codes SYWR10 and 28.  However, I cannot find all the variations, so perhaps Foundry have streamlined their catalogue?

I rate these figures very highly.  Excellent when it comes to detail and casting quality, the latter is a real bug-bear these days, they are clearly a superior product.

In addition to the Russkis, I picked up a few Front Rank  British and Austrians.   These are a mixture of their Jacobite and SYW figures (The chap on the left is an Austrian who came along for a portrait).

As usual with Alec Brown's work, they are solidly sculpted and well detailed - standing around 28mm.  The Jacobite era fellow on the extreme right is particularly nice having a fine "in-period" wig and haughty air.  As with the Grenadiers, I cannot vouch for authenticity of the fine-details but they look good after comparing with the illustrations in a few uniform books.

I am aware that some folks think Front Rank figures are "fat bodied" and have strange faces - I thoroughly disagree.  These castings, although many of the masters are well over a decade old, are still worth serious consideration for anyone planning a C18 army - Imagined or Historical.  Additionally there is a marked consistency in Front Rank's scaling.  Figures have (until the Marlburians) stayed at more or less a constant size, this makes ordering far less worrisome.

Something got their attention.  My aquarium perhaps?
Finally, I have posted a side-by-side shot of the Foundry and Front Rank samples.

I see no reason to avoid mixing these brands in an army or, dare I say it, why suitable figures could not be mixed within a table-top regiment.

All in all a nice little haul of metal.  I will not be marking these in the manner of my first review as I got to select them myself at a wargames show and many of the criteria are therefore not applicable.

Now I have to figure out why, as the five minute shoot progressed, my camera decided to reproduce the snaps with a nicotine wash...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Borders and Bunkum

Since my last posting I have been toying with maps - yet again.  Looking at the borders of the State as shown in my earlier posting, I was dissatisfied with the shape of the territory.  There was an uncanny similarity to Cyprus and even modern-day Austria.

Although the territory was logical and the size fine - the shape needed tweaking.  I have done this by shifting the borders South and West by approximately 50 miles.  This has had the added bonus of giving me a short stretch of (mountainous) coastline with a couple of small towns.   Thus B-S is no longer land-locked.

I have no interest in naval power but the ability to send ships out on the high seas is a boon.  Minor colonial adventures can be undertaken and trade routes generated.  Indeed the presence of Red Indian servants at Court (long planned) is no longer so hard to justify.

At present, I am trying to get to grips with Campaign Cartographer.  Mostly, I find the interface to be fairly straightforward but I am having a great deal of trouble when it comes to borders abutting borders.  The software seems to prefer generating a random margin rather than in-filling an area.  Probably something I am doing (or not doing) but frustrating nonetheless.

Map will be posted in due course and then I can finally move on to what I had planned for last week!