Monday, 31 January 2011

"Fort Kalypso" - First Attempt

"Fauxban" bastion.
The fort has received a suitably Classical name - "Kalypso" after the possessive Nymph of Greek mythology.  Apt as many posted to this backwater feel stranded in the manner of the unfortunate Odysseus.

I made a trip to "Homebase" the poor British relative of the USA's "Home Depot" and (surprisingly) found what I was looking for - namely polystyrene ceiling coving.  Very 1970s but just the job for the squat octagonal tower comprising the North-Western corner of the complex.  At £1.79 for about 4' it is a steal.  I simply hot-glued four sections together to form the octagon.  All other parts were lying around the garage (much to the disgust of the lady wife) and thus cost me nothing!

Crusader Austrian for scale reference.
At present the structure is a pretty crude skeleton and I am aware the angles on the glacis are somewhat steeper than historical prototypes.  This inaccuracy is a deliberate compromise.  Should I model them correctly the thing is going to be enormous.  As it is I am going to have trouble finding it a place to live.  The apertures have been made oversize as I am going to fine detail them with, my old friend, floral oasis.

Bird's eye view.
Tomorrow I will tackle the buildings for the landward side.   These should include troop quarters and some form of administrative structure.  I am still unsure as to how the tower should be finished off.  Originally, I thought an open fighting top with gun ports - now I am considering a roofed structure as seen in many contemporary prints - perhaps even a rather snazzy (and suitably Oriental) dome?

Fortifying myself

A relatively simple African fort.
For a long time your author has been building various architectural models.  These have acted as both distractions and stress-relievers depending upon the date of construction.

The European side of the Beimbach-Schönau project does not really allow me to build anything impressive as the cities are far too large to depict in 28mm scale.

In contrast, the modest nature of our overseas possessions opens up the possibility of small forts and fortified harbours.

After some sketching and research over the past weekend, I have decided upon a small trading fort with a "Vaubanesque" flavour - although the structure will be far from textbook.  Perhaps a bastion and a few earthworks - remember this would have been built by a largely native workforce and the emphasis is on protection against local raiders rather than sophisticated European engineering.

In terms of size, something along the lines of a West African fort (such as St.Sebastian ) is most likely.  My plans, although drawn, are very rudimentary so I will refrain from sharing them at the moment!

Once this posting is made I shall be venturing into the black-hole also known as the garage in order to find a few bits and bobs that can be used in the construction.  I have enough flower arrangers' oasis to be going along with but I am unsure of the styrofoam and carpet roll stock levels...

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Mammoth surgery

The re-do and the original.
On Friday evening I cleaned up the body halves and tried to secure them together.  This initial attempt was made with styrene spacers and five-minute epoxy adhesive.  It proved to be a disaster!  The epoxy did not set properly and I was left with sticky gunk all over the components.  Needless to say I was annoyed.

After an over-night soak in Nitromoors paint stripper, the bits were nice and clean again.   I decided upon a different approach using pins (or in this case dowels)  I drilled four holes in each half.  These passed all the way through one side so that I could fine tune the positioning of the parts before they set.  The dowels were held in place with super-glue (no more epoxy on this one) and then tweaked around until the body halves were in the right position.

The dowel work is far from subtle!
To further secure the parts, I filled the gaping cavity with a good deal of Milliput.  This was then brought to a level slightly below the intended surface of the beast's "skin".  This was so that the fine detail of the skin could be easily applied when the model was finished.  After another over-night, this time in the airing cupboard, the model is a solid and heavy lump of a Nellie.  The dowels will be trimmed and the holes filled or covered.  The damage on the beast's back will be obscured by the howdah padding.  

Annoyingly, I seem to have misplaced his tail!  It came off neatly but I cannot find it.   Hopefully it will turn up but if it doesn't I can sculpt a replacement fairly easily.

The first photo shows just how poor the beast looks assembled "out of the box" when compared to a fattened twin.  My wife thought the poor chap looked as if he was dying and on the way to the Elephants' graveyard - I couldn't agree more!

Other components waiting for their moment.
The other parts are from a few manufacturers.  Gripping Beast tusks, Essex head and mahout with a Foundry Sikh who is likely to lose his head in the interests of affairs Colonial.  This fellow may get a reprieve if I go with one of the Redoubt chaps who are presently "in the mail".

Bear in mind this is in a very early stage of construction, however I think it is potentially useful for anyone considering a similar project.  Although I wouldn't advise anyone to bother with OG elephants unless they had masochistic tendencies. 

Friday, 28 January 2011

Making a silk purse from a Pachyderm's ear

The parts are in a nasty state.
Yesterday, my Wife chanced upon a collapsed shoe box packed full of "Ancients".  Most of the components are from my old Baktrian project - don't ask! (especially about the origin of Samosas, Naan bread and Paneer!)  I was looking through these bits when I saw some rather manky elephant parts in amongst the Thureophoroi.

I acquired these in a large trade a couple of years ago.  The former owner had fixed the Nellies together (crudely) with Milliput and they looked awful.  I decided to take them apart but at the time had so many other choices for Menander's army that these got shelved - they just looked like a lot of work.

Now with my new project and subsequent Colonial foray I have decided to resurrect these sorry beasties and use a few to mount the Governor, some other notables and a swivel gun.  After all, an Orientalist sybarite isn't complete without an Elephant upon which to ride.

As can be seen, they are not great.  I think they are Old Glory and Essex Ancient Indian models the former being horrendously anorexic - in fact not much wider than a well fed Front Rank horse!  The heads, as is usual in the world of wargames figures, are a nasty mix of African and Indian features and the trunks are just plain wrong!  That said there is a good deal of potential and the models didn't cost me a Dime.  Incidentally the resin head is an old leftover from a Gripping Beast freebie I converted with some Aventine Miniatures spares.

Hidustani Howdah designs.
Howdah and crew will be scratchbuilt and converted respectively.  The former is not too much of a job as I have a good deal of experience with making war-towers for my Baktrians and the non-combat versions are far simpler.

A lot of work as I will work on the crummiest example but an interesting change of scene for the moments when decapitating Chasseurs begins to prove tiresome.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Charlie don't march?

Thinking of matters Colonial, I have been looking at the options open to the C18 expansionist.  I must say they are rather dire.

I want "Oriental" troops in a marching pose.  Manufacturers seem to like such figures in a wild charge or at best skirmish poses - See the many "Pathan" and "Berber" ranges out there for examples.  The Sepoy shown in the contemporary watercolour to the left would be ideal.  He wears a mixture of native and European clothing and looks suitably exotic.

As the location of the Colony is intended to be somewhere on the fringes of Araby/India I have a great deal of latitude with the appearance of the troops.  That said, I cannot for the life of me find an Arab/Berber/Pathan marching and holding a musket.  I can find them with spears and sabres but all musket toting figures are far too energetic!  The closest I have found is a "Tufengi" from Dixon's old Ottoman selection.  He is walking with a musket held accross his chest - so not ideal.

Redoubt's Bengal Sepoy and the infamous IN 110.
Casting my net toward the Sub-Continent, there are a few marching troops knocking about.  Redoubt's "Wellington in India" range has some Sepoys that are in the right pose.  Sadly their equipment is rather British (as it should be) and their uniforms distinctly early C19.  Lurking in the "Irregulars" sub-category is a chap (IN 110) who is spot-on in terms of attire but Murphy's Law dictates he is in an "iffy" position...

Parkfield Sepoys.
Parkfield may be the best option as their "Clive in India" figures have a couple of interesting Sepoys.  The downside is that these are older figures and sport what I term "Pumpkincephalus"  On the other hand they are cheap and have a good selection of similarly sculpted and sized Europeans to act as NCO/Officers.

Finally there are some great troops in the Wargames Foundry pack IND 210.  Unfortunately, I am not going to pay the ridiculously high premium demanded by Mr Ansell.

If any of my readers are aware of something that may be suitable I would greatly appreciate a pointer or two!  Now back to IR.10...

Monday, 24 January 2011

Drang nach Osten!

An ardent Orientalist in "action".
After reviewing my collection and a lot of serious thought, I have decided to expand the scope of my blog.

Rather than being devoted exclusively to the 1720-45 period, I will now cover the C18 history of Beimbach-Schönau up until the fall of the Ancien Régime.  This will enable me to explore some rather interesting ideas I have concerning the military, Colonial adventuring and to create some interesting multi-purpose units.

As before the main emphasis will remain the 1740-63 period but the expansion allows some fun units such as the "Arabische Freikorps"!  The proposed trading colony will be located in Araby and thus gratify my Orientalist tendencies.  Is it just me or does the spectacle of C18 Europeans in exotic climes have widespread appeal?

Elite's late C18 Austrians - candidates for 1770.
The post SYW army is again heavily influenced by our KuK neighbour.  I am presently debating which manufacturer should have the pleasure of supplying a couple of regiments (my wedding anniversary present!)  Eureka, Elite, Front Rank and Eagle are all in contention.  The former pair for their excellent Kaskett wearing fellows.   The latter two for some rather fun bicorne wearers.  (For approaching 15 years I have liked the look of Front Rank's Spanish Infantry.   At one stage I was going to "do" a Saxe-Weimar army as I feel they were passable stand-ins.  With an ImagiNation I have no such concerns)

Some more contenders - Eagle, Front Rank & Eureka.
I know the current materiel is far from finished but it makes sense to me for the endeavour to be approached as a whole rather than three individual segments.  Especially since the timeline is largely complete (in my head!)

I apologise for the recent dearth of postings but there have been some momentous happenings here at Schloss Krautheim and these have distracted from the fun stuff.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Matters hairy - WF wig details

Grenadier and Officer heads.
Following a TMP exchange with His Eminence Cardinal Hawkwood, I decided to post a few close-ups of the peculiar hair/wigs on the WF sprues reviewed yesterday.

As can be seen, the hair is sculpted in loops rather than locks and curls.  Although there is historical precedent for the "looped" wig (as is shown in many contemporary portraits) in miniature, it looks odd thus depicted.  What makes it even stranger is the fact that it is rendered in a completely symmetrical manner.  This, I assume, betrays the CAD origin of the master sculpts.  I may be wrong but I suspect it was just an horizontal copy 'n' flip as it were!

Rank & File specimens.
Personally, I do not feel this problem is so severe as to warrant a re-do with either putty or pyrogravure.  Especially the case when it comes to the "rank and file" of a Regiment.

However, if I was using one of these heads for a senior commander I might rough up the finish a little.

Yet more cloth Mitres.
Some may regard this as nit-picking but those of us who enjoy getting all the details right find such things important.  The hair could certainly have been done better but compared to some of WF's earlier sprues this one is a gem!  Overall I do not think these problems detract from the the set's desirability.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Initial Impressions : Wargames Factory - War of Spanish Succession Infantry

Twelve sprues are inside each box.
This weekend I got my hands on Wargames Factory's new release: a box of 32 generic infantry for the late C17  / early C18 period.  These were supplied, in a most timely fashion, by "VVV" Wargames.

I feel fortunate as I understand many folks had this on pre-order and it has yet to arrive - this is precisely the reason I do not pre-order, I have an inherent dislike of paying for something that is not yet stocked.  Vendors often forget the monies already in their pockets and attendant obligation in favour of further revenue from "fresh" sales.

The sprues are moulded in high density styrene (use liquid polystyrene cement for a good join/weld) and feature an excellent selection of different heads.  Sporting Tricorns, wide-brims, Grenadier Mitres and a Fur Cap.  There is even a bare-headed fellow in there.  The intention is that with a change of head the simple body can depict virtually any trooper from the period in question.  Although the button-counters will have a fit with this as there are features moulded (neck-scarf for example) that are not universal - this is of little import to those of us creating ImagiNations.

The frames contain two one-piece bodies and one multi-part.  The latter can be assembled as another marching trooper, part of a command group or a "skirmisher".  In my opinion, the skirmisher is the least appealing option as the firing and grenade throwing arms just don't appear to "work" with the marching pose.

Close-up of heads and arms.
  • Low price per figure.  I got a set for £14.99 working out at approximately 46p per figure.  I understand they are cheaper in the USA.
  • A good selection of heads, extra arms and torsos with a lot of spares!  For converters this is a boon.
  • Excellent sprue design - they stack inside the box ensuring there is no damage in transit.


Command details and firing line arms.
  • Bulgy eyes on the heads.  This will prove a problem if you paint them as shown on the box front.  They end up looking like Michael "Charmon" Jackson in "Thriller".  This is shown to good/bad effect by the deeply unappealing box-art.
  • The detail on the wigs/hair is very symmetrical and thus looks rather odd if examined closely.
  • Care should be taken with the necks.  Many assembled miniatures that I have seen sport Giraffe necks.

Basic figure front view.
Personally, I will be happy using these right up to 1740 (and beyond) as although old-fashioned they will not look unlikely - just think of the SYW French as a case in point. 

As illustration of the above, see the picture to the left for a close-up of the basic infantryman and his uniform.  This would be entirely serviceable in the mid C18. 

All-in-all a great set and thoroughly recommended - although you may have trouble getting any at the moment due to Wargames Factory's internal problems.

I will have to glue a few together pronto and post the results.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Rules - so much choice.

Being thoroughly rusty when it comes to miniatures rules, I have been looking around for a decent set.  As a notorious tightwad, I would favour a system that allows the players to recreate battles from approximately 1720 to the French Revolution.  

This neatly avoids the "pike quandary" of Marlburian gamers but I feel it may be a lot to ask of one system.  After a bit of reading Warlord Games' "Black Powder" looks interesting but I am put off by the fact it sells itself as suitable for 1700-1900.  Surely no set that can depict the American Secessionist War of 1861-65 can also do justice to the War of Austrian Succession and let's say the Corsican Ogre in Russia circa 1812?

What I need is a fairly generic set that can be tweaked for extra flavour.  A system where skill in utilising a force can compensate (somewhat) for bad dice rolling.  Rules that are not bogged down in complex modifiers but that maintain a good "flavour" as it were.  Above all a system that will do credit to the struggle between Beimbach-Schönau and the Savage Turk.

If any of my readership has any suggestions I would be delighted to hear more.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Am Embarrassment of Officers!

In lieu of a better collective term I thought the above would suffice!

Going through my boxes of mid-C18 figures I found more Officer figures than I had imagined.  Indeed not all are in the photo as I discovered a couple more zip-loc bags after taking the snap.  A few months of Ebay bargain browsing and judicious sale shopping have produced more than I will need for Beimbach-Schönau.

I thought the picture may be useful as it illustrates figures from a few different ranges (Dixon, Front Rank, Foundry & Crusader) and shows that they are (in my humble opinion) fairly inter-changeable.   The only chap who may be a bit "off" is the little Prussian Hussar - lurking upper right - but Hussars were recruited from smaller fellows!  I do not think a unit of such troopers will look bad in the finished army.

Incidentally, I am told the nicely sculpted figure at front centre is supposed to be Friedrich der Große!  What a terrible portrait.   Yes he has a cane but he sports spurs and looks nothing like DAF.

Well, enough of this - time to get back to IR.10 and the clean-up/sculpting.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Infanterie Regiment Nr.10 " von Klingenbach "

IR.10 is the first of the "new" Regiments raised after the recent Turkish war.  Formed by the expansion of "Freikorps von Klingenbach", the unit's personnel were already seasoned, if not highly disciplined, soldiers.

Balthasar, Graf von Klingenbach recruited his Friekorps in the late 1720s from desperadoes and refugees.  Thus the unit had a very cosmopolitan flavour.  Almost immediately, the regiment gained notoriety for it's savagery in combat against the Turk.  

Retained by the State in the early 1730s the unit was a semi-permanent addition to the forces of Beimbach-Schönau.  It was therefore logical to create one of the new Regiments around the solid core of the Freikorps.

Von Klingenbach hails originally from Elsaß but has found his true calling on the Turkish front.  He is easily recognized by his large moustache, ornate uniform and mischievous dog - the ever present "Fritzi".

The Regiment wears a "French" pattern uniform with Blood-Red facings.  Unusually, the Grenadiers wear the Flügelmütze most readily associated with Hussars and light infantry.  The artillery component is somewhat heavier than "regulation" comprising a great many ex-Russian pieces of medium calibre.

Inhaber:  Balthasar, Graf von Klingenbach

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Infanterie Regiment Nr.9 " von Heßlingshof "

The "Beimbachers" are the last of the "Old" Infantry Regiments.  Proud of their traditional responsibilities as peace-time guardians of this great city, they present a particularly imposing sight both on and off the battlefield.

Currently led by the somewhat eccentric August, Freiherr von Heßlingshof, they are equipped in textbook fashion. Wearing Grass-Green faced "German" uniforms they boast a complement of modern artillery pieces albeit of light calibre.  The Grenadiers wear the standard fur cap and moustaches.

Von Heßlingshof is a local magnate but in his youth served with the Imperial Russian Army in it's campaigns against the Swedes.  He has a residual affection for Russia and is often accompanied by Cossack retainers.  It is rumoured that he may harbour sympathies for the Eastern Orthodox Faith but no proof has yet come to light.

Inhaber: August, Freiherr von Heßlingshof

Infanterie Regiment Nr.8 "von Tschernowitz" 1740

IR. "von Tschernowitz" is unique in the ranks of the Army.  Firstly, it is the only Regiment to have been directly inherited by the son of the previous Inhaber.  Second it stands out on the field of battle as the men wear a rather dated uniform.

The current Colonel Ruprecht, Freiherr von Tschernowitz, is a very different man to his father, Heinrich.  Eschewing the luxury and religious liberalism of the older Freiherr, the present head of the Tschernowitz family is a miserly and conservative man.  He has insisted that his troops retain the cheaper uniforms of a previous era and that the Regiment attends Mass at least once a week.  This has led to friction within the ranks as the regiment has a sizeable Bohemian component.  That said, natural wastage has lessened the religious difficulties as the present Inhaber no longer recruits from anything other than Catholic peoples.

The uniforms of this Regiment have a great similarity to that of the 1720 cut, the basic differences being the introduction of a fur Grenadier cap and buttoned gaiters.  The artillery component is negligible comprising a few small Schmetterling pieces.

Inhaber: Ruprecht, Freiherr von Tschernowitz

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Army in miniature: IR.10 " von Klingenbach " pt.3

"Donors" pre-op.
Last night it occurred to me that the process of swapping a awkwardly positioned head may not be something with which all my readers are familiar.  Just in case, here is a step by step guide as to how I effected the transplant.

The first thing to do is select figures to provide the components.  "Obvious!" I hear you cry but this is not as easy as it appears.  There are a lot of different sculpting styles in the 28mm bracket and many are blatantly incompatible.

I wanted a head wearing a "Mirliton" so my choices were limited.  The venerable Dixons Chasseur (FNC5) is easy to decapitate and leaves a perfectly usable body once this is done - ideal for cheapskates like myself.  In terms of size he is a fairly good match for the Crusader Fusilier (RFH009) Additionally, he is of a similar sculpting style showing a roughly equal level of detail.

The Chasseur's head was removed with a simple horizontal cut.  Once cleaned up, it was hand-drilled (pin-vise) to take a neck-pin (wire or cocktail stick)  As discussed yesterday, the plume was removed to ensure that the hat sits properly against the musket.  A replacement will be built from epoxy putty.

He looks apprehensive and who can blame him.
The Fusilier is a different story, his hat is cast butting against the musket and thus the head cannot be saved intact.

I made the vertical razor-saw cut first, carefully avoiding the musket.   Then the horizontal slice was performed to enable the head to be removed.  A good deal of mess is left to clean up but this is sadly unavoidable.  Annoyingly, I dented the barrel slightly when my toddler bashed the workbench at the critical moment - this is now repaired.

The collar was removed entirely and the neck drilled out (motor tool) to provide a "female" in which to insert the neck pin.  Remember to ensure that the figure has a realistically scaled neck - it is a very easy thing to overlook.

At this stage my method departs from the norm as I like to create an oversize socket that gives me some "play" when positioning the transplanted head.  This socket is filled with epoxy putty (Kneadatite & Milliput blend) and the head is inserted.

Epoxy putty is used to hold the head to the barrel.
This results in the putty being squeezed upwards and suction tends to hold the pin in place.  After a bit of judicious wiggling (Michael Douglas style) I had  the attitude I wanted.

The last part of the preliminary is to carefully remove the soft excess putty whilst leaving enough to support the new head.  I do this with cocktail sticks and/or Dental probes and smooth with a wet paintbrush.  At this stage you do not have to be too fussy as the details added in the finishing stages will obscure the finish.

Leave the little fella overnight (somewhere warm) or put him under a lamp to accelerate curing.  That's one down, five more to do before I can get them to the next stage:

The real sculpting work...

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Army in miniature: IR.10 " von Klingenbach " pt.2

IR.10 The components.
After looking at the crudely made composite in my last posting, I decided he had to be redone!  The shako needed to sit flush with the musket and this necessitated the removal of the entire plume.  Not too much of a worry as building half a plume and ensuring it matches a pre-existing feature is more work than doing the whole thing from scratch!

Anyway, I have collected the metal components for a group photo.  They comprise 20 Crusader French Fusiliers (selected at random from miscasts - part of the compensation I obtained from Northstar) The Command Group will feature a standard bearer (converted from a Crusader French NCO) a Drummer from Foundry (via Dave T's bargain box) and "von Klingenbach" himself.  He is a part-finished conversion of a Dixons Chasseur and will sport an animal skin cape in the style of von Zieten.  His head is from a Foundry cavalry bugler and his horse will be from Front Rank (I think I photographed him on a Crusader nag by mistake)

Von Klingenbach in all his half-built glory.
Other items used are a couple of Mega Miniatures dogs (yes another headswap!) and a flagpole finial from Front Rank.  You will note the bags at the top of the photo.  These contain more unfortunate Dixons donors - please don't inform them of the fate that awaits.

Bases will be purchased from Warbases  who provide laser-cut MDF in a wide range of sizes at ridiculously low prices - £2.00 gets you 16 40x40mm bases!  The standard will be custom printed on silk by Maverick Models and will apparently cost no more than £2.00.

All things considered once the work is done this should be a very cost-effective, unique and attractive Regiment.

Now that I have my miniatures the floodgates are truly open and my enthusiasm has returned!  I hope my very rusty painting skills can do justice to my idea...

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Army in miniature: IR.10 " von Klingenbach " pt.1

The basic concept.
I apologise as I have not yet posted the relevant uniform card and potted history of this Regiment but that will be remedied later this week.

So at the risk of getting ahead of myself I thought readers would be interested to see my concept for one of the "new" Regiments formed when the armed forces expanded.

The Grenadiers are going to have an unusual appearance as shown by the very crude composite figure in the picture.  Wearing a decidedly French coat with turnbacks and a most decorative "Flügelmütze" style hat.

The body is from a Crusader French fusilier and the head taken from a Dixon French Revolutionary Chasseur à Cheval.  The latter are very nice figures and often overlooked these days.  They have a few flaws but are going to serve me well in many ways!

The transplant was rather difficult and resulted in some damage to the musket - as can be seen.  I hope to eliminate this during the other surgeries that will be required to create a full compliment.  As this was something of an experiment I am quite happy with the basic result.  Rebuilding of the collar and some fine details should result in an attractive and unique figure.

The uniform will be the standard "Mustard" coat with blood red facings and silver lace/buttons.  All in all pretty striking.

Along with this chap I was today building the Colonel but he is unavailable for a snap due to being baked in my "Coke Can Putty Oven".

More on this in the very near future...

Friday, 7 January 2011

Party time at Schloss Löwenstein!

The Court celebrates the arrival of the new Regiments.
At last!  The people at Northstar have put right the wrongs of my October 2010 orders.   It took numerous emails, personal messages and telephone calls with the vendor's attitude* causing me a remarkable amount of annoyance but I am elated that the matter is now over!

The very polite "Mark" is clearly the gentleman with whom you should speak should difficulties arise.  I first encountered him shortly before Christmas and alone at Northstar he seems to exhibit some genuine care for the customer.  Will I patronise them again?  I strongly doubt it but at least I can now move on and hopefully reignite my enthusiasm for what was (and is) one of my most enjoyable projects in a long while.

Much has been "on hold" since this fiasco started.  However I can now get cracking: I want to ink a decent map of the State,   I need to get flags made and bases cut and not least the conversions for a couple of IR need to be performed.

It is hoped this will be a most productive New Year!

*Your author suspects Northstar may be in league with the vile Pasha Zahi and have purposely delayed the dispatch of the troops in order to give this grotesque savage time to prepare his defences.