David Bickley's Wargames Blog

The occasional ramblings of an average gamer, journeyman painter, indifferent modeller, games designer, sometime writer for Wargames Illustrated and host of games in GHQ.

Tuesday 29 June 2021

R&R in Devon

 Sue and I are back home from a week's R&R in Stoke Gabriel, Devon, where we shared a cottage with old and dear friends Phil & Di. Our home for the week was Crab Cottage ~

As you'd expect from a British summer the weather was mixed but we managed to fit in lots of interesting visits along with generally chilaxing a fair bit! As you'd expect though, a good deal of history figured in our week ~

Brass memorial in St Saviour's church, Dartmouth.
Interesting facade to shop front, Dartmouth.
American WWII Memorial in Dartmouth.
Always amazes me the unlikely places our Industrial Revolution and subsequent rise to Empire got underway.
Heroes come from such ordinary backgrounds don't they? Makes me wonder what any of us might be capable of in the right circumstances. On the ferry entrance wall in Kingswear by the by.
Free French Naval Monument to their WWII forces in Dartmouth.
The Mill Pool dam at Stoke Gabriel, replenished by each high tide when the dam is submerged.
'William the Orange' without obligatory seagull headwear! The Glorious Revolution began at Brixham!
Replica of the Golden Hind, at Brixham, forever associated with Sir Francis Drake, well known Devon pirate, explorer and all round English hero!
A reminder of past activity in our fishing ports, found in all places on the wall of a loo cubicle!
Brixham monument to those brave souls lost at sea while out fishing. Puts your seaside F&C into perspective...
Speaking of F&C...
We didn't eat here by the way, but the facade of this shop did capture something of the eccentric nature of the English seaside town...
Hearts of Oak? Tree ring guide to history in Stoke Gabriel churchyard, in shadow of the biggest Yew I've ever seen.
The height of C18th town travel captured in miniature.
Insignia of Agatha Christie's DBE tossed casually, as you do, into a China cabinet in the kitchen!
Greenway, Devon home of said Agatha.
Sue taking in the sun and sights at the Battery down by the Dart in the grounds of Greenway.
Two books purchased at the Second Hand bookshop in the house for £4.
Just to finish, a reflection of a grand week's R&R...

Friday 25 June 2021

Book Sniffer Pursuivant, 2nd Class

 While we were down in Devon enjoying a holiday with good friends Phil and Di we visited Greenway, Agatha Christie's home, now in the care of the National Trust. Like many Trust properties it boasts a decent Second Hand Book Shop. I sniffed two books: Connolly's Greece and Rome at War and Wellington at War in the Peninsula ~

Both books for £4, which I calls a bargain! Did I need either book? Not really I must confess, but the Connolly will be useful to Matt in his design work and the Peninsular War one just interested me. No accounting for taste, as they say... Why 2nd Class you might ask? Simples! I can't hold a candle to Phil's book sniffing prowess.

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Faces, Flags, Bases, Shields even

 Following on from my earlier post on Scale,Size and Painting Standards I thought I'd offer a few positive reflections on bringing our wargames figures, units and armies to the tabletop battlefield. First though a disclaimer, I am not a good painter - just wander the web and you'll see what I mean I'm confident. My painting, as Phil would say, will do. In close up you can easily see my faults but then you don't see them on the tabletop battlefield at playing distance I'm equally confident. That is where they are meant to be seen after all; I'm a wargamer who paints rather than a painter who might sometimes wargame. 

Having established my starting point I want also to say that I'm generally satisfied with the end product of my efforts as they appear on the battlefield. I believe that is down to a number of important efforts on my part to do justice to the sculptor's work. Firstly if I may I'll refer to faces. Back in the early 1970's when I ventured into our hobby, via Alumwell Wargames Society, faces were pink usually using the Humbrol Flesh Matt tin. Even when progressing to early Plaka acrylic paint faces remained resolutely pink! Somewhere in the early 1980's it suddenly became fashionable to shade and/or highlight the flesh tones, probably as Colour Party Paints replaced Plaka on my desk. Then, in the 1990's starting with my Dixon Miniatures ACW armies I was painting in the eyes, because Trevor had gone to the trouble of sculpting in details. Since then my flesh painting has gone in several directions: the Foundry Triad system; Games Workshop washes and highlights to now either a base, a wash, and a base highlight or just a base and a highlight. Eyes, well only on Dixon Miniatures, and with increasing difficulty. Moral of the tale, a little effort lifts the figures into small persons in a unit but not portraits hanging on a wall. I apply this method to European and Asian figures alike and to all exposed flesh. It looks fine to me and has attracted some positive feedback so might help someone else find their own method.

Flags next: who can resist a decent flag or three after all? Back in the day I hand painted mine, though often using the black and white outline designs Hinchliffe provided with their Napoleonic standard or guidon bearers. Branching out into Malburians and ECW meant hand painting on the grand scale. Thankfully as my interests developed widely along came preprinted flag sheets, initially grouped idiosyncratically on sheets of half a dozen or so flags. They did save a lot of trouble, but have been long superceded by the intricate work of GMB Designs or Flags of War for example. I tend to copy my originals on my Lazer printer/copier onto thinner paper making it easier to fold into the staff and to animate. I like lots of flags if possible, I had great fun with my Italian Wars Papal Army of Alexander VI, Borgia that way. I also like large flags, often enlarging the originals by 10% or so. Not to everyone's taste but there you go. A little cash and time invested in flags is never wasted in raising the look of an army or unit.

Bases, the bane of many a wargamer's hobby efforts. I'll start by saying many armies you see at shows or on the internet are really based on far too dark colours. You need lighter base colours - earth's, grasses, vegetation and such - to lift the effect of the painted figures. It's a matter of the scale of colour I was once told by a professional artist and wargamer; the smaller the figure the lighter the colours need to be to convey the same effect. In my armies the one exception is for the games set on the Indian subcontinent where I mixed a darker shade of static grass by adding some brown to the Spring Green I usually use. But I kept the earth shades light as usual as well as painting the figures brightly and the overall effect remains uplifting of my modest efforts. I ought to mention Tufts as well here. While I do have the odd flowery tuft on bases in some armies I've inclined over the recent years to the less is more principle. After all not every battle was fought across cottage gardens or tulip fields! Again though, it's what works for me...

So, a combination of some effort with general flesh areas, but especially faces, combined with time and money invested in flags and an effort with your bases has the combined capacity to lift even modestly painted armies to a good visual level. For the Ancient, Medieval and Early Renaissance gamer this extends to Shields as well. My efforts back in the 1980's would frankly embarrass me today given the myriad wonderful shield transfers available at modest cost! My Punic Wars Republican and Carthaginian armies are lifted from my average painting efforts by the excellent LBM transfers, though I cursed them roundly when cutting out dozens!!! Again a little time and money invested is more than repayed in the end product! 

Well, there it is for what it's worth. Not much perhaps to show for nigh on 50 years of painting wargames figures but if it helps even one visitor resolve an issue for themselves then I've not wasted all those years... In the meantime I couldn't resist ending with this topical sign encountered last month near the Welsh border ~

Monday 21 June 2021

Scale? Size? Painting Standards?

 A while ago I participated in an online forum discussion about differences in heft, height and the like between figures sold in the same range by one well known manufacturer. While the original poster couched his comments as if alerting newcomers to the firm/range it soon became clear it was little more than a moan that one figure was not a clone of the other. Now, I'm long in the tooth and probably set in my ways, but in respect the this old saw I'm probably and surprisingly rather liberal. That may be because some projects of recent years, especially the FRW drove me that way because of figure availability. Indeed 11 different manufacturers have figures in this collection. Recently my excursion into Pendawar has also drawn me to other manufacturers besides the core from Perry Miniatures.

Different firms and sculptors have always taken different approaches to the scale/size issue, they want you to buy their figures after all. When did 25mm figures stretch to 28mm for example? How did they measure the figures when deciding? And of course, neither is a scale either, but rather a size. Some folk seem always to be consumed by angst when considering figure size comparability. It's easy to see why you might worry for example when mixing Crimean War figures from Britannia, Great War Miniatures and Wargames Foundry in one unit. The differences would go beyond the range people might accept. But, in different units in the same game I think folk could be more comfortable.

Why? Well we see the game as a whole at playing distance, often standing above and back from the troops on the tabletop. When painting figures though we see them close up, warts and all, where differences seem to be exaggerated. A recent acquisition here in GHQ have been two new units for my ACW Union army, respectively from Crusader and Sash & Sabre. The rest of my army is almost exclusively by Dixon Miniatures, quite different size, heft and style. Very noticeable side by side but invisible on the tabletop ~

Dixon Miniatures on the left, Sash & Sabre on the right, 1st Corps mounted officer, I think, to the rear. The point I'm hoping to make is that unless your hobby is mainly painting wargames figures then the way to view figures is on the tabletop battlefield in a game.
Of course we all have preferences and favourite firms/sculptors/styles and that is to be expected, but to worry unnecessarily over toys in a game takes this to a new level of pointlessness. Scale or Size, call it how we may, is a subjective view from an individual perspective; to try to bring others to your view is like herding cats, difficult and ultimately pointless. Buy and play with what pleases you, there are no Gaming Police waiting to pounce!
This extends to painting styles and standards too. One visitor to GHQ once asked me to teach him to paint like I did. Once I'd recovered from the shock of anyone thinking my efforts worthy of replication I was forced to admit that it was the product of almost fifty years of trial and error compounded by changing fashions in the hobby and new paint products. In short, just keep on trying, abandoning what doesn't work and building on what does as you go. Helpful, well no I'd guess, but the only way forward nevertheless. The web is awash with examples, styles and tips all helpful in their way, but equally daunting perhaps to many. Hence the rise of the 'Dip' shading method of recent years promising more nuanced results without the necessary artistic talent and time.  The answer for many I'm sure, in fact Phil and I were using it on medieval figures in the early 1980's using Sepia Artist's Ink as the wash!
What I am hoping my reader has got from this is that this is a hobby and meant to be fun. There seems little point to me in wasting time and effort in unnecessary worry on issues beyond the individual's control. As my father was wont to say, if anyone comments adversely put it down to their ignorance and manners. Your toys, your games, your hobby after all is said and done.

Friday 18 June 2021

20th Light Dragoons in Pendawar

 While I was plodding endlessly onward painting the tiresome Pendawar Grenadiers I was also splashing paint on figures for the cavalry elements of the Army of the Pendawar Presidency in the form of Trent Miniatures British Light Dragoons in tropical service helmet, or rather a passable interpretation of it.

The figures are chunkier than either Perry Miniatures or Foundry figures, but they fit in pretty well once painted. Some folk tend to agonise rather pointlessly in my view about mixing different manufacturers' figures in their armies. Experience has shown me that differences in size/scale do tend to go unnoticed once the game is afoot, at least where different units are concerned. There are two bases of three figures, giving six in the unit. The guidon is a fudge, before any button counters pipe up, it will do for me for now at any rate. The 20th Light Dragoons complement the 'Pendawar Peacocks' seen in an earlier blog post. To these two European units will be added two six figure units of Sepoy cavalry. These are from AW Miniatures, whose large Indian cannons feature in Typoo Bhyka's army. Again they are chunky sculpts and in a different style, but again also I'm confident you won't notice in the heat of battle. The first six figures have been started so I'm hopeful the unit will be completed by the end of the month, given that I'm away for a few days now.

Wednesday 16 June 2021

The 1st Native Infantry Regiment...

 ...otherwise the Pendawar Grenadiers. As my Tales from Pendawar project is an imagination project I felt I needed a Native Infantry Regiment which stood out from the rank and file Sepoy regiments in each Brigade. The result is the 1st Native Infantry Regiment, the Pendawar Grenadiers. They are formed from the Perry Miniatures Bombay Grenadiers packs in their British in India section of the Napoleonic range. There is one more Native Infantry Regiment left to paint and the infantry arm of the Army of the Pendawar Presidency will be completed for now - though I did buy some Highland Infantry in trousers on my recent visit to Foundry to add at a later date. Here are the Grenadiers drawn up for inspection ~

I've also been working on the 20th Light Dragoons for the army using Trent Miniatures British Dragoons with the heads exchanged for a passable interpretation of the short lived tropical service helmet to contrast them with the 'Pendawar Peacocks' featured in an earlier blog entry.

If you are wondering what is left in the Lead Pimple now I can let you into a secret: one Sepoy battalion; 12 Sepoy cavalry; the Pendawar Horse Artillery; 9 Tribal Horsemen; the Voluntaires de Bykli and that's it from the original plan. It should mean the project will provide a decent game on the GHQ tabletop battlefield and a nice alternative to Indian Mutiny games. I still hope it will be finished by the height of summer...

Monday 14 June 2021

The Battle of Pender's Corner

 For the next game here in GHQ Phil and I settled on a return to the AWI, with a meeting action between those old foes Lord Rawnsley and 'ol Independence or Death Bykleigh. With that decision made I set about slight alterations to the terrain from the War of 1812-15 game with Jon and sorted out the respective forces for the game.

Things get moving steadily for the Americans in Turn 1 with the cavalry brigade seizing the rise to their front while the supporting Militia make slow progress in their support.
Meanwhile the Crown's forces have advanced steadily in the centre and on their right flank.
Progress on the American left is very patchy and by Turn 2 no unit has achieved its objective despite being under the eye of the Commander hisself.
On the Crown's left Bloody Ban and his Legion seize the fence line and take up a defensive posture 
The Americans opposing him are gathering their resolve to advance and drive him and his Legion off before support can come up.
In the Centre the regulars of the Welsh Fusiliers march briskly down the turnpike towards the resolute but apprehensive Militias in their path. If the Continentals don't come up quickly it could get very nasty...
While the native Paddoquoi seize the woods on the Crown's right flank in Turn 3 the Brigade tasked with driving off the American Militias facing them makes very slow progress.
"Follow Me!" As it turned out not the best of the moves. The Continental Dragoons are lead in a headlong charge against the Legion. Despite weathering the closing fire they cannot break the line and fall back Shaken!
In the Centre the British regulars are stepping out confidently if somewhat slowly. They need to deploy to bring their firepower to bear before charging home with the bayonet!
The Legion are Shaken and Disordered and anxiously await the oncoming Militia infantry supported by the remaining Continental Dragoons and Mounted Militia.
Away on the opposite flank nothing is going well for either side. The American Militias are slow to move and to deploy. Their Crown opponents are equally sluggish, so little action is underway outside the woods where Morgan's Rifles skirmish with the Paddoquoi.
At last in Turn 5 the Continental Brigade in the American centre begins to deploy in support of the Militias to their left. The 3rd New Jersey take the high ground while the 4th and 8th Virginia move to line the fences to their front.
The American left is coming under some pressure but the boys are holding firm. The Paddoquoi are making no headway in the woods to threaten the American's flank.
The Militia on the American right drive off the Legion but disaster strikes the cavalry when their commander leaves the table with a Continental Dragoon regiment as the result of a Blunder!
The centre looks like the American's weak spot, if only the British regulars can shake out into line and pour their volleys into the enemy.
Given a breathing space by the tardy British activity the Continental Brigade prepared to open a withering fire on the enemy!
The Fusiliers charge the 3rd New Jersey but are Shaken and Disordered by fire and steel and must fall back. Cheering echos along the American lines, the lobsters have been beaten!
Receiving more fire the Fusiliers break under the intense pressure and flee down the Turnpike for safety.
Encouraged by the sight, the South Carolina militia steps briskly forward, encouraged by the Commander's presence.
"Follow Me, Boys! Follow Me!" Colonel Paddock leads the 1st South Carolina Militia in a devastating charge on the flank of the Nottinghamshire regiment. Under pressure they break and flee. The Brigade's remaining regiment must retire the Brigade being now Broken! The Crown's centre is wide open!  
The right has remaining largely static for three turns as both sides exchange ineffective fire but show little appetite to close to melee.
More American Militia drive in on the remains of the British centre Disordering the Light Infantry lining the fence in support of the artillery position.
The South Carolina and New York State troops are Disordered too and begin to fall back. Lord Rawnsley decides the day is lost in Turn 8 and orders a general withdrawal before the army is damaged beyond saving. Cheering breaks out all along the American lines as exhausted men realise their steadfast conduct has carried the day! Independence or Death!