Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Posts Tagged ‘Barry Hilton’

All talk and no pictures

Posted by Martin on April 22, 2012

Phew – what a day! Yesterday was one of the busiest I’ve ever had at a Salute even though it didn’t follow the path I expected. Things began very smoothly with a peaceful and punctual train journey from the secret BfK HQ in the heart of Wiltshire to London Paddington. And that was followed by a quiet and uneventful journey across London by Tube and Docklands Light Railway – perhaps too quiet. I normally expect to encounter other hobbyists on their way to Salute as I get closer to ExCel and I sometimes pass the time by trying to guess if the people on the other seats are going my way. Yesterday, though, there was hardly a rucksack, beard or ponytail (male) in sight ­čÖé

So I got a shock when I entered ExCel’s doors and made my way down the wide boulevard that bisects the exhibition halls. The queue was immense. It’s clear that everybody else had made a much earlier start than me. I have never seen the queue so long and it continued to grow even after the stewards had started letting people into the hall. So much for economic hard times – I hope all the traders had a good day! Peter F’s comment on the length of the queue was to wistfully muse that if only he could sell just one figure to each person there!

I stuck with the queue for about 15 minutes before I spotted Peter F. along with our friends from overseas: Peter Bunde (Germany), Buddy Hoch (USA), Paul Meganck (Belgium) quietly seated with coffee while waiting for the crush to abate. So I bailed out of the queue to wait with them and take the opportunity to put the next stage of my carefully crafted Salute plan into action. I’ve recently acquired an Android tablet and I was intending to connect up to the ExCel free wifi network as a means of posting to BfK as the day unfolded. The tablet includes a basic camera, so I would have been able to add pictures as a I went along too.

The good news is that there is indeed a free wifi network in the main boulevard (but not in the exhibition halls) and I was able to connect to it. What I’d overlooked is that Internet access beyond the wifi network is restricted and I needed a username and password. By this time, we were all too busy catching up on each others’ news and I didn’t really have the motivation to go off looking for some information point where I might have been able to get help with full Internet access. Still, at least I know what to expect next year!

Meeting and chatting turned out to be the theme of the day, so I didn’t get too much time to look at all the traders and games. Looking at other fora this morning, it’s clear that other people have done a much more thorough job of those sorts of things than me. So I’m going to focus the rest of this report on some personal observations.

Firstly, let’s get the news from Calpe Towers dealt with. Peter F. has completed the last couple of packs for the French infantry route-march set. The main item here the “cherry on the icing” pack which includes a casualty figure, two “enthusiastic” figures and a voltigeur cornetist. Next Peter will be adding a couple of light infantry command packs so that you can build legere units using most of the same figures. All the figures in greatcoats that have already been released can be used for legere as well as line infantry. However, the current officer figures are unsuitable because of detailed uniform differences like the profile of the cuffs. After that, work begins on the march-attack set which I know will be popular with several regular readers here who are desperate to have standard bearer figures with unfurled flags. Peter has already sculpted an eagle in readiness boys!

Possibly the biggest news (and, by the sound of the reactions I’ve seen and heard, the most disappointing for many) was the unveiling of the new period that the Perry twins are targetting. There were “3-up” greens on their stand of Afrika Korps and Eighth Army figures. From my point of view, these figures are sculpted to the usual high standards for the Perrys plastics work but, of course, it’s a period that doesn’t tempt me. And, judging by what I’ve heard, it may not tempt too many others in 28mm. Mainly, I think, because most observers see the North African campaign as better suited to smaller scales.

The other plastic and scale-related item that stuck out for me was the simply beautiful 54mm demonstration game put on by Victrix using their own figures. The figures themselves were well-painted, you can see a definite progression in the quality of figure design and sculpting in the more recent boxes (notably the French line grenadiers) and the buildings on the table were terrific. I’d love to know if they were scratch-built or not. However, the item that really grabbed our attention was the single French artillery gun crewed by five figures. The figures stood out for their natural poses and accurately reproduced campaign uniforms. When we asked about them at the Victrix stand, it transpired that this base had been put together from parts and figures from another plastics manufacturer but Victrix do have plans for 54mm French artillery. I’d love to know who’s figures they used – perhaps they were old Historex ones or maybe there are some buried away in the Andrea range. Either way, though, 54mm scale isn’t really practical for big battalions. Instead, I can see the figures being used for skirmish games or as display case models.

I can’t complete this round of plastic figure stands without a mention for the Warlord Games stand. You’ll recall that their figures – particularly their Prussian Landwehr – have come in for short shrift on this blog. And rightly so: these figures are poorly researched, inaccurately portrayed and clumsily sculpted. However, here too, I detect signs of improvement. The Warlord Games Russian figures are a step in the right direction and they’re now working on French. Also, yesterday was the first opportunity I’ve had to see some of their prone Prussian Landwehr casualty figures painted, based and in the display case. I still see lots of weaknesses (the huge hands make me judder) but whoever they’ve got doing their painting is making the very best of his raw material. If I were Warlord Games, I’d make sure of continuing to use that painter!

One slightly tongue-in-cheek parting shot for Warlord Games though: I’d recommend a bit more sanity checking of figure poses and a quiet word with your designer. The Russian command pack includes an er… “interestingly” posed drummmer. He’s drumming with one hand while using the other hand to hold his kiwer tucked under his arm. Now, people, just try doing that yourselves for a few moment and see how you get on. I know it might seem like a picturesque pose for a command vignette but it just isn’t humanly feasible.

As usual, we bumped into many friends from across the country and beyond. It was a pleasure to see Barry Hilton hosting the Wargames Illustrated Crimean War game. The terrain for this games was superbly put together by Dave Bodley, the chap who runs Grand Manner Buildings. I always like to see terrain that gets away from the flat topology of the tabletop to the contours of the real world. A lovely job which you can expect to see featured heavily in an imminent edition of Wargames Illustrated.

I also popped by David Imrie and Andrew Taylor’s Romans vs Celts demo game. They looked really busy with interested viewers so I didn’t get time to chat but I admired the very high quality of the figure painting and was reminded how small can be beautiful. The terrain would have comfortably fitted into many a living room and the number of figures, mostly individually based, required for an absorbing evening’s gaming wasn’t too prohibitive. I’m always going to be a fan of “big battalions” for Napoleonics but this game did set me wondering about a small skirmish side-project. Maybe I’ll have to look at those Sharp Practice rules…

Finally, a few words about shopping. Given the length of the queue, I strongly suspect that many traders are feeling the warm afterglow of financial success. And that’s absolutely fine by me. It’s just that two of the things I was hoping to be able to buy on the day eluded me. Once again, I couldn’t find a single trader that stocked Andrea paints. Now I know I can buy them online but there’s nothing like shaking the bottles and holding them up to the light before you part with you cash. Secondly, much as I like Litko laser-cut bases, I was hoping to find a UK retailer that would be cheaper and quicker to deal with. Maybe my standards are too exacting: ideally I want 1.5 mm or 2mm thick plywood, laser-cut and I want particular dimensions. Warbases was the closest I came: their bases are 2mm thick but I’d have to specially order the sizes I want and they specialise in MDF. Now, before you all start suggesting suppliers (oh, go on then), I just want to point out that I do already have a lead – apparently Fenris Games does 1.5mm thick lasercut plywood bases.

So that’s it for another year – I seem to have been so busy on the day that I didn’t even give the painting competition more than a cursory glance. If you know where I can see photos of the entries and winners, let me know.

Posted in Calpe Towers, Clubs and Shows, Forward Patrol | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Party’s end for Partizan?

Posted by Martin on June 2, 2011

Red lancer by Clive Farmer from The Waterloo Companion.

Red lancer by Clive Farmer from The Waterloo Companion.

Like many others, Peter F., Paul Hammond (of Alban Miniatures) and I ventured to Kelham Hall, Newark last Sunday to attend Partizan. I say “many others” but, in truth, it was a smaller number than I’ve ever previously seen at this show.

I don’t quite know what to make of the reduced attendance. On the one hand, the extra space made the whole experience more enjoyable. I only got rucksacked once by an apologetic indvidual who reversed into me at a bookstand and there was plenty of room to work round the traders and demo games not to mention have a good chat with people. However, reduced attendances can’t be economically viable for Partizan in the long term and could be harbingers of its ultimate demise – which would be a sad thing.

We chewed over the possible reasons for the lower body count on the journey back to Calpe Towers and came up with several plausible explanations: the occurence of Sheffield Triples the previous weekend, the current economic climate, the fact that it was a Bank Holiday weekend and the absence of big names from Partizan such as Elite, Front Rank and the Perrys all came to mind. I suspect that no one factor was solely responsible but rather a combination of circumstances conspired together. However, since that discussion with Peter and Paul, a darker thought has crossed my mind which I almost dare not whisper. Is it just possible that time has caught up with Partizan? Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of my favourite shows and I always think of it as a day where our hobby gets together to socialize more than, say, Salute which is much more of a product-led commercial opportunity (nothing worng with that, mind). And I do love Kelham Hall’s quirky atmosphere.

Yet, now that we’re well into the 21st Century, can Partizan really have a healthy future if it carries on as it is? How much longer will paying attendees put up with the confusing rabbit warren of rooms, the dismal lighting and the woeful catering? I’m not convinced that the predictability of the traders’ stands is still outweighed by Partizan’s reputation for attracting the nation’s best demo games. Reluctantly, I’m edging towards the Darwinian conclusion that Partizan must adapt or die.

Enough philosophising, what of our day out itself? There were a number of positives. Notably, the chance to meet up with fellow hobbyists who I rarely see during the rest of the year. As ever, it was a delight to chat with the likes of Bill Gaskin, Peter Royle and Barry Hilton and catch up on their projects. Barry, in particular, has several irons in the fire. His Lace Wars demo game provided him with the ideal opportunity to display the proofs of the forthcoming new edition of his Beneath the Lily Banners rules and his new range of figures for the period. Of more relevance to BfK, we also had a chat about his plans for Republic to Empire and one development in particular has piqued my curiosity. Barry has plans to record short video clips of played through sections of the rules as an aid for newbies. So, if you’re not sure how to handle a cavalry charge or use manouevre points for an exploitation, then these video tutorials could be just what you’re waiting for. I think we may have to be a little patient though because Barry confided that he’s waiting to get a new camera before leaping into the director’s chair.

Peter F. remains convinced that “it’s all my fault” that he placed an order for a series of painted resin buildings with Grand Manner. We had a fascinating discussion with the proprietor Dave Bodley (you can see a photo of him in the recent Wargames Illustrated article about the stunning Gallipoli terrain he created for Battlefront at this year’s Salute). Of course, it’s not really my fault that Grand Manner has produced a limited edition range of buildings just perfect for the Autumn 1813 campaign in Saxony. Just like it’s not my fault that the next addition to the range will be a particularly tasty farmhouse complex. For now, I resisted that purchase but I did succumb at one of the second hand book dealers and acquired a copy of Mark Adkin’s The Waterloo Companion (Aurum Press, 2001). This is a book I’ve been tracking for a number of years since its initial publication but I’ve always avoided actually buying it because of its hefty retail price. So I’m rather delighted to have picked up this “pre-owned” copy in good condition at a reasonable price. All the more so because I’ve long admired the 16 pages of full colour uniform plates by Clive Farmer that adorn the middle of this volume.

The observant among you will have surmised that this outing to Partizan included a stop-over at Calpe Towers. Once I’ve gathered my thoughts, I’ll relay the latest gleanings about the French figures and, if everything goes to plan, share some new photos with you. In the meantime, I’ll sign off on a personal note. I was sorry to hear that young Simon, the “son and heir” of the von Peter estate was recently taken seriously ill with appendicitis. He’s well on the way to recovery now but I just want to wish him well from his friends up here in the Northern Hemisphere. But don’t feel too sorry for young Simon – after all, not many young lads have the Perrys travel halfway round the world to wargame with them!

Posted in Clubs and Shows, Forward Patrol | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

RtoE Prussian musings: part five

Posted by Martin on May 15, 2010

If you’ve followed this little series of posts about organinzing Prussian forces prototypically for the Republic to Empire rules – well done, you’ve got great stamina. If you haven’t, this is the final part (unless something else springs to mind in future) and you can choose to pick up the thread here or, if you’re a masochist, you can follow my “thinking out loud” through the previous four parts:

Part One.
Part Two.
Part Three.
Part Four.

In this last musing session, I’m going to recap on the decisions I’ve made (without repeating the line of reasoning that led to them) and demonstrate the various ways a wargamer might apply them the an 1813 Prussian brigade under his command (recall that a Prussian brigade is an all-arms force that’s about the size of a division in other armies). So here we go…

I’ve devised the following conventions for the organization of a Prussian brigade under the Republic to Empire rules:

  1. A Prussian brigade commander is treated as equivalent to a divisional commander in other armies.
  2. A Prussian brigade commander may have up to three sub-commanders beneath him, each of which is treated as equivalent to a brigade commander in other armies.
  3. Each such sub-commander may command a formation that comprises a total of between three and five tactical units (i.e. infantry battalions, artillery batteries and cavalry regiments count towards this total but not volunteer j├Ąger detachments). Exceptions to this may be made under special historically accurate circumstances and must be agreed by all players at the outset of the game (for example, a smaller formation of two tactical units might be assigned a special role such as garrisoning a fortification).
  4. The infantry battalions of a Prussian brigade must be placed under the command of the brigade sub-commanders rather than under the direct control of the brigade commander.
  5. By default, a Prussian brigade’s artillery battery (there’s usually only one) and cavalry regiment (there’s usually only one) are placed under the direct command of the brigade commander. If the brigade commander wishes to assign artillery or cavalry to one of the formations commanded by one of the sub-commanders, he may do so – but only at the start of the game. Once such an assignment is made, it cannot be reversed during the game.
  6. A Prussian brigade’s artillery battery may be split into two half batteries – but only at the start of the game. Each half battery is then treated as a seperate tactical unit but does not suffer the split fire penalty as long as all guns in the same half battery fire at the same target.
  7. A Prussian brigade’s cavalry regiment may be split into detachments no smaller than two squadrons each – but only at the start ofthe game. Each such detachment is then treated as a seperate tactical unit.
  8. Volunteer j├Ąger detachments are treated as specialist light infantry detachments, which are already catered for under the rules. Any volunteer j├Ąger detachment must be placed in the same formation as its parent battalion.

Now let’s examine the realistically flexible options these conventions offer a Prussian brigade commander. To illustrate this, we’ll examine von Borstel’s 5th brigade as it stood on 10th August 1813 (note this this brigade’s OOB changed in subtle ways during the course of the Autumn 1813 campaign):

  • Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
  • J├Ąger detachment of the Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
  • 1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
  • J├Ąger detachment of the 1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
  • 2nd musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
  • Fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
  • J├Ąger detachment of the fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
  • 1st battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
  • 2nd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
  • 3rd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
  • 1st battalion, 1st Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
  • 2nd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
  • 3rd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
  • 4th battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
  • Pommeranian hussar regiment.
  • Foot artillery battery No. 10.

The first option is the most conventionally obvious one where the three infantry regiments are each placed with a sub-commander while the artillery battery and the cavalry regiment remain under direct control of the brigade commander. That would look like this:

von Borstell (commander, 5th brigade):
Pommeranian hussar regiment.
Foot artillery battery No. 10.

Sub-command I: von Schon (commander, Pommeranian infantry regiment):
Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
J├Ąger detachment of the Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the 1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
2nd musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
Fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.

Sub-command II: von Knobloch (commander, 2nd reserve infantry regiment):
1st battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
3rd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.

Sub-command III: commander unknown:
1st battalion, 1st Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
3rd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
4th battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.

Which is fine and easy enough to understand but, to my mind, has the disadvantage that it places all the volunteer j├Ąger detachments and the fusilier battalion in one sub-command thus leaving the other two short on specialist light infantry. So, for a second option, I’d be tempted to shuffle things around a bit like this:

von Borstell (commander, 5th brigade):
Pommeranian hussar regiment.
Foot artillery battery No. 10.

Sub-command I: von Schon (commander, Pommeranian infantry regiment):
2nd musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
Fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
1st battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
1st battalion, 1st Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.

Sub-command II: von Knobloch (commander, 2nd reserve infantry regiment):
1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the 1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.

Sub-command III: commander unknown:
Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
J├Ąger detachment of the Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
3rd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
3rd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
4th battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.

The other advantage of this option is that it spreads the landwehr infantry battalions around so that they are supported by more experienced colleagues and there’s no longer one potentially weak sub-command entirely made up of landwehr infantry. Of course, there are lots of ways you could shuffle the infantry battalions around like this.

Finally a third option that shows how command of the cavalry and artillery might be devolved to a sub-commander.

von Borstell (commander, 5th brigade):
Half of foot artillery battery No. 10.
Two squadrons, Pommeranian hussar regiment.

Sub-command I: von Schon (commander, Pommeranian infantry regiment):
Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
J├Ąger detachment of the Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the 1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
2nd musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
Fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.

Sub-command II: von Knobloch (commander, 2nd reserve infantry regiment):
1st battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
Two squadrons, Pommeranian hussar regiment.
Half of foot artillery battery No. 10.

Sub-command III: commander unknown:
3rd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
1st battalion, 1st Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
3rd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
4th battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.

This based on tweaking option 1 so that sub-command II is modelled on the formation von Knobloch commanded for the attack on Klein Beeren during the Battle of Gross Beeren – the one difference being that I’ve used a half-battery of foot artillery instead of the half-battery of horse artillery that was made available to von Knobloch in real life.

You can play around like this for ages making up different ad hoc sub-command combinations. All of which, hopefully, demonstrates how my set of conventions enable the true flexibility of Prussian brigades to be implemented for Republic to Empire. Give it a go for your favourite brigade and let me know how you get on.

Posted in Rulesets | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

RtoE Prussian musings: part four

Posted by Martin on May 13, 2010

After a short hiatus, I think it’s time to tackle the topic I’ve been procrastinating about: namely, how to treat the cavalry element of a P-brigade (see earlier posts for an explanation of this home-made terminology).

The problem here is that I’ve been torn between several apparently contradictory factors:

  • It’s a historical fact that 1813 P-brigades contained a cavalry element – typically a regiment. The one I’m modelling included between two and four squadrons of the Pommeranian hussar regiment at various times.
  • Mixing infantry and cavalry units in the same (conventional) brigade was normally avoided for very good tactical reasons yet we have documented historical evidence of P-brigade commanders forming ad hoc taskforces that did just this (see earlier post for an example). So how best to cater for that?
  • Rather like the P-brigade’s artillery battery, its cavalry was a P-brigade asset, so shouldn’t it be under the direct control of the P-brigade commander?

I’ve been wrestling with the best way to reconcile these factors and I think I’ve finally hit on a solution – but it’s one that modifies some of my earlier thinking about artillery.

Let’s start with something easy. I’m going to assert that I’ll always treat a cavalry regiment in a P-brigade as a single tactical unit regardless of its strength (both in terms of manpower and the number of squadrons). The next thing I’m going to do is set a default that the cavalry regiment is a P-brigade level asset just like the artillery battery. The same arguments as I deployed before for the artillery battery apply here.

Having taken that plunge, I’m left with finding a way to do deal with the inconvenient truth that cavalry and infantry tactical units were sometimes grouped together in ad hoc formations. For that matter, tactical units from all three arms were sometimes grouped together this way. If you read the previous paragraph closely, you might have spotted that I’ve already prepared the way for what’s coming next with my use of the phrase “set a default”.

What I propose to do for the cavalry tactical unit (and by implication this applies to and extends what I said before about the artillery tactical unit) is this: by default, the cavalry tactical unit and the artillery tactical unit in a P-brigade will be treated as P-brigade level assets under direct command of the P-brigade commander unless, at the start of the game, he chooses to devolve command of one or both of them to a sub-formation commanded by one of his sub-commanders.

If the P-brigade commander does choose this non-default option, then then any cavalry or artillery tactical unit assigned in this way contributes to the total of tactical units in the sub-formation. This is important because you’ll recall that I set a three to five unit size range for such sub-formations.

So that’s the policy but I think a few tactical observations are merited. P-brigade commanders should think long and hard before devolving command of a cavalry or artillery tactical unit. The first reason for this is that it’s a non-reversible decision, If you suddenly find that you really need that cavalry somewhere else on the battlefield – well tough, it’s already committed. Secondly, having artillery, cavalry and infantry all in the same brigade and thus on the same orders can be very awkward.

Finally, I’d just like to mention the question of corps-level cavalry in the Prussian army. What I’ve been discussing above doesn’t really apply to Prussian cavalry at this level. That’s because the corps cavalry was organized in a much more conventional way with several clearly defined cavalry brigades attached to each corps. If you wish to have one or more of these brigades present on your table, then follow the same principles as you would for any other nation.

I think the next part of these musings will be the final one where I’ll aim to summarize my conclusions are provide examples of the various ways they could be applied to P-brigade.

Posted in Rulesets | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »