Tuesday 17 September 2013

A Cast of Thousands

Well, not quite thousands... yet.
But hundreds... six hundred and forty to be precise.

Yes, I picked up the infantry castings from Griffin Moulds yesterday: boy am I delighted!
Clean castings; they stand up flush on the desk without having to spend hours filing the underside of bases! Remarkable!!

Anyway, here's the lead mountain...

Remember, this is just the first tranche of the project.

And here are a couple of samples I painted of the pre-production castings a couple of weeks ago, just to play around with painting style and colours a little. These are in the colours of a couple of my Pils Holstein regiments.

Right, the game's afoot...

Sunday 8 September 2013

Commitment: Flagging Already

Don't worry. It's not what you think.
Let me explain the deliberately ambiguous post title (I know, I'm a tease aren't I?!)

For this new 18th century project, before painting the figures (in fact before having even got the master figures finished) I decided to invest in all the infantry flags.

Now, this might sound mad, but...
...it was for 2 reasons:

1. to make me commit fully to the project. I was committed anyway, but there's nothing like commissioning Mark Allen to paint all the flags, and investing that cash up front, to prove the commitment.

2. to commit to the specific orbat. Many projects suffer from the "ooh, must have that unit" syndrome, which leads to diversions and distractions. It's no good starting a project only to drift off into just having the exotic units. How many times do we see Napoleonic collections where the wargamer has got only two or three line battalions, but a plethora of highlanders, 95th riles, and so on, facing the French Imperial Guard.
I know, I've done that sort of thing too, but this time I was determined to create a balanced order of battle, and stick to it. So having the flags done in advance was a "stake in the ground" on that score.

Having all the flags done up front was also a big psychological boost. At a time when there's the danger that a project may just be a pipedream, with all that planning that I had done, to actually cross the commitment threshold like this was important.

So, with all the infantry flags done...
(Apart from the Pils Holstein infantry battalions - which I'm working on at the moment)... I have simply stuck them into handy blocks of polystyrene (in fact, upturned chunks of TSS tile), and placed them into a box so they can be added to the figures when required.

Anyway, here they are, all ready to simply have figures placed under them!!

Above: all the French infantry flags.
Below: all the Prussian infantry flags.

All these were hand-painted by Mark Allen on metal foil. They are stunning, and way better than my photography can show. Mark's sheer artistic flare really comes through on these, with wonderful detailing and highlighting and the very believable folds and flowing of the flags.

So, all you 18th century "buffs and experts". Here's a little challenge for you: See which units you can spot just from the flags shown...
Is your favourite unit in there?

Thursday 5 September 2013

A Master Plan

The first week in September always signifies a fresh start, a new term perhaps. We’re almost hard-wired, probably because so many fresh terms began at this time of year.
Yes, whether it was a new school, university, or when I joined the forces, it all happened around this time.

And in all cases, it began with...
...a plan, a timetable, regime, schedule.

Which is what happened when I started to scope out this project. I needed a plan, an overall orbat of how many figures were required, how many masters to go into the moulds, how many spins of those moulds to optimise the numbers and avoid waste/ left-overs, and a plan of how to get them painted.
Don’t want this to sound like a management project, but... we do need a plan, don’t we.

A man outstanding in his field? (or out-sitting in it).
No that's not me, it's a generic stock photo...

Now, if such “seriousness” seems at odds with a hobby, think of it as a plan of campaign… a military plan. An outline strategy.
And let’s hope it survives first contact with the paint brush!

So, wargames notebook in hand…
When I first started considering this project, as I was on my business travels a lot during that period, in airport lounges, and on trains and planes, and in hotels up and down the land, I carried my notebook and scribbled my thoughts…

Gradually, a plan emerged…
...then got ditched, was re-written, ditched again, and re-written. The notes and dreams bounced between the dipsy-fanciful and the highly-practical. And like a swinging pendulum, gradually settled.

Now, it would be foolhardy to recreate these notes here, as most of it is purely personal, subjective rambling about what I want this project to look like, and would make dreadful reading.

Suffice to say, I have a plan - with clear objectives and groundrules  and a timetable/ schedule- and heartily recommend it before committing to your projects.

Mine includes a set of criteria, and acceptable fudges and compromises (decisions I’ve willingly made); a clear idea of the “finished spectacle” (something to aim at including an ideal ultimate order of battle; a stage-by-stage building process, creating balanced forces for both sides at  each stage; a painting schedule; a casting plan (moulds, number of spins required, etc).

Yes, I know it sounds almost too serious, and some would say “get a life, it’s only a hobby”. But often those same people end up with a whole load of unfinished projects and growing levels of frustration.

For me, creating a robust plan of campaign is very much part of the enjoyment, so it’s the way I do it, and at least I’m happy!

The other point of course is that when so much time and money is being invested in figures, painting, flags, terrain and so on, I think it’s worth having at least an outline plan to work to.

Oh, and just so you know, the Schedule looks like around 6 years’ worth of painting! That’s ok then!

Over the coming posts I’ll share with you some chunks of the plan.

Meanwhile, since you have read so attentively to this point, here’s a couple of pictures to be going on with:


Nassau Saarbruchen Volunteer Hussars… a single squadron.
These are John Ray figures (with the exception of the officer which is a Suren), on horses from various sources… mainly connoisseur.
Painted by David Jarvis.
Flag is my own invention.

I wanted this unit to represent the early incarnation of what would become the Royal Nassau Hussars in French service. So there are some liberties and best-guesses on some aspects of the uniform, but I’m happy. And delighted with David’s painting.

Thanks for visiting and reading.
Next time I'll tell you why I'm already flagging with the project!!!

Monday 2 September 2013


Yesterday, Partizan.
Good show. Enjoyed meeting up with a lot of people. And thanks to all those who shared their enthusiasm and kind words about War Cabinet being back online.

I was particularly delighted to see that the 1672 figures I painted just a while ago, and which I sold at the first Partizan show in June, were already “gainfully” employed by the new owner on the North Star 1672 game! Well done lads. Nice game too.

Here are the units...

And here, on the game…

With apologies. I never intend taking pictures at shows, but on this occasion I couldn’t resist, so out with the iPhone. Hence the rather basic level of photography.

Also of interest ...
... to me at least, was Aly Morrison’s game:The Battle of Hooke’s Farm - a Little Wars affair, using the Little Britons range that Aly designed for Spencer Smith Miniatures.

A rather smart Lieutenant and the Naval Gun team.

Aly had lots of retro gear in evidence, including these rather dashing binoculars with which to view the enemy! Here he’s sizing up a charge!!

… and next picture shows the charge going in…

Aly reliably informs us that the bloodbath on the day resulted in only one surviving figure. Namely his Commander-in-Chief.
Personally, I was disappointed that the guys were using dice!!!
As I said it was rather like Bob Dylan “going electric”. The gauntlet is laid down for matchstick firing guns, and I have no doubt that the brains of Aly Morrison and Dave Andrews will come up with something!!

Tomorrow, back to the new project…