Sunday, May 8, 2016

Preparing for first Sharpe's Practice game.

Time for my sort-of monthly blog post and there's been plenty going on since painting the French-in-Egypt Camel Corps. For starters there were hordes of Galloglas axe murderers and a few Saxons to paint and base for Doug to pay for my Badener army.  My apologies to Paul of Murowski Miniatures as almost as soon as I'd bought Doug's figures Murowski announced their range of superb Badeners. Bad timing dammit. Nonetheless I can't complain as I now have another full brigade to game with which won't take me long to get up to gaming standard - if I ever get the time that is. Having a few health issues and storm damage to my house at the same time has seen me also preoccupied with many things other than the hobby.

Preparing the single based officers and NCOs for Sharpe's Practice
The boys have discovered Sharpe's Practice from the indomitable Two Fat Lardies and after their experience with Chain of Command, want to try a small unit skirmish rule set for Napoleonic warfare. Given that skirmish tactical doctrine began  in this era of massed infantry formations (Sir John Moore's famous Light Division that gained deserved fame in the Peninsular Campaign being the ancestor of modern squad infantry tactics) I was somewhat skeptical of the historical accuracy of applying such a set of rules to that era. However, I must say the rules read well enough and they are, as most rule sets nowadays, well presented and full of eye-candy enough to entice any old rusted-on Napoleonics gamer. So I thought I'd give'em a go save for one small problem - an unforeseen family issue arose and I had to miss the game - so I'm still waiting to play it.  Despite this setback I have had the time to prepare figures for three armies: French, Austrian and Russian. All the figures are now painted and based, just have to make up the movement trays.

Officer and NCO in forage cap lead the dismounted French dragoons

Here then are the figures and units as per the SP lists. For the French I made up an 8 figure unit of dragoons under an NCO. They are the only cavalry unit that can dismount and fight on foot (historically the Austrian light cavalry especially dragoons also skirmished on foot but rarely did so as they trained to shoot from the saddle) so I adapted the Perry's plastic dismounted dragoons, creating a junior officer and a horse holder stand.

Dragoon horse holder conversion. Thinking of putting a carbine in a bucket strap on one of the horses to represent the horse holder.
All in all its a lot of extra work for a small unit that will probably operate 90% of the time as cavalry but at least it gives you the historically accurate option. They were also armed with the long carbine rather than the quite useless short cavalry carbine carried by everybody else and which was as accurate as the Charleville musket in trained hands i.e. 100-150 paces effective range.

Officer and NCO for the three 8 figure line units.
I've tried to come up with a minimum of one NCO and one officer for each group of three 8-figure units, with another NCO for the specialist skirmisher unit, with two groups of six infantry units commanded by a mounted officer. Each group of six has a light gun (6 pdr) & 4 crew and an 8 figure cavalry unit attached (Dragoons for one and Line Chasseurs for the other).  For the first French army this included 3 x Ligne (Line) units, 2 x Legere (1 x Voltigeur, 1 x Carabinier) and one specialist skirmisher Corsican Light Infantry (Tirailleurs du Corse).  The second French skirmish army is 3 x Ligne and 3 x Foreign Regt. #4 (Irish)/Croatian/Chasseurs d'Elbe - technically Legere (Light Infantry) also with a specialist Tirailleur skirmish/sharpshooter unit led by an NCO.

Legere led by the Corsican Brotherhood (aka 'the Emperor's Cousins') NCO and a Leger officer.

Tirailleurs Du Corse  ('Les Cousines')

Legere with Voltigeur (left) and Carabinier (right, in Kolpac)
Chasseurs D'Elbe Tirailleurs with junior officer (left) and senior NCO in Pokalem (on the right)
The battle-hardened Chasseurs led by their battle-damaged officer.
Ligne (Line) officer with its Voltigeur (light) company & NCO 
Mounted senior officer (Captaine) in overall charge of 12 infantry , two cavalry & two guns
French gun & crew. Unfortunately its an old Elite model so more like an 8 rather than 6 pdr.
1st French skirmish army
I've organised the Austrians and Russians the same way. Basically six infantry units, one cavalry and one gun per skirmish 'army'.  The Austrians are best suited as they actually had the right troop types who were also experienced in the irregular warfare of the day - the Grenz or border units from the Balkan frontier being the most experienced - followed by the famous rifle armed Jaeger (who the French nicknamed 'the Grey Devils'). The Austrians are composed of 3 x 8 figure line units, 2 x Grenz and 1 x Jaeger.  The Grenz and Jaeger each are led by an NCO (recognizable by the brass tipped cane NCOs carried). Each Line unit has an NCO and there are also three officers - two line and one light/Jaeger - not because they have them on the list but because I had the extra figures if I just wanted to field Austrians, for example.

Warasdiner St. George (fearsome Serb frontiersmen!) Grenzer with NCO and Austrian LI (or Jaeger) officer.
Jaegers led by an NCO - this can be a specialist sharpshooter unit all rifle armed.

Austrian Dragoner (dragoons) led by a bald NCO type. They are armed with the Austrian cavalry carbine which, better than the standard French cavalry carbine, was not nearly as effective as the long barreled version used by the French dragoons.
Austrian Line officers & NCO, with mounted 'Inhaber' (senior officer) They are old Foundry figures and a bit hobbit-like next to the Perry's 28mm plastics
Austrian light gun & crew.  Austrians still used battalion guns (particularly with Grenz and Hungarian regts) so had plenty of 3 pdr pop-guns available as well as 6 pdrs.
Three units of the Hapsburgs finest - Hoch & Deutschmeister - with their NCOs.
The Austrian 'Skirmish Army'
Although the Austrians had a modicum of skirmish experience with some specialist units as the war progressed the Grenz became more and more like standard line as high losses meant experienced Grenzer were replaced by conscripts only trained in basic drill and formations (column, mass and line - NOT skirmish).  At the same time they did eventually grasp that entire battalions of line could be used as a skirmish screen - same as the French. The true skirmishers were of course Jaeger, a third of who were rifle-armed sharpshooters. They were crack shots but never employed in large enough numbers or formations to be as effective as the British Light Division, for example.  The Russians were a different case again. They had dedicated Jaeger units for skirmishing - usually assigned a battalion for each brigade of line or Guard however they were not rifle armed and Russian tactical doctrine relied on mass formations and the bayonet throughout the Napoleonic Wars. What the Russians did have was a plethora of irregular units developed during 1812 and of course huge numbers of mounted Cossacks. They were the most outstanding irregulars of the period and even before 1812, terrified the French (and everyone else) with tactics that were never really effectively countered, if only because of the numbers of Cossacks available to the Russian armies of the time. Naturally my skirmish army had to have a Cossack cavalry unit. I even have a Cossack light gun (6 pdr) I can swap with the Russian line artillery piece.

Cossack 6 pdr.
There are five line units and one jaeger with three NCOs and three officers (one a Cossack?)

Russian Infantry units with officers, NCOs.

Russian line with NCO, line officer and Cossack officer

Jaeger unit with officer and NCO
Russian Line artillery with 8 pdr

Mounted Russian commander

Russian skirmish army

Because I've had to adapt the basing to fit the single base model used by Sharpe's Practice, only officers and NCOs are individually based. All others are 2 figures on a standard 30 x 20mm base. To indicate casualties I've made up plenty of figure casualty markers for each army.

French casualty markers for relevant skirmish units
Russian markers
Austrian markers
 The only thing left to do now is make movement trays for each unit. I've made them before for WRG basing so it shouldn't present too much of a challenge after just painting and basing nearly 40 figures!  We are just about set for our first game of Sharpe's Practice which I will report on in due course. Really looking forward to it actually.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Camel Corp commission

Recently completed a commission for a mate (ok, ok - it was for my lead pimp Doug - I'm now his official painting bitch alright?!!!) consisting of a horde of proto-Napoleonics. The figures are from my favourite period - Napoleon's campaign in Egypt - and my favourite unit his Camel Corps (des Dromadaires?) The figures are mostly Brigade and look like (as in probably are) Paul Hicks sculpts.  Beautiful figures, I am envious of Doug's collection of French from this most underdone of pre-Napoleonic eras.

Unfortunately the camels suffer from the spindly leg syndrome as bad as the Brigade Mameluke figures I painted last year. If you use the hot glue gun to put 'em on paint sticks remember to use a hairdryer to heat and melt the glue a bit when getting them off or you'll be in for busted fetlocks (if fetlocks is wot camels 'as orright?!) The very long muskets, all with pointy bayonets is the other vulnerable bit to look out for. I must have repaired at least half a dozen of the bl*%dy things!

They have the most colourful of uniforms, of which there were several varieties during their short-lived time in Egypt. They were formed from dismounted hussars (French originally had a shortage of suitable horses after they landed) and various odds and sods from the infantry, operating as a mounted or mobile infantry unit. They quickly changed from the tight-fitting hussar style uniform to a more Oriental one with baggy red high waisted pants and even the cocked hats for various types of turban. Clothing shortages meant nothing was implemented uniformly as it were and there was a wide variety - withe the black fur-trimmed long bright red overcoat for the officers being just one of the bizarre variations.  Sky-blue and bright red seem to have been the most consistent colours. Never more than about 4 squadrons of 2-300 mounted with another 80-100 each on foot (or in carriage!) they were nonetheless quite effective scouts, operating as a mounted infantry.

The other figures I painted up was an early horse artillery gun and crew. The figures look like Eureka and are quite nice in a chunky way.  The horse artillery of the period was really just a more mobile version of the foot artillery, most of the crew riding athwart a sausage wagon a la Austrien style. The chafing they must have suffered rattling across the rocky desert in the Middle East doesn't bear thinking about! Very rough on the old Jatz crackers eh wot? Mercifully didn't have to do another one of those sausage wagons and riders for Doug. Nicely animated figures, they fit in well with the Brigade Cameleers.

In addition to the camel patrol - some of the Brigade Mamelukes come charging in!

I also re-based one of those I'd done previously and added a third figure and camel. Improvised to have him dismounted and holding the camel. The ridiculous WRG basing insists on three of these mounted figures to a 60 x 40 base. This used to work well with 25mm but the scale creep in the last 20 years means 28-30mm figures are now the norm, and this size base gets mighty crowded. Its cheating a bit - but there are three figures to a base!

Where I had to use a bit of invention was in the standard used. As they were a mounted infantry I opted for an infantry style flag.  There is some conjecture about what they actually carried so a large Revolutionary style flag seems appropriate.  I did two of the same for the mounted and dismounted Camel Corps unit. There was a Revolutionary Commissar - type figure that could easily be a young Bonaparte which I quite liked and have added into the command group, this time on top of one of the flat roofed mud houses.

Last but not least, the mounted version.

Still have my own Ottoman Turks to finish but these and others should give Doug and I enough to stage a Napoleon-in-Egypt game later this year.