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A Foray into Napoleonic Wargaming

A Foray into Napoleonic Wargaming

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Project Blog by scribbs Cult of Games Member

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About the Project

Documenting my progress on collecting and painting 15/18mm Napoleonic miniatures. This started with challenging myself to try my hand at painting miniatures at a smaller scale, and to look at a historic setting rather than fantasy or Sci-fi. I went for Napoleonics as I have an interest in the history of the period, there are some great ranges of minis, and there's a certain appeal in having painted blocks of Napoleonic troops. I'm not building a collection for any particular game system, or following an order of battle, this is very much about enjoying the painting. I tend to have limited hobby time and I'm also a slow painter, so this is a very slow burn project.

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14th Light Dragoons

Tutoring 1
Skill 2
Idea 2
No Comments
14th Light Dragoons

The 14th Light Dragoons (Duchess of York’s Own) Regiment served in the Peninsula from 1809 to 1814, and were present at a number of major battles, with their battle honours for the period noting Duoro, Talavera, Fuentes D’Onor, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Orthes and Peninsula. After the defeat of the French at Vittoria, which caused Joseph Bonaparte to abandon his baggage and royal carriage, the 14th participated in a little bit of light looting. Most of the valuables were recovered by the British General HQ, except for a silver chamber-pot, which was retained by the 14th and became part of the valued silverware of the regiment. This is also responsible for the regiment getting the nickname of the Emperor’s Chambermaids.

After hostilities ended in 1814, the 14th Light Dragoons were shipped to America, and did not return to Europe in time to participate at Waterloo. Only three British light cavalry regiments served throughout the Peninsula campaign and through to Waterloo (the 12th, 13th and 16th Light Dragoons).

The models are all by AB Miniatures, and are wearing the Tarleton helmet, which was replaced in 1812 along with some other uniform changes. As with all Napoleonic uniform changes, there was a transition phase before the new uniform was adopted in its entirety, and apparently, there was a particular reluctance to ditch the Tarleton in favour of the new shako.

Couple of notes on the details. The dragoons are sporting grey coveralls rather than dress whites. There’s a bit of conflicting evidence over whether the coveralls should have an outside stripe in red or the facing colour, or indeed a single or double stripe. I plumped for a single red stripe rather than matching the facing colour of orange. The officer’s sash is wrong; I was struggling to find good information on the colours, so painted it as if it was an infantry officer’s sash. It should be white with red braids.

Having got some artillery and cavalry completed, I think I’ll be working through some more infantry next. Thanks to the Event, I’ve been fairly productive with painting this year, and I’m aiming to get at least 200 painted models turned around in 2020. Another infantry battalion will almost reach that milestone, and hopefully can be turned around relatively fast now I’m pretty familiar with the models and the colour schemes.

Horses

Tutoring 2
Skill 3
Idea 3
No Comments

I’m just putting the finishing touches on some British Light Dragoons. I experimented with some different paint colours for the horses, so wanted to make a note of the schemes for future reference.

I had a bit of a read around the different colours of horses used by British for their light cavalry, and couldn’t find a definite answer, beyond trumpeters riding grey horses (to help them stand out in the field so their officers could locate them in a scrum and thus get their orders signalled to the rest of the troop). I’ve previously read somewhere that the different squadrons within a cavalry regiment had distinctly coloured horses, but couldn’t track it down again, and I had an idea that this was more a Germanic thing than British. I expect that any sort of distinction of horse colour by squadron probably would shortly dissolve during a campaign, as getting a remount of any colour was undoubtedly more important than visual niceties.

Base colours (L-R)  VJ London Grey; VJ Cavalry Brown; VJ Orange Brown. All manes/tails based with VJ German Camo Black Brown, hooves are VJ BuffBase colours (L-R) VJ London Grey; VJ Cavalry Brown; VJ Orange Brown. All manes/tails based with VJ German Camo Black Brown, hooves are VJ Buff
All colours washed with VJ UmberAll colours washed with VJ Umber
1st highlight done using a thin coat of the base colour. White details like socks and stars and painted with VJ Buff. Mane and tails dry brushed with VJ Beastly Brown1st highlight done using a thin coat of the base colour. White details like socks and stars and painted with VJ Buff. Mane and tails dry brushed with VJ Beastly Brown
Finishing touches. A very thin highlight (L-R) VJ Stonewall Grey; VJ Cavalry Brown mixed with VJ Brown Sand (50:50); VJ Brown Sand. VJ Off-white used for socks and stars etc.Finishing touches. A very thin highlight (L-R) VJ Stonewall Grey; VJ Cavalry Brown mixed with VJ Brown Sand (50:50); VJ Brown Sand. VJ Off-white used for socks and stars etc.

With hindsight, I’d wash the manes and tails with black instead of umber to get a darker colour, but I’m pretty happy with the end results. There’s a few more bits to finish on the riders before the regiment is ready for basing, but I’ll be putting them up as a next post soon.

A pointless fact to finish – the modern British Army has more horses on strength than tanks.

Royal Horse Artillery

Tutoring 6
Skill 5
Idea 5
4 Comments

In a change of pace from painting various infantry battalions, next I tackled a troop of Royal Horse Artillery. The uniforms are largely similar to the foot artillery, distinguished by the fact foot gunners wore shakos, whilst the RHA gunners wore ‘Tarleton’ helmet and the tailless dolman in imitation of the light dragoons.

I used this image as a reference for painting. I find it is easier to pick one fairly representative image and stick to it, rather than worrying too much about counting buttons, even if other sources differ.I used this image as a reference for painting. I find it is easier to pick one fairly representative image and stick to it, rather than worrying too much about counting buttons, even if other sources differ.

The dark blue jackets made a nice change from painting red coats, and the variety of poses from the models means each stand naturally forms a little diorama.

There’s models from two ranges here, Campaign Game Miniatures and Xan. The crew mix pretty well, with the Xan gunners sporting a bread bag and water canteen that the CGM miniatures lack. The Xan cannon has slightly thinner wheels, but I think I prefer the gun carriage to those by CGM. All the guns were supposed to be 6 pounders, but there’s a clear size difference between the two ranges. Doesn’t bother me too much, I like the slightly non-uniform look.

I dry brushed some light sand paint over the wheels and bottoms of the guns as they looked too clean otherwise.

Royal Horse Artillery

First Infantry Brigade Completed

Tutoring 7
Skill 10
Idea 9
5 Comments
Battalions of the 42nd, 24th and 61st regiments, plus some supporting riflemen from the 95th.Battalions of the 42nd, 24th and 61st regiments, plus some supporting riflemen from the 95th.

The Black Watch is my third finished infantry battalion, which is enough to form my first infantry brigade.

Having got one brigade completed, I’ve been planning what next to add to my Peninsula British collection. There’s two packages in the post bringing the next wave of miniatures.

The first is enough infantry for a second brigade, including a few more highlanders so I can paint the Gordon Highlanders, another line battalion and a light battalion. The second batch is some cavalry, namely a battalion of both hussars and light dragoons.

The final element to a rounded force is some artillery, and there’s already some Royal Horse Artillery awaiting assembly on my painting desk.

42nd Royal Highland Regiment - The Black Watch

Tutoring 6
Skill 10
Idea 9
2 Comments

When deciding to put together a collection of Peninsula British, I definitely wanted to include the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment, more commonly known as the Black Watch. The regiment was awarded ten battle honours during the six years that it serviced in the Peninsula, with either the first or second battalion present at the majority of the most significant battles against the French.

The title of ‘the Black Watch’ can be traced back to the foundation of the regiment. In the aftermath of the first Jacobite Rebellion in 1715, militia companies were raised from loyalist Highland clans for policing and peacekeeping duties. These companies were commonly known in Gaelic as ‘Am Freiceadan Dubh’, or ‘The Black Watch’, due to the dark coloured government-issue tartan, and their role to “watch” the highlands. In 1739 King George II requested that four such companies should be raised and formed into a single line regiment. The Black Watch became the regiment’s official name in 1881.

42nd Royal Highland Regiment - The Black Watch

The Black Watch had a different system of coloured company plumes to other British line infantry regiments. Centre companies had all red plumes, the light company had red over green, whilst the grenadiers wore red over white. The drummers wore another different coloured plume, being red over yellow. There’s no drummer in my battalion, but I thought I’d paint the piper that way regardless of historical accuracy, as it looks quite distinct.

All the figures are from CGM, flags are from GMB Flags. When it came to adding the flags, I found them to be too long for the poles. First time I’ve hit that snag, but I got around it by snipping the corners to fit around the hands and pole tops, leaving the main part of the flag unaltered. Not ideal, but I think it works okay.

Battalion plus previously completed skirmisher bases.Battalion plus previously completed skirmisher bases.

Officer and skirmishers

Tutoring 7
Skill 11
Idea 10
2 Comments

Rather than cracking on with more Highlanders, I decided to get the skirmishers for the two completed infantry battalions painted up. I also thought it was time to sort out a proper officer to keep the rabble in line.

The skirmishing flank company are by Xan, and the officer is AB. First time I’ve tried some of the Xan miniatures, and they’ve got a nice degree of detail in the sculpts without going too overboard for the size of the figures.

Officer and skirmishers

Had a bit of a nightmare when painting the last highlights on the horse, but I think I managed to rescue it and the end result doesn’t look too bad.

No excuse to put off more Highlanders now though, so next up will be a battalion of the Black Watch.

Skirmishing Highlanders

Tutoring 7
Skill 9
Idea 8
2 Comments

Four bases of skirmishing Highlander flank companies completed, two in the colours of the Black Watch, and two Gordon Highlanders.

Step-by-step images are below to compliment a previous post that sketched out my planned approach.

Start with a dark blue, and then add a dark green grid. First tip - start with the horizontal lines. Make the first one parallel to the edge of the kilt. Making the lines the width of the brush makes consistency easier.Start with a dark blue, and then add a dark green grid. First tip - start with the horizontal lines. Make the first one parallel to the edge of the kilt. Making the lines the width of the brush makes consistency easier.
Add a lighter green square where the lines cross. Both tartan patterns follow the same process up to this stage.Add a lighter green square where the lines cross. Both tartan patterns follow the same process up to this stage.
The Gordon Highlanders (L) get lighter blue squares added. I omitted this step for the Black Watch (R) to keep the pattern darkerThe Gordon Highlanders (L) get lighter blue squares added. I omitted this step for the Black Watch (R) to keep the pattern darker
The tricky bit - adding a thin line over the green grid. Yellow for the Gordons (L), dark blue for the Black Watch (R).The tricky bit - adding a thin line over the green grid. Yellow for the Gordons (L), dark blue for the Black Watch (R).

Whilst it might be possible to go further with more detail on the kilts, I think this is a sensible end point for models of this scale.

The tartan was most awkward on the kneeling figure, which makes me glad that the 40 odd Highlanders I have to still paint are all in a marching pose, with a nice broad flat surface for the pattern.

Painting the patterns on the hat and sock bands was actually more challenging than the kilts.

Final resultFinal result

The Essex gnome

Tutoring 4
Skill 9
Idea 8
2 Comments
Highlanders from AB are a WIP. I had a single Essex highlander from a sample pack that I decided to add to the batch as well. He looks like a gnome next to the two burly AB highlanders.Highlanders from AB are a WIP. I had a single Essex highlander from a sample pack that I decided to add to the batch as well. He looks like a gnome next to the two burly AB highlanders.

24th Regiment of Foot

Tutoring 4
Skill 9
Idea 8
3 Comments

With another dozen line infantry finished, my second British foot regiment has been completed, this time sporting the colours of the 24th, the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment of Foot.

Figures are from Campaign Game Miniatures, flags from GMB.

24th Regiment of Foot

Well, I say completed, but I want to add a pair of bases to represent skirmishing flank companies, which I also need to add to the first regiment. But first I want to have a crack at some Highlanders.

I’m going to start with Highlander skirmisher bases. I’ve got some AB miniatures for these that I am really looking forward to painting. The plan is to paint four as Black Watch, and four as Gordon Highlanders, which will let me have a play at both tartan patterns I intend to have.

A matter of scale

Tutoring 12
Skill 11
Idea 13
No Comments

A quick post prompted by seeing AB Miniatures getting featured as Indie of the month in a recent Weekender. They do a fantastic Napoleonic range, and are great quality models.

One thing to consider is that they rank up a little larger than other 18mm ranges. I’ve got some Highlanders from a few different ranges, and thought it would be interesting to share how they compare size wise. As ranges have a limited number of variants for each pose, mixing between them is a great way to add some extra variety into your units. However it can backfire if the size of the ranges are too different.

L to R - 1,2 AB; 3,4 CMG; 5,6 Xan; 7 EssexL to R - 1,2 AB; 3,4 CMG; 5,6 Xan; 7 Essex

All the figures above are straight out of the packet. The first pair are AB, and compared to the others they are noticeably bigger. Nicely detailed and proportioned though, and I’m looking forward to painting these up.

The second pair are from Campaign Game Miniatures (CMG), whilst the third pair are by Xan. The CMG models are slightly bulkier and taller, but you can probably mix the Xan and CMG within a unit without the end result looking too out of place. Differences in things like the size of the bayonets and pack rolls might be a little jarring if you are very particular.

The outlier is from Essex. AB, CMG and Xan are sold as 18mm, whilst Essex is 15mm. I prefer the proportions of the other models, but the Essex minis do paint up quite well. (Essex also sell sample packs of their different ranges, which is great to get a flavour of what they are like).

Planning tartan

Tutoring 13
Skill 14
Idea 14
2 Comments

Progress on regular line infantry has been good, with a dozen of the lads ready for basing. I’m aiming to get the other half of the regiment painted for the end of the month.

Planning tartan

I’ve also been planning how to approach painting tartan for the highlanders, as I’ll be tackling them once I’ve finished the line regiment. I’m going to have two highland regiments, The Black Watch (42nd regiment) and the Gordon Highlanders (92nd regiment). Before attempting the kilts on the models, I painted a quick trial on paper (also to act as a memory aid). Basically I want to achieve a relatively good approximation of the tartan that isn’t too time consuming or fiddly that works at 15mm scale.

These are the patterns I'm aiming to represent - Black Watch on the left, Gordon Highlanders on the rightThese are the patterns I'm aiming to represent - Black Watch on the left, Gordon Highlanders on the right
Here's my step by step process for each pattern (all Vallejo paints) (a slightly terrible image I'm afraid)Here's my step by step process for each pattern (all Vallejo paints) (a slightly terrible image I'm afraid)

For the Black Watch I think I’m going to omit the lighter Prussian Blue squares, and retain them for the Gordon Highlanders.

A summary of my intended paint schemes:

  • Both patterns start the same way, with a base of Dark Prussian Blue.
  • Next a grid of German Camo Extra Dark Green. Two horizontal lines will be appropriate for the scale of the models.
  • At the intersection of the dark green lines, paint a square (more likely a blob) of Flat Green.
  • At this point the patterns diverge. For the Black Watch a thin line of Dark Prussian Blue is painted over the green grid.
  • A square (blob) of Prussian Blue is added between the green grid for the Gordons.
  • A thin line of Sun Yellow is painted over the green grid.

Hopefully it will look good on the models.

First steps... Peninsula British

Tutoring 8
Skill 12
Idea 11
2 Comments

A short first post to summarise where my collection stands at present.

I spent a little time last year planning on what exactly I wanted to collect, being drawn the most towards collecting a Peninsula British force. There are a large number of different mini ranges for Napoleonics in 15mm. After a lot of looking at various blogs and websites, I decided to use models that are more 18mm rather than ‘true’ 15mm, as I liked the variety and quality of minis at that size.

My first models were some British line infantry from Campaign Game Miniatures, painted as the 61st South Gloucestershire regiment. The flag came from GMB flags.

First steps... Peninsula British

I was pretty pleased how they turned out, especially as a learning process on painting models at this scale.

I then had a slight digression away from British infantry after grabbing some French Cuirassiers from ebay. The models were again CGM, and were mainly an experiment in how best to tackle the horses. Again, quite pleased with the end results.

First steps... Peninsula British

After the cavalry I returned to British infantry, this time trying my hand at some skirmishing riflemen. Figures are CGM once more. The green jackets came out a little brighter than intended, but I was happy with the finished look.

First steps... Peninsula British

That takes me up to where I am at present. I’m currently working on a second British line regiment (24th Warwickshire Regiment of Foot), with two lots of Highlanders to follow. I struggle with batch painting huge numbers at one time, finding it a little dispiriting even if there are greater times efficiencies. I have settled on tackling about 12 figures at a time as a balance I’m happy with.  I’ve adopted a campaign look for the infantry with mixed colours for the trousers, with helps with mixing up the batch painting further.

I’m aiming to post at least monthly updates to document the slow building of my collection.

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