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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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Church & Windmill

Tutoring 5
Skill 5
Idea 5
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Church & Windmill

A couple of resin buildings to decorate the table, both from Hovels. I’ve had these for a little while, but I was a little disappointed with the number of bubbles on the casts, particularly on the roof tiles, with the windmill being worse than the church, so I had been putting off painting these. Whilst I patched some of the worst gaps, there was no way I was going to deal with all the roof tiles.

These are fast and sloppy painting efforts, as I didn’t want to spend much time on them. However, with a bit of paint, I don’t think they look as bad as I had feared.

RHA Limber

Tutoring 6
Skill 6
Idea 6
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RHA Limber

Inspired by seeing Nightrunner’s fantastic 1/72 French army for DBN (check out the project here https://www.beastsofwar.com/project/1693277/) I decided to get a few more things painted for this project.

This is a British Royal Horse Artillery limber with a 6lb cannon. The RHA team and limber are by AB Miniatures, whilst the cannon is by Xan.

The tracers were made from salvaged plug flex, stripped back to get at the wires, with three strands twisted together and snipped to size. Like rigging Age of Sail ships, not an essential step, but adds to the finished look.

RHA Limber

British Causalty Markers

Tutoring 6
Skill 9
Idea 9
3 Comments
British Causalty Markers

A set of casualty figures from AB Miniatures based on dials made by Warbases.

A very characterful set of walking wounded and those less fortunate, although I did have to find my tartan paint again for the Highlander.

1st Vistula Lancers

Tutoring 8
Skill 10
Idea 10
6 Comments
1st Vistula Lancers

During the Napoleonic wars, there were a number of different nationalities that fought alongside the French, some willing, others bound by treaty. Amongst the different satrapies, client kingdoms, allies and foreign regiments that fought under French colours, the Poles formed a substantial component of the Grand Armee. With Poland wholly partitioned between Prussia, Russia and Austria in 1793, Napoleon positioned himself as the only man capable of restoring Polish sovereignty. In 1807 the Duchy of Warsaw was formed after the Treaty of Tilsit, creating a Polish client state of the French Empire. A lot of Polish soldiers in French service were reformed under the army of the Duchy, but there still remained some Poles that served under French colours. The Vistula Legion was one of these, formed in 1808 after re-organisation of the Polish-Italian Legions. The Vistula Legion was comprised of both infantry and cavalry regiments, but during its formation second staff section as added, allowing the cavalry and infantry to operate independently. Indeed, despite both the Vistula infantry and cavalry being deployed to the Peninsula, they never served together on the same battlefield throughout their service.

The cavalry component of the Vistula Legion was comprised of two lancer regiments. They spent four years fighting in the Spanish Peninsula, and by and large, were extremely successful in the majority of their confrontations against the Spanish, British and Portuguese. Their most famous engagement was the at Albuera in 1811, were the 1st Vistula Lancers formed part of Soult army as they clashed with a Spanish and Anglo-Portuguese force lead by Beresford. Supported by the 6th Hussars, the Vistula lancers initially spearheaded a feint against the allies around the village of Albuera, before galloping across the front of French army to join the real French attack on the allied lines, a sweep around Beresford’s right flank. As the allies shifted to meet the advancing French columns, Colborne’s Brigade were exposed with an unsupported flank, which the Vistula lancers ruthlessly exploited. Helped by an initial misidentification as Spanish cavalry, the lancers were able to ride over three British battalions (1/3rd, 2nd/66th and 2/48th) caught out of square formation, inflicting huge casualties and capturing 4 or 5 colours, and 5 cannon from a supporting KGL artillery battery. The 31st regiment were able to form square and thus save themselves. Although Albuera was an eventual French defeat, it was one of the bloodiest battles of the Peninsula campaign.

The 3rd Regiment of Foot defend their colours against the Vistula Lancers at Albeura. Painting by William Barnes WollenThe 3rd Regiment of Foot defend their colours against the Vistula Lancers at Albeura. Painting by William Barnes Wollen

After Albuera, Napoleon made a decision to transform six of his dragon regiments into light horse lancers, no doubt in part due to the success of the Vistula Lancers. As part of that decree, Napoleon also transformed the 1st and 2nd Vistula Lancers to regular troops of the French army, becoming the 7th and 8th Light Horse Lancer Regiments. The 1st/7th Lancers left the Peninsula in 1812 to participate in the ill-fated invasion of Russia.

The models are all from AB Miniatures. They are modelled with covers on their czapka, so there’s no yellow colour on the top. They also have plain saddlecloths as opposed to white sheepskins with yellow dog’s teeth patterning. I found about a 50/50 mix between sources having the lance pennons red over white vs white over red, and one picture had both at the same time.

British Officers

Tutoring 9
Skill 11
Idea 10
1 Comment
British Officers

A pair of British Officers and ADCs by AB Miniatures. These are from a set designed for Waterloo, with two of the figures being Hill and Uxbridge.

Rowland ‘Daddy’ Hill served throughout the Peninsula Campaign, acting as a brigade commander during Moore’s ill fated campaign from 1808-9, and then as a divisional commander under Wellington from 1809, finally being entrusted with independent corps commands from 1811 to the end of the Peninsula War in 1814. The nickname of ‘Daddy’ Hill came from the fact he endeavoured to look after his men, and was in turn beloved by them.

Henry William Paget, the 1st Marquess of Anglesey, later the Earl of Uxbridge from 1812, had a far shorter Peninsula service record. He also served in Moore’s campaign, and as the commander of the British cavalry showed his leadership skills with victories over the French at Sahagun and Benavente in 1808, and demonstrated skillful handling of the British cavalry during the retreat to Corunna in 1809. He never returned to the Peninsula, as he eloped with Wellington’s sister in law, naturally making it impossible to serve alongside him. Stapleton-Cotton took his place as the cavalry commander in the Peninsula, and indeed Uxbridge only served at Waterloo due to the insistence of the Prince Regent.

2/45eme Regiment de Ligne

Tutoring 9
Skill 10
Idea 10
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2/45eme Regiment de Ligne

Another batch of Fusiliers and a command group have been finished, which means the second battalion of the 45eme is ready to join the first.

2/45eme Regiment de Ligne

The second battalion was deployed alongside the 1/45eme for the majority of the Peninsula War, but it 1813 it was redirected to Germany after the disaster experienced by the Grand Armee in Russia. In Germany the 45th was charged with securing lines of communication, garrisoning strongholds and surveying the coasts.

All the models here are again by Xan, and the flag by Maverick Models. I particularly like the enthusiastic chap raising up his shako.

A quick thank you for the Golden Button. Hearing positive comments and seeing recommendations are really appreciated and help keep motivation high.A quick thank you for the Golden Button. Hearing positive comments and seeing recommendations are really appreciated and help keep motivation high.

A small note on some of the details seen in the last two posts for anyone new to Napoleonics.  After 1808, Napoleon reorganised the structure of the Grand Armee. From that point onwards, each battalion was formed of six companies, and totaled 840 men (although battalions were rarely at full strength due to casualties and recruitment issues). For Line Infantry, two companies were the elites, the Grenadiers and the Voltigeurs. Also called flank companies, these formed at the right and left ends of the battalion respectively when formed in line.

The other four companies were composed of Fusiliers, with each company identified by a different coloured pom pom. 1st company had dark green, 2nd company sky blue, 3rd company orange, and 4th company violet. With the way I base my battalions, 1st company is usually represented by the command stand.

Some sources state that the 2nd battalions often unofficially had a white dot at the centre of the pom pom. I decided not to add that detail here, but might on another battalion later.

The drummer here has sky blue details. This was something specific to the 45eme that I picked out from browsing through images from a re-enactment group. Most French line infantry regiments had drummers dressed as per the fusiliers, but with orange, green or tricolour coloured piping. In 1810 drummer uniforms changed to a green jacket with white facing and red piping. This didn’t see full adoption until 1812.

1/45e Regiment de Ligne

Tutoring 12
Skill 12
Idea 12
2 Comments
1/45e Regiment de Ligne

Fusiliers and command group finished, which when added to the previously painted grenadiers and voltigeurs, completes my first French line infantry battalion.

This is the first battalion of the 45eme Regiment, with the second battalion to follow in due course.

1/45e Regiment de Ligne

The 45e Regiment were an ever present part of the Grande Armee, having served from Valmy in 1792 up to Waterloo in 1815, and fought in numerous battles all across Europe. They were ordered to Spain in 1808, with the 1st battalion participating in many battles against the British and Spanish, including Talevera, Vittoria and Toulouse. At the latter they held a redoubt against fierce opposition, and only had 100 combat capable men left when they retired from the field.

All models are by Xan. The flag is from Maverick-Models.com, which has a huge range of flags for Napoleonic and other eras. They will adjust flag sizes on request too, which is extremely handy.

Voltigeurs

Tutoring 14
Skill 16
Idea 14
2 Comments

A small swarm of French Voltigeurs, represented the skirmish bases and formed companies for two line infantry battalions.

There’s a fair bit of variation between regiments in the distinctive yellow and/or green colours of the Voltigeurs. This lot are going to be the 45eme Regiment d’Infanterie de Ligne, who I believed had yellow bands around their shako tops plus yellow and green plumes. I could be entirely wrong, but I like the end result.

All the models are by Xan.

Voltigeurs
Voltigeurs

Vive l'Empereur!

Tutoring 14
Skill 15
Idea 13
1 Comment

After a little pause over April whilst I concentrated on some other projects, I made a start on my French infantry. I decided to lump two line infantry battalions together, and split out the different troop types into batches.  This was done with a view to helping me learn the differences in the details and colours that distinguish grenadiers from voltigeurs and fusiliers.

Grenadiers were first up, with a swarm of Voltigeurs next on the paint desk.

Vive l'Empereur!

KGL 1st Hussars

Tutoring 13
Skill 14
Idea 13
5 Comments

Since the King’s German Legion (KGL) represented around 20% of Wellington’s fighting strength, it would be remiss not to include some in my collection. In particular, I wanted some of the KGL light cavalry. Light cavalry were responsible for all of the reconnaissance and outpost duties. The KGL hussars performed outstandingly during the Peninsula campaign, and compared so favourably to the British cavalry, that, when they served together, nearly all of these duties were imposed on the former.

The 1st hussars in particular were well known for their quality in terms of both their effectiveness when undertaking picket work, as well as being a reliable and formidable opponent on the field of battle.

KGL 1st Hussars

According to English custom, the hussars had no colours. I found different information regarding trouser colours, with some sources stating they should be white, whilst others showing blue with red stripes. I went with the latter as being a bit more interesting to paint.

The models are all by AB Miniatures.

92nd Regiment of Foot - Gordon Highlanders

Tutoring 16
Skill 18
Idea 16
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The Gordon Highlanders were originally raised in 1794 by the Duke of Gordon, and were known as the 100th Regiment of Foot. Many of the original recruits were drawn from the Gordon estates. The early recruitment campaign was assisted by the Duke’s wife, who was said to have offered a kiss as an incentive to join her husband’s Regiment.

Renumbered the 92nd regiment in 1798, the Gordon Highlanders saw extensive action during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars – from the Netherlands, Egypt, Denmark and the Peninsular War through to the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.

There’s a painting called The Gordons and Greys to the Front by Stanley Barkley, which captures an event at Waterloo, where some soldiers from the Highlanders clung to the stirrups of the passing Scots Greys so that they could reach the French troops as the cavalry passed by the regiment to chase down the scattering French. I think this incident seems to encapsulate the fearsome fighting spirit of the Gordon’s very well.

The regiment’s cap badge and motto come from the crest of the Dukes of Gordon, being a stag head surrounded by ivy. The motto ‘Bydand’ is a Scots word meaning ‘Steadfast’

The Gordon's and Greys to the FrontThe Gordon's and Greys to the Front
92nd Regiment of Foot - Gordon Highlanders

The models are a mix, with the flank companies and command group by Campaign Game Miniatures, and the centre company by Xan. The colours are from GMB Flags.

Finishing the Gordon’s means I’m also done with tartan for a while. Next up will be some more cavalry.

71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry)

Tutoring 18
Skill 20
Idea 18
7 Comments

The 71st were sent to Portugal as part of Moore’s army in 1808. After the retreat at Corunna, the regiment took part in the Walcheren Campaign in 1809, before returning to the Peninsula in 1810. It fought at the battles of Fuentes de Onoro, Albuhera, Arroyo dos Molinos, Alamaraz, Vitoria, Sorauren, Nivelle and Nive.

The 71st also fought at Waterloo in 1815, and formed part of the army of occupation in Paris.

71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry)

The majority of figures are by Xan, with the command group by AB Miniatures. The colours are from GMB Designs.

Nice to paint some Highlanders and not worry about tartan, although I should now try and finish the Gordon Highlanders.

Preparing Highland Light Infantry

Tutoring 18
Skill 19
Idea 19
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Whilst waiting for a couple of Highlanders to arrive so I can finish my Gordon Highlanders, I turned my attention to another Highland regiment, this time the 71st Glasgow Highland Light Infantry. Despite being a Highland regiment, the light infantry worn the same uniform as the other light infantry regiments in the British army, so there’s no kilts or tartan to worry about. However, they did retain a chequered hand band around their shako, as seen in the images below.

71st at Waterloo, capturing a French gun at the end of the day's fighting71st at Waterloo, capturing a French gun at the end of the day's fighting
Skirmishing Highland light infantry by Keith RoccoSkirmishing Highland light infantry by Keith Rocco

I’m quite keen to include the hand band on my models, as it is a great visual cue to the identity of the figures. There’s a slight problem in that no one produces figures with that precise detail (at least that I’ve seen), bar a lone piper model made by AB Miniatures. I had two choices – either simply paint the band on, or go for a much more fiddly option, and add the band in using green stuff. Under the influence of covid related cabin fever, I decided that the second choice was the one to pursue.

I started to regret that choice quite quickly, until I had worked out the trick in how to best approach it. I don’t have a huge amount of experience at using green stuff, so this was partly an exercise in practicing something new. I’m fairly happy with the outcome, although the proof will be after the painting.

Preparing Highland Light Infantry

Plans for 2021

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Skill 18
Idea 17
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A New Year, sadly not that different from the last. My plans for my Napoleonics are to finish up a few British regiments, and then make a start on some French. After all, you can’t really have Napoleonics without them.

I’ve made a start on a battalion of Gordon Highlanders, wanting to get this year off to a good start, but have hit a minor hitch in that I’m a couple of models short. The second half of the battalion are therefore on pause for the moment.  Instead I’m going to paint up a battalion of light infantry, and then I’ll switch back to the Highlanders. After those, there’s just some KGL hussars left for my current lot of British, and then onto the French.

Half a battalion of Gordon Highlanders. More photos when I finish the rest.Half a battalion of Gordon Highlanders. More photos when I finish the rest.

Mounted Scottish Officers

Tutoring 14
Skill 16
Idea 16
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Most of November and December have been spent on other projects, but spurred on by reading a book on the Peninsula War, I felt an urge to paint at least a few Napoleonics before the year finished.

I grabbed a pair of mounted British officers, both Scots to accompany my highland regiments. I was a little lazy and didn’t bother checking any uniforms, so chances are they don’t subscribe to dress regulations.

Both models and horses are by Campaign Game MiniaturesBoth models and horses are by Campaign Game Miniatures

50th Regiment of Foot

Tutoring 17
Skill 19
Idea 18
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The 50th (West Kent) Regiment of Foot had the nickname of the ‘dirty half-hundred’, due to the dye from their black coloured facing running and staining their hands and faces.

 

50th Regiment of Foot

The first battalion fought in the Peninsula at Vimiera and Corunna, where they bore the brunt of the fighting, holding off the French with repeat bayonet charges, and suffering heavy casualties.

After the withdrawal at Corunna, the 50th were sent to the Netherlands as part of the ill-fated Walcheren expedition, before returning to the Peninsula by 1811. They fought in numbers of the campaign’s major battles, including Fuentes Onoro, Vitoria, the Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthes and Toulouse.

The models are all by Xan, barring the command group, which are from AB Miniatures. The colours are from GMB Flags.

14th Light Dragoons

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Skill 19
Idea 18
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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 fully completed 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 18
Skill 19
Idea 18
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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 18
Skill 17
Idea 17
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 17
Skill 20
Idea 19
10 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.

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