Sunday, 19 February 2017

Touching History.

It was a moving experience to discover documents relating to my Grandfathers War Service Record on Ancestry recently. I never knew him as he died in 1956 two years before I was born, but have heard loads about him from family, and to see his name and signature on an old document meant a lot to me. The records show that he served in The Royal East Kent Regiment the famous 'Buffs' in the 8th Battalion, and that he signed up in 1914 aged 21(?) for 3 years service, was based 'home' (Canterbury Barracks) until 31/8/1915 when he was sent off to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, returning home in late 1918. As a side story I still recall my Grandmother telling me how she prepared a romantic homecoming for him only to find he was still 'running alive' with lice!

To the memory of Alfred Gramson, Royal East Kent Regiment, service number 2395.

© Crown Copyright Images - downloaded from used without permission. 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

"All quiet along the Potomac tonight".....

....but not for much longer!

"All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming,
Their tents in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
O'er the light of the watch fires, are gleaming;
There's only the sound of the lone sentry's tread
As he tramps from the rock to the fountain,
And thinks of the two in the low trundle bed,
Far away in the cot on the mountain."

With my French & Indian War project rounding off I have been casting around for something that takes my fancy as a follow up for weeks now. It had to be primarily a painting project as that's my main interest, and also something that would allow units to be built up fairly quickly. Having persevered with Sharp Practice to the point where I'm ready to play a game and feel I have a reasonable grasp of the rules it made sense to build alternative armies for the game. I had watched a few ACW based SP games and enjoyed them so much thatI gave in and ordered the first of what will become my Sharp Practice ACW forces. SP lists three forces for the early, mid and late war, and I have decided to build the mid war lists for both sides to begin with.

Essentially, for this 'large skirmish' game I will be representing the men of a single regiment per side, broken down into groups of 8 figures - I like to think of them as companies - with 6 figures per group for those in skirmish order. I'm starting with the Rebs, and the mid war list is as follows:

Leader, status III
Three groups of 8 infantry, rifled muskets.

Leader, status II
Two groups of 8 infantry, rifled muskets.

Leader, status I
One group of 6 skirmishers, rifled muskets

Leader, status I
One group of 6 skirmishers, rifled muskets.

Points value for Confederate 1862 = 83 points.

As you can see it's a fair sized force to get started with, and can be supplemented from the Generic Support list. What I need to decide on next is which regiment I want to represent.

The figures I have chosen are by Renegade Miniatures, wonderful 28mm castings of real character. I wanted to go with metal one piece castings, no plastics,  and after much thought decided upon the 'marching' pose for the main groups, and' firing line' for the skirmishers. I decided against the classic 'Right Shoulder Shift' pose used when advancing at the double, and instead go for the more sedate marching, order arms pose with musket tucked into the right arm and upright. Muskets were of course universally carried on the right shoulder during the ACW, as evidenced by drill manuals and countless paintings and photographs.

I'll get started soon as the figures arrive. IN the meantime I'm planning a Sharp Practice FIW game this weekend as the family, (wife, daughters, granddaughters) are off to the Great Metropolis for a day out on Saturday. I'll write it up as best I can in order to explain some of the unique features of  the rules.

Time to get down to some reading!

Battles & Leaders, 4 volumes a must have for any ACW enthusiast.

Lord knows how many years ago this TV series was shown, but the book of the series remains a favourite of mine.

Of my Time Life collection The Road to Shiloh remains a favourite and I may base my forces on this campaign.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Warlord Games Canoes completed!

It's been a bitterly cold weekend down here so have not been out much, giving me time to paint the two canoes and crews. As usual for Indians I started the flesh tones with Vallejo light brown with a touch of deep red mixed in, then highlighted with straight light brown, especially around the muscles etc. For European flesh tones I normally start with light brown and highlight with sunny flesh tone. I did consider giving them a thin wash of sepia ink, but decided to leave them as you see them. The canoes were quick and easy to do using a reference picture, I probably should have painted two different designs on the fronts. The Huron Chief painted up a treat, and he will shortly be seen leading his warriors allied to the French in a game of Sharpe Practice.

River sections by Small Terrain Miniature Scenery supplied fully painted.

Richard who supplied the battle mat promptly contacted me to apologise for the mistake and will be sending out a replacement this week so I'm a happy man again on that front. My intention is to have the choice of playing Commands & Colors on the printed mat OR Sharpe Practice on my TSS tiles. Should you have any enquiries regarding custom mats you can contact Richard via email:  I find he replies very promptly. Website:

Next up are two of the Hovels resin buildings in preparation for the Sharpe Practice 2 run through I hope to play at the weekend.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

"Can you canoe me down the river..."

My late Nan used to sing old Music Hall numbers to me as a child, and they tend to stick in my head, I must be one of the few people these days who can recite the lyrics to "The Boers have got my Daddy" for example. Another had a chorus that went, "Can you canoe me down the river, can you canoe me down the stream" (they don't write tunes like that anymore!), which brings me to the latest Warlord Games product on my painting table. Two Woodland Indian canoes in resin with metal figures, now undercoated and ready to paint. They are lovely little models and I'm sure will add a touch of period colour making their way along my river sections. A also ordered the Huron Chief model you can see, a as with most Warlord offerings a tad expensive at £3.00, but I guess they are not going to be selling huge quantities of these individual personality figures and it's a fine casting.

Generally this week I have been mostly focused on getting the GMB flags fitted to my command bases, a time consuming task but well worth the effort. This required me to add a couple of extra standard bearer figures that still need base texturing as you can see. The French battalions in the FIW I'm told carried two flags as supplied by GMB, anyway they look most impressive and I wasn't going to waste them!

The French artillery have been bought up to two guns with a light howitzer due to follow.

Yesterday, my Commands & Colors printed battle mat arrived and I quickly opened it up in a state of great anticipation. The print quality is excellent, as is the quality of the fabric upon which it is printed. However, the hexes have been printed the wrong way round, they should run flat to flat along the width of the cloth as per the C&C standard board AND the advertised product on the website, but they don't. This means I can't use it and need to return it for a replacement, I was bitterly disappointed but hopefully it wont take long to supply me with the correct mat. My wife really did not help matters when she said "Oh well, you can always have it made into a pair of trousers" .... yes, very funny darling, they really do not grasp the seriousness of such matters.

A shot along the short edge, wrong way round!

Fabric quality is very good and can be ironed etc,

I really like the print quality.

And the 6" hexes work well with my bases.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

I liked this so much ........

..that I simply had to order myself one!

I have spent hours pondering how I could create a 13 x 9 standard Commands & Colors hex board with 6" hexes, but the amount of time and effort that would be involved was too much. Marking out boards with hexes is a slow and demanding task, and I wanted some texture that would involve flocks and glue etc. I had been aware of the growth in printed battle mats, and seen this companys products, but I had not seen this specific C&C mat before. I made an inquiry asking if they could print me one with 6" hexes as my roads and rivers are all 6" or 12" sections and my French Indian War collection are on fairly large bases, and received a reply within a couple of hours and YES they could print me a 6" hex version "no trouble". I had no hesitation in placing my order, the sale of my Bolt Action stuff had left me with a bit of spare hobby cash. As it's a 13 x 9 mat of 6" hexes its going to come up fairly large, taking in the dark edges - I really like that touch, it's just like the board - it will around 7' x 5' but that's a managable size downstairs in the dining room.

The mat is printed on cloth and rubber backed, as you can see it's fully textured and has a very realistic look ....... I really can't wait to get my hands on it! The company are Kent based, the cost of my completed 6" version was £118.00 including delivery, and to be honest, for the time and effort it will save me I consider it worth every penny.

With Richard Borgs 'Tricorne' due to ship in March, I can see myself expanding my FIW collection into the AWI again, this time with metal Front Rank figures.

Pics up once I have the mat, I know hexes are not to everyones taste, but C&C continues to call me back as it's the only rule/game system I have ever totally got to grips with and enjoyed.

Link to the company web site HERE, they also do some amazing non gridded battle mats. Below is their 6 x 4 mat for the Battle of Antietam for example.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Royal Artillery and new Hovel's buildings.

Well that's another week flown by, and we edge closer to Spring and an opportunity to get back out into the garden. This mornings dog walk was very wet, but it is at least quite mild for the time of year.

I'm continuing to work with Sharp Practice, trying to commit as much of the basics at least to memory. The beauty of my individual figure basing system is that they can be adapted for different rule sets so I'm keeping this in mind as I persevere with SP. Reading through the 'Lardy' forum has helped to clarify quite a few things.

Flames of War is on hold until next month when the 4th Edition rules are published. As I said previously Battlefront are giving this edition free to those who purchased V3, you just need the old book or proof of purchase to obtain the updated edition, which seems pretty fair to me. I still have stuff in the pipeline, more late war German infantry (Peter Pigs), a box of StuG assault guns to build and paint and a lovely German HQ model in resin.

I focused this week on getting my two gun 6pdr Royal Artillery battery finished off and based. A lucky find was the two part bases made by 'Charlie Foxtrot Models' as seen below, these match perfectly the bases used for all of my infantry and really help to set off the artillery models I find. I painted up the second crew and painted two new guns in a more typical grey with blackened metal work. I do have a light howitzer and crew to complete this unit, but first I'm finishing off a two gun French battery of 12 pdrs. All figures and guns are by Front Rank.


The 20 figure French infantry battalion featured last week are all finished, based and varnished, but I will hold off pictures until the GMB flags arrive as they will be the finishing touch! I have some nice 'character' figures from Front Rank that I intend to use for Deployment Markers for SP, the Lardies have a competition running on the forum and there some wonderfully imaginative Deployment Markers vignettes that have inspired me to have a crack at a couple. I also bought some flag pole tops from Front Rank both British and French versions.

As I'm close to testing SP on the table top I wanted a couple of model buildings to represent settlers farmsteads etc. I know that 4Ground make some beautiful MDF models, but they are so big that they throw the vertical scale out so I looked for some simple single level wooden shacks and found just the thing in the good old Hovels catalogue. I'm going to enjoy painting these resin buildings and as you can see they scale down very well. I must mention their customer service, I placed an order online on Thursday morning, received a Paypal invoice that same afternoon and the buildings arrived on Friday, what more need I say!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

More French infantry & how to add 'Ivy' to model buildings!

This weeks painting output has been another 12 French infantry figures, the last 8 figures to complete this unit are underway and I hope to finish them on Sunday morning before the family arrive for lunch. I find my Sunday morning paint sessions to be my favourite, nice and quiet, good coffee and I'll normally watch/listen to a few YouTube videos as I paint. I'm currently working through some 'Sharp Practice 2' videos in order to see if I can get any enthusiasm to try these rules. They do seem to give a lively fun game, and they work in numerous periods, so for example yesterday I watched a 15 minute overview of a game set during the American Civil War in which the Union force had to try and capture a coffin full of rifles! I think there was only about 80 figures per side (28mm), but the players were obviously enjoying themselves. The coffin - a lovely little model on a wagon, escorted by Confederate women - was taken on about turn 6 winning the game. I'm in the middle now of watching a longer demo game set during the Indian Mutiny, and I must say I'm finding that period very tempting. I have no doubt that if I could get into Sharp Practice 2 it would open up a lot of possibilities for me. Some of the mechanics of this 'large skirmish' game that I initially found a bit strange and hard to grasp are becoming more familiar to me the more games I watch, and there are a lot of 'add on' options that you build on as you master the basic game system. The opportunity to play ACW games without having to paint hundreds of figures is also tempting! However, some reviews have not been favourable, and there seems to be many omissions  and a fair bit of errata judging by the pages and pages of FAQ for Sharp Practice 2. I'm put off by the large numbers of dice that need to be thrown to work out a basic melee combat, in one example there was a total of 26 dice - red and blue- that needed to be rolled together! Again, I keep being drawn back to those wonderful Commands & Colors dice rolls, they just work so well at resolving both shooting and close combat as well as morale.

This French battalion for FIW will be the last of the infantry for this period, just a couple more guns per side and I can look to whats next. I'm committed to painting 28mm figures going forward, I just get so much pleasure from painting in this scale. I have placed an order with GMB designs for some very fine FIW flags, not cheap but the quality speaks for itself, just look at the Napoleonic flags HERE. Figures are by Front Rank Figurines.

Ivy tutorial.
I have been asked a couple of times to do a demo on how to achieve the 'climbing ivy' effect on model buildings. The key really is to use the excellent leaf flock produced by Noch, as it's very realistic and quite cheap. Decide where you want your ivy to go and simply use neat PVA glue to paint the pattern, start thicker at the bottom and then separate out into 'fingers' as you work up, it looks good on the sides of buildings and also on wall sections etc, especially effective on MDF buildings that can be quite plain and flat looking otherwise.

15mm MDF buildings by 4Ground, before and after.