06 August 2017

The Combat at Wegkreuz: A Featherstonian-Grantian, Old School Battle. . .

Today's set-up, now featuring mats, roads, and fields from Hotz Artworks.  Everything works together very cohesively, and the felt mats drape very well over styrofoam hill contours.

Well, the Young Master has not expressed much interest in a battle of toy soldiers with ol' Dad lately, so I am having a quick solo affair myself today (Sunday) while he and the Grand Duchess are off to the Detroit Zoo and IKEA.  I've decided on a battle for a crossroads somewhere along the frontier between The Grand Duchy of Stollen and The Electorate of Zichenau.  Whoever controls it by the end of ten turns will be deemed the winner.  

The situation before the start of hostilities is this.  The two generals commanding the respective scratch forces -- of roughly equal size, but with some slight differences on composition -- have each been sent by their superiors to seize the vital crossroads at the village of Wegkreuz, which sits in a shallow valley taken up by farmland and largely open country.  The slopes surrounding the village are very slight and impede movement only on the higher (second) contours.  Likewise, a small stream some distance south of the village, the Kreuzbach, represented by the treeline, presents only a minor obstacle to troops on foot or horseback although cannon must remain the roadway to navigate the stream easily.  

General von Maximus von Sydow's scratch force of Zichenauers, includes the famed Flickerhoffer Fusiliers, a composite battalion of Ernestine Sachsen Infantry, two cannon, and a company of Croats as well as a strong squadron of cuirassiers in the foreground.

 General Siegfried von Toppels aus dem Sattel commands a similarly sized boddy of troops, consisting of  the steadfast Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers, a battalion of Hanseatic Infantry, a company of jaegers in the distance, plus two guns along the road, and a strong squadron of dragoons bringing up the rear.

As you'll observe in the two photographs above, the Zichenauer force, commanded by General Maximus von Sydow approaches Wegkreuz from the south, while the Stollenian force under General Siegfried von Toppels aus dem Sattel (he likes a nip or two of the good stuff) approaches the village from the north.  The two generals have already spied one another's forces through their telescopes and deployed their respective men.  Gentlemen, start your engines. . . 

-- Stokes


End of Move/Turn Four Update. . . 

General Maximus von Sydow's Flickenhoffer Fusiliers became badly disordered traversing the light woods on either side of the  Kreuzbach very early in the game.  By the end of Move Four, they still had not managed to sort themselves out although they finally managed to navigate the woods and stream.

 Here is a more general view o the situation at the close of Move Four.  No shooting has begun yet although one of General Siegfried von Toppels aus dem Sattel guns has unlimbered, and the respective light infantry elements are within range of enemy formations.  The Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers are also somewhat disordered after crossing rough ground and contracting their line to move around a small copse.

Finally, a second view of the state of things at the end of Move Four.  The careful early dressings and dispositions are now somewhat more messy.  But, as any military person, or, indeed, student of military history can tell you, it does not take long in the face of the enemy for carefully formulated plans to go t--s up, if you'll pardon my use of the bizarrely hilarious Britishism.


Update at End of Move Eight. . .

The combat of Wegkreuz took off in Move Five when things became fast and furious with both sides taking heavy casualties from their respective artillery, musketry, and skirmish fire during Moves Six, Seven, and Eight.  These doctored Featherstone rules -- the foundation of my one-page 'Call It Macaroni!' rules -- are bloody when troops fire at close range.  A few highlights follow below.

The Zichneauer cuirassiers charged toward the Stollenian dragoons in Move Seven, but did not close, stopping 2" short.  They retired a full move back to their starting point. 

 In Move eight, the Stollenian dragoons counter charged and closed with the retiring cuirassiers.  A short, sharp melee erupted,resulting in four casualties for the Zichenauers and three for the Stollenians.  Bother bodies of cavalry retired two full move distances at the end of Move Eight.

Elements of General Mximus von Sydow's Flickenhoffer Fusiliers and General Siegrfried von Toppels aus dem Sattel entered Wegkreuz during Move Eight and began to slug it out, with both sides taking casualties.

 Here is another shot of the fight for control of the village crossroads during Move Eight.


After eight full moves, von Sydow and von Toppels aus dem Sattel decided to call the game a draw.  The sun was low on the horizon, and time was running out.  Rather than squander their small forces in fruitless frontal attacks, the two officers and gentlemen -- it turns out they were both students within a few years of each other at the university in Dorpat before both left to try their respective fortunes on the Field of Mars -- decided to call it a day and put soldiers and scenery away for another day.  

Both generals were very pleased with the inaugural outing for the Hotz mats, which are just the right shade of muted, light green to enable troops to show up nicely for the the camera.  Now, if yours truly could simply find enough time for, not only the painting o new troops, but also a few vital refurbishments AND getting my darn bases painted.  How many years has it been now??!!  There is a lesson to be learned somewhere.

-- Stokes 

The Next Day. . .

I tried out a new bit of rules yesterday to simulate artillery shots penetrating more than just the target immediately before the gun(s).  It works like this:

1) The formation immediately in front of a gun, or guns, takes the prescribed number of hits.

2) A second body of troops, up to 12" behind the first, takes half that number of hits (ignore fractions) to simulate the shot running out o steam but still bounding along in a lethal way. 

3) A body of troops between 12"-24" behind the initial target before the guns takes one fourth the number of hits rolled for the initial target.  Again, ignore inconvenient fractions that tax the mind and pay attention only to whole figures.

There we are.  Not a strictly realistic simulation, of course, but it does help take into account something that actually happened on battlefields during the black powder era.  Naturally, adding this to my rules makes them flip over onto a second page, so an even smaller font size is in order, darn it.

-- Stokes

23 July 2017

Plugging Away. . .

 Not much to look at at just yet, but plugging away with the first squadron and two regimental command figures.

A quiet, calm Sunday afternoon here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen.  The Grand Duchess and Young Master are out doing something at a local nature preserve, so I have taken the opportunity to give Zum Stollenkeller a much needed spiffing up (dusting and the Hoover) before getting back to applying some paint.  Before the glaze of  London Red Alkyd oil, an undercoat of acrylic yellow (red oil glazes over a whiter undercoat don't look right. . .  not exactly pink, but definitely not red enough), which I'll wrap up after finishing this post.  OK, time to quit blathering on get back to work!  There is just slightly more than a month left of summer vacation, and still so much to accomplish. . .  including another solo game, during which I'll playtest the latest version of my Call It Macaroni! rules  More of which anon.

-- Stokes

 I came across this great old Knoetel plate a couple of weeks ago, which provides one more useful guide to painting this first squadron although I may keep my bearskins brown since there is so much black as part of these uniforms already.  One of the very old plates in a previous post also has a bearskin with a distinct brownish cast to it, so I eel somewhat justified if that is my ultimate decision.

The second squadron of the RSM95 cavalry above will be painted in this uniform, worn by the Wurttemburg Cavalerie in the French army.  Here, I think the black bearskin is in order since black will not exactly dominate the color palette to quite the same degree as in the above plate.

09 July 2017

It's Like Drybrushing in Reverse. . .

Still early in the painting game with this two-squadron regiment of cuirassiers in bearskins.  I am tackling them one squadron at a time although the two-figure regimental HQ right square in the middle of the front rank is being done along with the first squadron to its left.  The second squadron will have either a slightly different dark brown for its horses or, perhaps, black steeds.

Tinkering around with painting the horses of first dozen RSM95 (French) cuirassiers in bearskins this afternoon, and a few new things emerged clearly in my mind while I did so.  In no particular order, they go like this.  

One, if you use oils to paint your horses, you cannot beat Van Dyke Brown as a color for both various chestnuts and bays.  Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber are also good colors as is Grumbacher English Red over a black undercoat, which helps tone down the very reddish brown cast of this particular color.  Otherwise, I no longer use black as a base or undercoat.  Far too dark in my opinion.  But getting back to the Van Dyke, which I have never used to paint horses before.  I am quickly coming to the conclusion that it is THE color for painting up attractive horses in the common wargaming figures sizes and scales.

Speaking of undercoats, a yellow, tan, dark red, orange, or even light gray undercoat with a glaze of that same Van Dyke Brown over top produces a wonderful representation of horseflesh that is full of depth and variegation.  Much like the coats of the real animals when you look closely.  And depending on your undercoat, the final appearance of the Van Dyke Brown has a great deal of variety while at the same time, if this makes any sense, yielding a somewhat standard appearance to one's mounted units in a way that Burnt Sienna et al do not.

Finally, I've been experimenting a bit with the classic wipe off method of painting horses, but instead of wiping off the Van Dyke Brown oil paint with the corner of a carefully folded paper towel, I've used a large, fluffy #8 round brush (an old, soft nylon bristle one used previously for base-coating and painting bases green).  It's kind of like dry-brushing in reverse.  You use the dry brush to very lightly remove paint from the higher areas of the horse casting, occasionally wiping any excess off onto a paper towel before continuing until you are pleased with the look of the thing.  

The overall effect of the brown glaze over a light yellow undercoat is a very soft, subtle appearance that brings out the musculature of the RSM95 horse castings (nice, but not the best on the market these days) in a satisfying and realistic way.  I'll post a progress photograph later this evening after my camera battery has recharged, and I have had the chance to finish the final six of the first 12 horses.  Who knows?  I might even have time to take care of the greys ridden by two of the three trumpeters

-- Stokes 

04 July 2017

Happy July 4th!!!

Two suitable images by reenactors for the July 4th holiday.  Not my particular cup of tea, but you've got to hand it to the  people who take the time, effort, and spend the money to get it just right.

Almost finished applying white gesso basecoat to those 30 RSM95 cavalry.  Then, it will be time to start painting in earnest.  First, I'll apply the usual alkyd oil flesh wash to faces, followed by an acrylic yellow undercoat to the horses before a dark brown oil glaze (Burnt Umber), black cavalry boots, and then the main uniform colors.  
My son, the Young Master, wandered by yesterday afternoon and asked when I would be all finished painting soldiers.  I replied that, much like a flower garden, one is never quite done when it comes to painting, collecting, and playing with soldiers.  You could probably say that for many other hobbies as well.  Happy Independence Day everyone.  KA-BOOM!!!

-- Stokes

02 July 2017

An Interesting Find. . .

Apparently, the above illustration shows how a Prussian cavalry squadron appeared on parade during the late 17th and 18th centuries.  Battle formation was similar, but the distances between files were closed up if I understand correctly.  Anyway, this is interesting because of where the officers, trumpeters, and standard bearer are placed.  Note that they are not all together.

Thought that I would share this here.  I came across the above illustration of a Prussian cavalry squadron yesterday while trying some German search terms  -- 'fahnen' and 'standarten' -- on Google.  Looking for possible information on Wurttemburg and Bavarian cavalry flags you understand. 

One sometimes turns up unexpected new things online by trying another language for searches, something I learned 20+ years ago when I had a job in the Geography Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  During the 1995-96 academic year, my boss put me in charge of finding out all I could on several hundred Slavic language books, left to the library by a retired Geography professor.  

I used an early version of WorldCat, which at the time had restricted access and was pre-Windows.  Remember that?  It was a fascinating job in any case.  Using a transliteration guide, I worked with books written in Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, and Georgian of all things, as well as the odd title in German and Finnish.  The precise task was to uncover and summarize as much as I could about the contents of each book beyond simple title, author, and date/place of publication.

Anyway, the point of this particular story is, play around when doing internet searches.  You never know what you might turn up by coming around the metaphoric house and entering the kitchen through the back door.  All kinds of interesting and unanticipated stuff turns up.

But what of the 30 RSM95 French heavy cavalry in bearskins?  After a bit of trumpeter repositioning yesterday evening, everything is glued down, flagpoles have been glued carefully into the hands of the two squadron standard bearers, and base-coating can commence later today.

-- Stokes

01 July 2017

Back in the Painting Saddle Again. . .




Well, if our G.D. internet connection were more cooperative -- a problem for the last two blasted days -- I'd have a bit more to write here.  Suffice to say, I will start on the first squadron of an eventual two-squadron regiment of RSM95 heavy cavalry in bearskins later today by gluing riders onto horses and, hopefully, getting white acrylic gesso basecoat on at least some of them.  While I might still paint one squadron in dark blue, I'll definitely paint one in red, based on either Bavarian or Wurttemburg heavy cavalry of the mid-18th century.  It's simply too good a temptation to resist, and about the only way I'll ever get a unit approaching the dramatic Scots Greys on the table given my mid-18th century, semi-fictitious, quasi-Germanic focus.  The Grand Duchy of Stollen is, after all, rather far away from the plains of Belgium!

-- Stokes

Later. . .
Righty-oh!  Riders have been glued into place, right arms repositioned since the figures are cast with sheathed (scabarded???) swords, and everything has been cemented onto pair-sized bases according to In the Grand Manner dimensions (40mm x 45mm).  Photograph to follow later if our internet connection cooperates, damn its eyes!

27 June 2017

The Baltic German Town Center on a Bright(-er) Day. . .

 A half-timbered, or fachwerk, house.

A delightful couple of hours spent this late morning and early afternoon tweaking the construction of my foamcore lightbox and then taking a slew of better-lighted photographs of the recently completed model buildings.  While some a re rather good, others need to be reshot.  I've tried three-point lighting, but that still leaves shadows and certain important details in the darkness, so a fourth source of diffused light, probably positioned behind the camera and  bounced off the ceiling of the lightbox, will solve the problem.  Stay tuned.  

By the way, the Young Master, who returned Sunday evening from 10 days visiting his grandparents in Seattle, approves of Dad's recent construction boom.  We're planning a very simple Featherstonian-type wargame this weekend using his soldiers that he received last Christmas.  A few of the buildings here just might make an appearance.  Can't wait!

-- Stokes

 Another half-timbered house.

The Duke of Brunswick Gasthaus.  No trouble figuring out what goes on here.

A better photograph of the sign hanging above the door into the pub and inn.

The more interesting front half of Das Heiligen-Geist-Hospital, or The Hospital of the Holy Spirit.

The local Latin school, or Lateinschule. 

Das Rathaus, or town hall.

Die Universität, or as we like to call it in English, the university.

Das Waisenhaus, or town orphanage.  And just what are those two ladies with the generous decolletage doing outside an orphanage??!!

Two more half-timbered houses.  The timbering on all four of these was done with a combination of magic marker, colored pencils, and crayon.

And finally, das Zollhaus or the custom house where duty is collected on all goods entering town, and paperwork is processed for all imports and exports.  It's almost Kafkaesque!

25 June 2017

It's Market Day. . .

At last, it's Market Day, and the square between the Rathaus and local university is abuzz as townsfolk and country people alike journey to the center of town to have a look around.  Perhaps, they might also purchase some common necessities like seasonal produce, flowers, or freshly caught eels for instance.

Finished the important surprise details mid-afternoon, and have had a little time to set up better lighting, the tripod, and camera for a few slightly better photographs.  Still some tiny things to see to and some final painting, but nothing anyone but me would notice.  Ladies and genetlemen, I give you the town of 'name-yet-to-be-determined.'

-- Stokes

Children frolic around the corner in the square before the old Hospital of the Holy Spirit.  And is that?  It is!  It is!  Here comes Magarete the Marketenderin on the way to set up her stall around the corner for Market Day.  A bit further afield, in front of the coffee house, just behind the Rathaus, you'll observe Father Tibertius attempting yet again to save the souls of notorious local madame 'The Naughty Lola' and her coworkers, all of whom plan to take full advantage of Market Day too.

 The Rathaus and Hospital of the Holy Spirit beyond have, if you look very closely, had their clocks installed, so that the townspeople can keep better track of time during the long summer days.

Meanwhile, Gerda, Helga, and Big Daddy plan to take full advantage of the increased foot traffic to peddle their beer and spirits.  You didn't know that Big Daddy is the proprietor of The Duke of Brunswick, did you?  Many local students from the nearby university spend considerable portions of their already meager stipends here in the afternoons after classes have finished for the day.  The university, by the way, offers various courses in jurisprudence, canonical law, grammar, rhetoric, Greek, Latin, medicine, and philosophy.  The faculty of the latter is especially strong when it comes to Metaphysics.  Indeed, a recent public disputation, which ended in fisticuffs, dealt with the number of angels one might fit onto the head of a pin. . .  Ergo the appearance of Big Daddy and a platoon of infantry to restore order in the lecture hall.

Across town, Herr and Frau Tesdorpf stop in front of the Zollhaus (Customs House) to say hello to a young Prussian officer, who hopes to make the acquaintance of their daughter, Lady Antonia Tesdorpf.  Notice too the town coat of arms above the door, which really is the town coat of arms for Lübeck in Germany, but I like the design so much, it seems like a good idea to borrow it in miniature.

Last of all, Aunts Gertrude and Waltraud have decided to see what all the fuss is about.  Pleading a migraine, Aunt Hiltrud did not accompany her sisters and remained at home.  Meanwhile, a few terminally errant soldiers have decided to risk running into their sergeant to see if they might instead meet some local  farmers' daughters in town for the day.

24 June 2017

A Few Sneakpeaks at the Baltic German Town Center. . .

A tiny peak at the town center to be. . . 

Still not quite there with everything, but I wanted to share a few early photographs of the almost finished Baltic German town center after a quick trip to my local 'big-box' arts and crafts store midday where I found, in the scrapbooking aisle of all places,  12" square heavy (vinyl?) textured sheets the make perfect cobblestone mats on which to place the various town buildings!  Who knew?  Allow me to reiterate that I will never again sneer at the scrapbooking set. 

At any rate, there are various companies out there that produce cobblestone gaming mats in various sizes, but looking at them online, the colors seem either too dark, or the size of the cobblestones depicted seem too large for 28-30mm figures and buildings.  So, I thought that I'd take a gander at the dollhouse and scrapbooking aisles to see if I might ind reasonable substitutes  Lo and behold, there they were, the perfect randomly patterned, sized, and colored heavy sheets of whatever they are made of at 50% off the listed retail price.  I purchased six sheets with two extras for future use.  

The mats have some sheen, admittedly, but if you have ever observed a town square or cobbled streets anywhere, especially on even a slightly damp day, you will have noticed that so too do the real things after centuries of foot and wagon traffic have smoothed out their surfaces.  Add some light rain or mist on top of that, and the cobblestones have a bit of sheen to them.  One can easy slip and fall if wearing shoes with leather soles in fact.  So, my initial thought to dull the mats with a few shots of something like Testor's Dullcote will remain just that.  A passing thought.

Before leaving the store, I also stumbled onto large foam core sheets that have one side in non-reflective sky blue.  These will perform admirably as neutral backdrops for future tabletop photography exploits.  All of this is simply a round about way of saying take a look at the town center yet to come!  

Of course, I already have quite a few civilians, wagons, and cart painted up that can be used to populate the as yet unnamed town, but at some point in the near future, I fear there might be a "need" for a few additions from Black Hussar and Redoudt, both of whom offer quite a few suitable mid-18th century men, women, and children.  A few well-chosen additions to the collection can help clog the streets of the town center shown as well as smaller villages and settlements set up for future actions and battles.

Ok.  Enough talking about it.  Time to paint in the windows and doors on the final building and add  some surprise detailing to a few of the buildings.

-- Stokes

The almost finished Rathaus at rest.  Or is it?  What 'burgerly' intrigue might be at play inside? 

More of the town center, which has been placed on one of my recently acquired felt Hotz Mats, which will drape over hills more convincingly that my old Woodland Scenics mats. 

Once everything is done, I'll get out the Hotz fields and roads that I purchased last year, and set up some true tableaus, panoramas, and the like for your perusal.  Who knows?  I might even have to stage a solo game. 

The windows and doors are all done!  Now, it's time for a break (Supper and a walk. . .  It's a spectacular Saturday evening here in Mid-Michigan.), and then back to work for some touch-ups to a few things and those few small surprise details I keep babbling about.

Windows and Doors Are Almost Finished. . .

'The Buddenbrook House' on Mengstrasse right across the street from the Marienkirche (Saint Mary's Church) in Lübeck, Germany.  This was author This was author Thomas Mann's family home for a time wen he was a boy.

No photographic update this morning everyone, but I can report that the windows and doors are just about done on the dozen new buildings that comprise my Baltic German town center.  Just the university/palace to do, and then a final few small surprise details, and the project will be complete.  A scant month plus a few days since it began.

Today's photograph is of Thomas Mann's boyhood home in Lübeck, Germany.  I am unsure what is in it now, but there was a bank in operation on the premises way back during the winter of 1986 when I first visited the town.  I cashed a traveler's check (Remember those?) there the morning I left heading north to Copenhagen.  

In 1990, when I spent another week  in Lübeck, the bank had gone, and there were various doctors' and dentists' offices in its place.  Oddly, although the Grand Duchess and I walked by the house in 2009, when we spent a long weekend in the small city to celebrate our third anniversary, we did not think to stick our heads in the door to see what businesses were in operation at that point.  I wonder what we'll find the next time we visit?

Lübeck is one of those places I could happily reside.  Pretty quiet and sleepy, steeped in history, yet not always one of those places to which throngs of tourists flock.  A bit off the beaten track you might say.  But I don't think I could ever tire of seeing it, being there, or breathing in the air.  For me, Lübeck has always been a place where I have felt instantly at home, ensconced, and, perhaps oddly, rooted.

Anyway, although the Lübeck was badly bombed during the Second World War, the old center was rebuilt, restored, and I simply fell in love with the winding, cobble-stoned, medieval, fairy tale-like layout of the town when arriving for the first time on a cold, snowy winter's day in early February 1986.  That impression was helped, no doubt, by the numerous tall spires, red brick North German variety of Gothic architecture, and the charming gabled merchants' houses all around. 

Coal smoke still hung in the air at that time, and a few days into my stay that first visit, I happened upon a very tall, very blonde young man dressed in traditional chimney sweep clothes with a tophat and the tools of his trade over his shoulder walking along a side street in the snow.  Sadly, I was out of film in my camera at that point, or I would have asked to take his photograph, but that brief encounter remains one of my very best travel memories all these years later.

-- Stokes


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