Saturday, 30 October 2010

Les Belges Advance...

Belgium is probably not the top of many peoples list of "must do" VSF nations (probably not even for the Belgians themselves) but I have found them to be much more interesting than stereotypes suggest, even if their 19th century history is not widely known to those outside the country. Writing a Belgian supplement for Land Ironclads has proven to be like peeling an onion, stripping one layer to find something new underneath. From their involvement in the Mexico to the Congo via French machinations to annex them after the Austro-Prussian War there is certainly more to them than meets the eye.

Of course they have proven a quite attractive little project given the quality of the forthcoming Brigade Models shiny new toys which I quickly put a photo of each up on White Wine Sauce yesterday before the light failed but here present some more...

Whilst most of the models have been based up for battles on Flanders green fields against the French, as you can see at the top I did base up two of the Charlotte-Ameilie class (as an experiment) as on Martian service. Having given it some more thought (and as they are the smallest class of land ironclad in the game) I intend to purchase some autumnal foliage clumps to add some red vegetation in the near future.

The others, as with the French, have odd 2mm Irregular figures dotted around to give a concept of scale as well as the odd foliage clump acting as a tree. I did toy with have one bursting through a wood but it looked somewhat silly when I did a dry run.

Next on the painting table are the two sets of contraptions Brigade are also releasing as part of the Belgian army, plus some of Irregular's 2mm SF range which I think will make excellent Aurorean Martian contraptions (the models I picked have a slightly pulp look which suits the scientifically focussed Auroreans). I was hoping to crack on with these today but a persistent ear infection is draining the will to work and all I feel like doing is trying to fall asleep in front of the telly (much needed sleep as the pain kept me awake most of the night). Maybe tomorrow...

Friday, 29 October 2010

Remember Liège!

Ok, the identity of the new Land Ironclads army is out so I can show off the Belgians I painted yesterday...

First off are two battalions of Belgian line infantry from Irregular's 2mm range. With a change of flag they can become Serbian (and if you aren't too fussy about the grey trousers a number of other nations).

The cavalry are three squadrons of Belgian Guides in green jackets and red trousers. I do like Irregular's 2mm cavalry as they are easy to paint and readily identifiable on the tabletop.

Back to finishing off the land ironclad support then onto contraptions and some Belgian Legion on Martian service...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Allez Les Blockhaus Roulants!

First off apologies for the brevity of posts this month, real life work has been rather intense and got in the way somewhat and when I take a week off the body decides to down tools with a stinking cold and now some nagging ear infection! :-( Anyway, enough of the woes of Steve... Bleaseworld is 2mm world at the moment with all hands to the pump on the "secret VSF project" (now a "guess what it is" on the Wessex Games Facebook page if you think you've got an idea...).

As part of this project I finally finished the new Brigade Models French land ironclads this morning after a basing disaster earlier this week with some chinchilla sand that went pear shaped. The basing seems to take longer than painting the actual models, which I must say are rather lovely.

To help fill the bases on the smaller models and give an idea of scale I dot the odd 2mm Irregular cavalryman or infantry group on the base, as well as an odd foam tree. I'm currently debating whether to add some kapok smoke from the funnels, a decision being tipped by the fact that SWMBO can't find the bag she bought last Christmas!

I have also painted up two battalions of OPFOR infantry for the project as well as a regiment of cavalry. I'll hopefully be posting photos of these later in the week (when someone guesses what the "secret VSF project" actually is) along with some photos of the new land ironclad support for them which Brigade will be releasing in the next fortnight as part of the project!

After this it'll be back to the mud and blood of the trenches, and the skies above (and death in the dark future of the 41st millenium if Saul gets his way - those new Dark Eldar do look quite nice and the "barges" a little bit Space 1889!)

Monday, 18 October 2010

From Norway To Matabeleland...

With hobby activity on a go slow over the last fortnight due to work and no relief until the weekend I've been ploughing through books on various planes and trains across Europe.

The Odin Mission by James Holland is the first of a new(ish) series of WW2 adventures featuring Sergeant Jack Tanner. Kicking off during the Norway campaign, Tanner's unit is cut off behind German lines before becoming entangled in a mission of vital importance to the war effort. A bit of a slow starter, it did pick up and was quite a fun read to the extent I'll probably pick up the next even if Tanner is a bit too much of a 'super-soldier' at times for realism.

John Wilcox's The Shangani Patrol is the latest Simon Fonthill novel, this time centred around the little known Anglo-Matabele War of 1890. I really enjoy the Fonthill series and despite the relatively unknown subject matter, this was no exception with Fonthill, Jenkins 352 and Alice up to their eyes in adventure as Rhodes launches his plan to colonise the kingdom of the Matabele. Like the Zulu's the Matabele are a warlike tribe and being more prone to wearing full regalia in battle more colourful. I am at this time tempted to pick up some Matabele and British South African Company troopers from North Star after reading this book, but common sense may kick in before I get the chance!

I've taken next week off so I hope to get some serious 2mm work done, finish basing my French land ironclads (photos of the models on White Wine Sauce), some scenery and a brand new Land Ironclads army (with new land ironclads and contraptions) that forms the core of the "top secret" VSF project! :-)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Waterloo Conspiracy

In this day and age we are not surprised how the truth is often massaged and spun by politicians and other famous figures so I suppose it should not be a surprise that historical figures like the Duke of Wellington were equally as guilty.

One of my union reps has recently moved on to pastures new but before she left she bought me a copy of Peter Hofschröer's Wellington's Smallest Victory as a thank you because I "liked history and paint toy soldiers" :-)

The book is about Captain William Siborne's 'Great Model of Waterloo' (now residing in the National Army Museum) and how his quest for accuracy came up against both the Iron Duke and the Establishment. A really interesting book you cannot but help feel for Siborne as the whole process brought him financial distress and ruined his health.

Regarding Wellington, Hofschröer does tend to lean towards the Duke covering up a couple of mistakes to maintain his reputation (that in my opinion if correct make the victory even more impressive) but also states that Wellington's desire to play down the Prussian role in the battle may well have been for political reasons in a Europe still in turmoil in the post-Napoleon era. Worth a read if you have any interest in the period.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Kohima - Last Battle Of Empire

Jetting across France and taking even longer to get from Ipswich to Bristol by train over the last couple of weeks gave me an opportunity to get some serious reading in and I took the opportunity to read Fergal Keane's Road of Bones: The Siege of Kohima 1944.

Kohima was the high water mark of the Japanese attempts to invade India and Keane's excellent book not only covers the bloody siege fought in April 1944 by British, Burmese, Indian and Nepalese troops out numbered 10 to 1 by the Japanese, but also the build up to the Japanese attack, as well as painting the pre-War situation in the Naga Hills and the aftermath as the Empire forces waged a hard fought campaign to clear the Japanese from the area and relieve Imphal.

This wasn't a battle (or campaign) I was particularly familiar with and I was impressed with the way Keane brought it to life, sometimes quite viscerally and on other occasions incredibly movingly (even from the Japanese perspective). Keane has gone to great lengths to not only include the British story but also the Indian and Japanese ones, interviewing veterans and relatives from all sides. The tenacity exhibited by troops from both sides is incredible and it almost beggars belief that human beings could continue to function in the circumstances described.

Like most wargamers reading a battle history, the "gaming juices" were piqued. In many ways Kohima and the 1944 Burma campaign resemble the Western Front in 1918, albeit in largely inhospitable terrain. You could, of course, play skirmishes in 28mm, but my mind went more towards 6 or 10mm which would probably give you a better feel for the war using a WW1 set of rules as a basis to work on.

Even if Burma or WW2 isn't "your thing" I really recommend picking Road of Bones up (or sticking it on the Christmas Present list) as it is a powerful book of a story that needs telling that will stick in the memory for a long time. As the memorial at Kohima states:

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Sprue Village

You may recall that back in January I had one of those wargames "eureka moments" and modeled a small town for Aeronef from bits of sprue. A few months on and I needed to make up some terrain items for "the secret VSF project" set in North West Europe, so I set about constructing a small European village out of sprue.

After Googling Belgian and Dutch villages I developed a mental plan and started chopping up the spare sprue from the Plastic Soldier Russians. Unlike the Aegean Sprue Town, European Sprue Village needed proper sloped roofs so this necessitated sticking the sprue together into two layers and then carving the roof layer with a knife (I did try filing but a knife is much quicker).

Based on a CD with a small war memorial, church and some fields (designs observed flying over northern France last week) I've just finished painting the town up. I was surprised that many Belgian/French buildings are brick with orange tiled roofs and this dictated the scheme.

Now the village is done, I need to make up some woods (again lots of notes last week, surprised the lack of round or ragged edges woods there are in northern Europe) and get on with painting some wonderful new land ironclad models from Brigade...

And Now For Something Completely Different...

One of the "problems" being able to paint toy soldiers is being hit by flanking manoeuvres on the domestic front when young children or (more importantly for domestic detente) SWMBO requires you turn these skills to repairing toys or ornaments. Many digimon and penguins later SWMBO presented what I envisaged as a challenge too far, a box of largely destroyed (by the late dog) garden fairy ornaments. Initially I thought the challenge was to repair broken legs, wings and sculpt a missing arm but no, SWMBO had decided they could also be painted in "pastel rainbow colours" that "sparkle"...

With no Osprey to refer to on fairy colour schemes and a large selection of paints that would be redundant (SWMBO did not think the idea of fairies in three colour German camo was funny as I did) I picked up a few "brighter" colours from GW (even their darker colours are brighter if that makes sense) and tried to chip away at some of the fanciful ideas SWMBO had (such as "sparkling").

Not having painted large models for sometime (this fairy is about 120mm tall) it has been a slow process with washes and highlights etc and much pondering on the wings (in the end an hour Googling butterfly wings found one I decided would work).

Anyway fairy no. 1 is now finished and SWMBO has declared herself pleased which is the most important thing for the domestic detente, all I need do now is crack on with the other four... :-(