Saturday, January 19, 2019


The "other" Totenkopf Regiment (with white busby bags).
The 2nd Leib Hussars (approx 1866)

Greetings, dear readers. I am happy to report that not only have I arrived at the much-anticipated "other side" of the recent unpleasantness at work, but I have marked the moment with the happy completion of my most recent work-in-progress...
...the Northstar 1866 Prussian 1st Leib Hussars (Ta, daaaaaa!)
The same figures, pro painted, as shown in a review in a Recent Wargames Illustrated

These being newly released figures, the only painted samples I could find in my research were the pro painted ones (above)--a high standard to emulate, indeed. Before I go too far, I have to say that these figures (and the Northstar/Helion 1866, cavalry in particular) are exquisite sculpts. However, I would have to say that they are also not "entry-level" figures. I find them quite challenging (that might just be my approach, though). The detail is certainly there, but there isn't much relief to guide the brush, and the equipment and accoutrements are often "nested" (one on top another, or overlapping). As such, these things wind up taking extra "trickeration" to look distinct and "right" to the eye: this winds up being alot of effort expended on things like canteens, muskets, straps, and such before getting to the other kinds of details, like hungarian knots, that draw the eye.  (Although I do believe that rendering the other bits does enhance the overall look of the figure, so I'm not suggesting it's wasted effort).  Anyway, without further ado, here is my study of painting these figures--for those who may be painting them themselves or the just plain curious. As usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX.
The Prussian Leib Hussar, aka "Totenkopf" regiment, goes back to the Seven Year's War and Frederick the Great. In the disaster of 1806, it was one of the few units that came through with a sound combat record and possession of its colors. In 1808, it was reformed into Leib Hussar regiments Nr 1 and 2 and remained in service through the continental wars of the 19th Century (the timeframe concerned here). I chose to go with the "traditional" representation of the 1st regiment, with the red busby bags as opposed to the 2nd with white.

One peculiarity of the mid-century Prussian cavalry was that the striping in the musician's "swallow's nests" was diagonal as opposed to vertical. I was concerned that doing these as such, even if gotten right, would wind up looking wrong. Thus, this was one of those details that I was prepared to do "wrong" (ie, vertical) in order to look "right." However, the diagonal effect worked out fine to the eye. Interestingly, these and the Northstar Austrian Hussars (which I did as Romanians) lack the sabretache, although I did not notice it until painting these. Not sure why that is, but it doesn't detract from the figures. 
 Prussian hussar officers had brown busbies as opposed to black.
I did make some deliberately "wrong" decisions on the details on the back of the uniform. I originally painted the trefoils on the shoulder blades realistically--in other words, as loops with black centers. However, the optical effect of this rendered them virtually invisible; they looked like uncorrected stray marks at the end of the piping lines. Thus, I re-did them with solid centers, which nicely suggests the loop and brings out the detail. Oddly enough, the loop on the back of the collar, painted realistically with a hollow center, does look right to the eye (go figure). All the bits on the cartridge belts, the small sliver of carbine belt diverging from under the cartridge belt, the wolves teeth receding, but still visible, under the saddle roll, these are all indicative of the kinds of details that I mentioned taking "trickeration" to bring out. (For anyone interested in more of the minutia of how I painted these figures, there's a summary at the end of this post).

Left, 1st Leib Hussars (Northstar) and (right) the 5th Blucher Hussars (Foundry). I was concerned about how well the Northstar figures would mix with my Foundry Prussian hussars. The side-by-side eyeball test put those concerns to rest, thankfully. I'm not entirely sure that were I to do another hussar regiment whether I would go with Foundry or Northstar figs.  Both lines are fine, and each has its advantages.
Of course, the Leib Hussars fit in nicely with their Northstar bretheren, the Prussian Uhlans.
My entire Prussian 1866 cavalry contingent, ready for action: Foundry Dragoons, Cuirassiers, and Hussars. Northstar Uhlans and Hussars.
Black-garbed fellows with skulls on their hats--no Prussian force is complete without 'em.


                                                  *More boring details of painting: 
The cartridge belts are light gray touched over with flat white. The black uniforms are flat black drybrushed with dark gray (as are the busbys). Another interesting point of the uniform is that the officers' headgear was brown otter fur (his headgear is underpainted black with two levels of brown). The totenkopfs (death heads) are flat steel with a touch of shiny silver. The red busby bags are the dark red (Testor's Signal Red) drybrushed with a brighter flat red. The troopers' barrel sashes are underpainted in black, alternating with the dark/bright red combination and a light gray drybrushed with flat white. The officer's distinctions were silver--which I rendered in flat steel brushed over with a shinier silver. The officer's cartridge belt was silver edged in the attilla color (in this case black). Thus, the flat steel is centered in the belt with a bit of edge left. Technically, the officer's saddle cloth should have an elaborate floral motif in the front and back corners, but I decided that trying to represent that would wind up looking like a mess, even if rendered well, so I left it off. The saddle rolls are dark gray, black washed and then drybrushed with light gray. The leather belting is Humbrol flat leather. The carbines are Humbrol "Brown Bess" with flat steel barrels and brass fittings--all black washed and then the stocks are drybrushed in a touch of lighter brown with the metals highlighted. The flesh is Humbrol flesh with a black wash--then gone over to bring out the face details. The eyes I do in light gray and don't bother with eyeballs--given the dark wash and the shadows, the bit of lighter color in the eye socket is sufficient to the eye. There's probably more (I haven't mentioned the horses, for instance), but I think this will suffice.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

LUTZEN, 2019

The holiday distractions followed by heavy preparation to deliver a workshop at work in the third week of January have combined to suck much of the oxygen out of the room, hobby-wise.  Suffice it to say that I'm very much looking forward to the end of this week when all will be behind me.  Nevertheless, dear readers, there has been some modest time and energy available for the hobby, so I felt that I ought to introduce a small breeze of a report to clear out the stale air of the Year End post. As usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX in this report. 
On Friday, I was invited over to my friend Ralph's for a playtest of a pike and shot game (Battle of Lutzen, 1632) that he will be bringing to our club's February Game Night. Above Left, sharp eyed observers familiar with the battle will pick out the Imperial positions to the left and Protestant to the right, with road and ditch between them and Windmill Hill on the Imperial right. Above right, the fired town and the battery on Windmill Hill as seen from behind the Imperial position (hard to pick out, but there are flashing LEDs under the cotton in the town: a nice effect!).
Above: the pike and shot era is always a visual treat, but any game with Ralph takes it up a notch, with first rate terrain and superbly painted figures. This was a scaled down version for two players, mainly to check out some rules systems for the era (this being the first foray of these home-rules into the Thirty Years War).  The game night version of the game will feature enough figures for six players and be even more of a sight to behold--a reminder of why we play miniatures. 
Above Left, a closeup of the Imperial left wing cavalry: cuirassiers screened by Croats.  Above right, the Protestant array, with the Protestant left wing cavalry in the foreground. I took the part of the Imperials in the game.
Above Left, the Imperial "forlorn hope" musketeers holding the ditch at the start. Above Right, their ground-level view looking towards the Protestant array: Yikes! 
Above Left, in the role of the King of Sweden and Captain-General of the Protestants, Georgus Adophus contemplates his left wing cavalry.  Above Right, the scene from behind the Imperial right wing cavalry early in the game: this wing would see lots of action, with the Imperial dragoons and cavalry shielding the battery on windmill hill from the Protestant left wing cavalry.
Meanwhile, on the Imperial right (seen from behind the Imperial cavalry, above) the action would be more deliberate, with the Croats harassing and slowing down the Protestant horse while the cuirassiers held their ground and threatened from behind. 
Above Left, Georgus Adolphus maneuvers the Protestant main body while Ralph looks on from his "control" chair on the edge of the action. Above Right, the Protestants have seen off the forlorn hope and are at the ditch...
...eager to discuss the tenets of Protestant Doctrine, the Scots are the first to cross...
 ...while the Lombards, equally eager to advance several finer points on Catholicism, look on... 
...after a brutal exchange of views, the Scots are obliged to retire and reconsider their arguments.
At this point, it was getting rather late and we had achieved the aims of the evening's playtest, both in terms of what Ralph needed for his rules and upcoming game and in terms of playing with toy soldiers after a long week, so we called it a night.  Thanks to Ralph for hosting and to George for the "push of lead" from the other side!

In other news, there has been some work on the painting table as well, albeit at a leisurely pace: coming soon, my Prussian 1866 Leib Hussars (watch for them).


Sunday, December 30, 2018


Well, dear readers, it's time for the customary end-of-calendar year post. As the name of this blog suggests, this will not be a particularly systematic analysis, but more of a meander.  
I've never claimed to be a volume painter, and the modest tally of figures painted in calendar year 2018 will attest to this: 48 figures plus 3 cannon.  I would add, however, that this was the year of mounted units, conversions, specialty figures, and rather elaborate uniforms (that's my story and I'm sticking with it).  Thus, of the 48 figures, 36 of them were mounted, so one could count these as two figures each as opposed to one (2018 motto: we hates painting horses!).  This method of accounting would bring the total up to a slightly less embarrassing 81. The Hungarian Artillery conversion project in particular presented a major investment in time if not volume (but that's the nature of black powder artillery to some extent).  It's hard to translate equipment (cannon in this case) to figures, but I would be inclined to count the 3 crazy candy-striped Hungarian cannon to 6 mounted figures.  If one accepts this math (and since it's my blog, and my post, we will), and tallies a horse and rider as two figures,  this would raise the 2018 count to 103. I'll take it: what a relief to crack three digits! Not a bad bit of accounting considering I started at 48 (if you think this is bad, you should see the magic I work with my budget numbers at work!). 
In this self-referential passage, I will share a few reflections on blogging in this last year.  To begin with, I managed 42 posts (including this one) this year,  This is a bit behind my aim of posting once per week.  Still, as has been pointed out by others, the essential point of posting  (indeed blogging) is for the self.   Certainly sharing is an important aspect, but I think that one really has to want to post in order to sustain a blog, and that remained the case for me in 2018.  Despite the ugly circumstances going on in the world around us, I also strove to keep the blog content hobby-related, a place apart from all of that--in the far happier realm of toy soldiers and associated endeavors. For 2019, I have some interesting items in mind that I want to share, including several e books for antiquarians that I think will be of interest (one on the Hungarian revolt and one on the Koniggratz campaign).
I began 2018 with 41 followers and ended the year with 49.  Perhaps I'll crack 50 in 2019.  Having followers is certainly a nice validation, but my sense is that the readership is wider than the follower count.  I would be remiss if I didn't send a shout out to those bloggers who added my blog to their lists on their sites (especially in my blog's fledgling year).  Statistics indicate that other blogs are a major source of traffic to this site, and I believe those blogs are largely responsible for putting this blog on the map--now with 49 followers of its own. 
Speaking of blog lists, I expanded the number of recently updated blogs showing on my blog from five to ten.  I found myself going to other blogs as "landing zones" to check out their blog lists, which made me realize that I could expand my own list and be more of a resource in this way as well.  Speaking of resources, it may not have been very noticeable, but in the past year I've added to the resource areas of my blog, both the "Wargaming and Hobby Links" section (on the left hand side) and the "Other Useful and Interesting Links" section (on the right hand side).  If you've never noticed those, I would encourage you to poke around a bit.  I'll highlight a few of the 2018 additions:
In the "Other Useful and Interesting Links" section, the Obscure Battles blog (images above: clix pix for big pix) is an amazing resource, with not only historical information but also custom maps and panoramic photographs for many battles.  
The Stanford University French Revolution Digital Archive (image above taken from the opening page of the site) is a gold mine of information (one that I used in my Edward Gibbon and The French Revolution post).
And I've added a link to the essential Knotel uniform print collection
Looking at the "Wargaming and Hobby Links," I've added the Hyphenated Wars website, an excellent wargamer's resource on the continental wars of the 19th Century.
If you've ever been looking for an article on a specific topic in a wargaming magazine, then you'll want to visit the  Wargames Magazine Index project. 
Speaking of old school wargame magazines, I've added a link to a digital archive of the old Avalon Hill General.  
For those who indulge in computer wargames, there is the John Tiller Software site.  I intend to keep adding to these resources in 2019.
It's interesting to note that the Battle of Dybbol report holds its position as the most popular post, but Ed's Basic Basing , a relatively late addition (August), has climbed to a spot in the top five. So, there's something old and something new. Among the content pages, the Nine Years War page, with 1697 views, is by far the most visited, with the Dubious Designs games page coming next with 895. The Colonial Gaming, Chocolate Box Wars, and Baroque Battles pages are in the 700s, with the Smalle Warre page in the 400s and Ramillies 1815 in the 200s.  These metrics would reinforce two of my major aims for 2019: to complete my Chocolate Box Wars rules and to post my Baroque Battles rules.  In the case of Baroque Battles, that is an actual convention-tested system, and I have a draft of the rules in progress.  I just need to sit down and bang it out. In the case of Chocolate Box Wars, that's still in the late concept stage and will take a bit more effort.  I should be beginning playtests soon, however (fingers crossed!).  
Well, this post is quickly turning into a wall of text, so I'll wrap it up 'ere I wind up typing into 2019!  I still very much enjoyed blogging in 2018 as an end unto itself.  Having said this, I also must say that the encouragement and motivation gained from the blogging community (other bloggers and blog readers alike) has been an important source of enhancement for my hobby experience in 2018.  So, in closing, I would like to say, dear readers, Happy New Year and... 


Wednesday, December 26, 2018


 Gift from the Wife: Reindeers and Fast Attack Submarines!

Just a quick post here on Boxing Day, dear readers, to record an accidental (but welcome) visitation from the Wargaming Santa this Xmas.  Before proceeding to that bit, however, I should like to point out the above item, the likes of which I could not have imagined until I opened it on Xmas morning.   Both of us (the wife and I) are retired US Army, and we live near the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard  (a place where they work on nuclear submarines, better known among locals as the Kittery Naval Yard, since it's actually in Kittery, Maine).  Herself uses the services on the installation, to include the Navy Exchange and Commissary, where she ran across the above, which she scooped up and gifted to me (wonder why?).  I find it wacky enough to be service irrelevant (nautical reindeer? a non-sequitur to say the least), and thus proudly wore it on Xmas (and intend to do so in the future).  Now, to move along to the Accidental Toys for Xmas story.  

It seems that once upon a time, our hero (your humble correspondent) placed several orders for figures and whatnot in October/early November, expecting delivery of said items well before the end of December. Well, as of Dec 23rd, they had not yet materialized.  By then, I had resolved that I would not be seeing these items until after the holidays.  Imagine my glee, then, when I found both packages of wargaming goodness waiting there in the mailbox on Dec 24th---an Xmas Miracle!

Xmas toy goodness #1: Three Deluxe Starter Sets of Kriegspiel blocks along with three Kriegspiel Ruler sets.  In the above image, I've laid out the contents of a starter block set.  It contains two sets  (one red, one blue) of  six battalions, five batteries, four squadrons, and various break down blocks.  Despite having seen kriegspiel blocks in pictures, I was surprised to see how small the blocks were (I include a pencil in the above image for scale).  I happen to like this particular producer, Photon Cutter Studios, because their blocks come ready to go, as in no stickers to mess with!
I've long had multiple versions of the Kriegspiel rules on hand, along with several sets of maps, which I've been reading and thinking about for the last few years (one of those "side" interests we all seem to have cooking but not yet ready to serve).  With these block sets I have removed the hurdle between reading and doing.  I hope to dabble a bit more deeply into this kind of gaming in the upcoming year.
Xmas toy goodness #2: a long anticipated box of goodies from Northstar miniatures for my Chocolate Box Wars/Mid Century collection.  Arriving was another batch of Austrian 1866 gunners,which I will eventually convert (surprise) to expand my Hungarian artillery contingent (well, one does, doesn't one?).  Additionally, I picked up some of the newly released Northstar 1866 Prussian Hussars (Totenkopf, aka Leib Hussars).   Previously, I had relied on Foundry for my Prussian 1866 hussars.  As a matter of fact, I was just about to place another order from Foundry to represent the Leib Hussars when I stumbled upon these newly released Northstar figures.... 
 ...although I'm not a big fan of "glue arm on" figures, I am favorably impressed with these sculpts.  In size and detail, they are consistent with with the 1866 Prussian Uhlans and Austrian Hussars , among others,  in the superb Northstar line.  These also have the death's head sculpted onto the busby, a detail not on the Foundry hussars.  I had expected to get started on these hussars right after my Hungarian commanders.  The delay, however, wound up being a happy accident. In effect, it saved me from myself and brought about a small hiatus in hobby activity for the holidays, which worked out well. 
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