Tuesday, December 3, 2019

DANISH DRAGOONS DOUBLED: A SECOND REGIMENT JOINS THE RANKS

The newest addition to my Post-Napoleonic/Chocolate Box Wars collection:  Northstar 1864 Danish Dragoons.

Travel, the recent Thanksgiving holiday, and life in general may have slowed blogging, but there has been hobby progress.  In this post, dear readers, I follow up on my To Arms, To Arms! post of Oct 29--with the first unit among those being prepped there to be completed (others should be completed--fingers crossed--prior to the Yule).  In this post, as usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX...
 Austrian 1866 Dragoons Converted to Represent Red Coated Danish Dragoons
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The Danes were my first foray into post-Napoleonic forces. At that time, Northstar did not offer any Danish cavalry.  Thus, I converted Northstar 1866 Austrian Dragoons to represent Danish Dragoons (in the earlier red-coated Danish dragoon kit).  Although pre-blog, there is a post on TMP outlining this project.  Fast forward to the completion of my other major contingents (Prussians, Austrians, Hungarians...) and I realized that my Danes could use some updating, specifically in the cavalry department, which consisted of three regiments: the aforementioned single regiment of dragoons, the Danish Guard Hussar, and the Danish Horse Guard .  The prompt to take action came when I saw that Northstar had updated their 1864 line to include Danish Dragoons.  Here is my study of these figs:
The sculpts are in the less colorful later uniform and wearing the greatcoat typical of the 1864 campaign.  I do think that the helmet with the steel fittings is a rather smart feature of the later uniform.
Although depictions of this uniform vary, they generally show a steel/grayish light blue uniform with no color differentiation between the uniform, greatcoat, and saddle furniture (very unique in that way). To reflect the color, I used Humbrol 157 Matte Azure Blue, a diluted wash of black, and then a fairly "heavy" highlight of Humbrol 89 Matte Mid Blue. I took some license with he saddle furniture and used a slightly darker shade of blue to create some separation between the rider and furniture.  When I tried a historically correct rendition with them in the same color, it left the figures looking unfinished.  So this became one of those touches that I  deliberately got "wrong" in order for the figures to look "right." 

As usual, the Northstar Sculpts have details that take closer examination (and sharp eyes) to appreciate--like the van dyke facial hair on the command figure (left). Although under gaming circumstances, nobody will probably ever see this, I know it's there and that's what matters, I suppose.
The Danes can now can field a proper Dragoon Brigade...
...as part of a proper Danish Cavalry division. 

Excelsior!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

HUNGARIAN REVOLT PLAYTEST (VNB BN SCALE VARIANT)


Mid-battle view from behind the Hungarian Division Command Stand.

This slightly delayed post, dear readers, is a quick battle report on a recent game set in the Hungarian Revolt (1848/49) between the Austrians and Hungarians.  The object of the game was to exercise a two-stand variant of my VnB 19th Century Battalion Scale rules. This variant, with two stand infantry units, is suitable for smaller level games: roughly a division to division plus a side (whereas the base system using single stand units can handle corps sized battles).  As usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX in this report. I would recommend that you read Mark D's and AJ's battle reports as well on their excellent blogs.
The table as seen from behind the Austrian start position, with the starting brigades in their deployment areas.  For this game, I took the Hatvan Scenario and cut it down to a division (+) per side on a smaller table. It was tossed together, so I went with a minimalist layout without much "garnish" to jazz up the terrain. Each side had two objective areas (circled in yellow and marked on the table with a cobblestone template--which was not considered defensible terrain, just as markers to delineate the areas).  If one side ended it's turn with one of its objective areas threatened, defined as within range and line of sight (musket or artillery) of an enemy unit, then all units on that side would have to withdraw 6" in their next turn, and afterwards could not move farther away from the closest friendly objective until the objective that was in danger was no longer threatened.  If a side's turn ended and both its areas were under threat, then automatic victory for the other side.  I recommend these simple victory conditions for anyone looking for a quick game that organically causes players to  maintain a coherent battle line and respond to enemy breakthroughs (or threats to breakthrough). Each side started with a brigade on the table for the first two turns, with one brigade of the player's choice coming on between the objective areas per turn after that (with Division command and artillery coming in with any command).  This game used a new multi-stand variant of my VnB 19th Century Battalion Scale Reference Sheet.
Mark D, of Mark D's Gaming Site, played the part of the Austrian. The Austrian 1st Brigade at start, along with Austrian Chief of Staff.
AJ, of AJ's Wargaming Blog, played the part of the Hungarians.  The Hungarian 1st Brigade at start, along with the Hungarian Chief of Staff. 
Both players drifted to the flank with their initial brigades (the Hungarian right and Austrian left, respectively) and a very interesting brigade-level chess match ensued, with the cavalry squadrons on both side mixing it up (with the Austrian Uhlans and Frewilliger Jager battalion eventually getting the worst of it).
Out on the end of the line, a half battalion of  Hungarian rifles took up residence in the farmstead on their side of the line (seen in the distance) while the Austrians threw a half battalion of Grenzers into the orchard on theirs (in the foreground).  Things would escalate here as both sides committed more half battalions to contest the orchard.  In the distance, the Austrian Uhlans and Hungarian Volunteer hussars mix it up.
The first follow on brigades arrive, the Austrian and Hungarian 2nd brigades (both accompanied by Division Artillery and Command).
With its grenadiers visible behind the line, the Austrian 3rd Brigade marches on. The Austrian Freiwilliger Jager battalion (see in the foreground) had been reduced to one strength point in the early fighting. They would give up their place in the line and take up a position in the town on the extreme left of the Austrian position.
 
Both sides extend the line as more forces arrive and things start shaping up into a proper battle. For those familiar with VnB, in this variant, battalions are two stands and show that they are stationary by going into line (the "columns" are not actually mass columns, but are battalions operating "in depth"--or "normal" in VnB terms).  Half battalions are single stands (which go stationary in the traditional way, with a marker), and cavalry has the option of deploying as two-stand "regiments" or splitting strength points up into single stand "squadrons."
In the orchard out on the Austrian left/Hungarian Right, two Austrian Grenzer half battalions and a half battalion of Kaiser Jagers are more than holding their own against the German Legion (half battalion) and Hungarian half battalions of Grenzers and Rifles... 
...but the Hungarian 3rd Brigade, led by the elite Red Cap battalion, is marching to the right...
..and crashes the party, hitting the Kaiserjagers.  The Hungarians would go on to push the Austrians out of the orchard...
 ...after which, the 3rd brigade would continue on into the end of the Austrian main battle line...
...and achieve a breakthrough!  Austrian commander Mark had judiciously expended his command points to reduce his battered left wing brigade's waver level, and so this reverse was not as drastic as it might have been.  Although worn down, his white-coats still may be able to hang on for a few more turns here.
Meanwhile, on the other flank, the lines of cavalry face off. Above left: the Austrian cavalry brigade. Above right: the combined Hungarian cavalry. 
In a display of reckless elan, the Hungarian cavalry charges down the line (left), supported by the advance of the Hungarian National Guard infantry battalion (right),which draws the fire of the Austrian infantry away from the Hungarian hussars. Moving to close range, the Hungarian National Guard unit would have to check morale.  Being a variable morale unit, it would have to first check to find its morale grade: this day, it proved as steady as the regulars, coming in at 5.
...although the dashing Hungarians would take out the Austrian cavalry half-battery and recoil the Austrian Uhlans, the Austrian Cuirassiers repulsed their attackers with loss and the Uhlans would be poised to counter charge in their turn. A mixed result compared to the Hungarian 3rd Brigade's assault on the other end of the line. 

Obligatory view of Hungarian candy-striped guns. Batteries are two strength points while half batteries were represented with one strength point.

At this point, the game was called--a predictably inconclusive outcome given a balanced scenario played by two veteran VnB gamers. However, the aims of the afternoon had been achieved. I had exercised my system and gathered with friends to play with toy soldiers on a Saturday afternoon: result! Thanks to AJ and Mark D!

Excelsior!

Monday, November 11, 2019

REMEMBRANCE DAY/VETERANS DAY

Monument to the US Army 91st Division AEF at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA 
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When I was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, the 91st Div Monument always struck me as both awe inspiring (the picture does not capture the impressive size of this monument) and unappreciated -- despite the fact that it is at the end of the parade field in front of the HQ, it is off in the distance at the edge of the area, seldom noticed.  A metaphor, in other words, for why it is important for us to take a deliberate pause to remember the sacrifice of those who fell in service to their nation--lest we forget that the freedoms we enjoy must be safeguarded, sometimes at terrible cost.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

TO ARMS! TO ARMS!


The recent expansion of the Northstar 1864 figure lines, specifically the addition of a Prussian mounted command set, Prussian dragoons, Prussian hussars (of the non-death-head variety), and Danish dragoons, prompted me to round out my mid century Prussians and Danes. This project will involve a new Prussian hussar, a new Danish dragoon, two new Prussian dragoons, and a new Prussian command figure. So this is a multi-phased project that will take some time.  As I was thinking about getting started, however, I found myself contemplating the troublesome chore of attaching the sword arms to most of these figures (a "feature" of the Northstar cavalry--and an all too common one, for my likes, among contemporary figures in general).  Let's just say that I'm not a fan of separate sword arms, especially when they all wind up looking pretty much alike in the end, anyway.  Because the Northstar sculpts are so exquisite, however, I am willing to put up with this pain-in-the-a** step (as I was for my Mongols, but I digress).  I guess I'm not a modeler at heart since I don't relish this part of the hobby.  Back on topic: rather than spreading out this pain over multiple iterations, I decided to do the prep up front for the lot.  Thus, in this post, dear readers, I present my method for handling the troublesome task of attaching sword arms to figures. This also works for other bits--I'm sure others have their methods, but I hope someone may benefit from seeing how I do it. In this post, you may, as usual, clix pix for BIG PIX.

 THE MATERIALS
In addition to the figure(s), I use toothpicks, some hobby-tac (putty of any type will work), and J-B Kwik Weld, which is a two-part epoxy.  This is the quick drying version of a "liquid weld" which is the sort of thing that they use to mend cracked engine blocks: let's just say that it handles metal-on-metal very well, indeed.  The downside is that it is not tacky, so no help in holding parts together before it's dry--but I have a solution to this problem, if you will but read on.  I use this stuff for all my metal on metal figure projects rather than the various super glues--which may be easier to use on the front end but which often fail when figures get handled. We've all witnessed or experienced that awkward moment when a sword arm, weapon, or standard gets bumped and goes spinning off to lay accusingly in the center of the table--or worse, it zooms to nether regions off-table, the last trace being a small "click" heard when it disappears into another dimension never to be seen again.  This will never happen with J-B Kwik: trust me. You'll only have to attach these bits once, and they'll stay put (as for doors into other dimensions, you're on your own).  

STEP ONE
Take a bit of hobby-tac putty and roll it into a small ball
 Push the ball onto the figure so that it conforms to the shape and holds in place. 
 Put the sword arm (or whatever) in place, making sure that it makes an impression in the hobby-tac putty: push the putty up and around the sword arm to create a solid mold that holds it in place. 
You now have a stable, dry test fit for your sword arm.  Since you'll be taking the sword arm off again, you''ll want to make sure that you don't wrap the putty around it.  Set the little fella aside.

STEP TWO 
Squeeze out equal parts of the J-B Kwik Weld (white hardener and black "steel"). Take a toothpick and mix them together until they are a consistent gray color.  You will have about 10 minutes to work with this mixture before you might need to do another batch: a little will go a long way.
Take your figure and remove the sword arm, pulling it away to leave an indent in the putty where it used to be. This will not only hold the arm but will help to guide you when putting it back in place.
Pick up a glob of the Kwik-Weld on a toothpick and dab it into the arm socket. 
Put the sword arm in place. You can play around with and adjust the fit at this point. As needed, scrape away any excess weld with a toothpick. It should be noted that the Qwik-Weld also works as a good filler. 
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STEP THREE
 Place the figure in a secure spot and let the epoxy set... 
...repeat for as many figures as needed.
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It is probably fair to say that in addition to necessity, aversion may be the mother of invention. It was my aversion to sticking bits together that caused me to come up with this solution. If it works for me, then I think it could work for pretty much anybody! 
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BONUS COVERAGE
As long as I was in the neighborhood, I thought I'd conclude with a bit of a work-in-progress post. I put the riders on these handy painting stands, tailor made by my friend, fellow blogger AJ.  The riders are held in place on these stands with a bulb of hobby tac (I believe AJ glues his).  For this (and other like projects), I match horses and riders ahead of time, test fitting them and modifying as needed so that they sit squarely.  Then I glue the horses to popsicle sticks (a fairly standard move).  In the above picture, you see the riders lined up with their assigned horses.  All well and good, but how to make sure that the riders will be matched with the right horses once all of this gets moved around--and covered over in white spray primer?
Answer: the bottom of each of the rider-stands is numbered.  I mark the underside of the sticks holding the horses with the corresponding rider numbers.  I can then move them around as I like and also spray prime the lot without losing this information.  After priming, I'll take a minute to write the numbers on the topside of the rider stands and horse sticks for easy reference. 
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Well, dear readers, the horses and riders are matched; the figures are prepped and ready to prime: it's all downhill from here!

Excelsior!
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