Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Although there are mounted Hungarian command figures in the pipeline coming from Steve Barber Models (one of which I actually commissioned), there are none to be had at the moment (well, there is a mounted general officer, but I'm not particularly taken by the look of him: a matter of taste; what can I say?).  Thus, I've decided to go ahead with some conversions of my own  (big surprise, right?) to both get some figures on the table now and also because I fancy the way that they will look (and probably because I have a problem and can't stop doing these me!)...

 LTG Artur Georgei

Looking about, I found figures suitable to do three commanders.  As usual, in this post you may clix pix for BIG PIX.  First up, there is  Lt Gen Artur Georgei, pictured above (image taken from the indispensible Gyozo Somogyi Honved Army 1848-49).
For LTG G, I went with this figure from the Perry Miniatures ACW Confederate Commanders set. He's pretty close, to include the high boots. Two key correspondences on the Perry fig are the short jacket and the brimmed hat (although the turned up corner is a bit of a license: you can't have it all when converting!)
I added a feather to the hat using lead foil reinforced by J&B Kwik Weld (miracle stuff for metal on metal and jobs like this). I shaved down the details--the vest, cravat, and holster. I covered over the details on the "gunslinger" belt and buckle with some green stuff to create a sash.  The lapels aren't quite right, but they'll actually be a better platform to paint-in the button braiding details.   I think this fellow will be quite snappy when done.

 Honved Staff Officer In the Uniform of a Border Regiment
Next up, I decided that I could add this rather dandy looking Grenz officer to the general's staff.  (Image again taken from the excellent Smogyi text).   
For this fellow, I once again turned to my go-to conversion figure, the Spanish Colonel from the Perry Carlist War Isabelino Foreign Command set.  Readers of this blog may recall that I've converted this same figure into both a Danish Chief of Staff and an Austrian General
For this conversion, I added the feather tuft on the headgear using green stuff (as I have before), and I shaved down the epaulettes, buttons, and other details on the coat and hat. This will replicate the clean lines of the uniform and allow me to paint-in the single row of buttons in place of the double that the figure had. The coat isn't an exact match for the Grenz officer's tailcoat, but it is close enough to my eye and will look right from all but a head on viewing angle. 

Count Dembinski
 Honved General Staff Officer (left) in Slant Cap (right)

For the third and last command figure, I can represent either Count Dembinski or a Honved General Staff Officer (images once again from the  Smogyi text).  I haven't decided yet.  Both would be in the green jacket and pelisse. The major difference would be the color of the slant cap.  The staff officers wore green hats. 
For this conversion, I used a combination of a Steve Barber Senior Honved dismounted command figure and a Foundry Austrian Red Hussar from their Maximillian Adventure range. I chose the latter because it has the distinctive (and spot on) mid century hussar attila (and is an excellent figure sculped by Aly Morrison, of course: can't go wrong!).
Starting Point (left): The Austrian red hussar and the Honved command figure. The conversion (right): the head of the Honved figure on the torso of the red hussar (sorry, Aly!).  The proportions between the SB head and the Foundry torso meshed very well, I think.  I'm leaning towards painting this fellow up in the Count Dembinski motif as opposed to the staff officer, but you'll have to tune in again see which one it will be.

And that, dear readers, is what I'm up to at the moment.  

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Although we may play with toy soldiers in this hobby, we recognize that it is a bloodless pursuit with no consequence. Nevertheless, it is well that we pause at this time of year to recognize the reality of the stakes involved for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in military service, past, present, and future. 
"Bury Me With Soldiers"  A poem written by the Rev. Charles R. Fink, a Roman Catholic Priest of St. Philip Neri’s Church in Northport, NY who served in Vietnam from March 1969 to March 1970 as a Sergeant in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade.

....A powerful version of the Rev Fink's verse set to song by Micheal Oneal

The troops I know were commonplace;
They didn’t want the war
They fought because their fathers and
Their father’s fathers had before.
They cursed and killed and wept –
God knows they’re easy to deride –
But bury me with men like these;
They faced the guns and died.

As a (now) old soldier, the Rev Fink's lines resonate more every year.

Monday, November 5, 2018


Battle Honors 25mm 1866 Austrian Uhlans 
In this post, dear readers, we return to painting units as opposed to single command figures. Having recently added Uhlans to my Prussian force, I thought it only proper that I should continue to follow the lancer longitude and produce a counterpart Austrian contingent.  After all, it just wouldn't do to have Prussian but not Austrian uhlans given how much the latter were a signature presence in the Austrian force structure.  For this project, I turned to the Battle Honors 25mm Austro Prussian line of figures. This is a venerable set of figs, as such on the small side, but the sculpts themselves are better than average for their time (with good detail and fair proportions).  I've tapped this most comprehensive figure line before when looking to fill gaps in my mid century continental forces.  The cavalry works well enough with other lines so long as you don't mix the figures.   
From the NYPL Vinkhuijzen Collection

The 1866 Austrian uhlan uniform differs from its Napoleonic predecessor in several ways. The most distinctive is the falling crest on the czapka, which is held in place by two faux metal chinstraps.  Also, although not reflected in the above images, the czapka cord was actually not attached to the headgear in practice but draped around the neck (according to the Osprey on the Austrian Cavalry, 1836-66).  Interestingly, the Battle Honors sculpts get these idiosyncratic details right, to include the disembodied czapka cord.  I must say that it was a good thing that I had read about these points in my references.  Otherwise, I would have been hard pressed to decipher all the lines and cords on the figures, especially in the naked lead stage.  Curiously enough some of the other details are off, like the absence of the "flounders" on the left shoulder (except for the officer, which has them), and instead of the single cord that drapes down from the crossbelt there are what appear to be two aiguillettes coming down from the left shoulder, which look like they might be holdovers from another version of this sculpt. I managed to shake myself out of this deep focus on these details, however, and shifted gears to the reality of presentation. Thus, I decided to paint the figures as sculpted, which is 99 percent correct at the micro level but 100 percent correct in terms of actual presentation.  In the below studies, as usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX.  

Like my Prussians, I added two regiments plus a trumpeter...

By 1866, all Austrian uhlan regiments shared the same red uniform details (piping, cuffs, lapels, and trouser stripes).  Although the colored lapels were capable of being covered, leaving only the trim (like the Prussian uhlans), and references said that the Austrian uhlans wore the standard gray light cavalry coveralls, not a single illustration I came across showed anything other than the colored lapels and the green trousers with red stripe.  Thus, I went with this more colorful scheme--as befitting of "chocolate box soldiers" in the last hurrah before khaki!
Interestingly, the top of the officers' czapkas were in the regimental color, while the troopers' were black leather, which is another difference between the mid-century and Napoleonic uniforms. 

I wound up hand painting the lance pennons. The black counterstripe on the yellow field  is another distinction of the mid century Austrian uhlan kit. I replaced the lances that came with the figs with Northstar wire spears, cut to length so that they would fit in the storage boxes along with the rest of my figures--always a potential issue with lancers in the upright position, exacerbated in my case by the added height of the thick bases.  Fortunately, these lances didn't come out looking too stubby.
The regimental distinctions were reflected in the czapka colors--reds, blues, greens, white, and of course, imperial yellow.  I decided to break from the usual signature imperial yellow headgear and went with the more novel blue and red.

Just as with my Prussians, I did a trumpeter, even though it would be an "extra" figure.  The falling red plume of the musician is a rather good look.  The black and yellow cords and mixed black and yellow in the epaulettes on these figures was a challenge. I was thinking of just leaving them yellow--which would have been another 100 percent solution in practice--but since I had done these details on my Austrian Hussars (also Battle Honors) to good effect, I thought I'd do them on the uhlans for consistency.  Doing these proved more challenging and time consuming than on the hussars, which was contrary to expectation (Something more involved than hussars? Impossible). Fortunately, the figure count was low enough that I was able to sustain the effort and get at least a consistent look across the figures.
Trumpeter, sound the charge!

A surprisingly snappy looking group--a close second to hussars.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018


The Happy Discovery. I think I'll call him Klaus (as in early Xmas present)

When putting together my original 19thC Prussian forces, I went with the Northstar 1866 Prussians as my base figures. Unfortunately, when Northstar picked up the line from Helion, they seem to have reduced the range, leaving a few gaps. Specifically, there are no mounted officers. At  that time, however, I was lucky enough to scoop up a few Prussian mounted commanders via Caliver Books, who were then clearing out their Helion odds and ends.  Readers of this blog may recall an earlier post wherein I described pressing a specialty figure, a Prussian 1866 uhlan trumpeter, into the role of command figure due to this shortage.  Well, there has been a surprise development since then.

Because we were going to have some work done on the house, I was obliged to do something that I had long been putting off--clearing out and organizing my lead mountain and associated jumble of hobby stuff in my basement painting area.  This was a laborious, two- day activity, but I diligently went through every box, bag, and bin. In so doing, I found things I had forgotten, brought forward lapsed projects into the light of day, and struck gold: a forgotten Northstar Prussian Command figure! How I came to lose track of such a key fellow is beyond me. Well, not really. I know exactly how it happened: too much stuff and too little focus (oh, shiny...oh, shiny...)--a cousin to the syndrome of ordering a book and then discovering you already had it--I'm sure nobody but me has experienced that one.... 

Taking this  as an object lesson, I promptly painted him and plopped him on a command stand before I had the chance to put him "someplace safe" and forgot him again...
...and with the addition of Klaus, Prinz Frederick's staff has been expanded by 33% (not counting Trumpeter).    

Sometimes, even a mundane chore can render a reward!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


A StuG (of course) menaces the allies at the Tobacco Factory. 

This last Saturday our club gathered for its annual game day.  This year, the destination was Italy, 1943, using the Iron Cross rules.
Early in the day, the donut selection was fulsome and the game masters were on hand to set up their games: from left to right: Mark D, Charlie (in the green shirt near the back of the room), Ralph (vest and cap bending over table), and AJ.  We had 10 players and 4 game masters in the room when the time came to get going--a respectable gathering, I think.  However, it was not enough to float 4 games.  So we decided to concentrate on two tables (AJ's and Ralph's), resulting in two very rousing 6 player games that started in the morning and roared (literally) into the late afternoon, when we finally broke up and headed out to dinner.  Nevertheless, credit is still is due to Mark D and Charlie for being part of the crew who planned the day, had their games ready, and were good sports about supporting the larger cause--they were invaluable player-coaches in the games that they played in.  As usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX in this report.
Mid-day and all are actively involved in AJ's game in the foreground and Ralph's in the background.

AJ's Game: The Tobacco Factory
AJ's stunning custom-made model of the tobacco factory was the centerpiece of action on his table that pitted the British vs the Germans.

I did not play in AJ's game, so can't comment on it other than to say that it had to be decided at the close of the day by a set of "sudden death" victory conditions that AJ came up with on the spur of the moment. The decision leaned German at the end, but by all accounts it was an entertaining, balanced experience, the sort that ended with a shout on the final exchange of dice.  You can read a more complete AAR on AJ's blog.   Despite playing on the next table I did manage to get some shots of AJ's game...
Above Left: AJ briefing players before the game.  Seated next to him are Team Germany, from left to right, John M, Josh, and Byron. Above Right: Bob O and Kevin of Team Britain contemplate the situation (Phil, not pictured, made up the third member).
 Ground's eye view from behind the German line
Behind the British line looking towards the Germans.

Ralph's Game: The Battle of Alta Villa
I played in this game, which pitted US forces vs German for control of key terrain and the town of Alta Villa.  I was on the left flank of Team USA, but more on that in a bit.  Here is the synopsis of the scenario:

Historically, between the 11th and 13th of September 1943 battle raged on hill 242 and in the town of Alta Villa. Elements of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division fought a back and forth battle with the 142nd and 143rd Regimental Combat Teams of the American army. At our game day we took up the fight just as the Americans captured hill 242, the dominant terrain feature in the area. The Panzergrenadiers held most of the town of Alta Villa, the other important terrain feature in the area. The Germans did not control the upper village of Alta Villa. There a small, beleaguered American garrison protecting an overburdened aid station struggled to survive.  US objectives were to break through and liberate the US garrison, hold hill 242, and take Alta Vista. The Germans were to take Hill 242 and to hold Alta Vista--also capture the US garrison. 

Above Left: Ralph briefing players on the game. Above Right, members of Team Germany, from left to right, Michael, Rob, and Mark D.  Not pictured are fellow members of Team USA, Earl (commander), and Charlie.  I would spend most of the day engaged with Michael and Rob.  
Above: pre-setup looking at the terrain on the US left, where I would spend my time. The US would start on the right half of the table, as seen in the picture.  The Germans would start on the left side of the table.  The US plan was for the main effort to be on the right, the top of the picture, with Charlie, who would have most of the armor and push for the town from that side.  Earl would occupy the hill with a strong force and suppress the town and support the attack by fire.  I would take the left with the mission of securing the approaches to Hill 242 and holding down German forces in the area. I would have an infantry platoon of three squads and a medium machine gun team reinforced with a Sherman tank. Earl, in the center, would have a platoon plus a Sherman 76, plus the company assetts: a 57mm AT gun, CO HQ, and Mortars. Charlie, on the right, would have an armored car, a Sherman 76, and an infantry platoon, plus some armor and recon reinforcements. 
 A squad of my bully infantry coming up to support their comrades in the distance.
 Earl's company command post on Hill 242.
Charlie kicks off the attack on our right.
The 1st Squad of my platoon pushes forward and occupies a key woods. These fellows would be nicknamed "the immortals" for defying the odds and surviving constant incoming fire. Eventually, they were eliminated, but their persistence gummed up the German's freedom of maneuver on the flank and kept them from making a push until late in the game. 
My 2nd and 3rd US Infantry Squads move up and trade close range fire with Michael's German infantry.  These squads would exchange lumps and attrit one another for a good part of the game.
The view from behind the German right, opposing my heroic US reinforced platoon. Notice the skulking StuG (there was another behind the hill to the left of the picture). 
Keeping those StuGs skulking: my Sherman tank and machine gun team deployed in depth with fields of fire covering the approaches. The fire from the machine gun was key to sustaining the firefight out on the left in the open. Near the end of the game, the Germans added two motorcycle platoons to this flank and made a final push to get through, which was thwarted,  thanks in part to streaky German dice (one StuG got off three quality shots at my Sherman to no effect: but it made for high drama!). 
Above left, a German SP gun would trade shots with Earl's tank on the hill (above right). Eventually, the Sherman took out the SP, despite getting hit something like 8 times without getting brewed up.  

(with apologies to Ray
As you may have noticed, the dice were streaky for both sides, making for an entertaining game full of improbable results. The phrase, "Anthing but a 1" wound up being a prophetic curse on more than one occasion. Here is an example of what wound up being "normal" on this day.  On my flank, I was reinforced by a scout half track, which I brought up to counter 2 German motorcycle platoons that had reinforced the Germans.  As I lined up a shot from the newly arrived half track, Michael successfully activated one of his StuGs to interrupt: he got a clean shot off, hitting the half track.  BUT...there was a 1 in 10 chance that the shot would not penetrate--sure enough, Michael rolled a 1 on the penetration check.  The half track took a suppression marker, fired, and managed to put the final 2 hits on the targeted motorcycle platoon, taking it off the table.  The half track would get smoked in the next turn, but that's the kind of day it was for both sides all day long. 

-------------We Now Resume Your Battle Report------------

Above left: Mark D's Marder sheltered in the town square until about half way through the game, when it came out to take up the argument with Earl's Sherman on Hill 242 after the German SP gun went kaboom. Earl's tank couldn't touch the Marder. However, it was quickly (and improbably) taken out by Charlie's scout car swinging in from US right (like I said, it was that kind of game).   Above right, mortar fire lands on a German position in the town as seen from Earl's position on Hill 242. 
Both sides received reinforcements, most notably an additional Sherman 76 and an M10 tank destroyer for the US, and a Mark IV and Mark V (Panther!) for the Germans. The US armor went to Charlie in support of our attack on the right, and they ran into the German armor, which was sent to their left.  After knocking out the MK IV, momentum was with the US, with 3 US tanks on the wing vs 1 suppressed Panther. But the Panther then shrugged off the suppression and dispatched every surviving US armored vehicle in sight (in other words, all of 'em!).  This took the steam out of the US attack, which left the town in German hands.  For their part, the Germans failed to take Hill 242.  So the US and Germans were even on those objectives. As far as losses, each side had pummeled the other to about the same extent. Given that the US had not managed to break through to the beleaguered holdouts in the northern part of Alta Villa, however, the decision leaned German in the end.  The winner:loser determination was secondary to the excellent day of gaming we had.  
I'm reminded of how fortunate we are for being able to stage events like this on a regular basis, thanks to the efforts of a crew of excellent game masters and the good fellowship of club members.   

For more eye candy, I highly recommend checking out Michael's Flicker Album and Rob's Imgur album. 
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