One of the first non-French napoleonic miniatures I bought were this Vistula Legion battalion from Murawski Miniatures. I had already read the biography of Heinrich von Brandt, who served in the Legion, and there are several images (like the one above) that just etched this unusual regiment into my brain. However, I'll also give you my excuse for including it in my 1812 army.
The Rise and Fall of the Vistula Legion
Born in 1808, the Vistula Legion was not a new formation but a renaming of the Polacco-Italian Legion, which in turn had an older history as various Polish formations had fought for France against the powers that partitioned their country. It was a formation that ebbed and flowed, at it's greatest four regiments of two field battalions each that fought mainly in Spain until 1812, where three of the regiments formed a division that was officially included in the Guard. This was both as a recognition of the extensive experience they got from fighting in Spain, the reputation as worthy troops they had received from there, as well as the back-and-forth balancing act where Napoleon kept the Poles on his side by rewarding their service and constantly hinting at reforming their country, while never fully committing to it.
They fought at Borodino where they were mixed in with parts of I Corps and the Italian Guards in the second assault on Raevsky's redoubt, which means that painting these troops might not just be a case of the all so common Wargamer Imperial Guard Infatuation Symptom. They were even harder tested during the retreat at Berezina, where the remains of the Legion joined the defense of the crossing led by Marshal Ney. In the remaining campaigns they would be reformed as a single regiment, and in 1814 they were barely a battalion.
Vistula Legion on the Tabletop
The Vistula Legion, given their history, is hard to pin down. They were clearly regarded as hardened fighters and earned their place in the Guard. They also had a hard time to recruit new troops, as they were officially restricted from recruiting non-Polish soldiers.
But far more complicated than rating them is painting them. There are a lot of conflicting sources on even basics such as how the four regiments used the cuffs and collars to distinguish each other. I've been caught in several discussions researching this unit on what kind of flag they would be carrying. Not to mention - what miniatures to use? Making your own Vistula Legion will force you to make several decisions, I can not say which ones are right but I can tell why I did as I did.
First of all, like many, I got the Warlord Games Vistula box in a second hand work lot. And I ended up just making them into normal French and bought these from Murawski Instead. Why? There are several mistakes in the Warlord set, but most of all the jackets are just so wrong that I could not go with them. The Vistula Legion did not use the same kurtka as the Duchy of Warsaw Poles did, but rather a jacket that looks quite similar to the Bardin uniform. But not exactly the same. If Warlord had done a set with separate heads on Bardin jackets it might have worked, but on the older French jacket? It just looks too wrong for me.
I think it is worth the extra cost to get a set of minis that are made to look like Vistula Legion. There Murawski miniatures were really nice sculpts and well cast, so I was very happy with going with these instead.
As for the collars and cuffs, you'll find many contradicting sources. I ended up using the ones that Guy Dempsey describes in Napoleon's Mercenaries. Is this source better than the others? I don't know. But I have the book, and I decided to simply stick with one source and leave it at that. This means that these are from the 1st regiment, with both yellow cuffs and collars. The 2nd regiment will have yellow cuffs and blue collars, and the 3rd blue collar and yellow cuffs.
Again, the sources don't all agree, but I'm going with Dempsey's description that they used the old lozenge flag with the rooster, and they were granted the right to have eagles but they never received it, especially not before going into Russia. Conveniently enough this is the flag that GMB Designs provides, which is the ones I ended up using.
I've seen several takes on the fusilier uniforms among reenactors when researching these, but I ended up with the all white pompoms and white Polish cockade. The fusiliers wore the shako, not a czapka, and had no colour on the brim. With all that white and yellow I hope they'll stand out among the regular French troops.
The voltigeurs has also lots of differing sources, like the colour of the pompoms and the shako brim. I went with a yellow strap around the shako, both because I've seen it in many depictions and because I think it will make them stand out even more as a battalion.
I gave my grenadiers a white cross strap on the top of the czapka. This is perhaps the one where I've seen the most variations, and you can go crazy just trying to figure these out. Knötel has them in shakos with red brims and white cords! I'd say pick a look that you're satisfied with and stick with it, don't worry too much as you can't satisfy everyone given how much the sources disagree. The more consistantly agreed detail that is easy to miss is that they have white, not red, epaulettes.
Click below for larger pics:
Well, that's it! Now I'll just have to decide if I'll just paint up the other unpainted battalion I have sitting in the cupboard, or if I'll want to raise an entire brigade of them and paint even more. Hopefully they'll serve well as a colourful ally to the French on the tabletop.
With my infantry battalions slowly taking form, and with more cavalry finished than I think I'll need right now, it's time to look towards the combat arms that I have neglected completely this far. Napoleon's own favourites, the thundering battering rams of the battlefield - the artillery.
I'm going to explain a bit about the different types of artillery that were involved on the battlefield. This will help me make my plans for my army clearer for myself, but maybe they'll also be helpful for you if you are new to the world of lobbing large balls of metal far distances at the start of the 19th century.
By 1812 the French had cannon operating on several organizational levels. Most infantry regiments had their own guns, each division would likely have a battery or two of artillery, and on top of that there would be several batteries in the reserve artillery of each Corps. It can get a bit confusing, so I decided to organize what I have and also plan ahead to make sure that I don't make too many mistakes when buying these impressive pieces.
Napoleon experimented with regimental guns already in 1809. To bolster both the impact and morale of his regiments he sprinkled out light cannon to give them some extra local firepower. This unfortunately had tactical disadvantages, since the guns could hinder the troops both when moving on the battlefield and during marches.
These were mostly smaller guns, by now completely outmatched in regular batteries. The regular infantry in 1812 were, according to my research, largely equipped with 3-pounder cannon captured from Austria's impressive record of military misfortune. As far as I know these cannon came with or without a strange kind of fork-like attachment at the front.
It looks like some kind of insidious alien life form. Anyway. Looking at the order of battle for the I Corps, the full strength regiments (those with five battalions) had four light guns. Digging deeper in my books, Digby Smith puts these as 3 pdr guns, 14 in total for the regiments of the 1st Division.
A pretty common convention for artillery seems to be to use one model to represent two guns. With four guns per regiment, that means I'll need to paint up two guns for each set of five battalions. This sounds easy!
I've already scouted my artillery crew. First I have a mix of Warlord and Foundry crew that I've already painted, yet haven't attached to any guns:
I'm perfectly fine with having a bit of a hotch-potch look to these regimental gun crews, as I imagine them being in the thick of the fight and probably replaced a fair few casualties along the road from the rank-and-file troopers. To fill up a potential six gun crews, I've also ordered some extra artillery gun crews from Perry Miniatures. It'll be a nice mess!
The guns were trickier. Front rank have Austrian 3 pounders, but they they're the kind with the weird forks on them. A few miniature makers in America have them as well, but those I ruled out due to shipping and customs. Finally, I found that Eagle Figures have 3 pounders as well, and from the pictures I think they are a tad sleeker than Front Ranks. If anyone has any reasons why I shouldn't do it, I'll probably settle on getting the 3 pounders from Eagle.
The 2nd Division, that is all four (15h light, 33rd and 48th line and the Spanish Joseph Bonaparte line) regiments together, were supported by two artillery batteries under Chef de Bataillon Cabrié, the II foot battery of the 7th foot artillery regiment and the V horse battery of the 3rd horse artillery regiment.
Both batteries had two howitzers each, with the foot battery also fielding six 6-pounders and the horse battery fielding four. Keeping to two guns per model, I then need two howitzers and five 6-pounders.
The horse artillery crew is thankfully already in my hands: three crews and some mounted officers from Foundry, all in lovely full dress. Maybe a bit flamboyant for 1812, but we all have our guilty pleasures.
For the foot artillery crew, I'm tempted with going with Avanpost. I have bought several artillerymen from them already, though I haven't painted them yet. Given the small number of miniatures involved it's not as big of a splurge as say, getting a whole infantry regiment of those lovely sculpted miniatures.
Finally, the guns themselves. If I'm already ordering from Avanpost, I'm thinking of getting the missing guns from them as well. The guns are actually quite competatively priced, the fragility of resin should be less of an issue with the bulky carriages, and finally there's the option of getting the barrels cast in bronze. Which is just plain cool.
These extra three batteries that supported the entire I Corps? Let's just say that I'll worry about them when I've painted a few more divisions. Which will take years.
All the Cool Extras
Collecting artillery means more than just cannon. There are the limbers that you attached them to when moving them, the horse teams for the limbers, the caissons with the ammunition and the horse teams for them, and generally a huge amount of logistics involved. While these make great visual impact on the tabletop and are useful for showing if guns are prepared to operate or not, I'm going to prioritize putting together the actual infantry battalions and batteries first. Then I'll probably revisit the idea of putting together some of these integral part of the artillery arm.
So there! My plans are done and I'm feeling quite relieved and organized. Even though there will be a few guns involved it doesn't feel overwhelming, and I'm glad to have the shopping list in order. Please feel free to mention if I've done any major mistakes! Otherwise, let's keep working on those infantry battalions.
The French army, unlike many other armies, kept the older idea of trained to operate both as mounted and foot soldiers. Sometime fighting on foot was a forced choice due to lack of horses: in 1805, horseless dragoons prepared for the eventually cancelled amphibious assault of Britain, expecting to simply seize mounts after crossing the Channel. At other times it made more sense to fight dismounted due to tactical circumstances. In Spain, where dragoons formed a unusually large part of the French cavalry forces, rocky terrain, guerilla ambushes and urban fighting made the tactical flexibility of dragoons more useful than other types of cavalry. The downside of this flexibility is that they could be derided as being neither as good at cavalry shock attacks as purebred impact cavalry, nor as deft at skirmishing as they infantry's voltigeurs.
To succeed in this role they were equiped with musketoons instead of carbines, which were almost as long as regular muskets. They also didn't carry the heavy pallasch swords or armour of the cuirassiers.
I found this troupe of dragoons, half-finished, in a box of tanks when diggin through my lead pile. I got them with the purpose of making a more interesting cavalry army for Sharp Practice without making it, you know, mounted. With foot dragoons, mounted dragoons and some horse artillery I'd have a thematic force for smaller skirmishers.
Converted Foot Dragoons
These are probably my personal highlight of the gang. They are conversions based on Victrix infantry bodies and Perry dragoon heads. A true button-counter would react to the dragoon jacket, which would have slightly shorter tails, but I think it works. These guys came prepared for foot combat, and have ditched their riding boots for more sensible shoes and trousers instead of breeches. A lone member of the 1st (elite) company has tagged along, red plume and epaulettes showing his status.
Converting foot dragoons is a nice option since you're bound to be left with extra dragoon heads if you get one or more boxes of Perry's dragoons. The box also comes with a few foot dragoons, but not enough for a Sharp Practice force and no command miniatures on foot. With a few regular infantry miniatures and a simple head swap, you'll end up with a much beefier line-up.
If you try this conversion you'll notice that the biggest hurdle is the plumes and backpacks fighting for space. Looking back, I think I should have simply cut off some of the plumes a bit, and recreated them with green stuff.
The yellow facing means that they are from the 7th, 8th or 9th regiment. I really like how the green and yellow worked together, and might have to add them as a mounted unit further down the line.
Brigade Games Dragoons
These models are really nice, representing dismounted dragoons still in riding boots skirmishing. I ordered these a long time ago, and since then Brigade have released horse handlers as well. These would also dismount and keep the horses out of view of the combat, such as behind a hill or a copse of trees, yet still close enough for their comrades to quickly pull back and retreat if overwhelmed. That means they would serve as perfect deployment points for this force.
The officer with the coat and the drummer are Victrix bodies with Perry heads. The other two are from Brigade. Together they will add some much needed leadership.
Can I just point out how infinitely superior these musicians with reversed uniform colours look, compared to the imperial livery adopted with the Bardin uniform? What were they thinking. Let's just say that I'll keep on trying to avoid Imperial livery for my army if I can manage.
This mounted guy from Brigade is sold as an officer, but I'm not sure why he has no epaulette. Anyway, he stands out well enough with his choice of a blunderbuss instead of a musketoon.
A Drove of Dragoons
Overall I'm pretty happy with finishing these dragoons off. There's nothing like finding a half-done project and being able to get a table-top ready unit or two in a fraction of the time it would take to do them from scratch.
If I'd add anything to complete them it would be some thematic deployment points such as horse handlers, and maybe just a few more dragoons, mounted or dismounted. I'll also do some more horse artillery for the Big Boy division project, and they'll fit right in.
Click the images below if you want larger sized pics. Cheers!
No I'm Not At All Isolated This Spring Of 2020, Why Do You Ask?
I adore that the military wargaming hobby is only limited by your imagination. You can limit your involvment by simply playing with unpainted miniature on the floor, or you can go hog wild and wear reenactment uniforms while playing over carefully historically researched and painstakingly modelled exakt models of a specific railroad crossing outside Stalingrad. The hobby is what you make of it.
After two and half months of isolation, I decided to try something new with my hobby that I hadn't tried before. Where players of an unmentioned space conflict wargame are showered in all kinds of hobby paraphernalia, you don't really see the same for historical wargames. When you do, you can bet it is WW2 themed. Alas, I am probably not alone in having my historical armies sit in anonymous plastic and cardboard boxes, impossible to tell a Cartaginian army apart from my Samurai.
Well, "be the change you wish to see in the world". I wanted to make something for my growing 2nd Infantry Division. In days like these, time is something I can spend. Time, and lots of cardboard boxes.
With brick-and-mortar shopping restricted, my apartment has seen a steady influx of these beauties. In this case cosmetics delivered in a surprisingly sturdy box, just deep enough to house a man. A man marching with a musket. With a bayonet on top.
Let's just say this one never found the way to the recycling station. Buckle up!
The unassuming cosmetics box was to be used as a proof of concept. My inspiration was the cartouche boxes, which would often be covered in a black or beige cloth during campaigning, with a simple insignia on them.
I picked up some very cheap spare strips of cloth, in this case some kind of linen that I think was thin enough to only have been used for curtains. This was my first of many mistakes: a heavier linen cloth would have been better. I also tried just gluing the cloth onto the box using a glue stick. An old glue stick. This was a big mistake, as the old glue turned out to clog and partly ruin the look of the cloth in some spots.
After getting a new glue stick it worked better, though I realized that I needed to sew the cloth to the box as well to make it sturdy enough. I started sewing with a darker thread, which was mistake number three (?), but it kind of worked. Or as my wife called it "soothingly homemade, almost childlike". Well thank you, I'm happy to learn that my needlework is worse than my painting.
Here you can see how I sewed on the outside cloth to keep it in place. I didn't bother to make it nice looking, as I planned to put in a different cloth layer inside. Again, a piece of leftover cloth was used, this time a thicker blue fabric.
Althrough this process I did almost no real measurements and mosly went by gut feeling and adjustments. Sometimes I was lucky, sometimes I was half an inch short. But this piece was easier to measure than the more complicated outside cover, I just had to make sure that it roughly fit into the box and lid.
The cloth was again stuck to the cardboard with glue stick and then sewn in place.
The lid had no natural way to close, so I learnt another new skill; hammering in eyelets! Of course, given that this was for the 33rd ligne, the eyelets and button would be in brass. The string is a bit of elastic chord, which keeps the lid (somewhat) shut.
Of course, one of the mission statement for the box was that I should be able to tell my new regiment apart from all other miniatures I have. With some marker pens and some black paint, the box was dedicated to the 33e ligne.
The insignia was not perfectly drawn, and the ink bled a little but more into the fabric than I expected. But there'll be no mistake what's in the box now.
The box is just large enough to house three full battalions. I'm in the process of slowly drilling magnets into the bases, two rare earth magnets per base, and then I'll put washers into the box to keep the bases in place.
The only gripe now is that the officer carrying the eagle is a tad too enthusiastic, thrusting it into the air, juuuuust a millimeter or two too high. So the lid hits it and makes it go wonky. This will be solved by putting some washers on one side as well, so that the command bases can be safely kept horisontally.
So there it is, a few hours that left my army with something unique and characterful. I also learnt some lessons, so that I think any future boxes will turn out nicer. Overall I think this kind of box suits multibased miniatures well, compared to the typical foam boxes that suits individually based miniatures. And of course you'll need to be more careful with metal miniatures, as you need stronger magnets to ensure that your new fancy army box doesn't turn into a tumbler.
Remember - your hobby is what you make of it, so don't hesitate to try something new. Cheers!
Victrix French Line Infantry
First out of the gate for the big battle army are these Victrix miniatures. I got them in a big second hand bundle back in 2017, and at that point I planned to turn most of them into foot dragoons. Some of those conversions might still happen, but my focus for the year was set: paint up all extra plastic Frenchmen in my closet, and round them up into proper battalions.
After painting up about a hundred of them now, I'd say these models are decent enough.
Pros: the variety of poses, with marching, shooting, kneeling men, are nice if you prefer some action in your miniatures. The heads are better sculpts than Warlord's plastics. And there's a lot of options for officers, port-aigles and plenty of drummers in the mix.
Cons: The mix of men in very different poses makes the overall look a bit strange. It helped that I had two boxes, so I could form up the kneeling men mostly together and the marching men in the same companies and so on. The kits are fiddly, with several small parts. This goes especially for the bayonets, and these men have quite a few broken ones already.
Overall it's obvious that these are Victrix's older kits. I recently bought their new Viking kit, and it's much better in quality. It used to be that these Victrix kits were the best option IMHO if you wanted pre-Bardin plastic miniatures in 28mm, but with Perry's new 1807-14 boxes I'm not so sure. But they still have the advantage of giving you tons of options, especially in the many command miniatures included, and I'm really looking forward to new Napoleonics sets from Victrix given how much they've improved lately.
That said, let's take a look at how I built my battalions.
My Approach to Big Battalions : Unit Size
There are tons of different ways to represent a French infantry battalion on the table. When I started painting up my unused plastic French infantrymen I could kick the proverbial can down the road when it came to organization. However, the day eventually arrives when you must glue the minis to their bases and finally commit to a basing standard.
The initial choice of 36 man battalions was easy for me. Starting in 1808, the French divided their battalions into six companies and I wanted each company to be represented by one base. That left me with either 24, 36 or 48 miniature battalions. While I can see the practical point of 24 man battalions (cheaper and quicker to paint!), they are just not large enough for my personal taste. 36 men is where it starts to look like a mass of troops to me. And while 48 men battalions would look even better, there's a point in not going completely overboard. I bet it looks great though!
Next up comes the dreaded base size decision. I like Napoleonic miniatures to be quite densely packed, as lines would historically fight pretty much elbow to elbow. In practical terms 15mm of base width per miniature is about as tight you can base most 28mm miniatures. With two ranks, my six man bases will then be 45mm wide, making for a nice 27cm wide battalion when formed in line. This is also compatible with some popular rulesets that care about base width, such as General de Brigade.
This will be much tighter than my Sharp Practice units, as they are based on 20mm sabot bases. 15mm looks better to me, but it's really hard to pull off well with sabot bases.
Next up is base depth. I was thrown a curve ball here, as we managed to order the wrong bases! I planned to have 40mm or 45mm deep bases, but received 50mm deep ones. At first it felt really strange to have bases that are deeper than they are wide, but after some dry fitting I started to like it. First of all it allows kneeling poses to actually fit on the base. It'll keep the miniatures from scratching against opponents when charging into base-to-base contact, and it creates some distance between the companies when formed in column. All that at the expense of making a column a few centimeters longer.
So in the end I decided not to place a new order, and instead go with this slightly unusual basing style. As soon as I hade put the tufts and static grass on them I was happy with my decision, and now I would not switch back to smaller bases.
If you frequent any online tabletop community, you've seen the question "does minis from maker X match with maker Y?". Personally, I don't hesitate to mix miniatures quite a lot. When painting up these I was a few miniatures short once I had assembled the Victrix box, as some bodies where snatched away for a future... dragoony... addition to the army. So if you peek carefully you'll find a few Warlord and Perry minis in there, including a spare drummer and a sapeur marching along the grenadiers. I also wanted the Chef de Battalion to stand out, so I took a mounted Calpe general and stuck him in the first battalion.
In my experience this works quite well unless the miniatures vary wildly in style. So don't be afraid to try out new ranges and support several manufacturers whenever you can.
Often when you buy a French battalions you'll get a single command group, a lot of fusilisers to build the centre companies, and then some voltigeurs and grenadiers for the flank companies. However, each company would have their own drummers and officers, leading their men forwards and sending commands back and forth along the line. These are rarely represented on the tabletop.
Since the Victrix boxes comes with a large ratio of officers and drummers, I was more or less forced to use all of them to make the minis last for three battalions. But once I started dryfitting the minis, I really liked the look of drummers spread out in the battalion, not just a single drummer next to the flag as you'll often see. So for the rest of the battalions I plan to continue this style, adding captains, lieutenants and NCOs as well as musicians across the companies.
The flags are from GMB Designs. I waffled back and forth a lot before settling on a regiment, but ended up deciding on the 33rd line regiment. In 1812 they were part of Friant's 2nd Infantry Battalion, of Davout's I Corps. Friant was an excellent divisional commander and the 33rd would be in the thick of the fight at Borodino as part of the assault on the Semeyonovskoye village and the Bagration flèches. There they famously formed square and repelled several Russian infantry and cavalry countercharges, temporarily forming a safe haven for Murat himself inside their square.
The flags are the 1812 pattern, with a white fanion for the 2nd battalion and a red fanion for the 3rd. There's a lot of debate regarding whether or not the French army went into Russia with the old, lozenge flags or the new, tricolor ones. I based my choice on the captured French flags that were on display in Russia, which were all tricolor as far as I know.
The GMB flags don't come with the regemental numbers, as you buy them based on the battle honours. Painting the numbers can be tricky, but it helps to first paint them in a dark brown, and then paint a thinner yellow line so that the brown forms the outline of the numbers. At first I thought my lettering looked crooked, but once you fold the flags a bit it's much less noticable.
First up I have several more battalions to finish and base, including troops from Warlord and Calpe Miniatures. My aim is to be able to represent a division, more or less, before the end of Summer.
I also really want to add regimental guns to my infantry. In 1812, Napoleon doubted that his infantry was fierce enough to attack without artillery support. With his artillery formed in huge deadly that could blast a single point of the enemy's line, the solution was to supplement the infantry regiments with small 3-pounder guns, most of them taken from Austria in 1809.
Each regiment was equipped with four guns, so 12 total in the 2nd Infantry Divsion. These will be on top of the regular foot and horse artillery regiments of the division. I plan to have one model represent two guns, so means I need to get six guns. So I guess I'll be raiding some Austrian arsenals!
(click for larger pictures)
A great aspect of the wargaming hobby is that there are always new things to try out, new things to learn and new things to buy and stuff into the back of your closet or attic. So when wargaming a period based on one of the biggest revolutions in history, does it really make sense to rigidly stick to just what we know? Should we not push on through our own personal and mental ancien régimes?
Inspired by some of the youtube paining channels I've been watching, I decided to try out some new things myself this year. It's easy to continue painting the same way once you reach a level that you're satisfied with. Keeping to a singular painting method can be great for painting masses of troops to a good standard, but challenging yourself to try new things can be just as valuable. This way you can pick up new methods and tools that might just make their way into your own painting style.
As I put together a new batch of Napoleonic French, I decided to try out some new things with them.
The first thing I wanted to try out this year is zenithal priming. It's far from a new thing, but I haven't gotten around to testing it. The idea is basically to prime the model in two or more colours, from dark to light, as to recreate light coming from above (zenith). This can be done by using an airbrush, or as in my case, by spray can primer.
Spotting a rare Nordic witer day of no wind or rain, I rushed out in the morning and primed the entire batch black, using Vallejo's black spray primer, and let it dry. Then I brought out the models again, and gave them a second coat, sprayed from a few different high angles, of Citadel's Corax White spray.
The results can be seen above. So why doing the extra effort of a second coat of primer? In theory, the zenithal primer should help you with shadows and highlights. Unless you absolutely cake your mini in paint, the primer layer changes how other layers look: the same coat of red will look darker over a black primer than a white primer. By starting out with natural highlights from the primer, your shadows and highlights should end up looking better.
Does it work? Well, after starting to put down the initial coats of paint, I'm not sure. However, I'm still very impressed by it, but based on a completely different reason. Speed!
Since the black primer forms shadows already, It's less of a problem if you miss out a few spots. Those missed spots will simply look like shadows. This is a great advantage of black primer, one that I kind of miss since I switched to lighter grey or beige primers.
However, picking out details on a black primer can take time, as you look onto a tiny black void. The lighter coat of spray does a terrific job of creating clear contrasts, which guides you as you paint.
While I'm not sure the different hues of the primer coats will help the end result look better, I must say that those extra minutes of spraying a second layer really pays off in making it faster and easier to paint the basecoat. The only main disadvantage I can see this far is that you need to buy more primer paint.
As a bonus, the miniatures also look far more painted than they are, which I guess helps your painting morale.
Overall verdict - definitely try it out if you haven't!
This is actually a tool that I did try out before, but didn't stick with. I'm making a new go at it this year though.
There are many designs for wet palette, but it boils down to putting your paint on a semi-permeable paper resting on something that soaks up water. This keeps the paint from drying up.
You can buy a fancy wet palette, or your can make your own. As I'm still just trying out if I like it or not, I made one out of a plastic tomato container. Fold a few sheets of kitchen paper to create a soaking layer and pour some water in it, until it's moist. Then cut out a square of parchment paper and gently push it down so that it adhere's to the kitchen paper. Now you're set!
Now, professional painters use nice wet palettes to make amazing blending between colours, and that's fine. But as a more intermediate painter, there are some nice advantages with a wet palette that makes it worth trying out.
First of all, you save paint. When I put down my Vallejo paints on a regular plastic palette, I know that much of it, even a majority sometimes, will dry out on the palette. Some of your paint will dry on the paper of the wet palette as well, but far less.
Secondly, you speed up your paint when doing larger batches. With a dry palette I constantly need to pick up the paint pot and add some more paint, as the old paint dries up. It's also easier if you are doing any kind of colour mixes, as you can mix bigger batches without them drying up.
Another advantage is that the paint keeps a good consistance for longer, which makes paitning easier. Nothing's worse than trying to do details with paint that is kind of starting to dry. The less time and energy you wase on struggling with your paint, the better.
I'm still kind of new to using the wet palette, and I must admit that I'm not doing superb wet blending any time soon. But I do find it helpful, and maybe I'll try a "real" one later this year.
Overall verdict - try it! It's practically free to make, so why not?
Ok, so I like buying new miniatures even more than I like trying out new paint techniques. For this batch I have the pleasure to try out two miniature ranges that I haven't painted before.
First up is Avanpost, a Russian manufacturer of primarily French and Russian Napoleonics, as well as some 30 year war minis. They are sold through their facebook page, but there's a UK retailer carrying them as well (Mezzer's Miniatures).
Now, these miniatures are just amazingly detailed. Exceptionally so. If you've checked them out but not bought them: they look as good, if not better, in person.
The caveat here is that the amazing detail means that the miniatures are fiddly. Some very much so - the drummer comes with two loose straps for the drum! Needless to say, said straps fell off several times during assembly and priming. With up to six or seven parts for an infantryman, they are probably not your go-to option for large units, and the delicate details are maybe more suitable for showpieces than for tabletop duty...
...but they look so good!
I bought enough minis for a command group, a grenadier company, some artillery crews and a few odd infantrymen. I'll paint up a few as a trial, and see if I decide on getting more or not. While assembly was a bit of a pain I really look forward to seeing them painted up.
Next up are some French from Calpe Miniatures. It's a bit unfair that they came in the same batch as my Avanpost minis, as any other day they'd stand out favourably.
Sizewise they seem to match my Warlord miniatures very well, but with a lot more detail and livelier poses. I bought the Calple French with this in mind, the plan being to use the Calpe minis for command groups as well as sprinkle in some infantrymen in the front ranks. I ended up buying enough to form four command groups as well as regimental command out of these.
In person they look great, and even though a lot of the muskets were bent in shipping none of them broke, as they are quite sturdy.
With these new tools to try and minis to paint, I have quite the batch in front of me, literally. With these minis I'll be closer to my goal for this year, to finally finish my French infantry battalions.
I hope this inspired you to try out new painting techniques or miniature ranges as well. I'd be happy to hear if you have tried anything new that gave you a different approach to painting or a new technique that helped you.
Capote and manteau are both broad terms for the kind of greatcoats that eventually became a standard part of the French soldier's regulation uniform. This piece of clothing came into good use as the army had to endure extreme weather, from freak rainstorms on the Iberian peninsula to snowy mountain passes in the Alps and the howling wind of the Russian plains.
The greatcoat was common to wear in wet or cold weather, but also while out marching on campaign. It also made a useful replacement for a proper uniform in cases where troops had to be quickly drafted. This makes it a common outfit for French miniatures, especially for the latter years of the Empire.
To make matter a bit confusing, the colour and cut of the greatcoat were not as strictly enforced as the uniform jacket. While the initial regulation called for them to be beige for line and light infantry as far as I know, a range of beige, browns and greys were common. The Imperial Guard had the distinction of wearing blue greatcoats of a finer quality.
To quickly raise a bunch of battalions myself, I copied Napoleon's trick and got me a whole bunch of greatcoat infantry. I bought about two battalions worth of plastic late French infantry from Warlord in one of their recurring sprue sales. Each sprue comes with six miniatures. The sprue doesn't cover command, which I plan to buy from Calpe Miniatures, as they also have a wide range of French in Greatcoats.
Here's the first battalion, without the sixth base (which will have flagbearer, drummer, officers etc). I plan to get some extras as well from Calpe that I'll spread out into the units for variety, which will enable me to stretch out the units into three or maybe even four battalions.
Click for bigger pictures
Some Paint Recipies
I was asked on how I paint my greatcoats, so here are some recipies covering a lighter beige, a darker beige, and a grey. Given how much the colours would differ based on local availability of cloth etc., please feel free to experiment with whatever paints you have at hand.
First of all, I tend to paint the initial step of every colour first. I then wash everything at once. Then I go back and finish the colours one at a time. This, combined with large batches of 24 or more miniatures, is a pretty efficient way to mass produce units.
Light beige: I used Vallejo Model Colour (VMC) 70.976 Buff as my base. I washed it brown with a coat of Citadel's Agrax Earthshade wash. I then gave it another coat of Buff, leaving the darker shade in the recesses alone, and finally a layer of Buff mixed with a little bit of white.
Darker beige: I used VMC 70.843 Cork Brown as base for these. Again, washed it Brown, painted a second layer of Cork Brown and finally a highlight where I mixed Cork Brown and Buff.
Grey: lacking a proper VMC medium grey at home, I used Citadel's Administratum Grey. This I washed with black wash, Citadel's Nuln Oil. Just like Before I gave them a second coat of Grey, and then a highlight where I mixed the Grey with a lighter grey, in this case VMC 70.986 Deck Tan.
Flesh: My current go-to solution here is VMC 70.804 Beige Red, washed with Citadel's Reiksland Fleshshade, recoated with Beige Red and highlighted with Beige Red mixed with VMC 70.815 Basic Skin Tone
Musket: The wood is painted Vallejo PAnzer Aces 301 Light Rust. I then paint the metal with Army Painter Shining Silver. I wash everything with Nuln Oil, and then pick out the highlights directly with Light Rust and Shining Silver. I find that's enough without further highlights.
Straps, belts: I paint these with VMC Deck Tank and wash them with Nuln Oil. I pick them out again with Deck Tan and highlight with Vallejo Game Colour Ghost Grey. I tend to avoid going all the way to pure white.
Trousers: I painted these either Deck Tan or Citadel's Ulthuan Grey. Washed Nuln Oil, and then recoated in the original colour and then highlighted by mixing in Ghost Grey or a pure white.
Blacks: Everything black is first painted Vallejo Game Colour Black, then given a medium highlight where I mix in some Ghost Grey, and finally a second highlight where I mix in some more Ghost Grey. This works, but for a speedier solution you might look into something like German Grey or London Grey as standard paints for highlights.
Backpacks: I use a few different Browns to get some variety on these. But most often I use VMC 70.875 Beige Brown, wash it black, and then pick out some highlights with Beige Brown again. The straps are painted Ghost Grey.
Grenadier's epaulettes, plumes: I use VMC 70.859 Black red as a base, wash it Brown or Black, and then coat it with Citadel's Wazdakka Red. In this case I left it there, but other times I add some orange for a highlight.
Voltigeur's epaulettes, plumes: I used to paint these with P3's Sulfuric Yellow. But my paint pot has dried up, so I Went with Vallejo Game Colours' Gold Yellow. It was a mistake. I had to mix it with some Buff to try to salvage the situation, but yeah. I'll look for a better solution
Growing The Army
Another nifty thing that helped me speed up my painting was to go back to a wet palette. If you haven't tried it, it's basically a way to keep the paint from drying up while you're painting, so that I have to spend less time fidgetting with paint pots.
While there are fancy ones out there, I simply built mine out of a plastic container, some folded kitchen paper, and a cut out square of parchment paper. Put the kitchen paper in the container and our enough water for it to be soaked. Then put the parchment paper on top of the kitchen paper. Now you can put your paint on there, and it'll stay fresh for hours! This cuts time a lot on my highlights, as I don't have to keep adding more paint and mix them whenever it gets too dried up to be useful.
With these recruits I now have 30 bases of French infantry done! Now I need to switch focus and paint me some command, and I'll be well on my way to a nice brigade.
Well, these should keep me busy while waiting on the Calpe minis...
Today's special is a short primer on a country that played an important part in the Napoleonic wars - even before it was re-formed as a nation. Polish soldiers fought in large numbers for France in both French and Polish uniforms. So what has a Polish army to offer for us as Napoleonic wargamers and miniature collectors?
When Napoleon rose to power, Poland had already ceased to exist as a nation. The nail in the coffin for Polish independence was the third partitioning of Poland in 1795. The country, already gradually nibbled down after several wars, was no more. With Poland's neighbours all getting involved in removing their nation from the map, the Poles who wanted to regain independence largely flocked to other armies to offer their services. France, and later her client states, ended up as the primary employer of these exiled soldiers. After all, France was at this point at odds with pretty much every old enemy of Poland!
This steady influx of soldiers was eventually enough to form entire "Polish Legions" in both the French army and in the army of Bonaparte's Italy. Often led by Polish generals, these formations fought in several major campaigns ranging from the Carribean to Egypt. The Polish legions that fought in Spain would eventually form the Vistula Legion, reputed for having both excellent cavalry and infantry.
Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, the most famous commander of the Polish Legions
Duchy of Warsaw 1807-1815
With Prussia and Russia defeated in 1807, Napoleon set out to create a buffer state between Russia and his Empire. This Duchy of Warsaw was not quite the Poland that most Poles had hoped for, both smaller than previous borders and a duchy rather than a kingdom. Still it turned out to be one of France's most loyal allies and supplied Napoleon with large numbers of soldiers.
At this Point most of the Polish Legions merged into the army of the Duchy, but the Vistula Legion remained part of the French army. Its infantry fought on in Spain until it join the 1812 campaign, elevated to the Imperial Guard, and the Vistula lancers formed new lancer regiments in the French army.
Both the Duchy and the Vistula Legion fought fiercely in the 1812 invasion of Russia and remained on Napoleon's side after most allies switched sides after the defeat. Loyal to the end, his Polish lancers were the last remaining unit under Napoleon's command during the exile on Elba. Some are even said to have followed him to his final days on St. Helena.
Wargaming with Poles
Both the Duchy of Warsaw and the Vistula Legion saw lots of action fighting for Napoleon, both in major battles and in smaller skirmishes, making them a useful army to collect for wargaming. The Vistula Legion fought extensively in the Peninsular War while the Polish Legions were part of many wars, from the more obscure battles in Haiti to legendary cataclysms like Jena.
Once formed, the Duchy of Warsaw played an important role in the 1809 war against Austria and the disastrous 1812 invasion of Russia, where the Poles were the second largest part of the Grande Armée after France. They also formed an important part in Napoleon's struggle to retain his Empire in 1813-14, even after Poland itself had been re-occupied.
Collecting a Polish Army
You could say that there are many reasons for collecting Poles. They closely followed French army organization, which makes it easier to understand if you've already got your head around the French army. They had a good reputation as some of the more dependable troops around. They also had some of the most renown cavalry of the time. But honestly, we all know what a Polish army is all about:
Hot. Czapka. Action.
Czapkas are the traditional square hats used in many Polish uniforms of the time. Simply put, they are some of the most suave and striking headgear of the period. If you are anything like me, this is probably why you're considering swearing loyalty to Prince Poniatowski and his Polish cause (pictures above courtesy of the amazing folk at Los infernos picadores).
To get access to these amazing czapkas, you can of course set out to collect a pure Polish army. Entire Polish corps fought in both 1809, 1812 and 1813, which makes for good starting points for a Duchy of Warsaw army.
However, I also consider it a perfect secondary army to dip into if you're collecting French. The uniforms are similar but not identical, giving you some diversity while still being familiar. Polish units often fought side by side with French units so it makes sense to have a battalion (or three) turn up with your main army. The various Polish forces fighting in Spain makes a natural fit for a wargamer invested in the popular Peninsular War. Finally, they add yet another amazing layer to the wonderfully overindulgent cake that is the French cavalry.
This approach is a bit more tempting if you balk at the cost of buying a wholly metal army. When writing this there are no real plastics for Polish, though there are previews of plastic cavalry from Victrix and some metal and plastic hybrid kits from Warlord.
Combining French and Polish means that you can get a decent sized core of French, and then expand it with Polish troops at your own leasure. As a bonus some Polish troops were equipped with French uniforms, which I'll cover later, adding yet Another option for reducing the cost of collecting Poles.
Duchy of Warsaw Infantry
The Duchy of Warsaw followed French conventions regarding its infantry, using the same organization of fusilier centre companies flanked by voltigeur and grenadier companies. The main difference from France is that the duchy didn't field light infantry regiments. At it's high point in 1812 there were 22 infantry regiments in the army, of which four were considered Lithuanian.
If you paint up units from the Duchy of Warsaw there are two main periods to keep track of. In 1807-10 the infantry had facing colours unique for each regiment, with combinations of yellow, scarlet, crimson and white used for collars and cuffs, lapels and piping. This meant that each regiment had a unique uniform. At the end of 1810 the army switched to a new regulation where all regiments were to wear white lapels, blue collars and red cuffs .
The cuts of the uniforms, using a dark blue kurtka jacket that closely resemble the later French Bardin uniform, didn't really change over time. So you can use the same miniatures to depict all periods. You can go all in on one or the other period, or wing it and mix them using the excuse that not all troops had received new uniforms even in 1812. The uniform regulations were not 100% carried out and I've seen tons of different versions of the czapka alone. As with many other armies, adherence to regulations was spotty at times, with lots of variations between the regiments even after 1810. For example, far from all grenadiers switched from the czapka to the regulated bearskin caps in 1810.
Both blue and white trousers were used for campaign uniforms according to season, giving you even more options when it comes to painting.
To complicate things, the 4th, 7th and 9th infantry regiments were sent to Spain in 1810 and ended up equipped with French uniforms. This offers us wargames a neat excuse to use the much more commonly available French miniatures for a Duchy army.
To complicate things even more, the 13th regiment were outfitted with confiscated Austrian cloth, meaning that they were white coats with sky-blue facings! Needless to say, you have a lot of room to add unique twists to your Duchy army.
Vistula Legion Infantry
The Vistula Legion infantry differed from the Duchy of Warsaw troops in wearing a "Spencer" coat instead of the kurtka, with it's breast reaching all the way down to the lower end of the jacket. They had yellow facings and a "sunburst" plate on the front of their czapka.
The Vistula legion grew over time, fielding three regiments of two battalions each in Russia 1812 as part of the Young Guard.
A major reason to start collecting a Polish force, next to the czapka, is definitely their cavalry. The Poles, hardened after centuries of fighting the best horsemen the Eastern steppes and the near east could muster, made up some of the best cavalry of the Napoleonic wars. They fought primarily as light cavalry and had the honour of being one of few to be able to hold their own against Cossack cavalry.
The Duchy of Warsaw raised an astounding 21 cavalry regiments, not including the two regular French lancer regiments that were formed from the Vistula Legion lancers. On top of that, the French Imperial Guard had one regiment of Polish lancers and one from the Lithuanian population of Poland.
Did I mention a lot of them wear czapkas too?
By far the most numerous, 15 regiments of uhlans formed the backbone of the Polish cavalry. These lancers were excellent light cavalry, dressed in blue coats with unique facings for the various regiments. Wearing their distinctive czapka and wielding long lances with pennons, they are the perfect core of a Polish cavalry force. In Russia there were Polish Uhlans in both the Polish corps as well as the first, second and fourth cavalry corps, meaning that they are an excellent cavalry choice to dip into for a primarily French army.
Chasseurs-a-cheval and Hussars
These regiments looked very similar to their French counterparts, with the chasseurs wearing the "Kinski" coat unlike the uhlans. However the hussars used the pointed pattern for their shabraques unlike the French hussars. The Duchy raised three regiments of chasseurs and two of hussars.
The Duchy raised just a single regiment of cuirassiers, and the questionable cost to benefit ratio of them meant that Napoleon wanted them converted to yet more of the useful light cavalry, but the invasion of Russia interrupted those plans. This meant that the 14th cuirassier regiment fought next to the Saxon cavalry at the legendary charge against the Raevsky redoubt.
The Polish cuirassiers looked similar enough to the French that I'd say you can simply use French miniatures straight out of the box.
The Krakusi were an almost irregular type of cavalry, raised in the end of 1812 as a countermeasure against the deadly Cossacks that had plagued the Grande Armée so much in Russia. These lancers ended up being more effective against the Russian light cavalry than other French and Polish units, yet still cheap to raise as they largely equipped themselves.
French "Polish" Lancers
The 1st and 2nd Vistula lancers retained their blue coats when turned into the 7th and 8th lancer regiments of the French army. This makes them distinct from the dragoon regiments that were turned into lancers, who in turn kept their dark green uniform colours. The 9th regiment was formed from German recruits, but in the Polish fashion uniforms.
The Polish lancers of the Imperial Guard were not connected to the existing Polish Legions, but were formed from aristocratic Poles who flocked to Napoleon's cause. They eventually formed an honour guard that would be expanded into the 1st Polish chevau-légers.
The 3rd lancers of the Imperial Guard was formed much later, during the invasion of Russia 1812. However, they ended up virtually annihilated during the retreat, and was merged into other regiments.
My Own Polish Plans
After all those entries, what's my take on Poles in my army? To start out I got a bunch of random minis, mostly back when I never saw myself doing anything bigger than skirmish games. That means that I have both rag-tag "retreat from Moscow" style Polish soldiers as well as more properly dressed ones. After that I just randomly picked up a battalion of Vistula Legion infantry because they were on sale.
My first step will be to add about a battalion each of Duchy of Warsaw and the Vistula Legion. They'll add some nice flavour and colour to my French army. I have a bit of Imperial Guard that I haven't painted up yet, which would be a nice pairing for the Vistula Legion.
I also have almost enough uhlans to make two regiments of them, which will be a nice addition to my cavalry.
After that we'll see. Maybe I'll add some more battalions to the infantry. At that point I expect Victrix to have released their plastic Polish lancers, which I assume I won't be able to resist.
I won't dwelve into other scales at the moment, so here's my main ideas for 28mm Poles.
Murawski Miniatures have the most complete range and they are sculpted by club favourite Paul Hicks. This range has both Duchy of Warsaw and Vistula Legion infantry, as well as cavalry.
Offensive Miniatures has a range of Polish line infantry and lancers. I can't vouch for them as I haven't bought anything from Offensive yet, though they look nice enough on the website.
Warlord Games also have a box of Vistula Legion, but be aware: it consists of metal heads and the normal French plastics, which means that the coats are clearly wrong for Vistula Legion. They also have a box of lancers, which are similarly the French plastic lancers with Polish heads. I think they'd do in a pinch, but again, I would probably wait for the Victrix kit when it comes to plastic Polish lancers.
If you're looking for handy online information on things like facing colour etc., there's a lot available on the Napolun page. It's a great source for cursory information and just skimming the subject.
If you are looking for something more indepth, I'd definitely recommend checking out History Book Man. Besides the incredibly accurate yet dry name, the PDF books available are just a fiver each, and there's both a book for the Polish Legions and the Duchy of Warsaw. That entire series of books are very detailed, and far better than anything you'd find from Osprey or similar Publishers. If you're serious about doing a Polish army, I'd get this as a companion.
Please feel free to give your tips on Polish miniatures or sources in the comments! In the meantime, enjoy a final czapka, and dream sweet dreams of insanely swag Napoleonic headgear.
Ever wondered how to paint your cattle for period accuracy in Russia? Then I might be able to help out.
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, a Russian photographer who was an early pioneer in colour photography, spent 1909-1915 traveling around the Russian Empire taking photos. These are available in the Library of Congress! Here is the whole collection.
Why not check out the photos from Borodino? Jonas & Shirty used them for inspiration when basing their armies. Just look at these beautiful pictures:
And then there is this church! Look at it, look at this beautiful church. It almost looks like a model. Someone needs to build it, and I'm that someone. What a perfect model for my first ever balsa wood project.
So I started building it! I started with building a floor and figuring out how to make octagons. One thing I eventually figured out was that the inside angle of an octagon 135°, is 90° + 45°. So most of my construction was made by fitting a piece cut to 45° on a straight edge. The floor was a total waste, but useful experimentation.
Since I was a balsa novice when starting out I didn't know quite how to start. But I decided to begin with a framework for the church. Once it was done I started dressing it with panels inscribed with a plank pattern. Do make sure to inscribe with the grain, not across it. The panels are quite thick, 3mm, which I think is actually a bit excessive. It has the benefit of making the church quite sturdy and allowing me to inscribe the plank pattern quite deeply (which is nice because when painting the wood can swell and fill in the inscribed grooves). But it does make for more tedious cutting.
I've only found pictures of one side of the church, but going from my understanding of church architecture I decided to add a small vestry on the side of the chancel so the priest has his own door.
ROOF ROOF! I'M A DOG
I'm quite proud of how I constructed the spire, it was much easier than expected. I had some of cut pieces left over from my initial experiments making an octagon, these actually fit together to make an octagonal frame. I fitted some internal support pieces and mounted a central rod with supports to keep it fixed in. Then using barbeque skewers placed on in the frame leaned against the central rod I got roof beams.
The beams were then covered with thin pieces of balsa, that had their lower edges cut into a 'roundish' pattern. The spire also got a skirt made from pieces like the ones covering the spire.
Ouf, that's a lot of construction work. At this point I was getting bored with the project, feeling like my initial motivation was running out with repetitive work. To stimulate myself I decided to paint some of my available parts. Doing this worked great since some parts got finished, allowing me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The small ice cream stick roof was stained with washes of acrylic paint, it's neighbour was stained with a homemade stain made from vinegar and steel wool as an experiment which I think turned out fine.
The red roofs look almost purple I painted them with Maimeri Crimson Alizarin which is a red with a slight purple tint. To make it a bit more purple and add more variation and vibrancy I used purple, pink, and red pastel chalks to give it a sludge wash.
The spire was painted with Maimeri Turqouise Green and given a sludge wash made from turqouise, light green, and light blue pastel chalks. In the end the spire ended up getting another coat of Turqoise Green covering up most of the wash.
Finally I was done with the main construction. Before I started painting all the walls I made a test piece after researching some chipping techniques. I used this piece to try out different scrubbing methods, figuring out that once again it was important to go with the grain of the wood.
Onion dome & Cross
It's not a proper Orthodox/Russian church if it doesn't have an onion dome, it's just not optional. But how to construct it? At first I started looking for curtain rod knobs, but couldn't find any in a proper shape or at a proper price. Then I saw a flag pole! I bought quickly found the cheapest flag available and drilled a hole in the top of the knob where I fitted a nail.
On the nail I put an orthodox cross made from balsa wood. First Jonas made an attempt of airbrushing it with Vallejo Verdigris glaze but it just would not cooperate, so I took it home and airbrushed it with diluted Maimeri Turqouise Green, the same color used for the roof.
They say that our eyes are the window to our soul, well I windows are the window into a buildings soul. Without proper windows you just get gaping maws of evil trying to devour your soul. For some spice of life I took an executive decision and added a small round window on the gable end of long house. And I added a larger window in the gable end of the chancel. I'd really like to add something in this window to give the impression of stained glass but haven't found the proper thing yet. These windows where trimmed by cutting carefully cutting a 1.5mm sheet of balsa wood.
Other than the special windows there are 15 regular windows and two double windows on the church all with quite intricate trimmings. Jonas and I cut out the trimmings in pieces from 1.5mm balsa, which we then painted white. We cut a few extra pieces of each and not being to exact with the measurements as I hadn't been when cutting out the holes for the windows. Once the trimming pieces were dry we could glue them in place.
The mullions are cut from matchsticks, while I did measure the windows before cutting them those measurements were just a guide line once again since the windows were a bit un-uniform they were pre painted and also glued together. When all the mullions were dry I randomly picked one for a window and trimmed of any excess before glueing.
Whew! This was quite a project, but so is any project in the spirit of Kriget Kommer. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing to excess! I learned a lot from this build, and had quite a lot of fun. It took a long time to complete, I started in March 2018 and wasn't done until the end of July and I did work on this project for at least a few hours each week. The church is H U G E and not really suitable as terrain for gaming given its size but I must say that I'm proud of the end result and I'm proud of finishing this project. And it has seen action as the Gleboff monastery in our 1812 Russia campaign.
"Glory is fleeting,