In Sharp Practice you get to use a lot of things that you don't really need in most Napoleonic games (other than for show-of, all so important), for example a lot of wagons, civilians, medics, priests and so on. This is one thing that I really really like about this game. There are rules for them, so let's use them!
As we are approching a campaing featuring (we hope) a lot of property destruction and bridges being blown up and re-built, I really need some engineers. I looked in envy at the spoiled French players' choices. Many nice engineer miniatures, just there for you to order and paint up! But playing Russians is always a little harsher. I had to convert them. To do it the "Kriget kommer!"-way, I opted for two units. One would surely not be enough when it was time for the engineers to hit the table - I needed to convert two units.
I had Perry's Russian "Infantry marching casually, summer dress (1809 kiwer)" and Russian "Infantry command marching casually, summer dress (1809 kiwer)" sets at home because I like the miniatures, since I've been looking for an excuse to start a line infantry force. I started to think that it could be quite easy to change them into engineers. Get a shovel and use it to replace the banner pole? Easy!
When I saw the Black Hussar Miniatures packof extra artillery equipment I knew how to finalise this idea. The pack has an wide varity of axes, clubs, sledges, a saw(!) and so on. I ordered it and a extra pack of Perry "Infantry command marching casually, summer dress (1809 kiwer)" to make things easier and, you know, I needed two units of engineers.
I did some research on this incredible site and found out that in 1812 there were three "Engineer" battalions in the Russian army. Each consisted of four companies: three of these were pioneer companies and one was a miner company. The miner company was the "elite" company of the engineeer battalions (more correct "Pioneer and sapper" battalions). It was divided into two platoons, the miners and sappers, the sappers being the real "combat engineers" of the battalion. They had yellow pom-poms, and thats the only part of their uniform that stands out. Of course I wanted the most bad-ass engineers, so sappers it will be. After all they have to enjoy going up against the engineers of the French Guard.... yellow pom-poms it is!
Down here you see the photos of my conversion process:
Napoleonic sappers really need axes. Here is the guy with the biggest one. I took away the musket using a knife. By being extra careful, I don't even think I cut myself. I fixed the great-coat roll with some greenstuff.
The other axe-sapper, more casual than his comrade. Had to knife away the musket for this one, easier than I thought it would be. I also fixed great-coat roll with greenstuff.
One of the standard bearers got a shovel instead of regimental colors (what a disappointing fate!). Just tweaked the arm a bit for a handier position. After I did the basecoat and rearrangement from the pioneers to the sappers, he also got a carbine. Handier than a musket when having a lot of other stuff do do and drag around!
Taking away the musket with a knife, then drilling a hole with a hand-drill in the remnants of the hand, sticking the club in place. Some greenstuff to cover up for the damage made to the great-coat roll in the process of removing the musket. Did I say that the summer of 1812 was warm? Yes it was!
I did the second club-man just like the first one!
Now it was time for some more deliberate work. I chopped of the drum and drum-sticks with a knife, then greenstuffed a sack over the backpack (as well hiding that there is no water bottle left). I think there are some rolls of rope in the sack if you wonder. I also made a head swap to add some varity (a Perry plastic 1809 kiwer head). Then after the basecoat I decided to add some more guns to the unit, so he got a carbine.
This was also from a drummer marching casually. Knifed off the drum and drum-sticks, put on a chest from the Black Hussar package, greenstuffed some straps for carrying it, and put a hammer and a sledge on top of it. Then I realised that someone had to bring the pick. So I drilled a hole in the right hand and put a small dot of greenstuff in it. Then I stuck the pick in the hand and a piece of greenstuff in from the other end, as the pick was damaged, or the shaft was a bit too short. After basecoat, in rearming from pioneer to sapper, I also stuck a carbine in on top of everything. That's qute a heavy load!
This was the most elaborate conversion, beginning as one of the standard bearers. I liked the saw from the start, but it was huge! An erected saw was the only alternative apart from using it in a Deployment Point or diorama. But a soldier on the tabletop is always the best way to go, so off I went.
I trimmed one end of the saw to get it a little bit shorter. I needed a new arm to get the saw in place, so I shopped of the old one and replaced it with one from from the Perry Russian plastic kit. I used the ones holding the standard for this, as I don't need them as I play Jägers (they don't carry colours). But the hand was not in the right position, so I took a new one from another Perry plastic standard bearer arm, cut it of, glued it on place and drilled a hole for the saw handle. Then I glued the saw in place, firmly in hand of my sapper!
After this I wanted to use an arm holding a kiwer I had in my bit box (left-over from another conversion). I needed a bare head for this, and I had none, so I found an old head I had cut of the headgear from in some earlier conversion and made hair out of greenstuff. Then I realised that I had to take the tassels away, as they were fixed under the backpack... I did it with the knife, and it was a little tricky (as I already glued the head in place!), but with a new strap of greenstuff my blunders with the knife were covered up. Last but not least I cut off the right hand and put the new one holding the kiwer in place, adjusting it to the right position with a small amount of greenstuff. Violá!
My two groups of sappers needed an officer. As I already had one of this "marching casually command" officer painted up for my force, I wanted to convert the new one. First I made a head swap, easy. Then I got some guns and heads from my mates at the club for this project, among this loot were an pistol. Cool. I drilled a hole and put in the gun. Fitting for a sapper officer! Then I read that the sapper officers did not wear a gorget. Oh my! This means that he's off to join the Jägers, as I'm always in need of officers there.
But luckily I had recently bought Black Hussars Miniatures' set of Prussian "Medical staff" (four medical officers) to use as Russian physics, as the uniforms are pretty close. One of these was now called up to be my new sapper officer - a practical person who has put his sword away to pick up some tools to use with the sledge-hammer (also a Black Hussar item). He has left the silver sash and tassel at camp, because as I said, he's a practical man. The only thing I needed to do was to greenstuff the epaulettes, as the Russian officer's epaulettes are quite more elaborate than the Prussian ones. I cut off parts of the cuffs from an plastic Perry Russian, and glue them in place so that he's got Russian cuffs, not Prussian!
I also painted some musket-armed sappers so that I have two full groups for Sharp Practice.
Group photo of the converted sappers, with their officer.
The two groups united!
What I did wrong - confessions of a Napoleonic player: Sapper edition
I don't really think that the Russian sappers were armed with muskets, or muskets with bayonets. According to my source, they took pride in being pistol armed! So the muskets may be wrong. I got them some carbines instead to make up for this (probably they got some carbines for self defence even if they were not issued them).
I also don't know how the badge on the ammo pouch should look. I went for a grenade badge as they are an "elite company", but it's a guess on my part as maybe they did not even have ammo pouches!
Return of the Knight
Cuirassiers are an interesting type of cavalry, in that they broke off from previous military development. Armour use had peaked in the late Medieval and Renaissance times, with knights in elaborate full plates playing the role of the ultimate shock troops. But by the 17th century, and especially the 18th, cavalry lost that role and wore less and less armour, and no longer being the battering rams of the battlefields.
But during the Napoleonic wars, the heavy cavalry returned to the role of previous ages, especially in the countries that clad them in heavy cuirasses. While not bullet proof, especially at short range, it gave them a definite advantage in close combat. The French cuirassiers also used pallasch sabres instead of the normal cavalry sabres. These long, straight and heavy swords were designed to be pointed at the target similar to a lance, skewering it using the full impact force of the charging horse rather than using cutting movements.
For a brief period of time it was as the knights of old had returned. Several battles were swayed by a successful attack of these, the heaviest of cavalry, and they became iconic for the French cavalry.
Cuirassiers in Sharp Practice 2
So is there a real need to make these for my SP2 force, given that I already have dragoons?
Their cuirasses means that each unit ignore the first kill they suffer in fisticuffs (close combat). They are also Impact Cavalry, unlike the dragoons. Dragoons get 7 dice/unit in fisticuffs when they have moved at canter, and only one extra die when at gallop. Impact Cavalry, however, get 9 dice at canter and a whopping 12 if you can work them up into a gallop.
This means that not only do they hit much harder than other cavalry, especially at gallop, but their opponents are also at a clear disadvantage from the beginning. So unlike Dragoons, you have a decent chance of overturning regular infantry in line formation with a front charge, especially at gallop.
Now, since I say this, they will undoubtably fail miserably when I charge with them for the first time. Or, they will be littered by cannon fire. But one glorious day, they will throw away any restisting Russians like they did at the Shevardino Redoubt!
Cuirassiers in Russia 1812
Napoleon brought a large number of Cuirassier regiments with him to Russia, while other theaters (especially the Peninsula) had much fewer. Of the 14 regiments existing in 1812, only the 4th, 7th, 13th and 14th were not called up as far as I know.
This means that I naturally would have to paint up a few at some point, and by chance some found their way to me through a used minis lot I bought. One box of Perry plastic heavy cavalry (that can be made into cuirassiers or carabiniers) and two blisters of metal cuirassiers, one command and one with regular troopers meant for a total of 20 minis to paint.
The regiments differ in facing colour, so I would have to settle on which one to paint. I have already painted the 2nd lancer regiment, and they formed a brigade together with the 10th cuirassiers at Borodino, which I use as my main reference point, so the 10th it is! Looking up the chart on Napolun, I found out they have a pink facing colour.
The painting was pretty straight forward, though I ended up using both several books and websites as references to get things right.
One thing I got stuck on was the saddle cloths, were some paintings have the regimental number, and some have the "grenade" symbol. I was told when doing my research (but don't quote me on it!) that the number was more common earlier on, and by 1812 it would be more likely to be the grenade. Also, the straps on the portmanteau are sometimes shown as black and sometimes white. Again, these changed over time, so black straps would be more suitable if you paint numbers on the saddlecloths, and vice versa. Now, I'm not 100% sure this is correct, so please make a comment if you know more about these things!
Artistic Freedom? In my Napoleonic Wargames?!
In my research on the 10th cuirassiers I also found this extremely nice image of a trumpeter from the regiment. That's when I was sold on settling on this regiment.
Now, that's a badass looking uniform. However, it's also a drastically different uniform than the metal one in the Perry command set. He wears a bearskin (with a side plume!), and a jacket with no chevrons. The Perry trumpeter is clearly wearing the "Imperial Livery" - a kind of musician uniform that was used by both French infantry and cavalry after the Bardin uniform had been implemented, which means around 1812 to 1813 depending on circumstances. Let's just say that I don't like it as much:
In the end, I went with a kind of Frankenstein type uniform, where I painted up the Imperial Livery in white and pink. Now, this is not based on any historical accounts.However, it's also surprisingly common for regiments, especially before the implementation of the Bardin uniform, to put together unique uniforms for their musicians, so I don't feel too bad about it.
That said, I swear to go back one day and make a proper, bearskin-totin' trumpeter for this regiment. I just need to look up which body would be most suitable. Maybe something in Perry's new chasseurs-a-cheval box?
First out, the plastic ones. I'm still struggling with photos, and this time I used a black paper background in a diffusing photo tent box thingy. Better or worse than before?
(Click for larger pictures)
Next up are the metal troopers. Now, the good thing with these compared to the plastics are that the poses are just great, they are really lunging forwards where the plastic ones are more stiff with straight backs. However, there's a clear downside in the sabres, which are very exposed and easily bend. One of them have already visible chipping on the metal paint. For me, the plastics clearly win out for playing, while the metal ones were more enjoyable to paint.
Here are the metal command pack from Perry. First the Trumpetstein, then a Brigadier (NCO), and finally an officer (I'm using him as a Captain).
Next up are the command from the plastic box. I learned an important lesson here: don't assume that the flag will fit! I got the flag from GMB Designs, and annoying enough it's about 1-2 mm too short to fit. I had to crunch it up a bit, which is visible up close.
While crunching it up, I learned lesson #2 for today: don't water the PVA glue too much when affixing paper flags! The force involved made the flag tear up at places, exposing the white paper under the print. I managed to hide it a bit with paint, but up close you'll see it. Hrmph! Not the experience you want at the final stretch of a project like this.
I forgot to order a flag for the 2nd lancers last time. But now they finally got one, so that they can look nice and proper next to their new buddies:
That was a long entry, but I'm happy to see them painted up. Now I'm pretty close to my goal this Summer: to have painted up at least half of the Napoleonic calvary that I've bought. Only some... 120 or so left! Let's get cracking, and see you soon!
"Glory is fleeting,