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.
Why Thinking is Bad
With a painting plan in place, it's time to deal with the part that is hard to avoid in Napoleonics: painting a metric ton of infantry.
This is a perfect opportunity to dig into that plastic and metal mountain most of us have, as rank-and-file is generally the fastest to paint. In my case I had quite a few sprues of Warlord's plastic French kits, but also a variety of Victrix plastics as well as some other odds and end. For the first step I'm looking at around 5-6 battalions, which means around 200 minis. Most of these will be from my unpainted wardrobe pile of shame, which will please my wife immensely.
My opinion on army painting is that if you want to paint in bulk and get an army done, you should do it in an organized fashion. My 13-year-old self could not paint armies for shit, because I had no idea about how to do that. I would paint a single orc on a war boar to a descent standard, then base-coat some spiders, and the next thing I knew I was building some space elfs or something. Needless to say, nothing got done.
Exactly what you decide your method to be is of secondary importance - what matters is that you get into a rhythm, so that you end up painting when you sit down to paint. The death of bulk painting is thinking. If you're thinking, you're not painting. If you're not painting, you're not getting your army done. So your method is there to ensure that you know what you've done, what you're currently doing, and what your next step will be.
My Current Method
Since I'm basing my infantry in groups of six, I divide what I plan to paint accordingly. So a batch will be either 12, 18, 24 men etc. It's tempting to go with a really big batch, and if you can pull it off you're great. Personally, I find 18 or 24 man batches works best for me.
Step 1: I prime using a spray primer. I've experimented with both blue primers, brown, black and more, and I've come to term with that all of them works for me, except pure white. Get that thing away from me.
Step 2: Once primed, I keep to a pretty basic painting method. I will first block in all colours with a basic layer. This layer is often a tad darker than what I want them to end up as - so red parts gets a dark red, yellow parts might get a mustardy yellow, straps that will be white gets a deck tan paint, etc. I take one colour at a time, and coat everything on the model that will end up with it.
Step 3: Washes are great for bulk painting. I use three washes - one flesh tone for flesh paints, one brown for yellows, brass and browns, and a black for most of the rest including whites, reds, metals and blues. When painting French, you're basically painting those colours. I slab it on quite freely.
Step 4: I basically repeat step 2, recoating the base colour on top of the washes.
Step 5: I highlight some parts, but not all. The parts that tends to give the most effect is highlighting flesh coloured, black, red, blue and white parts. The idea is to not give lavish details for everything, as these are hundreds of dudes who will walk in big blocks, so spending too much time on them will hinder painting progress. So I guess leave them as basic as your painter's pride allows you to?
Now, this is not the best way to paint. It will not make the nicest miniatures out there. It's not even the speediest way to paint! The important thing is this: it's a painting method that I'm very comfortable with, as it's my default way to paint. So I don't need to think a lot when doing it - I can just sit down, see that I haven't painted white yet, and get to work.
So if you're not used to bulk painting and want to try it out, that's my advice. Paint in a way that you're used to, maybe removing a few steps if you're usually a very detail-oriented painter. The greatest improvement in speed will come from painting many miniatures at once, and also thinking about and planning your painting less.
With that said, let's check some progress:
First out are four companies of Warlord's plastic "Late French". These are the epitome of speed painting, as there's almost no colour to them at all beyond beige and gray.
Keeping track of your progress can be a great motivational tool. I put the finished bases, minis attached with blue-tac, in a box divided in battalions. Six bases deep means they are finished. This way it's easy to see what's missing, which is mostly voltigeurs and command stands.
My next batch will deal with my voltigeur deficiency. Two companies, all from Foundry, with a lovely officer and a musician. It's hard to tell from this picture, but they are lovely sculpts and I'll show them more properly when done. The six remaining troops are fusiliers, some of my last remaining non-greatcoat Warlord. As you can see, these are in the step where I'm blocking in the colours, with these being quite close to be ready for washes.
Bonus Painting Challenge
The lovely people over at Murawski Miniatures put up a painting challenge on their facebook page, and I'm a sucker for painting challenges. It's simply to finish some of their minis during the month of September. Now, I've had these Polish Duchy of Warsaw troops in my lead pile for a long time. They're by the excellent sculptor Paul Hicks, a big favourite of my club.
It's a pity not to paint them up, and sometimes you need to treat yourself in between the line infantry. I'll try to do these two companies of voltigeurs and grenadiers before the month is ended, let's see how I do! It's such a small number of minis that it shouldn't keep progress back, and maybe I'll end up with a Polish battalion to bulk out the army.
I'd love to see if you're also partaking in this Murawski challenge, or if you're busy bulk painting an army yourself!
In the previous entry in this series, I looked into what it would mean to expand from a skirmish Napoleonics army into an army suitable for fighting real battles. Now it's time to go from thought into action, as well as figuring out what this requires in practical terms.
Frenchmen Roll Call!
Not starting from scratch should give me an advantage. I've already painted Napoleonic French on and off for a few years. But how will that work translate into a useful foundation for a "big boy" Napoleonic army? It's time for a
I went to our gaming club and took out my French trays. Let's start with the important stuff:
Death on Hooves - Cavalry Check
The cavalry situation looks promising! If we're looking at about 12-14 cavalrymen per regiment, which seems a pretty common unit size, I can squeeze out about 7 or 8 regiments. That's at least half a cavalry corps! While I always like the idea of painting more cavalry it's clearly not a top priority for this project. Though, a few more chasseurs-a-cheval and maybe some dragoons and some more cuirassiers would be nice. And...
Adding Dignity to a Vulgar Brawl - Artillery
Here it looks worse. I only have one horse artillery and one foot artillery cannon with crew painted up. Preferrably I'd paint up at least one battery of three cannon for each type. I do have three unpainted cannon, but it would be nice to have some howitzers as well, as those were mixed into the batteries.
Now it gets messy. I've collected these without aiming for the proper proportions of the various kinds of companies, instead going for useful and interesting options in Sharp Practice. This means I have too many of some options, such as the specialist voltigeur skirmishers which are superb in SP2, and not enough of others, especially the poor old centre companies of fusiliers.
If I were to make battalions of 24 figures out of these they would have the same width as the 36 figure battalions that I aim for with my "real" army. Even without even proportions, that means that I could squeeze out about four or five battalions of line infantry and maybe two battalions of light infantry.
Once I had inventoried my collection I whisked away most of my voltigeurs in march attack poses that I always thought look strange to use as skirmishers in my SP2 games. They'll be press ganged into my new army, where they'll look far more normal when marching along the rest of the companies.
Batch Paint Plan
My initial plan is to be able to field about eight battalions of line infantry and four battalions of light infantry. After that I plan to gradually replace 24 minis battalions with 36 minis battalions, to get a more coherent look. I also plan to paint up a couple of artillery pieces.
This bread and butter routine will most likely be mixed up with some special regiments to keep me from getting bored of French infantrymen.
I set out with painting plan with five main parts:
After this Summer's painting, combined with some troops kidnapped from my SP2 army, this is how the Big Boy army is taking shape. You can see the two battalions that are almost ready: one of Victrix line infantry and one of Warlord's "Early French". The greatcoats are starting to form on the right, using leftover Perry's, and two new battalions in the background (more early Warlord as well as Perry's in Bardin uniforms).
With my painting strategy more or less decided, I needed some tactics for how to reach it. For Napoleonics I've always been a fan of batch painting, and that's how I plan to get this army done.
With each base having six miniatures it makes sense to divide the painting into factors of six. That's how I painted the figures above - out of my big pile of random minis, I'd take six guys in greatcoats, or twelve Early Warlord guys with shako covers, and so on. Most of these batches I paint in 18's. I glue them onto nails using wooden glue, and stick the nails into strips of wood that I've drilled holes into:
I start out with one colour at a time until I have basecoated every colour. Then I apply washes, and go over them again with the original paint and maybe a highlight. These are going to be tabletop standard after all, so no need to spend too much time on them. I've found 18 to be a reasonable number when I need to paint the full uniform, like above.
This is the batch I'm gearing up for afterwards. It's much larger, seven companies (or 42 minis), since most of them are wearing greatcoats. But I'm still working in factors of 6, so that I get nice and even bases out of each batch. It'll take two more batches like this to work through all my greatcoats - not counting the Guards!
Finally this inventory also makes is obvious what I'm missing, and will need to buy for my army. Unfortunately it's not flashy cavalrymen, but command groups! Of the new battalions I'm forming, I only have two (!) command groups. This means that I'll need to get at least four or five command groups to go with them. If I buy command groups from Perry, which comes in boxes of six, each one will also take up an entire company's worth in the battalions. This, of course, means that I can make even more battalions. Great!
I might also end up buying enough extra twoops in Bardin uniforms to at least form a whole battalion of them.
With all that said, I guess someone has to go back to painting line infantry. Wish me luck!
A Second Attempt at Warlord's Lancers
I got to know Warlord Games's French lancers way back in 2017, and had some things that bugged me about the finished result. Since I had about a bunch of them left, nicely primed in my pile of unpainted cavalry, I put some time aside among the infantry painting to knock out a second regiment.
4e Regiment de Chevau-Légers
I went with the 4th regiment, as they served in the same II Cavalry Corps as my previous 2nd lancer regiment. They wore a uniform with crimson facing and green coat and breeches. At Borodino they only had a single squadron accompanying the 1st Cuirassiers regiment, but it would feel a bit strange to just paint up 2 or 3 cavalrymen. Instead, I went for a 14 model unit (it started 15 strong, but one horse broke its leg and had to be put down halfways through the painting process).
Unlike the first unit I decided to give the first rank lances and the second sabres, a common tactic for lancers at the time. The lance had an advantage as a scary impact weapon, but was at a clear disadvantage if the charge turned into an extended melee. If so, the cumbersome lances had a hard time against the more nimble sabres. So the second rank would ditch their lances from the get-go to be able to support their lance-wielding comrades immediately after the impact.
This meant that I didn't have to use the diagonal lance poses, hopefully giving the entire unit a different look.
Both ranks together. Sorry for the poor photography, I had a real bad time with the camera this session.
The sabre rank. unfortunately the sabre hilts are molded onto the riders, which makes it a bit weird when they wield their sabres. Though, you hardly notice when they are stuck in the back row.
The lance rank.
I think you'll agree that they look better overall as a unit this way, compared to my previous attempt, where the lances looked a bit more messy:
That said, I'm still missing a unit command, as I only had the basic plastic cavalrymen for this unit. That's unfortunate given how cool the command of the 4th lancers looked in 1812. I will probably end up getting command pack for them later on to paint.
I have now painted up all the Warlord lancers that I bought a few years ago. Now I'll look towards other cavalry miniatures instead, Polish uhlans, French hussars and chasseurs, guard lancers... and that's not mentioning things I haven't bough yet!
Cool reasons for getting the command models pictured below:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a wargamer in possession of a perfectly sufficient skirmish force, must be in want of an excuse to get more stuff.
Expanding From Skirmish Games
I still believe that skirmish gaming is a great starting point for a Napoleonics wargamer since they require a far less intimidating amount of miniatures. You don't really have to grapple with the entire complexity of the army organizations either, as simply getting a few sets of guys you think look interesting to paint will work out just fine.
As a wargamer you should not feel in necessary to expand your collection further if you don't really want to. But there are six reasons for why our club have started to plan for larger Napoleonics armies:
Three years after getting my first Napoelonics, my French collection has now reached several hundred painted minis. I can barely pretend to be painting at close to the speed by which I buy new ones, and my wishlist is still larger than the stash in my wardrobe - I even barely have any infanterie légère at all! There's simply no way to excuse this behaviour pattern with skirmish gaming anymore, and there's no end in sight.
So let's paint up some proper sized armies.
Skirmish Games vs. Major Battles
If you're new to Napoleonics and reading this, let's go through the difference between skirmish games and grander scale games. It's easiest to explain through the organization of a Napoleonic Army, as the two styles puts you in very different levels of command. I'll use the Grande Armée at Borodino as an example, as that's what I've been using as inspiration for my collection:
The army was divided into several corps. At Borodino Napoleon had 5 army corps (mostly infantry), 1 imperial guard corps (a mix of infantry and cavalry) and 4 cavalry corps present.
The first corps was led by the Iron Marshal himself, Louis-Nicolas Davout, and consisted of 5 infantry divisions plus some reserve artillery.
Each of these divisons was led by a General de Division, and had 2-4 infantry brigades and 2 batteries of artillery.
Each brigade was led by a General de Brigade, and consisted of one or two regiments. Some brigades in other corps that was made up of smaller regiments, such as the Westphalians in the VII corps, could include three regiments.
Each regiment was led by a Colonel, and would have up to 5 battalions, but some would have as few as a single one present on the day of battle.
Each battalion was led by a Chef d'Batallion, and had six companies - four center companies and two more hardened flank companies.
Each company was led by a Capitain, and would at full strength be 140 men, though this was rarely reached even under perfect peacetime conditions, not to mention during a long campaign.
For our skirmish games we've imagined that a big formation on the table represents a company or less. The whole force might represent parts of one or more battalions, often with some supporting cavalry or artillery. So as a French player you can imagine that you're in the role of a Capitain or Chef d'Bataillon, fighting a small skirmish consisting of a few hundred men at most.
This next step would be try the kind of games where you manouver around battalions as the primary tactical unit, or in some cases even brigades. So instead you might imagine yourself as a General de Brigade, or even a General de Division, struggling to enforce a battle plan through your various sub-commanders as thousands of soldiers crash into each other. As your collection (and gaming tables!) grows, you might end up commanding entire corps or more. In other words:
The Great Malmö Napoleonic Summit of 2019
When you set out to collect a large Napoleonic army in 28mm it's a good idea to decide on some basics first. If there's an established group playing in your area you can check out how they treat these things. Since our club is expanding from our current group of Napoleonic players we took the time to have some casual planning meetings as well as online discussions, while keeping an eye on what seemed to be the current standards out there.
When we started to talk about scaling up our Napoleonic battles, the term "Big Boy Napoleonics" eventually developed when referring to these grander games. Somehow it has stucked, and now forms a convenient way to distinguish our skirmish gamings from this glorious growing monstrosity.
1. What are we even collecting?
First out, we agreed that we wanted to start out with building battalions as the main "Big Boy" building block, so that they might form up a brigade or two as the army that we field on the table. In the long run we will probably end up being able to form an entire division. For my French for example, that would mean forming a handful of battalions as a starting point.
We already have a whole bunch of Russians, French and British. Zach is busy painting up Portuguese to form an allied brigade, Shirty has a whole bunch of Russians to expand his force, and I have enough unpainted French infantry to form a regiment or two. We also easily have enough Russian and French cavalry to form some cavalry brigades already. So this madness looks pretty much set to begin.
2. What rules are we considering?
Rulesets are not necessarily too important when planning your armies, unless you're going for a ruleset with very strict basing considerations. Overall, as long as both sides are constructed more or less the same, you can nudge a ruleset into working for you. That said, it's a good thing to start scouting for rules when you start. We're already looking into General de Armée, General de Brigade, Black Powder and Lasalle, and if you have your own ideas of what we should try don't hesitate to make a comment.
3. How will we base the miniatures?
This is probably the biggest question, and the one you'll see endlessly discussed online. The fast rule of thumb is that as long as both sides batallions are roughly the same width, you're fine. But the width of a batallion will vary widely depending on how many miniatures you plan to use for each batallion, and how much space you leave between each miniature. Some common ways to do it are to have 24 or 36 miniatures in a "normal" sized infantry battalion, and either 15mm or 20mm width per infantryman.
In our case, we already have three collections based for Sharp Practice, with individual basing on 20mm round bases which we put in sabot bases. This is not really ideal for larger battle games where you are not going to remove individual casualties. However, we also don't want to rebase everything and make it harder to play skirmish games. We're not looking at abandoning Sharp Practice, which we are quite satisfied with. We solved the conundrum like this:
36 miniatures in two ranks with 15mm width per man is almost exactly the same width as 24 miniatures (or three SP2 groups). So we can field "Big Boy" battalions of 36 against our old Sharp Practice miniatures, as long as we field the latter as units of 24. This way we can cram quite a lot of battalions out of our current forces, without having to rebase them.
24 miniatures per battalion has the advantage of each battalion being cheaper to buy and faster to paint. For a French battalion, each company would be four miniatures. However, 36 miniatures per battalion has the advantage of looking cooler. Using 20mm width per miniature would make it easier to use our old miniatures, since they're based on 20mm round bases. However, 15mm width is much closer to realistic formations, and we agreed that it looks better as units. 10mm width would be pretty much spot on with actual historical drill, but is impossible to do with almost all 28mm miniatures out there as they are too bulky.
For cavalry we'll keep the same basing scheme (20mm width per horse), but consider about 12-14 horses enough for a standard regiment.
So basically we will maintain two paradigms, where infantry can either be based for Sharp Practice or "Big Boy", yet still be fielded against each other without any real issues. When painting up new Napoleonics we'll simply decide on one basing scheme or the other, depending on what we plan to use them for.
Levée en Masse!
Now it's just one tiny detail left - calling up all those extra troops! This process will look a bit different for the various armies, as we both have different starting points and different goals. I'll write up my plans for the mighty French army later on, so watch out for future updates.
Russian Transport Wagon
Russian transport wagon (pre-war use: hauling coal). This one is from Perry and it was a pleasure to paint, at least once finished. I put a little extra effort to the base. It was first covered with a layer of milliput which excels for this kind of job. I made various "tools" to make the wheel-marks and hoof-marks. Then I went on with texture, tufts and paint as usual.
Russian Transport Wagon/Ambulance
Transport wagon with wounded. I painted the uniforms of the wounded one by one while painting each unit. This meant that once I finished the wagon the soldiers were all finished and eager to hitch a ride!
The wagons (including the ammunition wagon I showed together with the artillery) took a great deal of time to complete. There ire many things to do - horses, custom bases, assembling the wagons and painting horses, men and the wagons themselves, all in different colours. All in all it´s kind of like painting cavalry and artillery together, but a little worse. In hindsight I am glad I have done them. They look beautiful and add character and realism to the force and the entire project. But you really have to ask yourself if it´s worth it. In the time it took to paint these I could have painted up an infantry battalion or a cavalry regiment. And the wagons are mostly for show - you can´t really bring them on to the battlefield!
However, I also feel a little morally compelled to do these kinds of things as well. Partly for historical correctness - the armies of this time used a lot of horse-drawn wagons! But also partly because it is so nice of the Perrys to cover these subjects, and their Russian range is great in this aspect. That should be supported!
This said, I have two limbers and a another ammunition wagon acquired for my Cossack artillery... I have certainly not learned my lesson!
When choosing Russians for Napoleonics you really need to paint some guns. Actually, my main reason for taking 12 pdr (that's heavy field artillery) was aesthetics - in miniatures the bulkiness of the human figures dwarfs the smaller 6 pdr guns. So if you want something that looks like bad-ass guns you need to go to the heavies. This is a little unfair - I can tell anyone who hasn't tried it that when you stand besides a 6 pdr at a museum, they indeed feel quite big!
The Russians paid great effort to the artillery arm - with many guns and a great proportion of heavy ones. They also organized them in very big batteries - 12 guns per battery when most other nations had six or eight. Maybe this overworked the commander and probably they also often had more of the batteries guns in reserve during battle (in a six gun battery maybe four guns fired and two were in reserve, but some argue that the big Russian batteries maybe had four or six guns in reserve). In any case this made the Russian batteries more resilient and likely to keep up the fire for longer time.
Another reason for the big batteries may be that properly trained commanders were in short supply in the Russian army, whose officer corps were known for being not too good! Drinking, gambling and a place in the army because of birth privileges anyone?
The artillery pieces were modernised and of very good quality - with state of the art aiming devices for instance. The Russian artilley also had very good horses.
However this does not count for much in a skirmish game, so let's see what I did with the miniatures!
The business end. The guns and most of the crew are from Perry Miniatures. To flesh out the crews for SP I got three more, including an artillery officer, from Front Rank. They are the two behind the guns and the third from left on the right hand gun.
I am very pleased with how the polished bronze turned out. I mixed gold in it at first, then washed with black ink and then added more layers of "highlights" in which I had silver as well as gold to get it bright enough.
A three-horse ammunition wagon. This set up is known as a "troika" and a famous Russian one. Most (all?) other nations chose even pairs of horses for their equipment. To have a three-horse variant must have been convenient. So, not only be good-looking and useful for Sharp Practice, this one adds a certain Russian flavour I really like. Thanks Perry for making these more usual wagons, they add a lot!
Thats all for this time. Next time I will show even more wagons!
"Glory is fleeting,