Saturday 27 May 2017

Painting a 28mm British Napoleonic Battalion.

So once again another forum comment results in another blog entry. This one was, to paraphrase, "would be interested to see how you do your figures" so here's a very rough guide.

A quick comment on how I paint my figures. I block paint colours and then apply a wash. I may, very rarely, highlight some areas after the wash. I don't use wet blending or three colour shading etc, I think the finished figures look fine for wargaming, which is what they are for after all.

With that said here is how I do paint them.

The next unit up in the painting queue wasn't a usual one, it being the Second Battalion of Detachments which was part of Kemmis' Brigade of Campbell's 4th Division at Talavera.
This unit was made up from those troops left behind in Portugal, for various reasons, following the evacuation of Moore's British army from Corunna in January 1809.
For more information on theses units see The British Battalions of Detachment in 1809 by Robert Burnham.
So this unit would have various facing colours, carry no colours and probably have an even more unkempt appearance than the rest of the army.

Main paint colours used not including Facing colours.

Primer, Varnish, and Washes used.

To get a more varied look to this unit I mixed manufacturers and assembled more with bare heads than I would normally. Rear rank are Warlord, front rank Victrix including one of their resin officers, skirmishers Victrix and Perry and a Warlord metal casualty figure.

Assembled and placed on final bases to check fit

The figures were then attached to bottle tops with UHU glue and brush primed using black Vallejo surface primer.

Attached to painting stands and primed.

Then it was time to decide which figures would represent which parent battalions and thus the facing colours and other identifying features required. Having downloaded the tables giving the breakdown of the 2nd Battalion of Detachments I added facing colours to aid with this decision.
Having done this I chose how many figures to do in each facing colour to try and give an overall representation of the historical make up.
This led to the realisation that if I was going to do any figures from the 71st Highlanders I would need some head swaps. Because although, at this time, the parent battalion was back in England and would soon be converted to a Light Infantry unit, those left behind in the Peninsula would still have been in their highland style uniforms. For the 71st this was highland bonnet and tartan trews!
All this resulted in a help call to fellow club members for highlander heads, soon sourced, as well as the following choices for facing colours.

  • Blue: Prussian Blue (965)
  • White: Ivory (918)
  • Yellow: Deep Yellow (915)
  • Black: Black Grey (862)
  • Buff: (976)
  • Gosling Green: A mix I forgot to record but a yellow green.

I paint the knapsacks and attached equipment separately and attach to the figure near the end. I find this gives me better access to heads and more importantly collars when painting.
  • Knapsack: Black (950)
  • Canteen: Pastel Blue (901)
  • Canteen Strap: Leather Brown (871)
  • Blanket: Light (990) or Neutral (992) Grey normally, sometimes with some brown mixed in.
  • Pots, Pans etc: Gunmetal Grey (863) or various browns if covered.
  • Straps: Either Off White (820) or Buff (976) depending on final figure.

Knapsacks in progress.

Onto the figures, I decided to start with the tartan trews having never tried this before. A quick internet search lead to the tartan pattern to be attempted, MacLeod. Quite happy with the results and the decision to only do three.

First attempt at Tartan trews.

My next stage is to paint the large areas so jackets and turnbacks, trousers, headgear, boots and flesh. Note the reversed colours on the drummer and facing colour panels on the drum. As this is a battalion of detachments I have included more figure in locally produced brown trousers than I would for a standard line battalion.

  • Officer/Sgt Jacket: Scarlet (817)
  • Other Ranks Jacket: Dark Vermillion (947)
  • Jacket Turnbacks: Off White (820)
  • Trousers: Off White (820), Chocolate Brown (872), Beige Brown (875), Tartan :)
  • Headgear, Boots, Cartridge box, Scabbards: Black (950)
  • Flesh: Flat Flesh (955)
  • Drum Wood: Light Brown (929)

Jackets, trousers, flesh, black areas plus
backpack and canteen on one piece figure painted.

The two headless highlanders, awaiting bonneted heads.

Next up facing colours. For the collars and shoulder straps I first paint these completely in the edging lace colour, not required on officer figures, and then fill in the facing colour afterwards. This I have found much easier and neater than painting the facing colour first and then trying to paint a thin line around it after. The cuffs are easy, no edging lace except on the drummer. Remember the drummer will have red collar, cuffs and straps if in reversed colour jacket.
I then paint all the equipment straps, remembering to do these buff for buff faced battalions and leather brown for the canteen strap. The haversack and strap are done next then any sashes (facing colour stripe in Sgt's) , shoulder tufts and headgear plumes. Then it's time for hair, musket woodwork and boot gaiters. Last at this stage is the drum bands and cords.

  • Lace: White (951)
  • Equipment Straps: Off White (820) or Buff (976)
  • Canteen Strap: Leather Brown (871)
  • Haversack: Buff (976)
  • Officer/Sgt Sash: Red (926)
  • Shoulder Tufts: Off White (820)
  • Hair: Various colours
  • Musket wood: Flat Brown (984)
  • Gaiters: Basalt Grey (869)
  • Plumes: Off White (820), Off White (820)/Dark Vermillion (947), or Deep Green (970)
  • Drum Bands: Scarlet (817)
  • Drum Cords: Off White (820)

Equipment straps, haversack, facing colours, sashes, plumes,
gaiters, hair and musket woodwork done.
Also highlander heads added.

Next I paint the jacket and cuff, button hole lace as well as wing lace on the flank companies, remembering the officers will be either silver or gold depending on the regiment. Then all the other metallics get painted; musket metalwork and bayonets, swords, pikes, buttons, shako plates, chest strap plates, canteen stoppers, scabbard tips and any buckles.
I then attach the knapsacks and touch up any paint affected while doing this.

  • Lace:White (951)
  • Officers Lace / Metalwork / Buttons: Silver (997), Gold (996)
  • Shako / Chest Plates: Brass (801)
  • White Metal Buttons: Gunmetal Grey (863)
  • Barrels/Locks: Gunmetal Grey (863)
  • Musket Butt Plate / Trigger guard: Brass (801)
  • Bayonets, Swords, Pikes: Oily Steel (865)
  • Officer Sword Hilts: Gold (996)
  • Other Sword Hilts: Brass (801)
  • Scabbard Tips: Brass (801)
  • Misc Buckles: Brass (801)

Jacket lace and all metalwork painted, Knapsacks attached.

The drummer also has a sort of half apron leg protector, this I paint either Off White or Ivory, to give contrast, depending on trouser colour.

Close up of drummer, decided to try a unit
crest on the drum face.

The last stage before applying the washes is to paint the bases using a brown craft paint that I also prime my MDF bases with and then check each figure for any omissions, error or paint splashes.

Bases painted and final check for touch ups before washes.

The first wash is on the flesh areas using Agrax Earthshade from Games Workshop. I used to paint the eyes but don't any more unless they are really wide eyed. I then use the Vallejo Game Colour Wash Sepia Shade on the rest of the figure. This is a dip but I prefer the control of brushing it on. I use this colour rather than a more black based wash as I think it gives a more dusty looking effect, which suits the Peninsula environment they will be "fighting" in.

Washes finished awaiting varnishing.
Casualty attached to his final base and plastic shako added.

Washes finished awaiting varnishing.
Better view of the highlanders.

Next comes the varnishing which again I brush on. I use an Acrylic Polyurethane Matte Varnish 27.527 from Vallejo but this has now been superseded so I will have to try it's replacement when this tub runs out. After the varnish dries they are removed from the bottle tops and fixed to their permanent bases, figure bases trimmed as required. I use superglue for this, other people use various other glues. The casualty figure, as a single figure base has the basing done before a spray varnish is used to seal the whole thing.

All ready for the basing texture etc.

How I chose the base sizes and how I texture them I covered Here on a previous post.

I hope this proves of some use to people, if nothing else it should help me remember in the future.


Basing completed.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Talavera 1809 Afternoon attack

After the previous two warm up games there was a good turnout on Saturday 14th January 2017 for the first all day game of the year at NBHW. The main afternoon assault by the French at the Battle of Talavera July 28th 1809.

Effects on units from the previously played morning attack were applied and forces set up. Once again Black Powder were the rules used, at 2/3rd distances. One exception to this was the ranges for artillery. After setting up the table and positioning the artillery in their historical locations it was discovered that at 2/3rd distances they couldn't hit areas they did historically, so we used full distance range measurements for the cannons.

The French players decided to use their artillery to batter the British troops and this they did for some time. Two British battalions were forced from the field with crippling losses before the order came that the battalions had better lie down under the fierce French bombardment. This reduced casualties as the French cannon roared on.
The French awaited the movement of Maubourg's 1st Dragoon Division to the left flank which was then to attack and defeat the Spanish. The Spanish were not helping their preparedness for the coming attack as one brigade went off to the right and another edged to the left, seeking the comfort of the redoubt and it’s artillery it seemed. This left a huge hole in their lines, it just begged for the French cavalry to arrive and break in.

Finally after a withering artillery barrage
the French Divisions advance.
The British move forward to the Portina to greet them.

After a lunch break was taken the French battalions of Villatte’s 3rd Division of 1 Corps surged forward to the Portina stream, Lapisse’s battalions of the 2nd Division endeavoured to keep up alongside in support. On the left the French cavalry drew up and charged. This attack was initially successful, the Spanish cavalry (understrength due to a lack of suitable figures) and nearby infantry were driven in. British light dragoons of Cotton's Brigade were thrown in to hold the French horse but were also defeated and thrown back. However the tiring French cavalry were beaten off by the Spanish foot around the Redoubt and withdrew, so close to achieving their aim.

Units of Bassecourt's Spanish 5th Infantry Division
await Ruffin's French Division on the allied left flank.

On the left of the allied line the Spanish of Bassecourt's 5th Infantry Division and Albuquerque's 2nd Cavalry division held Ruffin's battle weary 1st Division of 1 Corps in check.
Opposite the redoubt the 3rd Division of 4 Corps, made up of Confederation of the Rhine units, commanded by Leval seemed hesitant to leave the protection of the olive groves, leaving the 1st and 2nd divisions of 4 Corps to advance in support of 1 Corps to their right.

A warm welcome for the French columns.
The British right wing reposition behind the Spanish, just in case,
while the light dragoons head off to try and deal with the
rampaging French dragoons.

At this point, all along the Portina, the French advance that had set off with great élan was stalled as the British volleys poured into the French columns as they struggled to clear the stream. Casualties mounted among the French battalions as the British fire discipline told, despite the French artillery targeting British formations where they could. A battalion of the 48th Foot from Hill's 2nd Division was lost to this artillery fire as it moved to secure the British left. This position was the one worry for the British command as the British heavy cavalry brigade under General Fane repeatedly failed to come up in support. Despite these anxieties, British volleys won the day as the French, unable to come to grips, grudgingly withdrew.

An Anglo-Spanish win, after defeat the last time the battle was played, but a win for all those who paticipated.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Talavera 1809 Morning Attack

Friday the 6th of January saw the first game of the year at NBHW with the second of the two Talavera prequel games. This game was of the French assault on the morning of the 28th July 1809, again in 28mm using Black Powder and once again with the outcome planned to effect the final battle.

The results from the previous game were factored in with units starting with casualties or at a reduced size. The table layout was enlarged to accommodate the extra troops involved and some of the restrictions from the night game rescinded. It was also our first attempt at representing the combined light battalions formed by the British brigades detaching their light companies. We didn't quite get this right on the night but corrected it for the following game.

The French columns advance with support from their artillery.

The French infantry advance was very tardy, but the rapid advance of General Beaumont's French light cavalry on their right forced some British combined light companies into square. The attendant horse battery struggled to bring it's guns forward over the Portina stream but three French battalions did for the square with deadly volleys of musketry.

The French approach the Portina stream
with the British light detachments to the fore.
Preparing to cross, if they can just stop getting "Disordered"

More and more French infantry now gained the Portina and engaged the British light infantry screen in an uneven duel that saw the latter largely defeated across the field. General Villatte's division advanced but little, as it did on the day, but attendant cavalry under General Merlin advanced with abandon, the Vistula Legion lancers leading. They were hit severely by British artillery and forced to retire, with casualties heavy among the Polish horse.

An ill thought out advance by the Polish Light Horse straight
into the welcoming arms of Elliot's Company Royal Artillery.
A "Blunder" roll to be fair if my memory serves.

On the British left the 14th and 16th Light Dragoons of Cotton's brigade formed up and the 14th counter charged the oncoming 5th Chasseurs à Cheval. The French horse were defeated and sent into disarray. The French horse battery, still negotiating the Portina, only just saw the danger and rapidly pulled back it's guns toward friendly infantry.

With this last action, the game was called. Both sides cannon had done some good work, the British cannon on the right particularly, and the French were happy to have seen off the British light infantry screen that may well have future consequences for the British? The French battalions were deemed to have retired from the Portina, far from defeated, as they were historically on the actual morning attack.

Talavera 1809 Ruffin's Night Attack

This game was played at NBHW back in November 2016 in 28mm using Black Powder rules with a few scenario specific tweaks.

This was the first of two pre-actions put on at the club that would tie in with the re fight of the main afternoon assault at Talavera. Unlike with normal Friday night games the players on both sides knew that the losses sustained would be factored in to the following actions. This changed the usual mentality of 'the evenings coming to an end, let's throw in one last attack', and both sides were careful with their planning and resources.

The British and KGL about to be roused to action.

The French groped forward slowly in the gloom and this gave the KGL Brigades time to form line and meet the leading French Brigade before it could gain the hilltop summit the British troops were on. The French took fearful losses to the sustained volleys of the steady Germans and one French Battalion broke, but the remaining French, the best of Ruffin's division hung on, matching the KGL, until the latter quit the field. 

The KGL open up.

A reserve French Brigade was coming up in support, but was having trouble getting forward in the dark. At the same time General Wellesley was personally leading forward a British Brigade to plug the gap left by the KGL, General Hill bringing up artillery in support. With British Battalions to the right of the French lodgement still active and Stewart’s Brigade coming up, the sorely tried French Brigade gave up the attempt to take the important heights and retired.

The right of Ruffin's Division contact Donkin's Brigade.
The 2/87th Prince of Wales's Own Irish in the thick of it.

A short, sharp and intriguing game, with all that it may, or may not, effect in the future actions.

Scenario Tweaks due to this being a night assault:
  • No three move orders could be given.
  • Weapons ranges were reduced.
  • The British started in square (to represent encamped) with picquets on the Portina stream.
  • The British could only redeploy on being alerted by either;
  1. French opening fire
  2. French moving limbered artillery
  3. French rolling a 6 on a D6 while crossing the Portina, representing a soldier stumbling and discharging his musket.
  4. French passing close by a picquet without contacting it, if contacting it would be deemed to have been taken by surprise and destroyed without raising the alarm.
  • Units had to stop (end turn) when reaching the Portina stream and then it took a full move to cross and another move to reform on the other side.
  • The British command had an ADC and he had to ride off table, once alerted and guide re-enforcements back on personally. 
  • There was a rule for the French reserve brigade's entry point but this escapes me at the moment.
If I find my scenario notes for this game I will add them to this blog.

Monday 15 May 2017

Basing My Napoleonic Figures

When I started my Napoleonic collection one of the first things I needed to decide was how I was going to base the figures. A chat at NBHW confirmed that the club mainly used Shako 2 as the ruleset for it's Napoleonic games and the clubs members' collections were based with this in mind. Myself and another member who were looking at expanding the club Napoleonic games into the Peninsula were looking at using Black Powder as our rules of choice. As these rules don't really mind what basing sizes are used, as long as both sides are roughly the same, we decided to base our units to match the Shako 2 basing to allow us to make use of other players' collections in our games. One variation I have made is to basing light or rifle battalions. I have halved the depth of and doubled the number of bases I use, while keeping the same number of figures, as I think this makes skirmish order easier to see on the table as well allowing them to still be used in more formal formations.

Infantry basing

Cavalry, Artillery and Command basing

When using this basing in Black Powder we tend to equate the number of full size bases to the unit size so:

Tiny         = 1 base
Small       = 2 bases
Standard = 3 bases
Large       = 4 bases
A Tiny unit ie Rifle Company is sometimes represented by one half base of 3 figures

With this sorted it was time to think of materials to use. After attempting to cut uniform size bases out of plasticard I decided life was too short and switched to pre cut 2mm thick MDF bases from Warbases.
As for the actual texturing of the bases one of the club members had a video on his Blog showing how he bases his figures and after watching this I now use the same method.

I also decided to identify my units with labels whilst trying not to ruin the aesthetic of the units. To this end I printed stickers which are placed on the underside of the bases along with another placed on the rear edge of the base. This rear one utilises the Arial font at size 5.

Example of rear label

Hopefully this explains how I came to my basing decisions.

Friday 12 May 2017

Peninsular War, Ambush. Game at NBHW

This was a Friday night game at NBHW back in September 2016 and featured my Portuguese troops for the first time. The scenario was produced by Ryan, another club member and featured the use of the individual commander personality options in Black Powder, the first time we had utilised these at the club.

The French force consisted of two infantry brigades and a cavalry brigade who were on a foraging expedition into the Spanish countryside.
The Allied force consisted of a combined British/Portuguese brigade, a King's German Legion brigade, a British cavalry brigade and a brigade of Spanish militia lead by a battalion of regulars. The allied force, aware of the French presence in the area decide to set a trap.

As well as these general objectives each of the brigade commanders had their own personal secret missions and personality statistics, some such as "Aggression", "Decisiveness" and "Independence" from the Black Powder rules while others just allowed scenario specific events. These secret missions made for some strange appearing commands being given during the game.

Below are some pictures from the game and a link to the club Facebook page AAR.

Obviously a language problem as the Portuguese blunder
to the right, across the front of the British firing lines.
Straight in front of French Attack Columns,
with the inevitable result
Meanwhile the Royal Artillery can't believe their luck.
That's going to hurt and it did, bye bye battalion.
After surviving the initial French assault the
Portuguese turn to face, for a while at least.
The brave Spanish militia prepare to meet the French columns
while Spanish hussars charge into the flank.
If I remember correctly this game was heading to a draw, maybe French win, with both sides loosing brigades prior to the game being called at the end of the night.

Game photo album and AAR on club Facebook page

The Individual Brigade Briefings:


1st Brigade:
The van of a larger force you have pushed further into the Spanish countryside than ordered in the search for rations. The last convoy brought nothing but stale bread and vinegar. Having caught sight of a smaller combined British and Portuguese force near a farmhouse you have chosen to engage. Lead by a courageous and experienced, but stubborn, officer the 1st Brigade is the first into the field.

Secret mission; Secure a supply of rations (capture the farm)

"Courageous" (Aggression - High)  +1 SR when giving a charge order
"Stubborn" (Independence - High)  +1 SR if you go first, however Blunders on a roll of 11 as well as 12

2nd Brigade;
In close support of the van, you have pushed deeper into Spain than you feel is safe. The sight of the British has prompted you to suggest a retreat. However your concerns have been overridden. Whilst the majority of your troops have experienced combat, you fear that some of your recent conscripts won't stand. You lead your troops onto the field reluctantly.
D6, 5-6 Turn 2
D6, 1-4 Turn 3

Secret mission; Survive!

"Coward" (Decisiveness - Low) If the command result is three moves, roll again. The second result must be accepted.

Cavalry Brigade;
You have just received a letter from your family. Your father writes that Napoleon himself has heard about your action and it will only take one more act of bravery to secure your promotion. The sight of the smaller British force alone and without cavalry of their own has excited your young blood. Today your name will be mentioned in dispatches. Having crossed a greater distance than the infantry you arrive later than you wish, horses breathing heavily under the Spanish sun.

Secret mission; Capture the colours.

"Confident" (Decisiveness - High) May re-roll failed command tests, however if the re-roll is a failure then the result is always a blunder.


1st Brigade;
With information from your brave Spanish allies you have learnt that a large French force is in the area, however unaware of your presence it has split up it's forces. As senior officer you have chosen to set a trap. Confident in your victory, your letter to Horse Guards is already written and waiting with your wife to be sent to London.

Secret mission; Destroy the 1st French Brigade.

"Confident" (Decisiveness - High) May re-roll failed command tests, however if the re-roll is a failure then the result is always a blunder.

2nd Brigade;
A veteran of many campaigns in India, you stand ready to serve king and country. While your command is not the most glorious you have ever led, you hope to surprise the enemy from the flanks.

Secret mission; Cut off the French line of retreat.

"Age comes to all". Age has slowed your mind and body. Must roll lower than the turn count to enter the field starting on Turn 3.
"With age comes wisdom". May pick which flank to enter from.

Cavalry Brigade;
You are dreadfully short of horses and patience with your supply lines. You were promised new mounts weeks ago and the French appear to have plenty. You mount your horse, your last remount after the previous went lame. Making your own plans you intend to use this battle to secure new mounts.

Secret mission; Destroy the French Cavalry Brigade.

Spanish Brigade;
Without a leader the Spanish have risen up to defend their homeland. Instead they are led by a unit of uniformed regulars (Count as SR 6). Much depends on chance but they can not leave the entire glory to the British.

Secret mission; Capture an Eagle.

"Unstable". Regardless of result, roll a Break Test after melee.
"Courageous" (Aggression - High)  +1 SR when giving a charge order.

Thanks again to Ryan for the scenario.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Talavera 28th July 1809 Afternoon attack

Back in September 2015 several club members gathered on a Saturday morning to re-fight the main attack of the Battle of Talavera which took place on 28th July 1809. This was to be the NBHW's first time gaming this battle using the Black Powder ruleset. Figures were all based to the system for Shako 2 but as that meant all opposing unit frontages were equivalent that was no issue to using Black Powder.  The game was set up on the Friday night to allow for a prompt (ish) start Saturday.

Due to a limited number of available Spanish troops the layout concentrated on the area between the main French and British forces facing each other across the Portina stream between the Sierra de Segurilia in the north and the Pajar de Vargara redoubt to the south. Various units on both sides were represented by stand in units, all the correct faction but not necessarily in the correct uniforms or in the case of Leval's Division, the correct nationally.

Starting Positions:
Cerro de Medellin plus Allies on the Right.
Cerro de Cascajal and French on the left.
Portina Stream down the centre.
British positions looking north.

Two years on from this game and I can not remember all the ins and outs that occurred except that the French won on the day and the Spanish proved to be unexpectedly stubborn. The battle in pictures with captions added just after the game are presented below along with a link to the club Facebook page AAR written at the time including more photographs.

Game photo album and AAR on club Facebook page

The fallout from this game was the resolve to replay with more Spanish and correctly uniformed troops present on an extended battlefield, wider northern valley and more room to the south, sometime in 2016. so back to the painting table for several club members and a rethink on layout and unit stats for the game organisers.

As for the 2016 game, that became a linked game covering the French night and morning attacks as well as the main final assault but more of that in future posts.


P.S Many thanks to Jonathan Jones who provided a mountain of information to enable me to help put this game on.