Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Entry #11 to AHPC: 'An Alpine Duet' - Italian Wars Swiss Alphorn

It was a bit of a scramble for me this week, but I've come up with a vignette that I've been wanting to do since I began my Italian Wars project a few years ago: a Swiss alphorn player calling out to his reisläufer camarades. 

A very unique instrument, the alphorn has its roots extending back to antiquity, with theories believing that it originated with the lituus war horn from the Etruscan period.  Early medieval alpine myths frequently refer to the horn being used as a signalling device between mountain villages, while the first documented reference of the word 'alphorn' is in a 1527 account book of a Cistercian abby, where an alphorn player was paid two Batzen for his playing (or perhaps to stop).

So with this in mind, I've extrapolated that if the alphorn was a fairly common instrument amongst the Swiss from at least the early medieval period, one could conjecture that they would have used them in their military campaigns, for signalling purposes and, like the highland pipes, to raise the morale of their fighting men.

As there are no alphorn figures in the market (a shocking oversight, I know) I made my own by bisecting the torso of a Perry Swiss musician, removed his existing instrument, and reposed him (aided with a liberal amount of wire and green stuff) to accept his 10 foot alphorn.  

The alphorn itself was made from a length of plastic rod with greenstuff wrapped around it and then sanded to shape.

For a bit of fun, I've accompanied the alphornist in a somewhat mismatched duet with a Landsknecht flautist, while a few onlookers are taking in the concert, enjoying a refreshment. 

Take it away!

Song: 'Heart of Cairo' (2013)

Artist: Eliana Burki

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Entry #10 to AHPC VIII: Female French Partisans: Simone Segouin and Nancy Wake

A few years ago I painted up some female partisans and thought these two figures from Stoessis Heroes would provide nice additions to the collection.

Simone Segouin, aka Nicole Minet, was just 14 when Germany invaded France. Nonetheless, young as she was, she joined a local partisan unit in 1944, the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans, a communist-led force which became the largest and most effective French partisan organization during the war. 

Simone participated in the liberation of Chartres and then joined the resistance fighters traveling to free Paris. There are several pictures of her participating in the street fighting in Paris, to which she became a bit of a cause celebre.  Simone was awarded the Croix de Guerre and was commissioned a second lieutenant. In 2016, at age 91, Simone was presented the 'Soldiering On Award', which recognizes outstanding achievements, acts of personal sacrifice or comradeship demonstrated internationally, by individuals, groups or associations, which have supported the British Armed Forces Community.

Simone Segouin, at age 91, receiving the Soldiering On Award

Nancy Wake is perhaps one of the most famous partisans who served in occupied France during the Second World War. Not French herself, Wake was in fact a New Zealander, raised in Australia, who became an agent of Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) after running her own operations in Marseilles earlier in the war.

Nancy Wake - 'The White Mouse' of Auvergne
By 1943 the Gestapo considered Wake (whom they called 'The White Mouse') to be their most wanted person and had a 5-million franc bounty on her head. She ran a Maquis unit in the Auvergne, which she helped raise to an amazing 7,500 persons under arms. 

One of the many fake identity papers used by Nancy Wake, aka 'The White Mouse' while she operated as a resistance leader.

From April 1944 to the final liberation of France her force tied down approximately 22,000 SS personnel, inflicting over 1,400 casualties while only taking around 100 themselves. For her service Wake was awarded: the Croix de Guerre, Officer de la Legion d'Honneur, the Medal of Freedom (USA), the George Medal (UK), the RSA Badge in Gold (NZ) and the Companion of the Order of Australia. She died in the UK in 2011, aged 98. At her request, her ashes were spread in the same area of France where she had fought with the resistance. Another very grand lady.

Ms. Wake later in life.
Such amazing women. 

In honour of both of these brave women, Stoessi's Heroes has produced 28mm models of Segouin and Wake. These are lovely castings, very finely featured and full of character. 

I found a colour picture of Simone taken when she was fighting during the liberation of Paris and I've made my best efforts reflect what she wore at that time. 


Thanks for visiting folks and have a great week!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Entry #9 to AHPC VIII: Breitenfeld, 1631 - The Protestant Center, in 2mm

A couple of years ago Sarah and I were visiting Sidney and his lovely family at Roundwood Towers, and one night, over a few glasses of plonk (okay quite a few glasses) we were discussing his new project at the time, the 1632 Battle of Lutzen. Sidney had most of the figures and terrain pretty much sorted (and little gems they are) and was in the process of getting into the grist of the rules. (I highly recommend you visit Sid's blog, Roundwood's World, where he charts his thoughts and progress on this fascinating project.) 

Sidney described to me what he was wanting to convey in the rules: that they were to be a simple set of instructions which could provide a fun game, rich in 17th century character, and easily played during the course of an evening. Being a bit of a rules junky, I began to proffer a stream of unsolicited advice to poor Sid, to the extent that, by the end of our visit (happily marked by several more empty bottles of plonk), we had hammered-out the core mechanics of a set of rules which we've titled 'Swinefeather' (as a nod to the soldiers' term for the fork-tipped musket rests they used during this period).  


This past autumn we were back for another visit, and Sid and I took the opportunity to give the rules another run-through, making more adjustments and knocking off a few rough edges. It was at this time that I thought that it might be helpful if created a couple of 2mm forces so we could better playtest the rules at a distance, bouncing ideas back and forth. 

With this in mind, I decided that I wanted to do something similar to Sidney's approach, that is to pick a specific battle to which to build a couple of forces around. With Lutzen well and truly covered by Mssr. Roundwood, I decided to jump in with both feet, and set my sights upon the 1631 battle of Breitenfeld. Yes, nothing like picking one of the biggest battles of the Thirty Years War to break one's duck! Nonetheless, I thought that the upcoming Painting Challenge would provide perfect impetus to get this project off the ground and moving forward, so off I went.

So here, after that very long introduction and no further ado, are my first efforts in this new project. What I'm showing here today is the 2mm order-of-battle for the Protestant center at Breitenfeld, which was perhaps around half of the entire force commanded by Gustavus Adolphus on that dusty day in September, 1631.

Gustavus' center was commanded by General Maximilian Teuffel, with his second in command being John Hepburne (an officer of Scottish mercenaries, a fairly common fixture in Swedish service at that time). Hepburne took command of the center after Teuffel was killed earlier in the day, so I've included his command stand to reflect that occurrence. 

The Swedish right and left wings were led by Johann Baner and Gustav Horn respectively, and on the extreme left flank Gustavus was joined by the ill-stared Saxons under Johann Georg, Elector of Saxony (more on those lads and their associated commands in a future post). 

The (wee) man himself, Gustavus Adolphus and staff.

Johann Walter's 'Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden at the Battle of Breitenfeld'

The center was made up of four successive lines composed, alternately, of infantry and cavalry, and each positioned to support their friends to the front, either to exploit successful breakthroughs, or to provide reinforcement in the event of the forward lines being thrown into disarray by the enemy.

Most of the models seen here are metal castings from Irregular Miniatures. They can be a bit 'blobby' at times, but on the whole they admirably convey what they need to and are great fun to work on. On the bases I've tried to reflect the Swedish manner of how they arrayed their formations (the famous 'Swedish Brigade), including their doctrine of having small battalion guns prividing close fire support to the infantry.

The four troops of Protestant cuirassiers assigned to the Swedish centre.

The basing is:
- 60x30 for the infantry brigades, 
- 30x30 for the troops of cavalry,
- 60x60 for the massed artillery,  
- 30mm rounds for the wing commanders,
- and 40mm rounds for the army commander

I augmented the Irregular casting with a bespoke 3D range that I found on Shapeways by  a very creative company called Forward March Studios. These miniatures are printed in a white polymer resin which is quite robust and takes paint very well. 

A 2mm Windfarm!

2mm command groupings

I ordered a good sampling of their stuff, so I should have more to show from this range in the coming months. Below is a base reflecting Gustav's concentration of guns that I've created using the Forward March models.  I like the long line of gun carriages and caissons running behind the guns. Something you don't often see in larger scales. The charming windmill is from their range as well (see the unpainted examples above).

I've followed in Sidney's creative footsteps and pimped the bases with banners cut from wine bottle foil (lot of that around here it seems) and painted a coloured strip along the back to denote their nationality (here we see IKEA blue for the Swedes). As several of the big battles of the period (including Breitenfeld) were fought in the fall I gave the bases a bit of an autumnal treatment. 

We've come up with a mechanic were we mark the status of the units with small beads; yellow for 'Shaken', orange for 'Disordered' and red for 'Shattered'. In order to keep the beads with their associated units, I drilled out my bases on their top right corners and glued in small pegs, this way the beads can easily be inserted and (hopefully) kept in place during gameplay.

So there you have it. The core elements of the Swedish/Saxon force at Breitenfeld. I hope to have the two cavalry wings and the Saxons done before the end of the Painting Challenge, wish me luck!

Thanks for stopping by for a peek.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Entry #8 to AHPC VIII: The Screaming Antelope & Terrain for 'Kingdom Death'

Hi All!

Our gaming group has been playing a lot of 'Kingdom Death' lately, and I have to say it's a very addictive game - very nasty and adult, but addictive. The core campaign is called 'People of the Lantern' and lasts, if you're lucky, around 30 sessions. We're about four sessions in and have managed to survive several White Lions and our growing settlement is just about to track down the next nasty: 'The Screaming Antelope'. 

From a distance, the creature looks like a giant antelope, but when you look closer you discover that it has a nightmarish gaping maw that runs down the length of its underbelly, with little creepy hands emerging from each side of the mouth that help to stuff in any nearby victim. 

Yes, the hills are alive with the sound of...screaming... Yeesh. 

As nasty as this creature may sound, it's small beer compared to what's coming down the pike. Oh well, it's not called 'Kingdom Death' for nothing.

I've painted the Screaming Antelope pretty much the same as I did  the White Lion last month. Sort of a sepia greyscale(ish) effect, with a bit of source lighting (sorry Greg) cast underneath from a dropped lantern (a little 3D print I came across). 

Sarah absolutely hates it, so I must be onto something. :)

In addition to this gnashing beastie, I've also managed to get some terrain done for the game. 

The core box comes with an assortment of punch-out cardboard pieces to represent obstructions and various bits of cover. They're perfectly fine and serviceable, but I thought it might be nice to have something a little more in-theme to go with the miniatures.

I did some poking around on Thingiverse (gosh, I LOVE that website) and discovered that some very talented folks have made excellent 3D designs of most of the game pieces. I printed off a set of the Fallen Pillars (artist: Gazgoblin) and the Giant Stone Face (artist: heribertovalle) to see how they looked. Well, as you can see they printed out very nicely, with lots of deep relieve which makes drybrushing them a doodle. 

Felix was hoping it was a dog treat.

I think I'm going to place some lanterns along the edges of these to cast (airbrush) some spooky uplighting, but that will have to come at a later time.

Next up for this game will be the oh so touchy-feely: 'The Butcher'

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Entry #7 to AHPC VIII: Italian Wars Landsknecht Culverin

I've returned to my Italian Wars project to add a bit of artillery support to the collection.

This is a German-crewed culverin (or bombard?) mounted on a adjustable split-tail carriage. In modern terms this is not a particularly large gun, but to those living in the 16th century this would have been quite an impressive piece of artillery. (With it being near as much a danger to its crew as it would be to their intended targets.)

The figures are from Redoubt Enterprises and while they are a bit ill-formed and perhaps a tad lumpish, I find they have a certain charm about them and they posses a wonderful dynamism, especially in how their various poses convey a sense of movement. These fellows really reinforce the idea of them frantically trying to realign their gun while in the midst of combat.

I tried to match the groundwork to the rest of my bases, which are all autumnal, so a wide assortment of brown foliage, late blooms and a generous carpet of fallen leaves are all there. If it weren't for the big freakin' gun and its boorish crew of beer-swilling Landsknechts, perhaps it would be a nice place for a quiet repast with a bottle of Chianti, a loaf of fresh bread and a plate of prosciutto. Ah, bellissimo!

Have a great day everyone!

Next Up: Another Beastie for 'Kingdom Death'