Saturday, June 28, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

The painting table got moved outside this afternoon and some work got done, mostly on some 6mm Baccus Napoleonic Frenchies.  On the left are some voltigeurs that, once finished, will be added as eye candy to the front of the line infantry that I got finished and based today.    In the background are some French artillery limber teams in progress.

In the centret is a 20mm Brittannia WW2 Red Army command group that will, when finished, all go on one base as an HQ group to pose beside a Britannia Soviet command truck. On the right are more Soviets, this time 15mm infantry from Plastic Soldier Company that are getting the speed painting treatment.

It was a beautiful day to paint outside.   This may be it with the paints for a fortnight, got to get packed tomorrow as Madame Padre and I are off to Italy on Monday.  Ciao!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Omaha Beach With Giant Bugs, Time Travel And Tom Cruise

And you thought Omaha Beach was a bad way to invade France ...

I’m not a great movie reviewer but I know what I like and I have to say that the new Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow worked for me on several levels. It’s hard to say anything about this film without giving the whole thing away.  As Richard Brody writes in The New Yorker, “Because the setup is the source of much of the movie’s pleasure, more or less any discussion of the story is a spoiler”.  So I’ll content myself with saying a few things about it that I enjoyed.

As an example of military SF, it worked for me.  The weapons, aircraft and powered exoskeletons worn by the infantry all seemed convincing because they point in the direction that western militaries seem to be moving in.   If you doubt me, check out US defence columnist Tom Ricks’ take on the film here.  There were lots of other military details that the film got right, like British Army uniforms.  And, as Ricks notes, it was refreshing to see an SF film where the high tech gadgets chew through batteries and ammo fairly quickly.

I liked the acting, and even though I’m not a great fan of Tom Cruise, I liked his character’s story arc from coward to hero.  His face in the first combat scene and in the last was a study in contrasts.  There was also some great chemistry between him and Emily Blunt, who played an SOF-type hardass with a sword that will make GW Space Marines want to see this film.  Ms. Blunt has certainly come a long way since Young Victoria.

While the story depends on time travel (it’s a lot like the film Groundhog Day in that respect), it’s done with a lot of humour and intelligent writing.  There were as many laughs as gasps in the audience last night.

While the film hasn’t being doing so well at the box office, the megamall cinema I was in last night was packed with young adults, so that Mdme. Padre were easily among the oldest folks there.  It struck me towards the end that a lot of young people, especially gamers, will relate to the film because of its relationship to the video game as an entertainment experience.  The Groundhog Day conceit of the film means that for Cruise’s character, each death is kind of like a reversion to a save state, and he can advance again trying to learn from his previous experience, just as a gamer can, until in the final scene of the film, there is no save state to fall back on, and life and death count.  Apparently this was the idea that the author of the manga on which the dilm is based, “All You Need Is Kill”, Hiroshi Sakarazaka, was getting at.  

“In his afterword to “All You Need is Kill”, Mr. Sakurazaka explains that he as thinking about video games while writing the novel.  “I reset the game hundreds of times”, he writes, until my special attack finally went off perfectly”.  In other words, video games are a type of time machine that allows players, if they put in the hours, to achieve victory.  Hence the movie’s clever tagline, “Live, Die, Repeat”, which, of course, echoes the faith that every film genre fan embraces: live, watch, repeat.

A couple of things got on my nerves slightly.  Why would an army take an officer charged with desertion and cowardice and stick him in a highly trained assault unit and equip him with expensive kit on the eve of a decisive operation?  Also, why is it that when aliens go up against homo sapiens, they always have a “big brain” bug thingy that controls the whole shooting match, so that all their vulnerability is concentrated into one big, convenient target for the final scene?

Otherwise, EoT is a good film to begin summer with, and one that will reward war gamers with an SF interest.  A final reason to see the film is that if you don’t like Tom Cruise, you can watch him get killed … over and over and over again.


Monday, June 23, 2014

A Sorting And Sifting Sort Of Weekend

You may recall that in February, in the midst of a fierce blizzard, a stalwart from Canada Post delivered  a large box of small Napoleonic goodness.   I had a peak inside the box, and was quite excited by the hordes of little chaps therein, but also was rather intimidated, and then got busy, and then put the box away.   

Well, this weekend, being in a rather lazy and fitful phase of thesis research, I screwed up my courage to the sticking point and went through all the little boxes crammed in that one big one.  The first job was to pull the little bases away from the sticky tape that my vendor had used to secure them.  He did a wonderful job of securing them for transport, but alas, he didn’t sort them especially diligently.  Some boxes were predominantly French, but usually French, Austrian, and some Russian figures of all types were mixed in together.   

Once the figures were all free of tape, the next job was to sort them.



I’m slowly getting better at identifying the troop types, through there were a few types of paint jobs that had me scratching my head.  For example, these fellows based as light infantry, and painted a rather shocking shade of green. At first I thought they were some species of Russian, but on one of the bases on the underside I found the word “Irlandais”, so I am guessing they are supposed to be Napoleon’s Irish Regiment, which were, as far as I can tell, light infantry, but perhaps not as numerous as the 20+ figures in this collection suggest.  Well, fair enough, we all have our pet units.


The big chore will be basing them, which requires careful sorting and squinting to sort them all by uniform type (especially taxing with the Austrians, where many figures are all white with just tiny blobs of facing at collar and cuff.   I am currently cutting bases out of MDF, but with so many, I suspect a bulk order to Warbases might be the trick.   Currently I am using the 60mm by 30mm bases called for in the Polemos rules, one base for GdD and two pushed together for the larger formations in MdE.   The other rules set I’m looking at, Too Fat Lardies’ Le Feu Sacre, doesn’t seem that particular as to base size as long as it’s consistent.  As for basing the infantry, I am considering putting the marching figures in column and the advancing figures in line, but seeing as Polemos doesn’t seem interested in actual formations, I may put them all in line and just orient the bases with a 90 degree turn to indicate column.  Any suggestions?


Blessings to your die rolls and brushes!


Friday, June 20, 2014

They Don't Do History Like This Anymore



Imagine my delight to find this book in a local used book store, for a quite decent price.   I read it once as an undergrad and thought at the time that it was pretty stirring stuff.  Then I went to graduate school and learned how academic professionals think about historiography, and I am fairly sure that Elting’s book would not pass muster on the syllabus of a history course at a major university today.   Fortunately for us, Elting was either ignorant of or ignored academic history.  He was a soldier, writing about soldiers, and we are all blessed for it.

Colonel John R. Elting (1911 - 2000) grew up in the American West and first joined the US Army in 1933.  His first commission was in the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Stanford University in 1932, and he described serving in a unit of “horse-drawn field artillery, equipped with the famous Model 1897 “French 75”.  (Much later I would realize that this had had historical value; like Napoleon’s gunners, I had learned something about what horses could do and the problems of caring for them”.

Much of his writing is peppered with observations that come from his own experience.  In describing how Napoleon favoured riding in coaches while doing staff work on the march,  Elting notes that “A general could not study reports or maps astride a galloping horse.  (Even gentle, well-trained horses usually object to having a map suddenly unfolded right behind their ears and take unpredictable action to remove that nuisance)” (Swords 76).   One wonders if he learned that lesson about maps and horses the hard way as a young officer cadet (or as Elting would say, a “shavetail”) from his first days with horses and guns.    Sometimes the slang is absolutely delightful, as when Elting speaks of the French cavalrymen’s habit of using up horses: “Even when long service hd taught him how to handle his mount, he tended to remain the sort of rough rider who had, in the parlance of my Montana boyhood, “teeth in his ass” (Sowrds 317).  Other gems of mid-twentieth century slang are scattered through the book, as when Elting refers to an eccentric officer as an “eight ball”.

I couldn’t imagine a better introduction to Napoleon’s army than this book, however dated it might be.   Each arm of the service gets a careful and detailed study, in the wider context of the period, from the last years of the Royal Army to the Hundred Days.   There is no nuanced, objective portrait of Napoleon.   Clearly Elting revered the man, and I am sure wished he could have served under him in another lifetime.   He spares few opportunities to praise Napoleon’s appetite for work and for detail, his bravery, and his devotion to the profession of arms, as in this account of the retreat from Moscow and of how the Emperor raced back to Paris to raise a new army before news of the disaster became widely known:  “He left Smorgoniye on December 5 and reached Paris just before midnight of December 18, covering almost 1,300 miles of winter roads in thirteen days, wearing out six vehicles and half of his party.  That dash had been almost entirely improvised, its first stages through debatable country with only light escorts, which had orders not to allow him to be captured alive.  The morning of December 19 he was hard at work.” (Swords 79).  I remember a few years back on a staff ride of the Little Big Horn with another retired US Army colonel who clearly revered Custer, historiography be damned.  Soldiers like soldiers.

Elting was an armoured officer in Europe in World War Two (he co-authored the tactical manuals on the tank battalion and company that his tanker peers used in Europe), and his postwar service included West Point, Asia and finally, as a staff officer (G2) in the Washington Military District in the mid 1960s, where he describes having a front-line view of the Vietnam-era protests and may have pondered Napoleon’s dictum about crowds and whiffs of grapeshot.  As he himself wryly noted of these last days in uniform, "I had ample opportunity to study the underside of democracy in action and to ponder the ancient proverb that 'God looks after small children, idots, drunken sailors, and the United States of America’.”  He would have gotten along well with my own dad, who retired as an infantry major in 1968 and as a crew-cut middle-aged civvie went to university in the glory days of hippiedom.

Elting had a prolific career as an historian, writing about Napoleonic matters and the War of 1812.   His commentary in the two-volume Napoleonic Uniforms collection of Herbet Knotel’s colour plates is amazing.  Other historians wrote numerous tributes to Elting’s generosity in helping them research and write their books.   One historian recalled how he was mystified at how one side managed to get 700 horses across the St. Lawrence River during the 1813 Crysler’s Farm campaign.  He called Elting and they “worked out a very probable answer, based on such historical evidence as I had and Colonel John’s own memories of a river-crossing exercise undertaken in dust-bowl Kansas in the mid-1930s.  That kind of rare but extremely useful expertise is unfortunately lost to us."  

John Elting died at his desk in his study, and for me, at least, it’s hard to imagine a better way to go.  Just before his death, he wrote this note to a friend and fellow historian.  

"Dusk.... I'm in the Night Hawk Guard's square at La Belle Alliance [Waterloo], fumbling for one last cartridge. Too many heart failures over last few months, and nothing much left for the next one.... Been great knowing you."

Colonel John, I wish I’d known you.  Thank you for your books and for your example as a soldier and as an historian, sans pareil.



Monday, June 16, 2014

And Today, Some Napoleonic Humility


Yesterday I was blowing my own horn and congratulating myself for having painted 96 6mm Napoleonic figures.   Steve St. Clair, the fellow described here has painted over 250,000 and has plans to do more.  We should all watch this video when we need a dose of inspiration.

However, one has to wonder, “Is he married?”   “Was he once married?”  If he’s still married, with half a million figures painted, his partner has the patience of a saint.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

96 Frenchmen

It’s been a good week, painting wise.   I’m pretty much ready to declare these 96 6mm Baccus Napoleonic French infantry done and ready for basing.   I was afraid that painting them would be a chore, but I was pleased to discover that at this scale, assembly-line painting, one or two colours a night x 96 figures, isn’t that awful, and the rewards as they near completion are quite substantial.   I’m very happy with this lot.  Depending on whatever scale I’m using, with 4 command stands and 5 infantry stands to go with each command element, I either have a brigade or a division, which is not a bad week’s work.  I’m currently working on the skirmishing light infantry figures to accompany them, and then I can start working on the bases.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Paint Table Saturday


Not much painting today, but I did get a few moments after returning from anniversary celebrations with Madame Padre to make a start on these 6mm Baccus French Napoleonic light infantry.  They’ll be the skirmish elements for some bases of line infantry that got done earlier this week.

In the back left are three Reaper baddies for a Weird War Two project, and in the back right are some Front Rank Russian SYW figures that are getting reworked prior to getting new banners.

Blessings to your brushes!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Forgotten and Glorious ACW Minis Are Unforgettable AND Glorious

My order of ACW 28mm miniatures from FG Miniz Forgotten & Glorious Company of Art arrived on Monday and did not disappoint.   F&G are a relatively new French company, and seem to be additional proof that trans-Atlantic hobbyists like myself don’t just have to look to Great Britain as the centre of gravity for our hobby.   European companies like F&G and Black Hussar are doing cracking work these days, and I am sure there are many other Eur minis companies that I don’t know about.

I was considering F&G’s Kickstarter campaign for their 14th Brooklyn figures (they seem to specialize in early ACW) but when the announced a new line of Iron Brigade sculpts, I was hooked.  I have several regiments of this iconic Union brigade and thought that these F&G figures, especially the command figures, just had loads of character.  There was also the thrill of getting figures from the first production run of minis from brand new moulds.  

Here’s a command group, taking the air on my patio table.  I love the look of the colonel with sword on the right.  He seems to be saying, “Now then, Padre, you seem like a fellow with the right mettle, I’m sure you’ll move us to the front of the painting queue."

 Another thing I love about F&F is that their national standard flagpole comes with a US eagle.   I’ve never seen a company do that before, and I’ve always wanted one.


 These figures compare well in size with other lines of 28mm ACW figures.  Seen below on the far left is a Perry plastic figure, and on the right is one from Old Glory.  I would say that the F&G figures are slightly larger than the ACW line from Foundry, and perhaps a tiny bit smaller than the ones from Redoubt.

There is stiff competition for the painting queue, but I suspect I’ll get on to these fellows sooner rather than later.

Blessings to your dice and brushes!


Monday, June 9, 2014

"Zee RAF Bimmers Are Farting For Freedom"

I know there are very serious events and ceremonies happening in Normandy as I write this.  

However, in a less serious note, this image got me wondering, is it too much to hope that somewhere in Normandy, among the throngs of reenactors seen in these fab photos, are some who are recreating the liberation scene from Allo! Allo!?  We can only hope.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Still More Soviets: Tankodesantniki! 20mm Britannia Tank Riders

Last year I posted here about two Italieri ISU-122s that I’d completed for the 2013 Analogue Hobbies Challenge.   Shortly after painting them, I learned the hard way that Dullcote does not interact well with pigment.  While the models weren’t ruined, exactly, most of the pigment turned a wintry white and I had to redo them.   A little heartsick, I put them in a “To Do Later” box and sort of forgot about them.   Then I dug them out while working through a pile of Britannia 20mm Soviet infantry, including a half a dozen tank riders.   Finishing them off gave me the motivation to pull out the ISU-122s and get them back into shape.

I like these Britannia figures, and their combination of uniform items - greatcoats, fur heats, etc - matches the Italieri AT gunners I showed here previously, making them perfect for a winter/spring 1945 assault force on the Reich’s cities.

With only six figures, total, that doesn’t allow me a whole mob of tank riders, but it does suggest men who have been detailed to ride with the assault guns and protect them from snipers, Hitler Youth with panzerfauts, etc.  I figured the easiest course was to glue them to the tank models, since otherwise they would only fall off when in use and rattle around in boxes when not in use.  For game purposes we can decide whether the figures are in play or not in play.



I won’t count the two tanks towards my 2014 totals, since really they were finished and blogger last year, but I will count these six tank riders.





These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 13

28mm Foot:  22

28mm Artillery: 1

20mm Foot:  26

20mm Artillery: 2

20mm Terrain Pieces:  1

15mm Foot: 26

15mm Terrain Pieces: 3

6mm Buildings: 2

Kilometres RunL 621  

Blessings to your brushes!  MP+



Thursday, June 5, 2014

More Soviets: Italieri 20mm ZIS 3 AT Guns and Crew

A year ago I declared the six weeks of Easter to be the time of my Resurrected Armies project and one of those goals was to finish off and fix up my 20mm Soviets.   While I didn’t formally declare that this Easter would be another Resurrected Armies period, that goal was still in my mind, and so I dug out this Italieri kit that I had started on last spring.   The kit is a hard(ish) plastic, a little softer than, say, the plastic figures from Warlord, but quite easy to work with.  I am by no means an expert on cannon, but the AT guns appeared to be well cast and fit together quite easily.   I rather liked the box cover which said that 12 “Servants” are included.  One of those harmless translation errors that made me think of Downtown Abbey with loud explosions.


Because the figures are dressed in overcoats, fur hats, and quilted tunics, the gun crews give off a winter vibe, and made me think of the last terrible months in Berlin or other Fortress Cities like Konigsberg, so I stole an idea from Sidney Roundwood and designed these bases for them, something I’d tried last year for some Soviet tank destroyers.  For the bricks I chopped up some of the wooden sprues from a 4Ground kit, and while a little on the large side, they worked alright, I think.  


I’m not sure if this project qualifies as another pigment disaster, but I wanted to give the impression that the guns had been hauled through and coated in concrete dust, in a manner reminiscent of those pictures of Manhattan after the Twin Towers collapsed, when everything and everyone was coated in grey dust.   I used a slate grey pigment, but when it dried it looked more like snow than dust, so I had to scrape some off the bricks on the bases with y fingernail.   When I tried scraping it off the cannons, the paint started coming off, so I abandoned that plan.



This last shot is to my mind what AT guns would have been most useful for in Berlin - not fighting off the few remaining German tanks so much as winkling defenders out of buildings.  I believe that was a favourite use of 6pdr AT guns by Commonwealth and British troops in Ortona and Caen and other FIBUA situations.

These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 13

28mm Foot:  22

28mm Artillery: 1

20mm Foot:  21

20mm Artillery:  2

20mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces:  1

15mm Foot:  26

15mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces:  3

6mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run: 610

Blessings to your brushes!  MP

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Some Britannia 20mm Soviets

A few years ago I bought a platoon’s worth of Britannia Miniatures Red Army infantry in summer dress.  With all due respect to the late Dave Howitt, I confess I didn’t like then too much.  The sculpts seemed a little rough and clumsy, and they all had shaggy heads of hair, whereas I suspect that the average frontovik kept his hair close-cropped.    I tried painting up some and didn’t much like the results, but the spirit of guiding spirit of May here at the Painting Chapel has been to clear the old projects out of the way.

You may notice that the colour of the uniform is a bit off, and perhaps too yellow for everyone’s tastes.  I was not happy with the thinness of my Vallejo Russian Uniform and tried adding some other colours to it to thicken it up a bit, perhaps not very successfully.   Anyway, this gives me a start on a 20mm platoon for Too Fat Lardies’ Chain of Command and/or BG Kursk, though I need to find the rest of the bag of unpainted figures and paint them so I have complete sections of riflemen and SMGs.   

The NKVD officer reading from Stalin’s latest patriotic proclamation (Fight Gloriously Or Be Shot) will make for some tabletop colour, and of course there is the customary junior officer waving his pistol in the air.

What do you think of Britannia figures?  It’s good to see that the moulds have survived and the figures are still being sold by the Grubby Tanks people, and I must admit I do like the Britannia 20mm WW2 resin vehicles, of which I have a few.

Blessings to your brushes!


These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 13

28mm Foot:  22

28mm Artillery: 1

20mm Foot:  9

20mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces: 1

15mm Foot:  26

15mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces: 3

6mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run:   596

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Saturday Paint Table On Sunday

 I’ve been away this last week so just got a brief chance to revisit the paints and move things along on Saturday.   Here, almost finished, are two 20mm Italieri WW\2 Russian anti-tank guns and crew, based for urban warfare.   The little fellows on the left are some 6mm Baccus French Napoleonic infantry.  There are some more Russians there as well, 20mm Britannia tank riders, and lurking in the back and calling me seductively to paint her next is a 28mm Reaper lady vampire.

Blessings to your paint brushes!   

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