Monday, November 30, 2009

Dearborn's Light Infantry

I finished the last figures for my Saratoga army today, Dearborn's Light Infantry.

At only twelve figures, Dearborn's battalion is the smallest in my army. This battalion was composed by collecting the light companies from regiments throughout the army, so my figures are incorrectly uniformed for Saratoga. But I wanted a unit that could pass for light infantry throughout the war, so I went with one of the more common LI uniforms: brown with white facings. I also went with the light infantry cap with white lace. To do this, I had to use British figures in Saratoga dress, and I like the look of this unit a lot.

Here's Morgan's brigade at Saratoga.

Tomorrow or Wednesday I'll get up a shot of the whole army and consider the project in more detail. For now I'm just happy to be done.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Morgan's Rifles

While everyone else was sleeping off their turkey dinner, I was putting the finishing touches on Morgan's riflemen.

All the riflemen are mounted in skirmish order, two to a stand to reflect their elite status. I did the majority of the hunting smocks in various shades of brown, but enlivened my palette with two green smocks, one blue, and one dingy red.

Now I only have the 12 figures of Dearborn's Light Infantry and one mounted general left to paint, and the great Saratoga project will be done!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Learned's Brigade

I finished basing Learned's brigade today, and now have the two big brigades complete. I have a small brigade of 28 figures left to go, and then my army will be done.

Learned's Brigade, Sept. 1777

2nd Massachusetts Continental Regiment

8th Massachusetts Continental Regiment

9th Massachusetts Continental Regiment

From my painting notes:

"The greatest proportion of Massachusetts soldiers who had uniforms wore blue coats faced and lined with white. The regiments were distinguished by the numbers stamped on the pewter buttons.

In 1775, short brown or drab coats with facings of white or red were furnished also, but the prevailing color of cloth throughout the war for Massachusetts regiments was blue faced with white, and lined with white or red. The waistcoats, or jackets with sleeves, and the breeches, were generally of white linen or wool, though we also find many of brown or green cloth. In the field, after the campaign of 1776, coarse white linen overalls or buckskin hunting trousers were for the most part worn in summer, and the same of blue or brown cloth in winter.

It is not to be supposed, however, that all the men were properly uniformed in the clothing mentioned. This general description, as given above, is from contemporary evidence, and is given merely to show that the prevailing color of the uniform issued to Massachusetts soldiers was blue faced with white."

1st Canadian Continental Regiment

Again, from my painting notes:

"The uniform of the battalion companies until 1779 was brown faced with white. After that date the facings were changed to red. The battalion companies wore black felt hats cocked up and trimmed with white braid."

American Army at Saratoga

It's almost done now!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quiet, Not Dead

Although the blog may have gone quiet, I'm still plenty busy. I'll be finishing Learned's brigade of Continentals (64 figures) in the next few days. Here are some shots of the brigade in progress.

I split the figures into three groups for this part of the grand project. The 33 figures in the back are done. The 20 figures in the middle have the basecoat done and are waiting for highlights. The 12 command figures in the front have their hair and uniform coats done, and nothing else. You can see the lone rifleman I've finished standing behind the command figures.

These neatly uniformed (for the Continental Army) figures are all bound for the 1st Canadian Continental Regiment.

Here's another figure for the 1st Canadian and three hunting shirted men for the three Massachusetts regiments.

These figures in shirtsleeves are bound for Massachusetts regiments.

This is all the progress I've made on the 1st Canadian command stand.

By the end of this week, I should have a completed brigade to show you. Then I have 15 riflemen, 12 light infantry, and a general to paint. Once those are done, I'm ready for Saratoga!

Monday, November 9, 2009

HäT Industries 28mm Napoleonic Bavarians

HäT Industries very kindly sent me some test shots of some figures that they plan to release early in 2010. These are the Napoleonic Bavarian infantry of which I wrote in my review of their French legere. Please remember while reading this review that the test shots come from testing of the mold. The manufacturer can and often does make big changes between the first test shots and final production.

Disclaimer: Back in the early 2000s, I was a semi-official painter for HäT. There were four of us who received test shots, painted them, and sent photos to HäT for their website. I wasn't ever paid, but the figures were free and I painted a lot for them. I don't think this affects my review, but you can judge for yourself.

I. The Sprues

Each box will contain four of these sprues. The sprue has two identical marching NCOs, one officer with sword and baton, a colorbearer, a bugler, a drummer, and a pioneer.

The funny looking triangles on the bottom left of the sprue are the plumes for the helmets. Since plumes were not often worn, HäT has given the gamer the choice of using them or not. I chose to leave the plumes off most of my figures, reserving them solely for the skirmishers.

Plastic molds cannot have as much undercutting as metal molds, which means the plastic figures generally cannot have as sharp relief. Some other manufacturers have released figures with a great many parts. This allows for more realistic detail, but requires the wargamer to spend a lot of time building the intricate soldiers. For me, the lower price of plastic figures does not justify the extra work time they require. I would rather stick with metal figures that spend a half hour building each soldier.

HäT has compromised by making some separate pieces for the figures, but keeping the main body of the figure as a single piece. The parts fit tightly, leaving only a minor seam. I spent about 20 minutes removing all 16 figures from the sprues, assembling them, washing them to remove the mold release agent, and mounting them on painting sticks. It's close to the same amount of time it takes me to prepare metal figures for painting.

The only complaint I had about this command box is the cast on flag. I'm hopeless at painting even the simplest flag, and the Bavarian flag has a very complicated design. I resolved to replace the cast on flag with a paper flag. The hard plastic made it too difficult to remove the flag from the pole, so I ended up replacing the top of the pole with brass wire.

This set has two identical loading figures, two different advancing figures, a figure standing at attention, two identical standing-firing figures, and a kneeling-firing figure. All except the man at attention are ideal for skirmishers, and the standing-firing and loading figures could make a good close order firing line.

I painted these figures as skirmishers from the light company of a line regiment. These action poses most clearly showed the limitations of HäT's single piece approach, with some areas that should have had gaps (such as between the musket and the body, or the arm and the body) instead having solid plastic.

The backpacks have the cartridge box and half of its strap hanging from the bottom of the pack. On some figures, the strap was not flush with the body. The gap is not very noticeable on the completed figures, but you can see the gap if you look closely at some of the images of painted figures below.

This is the set that had me most excited. If you have read my review of HäT's French Legere, you'll remember that I liked the figures but thought it would be difficult to make convincing looking units from them.

To recap from that earlier review: HäT (and other 1/72 scale plastic figure manufacturers) have created some beautiful figures in the past, but the mix of varied poses often made it difficult to get units that ranked up properly. Often half the box consisted of unusable poses, and a wargamer actually saved money by buying metal figures that, although individually more expensive, could all be used on the table.

By releasing a box consisting solely of marching figures, HäT has laid that complaint to rest. As you'll see in the photos below, these figures make a great looking wargames unit. The marching pose also works very well with plastic molds, as the weapon and arms are held close to the body and there are no unsightly lumps of plastic where gaps should be.

II. Painted Figures

So those are the raw contents of the three sets. How do they look, painted and based for a wargame?

Pretty darned good, I would say. I used a two tone painting method on all of these figures. I painted these figures as the Graf Wilhelm infantry regiment, which had red facings and white metal buttons. The figures are based for DBN, with base frontages of 60mm. Not many 28mm Napoleonic lines can comfortably fit four figures on that frontage, but I think I could have squeezed in a fifth figure on each close order base.

The marching figures were the easiest to paint. That's good news for anyone building an army, as you'll need a lot of these guys. The folds in clothing were not as pronounced as on metal figures, but they were good enough to provide a good guide for my brush. The buttons stood out enough that I was able to pick them out with a size 000 brush with no problems. The faces are simple, and some detail was lost on the side of the mold, where the ears are. Still, I had no problem picking out nose, lips, chin, and cheeks.

The muskets on these figures are very slim, at least to the eye of a 28mm gamer. In fact, the muskets are right in scale. We're all just used to seeing them oversized, so a properly scaled musket looks very slender and fragile.

The poses are just perfect. These guys have good, fluid movement, with weight coming onto the leading foot. One nice touch is that the figures are in step, which is not always the case even with metal figures.

The command figures add a little color and variety to the close order line. You can see on my colorbearer where I added the brass wire. The pole is much thicker below the hands.

The skirmishing figures were the most challenging to paint, but my concerns about the poses were laid to rest once I finished applying pigment. The figures look very natural, and the "dead zones" with plastic fill are not noticeable on the completed figures.

III. Comparison to Other Ranges

The only real negative about these figures is their incompatibility with other 28mm Napoleonics. Even the metal figures with the best reputation for realistic proportions look very chunky next to the HäT figures.

Perry French Officer, HäT Bavarian Infantryman, The Assault Group Hungarian Grenadier

Perry Miniatures has a pretty complete line of Napoleonics for the Hundred Days. I think the wargaming community reckons these to be among the most realistically proportioned figures. The Perry figures are beautiful, of course, but they're definitely chunkier than the HäT figures.

TAG has the slenderest metal figures I've ever seen, and they're the closest match for HäT. Still, this Hungarian grenadier is taller than the HäT Bavarian. Maybe that's OK, since grenadiers were supposed to be tall. The TAG musket is slightly longer and thicker than the HäT musket. I'd be comfortable mixing these ranges in different units, but you may feel differently. They're not an exact match.

HäT Bavarian

On the Barrett scale, the HäT figure measures 26.5mm. That's a little less than the 28mm they claim, but still pretty close.

TAG Hungarian

The TAG figure measures in at exactly 28mm. You know, I wrote some harsh things about these TAG figures when I reviewed them earlier this year. But painting these HäT figures has me wondering if the TAG figures aren't better than my initial impression. I may have to paint some of these to see.

HäT Bavarians and Old Glory AWI British

The Old Glory Second Edition figures have a pretty good reputation for having reasonable proportions, but they look like Hobbits next to the elegant HäT figures. I like the Old Glory figures a lot, but you can definitely see a different style in play. The OG figures are shorter and much stockier than the HäT figures.

HäT 28mm and 1/72 Bavarian Infantry

I know that in my previous reviews of HäT's 28mm figures, some readers wondered just how different these 28mm figures were from the old HäT 1/72 figures. Are the 28mm figures really that much bigger? Well, the answer is yes. This is a completely different scale from HäT's old figures. And the quality of the sculpting is much improved as well. I liked HäT's old 1/72 Bavarians. I even painted some for HäT's website. (Wow! That was 10 years ago!)

HäT has been dangling their toes in the 28mm wargames market. They released their El Cid figures, which were nice enough. They released their French legere elite companies, which were beautiful individually, but flawed as gaming figures.

With the release of these three sets, HäT has arrived. These are serious wargames figures that compare very favorably with the competition. At a cost of about $.40 apiece, they're the best value on the market. The only negative thing I can say about these figures is that they're not really compatible with anything else. In switching scales, HäT has preserved the realistic proportions of their 1/72 figures. That might be a problem, at least as far as sales of figures goes.

If they plan to compete in the 28mm market, HäT should make a serious push to release a lot of 28mm boxes over the next couple years. I'd suggest that they focus either on the 1809 war with Austria or the 1813 campaigns in Germany. They'll have to get some cavalry, artillery, and generals sets to go with the infantry. Can they do it?

Since starting their company in 1996, HäT Industries has released 92 sets of Napoleonic figures, 98 sets of ancients, and 93 sets of 19th and 20th century figures and vehicles. That's 283 boxes of 1/72 scale figures in 13 years, for an average of about 22 boxes a year. They're certainly capable, then, of cranking out enough sets to make the 28mm Napoleonic wargamer consider fielding armies of these beautiful figures.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

British Grenadier Disruption Point Markers

British Grenadier! has a pretty interesting casualty mechanism. Units start by taking disruption points (DPs), which they can accrue from rolling for movement, moving through difficult terrain, or taking fire. Once a unit takes three DPs, any more hits actually cause casualties. Units can rally off their DPs each turn, and unit quality and leader proximity make a huge difference in how well a unit can lose its DPs.

I've only played British Grenadier! in solo play with my 15mm figures, but I found that casualties were relatively light, at least compared to other wargames. Disruption plays a huge role in the game, as units lose effectiveness based on the number of DPs they've accumulated. Once a unit starts taking actual casualties, it usually doesn't hang around much longer.

The point of this long prologue is that DPs are very important to the game system. I wanted to create some markers that would be visually appealing, easy to handle, unobtrusive on the tabletop, and durable and communicate disruption level at a glance. With my 15mm figures I had used individual pieces of Woodland Scenics' talus, which worked alright, but I needed something a little bigger for my 28mm army.

I took my inspiration from Giles at Tarleton's Quarter, substituting talus for the cork he used, and dressing the terrain up a bit. A white glue wash, two coats of gloss varnish, and one coat of matt should endure that the pieces can endure a lot of handling. I did 22 pieces for each disruption level. That should be enough for the entire Freeman's Farm scenario.

Friday, November 6, 2009

ACW Confederate Artillery

I'm using Sash and Saber guns for my armies, as no other manufacturer's guns are big enough to pass for Civil War artillery. (Foundry comes close, but Foundry guns are $15.50 each!) Look at these Federal officers with this 3" rifle. The wheel comes up to their shoulders.

I'll be using "Guns at Gettysburg" for my 28mm tactical ACW battles. GaG is very specific about performance of particular guns. It really does make a difference if that gun section is armed with a 10-pdr Parrot or a 3" ordinance rifle. I don't want to paint up 60 gun crews to cover all the possibilities, so I settled on painting a crew base with no gun!

When I need a specific gun, I can add it to the base. Fortunately, Sash and Saber uses the same carriage for all its guns, so figures who are interacting with the guns (like the man here stopping the vent) will look natural with all of them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

British Grenadier Casualty Markers

I took a little break from my endless marching men to paint some casualty markers. British Grenadier counts casualties by figure rather than stand, and most of my stands have four men on them, so I needed a way to indicate how many figures on a stand are casualties. I settled on square bases with the number of casualties written on each side.

The figures are Perry Miniatures, from pack AW46 "American Casualties." I tried to have a correctly uniformed casualty for each of my units. The bases are from Litko, and the numbers were written with a gold scrapbooking pen.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Union Blue

In the comments this morning, Ken asked about painting Union blue coats. It's tough to make Union figures pop, I'll admit. Although I think the Civil War uniform is probably the best looking uniform the US army has ever worn, it isn't the sort of thing to jump off a miniature wargame table.

The reason it's so hard to make these uniforms pop is that the Union coat was very, very dark. Here's a four button sack coat from a reenactors' supplier. The color is a very dark blue, almost indigo. In fact, if you look at the raised areas of the jacket, you can see a purple sheen.

So how do you reproduce this on the tabletop? Well, you really don't. If you used the actual colors, your figures would look to be dressed in black. That's entirely accurate, by the way. I've read a number of Confederate accounts where they mention that the Union uniforms were so dark, they looked black from a distance. But you don't really want that for your wargames, do you?

Because our miniatures are so small, most people actually brighten the colors a few shades when they paint. Think of all the bright blue coats you've seen on Napoleonic French infantry, for example. Here's a reproduction French coat, and the blue is even darker than Union blue.

So with that in mind, here's how I paint Union blue. I don't claim that this is the only way, or even the best way. As I've just written, I'm not even trying to get an exact color match. I'm trying to suggest a dark blue while actually painting pretty vibrant blue.

The jackets and hats get an initial coat of Delta Ceramcoat "navy blue." That acts as my shade color. My main color is a mix of "navy blue" and "liberty blue." I wish I could tell you the ratio I use, but I really don't know it. I just mix until it looks right. I pick out all but the recessed areas with this medium blue mix. Finally I apply a very sparing coat of highlight, which is straight liberty blue.

Between their straps, belts, haversacks, knapsacks, bayonet scabbards, cartridge boxes, cap pouches, cap brims, and shoes, Union soldiers have a lot of black leather on them. That much black can make the figures appear awfully flat and lifeless. Before I paint anything else, I use "toffee brown" to give the entire figure a light drybrush. This really helps the leather to pop, and it's pretty realistic as well. After all, the leather was merely painted black. Any raised areas were sure to have some paint wear off, exposing the natural leather underneath.

Here are two extreme closeups so you can really see my technique on the blue. It looks like a very light blue in these two pictures, but that's a little deceptive. The blue mellows more with a little distance.