Toy soldier blogs come, and toy soldiers blogs go, but the GD of S blog celebrates its eleventh year in 2017! The Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II invites you to drop by his realm. . . somewhere just to the northeast of Frederick's Prussia. . . sometime during the mid-18th century.
Monkeying around with most (but not quite all) of the figures and scenery I've painted and cobbled together since August 2006 this afternoon. I've meant to stage a grand review for a few years, but have not done so until now, Saturday afternoon. So, here are my two armies converging on the market town of Hasenpfefferstadt, where the local gentry seem oblivious to what is happening around them. The two companies each of pontooniers and pioneers, my various artillery crews, plus a regiment of cavalry I purchased a year ago from John Preece in the U.K. are not present on the tabletop, but everything else is here. The term 'groaning board' comes to mind (a 12' x 6' table). Still, there are plans to add to the GD of S collection, including those five additional units of cavalry currently in the painting queue, a few more units of line infantry, and two additional pairs of cannon (Austrian and Russian) along with artillery crew to man them as well as a few more odds and ends. . . AND getting all of my bases painted green, which should keep me busy for a while longer! In the meantime, enjoy perusing the photographs. -- Stokes P.S. The fields and roads are by Hotz Artworks, the buildings are all scratch-built, and the trees are cheap cake decorations purchased in bulk from a baking supply company ten years or so ago and stuck onto Litko terrain bases which I painted dark green early last summer assisted by the Young Master. The Hotz items are, by the way, reasonably priced and very effective for quickly adding some realism and interest to the tabletop. I heartily recommend them.
The longer term goal I have set for myself, once these five new regiments of cavalry are completed and existing line infantry regiments have been reflagged (painting has commenced on the replacement standard bearers), is to increase my Stollenian infantry from four regiments to eight (60 figures each) , and the Zichenauer infantry arm from three regiments to six (80 figures each). I know, I know. . . Each army, once complete, will have a line infantry arm of 480 figures, excluding the jaegers, grenzers, and croats of course.
All of this will provideforces large enough to tackle most Charles S. Grant scenarios or table top teasers as I move through middle age and drift into my dotage, although my wife The Grand Duchess might say that I am already there! She often jokes about it being Solider Season all the year 'round. The character 'Brian Lane' (an inactive wargamer and anorak played by Alun Armstrong), along with his wife 'Esther' on the British TV series New Tricks is especially funny in this regard. In a number of ways, they remind me of my wife and me.
Returning to toy soldiers, there is also a Black Hussar hay wagon in the lead pile that I ordered a year ago for the transport train (and forgot), a few more mounted officer vignettes (let's blame Peter Gilder and Doug Mason for the number of these I've painted already), and Black Hussar also has some nifty field bakery personnel that I hope to add to the mix of painted figures at some point. Der Alte Fritz's own bakery set-up has always fascinated me. Not strictly necessary in wargaming terms, of course, but a neat thing to occupy some unused corner of the table.
Yes, indeed. Much like model railroads, a wargamer's layout is never what we might politely call "finished." Happy Sunday everyone!
Three views of the now FINISHED half-dozen Minden Prussian limber teams, which have tormented me since late summer last year.
Time to start those additional line infantry drummers and replacement standard bearers and those several new units of cavalry beyond that. No more transport for a while. Whew!
Later that Next Day. . .
And now for some technical details! Here they are:
1) The 3mm thick ply bases are from Litko and measure 165mm long by 50mm wide. Well worth the wait of a few weeks after ordering late last winter. I don't know why on earth it took me so long to discover laser-cut wooden bases!
2) Once painting and glossing was done, last weekend, I used an old brush to apply liberal amounts of Liquitex acrylic matt medium and then covered each base in sand -- collected during the summer of 1984 from my maternal grandparents' creek bed in Berks County, Pennsylvania where yours truly spent his formative years -- tapping lightly to dislodge the excess and then setting everything aside for 24 hours to dry. Using matt medium as an adhesive is a trick I learned 20 years ago in a book on creating scenery for model railways and dioramas.
3) The second night, I applied dark brown acrylic ink -- Liquitex Burnt Umber -- thinned with a bit of Liquitex flow enhancer using another old brush.
4) The third evening, heavy dry-brushing with light tan acrylic paint followed. . . I've learned over the years by observing the various ways Der Alte Fritz finishes his painted figures in Hesse-Seewald.
5) The limber teams were finally wrapped up yesterday night, following the Young Master's bedtime, with the sparing application of more acrylic matt medium with careful sprinkles of Woodland Scenics scatter grass material and the odd tuft of more coarse foliage. The trick, I have learned by trial and error over the years, is to use very small amounts of grass and foliage material. Less is more as the saying goes.
Of course, given the color of these limbers, I'll have to bring my existing cannon in line by (re-) painting my gun carriages. Or replacing most of the guns with new models from Minden. Now, there's an idea!
Issue one of Wargamer's Notes Quarterly went live on January 1st, 2017, and it seems the young upstarts behind it are onto something. Subscription requests have been coming in steadily since plans for the magazine were announced last fall, and they have grown in intensity the last few days. If you too are interested in perusing the first issue and would like to join the subscription list for this high quality, FREE online magazine, or you would like to contribute your own article on how you tackle model soldiers and go about the wargaming hobby, simply drop us a line at email@example.com.
My wife maintains that overkill is my modus operandi in most things. I don't see it.
Those six long in-progress Minden Prussian limber team bases have had their covering of sand cemented to them. Tomorrow evening, it's on to the thinned acrylic Burn Umber ink, with tan dry-brushing and a smidgen of Woodland Scenics grass and foliage material to follow the evening after. You can tell how badly I want to get these darn things done and move onto something else, eh? Watch for a photograph or two of the finished pieces right here. -- Stokes
Well, here we are. Almost two decades into the 21st century. It seems like just yesterday that everyone was filled with anxiety about Y2K during the final weeks of the 20th century, and the apparent threat of our toasters and coffee makers taking over in a Terminator-like coup during the night of December 31st, 1999-January 1st, 2000. I was living in Norway at the time, and, contrary to expectation, my trusty worldband radio, a Sony ICF2010 failed to take the opportunity to take me out while I slept. And, as I say, here we are in 2017. May your new year be filled with interesting reading about your chosen campaigns (real or imagined), the occasional game of toy soldiers, painting, collecting, and daydreaming about future tabletop exploits. -- Stokes
A decidedly old-fashioned, quiet, and sedate New Year's greeting card.
How did we do hobby-wise during the year almost ended here in The Grand Duchy of Stollen? Well, hobby time was scarce, so I kept goals and activities fairly modest and low key. Besides the Battle of Doltz, fought during August and September, the goals laid out in early January 2016 were thus:
1) Finish the latter half that monster 80-figure infantry regiment I began in January 2015. Another 40 figures or so. -- Done! 2)
Paint the four Minden SYW personality figures, Russian artillery crew,
and two Russian guns (a cannon and howitzer) I received from the Grand
Duchess and Young Master for Christmas 2015. -- Not achieved. Perhaps, I can use these as small side-projects between the larger cavalry units on the agenda for 2017? 3)
Paint limbers, four-horse teams, and limber riders for the
approximately one dozen cannon in my two 25-30mm imaginary mid-18th
century armies, the Army of Stollen and its nemesis the Army of
Zichenau. -- Done! 4)
Finish painting a series of female camp followers (laundresses, ladies
of ill-repute, and a Lutheran pastor who has his work cut out or him)
that have been languishing in my "to do" pile for the last 18 months or
so. These are mostly Suren 'Willie' 30mm figures with one or two from
Black Hussar Miniatures. -- Done! 5)
If time, replace my 25mm MiniFig standard bearers in my infantry units
with pairs of Minden standard bearers, which were purchased in early
2015 and have also languished in the "to do" pile, along with some Front
Rank cords and finials along with lengths of brass rod, ever since. -- Pending.
As you can see, not necessarily stellar, but things got finished, albeit slowly, and I spent some enjoyable hours plugging away at the various facets of my wargaming hobby, so I'm pleased with the way 2016 went. So, what's the painting plan for 2017 look like? Glad you asked. Here it is:
1) Start and finish four infantry drummers, 11 infantry standard bears, and four-six cavalry standard or guidon bearers to add to existing units or replace existing ones.
2) 30 Eureka Saxon Cuirassiers
3) 30 RSM95 French Cuirassiers in Bearskins
4) 30 rsm95 Prussian dragoons
5) 30 RSM95 Prussian hussars
6) 30 Minden Uhlans de Saxe
7) Four Minden Mounted Personality Figures (Fermor, et al given to me for Christmas 2015)
A lot of metal to paint. Yep. Ambitious? Heck yeah! But I'm going to give it my best shot. Let's see how it goes. Happy New Year everyone!
Here they are! Those pesky Minden Prussian limbers, riders, and teams getting their coats of Liquitex acrylic high gloss late in the afternoon of December 30, 2016. I started these in August of this year.
Two shots of the opening positions held by General de Latte's scratch force of Zichenauers, who are attempting to hold off a Stollenian advance while the rest of their army a day's march to the northeast attempts to escape.
Following The Battle of Doltz in mid-August 1776, the Zichenauer Army under General Phillipe de Latte began a leisurely withdrawal southwest from the field, inexplicably turning to the northwest a week later. Pursuit was taken up Stollenian General von Drosselmaier, called out of retirement from his estate outside Dorpat in light of General von Bacuhschmerzen's continuing tummy troubles. On the morning of September 9th, von Drosselmaier caught of with a scratch force, assembled by de Latte to hold off the uncharacteristically rapid Stollenian advance, so the rest ff the ZIchenauer Army could make its escape. De Latte's force was positioned along and just behind a ridge line running from the southwest to the northeast. Von Drosselmaier's troops came onto the field just to the east of the small farming settlement of Soßklopse, his cavalry and guns passing through the village first, followed by his infantry and a company of jaegers. A warm wind blew lightly across the late summer morning causing the standards and guidons of the respective regiments to flutter in the breeze and the Stollenian Army pressed rapidy forward toward the waiting Zichenauer line.
And a couple of photographs rom the opposite (eastern end of the battlefield, showing the early positions of the attacking Stollenian army, commanded by General von Drosselmaier.
The basic scenario is based heavily on Holding Action (1) on pages 14-15 of Scenarios for Wargamers (1981) by Charles S. Grant. I've reduced the forces somewhat in keeping with troops I have at my disposal. At the moment, I'm rather light on the necessary infantry, which I guess will be the next big painting project after those 150 or so cavalry. Anyway, the Stollenians must acheive a breakthrough by dusk while the smaller Zichenauer force must hold on until dusk to allow the rest of its army to escape. I'm setting a limit of eight turns, representing approximately 30 minutes each, which means the action begins at about 2pm. The rules used will be Call It Macaroni, largely plagiarized by yours truly from Donald Featherstone and others. Buckled up? Here we go!
Turns One through Three (2pm-3:30pm). . . These were taken up primarily by General von Drosselmaier moving his infantry, artillery, and cavalry into postions just to the west of the tiny farming settlement of Soßklopse. By Turn Four, events gathered speed, and the game became more interesting with lots of dice rolling.
End of Turn Four Update (3:30pm-4pm). . .
Von Drosselmaier's company of jaegers on his right flank are now embroiled in a hot exchange of fire with a half company of enemy Croats in the wood on the northern end of the ridge held by de Latte's troops at left. Five casualties have resulted on each side. Meanwhile, von Drosselmaier has brought up his dragoons and cuirassiers and put each squadron into line on his left flank to cover the approach and eventual deployment of his infantry brigade and battery of guns in the center. De Latte, thus far, has chosen to remain in a purely defensive position along his ridge. His lone deployed gun in the center of his front line has taken shots at von Drosselmaier's squadron of cuirassiers each turn so far, but, much like during the Battle of Doltz, has neiher managed to find his range, nor score any hits.
End of Turn Seven Update (5pm-5:30pm). . .
By the close of Turn Seven, General de Latte's let flank had melted away thanks to the crack shots of the Stollenian jaegers and General von Drosselmaier's two-gun battery in the center of his position. For its part, de Latte's single deployed gun finally managed to inflict three casualties on the Stollenian cuirassiers. The next turn or two could be crucial to how things play out and whether, or not General de Latte can stop the Stollenian advance..
End of Turn Nine (5:30pm-6pm). . .
General de Latte's left flank continued to disintegrate through Turn Eight (dusk), as well as an extra Turn Nine, thanks to unrelenting pressure from Stollenian line infantry and rather aggressive jaegers.
While the enemy Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers began to role up the exposed enemy flank before them, de Latte's right lank was threatened by General von Drosselmaier's squadron of dragoons.
De Latte's hussar squadron charged the enemy jaegers as they emerged from the wood on his left, but suffered 25% casualties due to enemy musketry and skirmish fire and turned tail before closing with the enemy. Spooked by this development, De Latte and his aide Major Paolo di Biscotti also quit the field, leaving their guns and remaining troops to fall into Stollenian hands. The Action at Soßklopse was over. A rare and resounding victory or The Grand Duchy of Stollen, due more to luck and the speed of von Drosselmaier's advance rather than any articular tactical aptitude on his part.
Post-game Reflections the Next Day. . .
The Call It Macaroni rules seem to work pretty well, which you might expect given their heavy reliance on Featherstone's own rules, although I might consider doubling movement rates to bring troops into range/contact faster. I believe Bill Protz does this in his Batailles de l´Ancien Régime 1740-1763 rules. Something else that gives me food for thought involves the effectiveness of jaeger and croat skirmish fire, which was bloody in this particular game. Now, General von Drosselmaier's jaegers managed to throw a bunch of high scores at very close range to the enemy company of croats, so that might simply have been a case of luck with the dice. But this company of 15 figures almost seemed too effective based on my reading about 18th century light infantry, what it did, and could achieve during the 1740s-1760s versus, say, Napoleonic riflemen and voltigeurs for example. I might need to reduce effectiveness a bit here to bring things in line with the mid-18th century.
Another part of the Call it Macronirules that might need tinkering concerns the artillery. Now, both sides finally managed to inflict some damage on each other the last several turns of the game, but it took forever for my 25-30mm guns and their crews to find their ranges and then roll to determine the number of hits suffered by the other side. This is a point I have wondered about before, so I'll pose a question to those more knowledgeable that I. We are talking about professional 18th century soldiers. Would it be correct to assume (I know, I know. . .) that artillery crews using smoothbore cannon would only need to role the range-finding D6 only UNTIL they find the correct range to their targets? Or did actual guncrews in the smoothbore era need to establish correct range before each and every shot fired? Of course, I am talking about longer ranges and cannon balls here. Obviously, cannister range is something different. What are your thoughts on the matter? Any suggestions?
Finally, the Action at Soßklopse was a solo affair, and General de Latte's scratch force acted in a purely defensive role with very little tactical movement until late in the game when his squadron of hussars charged von Drosselmaier's jaegers as the latter emerged from the woods. The hussars were repulsed, taking 25% casualties and turning tail rather than closing with the enemy. Had they been able to do so, they very well could have threatened and turned the flank of Stollen's Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers, and the outcome of the game might have been very different. But, as the saying goes, almost never counts except in games of horseshoes! In any case, the game was set to last eight turns (until approximately dusk), and was even extended by an extra ninth turn since things finally heated up and became really interesting so late in the game.
All in all, The Action at Soßklopse was an enjoyable experience, lasting a little over three hours yesterday afternoon. The Young Master joined me down here in Zum Stollenkeller for a good part of it, and set up his own battle with the soldiers brought to him by Santa Claus for Christmas this year. He also observed closely what ol' Dad was doing on the table with his own toys and had all kinds of questions about the various branches of troops on the table, and what I was doing a with the dice. Young Master Paul also wanted to know when I was going to have another battle once I had cleared everything away and replaced my soldiers in their plastic storage tubs before supper early yesterday evening. I suspect that we'll have to have a small battle soon using his soldiers and some very simple rules in much the same way that Der Alte Fritz staged a game with his daughter using teddybear armies now quite a few years ago. Wasn't that way back in 2007? Anyway, Stuart Asquith's refight of Sawmill Village using children's wooden blocks in one of the Wargamer's Annuals a few years ago comes immediately to mind, and we might just have to incorporate the use of M&M candies into our game too.
The Young Master in the midst of his own battle nearby here in Zum Stollenkeller during our mutual foray into the world of toy soldiers on Thursday, December 29, 2016.