18 August 2007

The Grand Duchy of Stollen Blog -- A Year in Review

The blue and orange grand ducal banners are flying from Krankenstadt Palace and all of the official buildings in the capital of the Grand Duchy of Stollen this weekend. And Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II is puffing an extra big cigar as he stands contentedly on a balcony and looks out over his small city.

Why? Well, tomorrow -- August 19, 2007 – marks the first anniversary of The Grand Duchy of Stollen blog! It’s been a good year for the Grand Duchy of Stollen project. So, it seems like a nice idea to review briefly some of the more notable milestones (or perhaps millstones?) of the passed year.

To begin with, let's look at the figures, undoubtedly the most important part of all. Thanks to my own efforts, and with some loving help from the Grand Duchess Sonja at certain key points along the way, I’ve made a reasonably significant inroad into assembling and painting the imaginary armies involved – just about 200 figures and counting at this point with lots more waiting in the wings.

Ok, maybe that’s a relatively small painting output, judging by the work of some, but more figures than I’ve ever managed to paint in a year before! At the moment, I’m all ready to begin work on assembling a small force from the Electorate of Zichenau to oppose the units fighting for The Grand Duchy of Stollen, with which I’ve been busy for much of the last year.

As many of you will know already, the figures I'm using for the project are mostly plastic Revell 1/72 SYW. But I've also added a few compatible 25mm MiniFigs, a lovely regiment of 30mm RSM95 grenadiers, and some 30mm Spencer Smith cavalry in the classic “charge” pose. Right now, the latter is consigned to a box under the spare bed until I can clear the decks of the current painting project.

Perhaps surprisingly, the largish 1/72 Revell figures are perfectly compatible with their 25-30mm metal bretheren. Although sometimes slightly shorter, these plastics are as well proportioned as the RSMs and Spencer Smiths, so they are nicely suited for use next to each other in my view. Particularly when grouped into units of 30-80 figures. At some point in the near future (before rising metal prices drive up figure prices again -- GROAN), I'd also like to add a few Willie or Tradition/Stadden generals and maybe a regiment of Spencer Smith infantry or another of RSM95s. The latter's grenzer figures are certainly tempting!

But what about real estate for these armies to fight over? Well, the last year has seen some progress here too. You might recall that I have used the red brick , North German Gothic style, seen throughout the Baltic region of Europe thanks to the medieval Hanseatic League, as a basis for my work. Accordingly, I’ve managed to build and paint enough “Charles Grant Sr./Phil Olley-inspired” buildings (the houses lift-off of bases to reveal "ruined" interiors) to make up several villages -- or even a fairly large town -- for my forces to contest. Lots of fun and a nice break from painting figures for a few weeks during the Christmas season last winter.

Fine, but what about vegetation? Well, that's covered too. There was the huge batch of birch trees, sold by a baking supply company as cake decorations that I purchased for a ridiculously small sum last winter. And don't forget the two boxes of Zvezda fir trees. Combined, these will provide enough trees to sprinkle several copses around any fictitious battlefield in the Prussian/Baltic region (where the Grand Duchy of Stollen et al are supposed to be) that I might set up -- or even some dense forest areas for small scale skirmish scenarios.

There are also a couple of Ian Weekley-designed resin cast, round pavilion tents waiting over on the painting desk to be painted as "headquarters" for the opposing generals too. These are similar to those used by Phil Olley in his varous games, and I couldn't resist tracking some of them down myself. So, except for a few “Old School” layered hills, most of the terrain for the project is done -- or at least waiting to be done! Oh, and once the Grand Duchess and I have found and bought a house, THEN the 6'x8' table painted a light green will finally become a reality. At last, at last (insane laughter and obsessive-compulsive rubbing together of hands)!

But of course, every good fictitious campaign, whatever the era in which it is set, should have a solid historical basis. So let’s not forget all of the reading and research into the real political/social/military history of the 18th century that I've enjoyed in the last twelve months. Besides learning something about Prussia, its allies, and enemies, I've also soaked up information on things like the agriculture and limited industry of the time within Central and Eastern Europe.

And then there have been the various "Old School" titles by the likes of Charles Grant, C. S. Grant, Tony Bath, Donald Featherstone, and most recently, Stuart Asquith. It's been as much fun learning about the hobby's roots as it has "real" mid-18th century Europe. And who could forget Henry Hyde's ongoing article series on his wars of the Faltenian Succession in Battlegames? Writings by all of these noted wargaming personalities have helped guide the work in progress that is the Grand Duchy of Stollen project.

On a closely related note is the creative aspect of the project unrelated to the painting of figures – maps, army organization charts, uniform designs, bizarre characters, silly narratives, and the like – all of which have made things a lot of fun here at Stollen Central. After all, who could forget the various Grand Duchy of Stollen personalities like Oberfeldwebel Klatschen and his duel with that arrogant fop Colonel Lebrecht von Cranz, or the semi-insane Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II, dressed in his gamey lobster costume, featuring two left-handed claws? Don't forget the jovial Prussian ambassador to Stollen, Herr Heinz von dem Salat either.

And let’s not omit the Grand Duke’s poor minister, Herr Heinrich Schatzi von Pelznikkel, who had to climb into the palace fountain and publicly bathe his monarch after forcibly extricating him from said lobster costume in mid-June. Then, there was the massive pie fight that ensued nearby on the palace grounds shortly after the royal bath. Apparently, life in the Grand Duchy of Stollen is like an old Keystone Cops film!

But back to the figures for a moment, where there has been an opportunity for some interesting work. Last December or January, I completed the first dozen of so of thirty eventual 1/72 plastic cavalry conversions. When finished, these will be painted as a unit of cuirassiers. As I mentioned here many months back, Revell neglected to include these troops as part of their SYW range. So, I purchased a couple of boxes of Zvezda Saxon Napoleonic cuirassiers (who wore only a breastplate) and have been occasionally replacing their helmeted heads with the heads of unused Revell Austrian musketeers (kneeling pose), who wear tricornes.

I've never done conversion work before, and while it is slow and painstaking at times, the results are generally very good. There were a few photos here of the initial batch of conversions -- a dozen or so. When the entire unit is finished and painted (maybe during Christmas Break this year?), I'll have some photos of the mustered cuirassiers right here for your viewing pleasure.

And finally, just when I thought that I had found all of the joy a hobby can bring, something else turned up! As many of you are aware, there has been, in recent months, an increasing number of highly inventive and entertaining imaginary 18th century blogs, created and developed by you -- the (semi)regular visitors to the Grand Duchy of Stollen (over 12,500 this morning) -- as part of your own Age of Reason warrgaming projects. To say that your countries, monarchs, and related histories have been great fun to read about is putting it lightly.

Your blogs, too many to mention individually, likewise serve as continuous inspiration to me where the future direction and painting for my own project are concerned. Funny how this cross-polination works, isn't it? Creativity within one sector seems to breed creativity in a dfferent sector. Now if we could collectively just figure out how to bottle this stuff and sell it! Quitting our day jobs might just become a serious possibility. Suffice to say, it's great to learn that there are at least a few others out there, who are as loony as me!

At any rate, it would be easy to continue, patting myself on the back about this or that. But let's dispense with the self-congratulations and wrap things up like this -- Without further ado, I tip my hat to all of you and your own creative endeavors. Thank you for your continued interest in and support of the Grand Duchy of Stollen. Long may your wargaming projects and countries of the imaginary 18th century live and prosper! Hip, hip, hip!!! Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!!!


Frank said...

Stokes, great review of your first year and many congratulations are in order. Well done sir!

You have served as inspiration for me to start my own ficticious country and accompanying blog and I am one of your regular visitors to Stollen.

Keep it up and continue to enjoy it, have fun and inspire others. You are indeed a great ambassador for the Imagi-Nations of Europa!



Fitz-Badger said...

Hip, hip, hurrah! The Soweiter League sends congratulations to the Grand Duchy of Stollen on this auspicious anniversary!

It is a pleasure and constant source of inspiration to read your blog and others in this vein.

I only hope my output after one year doesn't fall too far short of yours :-) 200 minis, plus buildings, terrain, histories, etc. is quite a respectable accomplishment, especially seeing the fun you obviously derive from it in the bargain.

Bluebear Jeff said...


I'm glad that you didn't forget your buildings. I really enjoyed them . . . and it is great to have seen your troops operating "in town" in some of your pictures.

Also, your overall output is very very noteworthy . . . particularly since you are a working man (not retired like myself).

So I also salute you for inspiring me as well.

Hip, hi, hurrah!

-- Jeff of Saxe-Bearstein

Grimsby Mariner said...

A year already?

Time really flies when you're having fun.

200 figures is nothing to be sniffed at. Look at this way - I allow myself an hour a night painting, so that in theory is 365 hours a year. there are days when I don't get to do that (holidays particulalry so knock off 24 for days away). Also take off those days when apathy strikes - say 60 (that many? Probably). So that gives me, in theory, 281 hours. That means you're painting a figure every 80 minutes!

guy said...

Hi Stokes,

Congratulations from me as well on your anniversary and review. Long may it continue.

I mentioned on an earlier comment that I had ordered some Art Miniaturen figures from Germany. Hopefully you have found the web-site so you can view these figures. Even a friend's German wife couldn't understand the ordering proceedure so ended up phoning him up to complete the order(Herr Schmalling).

So what are they like. Most highly recommended as Hal Thinglum would say in the excellent MWAN reviews. I ordered 33 officers, NCO's, drummers and standard bearers (both musketeers and greandiers)together with 4 mounted officers and a splendid Frederick the Great figure. These cost 65 euros which is the equivilent of £45, say $90. However please note because the figures were delivered to an address in Germany the postage was pretty minimal and if you have them sent outside Germany, the postal rates rocket. I understand Sonia went to Germany earlier in the year and if there is a repeat trip, try and take advantage of this very substantial saving.

What of the figures. I am comparing them with the Revell SYW ones which I measure from the feet on the base to the eyes at 23mm. The AM figures are 22mm and are a bit more rounded/fuller. They are detailed with great facial expressions etc. Both the Revell and AM Prussian grenadiers measure 30mm from the base to the top of the mitre primarily beacuse the very detailed AM mitre is taller. Side by side, the Revell and AM castings fit without any problem at all. In contrast to say minifig castings, they are very realistic. No half moon faces. They would however definately be smaller than current 25mm/28mm figures. However if the object is to fill out the Revell ranks, I do not think you could do better. They in fact remind me of small Foundary figures.

I have saved the best to last. The Frederick the Great figure is just as in the photo but the mounted officer pose is excellent. He's waving his hat, encouraging the troops forward. If you do not buy anything else, I would try and get my hands on these two figures as they will make perfect generals for your armies. Height wise they are 34mm from the base/hoof to eye level. The horses are stockier/larger than the Revell horses but side by side they sit perfectly.

During the conversation with the owner, he reported that new castings will be added to the SYW range in the autumn. I would dearly love a mounted kettle drummer! More generals please.

I'm sure someone will ask for some photos. I am not sure whether I can sent you some here. I will therefore enlist my daughters help and endeavour to post some on the OSW site. However for starters I hope the measurements given above will help.


Stokes Schwartz said...

Good Morning Guy,

Thank you for your kind words. Those Art Miniaturen figures sound lovely! Glad you are pleased with them. Please do post some photos somewhere soo. I'll look out for them.

Best Regards,


tidders said...

Happy 1st Birthday ! A very enjoyable blog. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with the Lobster costume.

-- Allan

meadows boy said...

Well done!
Your blog has been an inspriration to me and I am sure many others this is a great hobby and I thank you for being one who has relighted my passion for it!



David said...

Congratulations from the beleagured town of Tippelbruder!


Stokes Schwartz said...

Thank you David! I really appreciate your continued interest here and your continued work on those lovely uniform templates.

Enjoy the day/evening,


David said...

Thanks, Stokes. Your long and interesting postings keep the less regular of us bloggers on our toes! :-)

I hope you've seen and voted on the latest Poll on my Templates blog. It's good to see so many people enjoying the templates - even if it often seems a somewhat bottomless pit producing them. ;-)

I see that someone is trying to drag Stollen into the murky affairs of Stagonia versus The League - as noted in a comment on my Tippelbruder blog. Curious!

Here's to another good year of blogging!



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