Saturday 29 March 2014

Lilian & Fred Funcken's uniform plates

Plate from "L'uniforme et les armes des soldats du premier empire VOL 1"

A recent business trip to Paris offered me a welcome chance to scour the historic city’s maze of small streets for antique bookshops. After the obligatory visit to Les Invalides (fantastic collection of uniforms, arms, and historic paintings) I made my way through the 6th arrondisment via Rue Saint-André des Arts. 

Librairie Historique Clavreuil
Store front as seen from Rue Saint-André des Arts

Here I found the most fantastic little gem. Librairie Historique Clavreuil. It was just like walking into a scene of The Ninth Gate. Beautiful antique leather bound books with gilded letters packed on shelves from floor to ceiling, set in a dark old atmospheric antique books shop, all specialized in history.

Warelephants from antiquity
Plate from "Le costume et les armes des soldats de tous les temps VOL 1"

Librairie Clavreuil, founded 1878, offered and large collection of rare historical works, and interestingly also original state documents from the days of Napoleon. Up for grabs were the original educational plan for the Prince of Rome (Napoleon’s son with Marie Louise of Austria), or handwritten documents from French staff secretaries as the Grand Armée retreated from Moscow through the snow in 1812. 

After a careful look into this magical world, I found what any wargamer can’t get enough of – books with uniform plates. And these weren’t just any old uniform plates, these were something quite out of the ordinary. Thought I’d share a few plates with you.

Russian Cuirassiers
Plate from "L'uniforme et les armes des soldats du premier empire VOL 2"

The books are a series of uniform books from the 60ies published by the Casterman publishing house in Belgium. Same publishing house that launched Tintin back in the days. Casterman themselves are also historic, first founded in Tournay in 1776.

Infantry of Louis XIV
Plate from "Le costume et les armes des soldats de tous les temps VOL 1"

14th Century knights
Plate from "Le costume et les armes des soldats de tous les temps VOL 1"

Landsknechts & arquebusiers
Plate from "Le costume et les armes des soldats de tous les temps VOL 1"

French Infantry, Franco-Prussian War
Plate from "Le costume et les armes des soldats de tous les temps VOL 2"

The plates are from the period before Macs and Photoshop, everything is painted by hand, and it really is visible in the quality of the work.

Illustrators were the very productive couple, Lilian and Fred Funcken. Liliane previously did some writing on Spirou, and had met Fred while working on Tintin. She’d be inking and coloring up his sketches. Together they would do magic for uniformology. After a first corporation on Tintin in 1956, their marriage was also the start of a long range of historical publishings through the 60ies, 70ies and 80ies ending in 1988 with the very beautifully illustrated “Les Soldats de la Révolution”.

Lilian & Fred - while working on their illustrations

Sadly Fred passed away about a year ago in Bruxelles, age 91. I hope this blog post will serve as an acknowledgment to Lilian & Fred and inspiration for others to discover their work. What a fantastic legacy they leave behind.

Thank you for reading!

Friday 21 March 2014

The Royal Danish Foot Guard – Lund 1676

The Royal Foot Guards at Lund , Dec. 1676

The Royal Danish Foot Guard is probably the most legendary Danish infantry unit of all time. It is also one of Europe’s oldest (more than 350 years), formed on the 30th of June 1658, and to this day active. 

At the time of Lund and the Scanian War, the Foot Guards consisted of three battalions totaling 1.200 men. The Foot Guard was heavily engaged in the bitter infantry fighting of the centre at Lund, and losses are reported to be around a staggering 50% (!).

Third from the right - Guardsman with cassock.
All are Danish uniforms of the Scanian War.

At Lund on the morning of the 6th Dec 1676, the infantry of both sides had formed battle order with some hundred meters distance. Regimental artillery support had been deployed and the initial bombardment was about to commence, but then something strange happened.

Pike in the center and muskets on each side.
Deployed like a typical unit of the period.

A Danish captain of the Foot Guard left ranks. Sword in hand, he walked forward across the frosty field on his own. The Swedes curiously studied the one-man army approaching. When he got far enough for comfort, he stopped and called out to the Swedish Guards, challenging their regimental leader for a duel. 

Duels - the quick fix to any argument

The Swedes, naturally couldn’t refuse this tempting offer, and forward came the very able Bernhard von Liewen, a Captain of the Swedish Foot Guards. Von Liewen apparently made a long story short, killed the lonely hiker, and return to the now cheering Swedish ranks with the Danish officer's sword raised above his head in triumph. This signalled the start of the infantry engagement, and artillery began mowing bloody lanes into the units on both sides. The battle was on.   

Coated them in three layers of red to really get the right tone.

As a later acknowledgment of the Foot Guard's valor and service to the Danish Crown, King Christian V in 1685 raised the unit to the highest status, detaching it from normal army command structure. This meant, that henceforth the Foot Guard was only accountable to obey orders directly from the King or the Army C-in-C (which in most cases would be the King).

The Foot Guard at the Battle of Isted, 1850.

The Royal Danish Foot Guard would see action again during the Great Northern War, in the Schleswig Wars of the 19th century - notably at the Battle of Isted, and again in WW2, as they defended the King’s residence, Amalienborg, when the Germans swept through Copenhagen on April 9th 1940. Moving forward to more present day operations, the regiment was active in Iraq and involved in the operations in Afghanistan, were they lost 14 soldiers in the Helmand.

The Guardsmen are always happy to "give directions" to the many tourists.

As a personal anecdote, I’d like to tip my hat to one particular Guardsman – my grandfather. It was he who spurred my historical interest. My childhood holidays were spent in Copenhagen with him, were we paid countless visits to the Royal Danish Armory and the Royal Danish Navy Museum. I’d listen with awe as he told me about Denmark’s countless fateful battles against the Swedes, or about the naval Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 fought against Lord Nelson. My grandfather served in the Royal Foot Guards, 2nd Company of 2nd Battalion from 1949 – 1951.

My grandfather: Guardsman 663 - J. Olsen.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday 15 March 2014

Italian Wars (1494-1559) – Terrain (IN THE WOODS)

As a credit to the work one puts into any painted army, one naturally need some terrain that will lift the visual experience to the next level. Good terrain can make the gaming table come alive and spark the imagination of the players, transcending them back to that particular fateful moment in time when a given battle was fought. 

For our club project on the Italian War (fellow accomplices are Jonas & Micke), I decided to make some woods that would fit the terrain style for this period.

Lombardy - a region of rich farmland
and wine country at the foot of the Alps

Since much of the Italian War campaigning took place in Northwestern Italy (Piemonte and Lombardy), I wanted to make terrain that would depict the nature of this area. 

The land is fertile, rich in colors and very close to the Alps.  This means that in terms of trees, the deeper woods would have consisted of a variety of different pine tress. Of course one would see the signal Italian cypress trees along the country roads, but maybe not as often as for instance in Tuscany.

The Battle of Pavia

The main battle, Paiva, was fought on the 24th February 1526.
No snow is reported on the battlefield, so I'll let woods carry burned/brown colors along with mossy greens, to simulate a winter feeling.

Wooden floor terrain mat form Model Scene

For the forest floor I decided to go with Czech company Model Scene’s great “Late Summer” forest base. It’s a lose nonwoven textile with flock, foliage, fallen branches and stones attached. It can easily be cut with scissors or knife into the shape needed.

Tree bases are squeezed through the button holes cut in the mat

The placement of the trees is measured out on the mat, and small “button holes” are cut into the nonwoven. Trees are buttoned in, as glue is applied onto the MDF plates.

The base is glued up using Hob-e-Tac from
 Woodland Scenics
Before sticking the two together,

The plates would be made from 2 mm compressed pulp MDF plates. That I’ll be cutting into round shapes to give them a more natural look on the table.

I added some additional superglue to the base foot of the tress for extra binding.
After that it was an easy fit. I pressed down on the edges and let the glue do the rest.

A close up of the forest floor - nice details of foliage and mossy rocks

To be honest I don't remember were I got the trees from. They've been lying around in my terrain box for a while but fitted this project nicely. They are quite tall, but I thought that might suit the terrain mat well, as so much is going on in colors and foliage on those.

Made a few plates in different sizes

I think the taller trees suit the 28mm scale, giving the impression of deep and old woods. After all you don't want the impression that battle is fought in an orchard - unless you're refighting Gettysburg that is.

A couple of 28 mm Landsknechts for size comparison

So I've got some woods ready for the Italian Wars gaming table.
Next up for this project will be buildings and roads.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Warefare Miniatures Swedish GNW Cavalry – A review

Swedish cavalry - Great Northern War

I’ve used Warfare Miniatures' earlier ranges for my Scanian War collection, so naturally I was exited to hear about them launching an extensive range of Russian and Swedish 28 mm miniatures for The Great Northern War (1700-1721).

Containing all the necessary drama with the birth of the Russian Empire under Tsar Peter the Great, and parallel decline of the Swedish Empire, perhaps best symbolized in the apocalyptic Swedish infantry charge at Poltava, it’s a period I really find appealing. I started a collection in 2006 of another brand. However that range took more than a few years to really launch in completion, and meanwhile I had got into other troubles such as Napoleonics with the excellent launches from Perry, Victrix et.c. 

Helsingborg 1710 - painting by Marc Grieves

With this latest addition to their range, Warefare Miniatures once again directed my attention to the clash of Empires in the Great Northern War. At the moment only cavalry is available in their web shop, but their blog gives evidence to a coming launch of infantry for both sides – so once again I took the plunge into the thrills of early 18th century warfare:

Blister pack with logo printed leaflet.
This is standard for many producers in metal, and leaves a decent impression.

The first test sculpts of Swedish infantry.
More info on Warefare's blog

As I understand it, Warefare is once again working with a sculptor, who goes under the name “Clibinarium”. This is the same sculptor who made their previous 17th century range. I’d have to say he has notched up the quality of his work one more level, when comparing to my other minis from Warefare. The figures have clean and crisp level of detail. 
There is no flash at all and proportions offer a very lean and natural body size,
something I prefer.

Size comparison - Warfare and Musketeer.
Warfare offering multi pose arm solution. 

The figures measure 25 mm from foot to eye (sitting position).
The horses 28 mm from hoof to saddle.
Please note the picture above for size comparison with other ranges.
Many will be sitting on figures from other makes, and naturally each will have to decide whether there is a potential for mixing the ranges, or if one will go with either or.

Warefare: 3 x horse with rider GBP 8.5 (GBP 2.83 per horse and rider)
Musketeer: 3 x horse with rider GBP 9 (GBP 3.00 per horse and rider)
Foundry: 3 x horse with rider GBP 12,50 (GBP 4.16 per horse and rider)
Front Rank: 3 horse with rider GBP 9,30 (GBP 3,10 per horse and rider)
Concluding on the above: The price point is the low. If the future launch of a complete range will see Warefare Miniatures sport unit deals like on their other ranges, this will bring the price down further to GBP 2,5 per horse and rider, and you get to add a free flag sheet on top of it. It’s truly a fair price for a product of good quality. 

The Swedish cavalry was famous for its fierce close ranked charge

At the moment, only cavalry is available – and only Swedish at that. One could almost call this a little pre-launch appetizer. However, turning to their Forum I find many really lovely pictures of dollies for infantry figures to be released in the near future. The blog also projects a quite extensive range, with many poses and a very complete representation of all troop types. Additionally a beautiful range of flags is offered for both Swedish, Saxon and Russian forces.

Russian test sculpts - more close up pictures on the Warefare blog

Warefare Miniatures sports a good forum via The League of Augsburg and a nice blog too.
Both are vivid and regularly updated with news, articles, scenarios and photos of fantastically painted figures. Especially the forum seems to be very well visited. Need any information on a special uniform detail or historic fact regarding the Great Northern War, I’d point to this forum as the prime source for fast info of high quality.

Charging cavalryman - illustration from the book "Karoliner"

Nothing wrong with the minis or the price mind you, but I'll hold on to the 10 points until the complete range is launched. However, I have all the confidence in Mr. Barry Hilton and his Warefare Miniature to see this through to a completion, which will be to the joy of all period enthusiasts.

When the range is completed with the current expected extend, it will be the biggest available on the market today, offering the widest selection of troops and poses. I'll be following this development along the way, posting news and painted figures as they become available.

Thank you for reading!

Friday 7 March 2014

I'm a Francophile...

But being a Francophile has its price, certainly when one is also a miniature collector and wargamer. One never really seems to reach a saturation point. There is always one more dramatic war to read about, or some new fantastic range of figures launched, that my unruly right index finger keeps clicking into a web shop basket.

Two war seasoned Poilus sharing a quiet moment in the sun

As it's the centennial for the horrible monument to blind nationalism mixed with unsavory weapons tactics called WW1, I have naturally bought a bunch of French trench rats, or Poilus if you will.

A whole generation of youths dutifully paid with their own blood, for the past failures of 1870 and the tactical shortcomings of their present commanders. If only they had been right when saying, "never again" as the war ended in 1918.

Smoking his pipe while keeping an eye on No Man's Land
Figure from Forgotten & Glorious

Figures: There are a few good options, but I have to credit Paris based company Forgotten & Glorious. They carry a small but incredibly nice sculpted range - a treat to paint.

The above mentioned year 1870, saw the eruption of the Franco-Prussian War. It’s a personal favorite in terms of wargaming and miniatures painting. What was soon to be a united Germany went to war under Prussian leadership disposing over some the greatest commanders and tactical politicians they would ever have - Moltke and Bismarck. France went into the war equipped with one of history’s most formidable armies, but worst high commands to lead it.

French "Lignards" trying to stem the German tide - Painting by Neuville

The brave French lignards could only scour for a fighting retreat, as a well run German war engine - spearheaded by the modern Krupp artillery - would run a tired Second French Empire under Louis Bonaparte (Napoleon III) into the corner of the ring. At Sedan the French Emperor was captured, a solid knock out, that saw France plunged into political chaos resulting in the proclaiming of the Paris commune. The war would leave France and the new republic traumatized by the loss of Alsace-Lorraine. This trauma would later play a key role in leading the nation on to seek the rematch with Germany of WW1.

A desperate stand - Mixed French unit offering resistance
Figures are Foundry

Figures: I love the Prussians from NorthStar 1866. They are clean, crisp and suited for todays painting techniques. French miniatures are tougher. In my opinion only Foundry has a range worth looking at, even if it's really 25mm and a bit out-dated in terms of pose variety and sculpting.

But things are happening, there are bright lights on the horizon, and I think 2014/15 will see a few new options on this period.

The First French Empire was run by Louis Bonaparte's uncle. A military and organizational genius known to history simply as Napoleon. Naturally the Corsican is a stop on any Francophile’s road to completion.

On the 1 year anniversary of his coronation as Emperor,
Napoleon won his greatest victory: Austerlitz 1805

Many historians, even today, will refer to Napoleon as a "little” or “short”. Actually Napoleon was not short at all, he was of average height of his time. “Warmonger” is another word that can stick to his legacy, but besides waging wars he also completed innovative law codes (many still used in today’s French legal code), understood and organized the basics of cities and industry for urbanization – For instance: he came up with the concept of house numbers being even on one side of the road, and uneven on the other.

French Grenadiers 1812 - Figures are Victrix

Figures: Where to start. I love the Victrix plastics for their sharp sculpting and multi-parts assembly options. I adore the Perry range, mainly because of the high quality and width of the range. As Napoleonic wargamer you're spoiled really, but the two above is my personal favorites.

Before the Revolution and the Bonapartes, France had one of Europe's oldest monarchies. As mainland Europe's strongest military and political power, Royal France naturally rivaled with the Habsburgs and The Holy Roman Empire for supremacy. A prime example of this would be either the 30 Years War or the Italian Wars, the latter a series of conflicts from 1494 to 1559, that witnessed some extreme men's fashion and even saw the pope field an army.

Landsknechts of the Italian Wars (1495 - 1559)
Figures are Foundry and Pro Gloria

Figures: I'd have to commend Foundry, their range still holds sway. Also the new comer,
Pro Gloria is adding premium products to the period. As a French player looking for Gendarmes, I also have to mention Eureka's beautiful range, sculpted I think by Alan Marsh.

So this brings me to a café au lait sipping and croissant-munching end. No matter whether you fancy lances, muskets or submachine guns, France offers plenty. And we didn't even touch on The Sun King or medieval times with Joan of Arc and the 100 years war. I feel my mouse wielding right hand itching again, I know Perry has got some lovely minis for this period...

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Pro Gloria Landsknechts – A review

Landsknechts ca. 1525

After a childhood flirt with Revell’s excellent 1/72 SYW range, I went into a more serious collector mode in my mid-teens, with the beautiful figures from the GW Empire range as a my favoured objects of purchase.

Now, some 20 odd years later, I find myself once again drawn to the rather excessive garniture of the landsknecht uniforms. This time however I’ll swap Emperors! Karl-Franz will park his Griffon and abdicate the throne of The Empire to the advantage of the historical character, Charles V – Holy Roman Emperor. It’s time for some Italian Wars!

Games Workshop's Empire - were it all started

Having only a few historical figures for this period (All from Foundry), I mapped out my options for building a collection. No wrong on Foundry’s behalf, their renaissance range is very good indeed. But, my heart skipped a beat when finding the excellent Pro Gloria range.

 I quickly found my way to their web shop and found a unit deal that would set me up for a start. A week later the neatly packed figures found their way to my home. Here are my thoughts after I poured the contents out on my desk for a closer view:

The unopened blister pack, with logo printed leaflet

A very presentable blister pack with a nice logo-printed leaflet inside.
8 figures per blister pack. Sealed and posted in standard card board box.

As I understand from the Pro Gloria Facebook site, Paul Hicks is behind much of the work. It’s really crisp and clear sculpting with a lovely depth for painting. Modern and anatomical bodies (i.e. no extreme calf muscles or watermelon head sizes.)

Size comparison - the painted figure is Foundry

28 mm from base to eyes. This is exactly what my Foundry figures also measure,
offering me a welcome opportunity to mix these ranges.

Standard packages of 8 figures are €14.95 (€1.87 per figure)
Foundry is €15.12 for a standard package of 8 figures (€1.89 per figure)
Both companies offer unit deals. I went for the “Standing Regiment” deal.
Pike unit of 24 figures incl. command for €42,95 (€1.79 per figure)
Overall the price is very reasonable, the products are right up there in the top regarding quality.

Example of the range - standing pike and command

I must commend the variety of the infantry range. Each blister pack contains 4 poses x 2. At the moment the range offers 2 types of standing packages, and 2 types of attacking packages. This gives you 16 different poses to mix when building your pike block.

Elaborate doesn't really cover it - a landsknecht in full splendor

For each type of pike pose (standing / attacking) there is a matching command package of 4 figures. Two blister packs types of handgunners (8 different poses in total) were added to the range last quarter of 2013., pretty much completing the normal infantry. To add periodical flavour Pro Gloria offers a selection of cool civilians and extras, like landsknechts gambling in camp or a dangerous looking Hackbut.

One of the deciding factors for me was that Pro Gloria is aimed at the renaissance specifically, and that they are building a complete range. Near future releases includes cavalry in the form of Gendarmes and the market’s first box of 28 mm plastic Landsknechts. A great economical advantage when building an army or larger collections i.e. pricing above.

What we can look forward to - Gendarmes on the sculpting table

The packaging is decent, but I imaging there will be much more in terms of historical fluff and nice imagery on the upcoming plastic box. Website, blog and Facebook are present and updated regularly.

The last two point I’ll reserve for Pro Gloria to give them when they release their plastic Landsknecht kit. One extra for the economy added to the range by offering plastics, and one for the extra fluff completing the range with the nice imagery of boxed sets - Peter Dennis have done some really cool stuff for Pro Gloria. Can be viewed on their FaceBook site. This will in my opinion put them at the top of the market, for anyone interested in modelling renaissance and Italian Wars.

Thank you for reading!