A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Painting Royalists, a Minor-League Give-away and the Fog of War

Topic 1 - Painting Royalists

Reinforcements on the way
In two weeks the scheduled Marston Moor game should take place here, so I've been working away at some painting to boost the armies a little. The problem with Marston Moor, of course, is the number of troops - no, I don't have enough, but I worked out that I should be able to lay out a game at about ⅔ of the original size - the horse will be a little light, but that will be the same for both sides.

My original head-counting exercise was flawed - amusingly so, in hindsight. I very carefully put everything into spreadsheets, to work out how my toy regiments should best be given historical roles to play. I have a number of units which were deliberately painted to be capable of turning out for either side, and when I failed for the third time to balance the numbers of required figures I realised that I had, rather brilliantly, added these ambidextrous units to the OOB for both sides. [I used to work for an insurance company which, famously and allegedly, once did its solvency returns using this same accounting basis, so maybe there's an unconscious hangover there.]

Whatever, I decided that it would be better to paint up 3 extra units of Royalist foot, rather than start all over again with the calculations. I have enough spare figures, and I also had the remains of a pre-painted collection I bought a while ago from something of a wargaming celeb (by my standards, anyway) - they would require some repainting, and I'd need to add some 20-odd extra figures to make up the roll-call, but that would be a pleasing way to kill a number of birds with one shot.

These chaps are just about ready now - as ever, they are Old School in one of its more primitive forms, but they are fine. I still have a few officers to finish off, but they should be ready sometime today. One of the problems with using old 20mm figures is the lack of choice when looking for command figures and other odd-bods. I mostly use Les Higgins castings for the ECW - these, of course, are still available from Old John, who has added a good number of conversions and extra poses to the original range now. Higgins' 20mm ECW and Marlburian figures are small - noticeably smaller than their 25mm products, and too small to fit comfortably with modern plastics. I can mix in Hinton Hunt, and also (with careful selection) more modern products from SHQ. For the cavalry, I also use Tumbling Dice, though I mount them on SHQ horses to keep the scale creep to a minimum.

So the new/old units of foot are now just awaiting the last few officers. The drummers will be Higgins - they are almost ready - and the two colonels still to be painted are from SHQ - strictly they are a tad hefty, but they are OK. I was very pleased to be able to draft in an Art Miniaturen ensign - these are normally too big, being sort of plastic-sized 1/72, but in a packet which I've had lying about for 5 years or so I found a 30YW standard bearer who is a bit smaller than usual, and offers a decent match with the Higginses. He's a little stout for a fighting man, but presumably he paid for his own rations, and he has very thick hide underwear under his finery.

I still have to polish up the scenario notes, with OOBs and rule-tweaks for the day, but it's going to be fine. Marston Moor. Yes.

Topic 2 - A Trifling Giveaway
This is the dealer's own image

This may be of no interest at all, in which case no harm done. I recently ordered up a couple of 3-D printed medieval towers from a firm which sells via eBay. Part of this was a consequence of my general interest in the whole subject of 3-D printing - I thought I'd have a look at a sample before rushing to order up their very impressive Waterloo-type farmhouse. I ordered the towers in 15mm scale (since I use one-size-down buildings with my 20mm figures). I've now built one, and it's very nicely made. I haven't painted it up yet - it will not fit into a walled town or anything, so it's more a sort of pele tower, such as we get up here in the Border country. In truth it is rather more Warhammer than I thought - the point is I really don't need two. If anyone would like the second one, as a gift, please just send me a comment or an email explaining how desperately you want it, and how you will use it. I'm looking for some entertainment here, so "You owe me a tower, you bastard" will not score highly, even if true. As ever, the selection criteria will be completely subjective and unfair. Only restriction is that you must either be a known follower of this blog or else someone who corresponds with me by email.

You will have to glue together the [small number of] components and paint the thing. It stands some 138mm high, and the door is about 25mm high, so I reckon that, though it is officially 15mm scale, it would also work as a nice bijoux pele tower in 20mm scale or HO.

Check out these people's products on eBay, by the way - I have no stake in this, but it's good to see 3-D printed products getting better and cheaper and more widely available. The farmhouse is particularly good...

Topic 3 - Fog of War (painting with dodgy eyesight...)

A friend tipped me off that I had been mentioned in someone else's blog. This was a couple of months ago, in a blog which I used to read fairly regularly when I had more time and possibly more patience.

I was very surprised that I was taken to task for being rude about 5mm and 6mm figures, and for implying that they were difficult or impossible to paint. The gist of the message was that, even in jest, this is an irritant, does the small scales no favours, and that anyone can easily paint 6mm castings, regardless of the state of their eyesight.

It is possible that the bloggist should cut down on his coffee intake, because I meant to be neither critical nor disparaging about the little figures - I am really quite a fan, and the post to which he took exception was merely an affectionate look at the old 5mm Minifigs blocks (which were a bit unsatisfactory, in fact) and an old chap I once knew who used to use them for wargaming. Though I had several attempts, I could find nothing in my text nor the comments which might reasonably give offence. Still, if you give offence you have done it wrong, whether or not you meant to, so I can only repeat my eyebrows-raised disclaimer and apology. No harm meant.

On the other hand, one element of the response did manage to ruffle my own feathers just a little, so let's return the favour here. Anyone can paint these figures? Well I couldn't, old bean - no chance.

I am still doing a fair amount of painting, but it is getting slower and is harder work. Last year it was confirmed that I have the beginnings of cataracts in both eyes - nothing dramatic, no hard feelings - this stuff comes with the turning of the seasons. I can now paint only with very bright light, and a x2 jeweller's loop device (which reminds me - must get the prescription checked again), and I'm having difficulties with certain colours. I have given up on black undercoat - if I try to apply dark blue or brown over black I can't even see if it's going on - hopeless. I've changed to mid-grey undercoat, which is far better. If I have black or dark brown paint in my palette, I need a bright light, carefully angled, to be able even to see when my brush makes contact with the pool of paint. If I have to paint a belt behind a sword (for example) I have problems getting the 3D to line up properly - my focus is distracted by the nearer object.

None of this is serious or especially worrying - I can still drive without problems, my life is unaffected by any concerns about my sight, but painting soldiers is harder and slower than it was, and I am aware that figures I painted 30 years ago - even in the days of Humbrol enamels - are often far crisper than I could manage now. How quickly cataracts progress is variable - and they can be fixed, of course, though they will have to get worse before they are made better, I guess. In the meantime, I am enjoying my painting, I subcontract some big jobs - it all works out.

I mention this not because I am feeling sorry for myself - heaven forbid - but because I really do not appreciate being told what I should be able to paint.


  1. This may be a clumsy attempt at consolation, but as my painting has always been crap, the blurring of eyesight caused by advancing age means I can no longer see how badly my figures are painted. I can honestly say my armies now look better than they've ever done!
    See, every cloud has a silver lining (if you can see it.)

    1. Brilliant bit of psychoanalysis and painting philosophy! Advice to be remembered.

      You bring light to a dark subject.

    2. Hmmm - not so sure. Thanks anyway for this, but did you ever meet a silver lining that didn't have a bloody dark cloud wrapped around it...?

    3. Hmm, you're a 'glass half empty' type, obviously. Always look on the bright side, to quote Eric Idle.

    4. Glass? I never even got a glass.

  2. The aging eyes syndrome is awfully familiar but don't get me started about the multiplier of less steady hands.

    Some of the 3d printer stuff these days is amazing, like scifi come to life. I'm almost tempted to pretend that I had a possible use for it or even a place to store it. I look forward to seeing yours painted up. .

    1. I'm lucky in that either my hands don't seem to shake or else my eyesight is so ropey that I can't tell they are shaking. :o)

      The tower is a little small for your bigger toys, but would work well for fantasy or medieval stuff up to 25mm or so. It's about 5.5 inches high, including the little rocky base and the steps.

    2. Mine don't shake, they just occasionally, unexpectedly, twitch at inconvenient moments....

    3. Oh - I thought that was normal...? Worried now.

  3. Odd that someone should take exception to your post about the 5mm blocks, as a champion of 6mm I never took it as any kind of criticism at all. Those blocks were crap, but that was back in the day. These day the castings are getting really sharp ( for their size). There's some funny buggers about. Always someone ready to take offense it seems. Love the 3D printing stuff. Trying to convince the current Mrs Broom that I urgently need one... they look exciting Mind you I'm buggered if I'd know how to use it. Lol. Looking forward to the Marston Moor scrap!

    1. If the guy was irritated, I'd better accept it and move on. There's nothing to learn from the episode - as the years pass, I observe that the posts I've written which upset people were usually completely innocent, lightweight pieces. The obvious stuff like the Scottish Referendum and other fun topics got very measured, rational comments.

      The 3D printers are fantastic - I think, like electric cars, this is not the time to buy one - they will be better and cheaper quite soon. 4 years ago I saw a demo at Amsterdam airport, and they were producing what looked like very low-quality ornaments for your fish tank - fluorescent pink or lilac. Now they are turning out things like the farmhouse above, which is, I guess, only a start. I am confident that we'll all have our own machines very soon, and running off divisions of 6mm troops will just be a matter of buying a limited-use licence...

      Marston Moor has been put back one week, by the way - Prince Rupert caught the plague last week!

    2. ...erm - how long before the 3d printers can do colour as well? Divisions of 6mm troops ready painted, anyone? The only fly in the ointment is how much PC World will charge for a set of replacement cartridges.

  4. thanks, great post which sets several hares a'running..
    (i) Your 1809 Spaniards look brilliant - and this is when you are worried that standards are slipping?
    (ii) My own 'armies' such as they are, were mostly painted as a slapdash teenager. Returning to them in middle age, I thought 'I can do much better now' - only to find declining eyesight means no improvement!
    (iii) that said, you give me yet another excuse to postpone painting figures: "I'm waiting for 3D printers to catch up"
    (iv) as any IT analyst knows, the glass is neither half full nor half empty. In fact, the size of the glass was incorrectly specified.