Sunday, 19 May 2019

The Men That Will Undo Us

'As for those fellowes (meaning the Crabats) I care not for them', saies the King: 'but charge me those blacke fellowes soundly: for they are the men that will undoe us.'  
William Watts, The Swedish Intelligencer, London 1633

The "black fellowes"
According to this quote by Watts, of all of the enemy troops, Gustav Adolf was most concerned about the Imperial Cuirassiers at Lutzen.  In their three-quarter armour, blackened to protect the metal, on large, dark coloured horses, they must have been an imposing sight.  The Imperial Cuirassiers were Wallenstein's heavy strike force.  Very expensive to raise and maintain, but also very hard hitting on the battlefield.

I need more of these armoured cavalry for my own Thirty Years War (TYW) collection, so the first thing on the painting table post Salute has been a unit of Imperial Cuirassiers.  I like a variety of figures in my units; if I can get every figure to be different, then so much the better.  I like this more 'hotch-potch' look because TYW troops were supplied from different sources at different times and would seldom have a very uniform look.  Add on to this that men, and certainly horses, will rarely have been all doing exactly the same thing, and I think some variety looks good.   One of the ways I achieve this variety is by making up my units with figures from different manufacturers.   For example, perhaps manufacturer A makes three TYW cuirassier figures and manufacturer B also makes three.  By using both manufacturers I get 6 different figures.   Obviously a bit of care needs to be taken.  Different manufactures can make 28mm figures which do not always look right when standing next to one another.  Fortunately some do.

The 'raw' figures
Here is my selection used for this particular unit, that I think fit nicely together.  The riders are from Warlord Games (link), Perry Miniatures (link) Avanpost Miniatures (link), Foundry (link) and Horcata (link).  The horses are from Perry Miniatures, Foundry and Front Rank (link).  Horcata don't make horses themselves but make their riders to fit on Front Rank horses.  This is interesting as Front Rank do a nice selection of stationary, or near stationary, horses.  I wanted to give this unit the look of cavalry in reserve, waiting for the order to attack, so standing horses are ideal.  Although I like some variety in the figures of a unit, I like them to look as if they are all following the same order.  So all of the rank and file here have one of their two wheel-lock pistols at the ready.

Undercoated and fixed on plastic bottle tops to make handling easier.  
Next came painting.  I am definitely not an expert at this step and so will leave it to the very many gifted painters out there to provide painting tutorials.  There were two things that I did differently for this unit.  First was that I copied some brown triads (sets of three paints that work together as shade, base and highlight) from the Loki's Great Hall Site (link).  (Loki has some great Vallejo triads on his site.)  He also has some handy YouTube videos on horse painting (link).  We are always learning and so I'm always happy to look at new techniques and ideas.

The second new painting technique was trying to get blackened armour to come out as I wanted.  This is a key feature of the Imperial cuirassiers in this period.  I have struggled to get the effect to still look like metal armour, while also not looking too mid grey.  This time I gave the figures a relatively heavy dry brush with Natural Steel from Vallejo.  I then washed this in Nuln Oil from GW.  This gave me a very black finish, with just the hint that the surface was metal.  I like the result, so this will be my new method for this type of armour.

Varnished and based.
Here is the unit varnished and based.  I under Winsor and Newton Gloss varnish (for protection), followed by Daler Rowney Matt varnish to matt things down at the end of the process. Bases from Warbases (link).   The cornet (i.e. flag carried by cavalry units) is from Flags of War (link).  It is based on Ottavio Piccolomini's coat of arms.  Piccolomini is one of the larger than life characters of the TYW who, over the course of the war, rose from the rank of Captain to the the highest rank in the Imperial forces, that of Generalissimo.  At Lutzen he was the Colonel of a regiment of Arquebusiers.  They were supposedly so well equipped that they were better armoured then some of the titled cuirassier regiments.  Due to his stellar performance at the battle he was given many rewards by the Emperor, including his regiment being changed to a cuirassier unit.  I have therefore based my unit on this later full cuirassier version of Piccolomini's regiment.

The final step is basing.  I followed my normal formula of PVA, filler, sharp sand, and Humbrol Matt 29 Dark Earth, with a light dry brush of Cream/Beige.  Tufts and static grass added to taste.

The final 12 figure unit.
Here are some further shots from different angles.






Riding off!
As Piccolomini's Cuirassiers ride off in to the sunset, I am about to start the next unit on the painting table; more cuirassiers, this time with swords rather than pistols.

Until next time!

Andy mk1 @ FOGH.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

The Road Goes Ever On

This blog post covers the future of The Via Regia blog.


(The post is sprinkled with wonderful pictures from Alan and Elaine Daniels.  They took these at Salute and have been kind enough to share them with us to use on the blog.  I really, really like Alan and Elaine's pictures.  They are quite different to your run of the mill wargames photos.  I have been lucky enough to discuss these with them by email, and I hope to try to learn their approach in the near future.  More of this later.)

Back in January we set up this blog to chart the build up to our Lutzen 1632 game at Salute.  We have well and truly done that, so I suppose it could be the end of the Via Regia, the end of the road?  However, as J. R. R. Tolkien himself penned, 'The Road Goes Ever On', and as this blogging lark has been so entertaining to write we have decided to keep it going.


What will be the new topic for the blog if Lutzen and Salute are 'done'?  Well, the plan is for the blog to be about the more general wargaming journey we are on.  In the immediate future this will be building more  Thirty Years Wars (TYW) units.  The game at Salute featured figures from three collections.  The way we split the up the units we needed for the game meant that, if we intended to do games on our own in the future, we would have some gaps in typical TYW troops.  I, for example have not got any Croats yet, and have only one Imperial Cuirassier unit.


In the less immediate future we are all keen to investigate the battles further east during this period.  The Swedish-Polish wars look interesting.  We already have many Swedish units, and so we would mainly be collecting Poles.  Seventeenth century Poles?  What did they have?  Winged Hussars!  I have wanted to collect these since I first read about them in Gush, and then saw the spectacular factors they had in the WRG Renaissance rules.

It feels a bit like a mid-life crisis.  Some people get to that certain age and rush out, buy a leather jacket and motorcycle, and roar off in to the sunset.  Not me.  I think that I will keep my mid-life crisis to wargaming.  Who hasn't seen a fabulously painted unit of Winged hussars, bedecked with huge flags and lance pennants, and thought "phwoar!".  I will therefore be throwing all caution to the wind, strapping on my eagle feathered wings, lowering my striped lance, and charging full tilt in to future.  (I am already aware that the wings are a topic of some contention, but please don't spoil my dream this early!)


Once you start researching the Poles you then come across their other enemies, Cossacks and Turks.  Oh, dear.  I think I may have just mapped out the next 5 years!   It is just at this point that Barry Hilton at Warfare Miniatures releases his Turks and Cossacks.  https://www.leagueofaugsburg.com/shop/products-subcat-57.html
Well, one is only mortal flesh.  I think there is a certain amount fo inevitability about it all.  But, important to not get ahead of myself.  Expect things to stay firmly in the German states for the next few months.

It would be great to hear suggestions for the future plans from any readers .  Any recommended books on the Poles and the wars with Sweden in the 1620s would be gratefully received.

Until next time!

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Day of Battle


I’ve already written quite a few words about he day of Salute on the 6th April, but not yet actually written much about the Lutzen 1632 refight played out by the Friends of General Haig on the day.  This post therefore aims to correct this omission, and is the official battle report.

The order of battle has already been covered in a previous post here.

The troop rosters, set out for Warlord Games’ Pike and Shote, are also shared on Google drive here.

We followed the historical deployment as described in this picture.


We had divided each army into three commands.  We had six players and an umpire and so to start with we divided the commands among the six players.  As the day went on we allowed the players to have time off to go and see the rest of the show and so other commanders in the same army would take temporary control of their command.  The Imperial army had a fourth command (Pappenheim) which would arrive later and we decided to allow Wallenstein to command that in addition to his own command.


You can see it is a fairly cramped battle field, without much room for manoeuvre.  This was intentional, as the cramped conditions were all part of Wallenstein’s defence.  He knew that Gustav would try to outflank him and so he used the terrain to mitigate against this.  He also refused both flanks in an echelon formation, with some skirmishing Croats thrown forward to further protect each flank.


Wallenstein had the town of Lutzen burned to prevent the Swedes taking it and attacking through it.  He also used commanded shot to hold the gardens that surrounded the walls of the town.  The Imperial army also had two artillery redoubts, and had fortified the Miller’s house next to the Windmill battery.  The final Wallenstein touch was arming a group of camp followers to look like an infantry reserve on the left flank.


On the Imperial right we see the Windmill battery, the Miller’s House and the town of Lutzen.  There is little room for the Swedes to exploit their advantage in cavalry numbers here.  


They will need to take the gardens and the Miller’s house to allow they cavalry to move through the gap.  Wallenstein’s command here looks secure.


In the Imperial Centre we can see Colloredo has strength in depth, with cavalry units also mixed in the second line of the foot regiments.


The Imperial left under Holk looks the weakest position.  There is plenty of skirmishing light horse to try and slow down the Swedes.  Also some camp followers cowering at the back!


On the Swedish right we see Gustav Adolf II ready to attack the Imperial position. (In fact he is still waiting for his commanded shot and some more horse to deploy in this picture.)


In the centre Knyphausen has six infantry brigades, all in their 3 squadron formation with light guns attached.  The front three brigades are the elite Yellow, Old Blue and Green brigades.  There is also the Swedish heavy artillery position. 


On the Swedish left Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar has little room to manoeuvre and has the defended gardens of Lutzen to deal with.


The game started with the Swedes taking the first turn.  Gustav had no doubt what was required and immediately charged forward with his cavalry.  In fact, so keen was he to get to grips with the Imperial cavalry opposite that he decided to leave behind his slower moving commanded shot while he chased away the skirmishing light horse defending the Imperial left.  The Croats were dealt with in fairly short order but they had done their job and delayed the Swedes for a little while.  

The Imperial commanders knew they were out numbered on their left and they decided to move the reserve cavalry from the centre over to bolster the left flank.  This had a decisive effect and Gustav’s attack was quickly bogged down.  All of the Imperial horse had been made Caracole troops which in Pike and Shotte means they can not countercharge enemy horse.  This allowed the Swedes to have a slight edge in initiative to reflect their aggressive cavalry tactics.  However, the Imperial cuirassiers were still very tough nuts to crack.  Units were lost on both sides. 


Meanwhile the Swedes ground forward in the centre.  There were moving in to a storm of fire from Imperial Muskets and artillery.  But they managed to give back pretty much as good as they got.  The command dice were not kind though and it was hard work for Knyphausen getting his brigades forward.  

The player taking the role of Gustav was well aware of the historical fate of the Swedish king at this battle.  Despite this he did risk Gustav in a melee in an attempt to break the Imperial line.  There was a collective sharp intake of breath as the dice were rolled for risk to the general in combat.  He survived, and won the melee.  After this Gustav was kept out of the fighting.


On the Imperial fourth turn they could roll to see if Pappenheim arrived.  A 5 or a 6 on a D6 was required and a 5 was duly rolled.  Pappenheim’s troops arrived and charged straight in to the fray on the Imperial left.  Just at this moment, Holk, who had been commanding the Imperial left, was killed in a melee.  Pappenheim had arrived in the nick of time.  



In the centre the Old Blue brigade were up to the Imperial line but the rest of the Swedish Brigades were still struggling to come up.  Both sides were losing units due to the concentrated firepower of close range muskets and guns.  (The grey smoke indicates units disordered by enemy fire.)  Frustrated by the Imperial defences Bernhard decided to demonstrate with his cavalry against the Imperial windmill battery. 


Bernhard also sent his cavalry to attack Wallenstein’s flank, but to no avail.  A storm of musket and carbine fire prevented his Saxon horse from making any impression.  Perhaps their hearts were not in it!  No such qualms for Bernhard’s lifeguards who continued to threaten the heavy guns, and suffered accordingly.  


The tide had now turned against Gustav and it was only the Swedish Commanded shot and support from the Yellow brigade that halted Pappenheim’s rampaging cavalry.  It seemed that a stalemate was being reached on the Swedish right, Imperial left.  The Imperial forces couldn’t break through the combined arms of the Swedes, and the Swedes had lost too many cavalry to push forward.  


Could the Swedish centre save the day?  The Swedish infantry brigades had finally made it to the Imperial battle line.  You can see here only a few reserves and the Swedish heavy guns left on the Swedish side. 


The Imperial commander in the centre, Colloredo, was not going to let the Swedes dictate this final phase of the battle, and as the Swedes approached, Colloredo marshalled his reserves and counter attacked.  Imperial pike blocks stormed forward in to the Swedish formations.  The Imperial troops had the best of the ensuing melees, but the couldn’t break the Swedes.  


With stalemates along the whole line of battle , and darkness falling, the two sides had to withdraw.  The Swedish attack had been stopped, so a marginal victory to the Imperial troops.  But Gustav had survived (as the god like finger points to in this picture!).  It would have been fascinating to fight a second day, but sadly the Excel centre wanted the hall back, and so we had to end it there.

This was the Friends of General Haig’s first Thirty Years War game, and so I was very pleased that all of the commanders had really enjoyed the game, and all were eager to play it again.  Both sides were sure they could pull it off next time.  I think this is a good sign that we have a well balanced game.  The rules worked well, and all the players felt we had the factors about right.  I am certainly really looking forward to getting these troops on the table again!

Until next time!

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Hobby Heroes' Salute

This blog post is my tribute to the heroes of the hobby who I managed to meet at Salute 2019.

For me there are three critical elements that make up a wargames show: great games, great products, and great people.  Now, if you're interested in what happened at Salute, I'm sure you will have already seen picture of the games on show, and the fabulous hauls of loot that people acquired.   Instead of these I am going to focus on some of the people I met.  These people are all wargame heroes who keep me inspired through the long lonely evenings at the paint table.

Why selfies?  As I first discovered many of these people on social media it just seemed appropriate to join the mobile phone generation.  Also, as you'll see, I've taken very few of these before and I like a challenge :-).

Kicking off is Phil from the South London Warlords.  A massive thanks to all of the South London Warlords who help organise the show.  A super efficient set-up, as well as friendly and helpful bunch.  All working away behind the scenes to keep the whole thing running smoothly.  You may notice in the background my fellow FOGH, Paul (aka Smiley), who did his best to photo bomb every selfie!   Paul also deserves a big thank-you for being my co-pilot and chief navigator to and from ExCel, as well as all round top bloke.

Any Beasts of War / On TableTop fans out there are sure to recognise the following threesome: Justin, Gerry and Ben.  I must have spent hundreds of hours watching these guys on YouTube.  It was great to bump in to them and have a quick chat about our game.  I have lost count of the games I have learned about watching their play-throughs, or the products and kick starters I have been introduced to.  I'm sure I must have seemed a complete wally as all I could say when I saw them was "you're off the telly!".  If you don't know who they are then rush to their site here: https://www.beastsofwar.com/ .  Thanks BoW crew!



If you have collected figures to play English Civil War games then you will have seen figures from Bicorne Miniatures.  James is the convivial boss at Bicorne, and we both served, many years ago, as pikemen in Sir Gilbert Hoghton's Regiment, a Sealed Knot Royalist outfit.  It is always great to catch up at shows, but a bit scary that James' has kids the age we were when we first met!  Where did all of that time go?  Check out Bircorne at: https://www.bicorne.net/ .  We had a lot of Bicorne figures on the table at Salute.

Now,  in the shining galaxy that is the Too Fat Lardies team, Sir Sidney Roundwood must be the brightest star!  I am a huge fan of the Lardies Oddcast, hosted by Sir Sid, as well as the Too Fat Lardies clever rules systems.  It was a real honour to catch this selfie, and also to chat about Lutzen to Sir Sid.  As well as hanging about with Big Rich and Nick, Sir Sidney also has a great blog here: http://sidneyroundwood.blogspot.com/ .  A constant source of inspiration for painting and playing with toy soldiers. You can catch all things Lardy here: https://toofatlardies.co.uk/

More old pikemen from Sir Gilbert Hoghtons.  Funny how so many of them now work in the wargames industry!  If you have marveled at a beautifully sculpted artillery piece, or wondered at an amazing tank model, then you have probably beheld the amazing work of Tim (aka Aardvark), on the left.  Just don't ask him about the Queen!  There are not many wargamers who will not have seen Big Ben from 4Ground in the centre here.  To the FOGH he will always be Mungo, the one man pike block.  I am still dazzled by the products that 4Ground release, and I can't quite believe that the mdf is pre-painted - such wizardry.   They also make my favourite trees on the market!  See them here https://www.4ground.co.uk/deciduous-woodland

I am a complete newb to this Blogging business, but I have followed Ray's blog for years.  As well as having a great blog himself, he is also massively supportive to others in the Bloggosphere, including me.  Thanks for keeping me going, Ray!   It was great to meet Ray in person and discuss the finer points of garden sheds :-) .  Long may your blogging continue.

Please be upstanding for the boss!  The man who has led me in to more pike pushes, and pubs, than anyone else.  The terror of Parliament pike-blocks, John is also the joint owner of Warlord Games.  A card carrying FOGH, John is the man responsible for plastic ECW figures!  Who would have thought such a thing would ever happen?   Warlord are not only a powerhouse in the industry, but willing to share their passions with the world.  I can't imagine many companies investing in a 1/300 ship game.  Warlord are also "keeping it real" by stocking Humbrol paints at last.  Check out Warlord's Thirty Years War Range here: https://store.warlordgames.com/collections/thirty-years-war-1618-1648  .  I will be re-stocking up the lead mountain soon ;-)

If you like games with hordes of beautiful 28mm figures then you must have seen Simon's games.  If you have been to any shows in the UK then you will also have seen his signature Hawaiian shirts!  I have followed Simon's Big Red Bat site for ages, and his ECW armies are a continuing inspiration. How does he get so many flags in his units?  If you haven't already, then you should check out his To the Strongest / For King and Parliament rules, along with his innovative basing system, here: https://bigredbatshop.co.uk/

If Sweden has wargaming royalty then Michael must be one of them.  Co-author of Pikeman's Lament and the new Rebels and Patriot rules from Osprey.  Michael has a fabulous blog at https://dalauppror.blogspot.com/ and his multi-national team put on another fabulous game at Salute this year, Danholm 1807 (winner of the Salute best historical game!).  Micheal's blog is a great resource, especially for anyone interested in 17th Century European conflicts.  It was a real pleasure to meet Michael and some of his team at Salute and to get the Swedish perspective on Gustav Adolf and Lutzen.  Anyone for a Gustaf Adolfsbakelse? ;-)

The Warlord Pike and Shotte rules are definitely my favourite for this period, and so I am always delighted when I can tempt the rules author, Steve, over to our game.  Steve is part of the Warlord Games powerhouse-team, and so therefore a key ally in persuading boss John to get more 17th century toy soldiers in to production.  Did anyone say "more Poles"?  Steve is also a dab hand with the paint brush and the cabinets at Warlord HQ usually have some of his lovely toys on display.

Author, blogger, pod-caster, editor and general wargames bon viveur, Mr. Henry Hyde!  A real  honour to spot Henry at our table.  Henry was also the person who gave me the best tips on how to take Selfies :-) .  Thanks, Henry, for reducing my double chins in this picture!   Looking forward to his new book, apparently finished the night before Salute.  I can't believe anyone doesn't already know his site, but just in case, check out Battlegames here: https://henrys-wargaming.co.uk/ .

When people were looking at our game one of the most frequent comments was "great flags".  All of our TYW flags were from Flags of War, and so it was a very pleasant surprise when Iain, who runs Flags of War, turned up at out table.  Not only do his flags really pop on the table, but his service is super fast.  I also picked up some Highanders from his recent Kickstarter campaign.  Very nice!  See them and the amazing flags of all periods here:  http://www.flagsofwar.com

At the time of posting the Terrain Tutor is absolutely storming his Kickstarter for the Terrain Essentials book.  It funded in the first seven hours!  There are lots of great terrain tutorials out there, but what sets Mel part for me is the effort he puts in to explain the materials used.  Understanding paint, PVA, foam etc. makes all of the difference.  He also puts his heart and soul in to his channel.  An incredibly dedicated teacher.  I can't wait for his book.  I am sure it will quickly become the terrain makers bible.  Go sign up here:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1560579763/terrain-essentials .  It was great to grab a picture with Mel on his Salute tour.  All of the FOGH are Mel fans ;-) .   Big thanks to Jase for taking the picture!

Of course, I also need to say thank you to all of my fellow FOGHers! The whole team here were happy to give up their time to come and help with the game.  Having a big crew of us really helped us  share the work around.  We were able to have some people play the game, some people chat, and some people take a turn to look around the show.

From left to right: Charles, Clive, Andy mk1 (me!), Steve (aka Bruce), Andy mk2, Tony, Paul (aka Smiley).  The end of the day and still smiling; I salute you all!
If you admired our fine new club shirts then you need to contact Debs at Saddle Goose Designs.  She provided a fabulous service and coped with all of our strange requests.  Without doubt the best shirts we have ever had - highly recommended!  https://www.saddle-goose-designs.co.uk

So a final big thank you to all of these hobby heroes who keep me entertained, inspired and playing wargames.

Until next time.