March 28, 2010

Terrain for Historicon - Part One

Posts have been sparse recently, but I find if I'm actually working on hobby stuff, I have little time to be on the computer! With only three months and change until Historicon, I thought I'd better get started on the terrain because I'm not sure how long it will take. My basic plan calls for a 6x8' table with a river running through the middle. I've built lots of terrain boards and all of my projects start out with a drawing so I know where I'm going...

Besides a 'built-in' ridge at the top of the drawing, I'm planning on using some 'loose' hills, buildings, etc.

I use 1/2" MDF (Medium Density Firber) boards for all of my game boards. These can be obtained from most DIY stores and are most commonly found in 2x4' pieces, which is exactly what I use. You could also use 2x2' sections (or whatever other dimensions you like - most DIY centers will even cut the boards for you), but I have found the modeling options to be better with the larger boards. Of course, they are harder to store, but I am lucky in the fact that I have a permanent room devoted to my hobby where I can stack such things.

MDF is more resistant to warping than plywood which is one of the reasons I choose it. However, to make it even more resistant, and to protect the layer of foam that I intend to add on top, I frame all of my boards with 3/4" square battens. These are carefully glued to the boards with Liquid Nails and then to make them stronger, I flip the boards over and secure the battens with 1" wood screws. It's a good idea to predrill holes slightly smaller than the diameter of the screws to reduce the chance of splitting the battens.

You can always skip the framing step if you don't transport your boards and just glue a layer of foam to the board, but the wooden frame makes them extremely durable and adds a very professional look to the finished piece. I think the extra effort is worth the results.

I managed to frame out all six boards in an afternoon. To see the full details of my construction process and see where we'll end up you can check out the tutorial on my main site. I'll duplicate some of the info here and add new photos of this project as I go. If there are any questions, I'll be happy to answer them here!

March 18, 2010

A Method to My Madness

I wrote a post a few months back on modeling your Napoleonic forces without the crutch of using army lists (No Army Lists? No Problem!) and I felt like it was time to look at the concept again, this time using a slightly different approach. Sticking with my 'Combat on the Coa' theme, let's look at my French wargames army for REPUBLIC TO EMPIRE based on the 6th Corps under the command of my favorite French Marshal, Michael Ney.

My list is drawn from Donald Featherstone's book Campaigning With the Duke of Wellington & Featherstone. This is one of those treasured volumes that I have returned to over and over for wargame info on the Peninsula theater. Again, I don't have detailed brigade strengths for the Combat on the Coa, but other sources show the French battalions to be quite small. If I stick with my 1:30 ratio that I used for the Light Division, I would end up with units or 16-20 models! That's not really what I want, so my solution is to reduce the number of battalions on the historical order of battle and increase the number of models per unit. Below is my ultimate goal, with the units I have finished in red.

Loison's 3rd Division

Brigade Simon
26th Ligne (2 battalions of 36 models each)
Legion du Midi (24 models)
Legion Hanoverienne (2 battalions of 30 models each)

Brigade Ferey
32nd Leger (24 models)
66th Ligne (2 battalions of 36 models each)
82nd Ligne (36 models)

Loison's Divison did the brunt of the fighting at the Combat on the Coa battle. All of the line regiments were made up of 4th, 5th, and 6th battalions and should probably be rated as Recruits, but it's hard to play a game a fielding an entire division of such troops. When I amass more troops, I would field them that way, but for now they get to be elevated to Drilled, with only my poor allied units - the Legion du Midi and the Legion Hanoverienne - suffering the yoke of the Recruit rating. Just for the sake of balance, I've rated the 32nd Leger as Veteran for no reason other than the e'spirit de corps such units tend to display. The 32nd was also severely understrength (or maybe present as a half battalion?) but I added a few models to bring it in the line with the rest of my Division. The 82nd Ligne is on the painting table...

In the future, when I go to add more troops, I will draw from the following units from the 6th corps, building one brigade at a time, with strengths again built on numbers near the battle rather than those actually present on the day: 

Mermet's 2nd Division

Brigade Bardet
26th Leger (36 models)
27th Ligne (2 battalions of 36 models each)

Brigade Labassee
50th Ligne (2 battalions of 36 models each)
59th Ligne (2 battalions of 30 models each)

Marchand's 1st Division

Brigade Maucune
8th Leger (36 models)
69th Ligne (3 battalions of 24 models each)

Brigade Marcognet
39th Ligne (2 battalions of 30 models each)
76ht Ligne (2 battalions of 36 models each)


Lamotte's Brigade
3rd Hussars (12 models)
15th Chasseurs (12 models)

Gardanne's Brigade
15th Dragoons (12 models)
20th Dragoons (12 models)

The cavalry strengths are based purely on what works best on my small game table. I have two boxes of the Perry Dragoons on order and they will be added to my army soon, possibly appearing at Historicon in support of my French!

I'll more on the subject of army lists in a few days...

March 9, 2010

The Reviews

Being involved in publishing a book in some ways is a very surreal experience. Barry Hilton and I spent over a year working on Republic to Empire. We sent the manuscript away to the printer on October 2nd, 2009. I got the proofs for approval on October 24th and gave the ok to run the books. Barry received delivery of the books on November 13th and I got my first copy on November 27th (for those who don't know, Barry and I live on opposite sides of the Atlantic). After the initial buzz in cyberspace, people seemed to retire to actually read the rules and start to absorb them and things went... quiet.

Finally, in March 2010, people seem to be getting minis on the table and the reviews are starting to roll out in the mags! Wargames Illustrated February 2010 has a review by Robert Townsend and Battlegames Jan/Feb 2010 has a review by Steve Gill. Both are very favorable reviews. My favorite line about Republic to Empire comes from Steve Gill's first sentence:

Many powerful wargaming beasts stomp out of Scotland, the Isengard to Nottingham's Mordor, and this beautiful set of Napoleonic rules is one of the most impressive yet.

Very cool! In Wargames Illustrated March 2010 there is a great objective based scenario written by Barry that features unbalanced forces that is a refreshing departure from matched armies picked from point based army lists. There will be more articles in the coming months and Republic to Empire will be featured on the convention circuit this year (including here in the US at Historicon). Rule questions are starting to appear on forums and several blogs I visit on a regular basis are posting play tests (like JAM).  The buzz is starting again...

March 7, 2010

Orders of the Day

Last week I finally got my hands on some of the cool Order Markers for REPUBLIC TO EMPIRE. Each set comes with 14 counters, two of each Brigade Order. They are available in five different national sets, each with their own distinct shape.

The small tokens shown above with the Order Markers are Manoeuver Point chips and are available separately in bags of 30. Every game turn players will accrue a number of Manoeuver Points (MPs). These will vary from turn to turn. They will have to be allocated to brigades and units in order to make them obey orders. These chips can be placed behind each unit or brigade to keep track of your MP spending!

In addition to both of these, there are also Condition Markers to denote various Resolve and Disorder status...

You can get your own sets of these great game aids at the League of Augsburg shop! I should point out that none of these items are required to play REPUBLIC TO EMPIRE, but they may enhance your game.

Speaking of something that is not required, I am never one to leave well enough alone. For me wargaming is as much about aesthetics as the rules. I want my games to look as good as possible! The Order Markers seemed to stand out a little too much on the table so I sat down and gave my French set the Quindia Studios treatment...

Basically, I assembled my counters - I recommend super glue as the super shiny plastic seemed slightly resistant to my first attempts with plastic model glue. Then I sprayed the models with black primer - I think it would be hard to brush on a case coat, again because of the glass-like smooth surface of the counters. I painted the entire counter with the same colors I use for my French coats: Foundry Deep Blue Shade (20A). Then I simply drybrushed the counters with Foundry Deep Blue (20B), leaving the original color on the bottom third to create a gradient. Finally I drybrushed the top third of the counter with Foundry Deep Blue Light (20C) and outlined the indented lettering with the same color (not necessary as they were perfectly legible without it, but I already mentioned my inability to leave well enough alone). Still not satisfied, I decided to add mud spatter in the same manner I use on some of my units and finished of the bases in the same manner as my troops!

It may sound like it was a lot of work, but I actually painted these seven counters in about an hour. The second half are on my painting table and they have provided a nice distraction from painting buttons and crossbelts while still keeping me on track with Napoleonics. My British counters will get the same treatment with Foundry Terracotta (37A-C) in the coming weeks to break up the monotony of a 36 model unit of the French 82nd Line which is on deck...

Stay tuned!