Monday, 27 January 2014

British, German and Updated French Late Great War Painting Templates

Just a very quick update to let people know that I've updated the late Great War French painting template, which is available on the right-hand toolbar of this Blog under the heading "Playtesting Scenarios, Campaign Diaries, Play-Aids and Painting Guides".   Hopefully everyone can get easy access through Google Drive - but as ever, please let me know if there are any problems downloading it.

I've been hard at work painting a demi-platoon of hardened, veteran  French infantry over the weekend for Curt's excellent Painting Challenge, and I thought there were a couple of useful additions I could make to the template which I first posted in May 2013.

I've also added a late Great War British and late Great War German painting template as well.  Both are long overdue, so I hope someone out there finds them useful.

Thanks also for the kind feedback regarding the Operation Gericht participation game for Partizan MMXIV and Evesham later this year.  I'm hoping to post some material on what we have planned during the course of this week and next.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Operation Gericht: Partizan MMXIV and Evesham, June 2014

For those of you who like to plan ahead and (hopefully) have something to look forward to, here’s a bit of advance news.

Richard Clarke, myself and some other members of the ToofarLardies team will be taking a participation game on the road to a couple of wargames shows this year. We’ve kindly been given an invitation to Partizan MMXIV in Newark on 1 June 2014. We’re also going along to the gaming day organised by the Evesham wargamers on 14th June, entitled “The Lardest Day”.

As for the subject of the game, perhaps it’ll not be a surprise that it’s Great War themed. Here’s a big clue to the subject and the setting for the game:

I’ve not got many more figures left to paint for the game, but there is some modular terrain to build and some hand-outs to prepare. 

And don’t worry, I’m hoping to post the progress here over the next few months.  Hope you can join me for that, as well as the remainder of Curt's splendid Painting Challenge...

Friday, 10 January 2014

The Verdun Project: French Grandes Hommes in “Through the Mud and the Blood”

As promised, I’ve uploaded a couple of items on the Blog this evening. I’ve meant to place these items on the Blog for a while, and I hope you enjoy them.

The first is an 11-page hand-out entitled “Les Grandes Hommes: Backgrounds for French Big Men in Through the Mud and the Blood”. As I mention in the introduction to the hand-out, the idea is to fill in some of the blanks regarding Big Men, or “Grandes Hommes” as you could call them, from the French army of the Great War in the “Through the Mud and the Blood” wargames rules produced by TooFatLardies. It’s my attempt to give a little character to some of the figures which might find their way onto your wargames table.

I tried something very similar a couple of years back with British and German Big Men, publishing a very similar article in one of the TooFatLardies’ Summer Specials. This is the French companion piece, and I hope you enjoy it.

It’s available to download on Google Drive, and everyone should be able to access it. You can access the document by clicking on the link on the right hand side of your screen under the section headed “Playtesting Scenarios, Campaign Diaries, Play-Aids and Painting Guides”. If you have any difficulties accessing any of the documents posted there, please let me know in the comments section below.

The second piece is really just a slightly more graphically attractive version of the last part of the hand-out, which describes various “career exists” for the Big Men after the War has ended, should they survive. It’s not meant to be particularly serious but could, at the end of a game or campaign of “Through the Mud and the Blood”, add some suggestions on where you might find your Grandes Hommes reappearing in your Inter-War games. I’ve posted not only the French Big Man Exists but also the British and German companion exits in a single document. I’ve used the British and German exits in quite a few games, including at Bovington in 2012, and players seem to find them fun and interesting at the end of a game. 

The “Career Exits” document is also stored and freely available on Google Drive.

In the future, I’ll post the British and German backgrounds for Big Men, by very kind permission to Mr Richard Clarke, one of the two TooFatLardies. If you’ve not tried Richard’s excellent large scale World War One rules, “Through the Mud and the Blood”, you should do. I am, of course, terribly biased and compromised in recommending them. But despite that, they are really jolly good.

I’d also like to mention my good friend Joe Legan, author of the most excellent supplement “Platoon Forward”. Joe’s ideas set out in “Platoon Forward” were some of the starting points for these Big Men background articles and hand-outs. Without Joe’s work, my own ideas would probably never have got very far off the ground. I have been remiss before in not thanking Joe for his very generous help and inspiration. Standing on the shoulders of giants indeed. Thank you Richard and Joe!

If you have any thoughts, comments or (most likely) improvements on these hand-outs, or any of the other documents posted on this Blog, please let me know. I’m always open to feedback!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Painting Challenge and the Verdun Project: Mata Hari

As part of Curt’s Analogue Hobbies Painting Competition I wanted to prepare an entry for the second themed round, the title of which was “Villains”. After some thought, I decided I wanted to try to keep all my themed entries focused loosely on the battle of Verdun in 1916. I hit upon the idea of preparing a couple of models for perhaps the most famous villain(ess) of the Great War, Margaretha Geertruida Zelle – better known as Mata Hari.

There’s a huge amount about Mata Hari on the internet, and I’m guessing everyone here knows the story of the Dutch exotic dancer whose provocative and flirtatious dancing became famous before the War started, and whose later career during the War became one of a courtesan embroiled in espionage and scandal.

Her story is pretty remarkable. Reading more about her, I felt Mata Hari deserved not one but three images for the “Villains” theme. I had purchased a couple of models of Mata Hari a few years back from Alex Bagosy via the always-excellent Lead Adventure Forum. That gave me the chance to prepare a series of Mata Hari models, each one focusing on different parts of her story, and mix at least one of them with a little “Alternative History”.

Here’s what I came up with…..

The first figure is Mata Hari as she became famous in Paris before the Great War – the City of light, of champagne, of laughter and of dubious morality. Here she’s depicted on the stage of the Musée Guimet in 1905, a bouquet of trumpet lilies at her feet. And, as I knew Curt would like it, she’s painted in greyscale, perhaps to offset the lurid gas-lights of the Parisian stage. The base is built up with "grey stuff" putty, including the lilies, which I struggled with quite a bit. My wife really likes these flowers, but looking at them in a vase, I admit that I've only really managed a rough representation of them.

Next, we see Mata Hari dancing in more private surroundings during the War. Perhaps for Captain Vadime de Masloff (her historical lover) or perhaps for a French general ensnared in Mata Hari’s web of seduction and betrayal, his be-medalled tunic, letters and High Command despatches lying thoughtlessly discarded on the carpeted floor of a hotel close to the Gare du Nord. The base was built up with "grey stuff" floorboards and carpet, with some very inexpensive plastic doll's house furniture which I found on eBay for a couple of pounds. I'd had the gramophone for a while ( it narrowly avoided being British "trench loot" for German trench raiders a couple of years back), and I thought it would be ideal for Mata Hari's hotel room. I added the carelessly discarded trench map out of the foil from an old wine bottle top, and then added more "grey stuff", this time in the form of a French General officer's uniform complete with medal. A spaniel completed the somewhat eclectic scene in the Gare du Nord hotel.

I drew the line at including the French General in the hotel bed waiting for his lover. This is, after all, a family blog!

And finally, in the last vignette, and in a blast of Alternative History, the terrible result of Mata Hari’s espionage is clear for all to see. A discarded copy of "Le Petit Parisien" (no doubt dropped by a stunned and shocked veteran of the 1870 campaign close to a Paris Metro station) announces in sombre tones the fall of Verdun to the Germans on a cold Autumnal day in 1916. A copy of the newspaper, and stolen, confidential or purloined despatches are placed on the back seat of Mata Hari’s limousine as she quietly leaves Paris, with fallen leaves and doubtless a fallen French Government in her wake.

The car is a lavish 1910 Mercedes, complete with liveried chauffeur, picked up from Ebay for a couple of pounds with a couple of changes such as adding transparent plasticard for the front windows. Both Mata Hari and chauffeur are from Sloppy Jalopy, although Mata Hari was converted with a new hat, matching the one she was wearing while arrested in 1917. 

The base was built up from non-warping marine plywood, with a plasticard set of paving stones. The lamppost was scratch built using two plastic rods, and topped with a plasticard sign and a plastic lamp fixture from one of my daughter's old toys. I wanted to try and creat a Parisian "feel" to the scene - a sense of a time and place. I thought about producing additional figures, or a small building, but it was hard to think of anything quite as evocative as a sign for the Paris Metro. 

I also wanted to try and create the background of the fictional fall of Verdun. This was perhaps the most fun thing of all to do. I found a copy of “Le Petit Parisien” newspaper from 1910 online and photoshopped a new headline onto it – “Verdun Pris Par Les Allemands". I then reduced the photoshopped page to a tiny size, and cut it out. I tinted the paper with a wash of paint, and then crumpled it slightly and painted the whole with a glaze of PVA glue to keep its shape so that it would look as if a Parisian had been so shocked by the news he had simply dropped the newspaper on the street. Quelle horreur!

To try and echo the devastating news, I made a second newspaper for the back of the limousine, and added a brace of letters - perhaps stolen letters from a lover in the Deuxieme Bureau, or messages from Mata Hari's own spymaster - on the back seat of her limousine.

The autumn leaves we're added with more PVA glue. I bought a small pack a long time ago from Antenocitti's Workshop, and they are still going strong! Trying to get the right colours to stand out against the grey base was a good way to spend half an hour.

And that was about it for the third vignette. It was a lot of fun to do, perhaps especially because of the chance to weave Alternative History into a model. I'm on the lookout for other ideas like this from the Great War, so with luck I may be able to do something like this again - ideally with a model from the front line. 

Next up will hopefully be some veteran hardened French infantry from the battlefields of Verdun, although this will have to wait for a few days following being submitted for Curt's Challenge. In the meantime, I'll try and post on the blog some of the handouts I've been mentioning for some time.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A belated Happy New Year and the Analogue Hobbies Painting Competition

It’s almost, but not quite, too late to wish everyone a happy new year. So….Happy New Year to all the readers of this Blog! 

If Christmas passed quickly, New Year was a complete blur. What with family and friends visiting, entertaining my kids on holiday and a blur of painting for Curt’s Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, I missed the chance of posting a traditional Happy New Year message on this Blog first of January.

But better late than never! I hope each and every one of you has enjoyed a wonderful start to the year, and that it continues long into the future!

So, with that message out of the way, how was my 2013 wargaming year? Very much the story of two halves, to be honest. Half of the year seemed to be filled with wargaming goodness: trips to wargames shows at Abingdon, Salute, Crisis in Antwerp, Blog-Con in Nottingham and Colours were very much the high points of my wargaming year, giving me the chance to catch up with people and try some new games. 

The other half of the year’s hobby plans were derailed by having the busiest working year for over five years. All good news in many ways, but definitely not great for wargaming.

As all of you will know, it’s difficult keeping a focus on hobbying when you’re very busy at work and family life is pretty hectic. There’s only so many hours in a day, after all. Now that’s not a complaint, although it can be a little frustrating sometimes. Part of the real pleasure of wargaming is planning, envisaging and (sometimes) day-dreaming about ideas and the next project. Not being able to embark on those projects can lead to a sense of frustration when there’s just not the time to start a project, or see it through to completion.

By the early autumn of 2013 I knew that almost all the targets I'd set for myself way back last January were not to going to be met. In a way that made the time I had hobbying, painting, gaming and convention-ing all the more precious, and I’m grateful for that. It also made me realise that instead of making any wild new year’s predictions for 2014, this January I'm just going to carry on where I left off last year before real life and work threw the wargaming train off the railroad.

I ‘m hoping to keep working steadily on the late Great War French project during this year. The Poilu are nearly done - just another 30 to do to make up the hundred I set out to paint at the start of last year. There's some support weapons to paint, then about 60 Tirailleurs Marocains and Tirailleurs Senegalais. And with half a dozen tanks, that's really about it for the French. 

Painting the last of the French figures is hopefully going to combine well with Curt's Painting Challenge. I've posted below the gas-masked Poilu which I finished around New Year’s Eve, and which I'd converted up way back in October. 

I'm now working on some veteran hardened infantry - the sort of grimy, rugged, indefatigable French infantry who utterly refused to be broken at Verdun. 

Aspirationally, I’d like to post more hand-outs and supplements on the Blog here. I've a slightly updated painting guide to the late war French as a result of experimenting over Christmas. I've also got a longer hand-out on French “Big Men” (using TooFatLardies' "Through the Mud and the Blood" rules) which I'll try and post here during next week.

One of my long term aims is also to post here a Verdun-related campaign background of the sort I prepared for some games at the St Albans Wargames Club in 2011 for re-fighting Passchendaele engagements. I've quite a bit of material for this, but it's a question of getting the time to put it together and play-test it. Hopefully this will be a post-Challenge project for the Spring of 2014. If that goes well, I'd love to follow that campaign background up with something similar for the Chemin des Dames campaign of April 1917, perhaps better known as the ill-fated “Nivelle Offensive”, taking the starting point the excellent “Prelude to Victory” by Sir Edward Spears. Thanks entirely to a very kind and generous gift from Blogger-Chum and all-round polymath, Jur de Jong (whose excellent blog I thoroughly recommend HERE) I have some superb material on the French tank forces of the Artillerie Speciale. The bravery of both sides in the Chemin des Dames campaign could do with a lot more coverage in English, and a number of the engagements make very game-able scenarios.

Reading the above, you might be puzzled at my earlier resolve not to make any predictions for the year......when I then proceed to set out some predictions and plans. Ah well, old habits die hard!

To finish up this time, I've also posted the pictures of the trio of war reporters that I painted for the first theme of Curt's Painting Challenge, being “non-combatants”. These were fun to do, and the Bicorne Miniatures range of war reporters in 28mm has a wonderful and unique charm. The middle reporter is a conversion from Melton Prior of the Boer War and Egypt, here translated to a French reporter covering front line action. I drew a complete blank trying to locate the names of any French reporters from the First World War who visited close to the front. If anyone has any details, or even ideas of where to look for more details of the French press generally in the Great War, I'd be really interested - feel very free to leave a comment below on this, or indeed any topic.

Next up, I'll post more images, including work-in-progress shots, from the Mata Hari figures which I posted this weekend for the second themed event in Curt’s Painting Challenge. Until then, keep well mes braves!

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