Thursday, May 30, 2019

Cigar Box Battle Mats - A Great Product



The Prussian encampment at Hochkirch.


I have seen some really good looking wargame tabletop terrain mats at conventions over the past couple of years. They are made by a company called Cigar Box Battle. The mats have images of roads, fields and woods pre-printed onto a cloth material (baize perhaps?). The result is a very realistic game mat that will greatly enhance the look of any game table.

Here are two views of the mats; first, the Before view of just the mats and the After view after I have placed some terrain pieces on top of the mat. The set of trees on the right hand side are located approximately at the place where the two mats are joined together to create one 6ft by 10ft table.


The "Before" picture of the two mats lined up together.



The "After" picture with the addition of my own trees, houses and other terrain pieces.

Click on the link below to go to the company's web store:



I have admired Cigar Box mats for quite awhile but I wasn't sure that I wanted to ditch my existing table mat and start over with a whole new system. My main concern was that with the roads already layed out that it would restrict my games to the particular type of terrain that is on the mat.

However, my recent interest in playing skirmish level wargames made me rethink my stance and I decided to go ahead and buy a pair of mats to use for skirmish games. Once I had a chance to look at these mats first hand on my table, any concerns that I had evaporated. It is an easy matter to lay your own terrain on top of the mat - so if a corn field is in the way, you can simply place a building on top of the field, sprinkle a few bits of lichen on the mat, and then Bob's your uncle, you are good to go.

Sizes
The mats are available for a variety of figure sizes (such as 10mm, 15mm and 28mm, etc.) I purchased two mats of European terrain that come with wide roads suitable for 28mm figures and vehicles. The mats measure 6ft by 4ft but are actually closer to 6ft by 5ft. As a result, I can put the two halves together and have a 6ft by 10ft table.

The two mats that I bought are called New Europe #510 and New Europe 2 #660 (both with wide roads). The roads and fields are designed to match up with each other for these two selections. I believe that there is also a mat that is all green ground cover without roads and other preprinted terrain areas. You could buy a pair of these if you are concerned about having your games boxed in with what is printed on the mat.

A T-intersection on the mat, graced with a Saxony-style house and a guarded checkpoint.

Downtown Hochkirch at rush hour. The citizens converge on the inn, on the left, for Happy Hour.


Best Features
(1) Ease of transport - In my opinion, the best feature of the mats is that they are easy to roll up or fold up for transport. In fact, folding the mats does not seem to create any fold marks on the mat, which is a big plus. These are light weight compared to my canvas terrain mat and because you can fold them, they will take up so much less room in my car when I am taking a game to a convention.

(2) Realistic appearance - Another feature that I like is the detail and realism of the printed fields, etc. They almost have a 3D effect, so when I look at a ploughed field from afar, it really looks like a 3D ploughed field. Perhaps the best part of this though, is the sense of realism - when you are out driving in the countryside you see variety in the types of field - some have plantings, some are fallow fields at rest without plantings, some green grazing areas, etc. When you put them all together, you see a wonderful mosaic of diverse terrain on your table top, rather than seeing vast areas of unadorned green felt (or in my case, green canvas).

(3) Flexability -  Once you spread your mat over the game table, then place your own terrain pieces on top of the mat. For example, there are obvious places that represent woods, so plop down your trees in that area. For ploughed ground, add a farmer or two. For a fallow field, place a few cows or sheep etc. 

Prussian field bakery. The bakery models hide the underlying ploughed field. You would never know that it was there. 

Another view of the field bakery.

Lots of things are happening inside the Prussian camp.

As you might probably guess by now, I really like my Cigar Box (I like the company's name) mats and plan to use them for both skirmish and larger scale battles. I like my existing terrain system, but the new mats will "up my game" in my opinion.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Croat Samples Painted

A hoard of Croats from Minden Miniatures.


I've been painting samples of Minden product codes so that every item in the Fife and Drum Miniatures web store has a picture of the product. This project has been ongoing and it will keep going for quite awhile as there are hundreds of different figures to paint.

I finished all of the Prussian Jagers last week and so now it is on to the Croats, of which three of the four codes have been painted during the holiday weekend.

Croat command pack



Croats standing pack of firing and loading poses.

Croats advancing pack.


I have the Croats kneeling pack on the painting table right now and expect to finish them today. The four Croat figure packs give me 21 figures already painted, so 3 more rankers and one officer will complete my first Team Austria unit. Later, I will paint a second Croat unit in blue coats, followed by 2 x 12 dismounted Austrian Hussars.


I have been basing the figures singlely on round bases with the idea that I can photograph them and then re-employ them in small skirmish game scenarios. Units will have two companies of 12 figures plus one overall officer. Thus each player will control no more than 25 figures in the game. A game will likely have three players per side, so that works out to about 75 figures per side.

I've been searching for a good set of period skirmish rules and after playing several published rules sets, they not being to my liking, I remembered that I had my own Croat Terror skirmish rules. I haven't used the CT rules in quite awhile, but after thumbing through them, I decided that these would work just fine and that I could easily make a few modifications for the game that I have in mind for next year's Seven Years War Association convention in March 2020.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Prussian Jagers - Painted Pix


Prussian Jagers - both the command and jager packs shown.


I am working my way through the Minden Miniatures web store catalog and picking out the product codes (or "SKUs" - Stock Keeping Units) that do not have pictures of the figures associated with the SKU. Afterall, if you want to buy something, you want to have an idea of what it looks like, so having pictures is a must.

The Prussian dismounted hussars were finished a few days ago and so now it is time to get the Prussian jagers painted.

MP-015 Prussian Jager Command (3 figures: officer, trumpeter, and NCO)

MP-015 Prussian Jager Command.

MP-015 rear view.

MP-016 Prussian Jagers (2 each of 5 different poses = 10 figures)


MP-016 Prussian Jagers.
There are two each of five different poses in the pack.


The five different jager rank and file poses.

Same as above, only the rear view.

I really am having a lot of fun painting these light troop figures (jagers and dismounted hussars), painting one of each, and really like the action and movement in the figures.

As stated in my previous post, this has inspired me to start planning some small forces for a skirmish style of wargame that I can take to conventions. While I enjoy the big battles, I think that convention goers largely prefer to play in a skirmish level game. These are generally very fun to play because there is a little bit of role-playing involved, there are fewer figures to move around, and the games are finished in a shorter amount of time. 

When I look around at the games at a convention, it seems like the gamers playing in a small skirmish game are having more fun than those who are engaged in a larger battalion/regiment type of game.

With that in mind, I have dusted off my copy of my own "Croat Terror" rules for skirmish wargames and have taken a look at the play sheets to make sure that all of the rules are up to date. The rules are basically ready to publish, so this is a project that I might work on this year so as to have the rules and figures ready for the SYW Association convention in March 2020.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Dismounted Prussian Hussars




Over the weekend I painted the two sets of Minden dismounted Prussian hussars so that I can put pictures of the sets in the Fife and Drum Miniatures web store. The figures are all sculpted by Richard Ansell in 1/56 scale (approximately 30mm tall).

The two sets are MP-018 (wearing busbies) and MP-019 (wearing mirlitons). Each set includes four "action figures", one horseholder and one standing horse with hussar horse furniture.


MP-018 Dismounted Prussian Hussars in busby hats.
Painted as HR2 von Zieten Hussars.


MP-019 Dismounted Prussian Hussars in mirliton hats.
Painted as HR5 von Reusch hussars.

These were really fun figures to paint and I am eager to paint more of each style so that I can have a 12-figure group of figures for skirmish style games. I use formed cavalry squadrons of 12-figures, so I will have the same number of dismounted hussars for each hussar squadron.

A close up view of the MP-018 set of hussars in busbies.

Sometime in the near future I would like to add two more poses to each set: standing firing and kneeling firing. I am also considering adding hussars wearing their pelisses as they would have done in battle, rather than the flashy "wearing it on the shoulder" that was more likely used on the parade ground.

Next in the painting queue are the Prussian j├Ąger. I am considering building up some small skirmish parties of Prussian hussars and jagers to fight the Croats in a smaller game. I'm noodling another idea to work in a "horror" scenario with the skirmish figures. More on this in the future.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

New: WAS Austrian Regt. Sprecher



Austrian regiment "Sprecher" from the War of the Austrian Succession
(later known as the "Lacy" regiment in the SYW)

I finished the basing of my newest Austrian infantry battalion for my War of the Austrian Succession project. It is the Sprecher regiment, later known as the Lacy regiment during the SYW. The battalion had been sitting in the area where I do all of my basing and terraining for several weeks, but on Monday of this week I finally found some time to add the grass and finish the bases.


A closer view of the command stand and those wonderful "Pete's Flags".
If you click on any of the pictures to enlarge them, you can probably guess why I chose this particular regiment to paint. It is the only regiment that used a two-color uniform combination - red facings (turnbacsk, cuffs and lapels) with dark blue waistcoat, making it a very unique looking regiment. This uniform was worn during the first couple of year of the SYW (1756 and 1757). By 1758 the regiment had gone through several inhabers and now wore a fairly standard uniform with red cuffs and lapels, but a white waistcoats and white turnbacks.


A side view illustrating Der Alte Fritz's now-famous 3-rank basing system.

As with the other Austrian regiments in my WAS Project (now that it is an official project, it should have capital letters instead of common lower-case letters), there are 40-42 figures in the battalion based on five stands that give the unit a symetrical look. This unit has three 8-figure stands and two 9-figure stands. This give me the option of removing one of the 9-figure stands, reducing the battalion to 33 figures, which puts it on par with my 32-figure Prussians and Russians.


How the battalion might look utilizing only 4 stands.

Another view of the 4 stand organization

The WAS organization of my forces places most of the rank and file soldiers and the command stand figures in the front two ranks. The base is 60mm by 80mm deep. The frontage matches that of my Russian and Prussian new battalions.

I then add a sort of third rank consisting of a drummer at the end of each flank of the battalion plus either an NCO or an officer in the rear behind the rank and file soldiers.

The two pictures below provide a good look at the sort of three rank basing system.



Of course, my cavalry regiments have to be increased in size from 24 figures to 36 figures in order for them to be able to contend with the larger battalions. In my Der Alte Fritz rules (free download on the Fife and Drum Miniatures webstore site) a full cavalry regiment stands a decent chance of charging into an infantry battalion and winning the melee, but at the cost of being nearly destroyed from the casualties. Generally, it is not a good idea for cavalry to charge a full strength infantry battalion. 

For the Austrian cavalry, the solution might be to use my existing 24-figure cavalry regiments and then add 12 horse grenadiers or carbiniers to bring the regiment up to 36 figures. I use a 1:20 figure to man ratio in my wargame units (32 figure infantry and 36 figure cavalry}.

I now have 9 infantry battalions in my WAS Austrian army and I think that 8 battalions will be enough, given my table dimensions of 12ft by 6ft. I used to have a 15-17 foot table with two side tables, but I got rid of these when I redesigned my Man Cave last year.

My Croat battalions and grenadier battalions from the older SYW basing scheme can be used, "as is" with 24 figures. I can simply take a stand from a grenadier battalion and add it to one of my other grenadier battalions to create a 30-figure grenadier battalion. Light infantry can be any size, so I won't be increasing the size of my Croat battalions.

The WAS Project will hopefully be completed by the end of this summer.

Monday, May 13, 2019

War of Austrian Succession - Austrian Army Project

Luzan Regiment shown with 32 figures in two ranks plus a row of file closers.



I have embarked on a new 18th Century painting project: building an Austrian army for the War of Austrian Succession with battalions sized at either 32 or 40 figures. I had been experimenting with basing 32 figure Austrian battalions (so that they would be the same number of figures as my new Prussian battalions) on deeper bases, but the same frontage as before. 

This started when I painted a battalion of Austrians in a firing line, which required deeper bases to protect the extended musket and bayonet. The extra depth of the stand made it possible to add a third rank of file closers (NCOs, officers and drummers). The end result looks realistic to me (see the next two pictures below).

Two ranks of musketeers and some NCOs and drummers behind them.


War of the Austrian Succesion Austrian Army
The War of the Austrian Succession (1741-1748) Austrian army has a different look from its Seven Years War (1756-1763) counterpart, a look that makes it more colorful. For starters, many of the infantry regiments had colored waistcoats and turnbacks in the facing color. For example, the Deutschmeister and the Baden-Baden regiments had dark blue cuffs, waistcoats and turnbacks. The Luzan and the Wied regiments had green cuffs, waistcoats and turnbacks. However, in the SYW, the regiments no longer had colored turnbacks, using white instead, and most no longer wore the colored waistcoat. The drummers' uniforms were in the reverse colors with white cuffs.

Really Cool Looking Flags
At the start of the WAS, the Austrian army was still using flags of Charles VI, the father of Maria Theresa. Charles died in 1740 and while it was customary for new flags to be issued bearing the cypher of the new monarch, the Austrian army of 1741 did not have time to change its standards.

There were a variety of designs including horizontal stripes bordered with flames of alternating red, yellow and black; also flags that had a checkerboard pattern of red and white around the edges of the flag. Another flag pattern had a green field with the Austrian eagle and coat of arms in the center and the edges were bordered with red and white flames.

My newly painted Deutschmeister regiment has the red and white striped flag, which I hand-painted over an image that I captured from Pinterest.



Deutschmeister Regiment with old style flags
Close up of the stripped flag


The first battalion of my Deutschmeister Regiment sports a white Colonel's Color and an orange-yellow regimental flag


An example of the flag with the checkerboard pattern.

Front view



Austrian Senior General





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Sunday, May 5, 2019

French Artillery Vignette




French artillery battery composed of Valiere 8-pound and 12-pound cannon
CLICK TO ENLARGE


I made this French SYW artillery vignette several years ago to use as a display piece for my trade booth for Fife & Drum Miniatures.

The diorama depicts a French battery of one 8-pound (AE-009) and one 12-pound (AE-010) cannon, each with four crew (MF-006). A mounted artillery officer  (MF-005a) directs the firing of his cannons.

The artillery caison is the AE-045 Russian 4-wheel ammo wagon, which is suitable for any country, point in fact.  I now wish that I had included a pair of limbers behind the wagon along with various workers, but obviously the wooden base was not large enough to accomodate more figures. However, it is something that I might do in the future. I could also make additional display dioramas for some of the other Minden and Fife and Drum Miniatures figures.


The figures did not require any conversion, other than the extra long rammers that I gave to the two gentlemen pushing the sabots down the barrel. The longer barrelled guns, of course, would have had longer rammers and the ones that come with the artillery tools were not adequate. So what I did was to take some wire and then make the sponge and rammer tips out of green epoxy putty, which is a fairly simple exercise that anyone can do. Water buckets from the artillery tools sprue were placed beside the cannon and a couple of spare ammo chests were placed on the ground near the wagon.



The wood base was purchase at Michael's Stores ( a craft goods retail store) and stained with a walnut brown stain. I troweled a light amount of wallboard paste (Red Devil Pre-mixed Spackle Compound) across the base and then sprinkled some extra-fine railroad ballast onto the spackle while it was still wet. After it dried, in about 3-4 hours, I added a few tufts and some static grass to complete the ground terrain.



Let me know what you think in the comments section below. Should I create more SYW dioramas?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

South Carolina Campaign - British Victory



The battle of Guilford Courthouse



The Crown forces prevailed in our 1780 South Carolina Campaign as it came to a conclusion at the end of Turn 12.

The British finished the campaign with 22 Victory Points (VP) to 13 VCs for the Americans (or rebels, depending on your point of view).

The campaign achieved its primary purpose, which was to generate battles for the American Revolutionary War in the Southern Theater of Operations. There were a total of 12 battles, both big and small. The British won 7 battles and the Americans won 5 battles. One common denominator was that British general Lord Cornwallis never lost a battle in four tries.

Here is a list of the victories, with the winner shown in parentheses. I have also included the links to the battle reports for the battles that I played. Some of the really small actions were done with dice instead of actually playing a game, so I did not include these engagements in my links.

BRITISH VICTORIES:


Cornwallis and Tarleton confer before the start of a battle.


Winnsboro (Cornwallis)  Battle of Winnsboro
McDowell  (Tarleton) Battle of McDowell - Part 1  Part 2
Georgetown (Maitland)
1st Cheraw (Cornwallis) 1st Battle of Cheraw
Hillsboro (Tarleton)
Kingston (Cornwallis) Battle of Kingston
2nd Cheraw  (Cornwallis) 2nd Cheraw at SYWA Convention 2019

BRITISH VICTORY POINTS (22)
Battles Won - 7 points
Captured Leaders - 2 (McDowell and Gates)
Prisoners - 8 regiments
Forts Held - 4 (Granby, Watson, Motte and Georgetown)
Occuppied towns - 3 (Charleston, Savannah, Cheraw )

BRITISH STRENGTH POINTS = 30SPS

AMERICAN VICTORIES:


While Nathaniel Greene did not participate in the campaign, this command vignette could have
been used for  Baron DeKalb, the principal American commander in the campaign.


Fisher's Crossing (DeKalb) Battle of Fisher's Crossing
Capture of Augusta (Sumter)
Siege of Ninety Six (DeKalb) Surrender of Ninety Six
Hobkirk's Hill (DeKalb)  Battle of Hobkirk's Hill
Westbury Plantation (Marion) Ambush at Westbury Plantation


AMERICAN VICTORY POINTS (13)
Battles won - 5
Captured Leader -1 (Cruger)
POWs - 3 regiments
Forts Held - 1 Ninety Six
Occuppied Towns - 3 (Augusta, Camden, and Winnsboro)

AMERICAN STRENGTH POINTS "SPS" = 20SPs

The victory points, as you might glean from the above charts:

1 point for control of each named town with map dot
1 point for each opponent's SPs captured or removed from the campaign from attrition
1 point for each captured leader
1 point for each fort controlled

To control a town, at least one Strength Point (SP) must be occupying the dot on the map. I suppose that either side could have made a sprint to occupy the most number of towns on the final turn, but they didn't do it so as to keep their armies consolidated.

Conclusions
I thought that the campaign mechanisms worked fairly well and I did not find many glitches or loop holes in the campaign rules. The major mistake that I made was not keeping track of SPs that were captured or removed from the game. I had to go back through the previous turns' blog reports to find the missing information.

I had a lot of fun with this campaign and I think that it helped that there were a finite number of game turns (12 turns, each representing a month of the year). It was fun to have battles created by the campaign, with the small battles of McDowell and Westbury Plantation being among my favorites. The battles also forced me to paint some additional regiments for both sides to meet the needs of the campaign.

The next step is to write down the campaign rules as a rough draft and then farm out the campaign to several play testers. After a little more play testing, my goal is to publish the campaign rules as a downloadable PDF. The PDF will feature maps, pictures from actual games, and some original artwork created by Chris Gregg