Monday 23 June 2014

Better late than never?

Currently sitting on my bookshelves (making this pic, in modern parlance, a 'shelfie'): 28mm Perry plastic French skirmishers, with Pendraken and Old Glory 10mm French and Russian infantry behind.

A Kind Of Introduction:

I first set up this blog around Feb 2012, pretty much as soon as I had returned to the hobby after a more than two-decade absence. Having turned 40 in January of that year, I suddenly thought 'Hang on a minute... why am I denying myself the pleasure of following a hobby I once loved so very much?'

Some time in my mid-twenties I'd decided that my interest in wargaming was simply a phase of my childhood, and that, as an adult, I should leave it behind. I know from chatting to other gamers at shows since my return that this pattern is something of a cliché. In this respect I can at least console myself that my behaviour is pretty normal.

Another shameless 'shelfie'... 5 different scales on view here: 1/300th (the ship, dimly visible off-centre-left), 1:72 (Kettenkrad & Kubelwagen), 15mm (Boney & ADC, lancers, etc.) 25/28mm (Salute figures), and 40mm (AWI).

But, for some reason, it's taken another two years plus to actually really start to get the ball rolling. It was fairly wide and voracious reading that had finally brought me back to the hobby. I'd been reading on Napoleonic history in particular - which for me is where it more or less all started - for some years, and mostly about Boney's 1812 debacle, before the reading rekindled the desire to start building armies with a view to, eventually, getting back into gaming.

So this, my first post on this 'ere blog - and I hope the first of many (and I hope quite regular) - will find me setting out my stall and introducing myself, as the foregoing already suggests.

A final 'shelfie' - 6mm Napoleonics on the painting conveyor belt: foreground are Adler, middle are Heroics & Ros, and at the backus are, um... Baccus!

How It All Started:

Phase I - Airfix 20mm plastics

I must confess that my memory ain't poifeck, as Dr John might say, so this may not be 100% accurate. I'll try and keep it simple and brief: as I recall it, I somehow got interested in the battle of Waterloo. And at some point this lead to my receiving for Christmas an Airfix boxed-set, with a model farmhouse, and a bunch of 1:72 or 20mm figures, all in plastic. My memory is rather hazy on exactly which set I actually had, but I think it was this one:

The reason I think it was that one is that I recall it having not just the farmhouse, but also numerous plastic soldiers. I gradually augmented my set with extra boxes of figures, although my local model shop hardly ever carried any Napoleonic cavalry or artillery packs - this was the 'olden days', before the web! - so I was always very infantry heavy. This was all when I was pretty young, and before I got in to metal figures and painting or basing.

I was also heavily influenced by an amazing series of articles run by the National Geographic (I've never yet been able to track down when these articles were run) on the American Civil War, which had these fantastic aerial-view battlefield panoramas, often as four-page wide fold-out spreads. So I bought a few packs of Airfix ACW as well, in their appropriately coloured blue and grey plastic.

The contents of a pack of Airfix ACW Confedrate troops... the Grays, quite literally!

Phase II - The advent of Heavy Metal!

Funnily enough I was also something of a young rocker, of sorts, getting into bands like Zep, Purple and Lizzy, around this time. So when I discovered, via a neighbour, that you could buy - or better still, make your own - lead figures, I was very excited. My neighbour, a certain Jason Russell, had, if I recall correctly, a collection of Prince August Napoleonics, that he had cast and painted himself. Seeing these round his house, all nicely painted and lined up on proper display shelves... it blew my gasket!

My dad always was a hands on kind of guy, building and making things around the house. He was keen and supportive, and bought me some Prince August moulds, and the other necessary bits and bobs. And I was soon in hob-heaven, melting little ingots of lead, talc'ing up my moulds, and running off batches of 25mm Waterloo-era Napoleonics. Rather oddly - probably purely down to stock at the local games and hobby shop - I started with a Netherlander mould!

It wasn't long after this that I started to occasionally buy Miniature Wargames magazine, and from that point onwards I was looking to get into the hobby properly. Around this time I convinced a few pals to form a wargames club at school, and not long after that, I began collecting 15mm Napoleonics. Mainly Minifigs at first, followed by a few Essex, and then some fabulous Battle Honours. A bit later I also got some 1/300 German WWII armour by Heroics & Ros.

Diorama Fantasies - unrealised then and now!

A picture from André Rudolph's Facebook page, showing one rather brilliant view (of many) from his Prince August based 25mm Waterloo diorama: my childhood dream realised!

When I was very young we'd had a lodger or two, one of whom, along with my dad, had built some fantastic models tanks and such like. This seeded a desire to build beautiful models, as well as collect figures. Most of their models had been WWII German armour. This would eventually lead to my building a fair bit of Airfix and Tamiya WWII stuff.

But right from the outset tho', with the Airfix set and then the Prince August stuff, my little wargaming heart and mind had been fixed on Waterloo, and even way back then I dreamed of one day building a diorama of the battle. I have now found that a German guy, André Rudolph, has actually realised this ambition (see above pic, and here), using Prince August figures no less. Well done that man! There's also an Airfix Waterloo diorama (there are probably many such), at The Royal Green Jackets Museum, at the Peninsula Barracks in Winchester.

And then there are Captain Siborne's dioramas: the whole battlefield depicted in something near 1/300th at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, and the Leeds Armoury 'small model', depicting the charge of the Household & Union Cavalry Brigades, on a scale, I believe, near to what we think of as 25mm. What with 2015 hoving rapidly into view, and the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, I'll certainly return to this theme in a much fuller way at some point. I may then post a few of the pics I've taken of the two Siborne Waterloo models.

For now here's just one pic from the Leeds Armoury 'Small Model':

I know the above pic ain't the greatest photo ever taken, but I love how the diorama looks quite like what one imagines the real battlefield might've looked like: a French infantry battalion reaches the crest of the rise, wading through a cornfield, their neatly dressed lines starting to crumble in the face of fire from the British infantry lines, visible in the background. Siborne's models are brilliant, and his story is fascinating. I'll definitely return to this subject later.

A question of scale - bringing it up to date:

So, by the time I sold off my wargaming collection, in my mid-twenties, I'd collected figures in varying periods and quantities in scales ranging from 1/300th 'micro-armour' up to the 1/32 Tamiya stuff. The bulk of my collection had been in 15mm, 25mm and 1/300th.

Returning to the hobby as an adult, and visiting Salute and buying a few magazines again, I was now more interested in Napoleon against Russia, as opposed to Waterloo (it was circa 2012, after all!). But I faced the conundrum of where to restart. The bigger scales, like 15mm and 25/28mm, looked prohibitively expensive, and then there was the issue of space. Where would I ultimately put all the figures, never mind a gaming table?

It was from these cogitations that this blog was born.

At that first return to Salute, in 2012, I was accompanied by my wonderful wife, Teresa. She has been so supportive of my return to the interests of my childhood, and wargaming in particular, that I am quite touched and elated. She would rather I collected larger scale figures, and went so far as to buy me some Front Rank AWI miniatures... bless her!

So I'll dedicate this blog to her, and start the images of my own work with a few pics of the figures as they currently stand.

As can be seen, they currently stand upon sliced wine-cork podiums! These were the first wargame figures I'd painted in over two decades, and, whilst nearly finished, remain unbased. I felt that starting at the 40mm scale might be best. And boy was it hard work to get back into it. As a perfectionist who always feels he falls short, I was perhaps a touch disappointed at my first efforts. But you have to start somewhere. It was almost as frustrating at times as it was overall enjoyable. But, in the end, I'm satisfied with them as a way back into the discipline of painting.

But I felt that in order to put together forces on the scale I wanted to - I aim to 're-fight' Smolensk and Maloyaroslavets first - I'd need to do so in a smaller scale, in order to collect large enough forces affordably, and ultimately make suitable terrain, etc. So in the end I've opted to collect armies in 10mm for Maloyaroslavets, and 6mm for Smolensk. Once this was decided, which I did, I believe, at Salute 2012, I started making my lists and my purchases.

My next few posts will cover what I bought and why, as well as my first attempts at painting smaller scale figures. I do hope this will be of interest to some of you out there in the blogosphere!? Please do leave me some feedback in the comments area.


  1. Welcome to the world of Blogland!!!

  2. Love the blog - particularly fond of your coining of "shelfie" - I hope the OED credit you one day.
    I am also a Waterloo obsessive and have been working on a 28mm 1:1 project. At the current rate I should easily be finished by 2098.
    Looking forward to reading more from you

  3. Wow, Waterloo 1:1 in 28mm!? Your right honourable lordship has indeed set himself an highly ambitious task!

    Thanks for the kind words re my own 'umble efforts. I have all kinds of crazy Waterloo-related ideas, some of which might see the light via the blog.

    I believe an American chap has done the Waterloo armies - or the Allies & French, at least (not sure about the Prussians) 1:1 in 6mm, using Heroics & Ros, if I recall correctly. I can't remember which mag I read about it in, but they printed a whole battalion across the bottom of several pages...

    Amazing in any scale. But 28mm!? Are you doing all the painting & basing yourself?