Sunday, 27 July 2014

Painting Progress: AW 15mm Peninsular British

AW Miniatures peninsular Brits in 15mm (pic from their website), available from AW here.

Despite my youthful Waterloo fixation, once I'd started collecting wargaming miniatures seriously, in my teens, I was always more interested in what I saw as the 'main' campaigns, i.e. those between France and Austria, Prussia and Russia.

I built a French army, mostly for the Minifigs range, and convinced a couple of buddies to buy Austrians and Russians. Sadly the whole project stalled rather, and only I pursued my part with any vigour, in terms of painting and basing. The net result was that these collections were never gamed, and were ultimately sold off later (see earlier posts).

Gillray captures the British over-inflated sense of self-importance, with an over-inflated John Bull.

I still don't really know why (I have rough ideas, some already alluded to above, which I may go into in other posts), but I more or less shunned the campaigns the British were involved with - The Peninsular and Waterloo being the most obvious; back then I didn't know about the debacles of Walcheren or South America - regarding them as sideshows, and somehow feeling that there was something embarrassingly parochial about the British obsession witht their own relatively minor role in the land wars of the era.

More fabulous Gillray humour: in some (rear) quarters attitudes towards our (in)continental cousins have hardly changed!

As the Waterloo bicentennial looms though, I find the fascination with Waterloo returning. Actually I got back into it a while before I started thinking about 2015: I'm a bit hazy on the chronology of this wrong, but Barbero's The Battle, and Hofschröer's Wellington's Smallest Victory both played a part. I read them several years ago, in part to simply get some Napoleonic relief from the tidal wave of Russia 1812 material I was working through.

At one of the first of the wargame shows I went to, perhaps even the first, which might actually have been Derby World Wargames at Donnington, in 2011, I met and chatted with the owner and figure designer for AW miniatures, whose name escapes me now. A very friendly guy, we talked about how we got started with the hobby. I told him that I've always been something of a frustrated figure sculptor - having made plasticine armies as a kid, I'd also sculpted some Milliput miniatures, but not sufficiently well to feel confident enough to take it further - whilst he told me about his studies, which involved something to do with a mass Napoleonic grave site in, I think, Russia.

Couldn't find pics of the show (Salute 2011) in question, so here's one of your truly getting in the mood for Derby WW 2012!

Having enjoyed our conversation, and learning that his was a fairly new venture, I felt inclined to support his work, even though his miniatures, or the 15mm range at any rate, are for the Peninsular, a theatre I'm not really that into. So, despite this, I bought two bags of his minis, one of British line infantry, and one of French. Both designed for the Peninsular, and both saying they contained 24 figures. These subsequently remained on my living-room shelves for several years.

A couple of months back, with the commencement of reasonably serious efforts to make inroads on the lead-pile, and the beginnings of this blog (also coinciding with a return to further Waterloo themed reading), I would often look at the bags of AW figs, and think ruefully whether I really ought to have bought them. After all, they were a distraction from my 6mm and 10mm plans. But then, on a country walk at a local National Trust property - we're not well served for NT properties in this neck of the woods, but we are fortunate in having Wimpole Hall more or less on our doorstep - I came up with an idea that intrigued me: a 'what-if' Napoleon invades Great Britain story with a local twist.

One of the more far-fetched Invasion panic pictures.

Having worked on numerous aspects of this idea on and off for a while, and read a few books about the Great Invasion Scares, one of the threads began to coalesce around an idea for a battle fought locally (I won't go into detail here, I want to save that for future posts). And, as sometimes happens, these various strands started to cohere: what if I was to work towards wargaming some of these scenarios in 15mm, as skirmish type affairs? At this stage I hadn't thought that this would thereby make the AW purchases useful, that penny only dropped much more recently!

Anyroad, the upshot of all this is that I decided to paint the AW Brits as the 30th Regt of Foot, i.e. the Cambridge Regt. So I dug out my copy of Franklin's British Napoleonic Uniforms (and my Funcken, just in case), and looked them up. I was disappointed, as a drummer myself, that the drummers uniform info was lacking, but glad that between Franklin and the Funckens I had the kind of resources I needed. The 30th had pale yellow facings, and I decided to do the drummers in the generic reversed-tunic-and-facings manner, and ad-lib the lace in a generally period style, using the web and my books as inspiration.

I also determined that I would try a new painting approach. I would block in the colours, and use Quickshade, rather than mixing separate paint shades. I toyed with following the Tony Barton method - the essential fundamental of that being a white undercoat - but eventually went my normal matt black undercoat route. The AW miniatures are quite stocky, and I thought I might try and do them as simply as possible, in order to be quicker than I normally I am. But the level of detail on the sculpts is, as with most modern figures, quite high, so I ended up taking as long as ever!

Once the figures were blocked-in with the base colours, I took a deep breath... and went for it with the Quickshade. Personally I'm quite annoyed that Quickshade leaves the minis with a gloss finish (although, re a previous post on vintage figs, esp. Peter Gilder's stuff, this may come in handy, if I start collecting older minis), but I pressed on nonetheless. I didn't dip these, as the product suggests, but painted it on, as many people do. As anyone who uses it will know, it does pick out detail pretty well, but it also pools in places. 

Slapping it on quickly with a large brush, I was then able, with a thinner brush (best to use cheapo brushes for this; I'd learned via some preparatory viewing of YouTube that Quicksahde can ruin brushes), to remove the excess where it was pooling, in recessed areas. You need to do this pretty sharp-ish, as it does begin to thicken and dry quite rapidly. Aside from the gloss effect, I'm pretty pleased with the result. It's very different from building up light and shade with mixed colours, but for these figures I think it works okay.

The final stage, which I'll be doing today, is spraying some Testors lacquer over the whole lot. I'm just wondering whether I ought to retouch the bases first? As you can see from my pics, I've worked on the entire battalion stuck to one rather long bit of wood. I've been doing this for a number of units ever since I began painting again in earnest. This batch has convinced me - having dropped it several times, resulting in needing to glue figures back on and touch up paint damage (thankfully nothing worse!) - to go to something smaller. I bought a bag of hobbyist lolly sticks, and as the following picture shows, have based up and undercoated my AW French on these: four lolly sticks with six figs each does the pack of 24.

Talking of numbers, I was a bit confused, as I researched the Brits, about how to do them, in terms of centre and flank companies, etc. With 24 figs, 10 coys was awkward, so I plumped for doing the centre coys only. And then when I counted the minis, I found that instead of the 24 described in the bag, I actually had 26! Looking here, on the AW website, I see that there is only one visible officer and drummer, so I'm assuming that by some freak I was given a bag with two of these. I'll probably use them anyway, and leave out two of the marching infantry, as the officer and drummer add more colour and variety.

The French are based on their lolly-sticks and undercoated, so I'll hopefully do them soon as well. I may also share my thoughts on these AW minis in a review style appraisal as well. But before I do the 'The Frogs', I need to get back to my 6mm (& 10mm!). Indeed, I need to do a stock take, and see how much work lies ahead of me. Despite this recent and unprecedented burst of painting - I should count up how many I've done (like many of us wargamers, and the Vampire on Sesame Street, I love to count!) - I have a very strong feeling it's only a tiny proportion of the whole!


  1. Hi - this is the firsat time I've seen AW figures - they look a bit short and stocky to me. Are they similar in size to Essex? Which are nice figures but you either like them or hate them because of their stature issue.

  2. Hi LA,

    Yes, they reminded me of some Essex figs I had as a kid.

    Now, just as then, I prefer the better proportioned figures from ranges like old Battle Honours, or AB. I bought a pack of Brits, and a pack of French, 'cause I had just chatted with the guy who runs AW, and we'd talked about getting started as a figure producer, an as yet unrealised ambition of mine, and something he'd successfully accomplished.

    Buying the figs was a gesture of support, I guess, but they don't really suit my tastes, precisely because of the thickset anatomy. Front Rank are an amazing company, with a terrific 28mm Napoleonic range, but I find they're also too stocky for my tastes. But then I'm doing 6mm and 10mm in the main, for reasons of budget and space!