Friday 30 June 2023

Forthcoming Helion Conferences

 These are coming up later this year and are usually well worth a day out if you can get there.

Thursday 29 June 2023

More reading on the Great Procession part 2: Men of Warre from Helion review.

One of Helion’s ‘from Retinue to Regiment’ series’ most recent publications is this vastly informative book by Jenn Scott. ‘The Men of Warre. The clothes, weapons and accoutrements of the Scots at War 1460-1600’ crafts a comprehensive description of the composition of Scots armies throughout this period, the impact of French aid in terms of men and equipment, and importantly how the Scots, whether Lowlander or Highlander, nobles or commoners, were armed, armoured and dressed. Warfare to many of the men who served in these armies was a cultural phenomenon, whether this be pitched battles, where they invariably came off second best against the English, or cross border raiding, or ‘reiving’, to carry off livestock and hostages, murder rivals and burn settlements, essentially turning inter-family feuds into a way of life. Indeed my favourite sections of the book relate to this ongoing border warfare rather than, say, the battle of Flodden.

The book is well illustrated with eight pages of lovely original colour plates, each with a detailed commentary, and a good number of black and white images, largely of existing items of arms, armour and contemporary carvings depicting among other things ships and cannons. There is also a comprehensive glossary which will be of interest to many readers and an extensive bibliography.

In addition to the obvious interest this book will garner among historians and military enthusiasts the author also weaves in many elements relating to the social history of the Scots, and I can happily recommend this new book on that basis.

ISBN 978-1-804510-07-0. Softback, 114 pages.

Tuesday 27 June 2023

New collection begins with these

 A three in the morning purchase 🤣 75mm

I plan to hide them in the garden as a surprise for my mother in law 🤣🤣🤣

Monday 26 June 2023

Eagles over the Alps

Readers of this blog will be aware that this campaign is one that I was drawn to many years ago, and I now have rather a large/enormous collection in 28mm. Of all the late Christopher Duffey’s many books this is by far my favourite. Helion are steadily going through Dr Duffy’s back catalogue and offering reprints back into the market. Given that many of his books now attract prices in the hundreds of pounds sterling this is a great move by Helion as it brings many of his masterpieces to the notice of a new generation of military historians, history buffs and wargamers at an affordable price.

Helion’s edition of Eagles over the Alps. Suvorov in Italy and Switzerland, 1799 has been available for six months or so but its appearance might have passed some potential readers by. For me this is the go-to English language book on the subject and remains in my humble opinion the most readable and interesting account of a pretty miraculous campaign, under the command of the veteran, talented and legendary Alexander Suvorov.

The book begins with a discussion on Suvorov and the composition and structure of the Russian army he commanded, the long march to Italy and the campaign against the French, who were defeated time and again and almost driven from Italy completely. An invasion of France from the south was suggested by Suvorov but the idea failed to win favour with the Czar and his council, so the long withdrawal through Switzerland to meet up with another Russian army on the Upper Rhine began. The story of the almost constant rearguard actions and attacks is told in great detail, all supported by many excellent maps and photographs of the actual ground being fought over. Suvorov led his men to safety, maintaining discipline throughout, despite the dreadful weather, the treacherous terrain, severe losses of men and material, and several French forces determined to cut off his retreat and destroy his army.

This is a well written and researched account of what was a relatively minor episode when taken within the context of the greater Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars but it is presented as a great adventure against the odds in much detail. Anyone interested in the French Revolutionary Wars should find this book invaluable in understanding the campaign, be they military history buffs, wargamers or both. Highly recommended.

Thursday 22 June 2023

More 1866 Minor German States

My obsession with painting up units from the minor German states involved, or even not involved, in the War of 1866 between Prussia and Austria continues, with these two new additions both of which I completed today (although I’ve noticed just now that the white arm bands the pro-Prussian states’ troops wore have been overlooked).

This is the Hamburg Battalion which so far as I know didn’t see any action, but formed part of the 2nd Reserve Corps along with other units from the Hanseatic towns. These are spare Prussian jäger figures from Foundry. I have used Warlord Games’ speed paints although I’m not entirely sure how much speedier it was to finish the unit. I’ve used a Napoleonic Hamburg flag from Maverick Models in the absence of any other information; perhaps they didn’t carry a flag but they are now.

Brunswick fielded two infantry battalions, a regiment of hussars and a battery of cannon. I already have a battalion of Brunswickers, and here is the second. My understanding is that they could well have still been using their old Waterloo era flags. In the absence of any other info that’s what I’ve used. The miniatures are rather nice Steve Barber Saxons from his Franco-Prussian War range, and their headgear makes them a near perfect fit for the Brunswickers. The flag is another from Maverick.

Both units together.

I can’t say these are anything other than adequate paint jobs but they will do for me and can now march off to join the rest of their division in barracks until they are called up for some tabletop active service sometime in the near future. I already have a half battery of Brunswick artillery and their hussar regiment is on the painting station about a quarter done. Hopefully I will get them done before I go off on holiday next week but no rush. 

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Tsar Alexander’s Second War against Napoleon

Author Peter Phillips has translated another official Russian history of the Napoleonic Wars, this time giving us Tsar Alexander’s Second War with Napoleon 1806-1807. Originally published in 1846 by Alexander Ivanovich Mikhailovsky-Dailevsky, who was commissioned to write Russia’s official military histories. This is the second such volume published by Helion, and covers the period from the defeat of Prussia to the peace treaty agreed at Tilsit in 1807 which brought the war to an end, for a few years.

Works translated from other languages into English are often rather clunky and sometimes hard to follow, especially when the original was written in ‘mid-nineteenth century speak’.This is not the case with this volume, which like its predecessor volume, has been rigorously and sympathetically translated, the end result being a genuinely readable and informative account, an account which is by no means perfect or even wholly honest, but is still an incredibly important and detailed record of the war. Readers should note that these volumes were published for the Tsar, who had complete editorial control, and bear that in mind.

I will avoid listing all the many chapters within the book; suffice to say the campaign is described in great detail, beginning with the defeat of the Prussians at Jena-Auerstadt to the Treaty of Tilsit (and beyond). The author contends that the Russian army and the Russian leadership and its many rising stars benefited greatly from the war, in which they fought Napoleon’s seemingly invincible army to a stand still on numerous occasions, albeit sometimes with the assistance of the dreadful weather and incurring an equally dreadful number of casualties, but only actually lost one battle, at Freidland.

The chapters describing these battles are comprehensive and make especially good reading, and are accompanied by clear and easy to comprehend maps showing troop disposition and the topography of each battlefield. There are other very helpful, more strategic ‘theatre’ maps, showing the movements of the corps and armies which again are easy to follow; so often contemporary maps are insufficiently detailed or incomprehensible so it is a bonus that these have been produced so clearly. The book concludes with three appendices containing the orders of battle of Bennigsen’s, Buxhoeveden’s and Essex’s corps. The fourth appendix (actually appendix 1) is a representation of the number of men needed from each oblast to furnish the requisite number of Opolchenie (militia), amounting to a staggering 612,000 men!

This is an excellent book and is guaranteed to be of interest to historians, researchers and wargamers alike, and deserves its place in my library for sure. I am already working on an early/mid Napoleonic army for the Russo-Swedish War 1808-1809, and have since taken the plunge and over the course of three Foumdry Christmas 25 percent off sales have purchased rather more figures than I would ever need for the battles in Finland. I have ended up with about 30 battalions plus assorted artillery and cavalry, so all I need to find is somebody with an appropriately large enough 28mm French army. At a pinch I could temporarily reflag some of my late Revolutionary Wars French but I’d rather not.

ISBN978-1-804511-93-0 soft back, 232 pages.

On another note entirely, if anyone is wondering, yes there are some obvious benefits in me reviewing books for Helion (they kindly send me them every now and then). However the main reason I do this is because Helion are a growing and important presence in our hobby (in my opinion at any rate) and the range of mainstream and also rather eclectic titles is amazing as is the prolific number of books published across all their series every year, and are fortunate in having a deep pool of knowledgeable authors from both the UK and Worldwide to make the most of. They certainly surpass the likes of Osprey in terms of subject matter and the quality of the content ( again, that is my opinion based on my own comparisons between the two publishers) as I have found many recent Osprey’s to be very superficial despite the often nice colour plates. 

Friday 16 June 2023

The German Peasant’s War 1524-1526.

Helion’s latest in their ‘from Retinue to Regiment’ series is another masterpiece, in the shape of Douglas Miller’s ‘The German Peasants’ War 1524-1526’.

I didn’t know a great deal about the popular uprisings which became known as the Peasants’ War prior to reading this book, my knowledge being limited to two of the author’s other books. Having done so now, I am amazed at the level of detail Mr Miller has included in what must be described not only as arguably the definitive English language book on the subject but also a labour of love.

After a helpful discussion on warfare in general at the turn of the sixteenth century, including the impact of the decline of the heavy cavalry an and the rise in the use of gunpowder weapons, we are launched into a detailed description of the military organisation of the various peasant armies and ‘bands’, modelled loosely on that of the Landsknechts. It did not surprise me to read that many of the latter sided with the peasant armies. The author has gone to great lengths to help the readership understand the peasant armies, their leaders, composition despite the label, (by no means all the armies were made up of peasants, but also townsmen and ex-soldiers), motivation, logistics, armaments and of course their objectives in rising up in rebellion against their overlords.

The war itself is described clearly and comprehensively over two chapters which in page terms take up the bulk of the book. First the initial phases and actions of the uprising in 1524, then the full blown rebellion in 1525-1526. Both chapters give detailed information on the chronology of events, and more interesting, the organisation of the many regional armies or bands and their enemies, the armies of the Swabian League and local German princes who opposed the uprising. This was an incredibly violent war, as indeed all civil uprisings tend to be, with atrocities committed on both sides, leaving tens of thousands of dead across a region devastated by war.

The book boasts some lovely colour plates depicting the appearance of the troops involved together with five pages showing examples of the various Peasant banners. There are also several colour maps showing the strategic and political situation in Europe at the time. Particularly useful are the black and white maps focussing on some of the major battles, sieges and engagements that took place during the war.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anybody interested in German military history during the early sixteenth century; indeed there are many aspects of social history that are also covered in this remarkable publication.

It is worth noting that, as alluded to earlier, this book is a companion to the author’s ‘The Army of the Swabian League 1525’, also published by Helion in this series.

From a wargaming perspective this book should carry a ‘health warning’ as it has masses to offer should anyone fancy raising their own peasant band. By some happy coincidence (I think not…) both Steel Fist and Artizan have recently released what I hope will be the start of two excellent ranges in 28mm. I picked up a few of the former and they really do look the part. Tempted? Oh yes.

ISBN 978-1-804512-02-9, Soft-back, 190 pages

Sunday 11 June 2023

A sunny afternoon so time for a book review - Muskets and Springfields from Helion & Co.

I didn’t think I would like this set of rules as the focus is on big battles on small tables, whereas it won’t have escaped anybody’s attention who follows this blog that I prefer big battles on big tables! Nevertheless I was pleasantly surprised.

The latest in the Helion Wargames series is ‘Muskets and Springfields - Wargaming the American Civil War 1861-1865’ by Nigel Emsen. These rules are aimed at big games with players commanding a corps-sized force, and where the basic unit represents a brigade. The rules are recommend a 6’ x 4’ table and use a grid system for moving and shooting which keeps things neat.

These innovative and original rules are card driven (which I like) and quite straightforward and easy to follow, are well laid out, and contain everything one would normally expect to find, such as army structure, morale, inflicting and recording losses, melee, quick reference sheets and even an Army Builder and so forth. Everything is explained clearly and some useful colour diagrams help players understand clearly what they can and cannot do. Overall the rule system is actually very simple and provides the basis for some challenging games.

There are also six useful scenarios, including First Manassas, Shiloh, Cedar Mountain and the obligatory Gettysburg, days one, two and three. I have to say that these all look really promising. I normally wargame in 28mm on a 14’ x 6’ table but I did set up a small game to run through the systems in practice (I don’t own any ACW armies but substituted my Crimean War collection), and got a good an idea on how the mechanics worked, and was quite happy with an engaging and enjoyable hour testing the rules.

The scenarios are all accompanied by some very colourful maps and suggestions for orders of battle, and throughout the book has numerous colour images of ACW battles from several sources; obviously the author’s collection of 1/72 scale Airfix figures but also images of 10mm armies in action courtesy of Pendraken Miniatures.

So, if you are an experienced ACW wargamer wishing to try something different to ACW rules already out there, or just want to dip your toe into the period without buying thousands of miniatures these rules are worth considering.

ISBN 978-1-804512-91-3 Softback, 80 pages.

Saturday 10 June 2023

Counter-Revolution in the Vendee 1793

I’ve never had all my Armee Catholique et Royale on the table; indeed I had lost track of just how many miniatures I have, the answer being I have lots! I had to base up about a third of the Vendeans yesterday (Thursday) and they still require tufting but I did did get their bases budgie gritted and static grassed by the time we started the game on Friday morning.

John and I had arranged to play a game on Friday and as Conrad was free he joined us, taking command of the Vendean troops. John was the opposition. I decided not to play and oversee events to throw any suitable spanner’s into the works. This was a bit of an experiment as I wasn’t sure exactly about how to classify the Vendeans. In the end I opted for really good skirmishers, fairly good close order masses with some limited firepower, or less good units of second class close order troops, saving on 5+, and finally the ‘mob’ of even more ill equipped and fragile infantry with no firepower and saves on a 6 only. 

Anyhow, the Republican army had to drive the enemy before them down the length of the table and capture the farm, inside of which were several high ranking Vendean commanders, sacks of English gold and other goodies best taken into ‘care’ by the Republic. All the Royalists had to do was stop them. The Republicans had a strong  advance guard of decent infantry supported by cavalry and horse artillery. The main body had mainly decent infantry (its all relative) with some dodgy volunteer battalions, whereas the reserve was made up of newly raised levee en masse. We used Black Powder with my house rules.

Here are some photos which should show how the battle played out. A note on terrain. The hedges were classed as very thick so any formed unit crossing had to throw 1D6 for disorder. The better the troops the less chance of becoming disordered, but even they had to avoid a 5 or 6 when crossing. I think the game proved to,be a challenge to both sides, due to the paucity of commanders in the Vendean army and the very mixed quality of the Republican troops and density of the terrain. I was quite correct in these assumptions!

The vanguard of the Republican forces marching down the road. Cavalry and horse artillery have pushed round the church.

The Vendean first line of defence.

….and their second line.

More Vendeans in reserve.

In the centre Vendean skirmishers lurking behind the hedgerows.

The head of the Republican ‘column infernale’.

Conrad moved his main body up to the river.

More Republicans enter down the other road, a mixed brigade of  veteran line infantry and volunteers of 1792, with a battery of 8-pers in support.

Royalist skirmishers in action. They didn’t cause many casualties but kept several of John’s units in a state of almost permanent disorder.

A mass of peasantry ready to defend their land.

Republicans attack the Vendean right.

John failed to do much damage to the enemy when they did close to hand to hand combat.

On the other flank John’s men were hampered by repeatedly becoming disordered as they cross the bocage-like hedgerows. The 8-pdr battery barely managed to open fire all day as it was masked for much of the time by disordered friendlies reforming to their front.

Meanwhile more Vendeans cross the river.

The Republican horse artillery proved particularly ineffective. A probably misguided charge by their supporting cavalry was thrown back.

The attack on the Republican right was building up momentum.

While on the other flank the Vendeans managed to hold and cause the brigade attacking them to become broken, which was a blow for the Republican plans.

Johns troops had better luck on the other flank, driving the enemy back over the river and out of the woods.

Conrad’s reserve of several mobs of peasants launched an attack on the French-held woods.

The peasant mobs were forced back after a fierce fight.

John didn’t want to bring his reserve on the table as it was made up of very poor troops (newly raised levee en masse) and thought it was unlikely to make much difference to the outcome. I don’t believe that to be true as no matter how bad, they could provide useful support to the remaining veteran battalions. We will never know. 

Both sides had one broken brigade, but with the absence of his reserves John was unlikely to be able to achieve his object of reaching the farm, so a minor victory for the Royalist reactionaries was declared. I need to make some changes to the troop stats if I use BP2 again for this conflict, but I’m intrigued to see how General d’Armee would work in a similar scenario. Next time perhaps. 

I rather enjoyed the game, as did the others, and it was very nice to see my entire Vendee army on the table. Most of the Vendean figures are the lovely Trent minis now only available from Skytrex/Warlord at inflated prices, or the equally nice Revolutionary Wars range by Emperor Toad. Other manufacturers in the mix include  Foundry and Westwind (vampire wars peasants).

Thursday 8 June 2023

Early’ish Napoleonic Russian Artillery 1808-1809

The second post of the day! The first elements of my Russian Napoleonic army to face the well advanced Swedish collection are done.  Over the past three Christmases I’ve been taking advantage of the 25 percent off sale from Foundry (actually Casting Room Miniatures) and stocking up on the Russian army for this project. Now at last they are underway. I chose to buy as many figures as I could wearing greatcoats, firstly because they’re less complicated to paint in large numbers, and second, I don’t like green. As it happens, since buying them I have been exposed to the mystery of Warlord ‘Speed Paints’. I have to say I had not used them very much before, preferring contrast paints. Well, Monday saw me apply a white undercoat washed with a suitable speedy ‘greatcoat colour’ and then hats, faces, belts et cetera in normal paints and Bob’s (or Ivan) your uncle, they were all done by Wednesday evening. Basing more or less finished this afternoon. They’ll do.

Half battery each of foot (left) and horse artillery.

Heavy 12-pdr foot artillery. Heavy ‘Unicorn’ on the left.

Horse artillery with 6-pdr guns and a light ‘unicorn’.

I suppose I should do the other halves of each battery but there’s enough here already to give the Swedes a bit of a hammering. Hopefully one day I might even find someone with French to game the Eylau/Freidland campaign. Main task now is to get on with the rest of the Swedes and 20 battalions of Russian infantry. Aaargh!

Some Austrian Generals for 1859 and especially 1866


Today we have a couple of Austrian 19thC commanders plus a trio of casualty markers. The miniatures in the pictures immediately above and below  are intended for the 1859 campaign but a bit of variation is always a good idea, hence these chaps will jump backwards and forwards as the games dictate. The chap in green is an adjutant and the gent next to him is a general wearing the undress uniform for general officers. The figure in the cuirass is going to lead my Austrian cavalry; his aide is a hussar. God help ‘em!

The photo above and the two below are cavalry casualty markers; one an old Perry Napoleonic French cuirassier and the others from the lovely Eagles to Empire range.

Having now had a break from Bismark’s Wars I shall consider finishing some Russians for my 1808-1809 project.

Game tomorrow to finish setting up.

Wednesday 7 June 2023

The Republic Fights Back, the Franco-German War 1870-1871, volume 2

Another book review thanks to the kind gentlemen at Helion. 

Ralph Weaver’s ‘The Republic Fights Back, the Franco-German War 1870-1871, Volume 2’ picks up where his earlier book left off, and focuses again on the armies rather than the battles, something to my knowledge not previously put into print. Helion have therefore yet again excelled themselves in providing the ideal platform for this work in their excellent and eclectic’From Muskets to Maxim, 1815-1914’ series.

The author is a well known expert on nineteenth century warfare and he takes us through the period after the French surrender at Sedan and subsequent fall of the Empire of Napoleon III, summarising the events of the Autumn and Winter fighting and manoeuvring in the north and east and indeed at the gates of Paris.

One important part of the book for me at least are the chapters on the raising and organising of the new Republican armies, including as they did the remnants of the Imperial army, and large numbers of volunteers, Gardes Mobiles, and a sprinkling of foreign volunteers, notably the Papal Zouaves (not strictly foreign but…) and the multi-national troops of Garibaldi’s volunteers. The sections covering the treatment of prisoners, the war at sea and how the Republic turned the Britain and the United States as a source of new weapons and ammunition are especially interesting, as is that on codes and cyphers.

The Germans too faced problems after the defeat of the imperial armies, as they had to guard their increasingly long lines of communication against frequent attacks by francs-tireurs, which in a taste of what was become the norm for German troops occupying conquered areas of France in the two World Wars, were dealt with ruthlessly. These and other issues facing the Germans such as the use of railways are explained and put into context.

Leaving the best till near the end we have a superb chapter on the state and role and challenges of the medical services on both sides during the war, including the many foreign volunteer ambulance services which operated throughout this phase of the war. This is an all too brief but detailed and absorbing chapter full of useful information.

Overall, I must say that for a relatively small book it packs a punch and for me, fills an important gap in the previously available books on the war, most of which seem to focus on the Imperial phase. Overall it is well presented and thoroughly researched. There are several informative maps, lots of black and white illustrations and 20 super colour plates drawn by the author showing a wide range of (often quote exotic for the French) uniforms from both sides as worn during this phase of the war. The longer Republican phase is by far the most interesting part of the war and my appetite to find out more has been well and truly whetted. A great addition to the library of anybody with an interest in the war.

ISBN:978-1-915070-50-0 155 pages, soft back.

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Back to the BEF, May 1940

I’ve grown tired of painting Austrian hussars for 1859/1866 that have been on my desk for about six months and are barely 50 percent done! As a significant change today’s offering is a few additions to the 1/72 scale BEF Fall of France collection.

Five Early War Miniatures British scout carriers.

These two will form part of my divisional cavalry regiment and when I finish their MkVIbs will be ready for action. They will be part of the 13th/18th Hussars or either the East Riding or Fife and Forfar Yeomanry.

These three will be part of a motorised infantry battalion.

The models are really very nice and no trouble to stick together. I’m fairly happy with them - their performance on the tabletop will hopefully make me happier…..but I won’t hold my breath.

Right, back to the 19th century.

Monday 5 June 2023

Baden and France: Some more 1866/1870 oddments

French cuirassier general

 I finished these oddment’s today. All for the Bismark’s Wars collection. The single figures are from the excellent but pricey Eagles to Empire range. They’re very fine and dynamic.

French Cuirassier coming a cropper!

Another French Cavalry General.

These last two photos are of the Baden Jäger btn for 1866. I understand they wore headgear very like that of the Austrian jäger, and as their army seems to have gone to war in their greatcoats this has given me the chance to do something with some surplus Austrian jäger. I like them.