Friday, February 16, 2018

Some small terrain bits to spice things up

Zorndorf - before
The other day I was taking a look at the terrain setup for Zorndorf that is currently on my game table and thought that something seemed to be missing (see picture above).

There were large areas where there was nothing on the ground and to my eye seemed to be calling for something to fill the space. So I took a few round discs of various size from my box of MDF bases and terrained them in much the same way as I do with my miniatures. You can see the results below:

The tabletop showing how things look with a few terrain bits added.

You can see a close up view of the terrain discs in the picture below. A Minden officer on horse is shown to provide some comparison of the discs to the size of the figures.

Close up view of the terrain discs. A Minden Russian officer stands in for comparison.

I use a game mat that was made by a company called The Terrain Guy (now sadly out of business). It measures 6ft wide by 12ft long. If I need a longer or deeper table, then I have to add some terrain squares (2ft x 2ft) that I made many years ago for one of my Kolin games.

When I purchased the game mat, my thought was to use it as a flat surface and then to lay all of the terrain (hills, roads, streams and wooded areas) on top of the mat. I haven't made very many hills or elevation pieces, so I have resorted to the time honored method of sliding some books, telephone books and pieces of wood underneath the mat in order to create undulations in the table terrain.

One of the visual problems that has vexed me over the years is the look of emptyness that certain parts of game table can have after all of the major terrain pieces have been set up on the table. You can see how this looks in the picture at the top of this page and compared it to the second picture which has the terrain discs that I made.

The discs are simple to make. I start with a round disc made out of MDF wood and glue down any large bits of grass or weeds that I want to use. I bought a pack of "weeds" somewhere in my past and figured that one day they would come in handy. Today was that day. So the small 1-inch diameter discs had one weed glued to it, the 1.5-inch diameter disc had two weeds, and the large 2-inch diameter disc received three of the weeds.

The next step in the terraining process is to mix up some brown paint into a can of Red Devil Premixed Spackle Compound (used for covering up the joins in wall board) and just stir in the paint until it looks like chocolate pudding. You can add a tiny bit of water to reduce the viscosity (there's a big word that I don't get to use very often) and make the goop flow easier on the base.

Next, I dip the wet base into a pot of extra fine railroad ballast material (you can use fine sand too) and shake off the excess material around the rim of the disc. It takes about 4 hours for the goop to dry really hard, at least hard enough to accept paint without dissolving again. So I usually let the bases sit overnight and I finish them off the next day.

Once the bases are dry, I use a light brown color (Geo Hex Brown - no longer produced) and stipple the paint onto the base using a wide paint brush. This gives the ground work a little more visual depth. 

Now the bases are ready to have tufts and static grass applied to them. I use Woodlands Scenics or Army Painter products for my tufts. Any brand of static grass will do as well. So it is a matter of dabbing some white glue to the tuft and sticking it onto the disc. I let this dry for about ten minutes and then glue a random pattern of white glue onto the disc, then sprinkle static grass onto the base and shake off the excess static grass. At first, you can see the white glue through the grass, but this look will go away once the glue has dried and becomes colorless.

The final step is to give the discs a spritz of matte finish - I use Testor's Dull Cote, but there are a number of similar products on the market. You could probably eliminate the coating step because it doesn't really protect the finish of the materials. I do it for peace of mind that the static grass will contiue to stick to the disc.

Now that I have completed this project, in retrospect I probably would have left off the plastic weeds and just gone with the terraining process using the tufts and static grass. Use of the white and yellow field flowers tufts adds a little bit of POP to the disc. 

The finished discs are now scattered around the table and nicely fill in some of the open spaces on the table surface.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Charge of the Zieten Hussars!

Lt. General Hans Joachim von Zieten leads the charge of the Zieten Hussars.


I thought that I would arrange a photo shoot of some of my Minden Prussian hussars to see what they would look like as a wall of snarling charging horseflesh. The Hans von Zeiten personality figure is heroically leading the charge. Austrians beware!
Three squadrons of 12 figures charge: the Zieten Hussars (HR2) in blue and the infamous Black Hussars (von Reusch) HR5/

A ground level view of the charge. I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of this one.

This was a fun picture to set up and shoot. I had this image in my mind for a little while now and wanted to put it into practice. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment in the comment box below.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Painting Tutorial - Do It Like Fritz

From start to finish, how I paint a figure.
Click on all pictures to enlarge.

I started painting a battalion of RSM Russian Grenadiers and I though that it would be helpful and of interest to our readers if I went through a step by step tutorial of how I paint miniatures. I have a list of the paints (names, manufacturer, product code) that I used at the end of this article.

Step One: I start by washing the figures in rubbing alcohol to clean it of any dirt or mould release. The I prime the figure with grey primer. I like grey because it doesn't overwhelm the lighter colors such as your reds and yellows, yet it is dark enough so as to make the lighter colors appear too bright, as you would get with white primer. I used to use black primer for everything, because then all of the black bits on the figure are already painted, which saves time. However, I am now with grey.

Step Two: Now I block in the basic uniform colors. In this example, I paint nearly the whole figure Russian Green. I am not concerned about the paint getting on the areas where there will be red paint. Then, I paint all of the skin areas with an undercoat of red-brown. Flesh looks better with a darker background than it does if you apply dark flesh over the grey primer. It results in a "doll house" look that I don't like. So go with a red-brown undercoat. Next, I apply the secondary base color, in this case, the red breeches, waistcoat and cuffs.
Primed figure on the left, then block in the basic uniform color, then add red-brown undercoat for all skin areas; and finally, add the secondary uniform color - in this case red.

Step Three: After all of the basic colors have been applied to the figure, I do what I call blacking the figure. I paint all of the equipment (muskets, cartridge boxes etc.) and black bits (gaitors, hats, mitres, etc). This can be kind of tedious. I have timed myself on this and find that it takes about 5 minutes to do all of the blacking.

Step Four: Once the blacking is completed, I add the color for the cross belts. This gives the figure the look of having  black lined the cross belt which is a neat effect. Then I paint all of the brown bits (hair, musket stock and fur bags) over the black. This seems to produce a nice effect on the brown coloring. Note also that the musket barrel and mitre front plate are black - when the metallic colors are added, they stand out better with a black undercoat than they would atop of the grey primer.

So the crossbelts, skin and a bit of the white undershirt have now been painted on the figure on the right, below.

For the face, I let some of the red brown color stay uncovered in the eye sockets, moustache and around the nose and neck. A dot of dark flesh on the nose, the chin, each cheek and the forehead are all that you need.

The "Blacking Process". Paint all bits of equipment, hats and gaitors black. Then start adding your basic color for belts, in this case a leather brown color. Note that the flesh color has also been added to the figure.

Step Five: Now I paint all of the metallic bits, in this case, the mitre plate, the gun barrel, the copper buttons and the copper on the cartridge boxes. Metallic colors show off better when there is black underneath them. For example, buttons should always start with a black dot on the button, followed by the metallic button color.

After the Blacking is done and the belting painted onto the figure. I paint the musket stock and hair  a medium brown. Finally, I paint all of the metallic bits: mitre cap, gun barrel, brass buttons and cartridge box facing.

Step Six: Now comes the fun part of the painting: adding the highlights to the basic colors. The three tone color system works well on many figures, but that third step adds more to do and more time. So I usually use only two colors: a dark shade and a highlight.

I have added red highlights to the breeches and waistcoat and cuffs and some green highlighting on the coat. The belts have some leather highlights too. I used to add wood grain to musket stocks but I stopped doing that because nobody is going to see the wood grain anyway.

The figure on the left is the same as the righthand figure in the preceding picture. The figure on the right  depicts the highlighting of the red and the green colors.

Step Seven: Now we are ready to complete the figure. All of the highlighting has been done except for the skin. I do this next. The face is easy - just a small dab of flesh highlight on the chin, bridge of the nose and on each cheek. You can also add a line or two of flesh highlight on the hands.

Part of the last step is painting in the eyes. Many people don't like to paint the eyes, which is ok. Paint the eye socket black and then you are finished. However, I like to paint the eyes so I put two small dabs of white paint in each eye, leaving the center of the eye black.

The finished figure is shown on the right in the picture below.

The figure on the left is the same as the one on the right in the preceding picture. The righthand figure is finished by highlighting the skin and painting eyes. Some people do not like to paint the eyes, which is OK too.

Paint Recipe Used on These Figures

GREEN Uniform Coat:
  Gnarls Green - P3 Paint (93034) = base color
  Leaf Green - Reaper Master Series (09011) = highlight color,
I find that the Leaf Green is a little too bright, so I tone it down by mixing in some Gnarls Green color.

RED Breeches, waistcoat, turnbacks and cuffs:
  Base Color: Blood Red - Reaper Pro Paint (18001)
  Highlight: Fire Red - Reaper Master Series (09004)

BROWN Hair and Musket Stock:
  Base Color:  Ruddy Brown - Reaper Master Series (09109)
  Highlight: Oiled Leather - Reaper Master Series (09110)

TAN/BUFF Leather Belts:
  Shade: Leather Brown - Reaper Master Series (09030)
  Medium : Tanned Leather - Reaper Master Series (09031)
  Highlight: Amber Gold - Reaper Master Series (09032)
I use the shade color, but mix the Tanned Leather and Amber Gold to create my highlight color.

  Shade: Rosy Shadow - Reaper Master Series (09067)
  Highlight: Rosy Skin - Reaper Master Series (09068)
  Undercoat for the shade: Red Brown - IWM (77-713)

COPPER Mitre Plate, Buttons, Cartridge Box Emblems:
  Copper Metallic - IWM (77-722)
  Old Gold - Viejo (70.878)
I mix the copper and gold together to create a sort of brass color. The Russian copper pieces were not the red copper color like on the U.S. Penny, but instead, had a gold/brass tinge to them.

METALLIC GUN BARREL:  Cold Steel - P3 Paints (93075)

WHITE Pom Pom:
  Gray - IWM (77-707)
  Morrow White - P3 Paints (93075)

BLACK Gaitors, Grenadier Helmet, Cartridge Boxes and belting undercoat
  Lamp (Ebony) Black - Deco Art American craft paint (DA067)


So that is basically how I paint my figures. It is basically a two-color shade/highlight color system rather than the 3-color triad system. I use it because it eliminates a step in the painting process and reflects my point of view that no one notices the middle color in the triad for the most part. Recently, I have stopped using two colors for my browns - hair, packs and musket stocks - and just go with one color. Black is usually used without any highlight, although sometimes when I feel like it, I will mix up a black highlight by adding some flesh color paint into the black paint.

The key step in my painting process is the blacking phase. It makes the cross belts really pop because it gives the impression of black lining the belt without actually black lining it. Also, it makes the metallic gun barrel and hanger swords and buttons pop.

I hope that this tutorial can help you improve your figure painting. Use some of the tips or use them all as you see fit.

Monday, February 5, 2018

NEW AWI Mounted Militia Are Available

New Fife & Drum Miniatures AWI Mounted Militia
(click on all pictures to enlarge)

The new Fife & Drum Miniatures AWI Mounted Militia figures are now available for purchase on the Fife & Drum Miniatures web store site. We have also added the new South Carolina Continentals wearing leather caps and SYW Russian musketeers in waistcoats to the web store.

Please Note: we now accept credit cards as well as PayPal payments for all purchases on the Fife & Drum Miniatures web store.

Click on the links below to view the new products and product codes in our web store:

Today's post features the AWI Mounted Militia figures. The Russians and South Carolina Continentals will have their own blog post later in the week. However, you can still click on any of the links above to see the figures or make a purchase.

AWI Mounted Militia

We have added eleven different figures that are suitable for use as either mounted militia for the Southern Campaigns or as Continental Dragoons in campaign dress. These are further grouped into six new product codes as shown below. Note that all cavalry figures include the horse.

AC-023 Dragoons wearing hunting shirts (2 figures)     $10.00 
AC-024  Mounted Militia - Tricorn Hats (3 figures)      $15.00
AC-025  Mounted Militia - Brimmed Hats (3 figures)  $15.00
AC-026  Mounted Militia - Brimmed Hats, turned up on right side (3 figures)   $15.00
AC-027  Mounted Militia Officer (1 figure)  $6.00
AC-028  Mounted Militia Regimental Pack (all 11 new figures)  $50.00

AC-024 Mounted Militia in Tricorn Hats.

AC-025 Mounted Militia in Brimmed Hats.

AC-026 Mounted Militia in Turned-up Hats.

AC-028 Mounted Militia Regiment Pack
(note: the two figures in hunting shirts are not shown in this picture)
The Mounted Militia figures are ideally suited for wargames set in the Southern Colonies during the 1776 to 1783 period and can be used both as militia cavalry or as mounted militia troops who would ride to the battle site and dismount so that they could fight on foot. They could also be used to give a campaign look to your Continental Dragoon regiments.

The Mounted Militia figures are priced at an introductory discount from our regular prices ($6.00 per horse and rider set at regular price, reduced to $5.00 per horse and rider set) per individual figure.

We also offer all eleven of the new mounted militia figures as a Regimental Pack for $50.00 which makes the figures even more economical than if they were purchased as individual figures.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Zorndorf Project Update

Frederick the Great grasps the nettle in his hands and tries to rally the von Bellow fusilier regiment
during the battle of Zorndorf. He paced off several steps and then looked behind him and realized that nobody was following him. The print was by Carl Rochling.

The battlefield of Zorndorf in miniature. Click to enlarge.

My Zorndorf Project began in earnest in October 2017 when I decided to go all-in on painting the SYW era Russian army. I set the date of the Seven Years War Association convention in April 2018 as a goal in order to keep me focused on the project. The prospect of being hanged in a fortnight does wonders for concentrating one's mind, I suppose.

In any event, here is what I have painted since October 18, 2017:

84 Cavalry
160 musketeers
9 limber horses
4 limber horse riders
2 division general command stands
2 Shuvulov Howitzers

I also based three sets of munitions/baggage wagons (a set includes one 4-wheel and one 2-wheel wagon and horse team), four artillery stands and one Prussian ammo wagon. Let's not forget about the Prussians.

The Russian Cavalry

Here are some pictures of all of the Russian cavalry that I have painted since October 2017. I still need to add 12 more cuirassiers and to bring the two hussar regiments up from 12 figures to 24 figures. Click on all pictures to enlarge the view. In some cases, a double click on the picture will make it even larger. Yipes!

Hussar Brigade: 12 man squadrons of Horvath (left) and Grudzinski (right) regiments.

Two 12-figure squadrons of Kargopol Horse Grenadiers. The first dozen horse grenadiers
had been painted prior to  October 2017.

Two 12-figure pulks of Cossacks.

One squadron of 12 of the 3rd Cuirassier Regiment.

Twelve of the 24 Russian dragoons that I have painted. They can be any dragoon regiment since the dragoons did not have any regimental distinctions, other than their flags.

The Russian Infantry

Since October I have painted four musketeer battalions in red waistcoats and one Observation Corps battalion wearing their regulation green coats. I previously had 4 battalions (3 musketeers and 1 grenadier battalion) already painted. The older battalions have 30 figures and the five new battalions have 32 figures that are more tightly spaced together on their stands.

The Perm and Moscow regiments based in the new 32-figure formation.

A close up view of the Narva regiment of musketeers. All of my flags are from GMB Designs.

The 5th Observation Corps musketeer regiment. I used the Minden Russian artillery crew figures
 that looked like they were standing around at ease and added some muskets from my Bits Box. The flags were copied from the Kronoskaf web site.

This gives me 9 Russian infantry battalions. I will need 12 or 13 for my convention game in April 2018. I am painting at a clip of one battalion per week so I should have no problems reaching my infantry goal in time for the game.

Russian Logistical Support Troops (wagons)

Ed Phillips painted some Russian 2-wheel and 4-wheel munitions wagons for me and I added a Perry Cossack wagon which really identifies the baggage train as "Russian".

Perry Cossack Wagon (from their Napoleonic figure range).

Some of Ed Phillips scrathch built Russian munitions wagons. Each of my infantry brigades will have both a 2-wheel and 4-wheel munitions wagon in its own unique color scheme. The above picture does not show the horse teams that I added to each wagon.

The full set of munitions wagons showing the horse teams and riders.

The Green Set of wagons. 2-wheelers get one horse and rider.
4-wheelers get two horses and one rider.

The Red set of wagons.

The Light Blue set of wagons.

Russian General Staff

I painted the Fermor personality figure from the Minden Miniatures figure range. I also added command stands for division commanders Galitzen, Saltykov for the infantry and Demiku for the cavalry brigade.

Russian generals. Click picture to enlarge the view and to read the
captions that  identify the individual generals.

Russian Artillery
I am only going to use three or four cannon models in my Zorndorf game. The Prussian artillery component outnumbered that of the Russians, so the Prussians will have one more field gun model than the Russians. There will also be some small regimental guns that simply add one more D10 die to the musket fire of the battalion to which it is attached.

I still have to paint some limber team stands for each artillery piece. This will consist of four horses and one horse rider.

My Russian artillery contingent of two 12-pounders and two howitzers (both Shuvulov Secret Howitzers).


Well that brings the Zorndorf Project up to date. I have accomplished a lot of painting since October 2017 and I am far enough along that I can see the end of the painting obligations in sight. Once all of the painting is completed, then I will work on some terrain pieces that I will lay on top of my game mats.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Russian Observation Corps 5th Musketeer Regiment

I finished another battalion of SYW Russian infantry for my Zorndorf Project, this time a musketeer battalion in the Observation Corps.  I used some of the Minden Russian artillery crew figures and gave them some muskets so that they look like a battalion of soldiers that are standing "at ease" waiting for orders or resting until the battle comes to them. The flags were copied from the Kronoskaf web site.

I recruited the standard bearers and drummers from the Fife & Drum AWI Hessian musketeer  range of figures. The two NCOs (pointing) and the officer holding his sword over his head (why oh why do they do this?) are Minden Prussian jagers. Finally, the officer standing next to the colour bearer is one of the Austrian officers from the dismounted staff set of figures.

The 5th Musketeer Regiment in the Russian Observation Corps.
CLICK the picture to enlarge.
I had to kind of "fudge" things a little bit since none of the figures' uniforms are exactly correct. For example, most of them are not wearing the cavalry boots that the soldiers wore. If anyone wants to call me out on this and complain, then my story is that they were recently issued shoes and gaitors and got rid of the cumbersome cavalry boots. Also, the regiment probably left their green coats back at the baggage park and fought in their red sleeved waistcoats since Zorndorf was fought in August. However, the artillery crew figures are wearing the belly box cartridge box which makes them good candidates to be used as Observation Corps figures.

The officers all have boots so I did not have to make any changes to them. I added some green epoxy putty to the gaitors on the standard bearers to turn them into cavalry boots.

I am happy with the way that this unit turned out. When I first saw the artillery crew figures, my first thought was "these guys look similar to the Observation Corps soldiers". Fortunately, I had some spare muskets that I could put in their hands to make them infantry. I think that I might add these figures, muskets in hand, to the Minden range so that they can be used as Russian artillery fusiliers, which were attached to the artillery companies to provide some protection for the crewmen in case the enemy got too close.

Regimental History
Click on the link below to read about the history of the regiment, courtesy of the Kronoskaf web site.

In 1756, the Observation Corps was still recruiting and organising in Moscow and did not take part in the campaign.
In the Autumn of 1757, the regiment (only 3 battalions instead of the 4 battalions originally planned), initially stationed in Moscow, was sent to Novgorod.
In January 1758, the Observation Corps was finally ready and marched to the theatre of operation. Then the 3 battalions of the regiment took part in the Russian invasion of East Prussia. In July, the Observation Corps could align only 12,000 men. On August 6, during the invasion of Brandenburg, it marched from Paradise Kloster through Birnbaum to Schwerin on the Wartha river where it encamped. On August 10, Czernichef was instructed to march from Schwerin to Landsberg with the Observation Corps. On August 23, the Observation Corps marched from Landsberg to make a junction with Fermor's main army at Zorndorf. The junction was made at 2:00 PM on August 24 and the Observation Corps was deployed en potence on the flank facing Quartschen. On August 25, the regiment took part in the battle of Zorndorf where it was deployed in Thiessen's Brigade in the first line of the Observation Corps. About mid November, the regiment took its winter quarters in an area extending from Thorn (present-day Torun) to Culm (present-day Chelmno) as part of Braun's corps. 
On July 23 1759, the regiment took part in the battle of Paltzig where it was attached to Golitsyn Observation Corps. It was deployed in the first line of the left wing. A few weeks later, on August 12, the regiment fought in the bloody battle of Kunersdorf where it was deployed in the first line of the left wing as part of Essen's Brigade. During this battle the Observation Corps suffered so heavily that it was no longer able to operate as an autonomous corps.
At the beginning of 1760, the entire Observation Corps was disbanded and its troops integrated into the Fusilier Regiments of the Artillery.

By the way, if you are not already familiar with Kronoskaf,  then by all means click on the link and look at the vast array of information that they have collected about the Seven Years War. 

A close-up view of the battalion.

The command stand uses two AWI Hessian standard bearers and a Prussian jager officer holding his sword over his head. At the far left, a Hessian drummer and a Prussian jager NCO have been recruited into the regiment.

I could only get three of the four stands into this close up picture. It gives a better view of the "at ease" look of the battalion that is created by using some of the Russian artillery crew figures.

With the completion of this battalion, I now have 9 of the 12 battalions that I will need for my Russian army in my scaled down version of Zorndorf, which will be played at the upcoming Seven Years War Association convention (April 5-6, 2018 in South Bend, IN).

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Some Leuthen Quips

King Frederick II and his staff.
Minden Miniatures

From time to time I like to pull my copy of Christopher Duffy's book, Prussia's Glory - Rossbach and Leuthen 1757, off of my library bookshelf and thumb through the book looking for some of the stories and first hand accounts that Duffy scatters throughout the book. So I thought that I would share them with you. In the future, I hope to post my first hand accounts on my blog.

Perhaps my favorite story is related to Duffy's description of the Leuthen battlefield terrain and the tale of the reconnaisance taken by Prince Charles of Lorraine on December 4th, the evening before the battle of Leuthen:

Prince Charles knew nothing of the ground except what they had been able to glean before darkness fell on the 4th, and the lack of salient features told to their disadvantage. According to one story Daun had to ride up and down in front of his army on the morning of the day of the battle, and asked the peasants to tell him the names of the villages and other objects.

Amongst other things his eye was caught by the tower of a church which could be seen rising above a hill.

"What is that," he enquired of a peasant.

The man assumed he was talking about the hill and replied, "Your Excellency, that is the hill from which our king drives the Austrians every year."

Daun turned to his suite and remarked, "Gentlemen, I do not like the sound of that!"

Kolin in Bohemia had been the stamping ground of the big Austrian maneuvers in the early 1750s, but here the tables were turned.

Austrian battle line facing south towards its left flank at Sagschutz.
From my solo game of Leuthen.
I have fought the battle of Leuthen a number of times, both as a multi-player game and twice as a solo game, the latter fought in the Mancave at Schloss Seewald. 

The purpose of having this vast collection of toy soldiers is to play with them in wargames. My solo games hark back to my boyhood days when I would set up my Britains 54mm toy soldier in the family living room on the floor and keep myself busy for an entire afternoon. So I enjoy hauling out the Winter terrain mats, trees and buildings and having a good knock down epic wargame tout seul.