Sunday, 31 January 2016

French Crossbowmen - Aventuriers (1)

I always intended to have some light infantry crossbowmen for my French Army so I could use it for the earlier Italian Wars. I got as far as buying some Table Top Games figures many years ago and, a bit later, some from Gladiator (now Black Hat Miniatures) but never actually painted them. Partly I stopped because I wanted more variety of figures in the unit but then I dropped out of wargaming and they sat in a cupboard for a long time. When I re-started and decided to complete my small 16th C collection as an Italian Wars, French army for FOG-R, the problem of getting enough variety in the unit, whilst maintaining a reasonably homogenous look, remained. I bought various other crossbow-armed figures so I had the variety but several looked too early and every crossbow was different and incompatible and so they remained in the cupboard while I painted other units.

From left to right: TTG, Gladiator, Naismith, Naismith, Essex, 4 from Old Glory, 2 from Venexia

Now I have almost got a 900 point army finished, I just need 8-12 bases of Adventurier crossbowmen for my early army and 4 bases of mounted arquebus for my late option. Either will involve some substantial modification work so I have finally made a serious start.

From experience with my Swiss, Landsknechts and Gendarmes, I think quite large differences in figure size and style look OK as long as the weapons are fairly uniform. Achieving that was easy with pikes, quite easy with heavy lances but a bit more of a challenge with crossbows.

The cast crossbows vary in length from 9mm (Venexia) to 14 mm (TTG / Altuos) and in span from 8 mm (Venexia and Old Glory) to 11.5 mm (Essex). There is also a lot of variation in shape of the bow - whilst contemporary crossbows seem to be mostly thin steel, these were all quite think with the TTG bow apparently 1.2 mm in diameter - like a scaled down 5" fence post. Even worse, the Old Glory figures come with a solid mass of metal filling in between the bow and the string.

I decided to cut the longest bows down in length and replace all the actual bows with flattened, shaped (with a needle file) and bent pieces of 0.7 mm brass rod to give a pre-bend span of 8-9 mm. This isn't quite as fiddly as it sounds but it is much more of a faff than just replacing cast pikes.

After cutting the bows (and string and fill-in metal) of the first couple of Old Glory figures, I found I could get quite a reasonable effect by drilling out the filled-in area then cutting and filing away to just leave the thinned bow and the string. It isn't quite the same as the brass bows but I think it looks OK and matches in reasonably. It does raise the question though of whether I should string all the others.

The second issue is that some of the figures are very medieval looking. Also the hats on the Old Glory figures don't look very French to me.

I have been following Stuart's blog about converting 28mm 15th Century figures to represent early 16th C French. Fantastic work with a lot of original research and far beyond my abilities but he shows how to put together some great French skirmishers with crossbows and arquebus and I decided to try something similar with these smaller scale figures. I have chosen what I think are the most suitable figures - 4 each of 6 different ones for my 12 bases - and started modifying them by filing and adding Milliput. There's a long way to go with this but I am quite encouraged so far.

This shows the brass replacement bow v cutting away on the Old Glory figures. The three OG  figures will get new hats made from Milliput, as I did with my French arquebusiers. The other three figure types I chose are the Venexia figure with a helmet, the Naismith figure winching and either one of the OG firing figures or the other Naismith figure or maybe two of each.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Swiss Arquebusiers

I finally finished the arquebusiers to screen my Swiss pike keil over the Christmas holidays, in time for a FOG-R game yesterday against a German States army. 

The figures are from Khurusan, the same as most of those in the keil. Like the other Khurusan figures, they are quite slender (or realistically proportioned, compared with the stocky cartoon figures from most other manufacturers) and well detailed but maybe not the easiest figures to paint. 

The Swiss banners are based on information from Massimo Predonzani’s book on the battle of CĂ©risoles. He states that by 1525 infantry flags were 3.7x2.8 m. On the basis that 15mm (in reality 16-18mm ground to head) is about 1:100 I tried 37x28 mm but that looked far too big. For the pike block I reduced the flags to about 24x32 but even that seems big - to the extent that they interfere with the pikes in the third rank. If I had realised before basing just how big they would be, I would maybe have used a double-depth base for the centre of the keil and put all the flags on that. I further reduced the flag for the Aquebusiers to 20x27 mm - it still looks big but is rather more manageable. 

The Swiss flags were drawn using the basic drawing tools in Microsoft Excel (not an obvious choice, but I use spreadsheets a lot for work and it was to hand) and printed out on an inkjet so it was easy to play around with sizes.

Does anybody have other information on likely flag size for the Swiss in the 1520s and 30s? 

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year

The New Year seems a good time for taking stock and looking forward.

I finally have 800 points worth of Italian Wars French finished and just about enough scenery to give a reasonable covering on my new table, however I was a bit surprised how few actual figures I have painted.

Whole French army January 1st, 2015

Progress in 2015:
  • Swiss Pike Keil -  12 bases of pikes and 2 of heavy weapons
  • Swiss Arquebusiers - 6 bases of light foot
  • Mounted commander - Louis de Tremoille
  • Camp with two tents, an ox cart, two men and a dog
  • 6x4 board in two sections to fit over the dining table
  • Various terrain area markers
  • Rough ground markers
  • Vineyard
  • Fields
  • A large house and a row of houses (not quite finished)
Still to do:
  • 4 bases of LH arquebus
  • 2 or 3 more generals
  • 2 x 6 bases of LF crossbow Adventurers
  • 6 bases of MF arquebus Italians
  • 2 bases of LF arquebus Landsknechts
  • 2 or 3 x 4 bases of Gendarmes - I would like to go for a more historically accurate look for these. I was given a big print of the Ashmolean's Battle of Pavia for my birthday - no barber's poles there but quite a few ideas of contemporary colour schemes for the tunics and horse barding.
  • 4 bases of Archers (Heavy Armoured Lancers)
  • 8 bases of Reiter (to give me 2 units of 6)
  • More buildings, including a church and walled enclosures (I hesitate to call them gardens) to go with them
  • Steep hills and a couple more low hills
  • A marsh, a lake, more terrain areas
  • A more distinctively renaissance vineyard
  • Markers for brush and maybe more for rough ground - also need to settle on a  standard stone colour as I have ended up with two completely non-matching set of rough ground markers.
  • Cohesion markers - I have a plan involving small MDF disks, the cohesion state written in Milliput and a suitable visual indication - I'm thinking discarded weapons / wounded figure / Khurusan's Renaissance death figure for the three levels.
  • Another Landsknecht Keil and another Swiss Keil - this may have to wait a while before I can face painting any more tiny stripes!
I should be busy for a while yet!

Added as an edit on 2nd Jan:

One thing which has amazed me since starting this blog is the variety of countries from which people have viewed it: UK, USA (no surprise in those two), New Zealand, Italy, France, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Afghanistan, Iceland, Belgium, Spain, Russia, Chile, South Africa, Argentina, Namibia, Japan... I guess one of the great things of the internet is that it provides a way for people with a niche area of interest to exchange ideas, wherever they live. So thank you everybody who has bothered to take a look, a particular thanks to those who have left comments, and if you do happen to read this, it would be great to hear what projects you are 'working' on, or interests you are pursuing, that caused you to pass by here.

Happy New Year