Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bienvenue à un nouveau blog, et au Régiment d'Orleans

...or the Royal des Vaisseaux, I haven't decided yet!

First off, My friend Kris Opsetmoen has finally put up his own blog showing the figures from his extensive-well, okay, huge- Seven Years War collection of 28mm figures. He has started with the Hanoverians. If you like Lace Wars "eye candy,", be sure to check his site- I've posted the url in my "links" section. Well done, Kris, and I'm sure everyone will want to see more.

Next, I received the French infantry from what is, in the opinion of M. le Marquis, the rather unfortunately named Minden Miniatures (see photo). These are simply among the very best SYW figures I have seen- their stately poses capture the look of those period engravings, yet they are no caricatures. The detail has to be seen to be believed, and the nice thing is that they look surprisingly easy to paint- no fuss, no flash to speak of at all.

The drawback is that they are - I was going to say "tiny", but in height they match Front Rank well. These are well-proportioned and SLENDER! In fact in style they look a lot like 20mm miniatures, or even 1/72 scale plastics, particularly the faces (the rank-and-file have the most wonderful sardonic sneer- as if having just learnt that the regimental wine casks were empty).

But they are gorgeous, and clearly inspired by the "Charles Grant" image of 18th C. gaming. The muskets and bayonets are the best I have seen in this scale.
Think Stadden elegance with Perry-quality sculpting and what looks like Front Rank paintability! Richard Ansell did a magnificent job here- these miniatures are exquisitely conceived and designed.

They certainly would not look right on the same base as a Front Rank figure, but kept separate they should be fine. In April or so I should get the Eureka Dutch- they will be on the slender side too, so should match up better- and of course they will be on the opposite side of the table!

Now, I am not one of those people who bemoan the anatomy of wargames figures (with some notable exceptions). In fact, I feel that these days there is sometimes too much emphasis on the individual figure and not enough on how they look in a unit- I have been guilty of this myself and realize that to a large extent this has been one of the reasons why my painting is so glacially slow. I will first paint up a complete unit of these as well as the Front Rank French in white coats to see how they look on the tabletop, and then decide which way I want to jump for the rest of my collection.

I like to stick to one manufacturer as far as is possible, at least for each nationality. Minden Miniatures look fabulous, Front Rank have a larger range of figures, the price is the same for both, and service from both companies is excellent. It may come down to which ones are easier to paint.  

The biggest drawback I can see with Minden is the fact that it remains essentially a "private" venture- while we are assured that in the future customers may count on him to cast more figures should they require it to beef up their collections, there are no plans to produce anything beyond what Mr. Hammond chooses to add to his collection.   Fair enough, Frank makes this very clear up front on his blog so no faulting him there- it is his own project after all.  Nevertheless, this could be a factor in whether someone would choose to make Minden Miniatures their "range of choice" for a WAS/ SYW Army as there are few if any other ranges out there that are truly compatible in style and quality.

Finally, apologies- I had hoped to fight the Battle of Seligenstadt this past Monday, but what with spring definitely in the air, we ended up spending the better part of the day at the gardening centre instead, and in planning for the coming campaign season against the annual ravages of centipedes and slugs. This coming weekend, I promise.

As way of compensation, I have added the March of the Regt. Saintonge to the site. For your listening pleasure.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Digression- Battle of Bergen 1759

M. de Broglie, and a young Prinz Ferdinand of Brunswick

I'd like to set the clock forward 16 years from 1743 to 1759 for this post- although there is a connection to the War of the Austrian Succession as we will see.

Back in 2003 while on vacation in Austria and Germany, my good friend Kris Opsetmoen, who lives in the town of Obereiffenberg near Frankfurt-am-Main, drove us to to the nearby town of Bergen. The reason for this was, of course, that it was the scene of a battle in the Seven Years War between a French and Saxon army under the very capable De Broglie, and on the other side the Allies under the (equally capable) Prussian General Prinz Ferdinand of Brunswick.

The French emerged victorious in this one- contrary to popular belief, they often did well in the Seven Years War, only to have the rug pulled out from under them by an annoying habit of losing the key battles. But Bergen was considered a well-deserved victory in which an energetic French command won the day through the flexible use of their troops .

This included efficient use of reserves organized in columns- rather than in lines as was the common practise of the times- and in doing so, foreshadowing later Napoleonic developments.

Any advantages gained by the French through their victory at Bergen, however, were to be thrown away as a result of the drubbing they were to receive at the Battle of Minden shortly afterwards.

Our trip to Bergen included a visit to the interesting town museum that has stood there since the early 18th Century, as well as a drive to the area outside town for some photos of the actual battlefield itself.

Rather than use up too much space on my blog, I have put the photos up in a seperate .pdf file on the sidebar, with more information on the battle itself- including pictures of the headquarters of King George II that was used in the Dettingen campaign!

I'm sure that his memoirs will reveal that our redoubtable M. de Sangfroid himself was to play no small role in the Battle of Bergen!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

M. le Marquis se prépare pour la bataille..

On arrival at the old schloss that was to be our headquarters in the small town of Seligenstadt, I found myself greeted by the very worthy M. Le Chevalier Gaston St. Valery de Brouiller, my adjutant, who had been tasked to see that the defences on the east bank of the Main River were manned and in a state of readiness.

M. le Chevalier was a conscientious and efficient man, and the sword of his family had been in the service of the Bouillon-Cantinats for generations. I much regretted the news of his recent passing. It is said that he had succumbed to a virulent fever whilst on passage to New France, where he was to serve on the staff of the esteemed M. de Montcalm.

After we had exchanged all due pleasantries and felicitations,
he related to me that the men stood ready to perform their duty for Crown and Country, and that should it cost them all their lives, the enemy would find the price of their sacrifice a dear one indeed.

his gallant officer then proposed that the moment would soon be on hand when we should ride out and confront the approaching foe (indeed, the sounds of drums and trumpets could be heard in the distance towards Dettingen, even over the din created by the disheartened and leaderless wretches who filled the streets of Seligenstadt.

I replied that we would take our posts in good time, but that I was a loyal Servant of God as well as of our esteemed M. le Roi. Thus in my capacity as Prince Ecclesiastical and Bishop of St. Vignobles, I would first conduct a Mass to pray to the Almighty and to the Holy Mother that the upcoming struggle would be a victorious one-should it so ordained- for our arms, and that the souls of those destined to fall would find Peace, and thereafter sleep secure in the bosom of Abraham.

That, and that the evenings contest of arms would bring Glory and Honour to the House of Bouillon-Cantinat.

In war, one must attend to the nourishment of the soul as well as that of the body. Arrangements were prepared for the former, and thus Mass was to be held in the small, yet rather splendid chapel of the schloss in which we were billeted.

As for more corporeal nourishment, I had first to apply my efforts to a few bottles of a quite memorable Château Margaux '21, along with a most delectable venison brioche that had been prepared by a very able chef on the establishment of the unhappy M. le Duc du Grammont.

The enemy could wait.

The battle should be fought this weekend, God- and the wife- willing!

Photo of an old, "tarted up" Schrieber card castle I bought years ago and which I finally got around to putting together last year.
M. Le Chevalier de Brouiller is greeting the Marquis- this is a Front Rank miniature from my collection. The picture is not satisfactory; my cellphone camera does not handle depth very well. Let's just imagine that M. le Marquis has already been hard at work on that bottle of Château Margaux!

Yesterday I decided to order a selection of those splendid Richard Ansell-designed French infantry from Frank Hammond at
Minden Miniatures. I have been looking at these for a while, and finally took the plunge. They do not look as though they will match with my Front Rank figures, but if kept in separate units they should be fine- a consistent paint job can make a big difference.

I will need to live with a certain difference in sculpting style anyway, once my Dutch War of the Austrian Succession infantry and cavalry arrive from Eureka miniatures later this year. This is going to be a BIG year for my 18th Century collection!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Touraine Spotting...

Le Regt. de Touraine from the Hermand Manuscript.

This is of course a blog about a fictional person and place, but I've set it in a firm historical context. I have always been fascinated by history, and especially I love the study of flags and colourful uniforms of those pre-industrial times, and I enjoy the "detective work" that can come with trying to make sense of what can often be contradictory information. Therefore, it is always exciting for me to see good examples of contemporary source material.

So, when further to a discussion I had been having on the Yahoo! Lace Wars forum regarding the pattern of the flag for the Regt. de Touraine (see previous post), I was thrilled to receive a very nice email from M. Jean-Louis Vial who, as some reading this may already know, maintains "Nec Pluribus Impar" an invaluable website containing much information on French uniforms and flags of the period, including of course the Regt. de Touraine.

He very kindly sent me a picture of this plate from the 1757 Hermand manuscript, which illustrates a soldier of the regiment along with a portrayal of the flag at the bottom of the print. The flag shows that the aurore-coloured canton was clearly positioned on the top-left close to the staff. A magnificent picture. I'd love to get my hands on a collection of prints from this manuscript!

02/19/08 M le Marquis' log, Supplemental: I just received a link from M. Vial to a public French archive site showing pictures of the whole collection (See link on sidebar). An amazing and inspiring collection! Merci beaucoup, Monsieur!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Display of Dazzling Drapeaux for M. le Marquis

I am a big fan of both the GMB and Vaubanner range of wargames flags. I use GMB exclusively for my Napoleonic Russian and French collections, and when the Eureka Miniature's range of Dutch for the War of the Austrian Succession arrive , I will be making use of the excellent (and quite unique) range provided by Vaubanner Graphics. Both offer excellent service.  Brian Homenick at Vaubanner even does Spanish, Bavarian and Piedmontese (Check out the link on the right). 

However, when it comes to WAS/SYW flags for the French infantry, I have had reservations with the offerings from both these of these companies.  The GMB flags seemed too dark- the "aurora" (a very light orange, almost a yellow colour) canton of the flag for the Regt. Touraine, for example, being closer to a reddish orange.  

The Vaubanner flags, on the other hand, while having very crisp detail, lacked shading and some of the colours and patterns were just- well, wrong!  For example, Vaubanner's flag for the Regt. Forez had a yellow background, where every source I have has the original as being a strong orange.  Additionally, there were evidently problems with interpreting the more enigmatic colours of the time such as isabellaventre-de-biche, and fuille morte(literally "dead leaves"), with the latter colour for the Regt. d'Orleans being printed in far too light a shade.   

The flag for the Regt. Touraine and Regt. d'Aquitaine seem to have been printed with the cantons in "reverse" order (although the exact ordering of the cantons for the Regt. de Touraine seems to be problematic with quite a few sources in disagreement. Brian's may well be correct- I am looking into it).  

I should say that Vaubanner's French cavalry flags are excellent, though- those for the French dragoons in particular being quite gorgeous.

02/17/08- After I made an inquiry to the "Lace Wars" Yahoo group about the flag for the Regt. de Touraine, I received a reply from Mr. Michel Mazzoleni who had access to a number of French authoritative works on flags, that although there are indeed differing accounts of the order of the cantons, the Vaubanner flag may indeed be correct according to some of the more reliable authorities.   He also mentioned that there are accounts of some regiments being quite haphazard about attaching the flags to the flagpoles the right way up!  Thank you to Mr. Mazzoleni for the information.
Being the picky sort, I decided to try my hand at producing my own designs for those flags that I wanted for my own collection.  I sat down last weekend and created some flags using a combination of iPhoto and PowerPoint.   I started with some French regiments from the Battle of Dettingen (as well as the flags for the Regt. de St. Vignobles, of course!) with a few extra thrown in because I liked the designs!   I referred to the Pengel and Hurt booklet on the French Army as well as my copy of Lucien Mouillard.  I also received a lot of useful information from a French site on art and design for guidance on the more esoteric colours.  

There are no fancy designs or fleur-de-lys patterns here- I'd have to draw and scan my own, and not only do I not have to time to do that, I'd rather go with the commercial offerings which do just fine for the regiments I needed.

I was quite happy with the results which I share here as a PDF file on the sidebar.  They are scaled for 28mm figures.  If anyone wants a word file, contact me- all I ask is that you use them with permission, and that they not be uploaded onto any other blog or website.  And do check out GMB and Vaubanner Graphics!  I am not about to go into business for myself so these are probably all I'll ever do.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

M. le Marquis Goes to War...

Prior to this day, I had distinguished myself (with no small degree of fame, I may add) in various sieges and in numerous actions of "la petite guerre".

However, the evening of June 27th, 1743 found me, the Marquis de Sangfroid, about to savour my first taste of combat on a large scale. Certainly I had never commanded a force of such size and importance, nor had I been entrusted with so difficult a duty as that with which I found myself charged that warm summer evening.

The eyes of France- of Europe, even- were to fall upon me. Yet I did not flinch from the task. In keeping with the traditions of Duty and Honour expected from one through whose veins ran the blood of the Bouillon-Cantinats, I was quite determined not be to be found wanting in my obligations.

One of the main reasons for me setting up this blog was to generate ideas- and inspiration- for wargaming and for painting. This is the first step in a "narrative" style campaign set in the War of the Austrian Succession that will be as much about role playing and capturing the "spirit" of mid-18th C. life, as it will be about gaming out battles on the tabletop.

The first scenario (check out the links on the right) is designed for the Koenig Krieg rules that I have been playing off and on since I bought my first copy way back in 1985 or so. The scenario should work with any rule set though, and feel free to try it out and to comment (constructively!) on any aspect that you feel could be improved to make it a better game. Just play it through a few times first before you decide to trash it outright, though!

Once I have a chance to play it myself, I'll post a report where M. le Marquis gives his account of the engagement and of the role played both by himself and of the Regt. de St. Vignobles. I 'll try to get some "eye candy" up as well, although don't expect any panoramic shots of the table, as most of my collection at the moment is French- I'll be having to proxy the Allies with a potpourri of other periods and (gasp! The shame!) unpainted figures.

Thanks to Kris Opsetmoen of Oberreiffenberg in Germany, long-time gamer and 18th C. "fellow traveller", for allowing me to post pictures from his extensive Front Rank SYW collection here. Seen above are some of his Hanoverian cavalry, chomping at the bit to cross swords with M. le Marquis...

-Robert S. (Official Biographer of M. le Marquis de Sangfroid)

NOTE: Looking again at the rules and scenario I revised the ORDER OF BATTLE AND ENTRY TABLE  so that it would be more balanced (M. le Marquis would detest having to swim).  

Feb. 16th, 2008