Crimean War British Gallery

Inspired by having to convert all my other 19th Century galleries from web-pages to blog-posts (see my post Page Limit Panic below), I have finally got around to posting up the gallery of my 15mm Crimean War Brits.

This army is a mix of units that I had professionally painted, and some of the best 'block painting' jobs that I managed myself e.g. Lord Cardigan ("what is what, what is what") and the 11th Hussars.

Click on the picture below to see the whole gallery:

Page Limit Panic!

This website is built on the Squarespace platform: very arty, very reliable, easy to use, and more than just blog functionality. Highly recommended for this sort of hobby site that needs a bit more than a pure blogging platform can offer.

I pay the $180 a year to have up to 1,000 pages and was somewhat surprised when, on coming to build the pages for this year's TFL Painting Challenge, I was told that I had reached my limit.

I can't have built 1,000 pages!

Of course, it turns out that I have. Two hundred pages for previous painting challenge galleries, five hundred pages of individual after action reports, all the different articles, army galleries and scenarios: it all adds up.

So what to do?

I contacted Squarespace and said "help"!

Their (very helpful) customer service chap couldn't give me any more pages, but pointed out that I was using the platform in quite an old-fashioned way: using web-pages rather than blog-posts for my content...a bit like producing a daily newspaper on super-high quality gloss paper rather than newsprint. 

He suggested that as Squarespace gives you unlimited blog posts, and that a blog post contains most if not all of the functionality of a web-page, if I was a bit clever about navigation and presentation, then I could actually archive a lot of my web-pages onto blog posts, thus significantly freeing things up.

Not only that, but Squarespace has various 'summary' functionalities that can group and present blog posts in a very pleasing way, and would actually save me the trouble of having to build second tier navigation pages line by line: I could just pop in a 'summary' block and the machine would do it for me.

Now the above makes me sounds positively antediluvian (hilarious, as I work in media and spend a lot of my time working on the commercial side of some very large publication websites) but as I sat and played with Squarespace, I realised that, as regards Vis Lardica, I was still in very much a pre-blogosphere mind-set.

So, gradually, over the next few months, I shall be migrating content as Squarespace suggest.


Trouble is, of course, this is very time-consuming and actually quite annoying: it's the web-designer equivalent of re-basing!

I've already spent four hours working out how best to present just one small part of the site (see below), and another four hours actually migrating the content. New areas will be built a la blog, but moving the old will take some time.

So, first area migrated is the gallery of my 19th Century (Waterloo to Mons) figures. Here, the navigation page is effectively a blog, with each different gallery being a different blog post, and with the links to the different galleries coming from a Summary content block. 

Click here to go to the navigation page and let me know what you think. I've also revamped the look and feel of the titling as well: always good to refresh look and feel occasionally!

Vis Imperica: The Mahdists

As mentioned yesterday, the bank holiday gave me a chance to continue photographing my collection of little soldiers. After the Egyptians, it seemed appropriate that the Mahdists were next under the spotlight.

The Mahdists, or Ansar if you like, are one of the earliest 15mm armies that I actually painted myself. Fresh out of university, determined that 15mm 19th century gaming was what I wanted to do, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a beautifully painted, second hand Zulu army, and then painted (badly) a whole lot British figures to fight them. Once they were done, and I'd had enough of Brits vs Zulu games, I decided that the next conflict to model were the various Sudan campaigns.

I'd also heard about this marvelous new painting technique called dipping or washing, where you roughly painted a figure (phew!) and then covered it in brown wash or magic dip. This I could manage, so away I went and produced the figures you can see below. 

Now almost thirty years old, you can see how dark they are: at that time I didn't know the maxim "paint 15s one shade lighter than you would anything larger" that has recently seen me in good stead. The finish I use has also darkened over time. But, as I said, at the time these were the best figures I'd ever produced. You can also see how I've more recently added some command figures that are painted with highlights rather than wash: good to see how one's painting technique improves over time!

Click on the pic below to see all:

Vis Imperica: 19th Century Egyptians

Bank holiday weekend and a chance to take another few steps towards finishing the photography of all my 19th century figures. First up were the Egyptians from about 1875 - 1900.  

I had forgotten how much I like the look of my Egyptian troops until I got them out of storage in order to photograph them. I have a soft spot for troops in fezs: I think it must be something to do with Jon Courtney Grimwood's Arabesk trilogy!

My Egyptian force consists if two brigades, with each brigade having the same composition: three battalions of infantry, a squadron of cavalry, and a couple of guns. 

These days, as I don't play much 19th Century at the moment, my Egyptians will probably find themselves proxy-ing as Libyans for my Operation Compass games...but at least they'll be on the table! Click on the pic below to see all:

Vis Imperica Army Galleries: the Imperial Chinese

Another army that I really like: the Imperial Chinese with a few Boxers added in for good measure. This is another army made up of figures from a painting service and, again, I can't remember which service it was or even who the figure manufacturer is...I think it's Irregular, and I think that it was their in-house painting service, but I'm not sure.

 The great thing about the Imperial Chinese is how unrelentingly rubbish they are! A loss can be greeted with a shrug of the shoulders and no shame, a victory can be celebrated as an incredibly impressive achievement, especially as they are usually fighting much smaller but much better armies from France or Britain. I think the trick is not actually to engage the enemy at all ("the art of fighting without fighting") at least until you can get close enough to overwhelm them through sheer numbers. Oh, and don't tell the Boxers that their lucky amulets don't work very well!

Click on the picture below to see the whole collection:



Vis Imperica: Prussian Gallery Added

As the title suggests, I've had a chance to photograph the Prussians in my 19th Century figure collection and add them to the Vis Imperica army galleries.

Ah...the Prussians. Amazing troops in the system we used: big units, good weapons, excellent artillery, good troops:  very hard to beat. So hard to beat, in fact, that beating them often became the be all and end all of any game that they featured in. They were the favoured army of one particular player, who was always keen to extol their virtues, so the rest of us were always equally determined to thrash the pants off them, and would do anything we could to do so.

Click on the picture below to see the whole gallery of much-maligned figures who probably had no idea why everyone was always out to get them!

Vis Imperica Gallery: Crimean Russians

My Crimean Russians are a nice little army: solid battalions of drab-coated infantry commanded by glittering officers, supported by equally solid masses of cavalry and hordes of Cossacks. Although most of the army is painted to the standard I was achieving at the time, the officers and Dragoon Guards show that I was reaching for more.

The figures are mostly Essex, IIRC, with quite a few Minifigs thrown in, and one unit from Irregular. Confession time: the Hussars were bought painted at a Bring and Buy, and the Don Cossacks were painted by the Irregular Miniatures painting service. All the rest are my work...and I do love the Dragoon Guards!

Click on the pic to see the gallery:

More Franco-Prussian War Action

Keen to get his revenge for my win last time, Neil suggested a re-match, but with him playing the Prussians this time.

The situation was fairly similar: von Neil's troops holding a ridge that ran down the centre of the table, with my French aiming to knock them of it. I outnumbered him about 2:1, but Prussian reinforcements were expected, and would arrive at a time determined by a roll of the dice.

The Prussian Line

Looking at the Prussian line, I noticed that all their artillery was in the centre, and that the Prussian right wing was hanging. His left was hanging a little, being sort of anchored on a farmhouse, but it was his right that looked vulnerable.

I therefore set up in a long line parallel to the ridge, but with a column of four battalions of zouaves (nasty, fighting, little buggers) supported by a mitrailleuse and a battalion of chasseur sharpshooters as an attack column on my left flank. My aim was to advance forward, give the Prussian line an unanswerable volley due to the superior range of my Chassepots, and then slam in my attack column. Once I had a foothold on the ridge, the attack column would roll him up as my line kept hammering in the fire. Tres simple but hopefully tres effective!

My commanders were obviously having a good day, as on the first turn my entire army moved forward into rifle range. I took some artillery fire from the Prussian centre battery, but because of its positioning, my densely-packed attack column remained untouched.

On my next turn (the Prussians remaining stationary and relying on their guns) I let loose a volley with the entire line that proved satisfyingly effective, with many Prussian units taking significant casualties. More importantly, the Prussian right flank brigade was disordered, mainly due to some brilliant shooting by the Chasseurs. The mitrailleuse jammed, of course!

Note also that the Prussian left flank brigade was also disordered, leading me to think that there might be something I could do here as well...but more on that later.

the french centre and left (about-to-be-victorious zouaves in the background)

My four-battalion column of zouaves charged up the hill and hit the end of the Prussian line. The lead battalion had been disordered by the fire coming at them as they charged in, so failed to simply smash the Prussians from the ridge, and fierce hand-to-hand combat broke out. Weight of numbers quickly began to tell, however, and the first brigade of Prussian infantry evaporated.

Over to Neil and his next turn: the next brigade of Prussians along attempted to punish the zouaves with fire from their Dreyse needle guns, but someone had obviously blunted their needles as they had no effect at all, not a single casualty being caused.

This was obviously quite worrying for the Prussians, as they retreated both the brigade that formed the right of their line and their guns off the ridge and down into the valley below. The left of my line quickly consolidated their gains: that end of the ridge was in my hands!

Meanwhile, at the other end of the line, I had decided that the opportunity of a disordered Prussian brigade was too much to resist, and had thrown two brigades of infantry up the hill in an attempt to dislodge them as well. Proving that the 2:1 odds were right for scenario (my zouaves had been 4:1 and supported by chasseurs), les gens brave found it hard going, and a hard-slog pushing match developed.

Hitting the prussian left (note the cavalry in the background)

Weight of numbers, however, meant that my men gradually pushed the Prussians back but, just at the moment that his line began to break, Neil sent his regiment of divisional light cavalry into the flank of my assaulting units.

Very messy, and even sending in another battalion of infantry to hit the cavalry in its flank in turn didn't really help matters.

Numbers, however, still told in the end, and although I effectively lost a brigade of infantry doing it, the right hand side of the ridge was now also in my hands so, with the enemy centre retreating, I had achieved my aim.

At that point, however, the Prussian reinforcements began to arrive. Unfortunately, the clock wasn't just ticking for the French, it was ticking for Neil too, so we had to call the game before he could get his extra troops into action.

Saved by the bell, the French were victorious!


Vis Imperica Gallery: the Juarista's

My Mexican Juarista army is one of my absolute favourite armies from my collection of nineteenth century figures. Nicely painted, full of character: a wonderful mix of uniformed line infantry, less well-uniformed line infantry, and Mexican peasantry.

Another confession: I didn't paint this army either. Obviously feeling flush, I paid for this army to be painted and based for me...although I have added a few bits and pieces over the years.

The Juarista's have fought the French invaders many times, sometimes successfully, and have also swooped through history to fight the Americans and Texicans in earlier wars. A great excuse to showcase a range of appalling accents as well!

To see the gallery, click on the picture, below.

Los Supremos Podres

Los Supremos Podres

AAR: Franco-Prussian War

It's been a long time since I've played any 19th Century (i.e. Waterloo to Mons) wargames, so it was most pleasing when Neil, my regular opponent, offered to bring round his new 6mm Franco-Prussian War collection and run a game using a modified version of the Black Powder rules.

He duly arrived, laden with not many boxes (6mm, you see!) and set up what looked like a huge game on my 5ft by 6ft gaming table.

I would play the Prussians, versus the French, obviously, with the aim of smashing a French rearguard from their positions atop a ridge at the other end of the table from my start point. All directions are given from the point of view of the army being described.


At my disposal, I had a Corps of Prussians consisting of:

  • Corps Commander
    • Corps Artillery (4 batteries)
    • Corps Cavalry (2 regiments Cuirassiers, 2 regiments Dragoons)
  • Left Flank Division
    • Divisional Commander
    • Divisional Light Cavalry (1 regiment)
    • Divisional Artillery (4 batteries)
    • 1st Brigade
      • Brigade Commander
      • Brigade Infantry (6 battalions)
    • 2nd Brigade
      • Brigade Commander
      • Brigade Infantry (6 battalions)
  • Right Flank Division
    • Divisional Commander
    • Divisional Light Cavalry (1 regiment)
    • Divisional Artillery (4 batteries)
    • 1st Brigade
      • Brigade Commander
      • Brigade Infantry (6 battalions)
    • 2nd Brigade
      • Brigade Commander
      • Brigade Infantry (6 battalions)

I could also expect reinforcements at some stage.

Against me, lined up on the ridge line in front of me was a single division of French facing my left flank division. 

I decided that I would strongly probe the French right flank and see what happened, so I set up my left hand division on the left and the right hand division in the centre, with the Corps cavalry protecting my right flank.

The left hand division began the game by advancing strongly, halting inside my artillery's range, but outside Chassepot range. The artillery opened fire with a round of counter-battery fire that had no effect.

Meanwhile, my right hand division and corps artillery (also deployed in the centre) had not moved: its orders having been mislaid or delayed or some such.

we are ready down to our last gaiter buttons!

The French, for their part, now revealed another division set up in line on the left hand side of the ridge. They therefore effectively had an unbroken line of infantry across the entire table's edge.

The artillery of the left hand division now switched targets to the enemy infantry on the ridge, and immediately forced one battalion to retreat in disorder. Excellent!

This left not only a hole in the French line, but led to the more central of two brigades facing my left retreating back behind the ridge in the face of the advance of the corps artillery in the centre.

This obviously left the other brigade isolated, so my left hand division moved forward and prepared to assault. A round of fire peppered my line, but I still had plenty of troops for the attack.

Unfortunately, the corps artillery were then told to move immediately to the right (a "blunder"), meaning that the French brigade that had moved back could now move forward again. In tactical terms, my left hand division could now punch up the hill and destroy one French brigade, but would then be destroyed in turn by the other.

This was not something I was prepared to accept, so my infantry fired one round with their Needle Guns, and then retreated back out of Chassepot range.

This doesn't seem in keeping with my orders, but the good news was that I had received reinforcements in the shape of another division of infantry behind my right flank.

This division kept in column and punched up the right hand side of the battlefield, aiming to hit the left hand brigade of French infantry. Behind my reinforcements were the four regiments of Corps cavalry, Cuirrassiers to the front. 

the prussians in position for their assault, about to receive fire from the french line

What had been the right hand division was now in the centre. One brigade of this division headed left and, together with the left hand division, kept the French on the left hand side of the battlefield from helping stop my right-hand assault. The other brigade headed straight up the hill in line and began a firefight with the right hand end of the French line on the left: I took casualties, but this meant that they couldn't intervene either.

keeping the centre of the french line occupied (note the corps cavalry charging in on the right)

My full divisional column smashed up the hill against a single French brigade that had already been softened up by artillery. At the same time, my Corps cavalry came out from behind the infantry and charged the centre of the French left-hand line, which had become disordered as a result of the fire of the right hand brigade of what was now the centre division.

prussians assault the ridge

misere de misere!

It was carnage!

Although the French Chasseur battalion in the house protecting the left hand end of their line resisted all attempts to dislodge them, the left hand brigade lost three battalions and its artillery were over run...and that was before the cavalry hit.

The Cuirassiers (big men on big horses!) were disordered by the fire from the two French battalions in front of them, but kept going nevertheless. They slammed into the equally disordered French infantry that, effectively, ceased to exist!

At this point we called time and declared a Prussian victory. The right hand side of the ridge was in my hands, and it would not take much for me to wheel left and start to roll up the rest of his line in conjunction with a general advance from my left hand and now-centre divisions. The French retreated: battered!

the french right

keeping the french right occupied

It had been a great game: and a game that looked really good as well. There's something very satisfying about huge numbers of 6mm infantry or cavalry blocks manoeuvring around the tabletop.

Not that I'm going to switch to 6mm, I hasten to add...but I'll certainly have a some more games like this!

My thanks to Neil for putting on a great game. 

Vis Imperica Gallery: United States Army 1898

A small but perfectly formed army representing a United States army force for the Spanish-American War of 1898, although they have been used to fight Mexicans in 1840 and Native Americans throughout.

Another army that I bought rather than painted up myself. I was at Warfare in Reading when I spotted this big box of figures in the Bring-and-Buy. Now I'm not normally a B&B kind of person (I prefer to paint my own or buy painted from new) but the box was full of the army below and a Spanish army for the same period (c.f.). This was too good an opportunity to miss: as the sheer obscurity of the theatre was enough to suggest that one would never come across anything like this again.

I think the figures are from Freikorps. I did need to re-base them (surely the worst job in the world!) but that was a small price to pay for troops to fight in such a "splendid little war" (US Secretary of State John Hay).

Click here to see the whole gallery:

Vis Imperica Galleries: The French

My French figures have fought throughout the nineteenth century from the Crimea through the Franco-Austrian War, the Maximillian Adventure in Mexico, the Franco-Prussian War right up to the Boxer Rebellion in China. Obviously some of the units are specific to specific campaigns (the sombrero-wearing Marines for Mexico, for example) but I've never worried too much about getting exact representations.

The figures are almost from Freikorps: a manufacturer that I used a lot for my 19th century European armies. Must confess that I don't even know if they still exist now (if only we had an easily accessible source of the world's knowledge!) but I used to pour over the catalogue for hours on end.

These are still painted in simple block colours style, but are an improvement on some of my earlier work. I will eventually get around to highlighting them and flocking the bases which, I think, will improve them no end.

Click on the picture to go to the gallery.

Vis Imperica Galleries: The Later British

I've had a chance to add another gallery to the Vis Imperica, 19th Century section of the site: my Later British collection.

These were the first 15mm figures that I ever painted...and it shows! They are simple block paint jobs, no shading, no washing...and those eyes!

I look at these now and almost cringe...but then I remember that no-one starts out a genius painter: it's something that has to be learnt, like any other skill. I might be able to paint a lot better nowadays (as I said, to the point where these make me cringe) but everyone has to start somewhere. These serve as a good reminder of that. And, anyway, a quick wash and then a couple of highlights, and these would fit right in with my later efforts.

The army is split into two parts: those in mainly red jackets and based on 'grass' for southern Africa; and those mainly in khaki and based on 'sand' for the Sudan and North-West Frontier. Almost all the figures are from Essex Miniatures.

Click here or on the picture below to see the full gallery.

Zulus: Thousands of Them!

Some of you may have noticed a few gaps in my usual post-a-day regime lately. 

That's because I've been making a big push to finish the 19th Century section (or Vis Imperica) section of the website.

Well that's now done: with the last additions being the last of the battle reports from 1999-2002, and a content-dump of all my notes on the small wars of the 19th Century.

In celebration of the completion of the upload, I've finally gotten round to starting to photograph all my 19th Century figures, with the first gallery to be completed being that of the Zulus.

My 1879 Zulu Wars Zulu army was the first army I ever bought pre-painted. It must have been sometime in September or October 1987, and I had my first 'proper' job in an office on the Grey's Inn Road. in London.

I had just decided that 15mm colonial gaming was the thing for me, and had started painting up some British troops for the Zulu War: Essex figures if I remember correctly. Anyhow, up the road in King's Cross was a wargames shop called Gamers In Exile, now sadly  departed. I remember it as a cornucopia of painted armies for sale, one of which was the Zulus that form the bulk of what you can see in the gallery.

The Zulus have been well worth the money I paid for them (£300 IIRC). I only wish I knew the name of the person who painted them so brilliantly so that I could give him a credit here.

Click here to see the Zulu gallery.