Tuesday, September 22, 2009

From Russia With Love

...Or, how our protagonist finally manages to complete a major Russian formation for Borodino (and muses on why it took so ridiculously long).

Raievski's 7th Corps advances... cue the 1812 Overture.

Once again it's been nearly a month since I've posted, and once again it seems as if I've accomplished all too little over those weeks. True, I've now finished the Russian 7th Corps... but it's a small corps and a month ago I was a good two thirds of the way there already. If the Russian command had been this slow in 1812, Napoleon might have had an easier time of it.

Divide and Conquer

Having already flaunted the 12th Division in my last post, I've only got a single new one to show off now. This is the 26th Division, and like its counterpart, it comprises four regiments of line, and two of Jägers.

The Ladoga and Novgorod regiments. Again, the scenic possibilities of individually-based Adler miniatures is, I think, obvious.

My previous basing experiment with the French troops wading through a puddle turned out so nicely that I decided to repeat it with some Russians. Now, the bases I've been using are higher-quality MDF, with has a comparatively slick surface. Anyone who's used this stuff probably knows that glue doesn't adhere very well unless the base is scuffed a little, and indeed, I keep a bit of coarse sandpaper with my basing supples for that purpose. Naturally, being the careless fool that I am, I roughed up the area I'd set aside for the 'puddle', and as a result didn't quite end up with the same smoothe glossy surface I'd achieved with the French. Another lesson learned the hard way, I suppose.

Adler RN 20A - "Comd group, kiwer (3)". I've complained previously about how this code comes with only one standard bearer when it should have two. I'd also like to complain about the sedate pose of the officer-- sometimes you really just want one pointing with his sword.

One of the reasons I've made such slow progress with this project has been my tendency to paint more minis than I have room for on each base. The command figures are a case in point: in the entire Corps I only used five drummers, when I'd planned to use a dozen. Granted, this means that I've accumulated a fair stockpile of painted bits and bobs for the future, but I certainly intend to be more economical with my painting time as well.

The 5th and 42nd Jäger regiments. The lack of colours makes these guys much easier to distinguish at a distance than their French counterparts, although I may add more scenic elements to future Jäger bases to make them a bit more visually interesting.

One of the problems I've had with the Russian light infantry regiments especially is a lack of space. While the French lights come in a 'high porte' pose that frees up some real estate ahead of each formation, the Russians have no such luck. As a result, some of the skirmishers up front look like they're about a step away from getting bayonetted in the back. One solution, I suppose, would be to replace one (or both) of the Jäger regiments with figures in 'march attack' pose, i.e. with musket shouldered. The main problem with this is that I've already got far more minis than I need in the advancing pose! Some of them, I suspect, may find themselves painted as grenadiers one of these days...

The 26th Division in all its 6mm glory!

It doesn't matter if you're black or... green?

Russian uniform colours continue to remain something of a mystery to me. Most people seem to agree that their coats were green, but just how green is a matter of contention. Even in period paintings the coats can sometimes appear so dark as to be almost black, while at other times looking considerably lighter. Probably the best explanation I've heard argued is that green dyes were more prone than most to bleaching, and so a coat that began quite dark would gradually become more and more green.

The regiments from Poltava and Orel.

Then there's the pompoms. There is, apparently, some system for explaining their colour... but I have no idea what it is. In a couple of spots I've found what I think is a complete explanation, only to find illustrations depicting pompoms whose colour is explained nowhere. Happily, I'm quite willing to plough on in ignorance, painting pompoms whatever colour I damned well please.

A better view of the base, showing the standard bearer of the Orel regiment standing on a boulder, and having a chat with the mounted officer.

Finally there's the flags. Here, at least, there seems to be a coherent (if complicated) system. Only the four line regiments in each infantry division carry flags, and each of them gets different coloured flagstaves: white, yellow, brown or black, depending on their position in the formation. Each battalion of each regiment carries two flags: either one 'coloured' flag and one 'white' (or 'colonel's') for the first battalion, or two identical 'coloured' flags for the rest. A new flag design seems to have been created every few years, but whether or not any given formation carried the flag for any given year seems to have depended on any number of factors-- the unit's seniority, its battle honours, the Tsar's whim, etc.

Take me to your leader

An army corps needs a corps commander, naturally enough. The Russian 7th Corps was commanded by one Nikolai Nicolaievitch Raievski, dubbed by his countrymen the "Hero of Borodino". It was Raievski's corps who held the Great Redoubt, and who, for most of the battle, held it against several times their number of enemy troops (incidentally, two whole regiments were reputedly slaughtered to a man when the redoubt was taken).

A general of infantry. As usual, I had a hard time fitting everything I wanted to on the base.

With a general as renowned as Raievski to depict, I wish I could say I used a special figure. Alas, I did not. Adler offers a Russian generals pack with specific figures for a number of historical commanders, but it's quite the expensive collection of metal, as these things go. Someday, I'll get myself one... but not this day. Anyway, not only did I not use a specific Raievski figure, but I actually used an Austrian general. The Russian command strips I had contained a general in bicorne and an ADC in a kiwer; since I wanted a couple of bicorne-wearing generals, I snuck in the foreigner. In my defence, the Russian army of the day did employ quite a lot of mercenary officers.

Adler RN 2C - "Musketeer, kiwer, marching". The shako cords (kiwer cords?) on this code were not very pronounced. Whether this was because of unusually-poor sculpting or worn out molds, I don't know. In any case, all my attempts to paint the cords ended disastrously.

Of horse I love you

At long last, I also had a chance to check out some of the legendary Adler cavalry. Yes, they're considerably larger than any other 6mm horse-- and in point of fact the riders themselves scale poorly even compared to Adler's own infantry! However, despite many claims to the contrary, they are considerably smaller than even the smallest of 10mm cavalry.

Adler RNC 1B - "Hussar,slung Pelisse, kiwer". Amazing sculpting, although casting is hit and miss. I had one rider come with a broken sword.

As always, the added size of the Adler figs is used to good effect. The level of detail and dynamism shown in these models is exquisite-- when allowing for their scale, the hussars I painted have to be the best sculpts I have ever seen. Bar none. I only wish my painting was up to the same standards!

Adler RNC 2A - "Hussar, wearing Pelisse,kiwer". A little harder to identify as hussars from a distance, but easily mixed with their "slung Pelisse" counterparts for variety.

The added size of the cavalry also poses issues for basing. The Baccus standard is nine horsemen abreast for 60mm frontage; you'd have a difficult time matching this with Adlers. In my experience eight abreast would fit comfortably (7.5mm frontage per figure), while I opted for seven across, in keeping with my philosophy for this project of not sticking figures too close to the base edges.

The Achtirka Hussars. Their yellow-on-brown uniform is possibly the ugliest of all the Russian cavalry.

Other differences between manufacturers are also worth noting: while Baccus cavalry tend to be weak at the horses' ankles, the Adlers have no such weakness. On the other hand, the uplifted sabres of so many Adler codes are a definite weak spot. A few bent blades should be expected from careless handling, while I shudder at the thought of what a dropped base might do.

Adler RNC 10A - "Hussar, kiwer cmd". The cornet is nice, but the Russian hussars carried no flag as far as I've been able to determine. Oh well.

A Grand Battery

I also took a first crack at some artillery. The guns themselves were, if anything, the best of the lot. Not only is the sculpting up to the usual high standard, but I found the castings very crisp, lacking the excessive flash that made cleaning everything else such a chore.

Adler RNE 2 - "6 pdr". You can cue the 1812 Overture again.

The wheels are separate castings, and the same wheels are used for all the artillery I've seen, both French and Russian alike. The wheels are also very nicely cast, far better than many I've seen in larger scales. Although I've had a few come with flash clogging the spokes, Adler usually sends a few extra wheels along to ensure sufficient good ones-- a practice I wish other miniature manufacturers would emulate!

A battery of 6-pounders. Since one of the artillery crew is hefting a cannonball, I made the mistake of sticking him directly in front of the barrel on one of these bases. It looks pretty silly, and I shan't do it again.

The Russian artillery arm was in some ways the pride of their army. Throughout the period, Russian armies showed a marked tendency to dig in before a fight, shielding their batteries behind earthwork fortifications. Borodino was no exception to this, with Russian cannons occupying not only Raievski's Great Redoubt, but the three "Bagration flèches" as well. Since I figure I'll build myself some scenery for this project at some point, I refrained from depicting any kind of earthworks on the artillery bases themselves.

Adler RN 19A - "Artillery line crew". I'm not sure what the fellow on the left is supposed to be doing, but once again I found myself wishing for somebody pointing a sword.

Several thousand words worth of pictures

We now come to the part of the post where I shut up and let my camera do the talking ;)

So that's the Russian 7th Corps. It's not very big-- and I don't just say that because it's in 6mm. This would have been a formation of around 14,000 men, which, as I'm sure you'll agree, is not much more than scratching the surface of the 250,000-ish at Borodino. I've got a long way to go!

Next up, the French 1st Corps. Hopefully it won't take another month this time.


  1. Fantastic stuff. Love the hussars!
    The mass effect is quite spectacular

  2. Great work so far Mike. They look fantastic. Keep it up.

  3. Hey Mike, incredible work. I think your pace is not bad considering the top notch quality. These are as good or better than any 6mm figs I've seen.

  4. Excellent stuff Mike! Your basing gives a real sense of action and mass.

  5. Awesome, due to the Quality of the Painting it is no Wonder you need some time.......