Friday, March 12, 2010

French III Corps in 6mm, Part 1

...In which our protagonist, much to the surprise of everyone, proves not only that he isn't dead, but that he's been working on at least one of the projects he intended to work on this year. Furthermore, our protagonist at long last ceases trying to be clever in his post titles and simply tells it like it is.

93rd French line infantry and 2nd Portuguese Legion. A pretty tame base layout on this one, but it's exciting because it's new!

So it's been a while. I mean, I knew back in December that real life was going to start impinging on my hobby time, but I underestimated (or, to employ a George Dubyah-ism, misunderestimated) just how much it was going to impinge. Badly.

View from the rear. Both of these regiments would actually have comprised their own respective 'brigade' at Borodino, but as usual I've ignored such details and simply lumped them together on one base.

Nevertheless, perseverance has its rewards, and so with a daub of the paintbrush here and there I've managed to at least make a start of Marshal Ney's III Corps for the Borodino project. As I found with Davout's I Corps, even the best-available Orders of Battle can prove something of a mess. The problem is, making each base a brigade only sounds good until you do your research. Lo and behold, some brigades have two regiments and some only one; and since regiments can comprise anywhere from one to five battalions, a base could mean anywhere from one to ten battalions!

Adler BN 4B - "Centre comp Belgic advancing". These are British centre-company line infantry in the "Belgic" shako. Of course, the Belgic shako was copied from the Portuguese berretina shako, which saw service both with the Portuguese fighting alongside the Britsh in Spain, and with the Portuguese Legion in French service.

Naturally, the best way to avoid such problems is to simply ignore them. In practice, this means that every base represents two regiments, and, in the finest traditions of abstraction, every regiment gets the same number of troops, give or take.

Adler BN 20B - "Command Belgic (5)". Each strip actually comes with two flag bearers, as British battalions carry two colours. 

Likewise, "good enough" tends to be the rule when it comes to figures. While Adler boasts a jaw-droppingly prolific range of French infantry, the same can't be said for their selection of Portuguese. These doughty troops, be they for Braganza or Bonaparte, are pretty much stuck with being paint-converted British figures. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing; it means even if you're doing the 1812 Russian campaign you get to try your paintbrush out on a few Brits (albeit not in their famous red coats).

72nd and 46th of the line. You can see the difference between this base, representing 8 battalions, and the one above, representing 5 battalions. Yep, the difference suuuuure is clear. 

Speaking of Adler's French range, it's sometimes bewildering to try to make heads or tails of all the different figures. For instance, the line infantry alone come with shako cords and bundled greatcoats on their packs, with no shako cords and rolled greatcoats worn over one shoulder, with bundled greatcoats, shako cords and epaulettes, with shako plumes, wearing greatcoats, at high porte, low porte, marching, firing, reloading-- and that's just for the 1812 warrant uniforms! For the sake of my bank account (not to mention my sanity), I find myself having to resist the temptation to do at least a unit of each.

The view from behind. The rearmost line regiment shown here has actually been assembled from spare light infantrymen I had. Running out of figures has certainly never been a problem of mine!

At the same time, even while I try vainly to paint my supply of French in "Bardin" uniform, I find myself wishing I'd gotten some troops in the earlier uniform. After all, experts will point out that most of the French army in 1812 would still be wearing the older style; and this would also be the uniform of the Wagram campaign, of the Peninsular War, maybe even of some units in the Polish campaign back in 1807-08.

Adler FN 21B - "Mounted Officers (1812)". These fellows can claim the colonelcy of many a regiment.

Not that I'm planning to branch out into Wagram or Spain anytime soon. After all, I've barely scratched the surface of 1812. Besides, there are plenty of other campaigns for showcasing the late-uniform French: Napoleon's revenge on the Russians at L├╝tzen, Bautzen, and Dresden; the granddaddy of all Napoleonic battles at Leipzig; the later Peninsular War; the brilliant defence of France in 1814; and, of course, the (in)famous Hundred Days ending at Waterloo. Sure, everyone else wears some kind of shako after 1812, which does take some of the variety out of Napoleonics. But that doesn't mean they can't still look great-- as I hope to someday have a chance to prove (ha ha ha. Keep dreaming, Mike).

4th and 18th of the line. These two regiments were among the most decorated units in the French army, the 18th earning the nickname "the Brave". Along with the rest of Ney's corps, both were virtually destroyed during the 1812 campaign, the 18th losing its eagle to the Russian Lifeguard Uhlans during the running battle at Krasnoiye.

Not content simply to make a muddle of brigades and regiments and battalions, I decided to go one step further along the road to confusion. Although I've started my III Corps wearing 1812 uniforms, I've given them the flags to go with the early uniform. New uniforms, old flags-- make sense? Well, probably not, but at least it gives me an easy way to visually differentiate between Ney's units (with the old flags) and Davout's (with the new).

I showed this picture back in December, which I guess reveals that not all my 'new' content is, in fact, new. So sue me. Anyways, I was trying to depict a formation clambering over rocky ground, but it didn't turn out all that great. Perhaps I'll try again some time.

Probably the best solution to my uniform woes would be for me to just start doing my French troops in greatcoats and shako covers. Of course I'd still be SOL for the Revolution and early Empire, when they wore bicornes, but at least I'd be covered for everything after that. More or less-- I guess I'd still have those blasted flags to worry about!

The 93rd of the line and... a mystery regiment! Ney had an odd number of regiments at Borodino, so I've filled in this base with an unspecified unit.

Along with wishing you'd done something else, one of the dangers of going too long without working on a project is that you forget what you were doing. Which figures are intended for what, where are they, and what is it I'm supposed to do again? After my recent hiatus, I confess having had recourse to my painting guide for French infantry, painting guide for horses, and basing tutorial. I suppose I should also confess to being a shameless self promoter, too.

Another view of the same, showing a few casualties in the line. What's got them? Cannister? Solid shot? Musket fire? Or are they just sleeping on the job like I keep telling people?

So that's the start of Ney's III Corps. A pretty pathetic start I know, but more is on the way. I'm hoping for some better photography on the next round too, if I can find my other light.


  1. Hooray! Mike is back. Great post.

  2. Even though I do not like the Nappy period I have to say that these figures blew me away and I only wish I could do my 15mm this well. The work you have put into this will look wonderful when you have a table full.


  3. Great to see you back.

    What rules have you based these guys for? Obviously not a tactical set. Maybe Polemos?

  4. Welcome back Mike; missed your dry sense of humour and great photos of your little guys!

    I rather like your 'clambering over rocks' base - I think the officer out front looks as if he is just about to start shouting about re-dressing their lines...

    Keep up the good work when you have time, look forward to seeing more.

  5. Similar vein of question as David above .. what is the thinking behind the number of troops you fill a base with ?? And what rules are all your "vignettes" designed in mind for ??

  6. David: yeah, I'm using bases sized for the grand tactical version of Polemos (60x60mm for inf and cav brigades, 30x30mm for batteries and divisional command), but they would also work for Grand Armee, Steve's Paintingshed rules, etc. I haven't really been doing this project with an eye for rules, as my current gaming table is only a 2-foot square (i.e. already too small)! Some day I'll figure it all out...

    M: There are two rules that dictate how many figs I put on a base:
    1) leave space around the base edges to prevent handling damage, and;
    2) stick enough guys on there to make it look good without getting too crowded.
    I'm not a purist; I quite intentionally opted out of any attempt to depict a specific figure ratio or ground scale.

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