French and Indian War: Woodland Indians from North Star Military Figures

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With the majority of my core 28mm forces for my French and Indian War gaming complete, I’ve been focusing on filling out my model variety with more Indian figures from a number of manufacturers. The FIW lends itself to having a lot of different Native American models on the table, given the numerous North American tribes which participated in the conflict. Most of my Indians are from Conquest Miniatures distributed by Warlord Games but my next few posts are focusing on some small units I’ve been adding from other makers.
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First up are a half dozen figures from North Star Military Figures. Until recently, Northstar was manufacturing figures packaged specifically for use with the very popular Muskets & Tomahawks rules set. With a second edition of M&T pending at some unnamed future date, Northstar recently put their figure line on hold.
Fortunately I had grabbed a pack of Indian reinforcements at a convention earlier this year. The six models, armed with muskets and hatchets, all come with nice detail of equipment, jewelry and some hooded frocks. I chose to paint them in colorful reds, greens and blues, reflecting the steady trade of European goods during the era. The sculpts are solid with a real 28mm feel a bit larger than my Conquests which stand closer to 25mm. With these Northstar Indians, my native forces have grown in variety and scale as I build out a larger group of allies for my French.
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French and Indian War: British Regular Infantry from Blue Moon Manufacturing

 

In continuing to build out my collection of  British Redcoats for the French and Indian War, I’ve turned to Blue Moon Manufacturing — an old standard in wargaming miniatures.

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Blue Moon produces a tight selection of metal 28mm figures in a line called “Drums In The Ohio Valley.” I picked up a box of 30 marching British which includes two commanders, two NCOs, four flag bearers, two drummers and 20 soldiers marching at shoulder arms. The officers all come resting with pole arms, something commonly found in FIW miniatures but little seen in the wooded areas of battle of the period. Four flag bearers were twice as many as I needed and the drummers are nice to have but not necessary at the skirmish scale and rulesets I play. I set these figures aside for another day and turned to the many body of troops.

IMG_9554Blue Moon British stand ready to receive paint

Since these models are going to be sharing the table with my other British from Conquest Miniatures sold by Warlord Games, I made some immediate comparisons in casting and scales. The Conquest figures tend to be a bit thin and lean toward 25mm. The chunkier Blue Moon miniatures are a full 28mm and more heroic in scale. My Virginia Provincials from Galloping Major scale more equally with these Blue Moon models.

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Thick base (right) filed to a thinner height (left)

A main factor in driving the size differential among manufacturers is that the Blue Moon British stand overly tall on thick bases. I had been forewarned of this but I was pretty surprised at how this little extra amount of metal made the size noticeably different. With some tedious cutting and filing, I brought them down a bit in height to be a bit more in line with the height of the Conquest models.

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Brass rod inserted as a flag pole

The flag bearers also required some small brass rod to be cut and inserted through holes I drilled through their hands. This gave me the excuse to acquire a pin vise drill, a long overdue addition to my hobby kit. In all, there was a lot of prep work on the Blue Moon figures before I could start any painting.

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My painting area swarming with British being prepped for painting

The Blue Moon line of figures fits exactly with my focus for the war. I’m painting all my British soldiers of the period to represent the 44th Regiment of Foot mostly for their presence in the Ohio Country, specifically in the Braddock Expedition and the Battle of the Monongahela.

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Based and ready for priming

After basing the models on washers, filling the bases with rough wood filler and spraying a black primer coat, I blocked in the colors. I didn’t get carried away on exact colors, relying on a basic red for the coats, waistcoats and pants, basic yellow for the facings and a brown buff for the leggings.

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Coats and leggings blocked in starting on hat trim

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Details begun on the lapels, turn backs and cuffs

The cuffs were done in two steps, first with a thick bright white stripe and then finished with a thin line of yellow. With a fine brush, white details were added on the basic black tricorn hats and on trim to the waistcoats and lapels.

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Equipment straps and white uniform detail progressing

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Most colors blocked in and just needing some final details, clean-up and shading

Details were finished off with the same brown buff on stripes and belts, a basic brown to the guns and metal to finish off the guns, bayonets and officer swords. Finally, flesh and eyes were painted. Exposed skin and the leather leggings and straps got a careful light coat of brown wash to finish the painting. I had leftover flag photocopies from my previous British so my standards would all blend together nicely. Finally, the bases were covered with my favorite groundcover – Green Adirondack from Scenic Express.

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French and Indian War: Compagnie Franches de la Marine from Conquest Miniatures

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By the time open conflict between French and British forces erupted in the French and Indian War in 1754, the French were well experienced with the challenges posed by the North American wilderness. In varying forms, the Compagnies Franches de la Marine made up the majority of the defenders of the colonies of New France for about 100 years. Operating from Canada, their skill in adaptive combat made them ubiquitous in engagements large and small throughout the FIW, including the Battle of the Monongahela, the Siege of Fort William Henry, Battle of Snowshoes and the Battle of Fort Carillion.

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WarlordlogoWarlord Games offers a boxed set of Compagnies Franches de la Marine featuring twenty metal models from Conquest Miniatures. Conquest’s castings tend to be on the smaller side of 28mm scale — a bit closer to 25mm in my experience. That said, I’ve found my experience with their various FIW ranges to be excellent and full of detail. This set of one officer and nineteen soldiers armed with muskets is a fantastic way to get a couple units on the table usable in a variety of scenarios throughout the FIW.

Work in progress of the Conquest miniatures Compagnies Franches de la Marine boxed set from Warlord Games

Uniforms for the Compagnies Franches de la Marine were officially quite similar to regular French troops with white jackets with blue cuffs and turnbacks, blue waistcoats, blue breeches and white trousers, all topped with a yellow-laced tricorne hat. More commonly the irregular nature of these units assignments in the field led to more adaptive uniforms and gear. Slouched  blue and white forage hats, loose shirts, leather leggings and colorful sashes were used in a combination of looks. Daggers, hatchets and short swords filled provided practical frontier weaponry. Bags, satchels and jewelry — often traded with close Indian allies — allowed individual French soldiers to individually kit themselves out as they saw fit.

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The lack of formal uniforms in these soldiers makes for a lot of the fun in painting them. Using my imagination allowed me to field a model who could be used as a scout dressed in a long fringed leather buckskin coat (above, left). The included officer model (above, right) maintains his more formal appearance with his tricorne hat and dress uniform while gesturing a command with his left hand and leaning on his musket with the right.

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The remainder of the models each carry a unique poses of their own, making these Frenchmen pleasure to paint and a nice break in the action from the regular 18th-century uniforms so present during the FIW and on the gaming table.

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French and Indian War: Woodland Indians from Conquest Miniatures

After facing my fear of painting all the details on my first 18th-century British Redcoats, I turned next to North American Indians and another challenge – painting lots of flesh. Getting Indians in the mix with my French and Indian War gaming project was key, and my focus on the era of the Braddock Expedition and the Battle of the Monongahela meant I was going to need lots of Indians. In addition and since both the British and the French allied with different tribes throughout the war, I was going to need a fair amount of variety from the figures I chose.

 

As I entered into modelling my first North American Indians of the 18th-century, I went to two books. Jill Lepore’s The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity (1998) focuses on how warfare in New England in the 1670s shaped the mindsets of European settlers as well the native people they encountered. In a follow-up of sorts, Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (2007) by Peter Silver picks up this thread in the Mid-Atlantic colonies of the 1700s as multiple nationalities and ethnicities of Europeans again ran up against a population of natives set on halting the expansion of these new arrivals. Both books are remarkable and still ring as relevant to this day as fear and violence remain a cultural and poltical driver as we Americans continue to grapple with new cultures of people looking to share space.

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With a bit of reading under my belt, I was fortunate to have a fellow member at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY who had piles of extra Indians from Conquest Miniatures sitting in a box. These metal cast models are now carried by Warlord Games in both boxed sets like the Woodland Indian War Party and in smaller packages. From my friend’s stash and without duplicating poses, I was able to pull out a couple dozen different models to build my initial Indian force. The models show a lot of unique personality and equipment with both traditional weapons (bows, war clubs, knives and hatchets) and European guns. The mode of dress also varies, with some figures wearing only the minimum of a loincloth and leggings while others are in long-sleeved shirts.
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My first Indians get their base flesh coat
As per my usual process at this scale, all the metal was cleaned up, the figures were based on washers and the bases were filled in roughly with wood putty. After a black spray coat, the first challenge was in finding a proper flesh tone to represent Native woodland Indians of northeastern North America. I read a lot online debate on how to capture the skin tone of a varied people, so I settled on a two-part process of my own.
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A second lighter flesh coat is added
Over the black primer I applied a first coat to exposed skin areas using a 50/50 mix of red and dark brown paints. As the paint was drying, I immediately noticed the skin was a good dark color but translating as overly red even at arm’s length. In order to preserve the richness of the color while also tempering the bright redness, I gently dry brushed a coat of light brown over all the skin areas again. Once dried a second time, I felt I had a fairly decent tabletop rendition of skin tone capturing the creases, shadows and shape of the bared muscles without tipping into caricature.
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Details in equipment and clothing begin to be blocked out
As opposed to the sameness of European uniforms of the FIW period, the real fun in painting these Indian models is in the imagination that can be put into them. Not surprisingly, there’s not much of a detailed historic visual record of exact modes of dress for Native Americans of this period. With that, I let my creativity reign. Most leggings, loincloths and satchels got a basic leather brown color with fringe highlighted in slightly lighter brown. Jewelry such as necklaces, earrings and bracelets got a mix of metallic and red, blue or green colors to represent precious stones or trade beads.
Since decoration was very prominent with most tribes of the Northeast, all bags, leggings, belts and other gear got a mix of geometric patterns applied to represent this native craftsmanship. Detail also extended to some of the flesh on the models, with most receiving body paints or tattoos in red, dark blue, black and white. In the end some of the figures wound up with their arms, heads or even entire torsos covered in paint.
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Painted models are finished off in a woodland-like basing mix
While half the models carried the look of their native cultures, the other models sported more European-style clothing with long shirts, blankets and leggings, all of which were done in various colors. I especially liked one figure who seems to be striding along proudly wearing a captured British red coat. With everything painted, the bases were finished with Green Adirondack ground cover from Scenic Express.
My first two dozen completed Indians wound up dividing nicely into two groups of twelve. This will make them easier to identify as diffrent units on the same side or different tribes altogther choosing to swing their aliance to the opposing British and French.
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French and Indian War: British Regular Infantry from Conquest Miniatures

French Indian War 1754-1763: British Regular Infantry boxed set

I’m a longtime miniatures painter in multiple scales and periods, but the 18th-century has always intimidated me. Large masses of European troops standing in lines, a sameness of pose and uniform bedecked with multicolored facings and detail all seemed a bit much. And if I was going to be playing the French and Indian War I was going to need British Redcoats – lots of British Redcoats.

I turned to a couple books to stoke my interest I turned to a couple books focused on my soon-to-be subjects. An old standby in the hobby is Osprey Publishing, and I picked up a copy of 1996’s British Redcoat, 1740-93 by Stuart Reid. While good for a few detailed illustrations by Richard Hook, the slim volume also gives a solid intro into the recruitment, training and life of a British soldier of the period. My interest piqued, I dove deeper into the topic with Stephen Brumwell’s Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755-1763 from 2002. The book is scholarly yet very readable, and Brumwell goes a long way in smashing common myths about English soldiering during the FIW.

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With inspiration fired, I picked my first set of metal figures in the British Regular Infantry box offered by Warlord Games. Made from castings by Conquest Miniatures, the box comes with a nice selection of 18 models: four men firing, eight marching aggressively forward and a six-man command group including two flag bearers, a drummer, two junior officers and a commander.

I decided to paint my first British soldiers of the period to represent the 44th Regiment of Foot due to their role in the Braddock Expedition, the Battle of the Monongahela and other major engagements of the FIW. For my first time painting facings, I also thought the bright yellow against the red of the 44th Foot would also pop nicely on the table.

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My first test redcoat with basic colors blocked in

After basing the models on washers, filling the bases with rough wood filler and spraying a black primer coat, I blocked in the colors. I didn’t get carried away on exact colors, relying on a basic red for the coats, waistcoats and pants, basic yellow for the facings and a brown buff for the leggings. The cuffs were done in two steps, first with a bright white and then finished with a thin line of yellow. With a fine brush, white details were added on the basic black tricorn hats and on trim to the waistcoats and lapels.

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Halfway through my first batch of British Redcoats

Details were finished off with the same brown buff on stripes and belts, a basic brown to the guns and metal to finish off the guns, bayonets and officer swords. Finally, flesh and eyes were painted. Exposed skin and the leather leggings and straps got a careful light coat of brown wash to finish the painting. Flags were made by photocopying those included in the Warlord box, the bases were covered in my new favorite groundcover – Green Adirondack from Scenic Express.

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28mm: German Veteran Grenadier Squad and Kubelwagen from Warlord Games

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By 1942 the term Panzergrenadier was applied widely to German infantry. In support of Panzer divisions and then deploying on their own, the abbreviated Grenadier became the widely used term for World War II German forces. In mixed uniforms and organized into divisions utilizing combined arms, the Grenadiers were the main fighting force on the ground as Germany defended the eventual invasions by the Allies on the Eastern and Western fronts.

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To round out my metal German collections, I picked up the Warlord Games German Veteran Grenadiers boxed set with a gift voucher at a recent convention. The ten cast figures are each armed with the Sturmgewehr 44 (StG 44) assault rifle from late in the war. I like the variety in the uniforms and kit with a mix of camouflaged pants, ponchos and helmets making each a very unique model. I could be a little happier with the face detail which comes off a bit unrealistically exaggerated at times. That said, the models all scale nicely with my other Grenadiers from Artizan Designs.

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Painting 28mm German Grenadiers

  1. Clean flash from metal models with a sharp knife and glue to metal washer or plastic bases.
  2. Apply filler putty to bases. When dry, scrape off excess with a sharp knife.
  3. Basecoat models and bases with flat black spray primer.
  4. Paint smocks and helmets with Tallarn Sand.
  5. Paint pants, soft hats, officer greatcoat and gas mask containers with Skavenlight Dinge.
  6. Paint camouflage on helmets and smocks with alternating Waaagh! Flesh and Dark Brown.
  7. Paint faces and hands with Tallarn Flesh.
  8. Paint packs with Baneblade Brown.
  9. Paint boots and equipment straps Black.
  10. Paint bases, gun stocks, water bottles and helmet straps with Dark Brown.
  11. Apply Agrax Earthshade wash to uniforms, helmet netting, webbing and packs.
  12. Mix 50/50 Baneblade Brown and Off White and lightly dry brush packs, webbing, socks and holsters.
  13. Dry brush pants, soft hats and officer great coat with Light Grey.
  14. Lightly dry brush bases and gun stocks with Baneblade Brown.
  15. Paint metal gun and water bottle parts with black and finish with a light dry brush of Metallic Silver.
  16. Dry brush gasmask containers with metallic Silver.
  17. Paint eyes with small dots of Off White and Dark Brown. Clean up around eyes with Tallarn Flesh.
  18. Mix 50/50 Tallarn Flesh and Off White and brush highlights on cheekbones, chins, forehead, nose and hands.
  19. Cover bases in white glue and cover in 50/50 mix of fine light green and dark green grass flock.
  20. Glue small pieces of clump foliage to base.
  21. Spray coat completed models with matte finish.

Aside from my  quick painting method of my new Grenadiers as per the above, I’ve added in the Kubelwagen model from Warlord. I love this neat little metal vehicle cast with some nice detailing and a variety of heads to choose from for the driver. The metal model glues of fast, but I was disappointed that the finicky machine gun mount broke during construction. I added a little bit of plastic to the windshield frame to add both some strength and a dash of realism to the car.

Despite a couple minor criticisms, my new Warlord Germans are a nice addition to my growing Axis force.

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28mm: Comparing WWII models

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It is indisputable that war has been under continuous change over the centuries with evolutions in arms, tactics and scale. Soldiers themselves have also changed from era to era, owing to changes in diet, fitness standards and healthcare. The size of soldiers have also been used to promote propaganda of superiority for one nation over another, often falling back on nationalistic or stereotyped perceptions of one country’s peoples over another. Thus, photos like the one above from the Boxer Rebellion are instructive but potentially do not tell the whole story of how an entire nation’s soldiers may have measured up against their allies and enemies.

A 1986 paper on the physical characteristics of US soldiers in 1864, 1919, 1946 and 1986 depicts the average World War II era US male soldier to have been 5 feet 8 inches tall and about 155 pounds. There can also be no doubt that within these averages there was a great deal of variation from man to man and at what point in their service they were measured. So, while we may be able to get at some sense of the size of the average fighting man in World War II’s US military, each man was an individual.

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Historical miniatures gamers spend a lot of time talking about scale, and I have fielded WWII miniatures from numerous manufacturers in 6mm, 15mm and 28mm while also occasionally playing in 20mm with other collectors at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. For my recent projects, I’ve focused on 28mm US Airborne and German forces with models from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games.

I’ve sourced my 28mm WWII miniatures from three separate makers for a few reasons. Firstly, I prefer metal figures for their durability, heft on the table and quickness in getting them painted up and ready to play without a lot of assembly. Some modellers will blanch at the higher cost of metal, but my opinions of pluses justify the investment. I also prefer not to duplicate poses, so purchasing across manufacturers allows me to have every model be a unique representation of a soldier or officer in the field. Third, although some outstanding plastic options are available, I like the detail that comes through with a good metal sculpt and casting. Finally, Black Tree Design in particular runs weekly sales which makes frequent orders of their miniatures a great deal when looking to field a sizable force from any number of available WWII Axis and Allied nations.

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28mm US Airborne NCOs from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

By way of comparison, I’ve first taken a few images of US Airborne figures from the three manufacturers I use and also seem to be the most commonly cited within the WWII gamer community. In the first photo above, three NCOs stand side-by-side. The figures from Artizan and Warlord on either end show similar details in equipment and bulky helmets. The Black Tree model in the middle shows slightly less detail in the netting on the smaller helmet and carried equipment, but his pose calmly smoking a cigarette makes him one of my favorites.

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28mm US Airborne riflemen from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

In the second photo above, I’ve got three riflemen in slightly similar battle-ready poses. Again, the Artizan and Warlord figures on each end are a bit more bulky and the bandage pack strapped to the helmet of the Artizan figure creates some nice variety. At the middle, the Black Tree soldier’s standard helmet without the camouflage netting likewise breaks up the sameness of how the soldiers are kitted out without sacrificing a single bit of detail.

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Equipment detail on 28mm US Airborne riflemen from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

Having a look at the equipment detail at the rear of each manufacturer’s models is also useful in the picture above. Again, the models from both Artizan and Warlord are most burdened with packs, multiple ammo pouches and canteens. The Warlord figure is also toting a shovel at his left hip and even more extra pouches. On the other hand, the Black Tree soldier is traveling a bit lighter with only a canteen to one side and an ammo pouch on the other. I take the differences in equipment as representative of different soldiers who lost, dumped or acquired more equipment depending on their specific roles and points in their mission.

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28mm US Airborne riflemen from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right) in front of a M4A3 Sherman from Rubicon Models

Next up, the photo above takes on the often-argued topic of soldiers and armor scale when playing at 28mm. The three riflemen stand in front of a M4A3 Sherman from Rubicon Models. To my eye, the tank does seem a bit undersized for its listed 1/56 28mm model scale when set next to soldiers from three different companies.

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The M4A3 Sherman from Rubicon Models and a US Willys Jeep from Warlord Games

Comparing sizes of vehicles across two manufacturers also depicts a fair amount of difference in perceived scale. One of my recently completed US Willys Jeep models from Warlord sits next to the Rubicon Sherman in the photo above. While the tank looked small against standing infantry, the Jeep looks to be a bit better at scale.

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A photo from near the end of WWII in featuring captured German officers and US GIs in a US Jeep next to a US tank

By way of comparison, historical miniatures gamers like me often rely on WWII period photos to show variations between troops and vehicles. The photo above depicts a US Jeep alongside a tank toward the end of the war in Europe. Despite the documentary nature of photographs, they can be deceptive in representing reality in terms of the angle, perspective and depth of field from when the photo was taken. Compared to my Jeep and tank models, the photo does inform a bit about real-world scale. My model Jeep’s hood measures up at a height about equal to the treads on the tank model. That said, the historical photo perhaps doesn’t present the full story given the placement of the Jeep in the foreground with the tank behind.

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28mm German infantry from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

Aside from my US Airborne models, I also have a good sized collection of German troops. Most of these are from Artizan and Black Tree, and I’ve only just recently added some Warlord Grenadiers armed with assault rifles to the mix. In the first photo above, I have three soldiers walking forward, guns at the ready. The partially camouflaged Grenadiers from Artizan and Warlord on either end flank a Wehrmacht soldier from Black Tree at center. With these figures I find little difference in scale and sculpt across manufacturers, and only their differing equipment, uniforms and weapons set them apart.

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Equipment detail on 28mm German infantry from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

Above I have some rear detail of equipment carried by soldiers from each maker. In the case of these soldier models, both the Black Tree and Warlord kit are my favorite both in detail and how it hangs from their backs and sides back with a shovel, mess kits, water bottle,s ammo pouches and rolled ponchos or bedding all included. The Artizan model is only carrying a couple items and his pack is a bit larger than that on the Warlord model, but all three form a diverse compliment of presentation.

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28mm German officers from Artizan Designs and Black Tree Design (left to right) in front of a Warlord Kubelwagen

For comparing Germans to a vehicle, I’ve got officers from Artizan and Black Tree alongside a Warlord Kubelwagen. The officer from Black Tree is perhaps a bit broad with his sculpting but no less animated as the Artizan model who stands confidently with a battle plan and hand firmly on his left hip. The driver from Warlord sits well with scale of the standing soldiers, and the two officers look as though they would fit nicely in the rear of the car to be chauffeured to the front.

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A WWII photo of German officers conferring in and around a Kubelwagen

As with the US vehicles, I’ve found a historic photo for comparison with a variety of officers and soldiers standing and sitting in and around a Kubelwagen.These real life men and their small car reveal the accuracy in the models I’ve got ready for the table.

No pictures, whether taken from WWII or snapped on the workbench, are going to tell the full story of how men and machines stack up. Modellers and gamers will gravitate to a mix of models that fit their tastes in cost, material, sculpt, diversity and historical accuracy as they see fit for their use. That said, when I have a look at my 28mm metal armies recruited from three leading manufacturers, I find them all well-equipped and scaled to take the field together.