Friday, January 1, 2010

A Napoleonic Renaissance -- part II: the French

I can hardly believe that about six month ago I sat at my workbench and I seriously considered to get rid of all my 15mm Napoleonic miniatures! What a difference six months do. There were a couple of reasons, definitely not that compelling (!), behind that thought. Maybe the idea was not much leaving the Napoleonic period, but rebuilding it in a different scale other than 15mm (6mm? 10mm?) Maybe it was a sense that momentum was lost in my Napoleonic project, as I had not done any progress on it for several months. Maybe it was an issue with esthetics: 15mm Napoleonic miniatures were my way into the hobby in the late 1980s (ouch!), and I sense I have been dragging them around too long, with too many changes of heart about rules, basing, and painting styles (I do paint much better today than in 1990... and I paint with acrylics rather than enamel.)

Anyway: I am glad I did not make that mistake, and I am now working full steam on Napoleonic miniatures with a renewed enthusiasm. Lesson learned: if I am into a period, it is because I made a thoughtful decision in the first place, and despite the momentarily ebb-and-flow of my interests, there is a long-term reason for sticking with it.

One positive outcome of my mid-summer crisis is a complete rethinking of the organization for my armies. I will start today with a review of my "new" French, and will add more later about the Austrian.

First of all, I stated a goal. I want an organization that will be historically plausible, and that will provide me with an immediate identification of all the units on the terrain without having to add labels to the bases. And I want an organization system that fits well with my units, 12-miniature "battalions" each made of four 3-miniature stands. (I'll use "battalion" as label of convenience; depending by the rules, my 12-miniature unit may in fact represent a battalion, a regiment, or even a brigade.)

Here's what I came up with. I arrange my battalions into regiments, each with three battalions. In order to visualize the differences and to easily ID them, I color-coded them based on the pompom on the shako. Thus, the miniatures in the first four regiments will respectively wear red, blue, green, and yellow pompom. And in order to differentiate among the three battalions in each regiment, I made a unique base for each of them: the first unit has a command base, with officer, tambourine and standard bearer; the second battalion has a grenadiers stand, where grenadiers wear red plume -- and one of them a bicolor plume with red and the regimental color; the third battalion will include a voltigeurs stand, with green plumes but for one bicolor one with green and regimental color. It's convoluted to write, but very easy in practice: just by looking at the unit, you will spot the color of the pompon and by the nature of the fourth stand (command, grenadier or voltigeur) you will immediately know what unit it is!

This is the theory. In practice, the adoption of this new "model" has required a few adjustment. First, I had to re-base several stands of French infantry. Never a fun job. Then I had to make an order for the voltigeur, which I am still waiting, thus I am hanging until USPS will deliver the package. Fortunately, I had some grenadiers around, so I have been able to work on them. Pompoms need to be re-painted. And, since I am at it, I am taking the opportunity to add a few touches to the old Ligne infantry, which was painted years ago on... a different standard. This is a work in progress, but I can share some preliminary photos. Here I have added the Litko bases for the missing miniatures (voltigeurs, the grenadiers and fusiliers still on the painting deck.)

Not shown, there are several other infantry units that will complement my army. Two battalions each of Guard chassuers and Guard grenadiers; four battalions of infantry in bicorne; two battalions of infantry in overcoat. I only have one unit of Legere, but by the end of the year I would not mind to add two or three more.

Now for the cavalry. Currently, I have one unit of cuirassiers and three units of chasseurs a cheval. In order to keep the distribution of units balanced in historical terms, I recently ordered another unit of cuirassier, and two each of hussars and dragoons, plus one of lancers de Kleve-Berg. For the Guard, I have a unit of Empress Dragoons and I hope to add soon some Polish Lancers (New Year's resolution #2!) This should result in a good variety of units for my battles!

Finally, the artillery. Still a work in progress; I have some 4-pdr and 12-pdr, and a lot more in the order being delivered. I confess that my thinking is still evolving on this, but once my package will be here, there will be the opportunity to come to some conclusions. ideally, I'd like to have units for line foot and horse, plus at least one guard unit. We'll see how to proceed on that front.

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