Sunday, 29 March 2015

Grande Armee: Basing 6mm Austrians for the Austrian Hauptarmee of 1809

The thing about Grande Armee and 6mm figures is that there is just so damned many of them to paint... but even after you have achieved all of the hard yards, those mini masterpieces can still end up looking like an absolute heap of shite!

With the size of the figures being what they are (yes, for those of you out there that are not so maths flash the figures are about 6mm tall from bottom of boot to eyes, or about half of your little finger nail in height!) if you are a foot or more back from them they all kind of blue into one!

...or do I need glasses?

So it becomes a question of sculpting the bases to be interesting enough to draw the eye into a closer analysis of the miniatures themselves.

Grande Armee, being a rule system that allows manoeuvre at an army level, as opposed to a divisional or brigade level, it stands to reason that each of the 3" square bases represent a 'zone of control' for the regimental and brigade groupings that are on the base... which for us modellers out there roughly translates as 'room to sculpt a beautiful Garden of Eden on each and every base!'.

So... here is an example of one of my humble efforts at basing 6mm figures and how I did it!

Following on from where we left IR42 on its nice wooden base I opted to rebase on thicker MDF bases which would likely take a lot more beating from moisture ridden products such as PVA glue and such like.

Once transferred onto the base, and the figures left to set properly the base then needs to have its ground covering. The entirety of the base, including in between the miniatures is given a liberal covering of PVA glue and is then smothered under fine grade sand. Mine has small grit mixed into it as well. This is then shaken off and the base tapped until all loose material is removed.

Once the ground covering is left to dry solid the base then has a heavy dry brush of Vallejo Pale Sand applied to it. High summer in Austria is dry... (the weather around the Battle of Wagram notwithstanding of course!). This provides the high contrast heavily textured base covering.

In order to maintain the presentability of the miniature bases the final stage of painting is to recover the edges of the base in matt black. The black base lining isolate the base from the model scenery on the table and focusses the eye on it.

The next thing to do in the base scultpting is apply the grass layer... and so out comes the trusty 'Flockbox' by Warpainter. As these are 6mm figures and European grass being what it is I opted to use 1mm Static Grass and chose a mixed coloration. I don't really like the vivid green flocks as they are too gaudy to use at 6mm. That kind of colouring is better suited to larger scales.

If you look at photographs taken from altitude you will notice that the environments colours have been somewhat leached from what you see. Because of this I prefer to opt for colours that are a little more muted which is why I opt for the mixed colouring.

The base is painted in area blocks with PVA glue to emulate terrain with broken grass coverage, with the base then inverted and travelled back and forth over the Flockbox laden with static grass.

The result is as you see...

The very final stage is the addition to the base of the scenic items like random rocks, shrubs and hedges...

These scenery items comprise model railway cork scatter which is diced and sliced into suitable rock shapes, and artificial foliage which is used for both shrubs and hedgerows.

The finished result should give an overall impression of landscape that your average soldier would be willing to die for ....

.... and here for your perusal is the entire Austrian I Corp for Grande Armee

Et Voila!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Grande Armee: Painting the infantry of Archduke Charles Austrian Hauptarmee of 1809 in 6mm

Archduke Charles of Austria has gone down in history as one of the only men who ever defeated Napoleon on the field of battle whilst in sole command of his army (as opposed to coalition armies such as that at Leipzig in 1813) at Aspern-Essling in the Danube campaign of 1809.

Having a learnt contempt of Austrian battlefield abilities stemming from numerous Austrian defeats over the last decade Napoleon was also contemptuous of the abilities of the Austrian Emperors brother Charles.

Charles was a manic depressive, criticised roundly by his contemporary Von Clausewitz for being cautious BUT was an organisational genius who rebuilt the Austrian army and its military doctrines from the ground up after the humiliating defeats of 1805. A sharp eye for battlefield situations, intuitive in his dispositions and aggressive when he went over to the attack, Napoleon badly underestimated Charles ability to match him pound for pound on the field.
Charles gave a lot of ground to draw the French army into an advantageous position for the Austrians to attack it, including the surrender of Vienna.

Despite taking Vienna however Napoleon knew that the main Austrian army was still undamaged and in the field under Charles, and as the Austrian forces in both Italy and Poland were doing quite well for themselves Napoleon resolved to chase down Charles and destroy him in a main force engagement.

Charles watched as Napoleon started to cross the Danube at the island of Lobau between the small villages of Aspern and Essling.

Then he pounced...

After a 2 day battle Napoleon had to admit defeat and withdrew.

The two armies sat quiescent for 6 weeks before the apocalyptic showdown of Wagram, where Napoleon narrowly defeated Charles and once again brought the Austrian Empire to its knees.

This is infantry regiment 17 'Prinz Reuss zu Plauen' in 6mm and how I painted them:

Before anything else is done a good undercoat of matt black needs to be applied to the miniatures. This undercoat also acts as the deep shadows for all parts of the miniature that don't receive any other paint.

The majority of infantry uniforms for the Austrian army in the Napoleonic wars was white and as such a basecoat of blue-grey is applied to provide the shadow areas of the bulk painted parts of the miniature.

Once all of the basecoated areas are finished the highlighted areas need to be painted. The white, being the predominant uniform colour of the era, is painted along all straps and bandoliers where possible and on the jackets waistcoats and trousers in blocks of colour to indicate shadows and contours.

At this scale miniature painting is all about accuracy and contrasts with the greater the accuracy and the higher the contrast the better painted the miniatures will appear to be.

With well detailed miniatures such as Adlers 6mm figures it is relatively easy to provide the illusion of accuracy. The packs and muskets are painted in single block colours of Flat Earth whilst the bed rolls had a dark grey basecoat with light grey highlights accentuated with thin white straps (look closely.... they are there!)

Each infantry regiment in a Napoleonic army, whatever the nation, would have collars, cuffs and turnbacks of different colours. These were known as a Regiments 'Facings'. IR17 'Prinz Reuss zu Plauen' had facings of light brown.

With the facings on a  regiment completed the majority of work that remains is the heads and a bit of time needs to be taken on the faces as these are, as with all miniatures, still the focal point of the human eye.

Mimicking real human skin colour isn't all that effective at this scale however and as such I go for a much redder basecoat using Vallejos Beige Red.

This is then highlighted in small blocks with Vallejos Pale Skin.

The finishing touches are applied with simple red paint on the lips!

The final painting touch is provided by using Games Workshops Burnished Gold paint to illustrate the bronze helmet plates that all German Helmets were fixed with and a narrow yellow band around the helmets comb.

... and thats it! Another regiment finished painting.

Next; the Battalions flag! Each one of these is approximately 6mm by 20mm in total and are sourced from Napflags ( which is an online free resource hosting almost every single flag from every nation of the Napoleonic wars.

These flags need to be fixed to the miniatures in such a way that they provide extra support for the banner poles, which at this scale can be somewhat fragile to knocks, are tough enough that they will last 'the duration' and fixed in such a way so that they display a frozen representation of a flapping flag.

Heres how I do it:

First of al paint the flag with PVA glue using a nice fat brush!

Choose a large (really large!) needle, and pick it off of the mat by sliding the needle under the central underside of the flag. Use a pair of tweezers with a tweezer arm on each side of the needle on the top side of the flag and push down...

... until both sides meet and match up perfectly. Then, with the flag still attached to the needle, use the  tweezers to twist and turn the flag into an approximation of flapping...

... then pull the flag off of the needle taking care to leave the tunnel created by the withdraw from the needle in place, and through which you then slide the banner pole. Once on the banner pole you pinch together the excess flag and with a touch of super glue, affix it to the head, or hands of the figure.

Thats it! Done! and looking great!

In the final analysis this is what a base of 6mm figures should look like, complete with casualties, officers and a whole lots of screaming psychos!

Now, about those bases (more on that later!)