Thursday, February 9, 2012

Works in Progress

The recent post about my rule-writing adventure wouldn't be complete without more information about the miniatures that go along with the project. As I mentioned, the project started a few years back and petered out. At the time, we were painting armies for fictional countries, which were based on real ones. I chose Piedmont-Savoy because it was different (and because France, The Netherlands, and England had already been claimed). My uniform information was spotty and I relied on the information found in Charles Grant's From Pike to Shot: 1685 to 1720, which is for uniforms circa 1700, not 25 years earlier.

I've always been a bit of a Francophile when it comes to des choses militaries. I also have a certain appreciation for Le Roi Soleil. He was a nasty bastard, of course, but he did it with such Gallic pomp and pomposity that you just have to admire his style. So, when I resumed the project, I bought a batch of French infantry and some cavalry as my first units.

I'm starting with Regiment Vivarais, for which I have a nice uniform source, although it's dated 1689, which is a bit later than my period:

I'm painting the uniform on the right
So far I'm making decent progress. The units are 18 figures, so it's not a huge burden to paint one color on all the figures in one sitting. However, now that I'm getting into the detail, like the musketeers' bandoliers and other fiddly bits, I'll focus on smaller groups of figures at one time.

I have a nice GMB Designs flag to use for it. The nice thing about French infantry colors is that they remained the same from the Thirty Years War until the French Revolution. I'm not sure what I'll do when I branch into painting units for other armies. So far, a lot of the available flags I've seen are for later periods.

My next infantry unit, I think, will be a generic Swiss regiment (another GMB flag), but first I'll finish the cavalry I have primed for painting. I just got the command pack for them today, so once they're primed, I'll start the lot. After that, I think one of les Vieux Corps, like Regiment Normandie.

The North Star 1672 range is beautiful. Painting them gives me even more appreciation of how well they're sculpted. The first batch was done by Mark Copplestone before he went barbarian. (Mark, btw, also sculpted the now 30-year old Grand Alliance range from Dixon.) The rest of the line is being sculpted by Steve Saleh. From what I've seen of the one pack that's been released of Saleh's work, the styles match very well. The most notable exception is in the fineness of Saleh's work versus the exaggeration that Copplestone uses. For example, Copplestone's buttons are about the size of golf-balls in scale, but it works to bring out the detail better.

I'm plugging away at Pike & Periwig a little bit every night as I am watched (or haunted) by my faithful cat Grendel who likes to sit on my printer next to me to glower and kibitz.

Heavy-pawed editor and strict grammarian
It's a little off-putting, but from time to time he makes useful suggestions and you can't fault his copyedit skills. Then, of course, he walks across the keyboard and upsets all my careful typography.


  1. David:

    Those North Star minis are nice & the painting is looking good. Are any of the new plastics useable for your period?

    Best, Dean

  2. My esteemed Lord,
    I would kindly inform you that my forces have been mobilized for some time now, should this be of encouragement to complete your recruitment of your forces.

    My army was on parade and can be seen at:

    While my forces have a somewhat more modern sense of military sartorial fashion, I would not consider it too dissimilar to those you currently employ upon casual viewing

    your humble servant

  3. My dear Earl of Pencilwick,

    We of the Dutchy of Alfresco have long suspected that your rabble has been standing at arms looking for civil discord to sow or good citizens to oppress. We anticipate in due time to give them such a taste of powder, shot, and cold steel that they beat their swords into plowshares and devote their energies to making beer, not war.

    Yours cordially,
    The Duke d'Alfresco

  4. I cannot do plastic myself, Dean. Is anyone making plastic figures for the period between 1660 and 1700? I know that Warlord does ECW, but that's just a bit earlier than the period covered by the North Star range.

  5. Wargames Factory plastic cavalry and infantry are suitable for 1700-1719.

    Other than that, Northstar have the only line I am aware of for the Dutch Wars. I agree, they're beautiful figures and very easy (and fun) to paint. I've mostly finished one for Languedoc.

    Are those the pikes from Northstar as well, or did you purchase others/fashion your own?

    I must give you a word of caution about the Susane plates. Some of them transpose anachronistic details from later periods onto the 1660-1700 plates. I ran into that issue with Tallard (which became Belsunce, then Flandre in 1762) - the beautiful purple cuffs that were shown on the Susane plate for 1680 didn't appear until the 1720s-1730s :-(

    Are you planning to paint your drummers in Royal Livery?

  6. Hi, Rob.

    I have suspected what you say about the Susane plates. But with a lack of any more exact information, I'll go with what I have a plate for. I was more dubious about the light blue coat color than about the cuffs, but they look pretty--and what we know even with certainty may only be valid at one point until the uniforms wore out.

    I'm too lazy to do royal livery, though it would look very nice. I saw some contemporary woodcuts of French drummers who showed no sign of livery. Perhaps it was limited to royal regiments at this time?

    The pikes are North Star, cut down to 80mm. I used to bang 'em out of brass wire myself on my wee Xacto anvil, but the North Star are so much nicer.

    What do you use for cavalry flags?

  7. I interpreted the light blue coat as a darker gray, actually, when doing French for the period. If you go to my blog, you should see some WIP photos of how I interpreted the uniform of Languedoc.

    My understanding is that for 1660-1680 uniforms for French infantry were either gray coats or brown coats. I'm not aware of any French infantry who wore light blue. I have seen several plates with a blue gray, but they were officers/ensigns. I think blue-gray is more a vagary of Susane's colors and our monitors than anything else.

    I haven't attempted any cavalry yet, though both the dragoons and cavalry command look stunning. I'm not really painting for this period - I am building ECW armies, and have two battalions of WSS English in need of rework. I'd enquired of Nick about how well his range matched with others, and ended up with a "free sample" of a French musketeer to get me hooked.

    The best way to find flags for Cavalry of this period would be to join the Fightingtalk forums at The League of Augsburg and then ask folks there. They've got access to period and non-english sources, so they should be able to tell you if later period flags hold this early, or give you a description to build from.


  8. I've done a little investigating into the uniform colors. The Susane plates that I have show a definite bias towards blue. The Vivarais coat color shows up in Photoshop as C:52 M:21 Y:8 K:0, which is definitely bluer than gray. But I saw the pic you had of Picardie, which shows a more neutral tone than the same plate in my source. The pic from your site has C:24 M:20 Y:25 K:0, while the plate from my source has the coat color as C:69 M:32 Y:5 K:0, which is even bluer than the Vivarais coat color. So, there is, alas, a lot of variance in different sources for the Susane plates.

  9. Dave,

    I tried to email but the last email address I have for you bounced - I was wondering what line of ACW ships you prefer, as I was thinking of purchasing some Thoroughbred ships. I liked the painting scheme of some of your css ships and was wondering if you might share a suggestion of ironclad painting or of another resource.

    tim earle

  10. Hi, Tim.

    My old email address was with Verizon. The new one is

    I've been a huge fan of Thoroughbred Figures since they first appeared in the early 90s. Toby Barrett is a friend of mine and he's a perfectionist with his models. They are the best I've seen in any scale. However, there are some ships that Thoroughbred doesn't make yet (and may never) that can be acquired from Bay Area Yards. For example, Thoroughbred offers a generic wooden ram for the Confederates, while BAY offers models of specific ships that fought in the battle of Memphis in 1862. Some of BAY's early ships are a bit crude, but the modeling got better. I know a couple of the BAY modelers who are in the Seattle area and they do excellent work.

    As to painting, I make it up mostly. There is very little source material for the colors of ACW ships. The Union navy (i.e., US Navy) at the time had a basic scheme of black with white trim and upper works. However, in actual practice—especially with the ersatz navies on the inland waters and blockading forces—they resorted to shades of gray. You can get a good feel for the gray tones of ships if you look at vintage photos. Some are clearly dark and others are much lighter. I use that as a guide to what shade of gray I'll use. Otherwise, I just go with what looks good.

    Fr some ships, such as CSS Arkansas and the Confederate ICs at Charleston, we have surges that describe the colors, but even then there is some controversy as to exact shades or the actual color itself.