Last November I picked up a copy of Bolt Action and since then have been dipping into the rules and the web forum with growing interest. Last month my friend Keith presented me with a painted box of German infantry, a command half track and a Radio controlled King Tiger that needed a new home. I'm not sure how big a game we'll need to play for the Tiger to be a sensible part of a force but it is a lovely model and could be a piece of scenery in a smaller scenario I suppose. At Salute I picked up a box of Late War British and have been assembling these over the past few evenings. I'm not a big fan of plastic multi pose as the models I produce tend to have an ungainly zombie look about them. However these figures fit together quite well. I decided to use metal figures for officers and specialists, so all my figures have rifles, sten or Bren guns. I hope to add to the force at Valhalla in Farnborough next month.
Meanwhile We have a Bolt Action project getting under way. Matt, Ian and I have agreed to collect complimentary forces, to speed up the growth of available figures and provide some variety. Matt has picked up a 1000 point US starter army, while Ian, who is a reflective sort of bloke, is still wondering what to collect. He is tempted by the Japanese but wonders if a West European force makes more practical sense. His latest idea is to collect Fallschirmjagers, because the models are so cool. And why not? I gather that in the end, Ian is likely to collect more armies than the rest of us put together. He is slow to commit but once launched, he is a completist. Good news for the rest of us.
A few months ago my painting plans were put on hold by the arrival of several boxes of old Minifigs 25 mm Ancients, mostly Polybian Romans plus a smattering of Carthaginian and Spanish opposition. They had belonged to Marius, an old sparring partner of my friend Keith. Marius died last year and his widow asked Keith to find homes for his Wargames collection. The Ancients came my way, as I have owned Minifigs 25mm Greeks and Macedonians from the early 1980s. In fact, my figures are from the last Minifigs range, which is still available through Caliver Books
The figures Keith gave me are from the Minifigs PB range which preceded this one.
The PB figures are smaller even than 'standard' 25s and some of the spears are on the trunky side. They reflect the accepted picture in the late 70s of how troops dressed. Thus, Carthaginian citizens have pointed shield bosses and all Spanish scutarii have cloaks and are bare headed. Animation is a bit staid and all rank and file in a unit are identical. However the proportions are good, some of the poses are very nicely done and, well, I just love them.
I decided to paint up the Republican army to face my Successors. Several units of Hastati/ Princeps had been painted but most of the figures were bare metal. Marius' collection included a great many Romans with spears, far more than would be needed for Triarii. I converted one 16-man unit of Spearmen to pilum-armed troops, by pruning back the spears and sinking sections of wire in the tops to represent the long metal shafts. The conversion worked quite well as it changed their silhouette, although it was a bit rough and ready.
I decided to stick close to the colour scheme used by Marius and to keep to a simple painting standard. I used Army Painter soft and hard tone washes but otherwise used very little highlighting.
I have now completed enough units to field a small army for Sword and Spear, amounting to:
4 units of Hastati/Principes
3 units of Velites
2 units of Triarii
1 unit of Latin allied foot
2 units of Roman cavalry
1 unit of Allied cavalry
1 unit of medium Spanish horse
1 unit of Scutarii
I am very pleased with the look of the final army and hope Marius would have approved.
On our last full day at Waterloo we visited the Wellington Museum in Waterloo town and Napoleon's HQ at Le Caillou. The Wellington Museum is under renovation and felt a bit dowdy compared to the slick venues on the battlefield, but it had real charm and atmosphere, particularly the rooms where Wellington wrote his despatch while his ADC lay dying in the bed next door. The church opposite the museum has several memorials, mostly to British and Dutch Belgian officers and there was one plaque dedicated to all the French dead. We ate lunch at the Brasserie du Couvent, highly recommended for hearty pig-related dishes. We almost gave the Emperor's HQ at Le Caillou a miss but were so glad we didn't as it was another beautifully presented little museum with excellent audio guide.
On the last evening, Keith and I replayed D'Erlon's attack on the dining table of the Gardeners House, using the Cigar Box Battles Waterloo mat, Sam Mustafa's Blucher rules and his 100 days card set. It was a never-to-be-repeated chance to play Waterloo at Waterloo. I will choose figures over cards whenever possible but Sam's unit cards are perfect for a situation like this.
We had a wonderful few days and my enthusiasm for the 1815 campaign is back on fire. I have probably read more about Waterloo than any other battle but still learned masses from the museums and walks around the field. I would never have dreamed it might be possible to be staying in the chateau of Hougoumont, looking out over the courtyard with a glass of wine and some kettle chips. Magical!
Here are some thoughts and pictures after last weekend at Waterloo. As we were staying in the Chateau grounds, I will start at Hougoumont. It looks lovely after the renovation. The refurbished buildings are fantastic and the approach to the South Gate, which was under constant attack on the day, looks as it did in 1815. The North courtyard, missing several buildings that caught fire during the battle, is interesting for the surviving chapel and the memorial to the Scots Guardsmen who closed the gates at a critical moment, trapping a group of French infantry inside and saving the chateau from capture. The walled garden was bigger than we expected and overall, we were struck by how large the combined position of chateau, garden, woods and orchard must have been. The multi media show in the Great Barn was clever, absorbing and actually very moving. It was a highlight of the holiday.
We spent a whole day at the Mémorial in the centre of the Allied position, which covers the Lion Mound, Panorama and museum all in one ticket. We climbed the Lion because it was there but it didn't thrill. The Panorama was impressive. Pause for a Wellington sandwich and beer at the brasserie on site, then back for more. The museum was a revelation, with slick interactive displays and some great use of multimedia. There are dozens of uniformed mannequins, with extensive written and audio information about the armies, men, their uniforms and equipment. The 4D film is great fun. I especially enjoyed being under the guns of a French battery as it fired. The massive shop had a mixture of good books, expensive replica firearms and cheerful tat. The Napoleon T shirts are on sale there; you need to go to Hougoumont to pick up a Wellington.
On day three we walked from the Allied ridge cross country across to La Belle Alliance, then down to Plancenoit and the Prussian monument. Back up to the Brussels road, past La Haye Sainte and on to the crossroads. We had an excellent lunch at L'Estaminet de Josephine, washed down with Waterloo beer, brewed at the Mont St Jean farm.
We came back to Hougoumont just ahead of the 2eme Régiment de Chasseurs à pied, a reenactment group of twenty or so men and a dozen family members dressed as vivandières. The group demonstrated drill and musketry in the chateau gardens off and on for two hours. They were friendly and informative, happy to tell us about the details of their uniform and the life they recreate. Alongside the Chasseurs were a couple of gendarmes, a Guard pontonnier and, a little surprisingly, a customs official in a green uniform. They also serve...
We got back last night from 4 nights staying in the Landmark Trust apartment at Hougoumont, on the battlefield of Waterloo. It was a fantastic trip. Lots of photos and trinkets (Napoleon eraser, anyone?). Must think a bit before posting again. Meanwhile, these gentlemen gave us a great show on 1 May. They are the 2nd Chasseurs of the Guard reenactment society, based in Northern France. A pleasure to talk to them.