Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Let's Talk about Eylau. What Are Your Thoughts?


Chalk this up as record blogging for me, but I wanted to know your opinion(s), fellow gamer, on a question I've been pondering for a few days now.

If you used to follow SOUND OFFICERS CALL during the heady blogging days of yore, you might remember I embarked on an ambitious project to game the Battle of Eylau in 10mm scale, and you might further remember that this started out as a joint project but that it turned into a planned convention game for Cold Wars 2024.  

Well - since Cold Wars 2024 is no more, and I am sitting on a pile of lead some of which is painted, most not - about 30% of the Russian infantry forces at this point are painted (11 of 33 infantry brigades:  26 line + 7 grenadier-  much less of the Cavalry), I was wondering about the future direction of the project.  Let me explain.

Along with painting the minis, building the terrain, and throwing lots of my hard earned cash out the window, the search for rules has always been prevalent in my mind for fighting this gigantic winter clash.  You'll remember it was first Blucher (Which I developed sweet bases for and completed Davout's III Corps as a test) then Volley and Bayonet, then Snappy Nappy, then Neil Thomas, then our home brewed Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells rules, then back to get the idea.  

The rules had to be the right fit, both for a convention and to get the feel right.  I'm happy to say I finally settled on the rules I want to use - and anyone who knows me knows that this should be no surprise - but I want to use Volley and Bayonet.  

While originally I wanted a more tactical set of rules to use, I decided against a bathtubbed tactical set of rules where I am pretending units are Brigades just so we can roll dice and shoot stuff and charge and form square and things like that.  I am instead selecting a set of rules that has its lineage in solid board game design made to fight battles, and pretty big battles at that.  Look here, here, and here for some examples of Volley and Bayonet's conceptual ancestry.  I will do a separate VB post at another time on why it was selected, but suffice to say I can teach it easily to people, and I mostly know how to play it already.

The kicker for all this is that I'm going to play it at 2/3 scale for a number of reasons, foremost among them is that I only have a 6 x 4 table, and V&B have big stands (3" x 3") and sweeping movements.  I cannot test-fight big battles at full scale on my humble table.  

So, played at 2/3 scale on 2" square bases is perfect for my needs - actually for all of my megalomaniac plans for Napoleonics.  The kicker here is that my Napoleonic figures, which look outstanding IMHO, are on 30mm squares in units of 41 x single 30mm base on a 2" sabot is just not completely convincing to me that it serves as a Napoleonic Brigade (you may feel differently, and hence this blog post)

An unflocked, 4 x base Russian infantry unit sits atop a strategic hill

So with this first-world dilemma before me, painting continues and I am toiling and slaving away dipping my brush into Vallejo Deep Green (970) for the hundred-thousandth time.  One way or the other, all of my Napoleonic Russians and French will be painted.  

That being said, I had an idea.  A number of years ago, I purchased a shed-load of RISK figures from the 1998 box and planned to use them on single bases for Commands and Colors Armies.  The plan was to paint them just like miniatures (faces, shakos, muskets, packs, etc).  I like them because they actually have nice raised detail (crossbelts, pom poms, individual swords, knapsacks with overcoats etc) but overall they do have a delightful "toy soldier" look to them.  

Why not paint them monochrome and mount them on 2" white-painted squares? (Eylau was fought in a blizzard).  

One stand from a 4 x stand unit on the right, one VB 2" stand with 20 x RISK figures on the left.  I could spray paint them all green with the base sprayed white.  What do you think?

I was thinking of purchasing a deep green spray paint for the Russians and a Royal Blue for the French, mount them with gorgeous color flags on textured 2" squares.  For skirmish and Jager detachments, I could use  the Risk figures who are firing (from subsequent boxes) for skirmish detachment and Jager stands?  I could literally finish the Armies in a weekend!  

A Russian Hussar "unit" behind left and a potential RISK figure Brigade in front of them in molded plastic blue.  A 4 x stand Russian "unit" upper right.

A fierce Russian Dragoon "brigade"???  You be the judge.  Stoic Russian line infantry look on behind them.

A Russian Napoleonic "Division" with 4 x Infantry Brigades, a Light Cavalry Brigade, Artillery Battery, and Commander, based at 2/3 scale (2" squares for the INF and CAV, 1" x 2" rectangle for the ARTY) - is this convincing?  I would put labels on the bases most likely and texture them with sand prior to spray painting.

A Brigade of RISK Cavalry (left) slams into a Brigade of 3D printed Russian Hussars (Right) from the "Europe Asunder" Turner Mini range.  You can see the drawbacks and benefits of both concepts here.  The French Horse on the left would be spray painted a Royal Blue.  The Russians would be RISK figures spray painted a Dragoon Green.

A Brigade of RISK figures contacts a 10mm Old Glory Russian Infantry "Brigade" - again you can see the advantages of a RISK force vrs a single stand on the right.  But the RISK figures would simply be spray painted green...

So with that in mind I, I ask your thoughts, gentle reader.  You are not "the hive mind" as I see so often on message boards and in chats.  You are most likely a grognard.  A hardened veteran of the Grande Armee marching across Europe under the Eagle!  Or you're a hard-bitten volunteer from Wellington's Army, shattering the French columns before you, or an Austrian Grenadier, storming the Granary at Essling.  Your experience in these matters is beyond question!  So when I ask your help, I'm asking YOU, the wargamer with years of experience under your belt, not a senseless, mad hive of bustling and mindless activity, but a thoughtful veteran who has been there.

Technically if I go with using my 10mm minis on 2" sabots, I already have enough painted for all of the infantry for both sides.  Since I've rebased all of these guys, I am in no mind to rebase any 10mm Napoleonics ever again, so this basing schema has to remain.

If you are hopelessly confused - here are the questions:

  • Do you think the single infantry / cavalry stand on a 2" sabot is good enough to represent a Brigade?  See pics above.
  • Do monochrome-painted RISK figures deliver a good sense of mass?  
  • Would a single-color painted mass of figures glued to a white base be a turn-off for you in a convention game?  Even if there were close to 100 units of them on the table?
  • What is your vote?  Plop my painted minis on the sabots as-is?  Use spray painted RISK figures?  Or something different?  (NOT rebasing anything!).  

If I'm honest, I'm leaning towards using the painted minis on the 2x2 sabots and just accepting the look as they are, but I personally think it would look cool to have a huge game with RISK pieces on the table, even if they were just spray painted.

What is the next move, General?