Yesterday, and the day before, I included some pics of the French Foreign Legion in my post, well, let’s go through with it, I am a fan of this elite corps since I read the novel –Beau Geste– when a child, in fact I read the whole trilogy -which is not a trilogy- Beau Geste – Beau Sabreur – Beau Ideal (connoisseurs know there are two more books about the Geste brothers Good Gestes and Spanish Maine*). Ever since I have not resisted the impulse to buy minis related to it and that’s that. Whatever my main wargame interest or collector fancy, there are always FFL soldiers in it. *The Desert Heritage in the USA.
So to make a clean sweep of this particular topic I will give you today the pics that shows my love for it -Legio Patria Nostra- a very particular elite mercenary unit which incidentally serves under the French Flag of Madame la Republique.
I have had Rubber India 54mm soldiers, 25mm Minifigs proxies, 28mm To The Redoubt, 54mm Dorset Soldiers, never got the Airfix box because I did not found it in the shops when visiting England, 54mm Military Modelling stuff from Andrea Miniatures, and I had to build them in GodsOwnScale (6mm) using proxies (see other posts), and of course customized Playmobils!
Too many pics probably… but this takes out of the way a personal passion (mania) which would have appeared recurrently on the blog. This is it and we forget about the FFL. Curiously enough I did my own compulsory military service in Spain in the (then) Spanish Sahara… so I know a bit about the desert myself. Always have tried that my sons and grandsons did not get the chance to repeat such a silly ordeal… and I still like P.C.Wren.
It is normal to finally use them, the reasons are many and varied. I have written below a quick sum up of what I considere the first and foremost.
There are six main reasons to use a Painting Service to my knowledge:
You are the ten thumbs type of person who does not like arts&crafts, and is not able to paint the figures yourself, but has read History and wants to wargame or whatever… needs someone to paint his miniatures for him. No problem at all you did not build your car don’t you? (mind, I know a guy who does! -built his car-).
Time is an issue, either you are too old -as me today- to contemplate starting something anew, or either (as was my case too at a certain time) you do not have spare time because you are overworked and need what remains of it to have a family life in the real world.
You do not have a room or a corner to do the job yourself -this can be aggravated but someone living with you allergic to paint- pass on and go ahead… use a painting service.
Megalomania also is a cause because it is impossible to you to do it for the sheer amount of minis for your project.
Laziness, if you are able to explain yourself meticulously to the painters and have the cash… why not?.
A variant of (2) is a Time Date, be that a wargame with friends or a Convention Game. You love to paint, and are able to, but you simply have not the timespan.
I always had a plus of love for the figures I painted myself, and I painted more than two thousand 25/28mm myself in my time, but I adapted quickly to the system at a certain moment due to point (2) and (6).
Guess this is enough, maybe there are even other reasons like short-sight or whatever but I am not going to dwell on that.
Nowadays I use several painting services at the same time (I am near seventy!), Mersey Wargames have painted my Union 6mm Baccus Army and other projects like Khaki British Colonials, Custer’s Battalion at the LBH, the XIXth French Corps (Afrique) etc.; Turbil Miniatures have painted the Confederates also using Baccus 6mm; and Reveille has painted Leven&Baccus buildings, fences, bridges, stonewalls, Baccus trees basing, and scenery in general (and some units because Daniel have done them for himself before).
In my 25mm Napoleonic times, there was a time when I was really been overworking as an Arquitect, that made me start the process of dealing with painting services that even offered different levels of finition (I did the details and the basing myself) and that was the only way to have Austrian and Russian Armies and also other minor states…
Some tips that are probably evident… but nevertheless let me do a succinct exposition:
First of all you have to plan ahead because all painters have a waiting list, they are in it as a business and they want to keep the customer satisfied. So if you do wait too much to place an order do not be surprised by the long wait… keep that in mind. The better the Painting Service the longer the waiting list.
There are two ways to avoid too much delay: one which helps to speed the process (and gain time with cancelling the trips of the minis to and fro) is to place the order directly to the painters -of course it needs a sound knowledge of the packs or ranges you are asking for- but it is possible.
The other more lengthy but sometimes unavoidable if you -like I do- indulge in some conversions is to order from Baccus or whoever, and once things properly converted/organized send them to the painting service.
To gain time, if you really know what you are going to do, you can do it in parallel. For example: tell the painter via email: send an Invoice via PayPal for 12 brigades of Union Infantry ACW, 28 minis per stand including price of basing and put me on your waiting list while you wait for the rest of the minis to arrive, and so on. Ask for an ETA too. I would probably will use that mixed method if I do another period.
The most important tip is that the painter does not have the gift of telepathy, meaning that what you do not write down -on an email- will be done at his or her discretion, do you want the two standard-bearers standing in the front rank side by side? do say so, do you want a certain disposition of the figures in the base? specify correctly, do you want your Cavalry based in a certain way? wedge, line, double line, whatever… say so. I think I have made the point clear.
Think also that the Painting Service is not an Encyclopedia of your period of interest, and providing images and details of the uniforms ALWAYS (not shouting just emphasis) help a lot, specially when using proxies. Do not forget to ask for particular colours for the horses, trumpeters on greys, etc. And above all remember that what you do not specify is left to chance! – sometimes even a pleasant result-But surely it is not a moment for laziness. Do make your homework and the Painting Service will be almost as if you have painted the minis yourself.
I must add a black point… What happens if the parcel do not arrive? Normally you have to put your money forward when you ask something to be painted (providing the figures or not), so far so good. Never had problems in all my wargames life span -excepting an order from Robert Prati which finally was resolved to mutual satisfaction but that was 54mm long ago- until recently a parcel coming from Turbil Miniatures simply has vanished in a most puzzling way… no sign of it at all… has asked for a refund and Turbil obliged. A distressing experience when that happens for the loss of time and figures… specially TIME!
Nowadays we are spoiled for choice in the vast majority of scales and catalogues, so a lot of you would not even bother with conversions, proxies is all together another thing because in the smaller scales sometimes means just changing the paint job. You will soon realize the important of headgear -as once Wellington remarked- Nevertheless, we are always pestering manufacturers with our demands. Up to a point is absolutely logical. You are a student of a period -obscure or popular does not matter- you will find THE GAP!… For all his extended catalogue in Colonial Warfare Peter does not make a Naval Brigade!… what to do?… first of all annoy Peter on the Forum of Baccus asking for them!…(here you will be helped free of charge with tips from other wargamers in the Forum… thanks chaps!… I always appreciated your comments). On second thoughts peruse the catalogue and see what can be used with a nice paint job, in this case ACW Confederate skirmishers with hat -nice Sennet hat-. OK, those are proxies!… my entire Crimean cavalry Light Brigade are proxies with the right paint job… see pics on other Posts in this Blog.
So, let’s forget about paint jobs and let YOU search for proxies. It is a rewarding pass-time and it puts your little cells to work as Poirot would have said. I am not talking about mixing manufacturers which of course is an even easier way to get the thing done. In my 25/28mm Union ACW cavalry I used Dixon horses because I found them to my taste – it is always about taste- with Foundry and To The Redoubt riders, which did not prevented me to sell the lot once fed up with the bigger scales… had a hard crisis with that!
So, what are “conversions”?, basic modeling skills, a couple of pliers and a sharp cutter and even in 6mm a mini drill are needed. Ok, let’s make it simple: in larger scales it is easier but probably you will also need green-stuff because the cuts are not always that neat. See some pics included, I do not even talk about larger scales as 54mm because those are already able to be ordered or asked for “with different parts” and been able to be assembled by you. From 15mm downwards it is possible but more prone to damage minis to the point of having to discard ones. But on the other side they are less expensive and the margin of mistakes or your limits will soon appear and you will attempt what is inside your range of skills. In my personal experience the only things I do in a “proper” conversion denomination so far is modifying weapons, no sabers at the Little Big Horn, out go the sabers of Confederate Cavalry with hat and that’s it. On the contrary I desired a British Regiment of Cavalry Colonial khaki with sabers so I modified the carbines and scabbards. All super quick jobs. I guess the longer time you have been in the hobby helps. It is the same with “retouching”, I order from painting services, but if I want the peaks of the kepis BLACK I do it myself with a POSKA marker… a matter of seconds… same as adding detail to zouaves outfits etc. Mind, I was at first a bit afraid to try it in 6mm… but even the drill has come to action to provide standard-bearers when needed!… with the proverbial dressmakers bits of pins.
Any wargamer or modeler worth its salt will indulge in those one day or other, it is a kind of final exam or doctorate… LOL.
It has always been considered the summit of pageantry, at least in the UK, not for the sheer numbers involved but for the Tradition of it. There are other military parades around the world but Bearskins?, Red Tunics?, The Massed Bands?… I could go on and on… I even applied once for tickets but no luck at all -very difficult to organize living far away- so DVD’s of it have taking the place. I once watched in the Mall with my eldest son on a visit to London and saw them come and go from Horse Guards Parade.
Her Majesty’s Queen Elizabeth II Official Birthday Parade… but otherwise known as Trooping the Colour. Usually it is done the second Saturday of June -plus rehearsals the two Saturdays before that- It has always been a favorite of mine, so, let’s have some pics. Not much more text needed today I guess.
Today we had lots of snow in Andorra, so my grandsons did not went to school (as on the Calvin&Hobbes comic strip). Then we went to my old office (on the first floor) and we played or toyed a bit with Playmobils.
They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace – Christopher Robin went down with Alice. Alice is marrying one of the guard. “A soldier’s life is terrible hard,” Says Alice.
They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace – Christopher Robin went down with Alice. We looked for the Queen, but she never came. “Well, God take care of her, all the same,” Says Alice.
We had a great time, because afterwards I gave them the EXIN CASTLES box full of bricks/things to play… and each one of them did their own thing… bits of castles everywhere now…
I am afraid the Goldberg are much better! specially those by Gould. But joking aside I did dedicate a whole chapter of my book to those plastic german chaps. They can be customized quite easily once you learn how.
And that is entertaining, specially if you are affected by the syndrome “I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt”. There used to be the middle age crisis -I do not know what middle age is nowadays- at 39 I bought a New Model LOTUS ELAN two seater (front traction) if you know what I mean… Happy marriage does not need a divorce! As I said before let’s put joking aside.
Basically a Click as they are known is a plastic chasis with a head plug that holds all the other parts together. Quite simple concept. But a small engineering feat. They were originally very crude and toys for kids. They evolved. From what I call the third generation onwards they began to interest me. I started buying them for my grandchildren -who already got them never fear- and stocked a few because they were too young by far. Then one thing lead to another IT WAS FUN!… anything that fits the formula TOY SOLDIER + FUN = ENTERTAINMENT in my life. So, there I was, first I learned to disassemble them -YouTube is full of tutorials -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Y8KYaO-83o-, and Wikipedia will tell you the full story of Playmobil- and the “creation” of new soldiers, or to be fair, NON existing ranges was extremely funny.
After an intermittent span of ten years since I bought the first one and finally lost interest and got back to wargaming -6mm- and collecting -54mm toy soldiers- I went through many periods, I customized a lot, gifts to grandchildren were made, and complicated conversions were even sold! I have the tendency to sell the parts that does not interest me anymore to raise funds for new ventures, that way I have a real budget -more or less- I always spend more than I cash back but it helps!
So I did the ACW -and then sold the collection because it was too real brother against brother- I did Ancients (sold), I did British Colonials including Highlanders! (sold), I did the 7th at the LBH (still in my hands but for sale), I did the Household troops I already had in 54mm Traditional Toy Soldiers -quite a recurrent job- I did the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea (sold). I did the Spanish and French Foreign Legion outfits (both sold). I bought Ships -customized them- now in the navies of my grandchildren. And I probably forget the Ivory Patrol and a lot of other minor subjects that were also sold. It was real FUN.
I explained it all quite in detail in my book but it is a lot easier to include pics in a blog.
The games you play are equal to the games you make…
I could not resist it, saying farewell and knowing when to quit is very difficult.
I have painted a “new old toy soldier”… a 54mm (ReplicaMetalSoldiers Andrew) a mounted Inspector General of the NWMP in a dark blue patrol jacket – I enjoyed so much the painting of it that I am currently pestering Andrew for a variation on the theme…- and all just because a childhood memory. I was very young when I got a box of mounties (I already had a lot of them) but in that one proudly in front of the lot there he was… a mountie with a dark blue tunic -and yellow gauntlets!- of course it was the commander of the unit!… I always had a crush for that figure (and of course never found one alike)… so in the end I decided to make my own and quite satisfied I am going full circle. Of course the original one was lost forever, but I have still 3 “mounties” over 65 years old see pic below.
I am going to update this post with pics and slowly edit the rest, meaning that I think there is always room for improvement.
It was a pleasure comparting posts here… and sure I will post more pics!… and edit existing posts but that’s all. To elaborate would be just a copy/ paste of what I said in my book “My Toy Soldiers and Me” so just peruse sometimes to see editions to come (of the posts of the blog not my book!).
Editing this blog would be much more interesting that writing new entries, just yesterday I got one half of my last REVEILLE Leven buildings (Daniel Hodgson is the chap you need for your scenery!), vaguely colonial they would be pressed into service at the battle of Maiwand, NWF and North of Africa indistinctly.
Renaming and ordering the Posts of the Blog by subjects and categories nowadays.
Summing up, my interests on “toy soldiers” are wide and large. I do not restrict my activities to a single field or even scale, neither period. No original at all, as you can imagine there is nothing more conservative than the Household Division to collect in 54mm, and the rest of my 54’s are in three main themes: French Foreign Legion (with some Chasseurs d’Afrique); Tel el Kebir/Rorke’s Drift aka Brits colonials before khaki; and last but not least NWMP/RCMP. As you can see in Collecting I the minis collected in 54mm have been subject to buy/sell, Scot Grey’s cometh and goeth, same with US Cavalry in gala uniform, Denmark Royal Guard, and some mat finish Spanish miniatures I had because a compulsory swap was made. That is Collecting for me, something alive but with periods of lethargy. Not Original at all I am afraid but a rewarding pastime.
I dedicated a chapter of my book to Collecting (my own experience mind) but the books you need is the one by James Opie: Collecting Toy Soldiers, and THE COLLECTOR’S GUIDE TO NEW TOY SOLDIERS by Stuart Asquith. The former has written many excellent books about Britain’s but THIS ONE is the best of all his production IMHO.
Guess it is time to start making lists again… first objective get the remaining ACW brigades organized (after a bit of checking up what minis I have used so far), deciding who is gonna paint what… and put a perspective into new projects, mainly completing “things” already exist… Will keep you posted.
Unexpected maybe by you… and needed or not, I am going to elaborate a bit with my Baccus experience for your profit. If someone has read all the posts in this present blog it would not be much surprised by it but I have always indulged in summing up. As it is, I would arrange in chronological order my interest in the Baccus ranges, but you must understand the “context”, if instead of being nearly seventy I was in my thirties I would have gone Napoleonic straight away!… So my Baccus interests are much prejudiced by what I did on 25/28mm and become bored with… so no Zulu War this time… (read Daniel Hodgson – REVEILLE on FaceBook…he is doing it to perfection!)
Curiously enough, after selling my 25/28mm collection and in the middle of my ten years (on and off) interest on Playmobils (customs) I started a new interest for the 6mm scale, and was surprised by the sheer quality Baccus had achieved while I was distracted by other things. So, wanting to do BIG battles (ACW) and also BIG units (Colonials) for a change I went for it!… Mind, it was not my first experience with 1/300, I once, many years ago, painted a hundred or so French Cuirassiers which I finally sold via eBay because I never thought about bigger bases!… then I went 25mm Minifigs (many periods) and the rest is in my past.
I did the Crimean Light Cavalry Brigade using Baccus proxies suggested by Peter (who was very helpful… of course later I always took that for granted!), and I painted and based the lot myself. I was much pleased with the result. But I put them on the cabinet and did not go on with further developments of that period. So, even if I had a British Army in 28mm with both the Heavy and Light Brigades of Cavalry and Infantry & Artillery… and some multipurpose units for the French Allies… (I did not ever build the Russian Army and neither Turks or Sardinians for that matter)… I did not want to repeat the experience in 6mm. At that late time of my 28mm scale involvement it was more collecting, converting and military modelling… instead of proper wargaming (not even solo). I simply could not resist the nice Foundry range. Of course the intention of building this unit in 6mm is to have a game with it… my own rules… quite role playing… and obsessed by the possibility of getting the orders clear and go for the right guns… always “what if” in mind you all know.
Even if the later were a success I was concerned by the smallness of the Infantry figures, so I did not paint myself the second try… I simply ordered them painted from an eBay seller. I used 30x30mm Baccus bases to get the “counters” for an ancient boardgame about the Second Punic War battle of Metauro. The original plastic figures on the boardgame were 54mm, and the paint peeled a lot, lost forever by the use of successive generations… I once bought 28mm Greeks from Foundry (painted extraordinarily well in Madrid by the chaps at Atlantica Juegos) for both sides, trying to have a go at the Peloponessian War… but did not had the feel of the original Metauro game (even if the original did not had Gauls at all!) so when I sold my collection they parted too. Now I have Republican Rome and Carthaginian and Allies properly bathtubed, but this is as far as my interest goes for Ancients. That proved to me that Baccus Infantry was OK.
That prompted me to have a go at the Little Big Horn (yet again), but only concentrating the effort on Custer’s Battalion (Companies C,E,F,I,L and HQ), having the command mounted, skirmish line and last stand bases. I converted ACW Baccus proxies (just scratching out the sabers) and then sent to Mersey Wargames painting service. I enjoyed the result.
So, I went also British Colonial in Kaki, because I did not do them to the full in 25mm (in my time) and was much more nowadays interested in Maiwand/Kandahar; and the North West Frontier that going ZULU again. Incidentally I do with them the Sudan (Osman Digna British Squares affairs but also Abu Klea and Abu Kru etc) and I know Peter does an specific range for the Camel Corps… but I only bought the” pack camel minis”… in that scale in the desert my minis look the part without no need to repeat them in dusty light grey jackets! Better invest the money and time of the painters on other projects! In fact it is quite unfair to pester Peter about new packs or ranges when he does lots of periods and minis we simply pass from buying… the producer/designer nightmare I guess. And I am an example of how to use Baccus existing ranges to do my “own pet projects” in a quite heterodox way… even if I can be almost fully orthodox with a period like the ACW.
After seeing the results of my Colonial buys I decided to get a proper period in an orthodox form so to play with an opponent -be that my brother or other member of the family- so I choosed the ACW because it was my first love – thanks to the film THE HORSE SOLDIERS-and the minis and range of Baccus is quite complete (to say the least) even if I spruced the thing with Baccus proxies from their Franco-Prussian War range and even some Rapier minis. I dutifully bought ACW POLEMOS and also Altar of Freedom from the LITTLE WARS TV chaps (but I did not like their bathtubing of Gettysburg for instance… specially the Artillery present on the Confederate side… and NO I do not put Brigades over the top of the tress or woods); not much of a problem because I always tamper with the rules and do my own bathtubing no matter what!. Even so it is my largest (by far) and most typical wargaming approach of the lot. Nowadays finished building the Armies etc. -maybe shall post pics of the whole affair-
6 mm let me do “one off” adventures in a very non expensive way so I have a Prussian Cavalry Brigade from the Franco-Prussian War. Von Bredow’s own… “The Death Ride” etc. No way I am going to wargame the Franco-Prussian War, I have read enough about it and have nice Books about the Uniforms (a pleasure to see), but I found impossible to recreate the incompetence, jealousies and ambitions bordering treason of the French High Command. The Prussians mobilization and “modern” staff approach was a walk over even if they took a lot of risks and got more than one bloody nose in the process. Not for me thanks. BUT the famous charge kept the Cavalry in the Armies for fifty years more… IMHO it was already obsolete by Waterloo times as such… mounted infantry would replace them and with other tasks, gone were the days of the Cavalry as a Shock Weapon…
In parallel, I did the French XIXth Corps d’Afrique starting with French Foreign Legion -I always do the French Foreign Legion it is a mania- and followed by Chasseurs d’Afrique, Zouaves, Turcos and Spahis (thanks to Igor who suggested the proxies I had not perceived in the Baccus Catalogue!). Reveille is even doing a Zinderneuf outpost using pieces from Leven and small bases by Pendraken -another of my recurrent filias- No matter the scale my pet subjects are always the same as I suspect happens with a lot of wargamers.
After having an attack of second thoughts about Napoleonics, I was able to swap my interests at the last minute to Trees (badly needed) and wagons and pioneers all periods covered ACW and Colonials mainly.
Ranges from the Baccus Catalogue from whom I have bought items:
The Romans (Second Punic War); Napoleonic’s (Crimean proxies… so far I have avoided the real Napoleonic period… but it was a near run thing); American Civil War (like Coke the real thing!); Franco-Prussian War (proxies for ACW, French Foreign Legion, and even a Prussian Cavalry Brigade); Scenic items (XIXth century); Colonials; Bases and Basing Materials; Great War (proxies for my North West Frontier period); Equipment (quite multipurpose); Wargames Rules.
And also: Some ACW Rapier (not bad at all and they do mix well with Baccus… specially if you cut out the bayonets…) and of course lots of LEVEN and BACCUS buildings and accessories.