So I was working on some Dark Ages troops – Sub-Roman Britons (Kingdom of Strathclyde) and Anglo-Saxons when I found a whole batch of painted 15mm Dark Ages troops that I had purchased just before I stopped miniatures gaming three years ago. I packed them away without a second glance.
After I found them again, I had mixed feelings. Great to have troops to use, but it put a damper on my Minimalist Medievals project. Why build a duplicate army?
If you have been reading my posts on my wargaming blog, then you know that I have started going through some of the rules that I have purchased over the years and started trying out the ones that I have never played. (And there are many!) I wanted to try Neil Thomas' Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815–1878 rules, so I started looking for another period to try. I would build an army for that, because I was curious whether these bead armies would work for any period other than ancients and medievals. (Round beads work so well for heads with or without helmets on them.)
One of the periods that has picqued my interest is the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, but I have 6mm troops for that (although not enough painted to play an actual game). I finally struck upon doing the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, otherwise known as The Seven Weeks' War. Prussia was trying to unify Germany and wanted to hold more sway over Southern Germany (Bavaria, Hanover, Baden, etc.), but Austria opposed them.
What is interesting about the Age of Rifle wars is how unbalanced the two sides are. Prussian infantry were equipped with breechloading rifles while the Austrians were still using rifled muskets and still believed in going in with the bayonet. Basically Firepower versus Shock tactics. Because of the lack of balance, I would either need to learn to love the Austrians (I hate intentionally giving my opponent the underdog) or commit to playing these solo.
So my first unit was an Austrian infantry unit (one base per unit). It uses the plastic tube beads for the body that I used for horse legs in previous builds. The head on these guys are a round bead. It was really an experiment.
Could I make the round beads look anything at all like a shako? If not, would it at least look acceptable?
Honestly, I like these guys. It may look like they are wearing black fezes, but I still like the look. One thing to note: I painted all of the figures while they were on popsicle sticks, so there is a little more detail on the figures in the back rank. I decided not to paint the locks of hair like I did on my Saxons though.
After seeing Matt's ancients in his last post, I suddenly realized that there were 1/4" screwhole plugs. There were other shapes I could use other than spheres and round tubes! I quickly place an order for button plugs, flathead plugs, and roundhead plugs and started experimenting. (You saw in my last post one of those experiments: tricornes.)
The next unit I painted actually did not use any of these new parts. I realized that the pony beads sort of had a barrel shape. They make really good crusader knight heads with that barrel style closed helm. They also made a good shape for a Hussar busby.
Here is a stand of Austrian Hussars. By then the Hussar units had definitely lost their flair. Their dolmans, atillas (no more pelisses), and trousers were all the same color now, your choice of dark blue or light blue. The busby bags were different colors, but otherwise that was it.
Although I had not been painting saddle blankets or other horse furniture with my other cavalry figures, I thought I might with these, but this was the period where they stopped using them! So no nice, red saddle blankets like the Napoleonic period. I really like these guys though.
When painting the figures I am trying just for basic colors, plus those details that truly stand out. If something is "iconic", it gets painted. For the hussars, it is the busby bags, as they were a different color from the rest of the uniform. Also, because it is visible from above and behind, it will be highly visible to players when the unit is resting on the gaming table.
Finally, I just had to paint some Prussian infantry in their pickelhaube helmets. Again, the idea is to paint the basic colors and only pick out what is iconic. The grey trousers do not stand out, so I did not paint them, keeping the entire lower half of the body blue.
What does stand out on these troops is their white belts (high contrast to the blue coat) and the brass details on the pickelhaube itself. I also decided to paint the collar and cuffs red, and think it was a good choice, as these also really stand out.
The pickelhaube has a small dab of hot glue at the top. I pulled the glue gun away from the head (a button plug) and then blew on the glue to get it to cool and harden. That made the spiky point. I then used scissors to cut the spike down to a reasonable length.
At first I painted a full-blown eagle, which is what the brass plate on the front of the helmet depicts. It was a pain, but I realized it would increase my painting time dramatically and in the end they would not be uniform. I decided to forego it and paint a simple oval. But something still did not look right. I painted the brass trim along the edge of the helmet. Again, time consuming and not very visible. So I painted over that too. Finally it struck me: the brass scales on the chin strap were often tied above the forward peak. By painting these not only would it show something you commonly see in the pictures, but it would emphasize the black area that represented the peak. It actually seemed to make it look like a helmet peak even though it was perfectly round like the rest of the plug's edges.
These guys, of course, took the most time of all, but I think it was worth the effort. Of course, having to paint the other four stands will tell me whether I think it is worth it in the end to paint all that detail.
I will go into the construction of these guys at another time. It may look like it is a button plug on top of a plastic tube bead, but there is more to it. The main difference with these figures is that I constructed and painted them on the base. I intentionally clustered the formation to minimize the amount of painting I would have to do, just as I did with the Saxon shieldwalls. This really does help reduce the time to paint and it forces you to focus on only those areas that can be seen from above and behind or above and in front.
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