Tuesday, 9 August 2022

A Mini Chateau

Having posted images now of most of the terrain I built years ago, here is my most recent effort, completed only a couple of weeks ago. It is part of a project to provide terrain for games set in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. A sub-project within that greater one is to build several small chateau-type buildings. Most FPW battlefields had one or two such places, and they feature in the accounts as strongpoints being stormed at bayonet point. One battle (Coulmiers) actually had no less than six chateaus on it, but some of them were subsumed within villages so don't necessarily need modelling specifically. I decided three chateaus would cover things. Here's the first and I'm currently hard at work on the second.

I have long fancied making something in the French chateau line, as they are such nice buildings, deliberately intended to be pleasing and varied in appearance and in the larger cases impressive, with elaborate and stylish architectural features. Things being what they are of course, this desire rather clashes with the ground scale I tend to use, whereby a whole large battlefield is compressed onto a medium sized wargames table. For example in my FPW rules one inch equals a hundred metres, so a single building, even a big one, might scarcely be one inch square on its own! 

But where there's a will there's a way. Studying the layout of these places I find they come in successive layers. You have the actual chateau building, but that's surrounded by an area of stables and courtyards, which in turn is enclosed within a "zone" of walled orchards and gardens several hundred metres in area. The whole thing was fought over in reality. (An example most wargamers will be familiar with is the chateau/ farm of Hougoumont at Waterloo.) I decided that I could make a nice building in my usual "condensed" style, representing the whole zone without doing too much violence to strict ground scales. 

So off I went, starting with the smallest and simplest of the three chateaus planned, as something of a warm-up for the other two, which will be more elaborate. This one is in a gently neo-classical style, inspired by the Chateau of Duerckheim which stood in the village of Froeschwiller on the battlefield of that name (the one called Woerth by the Germans).  

The model has come out pleasantly enough, I hope, considering how small it is. It's made from all sorts of materials: sheet card and styrene, dolls' house mouldings, scratch-built details and parts that have been lurking in my bits box for decades.  It would take forever to describe how everything was made, but please feel free to ask about any of the aspects you are wondering about. 

In this second photo I have included a figure to show the scale. Not having any singly based Franco-Prussian figures at this point, it's had to be a 1940 one. The building is suitable for the late seventeenth century up to WWII, although the elaborate balcony railings suggest the nineteenth century onwards. Incidentally those railings are styrene 1/48 model railway details from the American firm of Grandt Line, now San Tuan Details. I reinforced the delicate castings with styrene rails on top and behind, and I think it should stand up to normal gaming use.

In terms of colour I decided to break away from my customary grey-brown stonework, and go for a pinky-brown sandstone. I used dark brown paint, highlighting up to a dark flesh colour. It makes a change at any rate, and goes nicely with the cream rendered walls.

From the back you can see the scratch-built doors more clearly. Front and back doors are identical, and it would have been a good idea to build just one and take castings. But I didn't have anything to make a mould with at the time I did this model, something that's had to be addressed for the next model. 

I painted a lichen effect on the tiles, which has come out OK if a bit understated. I'm going to go for a more drastic overgrown effect on at least one of the other chateau models.

Here we see just how small this model is, when placed next to the improved-MDF equivalent featured a few months ago. Of course both are strictly speaking more what the French would call a "maison bourgoise", or a "maison de maitre" rather than a chateau in size terms. But these are the compromises we have to make for wargaming purposes. The bigger one here is aimed at skirmish gaming, where a somewhat more "literal" scale of scenery is called for. 

And finally, the size contrast is shown fully here. If you look at the previous picture you will see that the height difference is quite small, in order for both to look acceptable with the figures used. But the ground area is very different. The mini chateau is just 90mm by 70mm so the area taken up is only a third of the larger version. In fact if you take account of the projecting areas the contrast is still greater. 


9 comments:

  1. Beautiful work there John. One of the issues we always face is building footprint versus game ground scale as you have laready stated. This is one reason I now use 6mm buildings for my 10mm figures, which allows for a reasonable representation of a BUA without it consisting on two buildings. I know other gamers that have gone down a similar route, using 20mm buildings for their 28mm figures. On the table you don't spot the 'Z' height being 'wrong'.

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    1. Thanks, Steve, and I agree that if you are using commercially available models it can work well to go "one scale down". But for scratch-built structures you can aim to be a bit more subtle. I condense the overall volume quite a bit, but mainly via the horizontal dimensions, leaving the vertical sizing (just about) credible to the height of the figures being used.

      When I make buildings for "big battle" gaming I am usually thinking of them grouped in a village unit, on a base that accurately represents the size of a village, with two or three buildings, a couple of trees and surrounding hedge/ wall/ fence. To me that evokes the real thing and isn't noticeably out of scale by comparison to the figures.

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  2. I was amazed how small the building was in comparison to the figure in the second image! The wealth of detail and lovely features gives the impression of a much more substantial model! It is even more of a shock seeing it in comparison to the commercial mdf building, although we are obviously all aware how huge they always seem alongside more traditional resin wargames terrain. As always, it is a fantastic model, John. As to Steves point, I can overlook a variation in scale such as 20mm to 25mm but I have seen it suggested one could use 1/300 to create a village with the ground scale footprint appropriate to 28mm figures...that is two or three steps too far for me. The overall aesthetics are very important to me....I don't want my figures towering over the surrounding terrain, I would rather compromise on ground scale and movement/firing ranges!

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    1. Thanks rross. It was precisely my cunning plan to surprise viewers with how small the building is, so if it only worked with you then my scheme was not entirely in vain!

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  3. Great result, and good o hear the thought process behind the size of the piece. How did you the ionic columns - I would like to do something similar on some models I have in mind!

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    1. Thanks, Kym. The tops of the columns were from my bits box, I must have had them 20-30 years. They were white metal HO scale castings made by a model railway supplier called Scale Link. I just looked and there is still a firm going by that name, who do the old etched brass frets that were a major line, but I am not seeing the white metal castings on their site. I am certain they will be available from some supplier in the field, but I'm afraid you might have to search a bit.

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  4. Lovely bit of scratch building and I rather like the subtle weathering on the roof, I am coming around to 20mm buildings for 28mm figures except for skirmishing and have , following your example, purchased the pegasus Russian buildings which I'm happy to use for 28mm skirmishing anyway!
    Best Iain

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