Sunday 1 January 2023

A Chateau in Bohemia

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a good Christmas. Happy New Year at any rate. I have been laid low by the virus that everyone around has been getting. Is it Covid, flu or some nameless monster bug? Doesn't seem to make much difference at this late stage of the pandemic. I've had worse flu in the past, so it's nothing like the lethal early variants of Covid, but you get a kalaidescope of symptoms from day to day, linked throughout only by low mood and zero energy. Anyway, I'm about as normal as I get now, so on we go with the next photos from 1866 Bohemia.

Review of 2022

First a bit of a review  of 2022's hobby activity might be in order. I am a big believer in working towards objectives, and I set myself three for the year: Franco-Prussian War rules, finishing the armies for that period and making a really good (teddy-bear fur) cloth to cover my table. And then two other priorities forced their way onto the list: Franco-Prussian buildings and two more artillery masters for Michael Perry. This last job was the only one of the five targets definitively ticked off, the masters being handed over six months ago now. The cloth project has got nowhere as yet, although I have the beginnings of a flexible system of hills to lay beneath it (which I'll talk about another time). So that leaves three goals on which there's been concrete progress, but there's some distance to go as yet. 

Firstly the FPW rules. This time last year only concepts existed and a fully playable set has seen action maybe a dozen times since then. It's fully typed up and copies have been sent to those of you who asked. Feedback was received and incorporated from Garry Broom, Adrian Hussey, Nathan Paxton, Jonathon Marcus and Martin Gane. I did approach Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies with a view to discussing publication. He said at the very least he'd read them and give me feedback, which I would very much have welcomed. Sadly he then decided it wasn't a commercially viable period for the investment required and never gave me any feedback. Which I thought was rather disappointing of him. I have faint ideas of  approaching maybe Helion or someone. I'm still slowly refining the rules, so we'll see. Actually, I should say, I am quite chuffed with getting these rules done, because I had wondered whether my ageing brain would be up to it. Well it is. So far. Touch wood!

The main job as regards finishing Franco-Prussian armies is to do the staff. Because of the army level at which the game is set, we need command groups for armies, corps, divisions and a few lesser folk. Although our forces for this war are made up from the old Foundry range, we thought that staff from the new Perrys range would be reasonably compatible. Sadly 2022 has seen only a single pack of Prussian "high command" released, half of which are completely inaccurate (sorry to moan). So we can't do anything for the French as yet, whilst German command groups will be "heavy" conversions. At least I've done the necessary figures for the Bavarian corps, which you've seen. The Prussians will be feasible, but any French will have to wait for some actual releases for that army.

Finally, as you have seen I've built a few earthworks and two chateaus for this period. There's another chateau planned, plus village buildings and some other bits and bobs such as railway lines and vineyards. 

Apart from these making and painting targets, I have kept this blog going, with some 40 posts in 2022. There's been some great feedback and comments from readers, and I've been able to provide advice to a number of people with scenery projects of their own. Some of this has been via email rather than comments on the blog, which is fine. I have now photographed almost all of my earlier projects and after about another four posts on Bohemia, it will be current work and the long-promised tutorials. 

The Bohemian Chateau

Right, back to the nitty-gritty. I built this chateau some ten years ago. Unlike the recent  French baroque effort which was a major scratch-build, this building was a sort of conversion, a "mash-up" perhaps, of a model railway kit. The original was Baden-Baden railway station, an HO (1:96) production from Vollmer, which you can easily find online if you're interested. I was lucky enough to find a half-made, grotty version of this kit being sold cheap at a model railway show some years earlier, and had thought it might be the makings of something grandiose one day. 

The technique of taking a model railway kit and using it to make a wargames model of a somewhat different scale was one of the useful things invented by the late Peter Gilder. These kits can provide a ton of useful detail such as windows and ornamentation. The two buildings in my last post both got their roofs from plastic kits. Mostly you have to buy these kits new and they aren't particularly cheap (though Ebay may help), but they save a lot of time and can provide something different, plus it's a good approach for the less confident modelmaker. Simon Chick ran with this approach, as you may see on his Je Lay Emprins blog (link in right-hand column). The key thing, which Peter Gilder noted, is to get at least the ground floor and any doors to a height that looks something like compatible with the figures you are going to use. The upper storeys aren't so noticeable. 

In this case, I made the basic walls from scratch, so basically the parts coloured ochre, cutting window openings to fit the kit part and cutting kit details to fit on top. The roof is made from cut-up roof sections of the kit. A few parts such as chimneys and stairs are scratch-built. 

The architectural style of Baden's railway station, and hence this chateau is what's called "rococo". This look was an ornamental development of the baroque style we have talked about before, starting in  France during the early eighteenth century. For some reason it lasted longest in Germany, and hence the Austrian Empire. Rococo style is fussy and flowery, cupids being the signature detail!

Here Austrian uhlans and hussars show off their own fussily-detailed style. Although to be fair there's no cupids.

An Austrian Grenz regiment, in this case Number 13 Roman-Banat. Grenz infantry had been classed as light troops right up to the war of 1859, but in 1866 were just seen as slightly unreliable line troops and mostly used for garrisons. The parade uniform had brown tunics, which you only see on the officer here.

The Austrian rocket launcher used in 1866. By this time they worked on the unspectacular Hales system, ie spin stabilised, no longer the "firework rocket" approach. Also by this time rifled artillery had made the rockets relatively short-ranged. They hoped for a certain morale effect, but this was lost on the stolid Prussians! The only remaining advantage from this weapon system was that it was transported by pack mules, so could go up mountains and through woods unlike conventional artillery.

Austrian gunners run up a 4-pounder. Conversions from Perrys ACW gunners. These pieces were the final and optimal development of bronze muzzle-loading artillery. All the barrel-bands, dolphins and the rest of it were stripped away, leaving a simple, accurate, long-ranged and very light artillery piece. 


  1. Very nice manor house. The Austrians are a visual treat as well. Happy New Year to you.

  2. Sorry to hear you've been under the weather John, but my wife has too for two weeks now since they broke up from school. So a quieter Xmas and no visits at all last year compared to normal:(.

    Nice to read about your year in review and I have enjoyed seeing your buildings etc as they are superb. As a retired modelmaker I can fully appreciate the time, effort and skill required.

    As for your rules, have your tried Dave Ryan at Caliver books? He published some Napoleonic rules (Shadow of the Eagles) that my friend Keith Flint wrote a year or so ago. Another option could be self publishing as per Bob Cordery, whom I'm sure would be happy to give you advice.

    Here's hoping for a great 2023 for all of us! Happy New Year.

  3. That really is another stunning model John, beautiful work, I wish I had your ability and the patience to put it into practice! Although not affected in any way, I am surprised how long it has taken the Perrys to get the plastic sets for FPW French onto the market, it feels like the Prussians have been around for three or four years without anyone to fight against....I wonder if they are getting to an age where they are starting to lose interest, as retirement beckons?

  4. Lovely building and that scaling is so sensible. Sorry to hear that the rules were given the cold shoulder. I have two rule books that are in late play testing and, like you, am wondering how best to publish them. Probably the biggest challenge for me is learning layout software and then figuring out how to distribute the rules to the key markets while living in Vancouver, Canada! A lovely place but not exactly a short drive to Colours or Historicon. It seems that unless a rule book is glossy and lavish in images (and supported by a big miniatures company) it has little chance to make a splash. Good luck with your project and all the best for the new year.
    Chris (Canada)

  5. Hope you are starting to feel better now. These virus’s can be very draining. Love this model and it looks great in context with the Austrian troops.
    I have not bought the Perry mounted Prussian command set yet as I had some reservations . I was going to paint the commanders up as other generals but was concerned about the Hussar figure and thought I might swap his head for a forage cap or something. Any thoughts on how to make him a useful figure for an 1870 command set ?

  6. Unsure why I have suddenly come up as Anonymous, it’s Martin Gane

  7. Lovely work on the Rococo chateau. I always have a soft spot for that period though I'm not sure I would want any furniture in that style or to build a house that way, as it is a bit over the top--I have a friend who collects the furniture though! Useful tips also on how to build out of scale terrain so it works on the tabletop.

    Disappointing not to get feedback on the rules though from what I can see (I have no personal knowledge) the Too Fat Lardies are quite busy with their long-delayed supplements to Chain of Command. And perhaps in a sense that is the feedback, that he cannot see a commercially viable space for the rules? I don't know myself but I think it would be a hard market to crack being covered by Black Powder and the with the Perrys apparently intending to release their own Franco-Prussian War supplement to their Valour & Fortitude free rules.

    Anyway, the figures and chateau are very nice indeed and I look forward to following along in 2023!

  8. Another lovely building, immaculate, as ever. I'm very impressed by the re-purposing of details from a railway station kit and your ambition in giving your armies such a selection of stately homes to fight around!

  9. Thanks, very much everyone.

    Publishing suggestions appreciated, Steve, Chris and Kym. I'm not keen to try self-publishing as I have no skills in doing the desktop side of that and no desire to go entrepreneurial on the finance side. Will consider Caliver, but I'm thinking of exploring things with Osprey or Helion really.

    Rros, we have to remember there are two Perrys and although they present themselves as a single entity in various ways, Michael and Alan sculpt their own ranges, based on their own interests. They both retired from their day jobs (with Games Workshop) some years back now. Alan is still very busy, but Michael, who's doing the FPW, seems to have slowed down enormously. It was a year last July that the plastic Prussians emerged and a year before that when we first saw three-ups for both sides.It was nice to see the plastic shots for the French rank-and-file recently but the command figures are still under way, and Michael also commented that he's not got the box or the leaflet ready either.

    Martin, I have scratched my head on the very thing you ask, ie can a useable general be got from the figure of prince Friedrich-Karl in full hussar parade dress. Pictures of him like this after the war do exist, but so do zillions of his campaign dress in 1864, 1866 and 1870: cap instead of busby and certainly no pelisse. On the other hand his saddlery on campaign consisted of a proper hussar shabraque, where Michael's done him with the normal general's saddlecloth. It's baffling. I think I'll have to look to the hussar figure in the North Star 1866 "high command" pack.