Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Scratch Built Granary 28mm

A scratch built Granary, made from card, PVA glue and sand, and finished at last after much effort! Granaries like this featured in several Napoleonic battles, so a useful building to have. 
I've added quite a long post here with more detail than you probably wanted to know about historical granaries and their miniature construction... read on so forewarned ;) 

View of the other end of the granary.

Showing the multiple doors on the other side. They were for loading grain, with the hole above the top door being where a post for a crane was extended to facilitate this.

Design and Construction

I thought I would discuss design and construction here in a some detail for any interested, and for my own future reference! Many of the issues are relevant to wargaming buildings in general.

The building I ended up making is clearly based on the Essling Granary at the Battle of Aspern Essling, even including the sundial. However the aim was not to create an exact replica, but rather an isomorphic transformation of it. I.e. I wanted to keep a similar height to the building and to the size of doors and windows (so they don't look out of place with 28mm figures), but shrink the length and width so that the total area of the building was about 200cm squared rather than 600cm squared. The reason for this is the ground scale in wargaming. Similar to many other 28mm gamers, I use 25-50 yards represented by 2.5cm or an inch. So even a large building like a hundred yard long Granary should only be 10cm or 4 inches long at most. If I allow that it also represents some nearby features like the northern walled Master's Garden at Essling (which was in a mutually supporting position), then 15-20cm would be ok. This would also allow a building that would still look large and imposing enough next to 28mm figures. 

Multiple companies already sell versions of the Essling Granary in scales from 3mm to 28mm. The best option in 28mm I found was this laser cut pre-painted MDF version of the Essling Granary from Empires at War. This is a fine kit, except that it is prepainted MDF and quite large. Prepainted MDF looks great alongside other prepainted MDF buildings, but if your other buildings are plastic or resin like mine, many people think MDF can look a bit flat and kitset like in comparison. That is not necessarily a problem because you can also add texture and so on to enhance them - see this video example from Too Fat Lardies. However, the main problem was the size. Unfortunately this kit is 30cm long, and as mentioned I wanted something more like half this size to avoid groundscale problems.  I also found another laser cut MDF Prussian Granary from Terrain4Games. This looks like being another very useful alternative. Quite a different style though, and I'm unsure of its dimensions.

Anyway, having reviewed the options I decided to have a go at making my own granary from scratch,  especially given the overall design looked pretty simple to me - though as I found it still has considerable detail to attend to...

Materials I used were very basic:
  • Craft knife, ruler, pencil
  • 2mm cartridge cardboard for walls
  • Thin cardboard from a cereal packet for framing and tiles
  • PVA Glue
  • Fine grade railway ballast (or sand)
  • An MDF base (20cm x 15cm)
The first thing I did was to sketch out some rough plans and experiment until I got something that looked about right, keeping some figures nearby to check on size. 


I transferred the design to the cartridge card and cut out the sections. With craftknife and ruler I cut out all the windows and doors. While the overall shape is simple, it turns out there are over 50 windows including the roof ones, so I started to see this was going to be rather more work than I had imagined!

The pieces were glued together, and then I started adding framing and tiles with the thin cereal packet cardboard...

This was the most time consuming process as there ended up being 200 window framing pieces, 200 other framing pieces, and over 1200 tiles to glue on, one by one...! It was completed over several evenings. I'd HIGHLY recommend getting some very inexpensive tiling sheets from Warbases if you are contemplating something similar. These would save a lot of time. Unfortunately I didn't find out about them until halfway through the tiling process when they were mentioned in a video I had on in the background (one of many videos that passed while tiling...)

Next was adding some rough texture to the non-framed parts, by painting a mix of PVA glue and fine ballast/sand on these areas. I've used this technique for ages for any sort of rough stone look. Very easy, looks good, and strengthens wargaming terrain up considerably.

As so...

Done and drying...

Once dry I then painted the entire building with PVA glue to seal and lock it all together so it is nice and tough for wargaming and storage. This is particularly helpful for the roof tiles.


I sprayed it with black undercoat and left it to dry. Then I played around with several colour combinations to find something that looked ok to me - note the completed section on the end which is what I went with. The basecoat I ended up choosing was Vallejo Yellow Ochre - I originally tried just Buff highlighted with White but the contrast was not enough. Here it is with the Yellow Ochre done.

Then drybrushed with Vallejo Buff.

Then drybrushed with White. 

Framing was painted white, and I decided to also line this framing with a umber colour to make it stand out more. Probably not necessary but I like contrast at this scale for wargaming. Doors and windows  were painted in a rusty dirty metal to represent oxidised iron (doors on the Essling Granary are faced with iron, and windows have iron mesh). I decided to go with a grey slate for the roof rather than brick, simply drybrushing successive layers of gray until it looked about right. The Essling Granary probably has brick tiles if you see the photos below, but they can look quite grey because of lichen and weathering, and I thought slate tiles would look better anyway. Basing was completed to match that used for my figures.

The roof lifts off so troops can be placed inside, it's a practical gaming piece after all. It also has a couple of magnets to hold the roof securely in place, but those are not really necessary to the build and it would have been ok without these.

Lastly came what I thought would be a very easy task - just sticking on a photo printout of the sundial! However, at such a scale reduction this ended up looking disappointingly blurry, washed out and unattractive. So another couple of hours was spent with paint brushes ranging from 0 to 5/0  enhancing it so it would be bright and clear on the wargaming table!

Here it is available to print out for other wargamers who want a nice bright "just painted in 18th Century" version of this! Or the original from a current day photograph if you prefer. 

 Then I very carefully cut this sundial out and glued it to the model - completed at last! 

Historical Granary Photos

As I mentioned, Granaries were important terrain features in several large Napoleonic battles, including Aspern Essling in 1809, Raab in 1809, and Austerlitz in 1805. Those battles involved Austrians, and perhaps readers are aware of other battles where Granaries were important.

As can be seen in the photos below, these Granary buildings all share the same features of very solid construction, multiple stories with dozens of small windows, iron faced doors (at least in the case of the Essling Granary). On one side these buildings have the distinctive banks of doors for loading grain. The walls were so strong that they were impervious even to cannon fire, which made them very imposing defensive positions. 

Essling Granary

Essling Granary from battle of Aspern Essling. The granary I based mine upon.

Note the tiles have a red or greyish appearance depending on the lighting and distance.



One of the iron faced doors, which still has musketball holes visible. The brick construction under the rough coat is also visible.  The walls of the Granary are over a metre thick! Hence the resistance to cannon balls.

Here's a better view of the sundial, showing the detail with greater contrast, though unfortunately not taken at an exact 90 degree angle. Whether or not the original building had this sundial is not certain I think, but information here where this photo is from suggests the original was made in the 18th century and restored in the 1990's. Of course it also says that the Battle of Aspern was in 1810 and that this building was the French headquarters (the battle was in 1809 and this building wasn't the headquarters), so who really knows. But I assume such town sundials were not uncommon before mechanical clocks, plus it looks good so I added it!

Here's a painting of Austrian Grenadiers attacking the Essling Granary. They suffered very heavily and were ultimately unable to force their way through the iron doors. Archduke Charles was appalled at the casualties they suffered, and denied their request to try and assault it again. One Grenadier battalion suffered over 90% casualties in the fight for Essling.

One last point on the commercial models available for the Essling Granary, is that many of them seem to be constructed incorrectly compared to the actual building - e.g. they get the ends of the building around the wrong way.  There's also some question about what are really 1809 features and what are more recent additions, and it's likely impossible to say for sure without some more detailed research. The arched door on the end opposite to the sundial may be a later addition. In any case though, if you're trying to do a model of the Essling Granary I'd recommend using the actual building or historical sources for references rather than other wargaming company or hobbyist models of it! 


Kismegyer Farm

Another very similar building is Kismegyer Farm from Battle of Raab in 1809, where Austrian Regulars and Landwehr held out right until the end of the battle. See Wargamer Rabbit's  blog entry for more on this.



Solkonitz Granary

Another Napoleonic Granary, Solkonitz Granary from Battle of Austerlitz in 1805.

Painting of the eve of Austerlitz, though the Solkonitz Granary is located behind the viewpoint of this painting I think so not visible.

Looks like the Solkonitz Granary has since been converted into a hotel/housing complex since the above photo was taken!

Conclusion

And so it is done! I'm pretty happy with it. Very satisfying making something from a few scrap materials. While it's based on the Essling Granary it will be useful for similar buildings in other battles. And now that I have the thing built, I had better get on and finish everything else I need for Aspern Essling!

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Encounter Battle: French Imperial Guard vs British

Matt's been asking that I use my Guard for a while, and I finally relented for the next small engagement.  Despite painting them up well over three years ago I've never actually used them, so perhaps it was about time! I painted them because bizarrely we didn't have enough of them available amongst local gamers for some big refights we have planned. We have perhaps the most restrained French players on the planet here! No one wants to fulfill that stereotype of the player with tonnes of Guard and not enough of the regular stuff I guess :)

Here's the mighty French Guard list I decided upon. I figured I'd take the very best I could for the points, ending up with a small 1814 style force. 1000 points works out to be about a small Corp on average if you take each unit to be a large battalion or under-strength regiment (i.e. about 600-1000 men), but it's a very small Corp for the Guard here. I have an Old Guard Infantry Brigade, a Middle Guard Brigade, plus a Guard Heavy Cavalry Brigade and Guard Light Cavalry Brigade. Napoleon as Genius Commander is in charge of course, costing 100 of the 1000 points available! I could have taken him as a regular Army Commander on one of his haemorroid off days but didn't seem right to do so! Note also the Young Guard in the below list with unit count listed as zero - these were originally included too, but with all the other Elite and Veteran troops something has to be left out at 1000 points. Similarly for artillery I end up with just a single battery of Horse Artillery available given the points restriction.

The British list is also very good quality, though still considerably larger given they have many regulars. Command and control seems to be another area of economising, with Wellington having an off day and not being rated as Genius - I wonder how will that work out?

We roll up a battle scenario using 321 rules again, with the British attacking in wooded country, and yet another encounter battle which Matt keeps rolling up. So half of our Brigades start in reserve. Despite the wooded location (which doubles odds of woods being generated), we instead end up with many hills, including a superbly useful ridge in my left-centre, and otherwise open terrain.

I start with my Light Cavalry, and Old Guard Infantry Brigades on table and the Middle Guard and Heavy Cavalry in reserve. Here's the Dutch and Polish Lancers.

View from my deployment area. The British start with three Infantry Brigades on table, and one Infantry and two Cavalry Brigades in reserve.  


The Old Guard Brigade ready to advance on my right. Grenadiers in second line and Chasseurs in skirmish order in front.  The plan is to jog forward Battle of Hanau style and sweep away all before them!

First turn and the British approach the central ridge and occupy the built up area on their right. I launch the Lancers over the ridge towards them, just aiming to force them into square and slow them down a bit. My Horse Artillery also advances and unlimbers and starts to wreak havoc with Canister.

The British form square and repel the lances easily enough as expected.

On the right my Old Guard all form line and advance rapidly, hoping to achieve a result before weight of numbers can tell against them.

First volley from the Old Guard knocks most of the skirmishing rifles out of the fight, and the remainder pull back. 

My cavalry retires, Polish Lancers experiencing some fatigue, but the Dutch still managing to maintain good order.

The British struggle to advance with their infantry against my left, with a lack of their artillery and cavalry hampering them, and the ridge providing valuable cover for my cavalry.

On the right the Old Guard break a Highlander unit in the salient this small British Brigade had formed here.

Reserve British Heavy Cavalry arrive just in time to halt the Old Guard advance, and artillery and musketry inflicts the first disorder upon the Guardsmen. 

The British are still struggling on the left, coming close to silencing my Horse Battery with Light Infantry, but not quite managing it.

My own Heavy Cavalry arrive, Horse Grenadiers and Empress Dragoons racing up the centre.

Just in time too as my Lancers have conducted several charges by now and are becoming dangerously exhausted. 


My Old Guard are able to remain in line as the British Cavalry seems reluctant to charge. Matt experiences a rather disastrous series of command checks for his Generals who seem intent on holding rather than doing anything useful.

Nonetheless my right flank Old Guard Chasseurs are now only one hit away from dispersing and I pull them back to reorder.

The Middle Guard arrive, while the British Light Cavalry Brigade has got itself lost somewhere and is nowhere to be seen.

In the centre, the Old Guard Chasseurs attempt to charge the British Guards, who have been formed in square to ward off the Polish lancers much of the battle. However artillery fire and a volley from the British sees the Chasseurs failing to charge home. 

The Middle Guard advance onto the central ridge and pour musketry into another British unit which breaks, as does another British unit under fire from the heroic Guard Horse Artillery.

Horse Grenadiers and Empress Dragoons face Scotts Greys and artillery.

In one of those "you wouldn't do this if it was a campaign" moments, the Horse Grenadiers charge the Scots Greys, and the Empress Dragoons fail to charge home on the Artillery. The British Cavalry swans about in front of the Guard infantry taking casualties from musketry and doing nothing useful though covering the reforming British Guards at least...


The Horse Grenadiers force the Scots Greys to retire but are pretty beaten up in return and so they withdraw to reform rather than pursuing. (The Scots Greys wouldn't have had as much sense if they had won of course...)

The Middle Guard have been attempting to advance on the guns on the right, but heavy canister fire forces them to withdraw in a hurry.

The Middle Guard on the ridge have also taken heavy artillery and musket fire as they try and defeat the very resilient British Guards. One of the Middle Guard units breaks under this fire, and the other unit routs also. 

Right then both the Old Guard and Heavy Cavalry Generals are killed by Artillery fire while attempting to reform their troops!  Who knew that sitting around in front of three batteries of guns was such a risky business? Replacements quickly take their place though and the emergency passes. The British are still having disastrous command checks, holding rather than advancing where they have an advantage, and they just miss finishing off the retiring Middle Guard with artillery fire.

And at last the British reach the tipping point. Their right flank Brigade completely collapses in a cascading series of routs, and a Heavy Cavalry and Guards unit on their left are also overwhelmed by the Old Guard. The British force has had enough and quits the field!

Conclusion

A close run thing. This could have easily gone the other way with just one or two different dice rolls at critical points. The British were also unable to utilise their superior numbers to good effect due to command problems. Indeed their Light Cavalry never showed up at all despite a 50% chance each turn for six turns with a reroll on at least one or two of those turns from the Army Commander.  

I'm still not sold on the Elite rating for the Guard (morale 5 as compared to 4 for veteran), which I'm concerned is too powerful under these rules given the odds ratios it generates. Just how good Elite troops should be is a contentious issue of course. Morale should be hugely important, but I also don't believe in 'supermen' and the Old Guard felt pretty amazing in this game. Not that they did anything unreasonable by historical standards perhaps, but they are just so resilient.  Matt felt they were probably ok though, and as it turned out just one or two different dice rolls would have changed things completely in the last couple of tense turns! We'll have to give them some more testing.