First, At Last!

I’m not very good at writing end-of-year or start-of-year posts.  I can’t remember what I had for me tea yesterday, let alone painted last year and I’m more than likely never going to stick to any plan for the forthcoming year.  But I have at least finished my first figures for 2020, although they have that distinction only because they failed to become the last figures finished in 2019!

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When I planned on painting my Brazilian Zouave unit at the end of last year, my intention was always to paint a Paraguayan unit along with it to keep some sort of balance between my Paraguayan War forces.  Somewhat surprisingly, I decided to paint a Paraguayan cavalry unit (have I ever mentioned how much I hate painting horses?  Oh, I have!) to at least give my Paraguayan army an advantage in cavalry.  At the start of the war, the Paraguayans tended to have both more and better quality cavalry, although their numbers declined as the war dragged on (not least because the supply situation meant horses had to be eaten).

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So, falling back on Newline Designs 20mm American Civil War cavalry in kepis, I started painting this unit over Christmas but only got it finished last weekend (the wind dropped sufficiently enough on Sunday to get them varnished, but I had to wait until today to be able to take photos in daylight).  As usual, the troopers’ kepis were converted to shakos with a plastic disc and greenstuff but I also painted two colour bearers carrying smallish flags (I’d like to have painted these as lances with pennons, but had to shorten them to fit the height of the boxes I store them in).

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The idea is to mix these figures up with my previous unit (wearing straw hats and all shown together above) so that each unit gets a flag.  I’ve also made a conscious effort to paint horses in different colours with this unit.  Aside from the officer on a black horse and three troopers on bays/chestnuts, one of the other troopers is on a dun and the bugler is on a speckled white horse – it’s based on a colour plate in an Osprey book, and is most likely an Appaloosa (I have a kids book on horse breeds that is a good reference guide).

Overall, I’m pleased with how these turned out, and that I’ve added another cavalry unit to my armies.  Despite not having strict painting plans in place for this year, I’ll probably slow up a bit on finishing figures in the short term, since I’m dropping back onto preparing figures to finish over the coming months.  Apologies if that sounds a bit too much like a plan!


  1. Great start to the year John, great work on varying the type of horse in the unit, especially as you don’t like painting horse, and looks great as part of the whole unit

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  2. Very nicely done John and a fine addition. I think the plan to work on the forgotten pile is on most people’s list, mine included but I have a feeling it is a pile which will grow rather than diminish. The trouble is there is just so much new stuff out there that we need! 🤗

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    • Thanks Justin! I think in European armies, buglers frequently rode white or grey horses (and were dressed differently) so that the officers could find them easily in the heat of battle and it’s just coincidence that I’ve put a bugler on that horse!

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  3. Lovely looking colourful unit and just the kind of topic I like, Paraguayan cavalry = obscure and interesting! I think you’ve done a top job with the horses and riders. I always paint a dun with every unit as my wife owns a dun pony, so very good to see one here too.

    One of my aims for this year is to dedicate some time to trying to develop a technique for some different horse markings to the usual ones that I do. When I’m painting cavalry, the temptation is just to play it safe, get on with it and stick with what I know. So a special horse-painting project using some unused horses to practice on is my idea.

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    • Thanks Marvin, glad you like them! I always like your cavalry, so I’ll be following that project with interest indeed! I think part of my “dislike” for painting horses is the fact that I always have to mix the colours and even if I get the colour slightly off, it looks completely wrong!

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      • Hmm, maybe because I paint so many I don’t find mixing a particular problem. Horse coats vary anyway so a little variation is fine. 🙂 Generally, I don’t fuss too much over the mix as I can lighten or darken as appropriate with wash and highlights. Some I don’t mix for at all – so for my dark bays I’ll just use Vallejo German Camo Brown!

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    • Thanks Pete! Interesting point you’ve made, since the new rules on the War In The Pacific 1879-84 have had a bit of coverage recently. I’ve got a handful of books on those armies and the war, so it’s not the news to me that it is to some people – unfortunately for me, there aren’t really many figures in 20mm that I could use or convert easily, (believe me, I’ve looked into it) otherwise I think I’d have been wargaming the conflict and probably in preference to the Paraguayan War!

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  4. I had a fear of horse painting John until I came across Marvin the magic horse painter and I had to paint all those horses for the ECW dio. Seeing the variety he did changed the way I did approached the task and put the blazes and socks on made it a bit more interesting, and like your self small batches, well done they look pretty good to me.

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    • Thanks Pat! Both you and Marvin do a great job with your horses and you paint way more than me, so I probably shouldn’t grumble. Actually, I’m finding all painting easier to do if I just break it down into small chunks – an hour a day is enough to make steady progress for me, more if I’m on a roll!

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  5. Nice miniatures and so colorful. I agree that the speckled white horse does stand out and it is neat how you varied them. Yep, kind of sad: doesn’t matter how professional your cavalry forces are if you have to eat your horses!

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    • Thanks Ann! I am now intending putting more variation into cavalry units that are in the planning stage as far as horse colours go, and the odd reference source does include details on horse colouring where it was relevant (or even mandated). The Paraguayans do seem to have maintained cavalry forces in ever diminishing numbers until the closing stages of the war, which must have been quite a feat in itself!

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      • I know very little about it, but I agree you are probably right. Maintaining some semblance of a cohesive, regular unit of a type that requires certain resources can be tough when supply and logistics are a problem. As someone, who spent some time in an S&T unit years ago, it was interesting to see how much effort was put into protecting during war games and much effort the OpFor put into attacking our wretching trucks. Remember thinking at the time how the whole “keeping women out of combat,” ethos at the time was a joke if the balloon had really gone up during the Cold War. Anyway, I’m getting off the subject of the Paraguayans and your horses. Looking forward to seeing more of them. I didn’t know there were mandates about coloring, though I could see where that would be relaxed or eliminated if they were at the horse-eating stage. I guess the way you are painting them, you could perhaps simulate them both before and during the time when logistics became a problem?

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        • Funnily enough, quite a few Paraguayan operations were aimed at capturing supplies from Allied troops, and on several occasions the fighting got into Allied base areas, with the Paraguayans just rampaging about! Whereas I don’t think I need to think about horse colouring too much for this army, I need to for my Franco-Prussian War troops, but The Osprey book I’ve got on Prussian forces does list any horse colour restrictions in the different types of cavalry regiments. Back to the Paraguayans and I could just do an infantry unit with lances to represent cavalry without horses, although shortages in the Paraguayan army meant that some infantry units were spear-armed anyway!

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