Well Wörth It!

August 6th 1870 (150 years ago today) saw the first two large scale actions of the Franco-Prussian War, at Spicheren and Wörth (hence the title), both ending in defeat for the French.  My intention was to have staged a wargame to mark this anniversary, but COVID-19 restrictions have prevented that from taking place, although I stuck to my aim of having all of the troops ready that I’d need for the game.  To put this in some context, I’ve been working on my Franco-Prussian War project for over 30 years and have still to have my first game!  But, at least I’m ready for it!  This post will basically fall into two parts – the first part shows the latest figures I’ve finished and the second part will be the waffly bit describing why it’s taken me so bloody long to get this far!

Back at the start of the year, I worked on preparing the figures I still needed to complete this project and they are now finished.  I’ve already posted pictures of my French and Prussian infantry and artillery painted earlier in the year, which just left the cavalry to finish (my aversity to painting cavalry is well known)!

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First of the recently finished cavalry was a French dragoon unit (shown above).  These are Irregular Miniatures 20mm figures and very nicely sculpted.  Irregular’s 20mm figures are on the smaller side, so a challenge to paint, but they always come out well I think!

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Since I use movement trays for all my FPW units, they’re shown above on their unit base as well.  French Dragoon uniforms in 1870 were in a state of transition, the jacket changing from a short green one to a longer blue tunic – the Irregular figures wear the latter, which is the one I prefer.  The helmet was brass with a leopard skin band around it, although the latter is quite small on these figures.

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Next figures are Prussian hussars (shown above).  These represent Brandenburg Hussar Regiment Number 3.

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Once again, they’ve got a unit base as well!  Now, I have a big admission to make about these – they’re actually not FPW figures, but German WW1 hussars from Britannia Miniatures!  Despite their huge range of figures, Irregular Miniatures only make Prussian dragoons for 1870 (which I’ve already got) and I didn’t want another dragoon unit.  B&B Miniatures have a very good range of FPW 20mm figures that includes Prussian hussars, but I didn’t want to use them (they are wearing the pelisse, a fur-trimmed over-jacket worn fastened only around the neck, but in 1870 only the Prussian Guard Hussars wore the pelisse).  So I bought five Britannia WW1 German hussar officers and a single trumpeter to make up the unit.  I had to add the busby bag from milliput but otherwise the figures look the part, overlooking some other details with the equipment and horse blankets.  I opted for the Brandenburg regiment because of its red jackets and busby bags, which make a change to the bulk of my units which are dressed in blue.  It’s not really evident from the pictures, but the officer has silver uniform distinctions compared to the white decorations of his men, but he also has white gloves, a black horse and a clump of white flowers on his base to distinguish him (his busby is also brown, whereas the men where black busbies, but it doesn’t show up in these pictures)!

So, I’m pleased to get these units finished, both because they’re cavalry and the last of the units I’d wanted to complete.  As far as further FPW units are concerned, I’ve only got some French infantry and dismounted dragoons planned, so the armies are probably near enough finished!

OK, now the more boring, waffly bit (mentioned for those that might not be able to tell the difference)!  When I got engaged in 1988 (yep, last century) I realised I wasn’t going to be able to continue to play room-size WW2 games across entire floors on green-dyed sheets placed over piles of clothing representing hills!  A reduction in scale was going to be needed to accompany a move to playing on a dining room table!  A series of articles back in the 1970s (maybe ’80s even) Airfix magazine had covered the Franco-Prussian War, so I though I might like to give that a try.  To that end, I bought some Minifigs 15mm French and Prussian figures that came with a quick play ruleset and was ready to get started!

Now those of you that have followed my blog for a while know that, as far as figures go, I stick to 20mm scale.  But 15mm was all part of the scaling down games exercise, so I just had to get on with it.  Over a few years, I painted up a small French force based around 14-man infantry battalions, finishing six of the latter, a twelve-man dragoon regiment and an artillery battery.  Some of these figures were also painted while I was away on business, since I placed a higher priority on painting my wargames figures in the evening than sitting in a bar with my colleagues drinking beer and watching football!  Having finished the French starter force, I moved onto the Prussians, and . . . disaster struck; the first Prussian infantry unit finished turned white after varnishing with a matt acrylic varnish spray!  This coincided with the realisation that I still had no 15mm scenery for games either and that, combined with the varnish issue sealed the fate of 15mm FPW gaming for me!  The French went to a bring-and-buy sale at a wargames show and that was that!

At some point after this, 20mm FPW figures appeared on the market, first in plastic from Emhar, then in metal from B&B Miniatures.  This tempted me to make a new start, so I bought the Emhar figures and stashed them away for a rainy day!  What continued to put me off was the fact that I needed to paint 20-man Prussian infantry battalions and that was going to be a chore!  But in 2014 I painted up some early-WW1 French and Germans quickly for a Battle of The Marne centenary wargame and to get things done quickly I used 10-man units.  This worked quite well, so I thought why not try the same approach with FPW figures.  Another plus was that I’d already painted French Turcos for Boxer Rebellion wargames and they could be used for FPW games (in addition, early-WW1 French infantry can pass for later war-FPW French infantry, so I already had the basis of a French force under way).

So, freshly motivated after painting my WW1 figures, in 2015 I made a start with FPW Prussians and in that year got a reasonable army assembled, using black washes (badly) for the first time to speed things up.  I then got side-tracked by the 1866 Seven Weeks’ War and, leading up to the 150th anniversary of that in 2016, painted an Austrian force to fight the newly-painted Prussians!  A spin off of that was that the Austrians could also be used to fight the French in the 1859 Second War of Italian Independence – three armies, fighting in three wars (ignoring small uniform changes that occurred)!

At this point, I could see the plan for painting FPW armies all coming together, which is no doubt why I then diverted off on my Paraguayan War project!  But I also thought that I didn’t really have that far to go with FPW armies and that getting them ready for 2020, the 150th anniversary of the start of the war, was achievable.  I was right!  I now have French and Prussian armies for a project that has been on the go for over 30 years, but I still haven’t had my first game with them!

If you’ve read this far, well done and thank you for sticking with it!  At some point I should probably try and get some pictures together of these armies, but that will have to wait for now!  Having waited this long, a few more years aren’t going to matter!

48 comments

  1. Great work on all your cavalry John, and what an interesting journey you’ve had to see this project to completion, was good that other projects helped to see this project through, even if others caused a bit of a delay ! LOL

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post! I was laughing several times, shaking my head and thinking “this chap is a lot like me”. My start in wargamimg is a bit later than yours, so my longest unplayed project isn’t at the 30 year mark. But at the rate I’m painting FIW minis, it probably will be. Heck, My rules of choice (Muskets and Tomahawks) is on version 2 and I’ve only played one game! At a con… With someone else’s minis…

    Cool post. Beautiful minis. I couldn’t make out silver ornaments, but the white gloves were quite clear. Well done!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Pete! 🙂 I think it really had to be red for those hussars! I’ll use Neil Thomas’ 19th Century European Wargames rules, which are ideal for this! I’ve tweaked them for Paraguayan War and Boxer Rebellion/colonial combats, but I can use them essentially unmodified for FPW (I’m trying my own Mitrailleuse rules though). They’re quick and simple, but do seem to deliver the expected results!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Absolutely beautiful figures John, fully understand the move to 20mm, though I’m moving the other way, I do still love 20mm stuff and when it’s painted as well as yours even more so, I can see why you’ve been at this for 30 years, it certainly hasn’t been wasted time! As Roy Castle used to say ” Dedication is what you need!”

    I hope when you do finally play a game, the rules live up to your expectations.

    Cheers Roger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Roger, that’s much appreciated! 🙂 I like 25/28mm but they take longer to paint and take up more room and I can now get everything I need in 20mm! Since I’ve already used the rules, it’ll be interesting to see how they work for this conflict – Krupp artillery should beat Chassepot rifle fire, but we’ll see!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. While everything looks great, those German Hussars are really top-notch! The colors are bright and eye-catching and their faces look really well painted too. Definitely a unit to be proud of. I’d love to see those other armies when you get around to showing them off as well! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Fantastic work here John. The Brandenburgers look awesome. Love your dedication to putting the game together. The 20th Century would not have been the same without the FPW, so glad you are memorializing it. If only people would remember the disastrous Paris Commune as well, but I digress…

    I cringed at your matte varnish disaster – wow. What do you think caused that to happen?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mark! 🙂 Glad you like them! Does make you wonder how history might have turned out of something’s hadn’t have happened!
      There are probably a lot of people have a view on why acrylic matt aerosol varnish dries white-ish. The impression I got was that the varnish droplets dried in the air before contact with the model, but that could be wrong! I put it down to a combination of distance I sprayed from and ambient conditions. I’ve moved on and now only use enamel matt varnish – it might eventually yellow with age but it always goes on well enough. Just out of interest, I tried an acrylic varnish spray I’d been sent by mistake a couple of weeks ago on some movement trays and it dried white-ish!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely work on these bijou 20mm cavalry, I always like your vibrant colours and clean approach which is really effective. By a curious coincidence I’ve been putting some paint on to Brandenburg Hussars myself, Napoleonic versions who (I hope I’m right) are wearing a blue dolman not red in this period.

    I like your choice of periods, the lesser known mid-19th C stuff is always interesting. I noticed recently that Perry Miniatures are now in production with some nice 28mm versions of the Paraguayan conflict.

    Interesting to read of your move from 15mm to 20mm too – my favourite scale!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Marvin! 🙂 I’ll look forward to seeing your hussars!
      I’m so pleased the Perry figures came out after I’d got the bulk of my Paraguayan War figures done (well, OK, the point of no return was reached then). Their figures are nice and the uniform info and downloadable flags are pretty good!
      With having done WW2 stuff since I was a kid I think the fact that I considered 15mm figures was the odd bit – fortunately there is now more than enough stuff in every scale you want!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I just love it John ,you have made my day, thirty years ,wow ! make you feel better, thirty eight years ago I purchased a model wooden sailing ship for around $400 and to my shame I have only planked the hull a few years ago as the instructions are so vague and the google wasn’t around to seek help! I have had it with me all my married life and it was moved around the country with us all this time and it is now referred to by the family as “The Ship “!! .I have given up and have left it to the daughter that’s building the tiny house as she feels excited about finishing it!
    I do love the French cavalry mate and as for Matt varnish ,AAHH you never know what you are going to get.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. i do love your painted stuff John, i do have a problem painting the horsey men though, i dont know if they are too much bother or what, but i have plenty to go at. Hopefully will take some shots of my stuff and make a post, waiting for cooler weather and an injection of can be bothered ness, stay safe..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Steve! 🙂 I found the horses a bit easier this time round, because I broke them down into different colours and painted them by colour. Otherwise, I’ve found painting the horse first feels like I make better progress, although I’m never going to “like” painting cavalry! I’m struggling at the moment to stay motivated, weather and all the other stuff no doubt affecting me, but I’m trying to plan for what to paint until the end of 2021 at the moment! Hope you’re OK and nice to see you stop by! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • As I have commented on Dave’s blog, I am painting along quite nicely but not photographing any as yet, I am not in the WordPress mood at present but will when it cools down and I get the urge, stay safe mate..

        Liked by 1 person

  9. What a nice project! I love those hussars, they are a real treat to the eyes.
    Neat story about how you came to 20mm scale. I have not much experience with it, I only did 1:72, which is 18mm I think (or is it the 20mm scale? there are so many on those small ones from 15mm, 1:87, 1:72 : x and so on)

    I also recently became very interested in the Unification Wars (even before the Perry’s announcement though), but in 25/28mm from North Star and Eagles of Empire, which are a only decent history-wise. While North Star are clearly 1864/66, the latter ones are supposed to be 1870/71. The Pickelhaube changed significantly in 68 though, which isn’t well represented in them.

    Funny that you talk about Wörth. I had to look that up a while ago and was surprised to see it was in Alsace-Lorraine instead of the one in Bavaria, which is funnily enough very close to Hohenlinden.
    As it has been 150 years now I hope for some good documentaries on the wars and model-wise the scene of Bismarck and Napoléon III at some point.

    Interesting tidbit about the Dragoons, as I they are very rarely depicted, and you usually only see the Hussars, Cuirassiers and maybe the Chasseurs. I always wondered how they looked in the FPW.

    Uniform-wise the French did dissappoint me though, because I loved their shakos and blue and white pattern, but sadly they had decided to become way more practical in the late 1860s and adopted the kepis.

    Also love how much detail you put into your bases with those single static grass tufts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks mate, glad you liked it! 🙂 The biggest blow to my plans for being able to use one army each for French, Austrians and Prussians in 1859, 1866 and 1870 was the fact that the Austrian infantry wore their coats in 1866! Other changes, like French infantry epaulettes being red for all companies in 1870, and the change in Prussian Picklehaubes, are small in comparison, but I can’t get Austrians in coats so am not going to worry about it! I think I can do some small work-arounds to get Wurttemburgers, Bavarians and Saxons for 1866, and HaT plastic WW1 French infantry will make passable 1864 Danes in this scale, but those might be projects for a distant future. I think 20mm is usually associated with 1:76 i.e. 1mm = 1 foot, so 20mm is about right for foot-to-eye (older scales are usually expressed in that way and not the height of the figure)!

      Would be nice to see more of everything on the Franco-Prussian War. given its significance to developments in the 20th Century. I still think there’s enough colour in the French armies, particularly where African troops are involved. And you’re right about dragoons being a bit neglected. although I have dragoons for my French Austrian and Prussian armies. French dragoons in 1870 were switching from the essentially Napoleonic short green jacket to the longer blue tunic – the Irregular Miniatures figures are clearly wearing the tunic though, but green jackets would have been nice for a change!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome, they’re great!

        Sad to hear this about the Austrians, as the 28mm only have the ones in coats and no other at all. Couldn’t you try converting 70/71 French Infantry to Austrians? Removing the epaulettes, switch the heads for ww1 austrian or 1850 French shackos and somewhat do the backpacks? I think the coat looks pretty similar with the 2 rows of buttons as well how it comes together?
        German states I can see being done with either WW1 British or Landwehr for the hats at least on Prussian bodies.
        Thanks for the clarification on the scale!

        You’re absolutely correct in that, FPW sow the seeds for the French-Prussian hate and Ausria’s weakness made up for the upcoming ambitions of the Italians who’d break their part of the pact in WW1 because of that in the end.
        Prussian Dragoons were relatively important at Königsgrätz I think, at least you see only those and the Hussars but no Cuirassiers in the re-enactment. 😀
        The Dragoons basically became Cuirassiers without their cuirasses from their looks then?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Some good points there on conversions! 🙂 I think at this point I’ll live with the Austrians as they are, but early WW1 French with the kepi extended to make a shako would probably be close enough in 20mm scale (and I’ve done enough kepi-to-shako conversions with my Paraguayans to know I could do it)! Bavarians and Saxons for 1866 can be represented really well by the SHQ 20mm Boxer Rebellion Japanese and I’ve got half a mind still to do some Saxon infantry, unless the figures actually get painted as Japanese!
          I’ve read that most cavalry in the period still fought shock actions, regardless of whether they had firearms or were dragoons! I do know that some French Dragoons in 1870 did fight dismounted (and I’ve just finished some dismounted figures), so I have the option of being able to use them in that role. Interestingly enough, I’m actually adding another artillery unit to my Austrians for 1866, given that Austrian artillery was handled very well then!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Aren’t there any Crimean War French in 20mm? Those shackos would also make brillant headswaps.
            Reminds me, that I’ll have to look at your Paraguayans later on. I only recently informed myself about the War of the Triple Aliance, which was to say the least very turbolent and surprisingly bloody.
            Considering the Cav I saw the same with dismounted Prussian Uhlans, though French Dragoons were more often true to their original intention, looking at the Peninsular campagin as well. I still find it a bit shocking, that shock-cav was able to fulfil its role so well, while most of them didn’t even wear helmets let alone cuirasses, but on the other side, muskets weren’t your modern day ultra-precise or high ammunation firing guns.
            Boxer Imperial Japanese, didn’t think about them, but ther caps and uniforms should fit rather well. On that note, maybe even Russians could fit some purposes, as the German uniform fashion was rather close to the Russians most of the time.

            Liked by 1 person

          • All good points there! 🙂 Crimean War French in 20mm usually come with . . . kepis! It would appear that regardless of regulations, kepis usually predominated! Your shock cavalry point is very relevant – even rifled muzzle-loading infantry firearms could halt a cavalry charge, and once breechloaders were introduced cavalry charges became suicidal!
            And WW1 Russians are usually pretty good for a lot of uses, since they have only basic equipment!

            Liked by 1 person

  10. Lovely work on the models, and a great styory as well – like you, I’ve got (too many) forces I’ve bought and been working on for years that have still not yet been blooded on the table. We’ll see what the next couple of years holds in store as I continue to get stuff finished and we (hopefully) see the end of COVID as a major threat.

    Liked by 1 person

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