Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dressing the Troops

As I mentioned in a prior post, one of the primary reasons for setting my campaign in the 18th century is the opportunity to paint my toy soldiers in bold, colorful uniforms. But, and this is an essential point, which colors?

I wanted colors that looked martial. But not colors immediately associated with a certain nationality. Prussian blue, British red and French white, for instance. I wanted colors that would work with a fairly wide variety of facing/cuff colors as well.

As it happens, I've been down this path before. Some years ago, I had a try at a campaign set in a fictional colonial land created by Donald Bailey. I chose the small country of Nerdistan for my adventures and games, and proceeded to paint up some 20mm WWI Serbian figures from HaT for my games. The army consisted of Nerdistani regulars, and more war-worn mercenaries from their border provinces (sound familiar?). The regulars worn purple and white, with red accents. The mercenaries worn middle brown and tan, again with red accents.

Nerdistani Regulars
Mercenary Infantry - Nerdistan campaign
My apologies for the quality of these pictures. I've learned a lot about photographing miniatures since then. Suffice to say the real miniatures weren't nearly so high contrast, and the purple tunics on the regular were a fair bit richer, the red quite a lot stronger too.

I was quite happy with the blend of martial and unique that these color choices gave me then, so I thought I'd give them a try in the 18th century as well. I was more confident with the chances of purple working well, so I tried that first.

I think those look rather smart, really. My long prior experience and study of Napoleonic uniforms makes that first set look more martial than the second, but it's clear that the armies of the mid-18th century could be found wearing all manner of colors on their cuffs. So, given than I need infantry battalions from more than three regiments in the Baden-Hundsheim army, these will see the field as well. I'm quite happy with these uniforms (though I may well change the facing-color cockades for a more uniform white or purple throughout).

Next up were some experiments with the brown scheme I'd used for the Nerdistan mercenaries.

I do like these well enough. In particular, I like the use of the brown tricorns to underline the brown theme, and the buff pants for the same reason. My main complaint, and it's a serious one, is that these uniforms look a bit too much like those of some American Continental units of the American Revolution. Especially the first row.

And so, I cast my net wider. I opened the color palette in my favorite graphics (which, of course, just happened to be open while I was coloring these uniforms in) and started poking around in it. Middle gray seemed a likely uniform color. Darker than the Swedes of the Great Northern War, but light enough to be clearly gray in 15mm, not read by eye as highlighted black.

I love these. Once I'd done the coats and turnbacks, I was already certain I'd found the colors for my Formulgala units. So, in a nod to the Seven Years War Russian uniforms, and because it looked quite nice, I colored the waistcoats and breeches red. I like these very, very much.

So there you have it. The Baden-Hundsheim regulars will be dressed in royal purple, while the Formulgala standing army will wear middle gray. At least for the infantry. Well, for most of the infantry. Regulars, that is.

You see one of the wonderful things about inventing your own nations is that anything goes. The artillery may well wear a different color than the infantry. The cavalry, or at least some units of the cavalry, may well be dressed more in accordance with the whim and personal style of their commanding officers than in any sense of national dress. And then there are the irregulars.

More on all of these, as things develop. For now, however, it's time to start painting infantry.

Sidenote: the templates for these uniform plates were found on the wonderful website "Not By Appointment," a vast and rich collection of Seven Years War uniform information and templates like these.


  1. I really like the Grey, the Purple is OK. I like the brown despite its American slant. (Although the Corsican regiment in French service did wear brown, not to mention Austrian arty )

    Afraid I have to disagree on the similarity of coats and tricornes in mid-18thC though. Early 18thC maybe but by the 1750's the cut of French British, Prussian and Austrians coats and hats were much more distinctive than later armies and can easily be distinguished at a distance, even with unpainted 15mm troops. Try that with 1816 European armies!!

    Not that you need to justify your choice of 18thC!


  2. Thanks Ross.

    I suppose it may very well be my ignorance showing itself. I very much admit that I am less familiar with the uniforms of this period than those of the Napoleonic Wars. As I learn more, I'm sure I'll be able to make the distinctions you're pointing out.

    Meanwhile, the die is cast and I'm happy with the result. So long as I'm inspired to paint and play the games, all is well :-)

    Thank you!

  3. Will,
    welcome to the merry brotherhood of Imagi-Native 18th C. rulers.
    Great, promising debut! Didactic and enjoyable 'why', very pleasant uniforms: cheers!

    'For the record' do you have pics of the other troops you painted for your Nerdistan project? Your blog mentions Hat Russian militia, Orion Ukranian Cossack cavalry... Is some record of Donald Bailey's campaign setting and other uses of it available on the web?

    If I may disagree -in all friendship- with Ross: now and then discussion threads on The Miniature Page debate of why the 18th C. is the period par excellence for Imagi-Nations (indeed on my blog I have links to some 200+ ones against some 30 19th Imagi-Nations -1/3 # Napoleonics, a few 1830-40, #1/2 Victorian, half that number of 20th C. ones -roughly half Interwars / half Cold War, 13 21st C. ones though I certainly don't know all the 'AK47' blogged countries).
    3 18th C. features are generally mentioned as essential:
    - the historical existence of 300+ states and statelets in the Holy Roman Empire, many largely ignored and with names bewilderingly similar;
    - the professional nature of the armies of the time, leading to 'Lace Wars' without hatred, relatively small armies with few different types &c...
    - the generic aspect of European uniforms: of course specialists can identify even in 28m a British, French, Austrian or Prussian infantryman. BUT since it was tricorne, justaucorps and gaiters for almost everybody, when painting a commercially available mini in imagi-native colors it does not turns out as blatantly a historical mini for this or that country unhistorically colored. While by Napoleonic times main 'nationalities' were immediately identified by the infantry hat: flowerpot, frying pan, stovepipe... even before considering the cut of the uniform.

    I'll add a link on my blog as soon as Blogger ceases to resist my attempts :)

  4. Hello abdul666,

    Thanks very much for the warm welcome. Unfortunately I don't have any more pictures of painted figures for the Nerdistan project. That project was overwhelmed by real life shortly after it began, and no more progress was made against it. I do still have an excellent collection of unpainted 1/72 plastics for that project, including all of the troop types you mention and don't plan to get rid of them. So, perhaps, the Nerdistan Dispatch will revive itself one day.

    I'll look for more about Don's campaign setting. I may be able to find something else, or get his permission to post more. I know he's written quite a bit about it in various wargaming magazines too.

  5. Will,

    As Jean-Louis said, "Welcome to the wonderful world of Imagi-Europa. I'm sure your two states will fit in well with the likes of Saxe-Bearstein, Hesse-Seewald, and Tradgardland.