For the last three months, I’ve been experimenting with my 6mm napoleonic project. I’ve played a number of games, first with DBN, then with an increasing number of modifications. More on that some other time.
When preparing the terrain, I realised that there were no 6mm buildings that would fit my requirements. As I did a bit of research on rural structures, I wanted my models to conform to the historical types. A couple of years ago, even before I got a 3D printer, I taught myself a bit of CAD, so I decided to try my hand at desigining 3D models. It turned out that it is not too complicated, as 6mm buildings don’t need that many details, and that I even enjoy it.
As others might be interested in those buildings, I’ve decided to put them up for sale on wargaming3d.com. So, for the princely sum of $4.50, you can purchase a set of stl files for 11 buildings: a large church, modeled after the Aspern church, a small church or chapel, a granary, modeled after the Essling granary, six rural houses, a traditional barn and a windmill. The windmill has no sails, as this would be too fiddly to print at this scale – I recommend using strips of thin cardboard.
The buildings are intended for 2mm to 6mm scales. For my 6mm games, I reduce them to 80% size, as I prefer them to have a smaller footprint. All my test prints have been with a resin printer (Anycubic Photon), I can’t say how they would turn out with a FDM printer, but I guess details will be lost.
They would fit from around 1700 up to 1945 for Austria and Bavaria.
I’ve been toying with the idea of 6mm wargaming for a long time. I like the scale and what is being done by the very lively community surrounding it. And although I’m a dyed-in-the-wool skirmish gamer, once every two years or so, I feel a slight inkling to try big battles. However, normally two things put me off: the huge amount of work involved in painting the large number of figures and the impression that big battles are nothing more than a line-up of densely crowded figures.
Recently, several events conspired to prompt me to finally take the plunge: First, I read the article “Go Big or Go Home” by Sam Mustafa (in Wargames Illustrated 408), where he enumerates the fundamental problems of big battle napoleonic rules and basically argues that it is impossible to write such rules without huge amounts of compromise and abstraction. I found this really liberating!
Secondly, I discovered the napoleonic games of a French club, Jeux d’Histoire du Ponant (JHP). They played a number of 1809 scenarios (which is how I found them), and their games look very different from what I expect when I think about big battle napoleonics: There are comparatively few units on a large table, with plenty of space to manoeuvre and room on the flanks.
I contacted them and they were kind enough to share information about their games – a huge thank you to YannD and Denis! They mainly play DBN, but also use Blücher. Blücher has been on my radar because my mates Sigur and Virago have a Blücher project going on. DBN was new to me but it might be just what I am looking for. I realised that I want to use rules that are easy to learn and remember, as I’m probably not going to play this as often as, say, Sharp Practice.
The third and final straw was the discovery of the 3D-files offered by MCminiatures. As I’m a bit on a budget at the moment, I can’t afford a metal 6mm army (which is even more expensive now because of post-Brexit customs) and other 3D files I have seen are also rather pricy. MCminiatures are not only low-priced, but they also come in strips and therefore give a real impression of mass. I like how they look, and the strips fit perfectly on 6mm bases, which incidentally is what JHP uses (and which can easily be used for DBN and Blücher). The range is comprehensive and Marco told me that more is to come. I’m especially keen on the baggage wagons he has promised.
I guess you can see the pieces falling into place! I fired up my 3D printer and made some test figures. It still amazes me that nice looking figures come out of this cheap machine – it feels like living in a sci-fi world…
My painting approach is very basic. I’m glad I did 2mm figures some time ago, so the whole “paint as a unit, not as individuals”-approach is nothing new to me and is made even easier by the strips. The figures are quite detailed and with more patience and time, one could certainly get more out of them. However, I want to get them on the table soon and I also have some terrain to make, so I’m restricting painting to the basics. Let’s see how they look when properly based.
Shortly before Christmas, I went on another 1809 themed walk, this time through Vienna. I followed the route of the French troops arriving at Vienna on 10 May 1809 and then looked at some of the residences occupied by French dignitaries during the occupation of the town.
My tour started at the Europaplatz, where today trains arrive at the busy Westbahnhof.
In 1809, this was the site of the so-called Mariahilferlinie, a part of the Linienwall, the outer ring of Viennese fortifications. This huge rampart was built at the beginning of the 18th century but was already in a rather desolate state by 1809. There was no longer a gate, but there would have been a small toll office. Today, only a very small part of the Linienwall is preserved.
Because of its length (13km), it would have been difficult to defend anyway. Nevertheless, the French cavalry vedettes which arrived first were shot at by outposts. However, when General Oudinot arrived with the brigade Conroux around 9am, they found that the Austrians had left the wall. Marshal Lannes thought that this meant that the city would capitulate and decided to send his ADC Joseph Michault de Saint-Mars together with former secretary to the French ambassador in Vienna, August Lagrange, and an escort of six riders and a trumpeter into the city to negotiate the surrender.
The sources do not say which route they took, but it is probable that they rode down the Mariahilferstrasse, which was the main road leading from the Mariahilferlinie to the inner wall in this sector.
I decided to follow this route, which leads through the former suburb of Mariahilf. Now one of the busiest shopping streets of Vienna, it would already have had quite an urban look around 1800.
Trotting down the Mariahilfer Strasse, the small French party would have passed the Mariahilfer Kirche on their right side. The church was built in the late 17th century. The building that can be seen to its left is from the late 18th century.
Further on, there is another building that was already present in 1809, namely the birthplace of actor and author Ferdinand Raimund. It was built in the 18th century, but the third storey was added in the middle of the 19th. The facade was also modified then, but the portal leading into the courtyard stems from the time of creation.
Continuing the walk, I finally reached the former Hofstallungen (court stables), which now house museums and galleries. The vast complex was built in the 18th century and marked the end of the suburbs and the beginning of the glacis.
Standing here, I tried to imagine the space without the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) on the left and the building block on the right. All of this, up to the part of the Hofburg you can see in the distance, would have been made up by the glacis, the moat, and the inner rampart.
As the French approached the Burgtor to the left, they were informed by Austrian General Joseph Armand von Nordmann that Vienna would not capitulate.
The party didn’t immediately turn back, but rode to the South in direction of the Kärntnertor, probably to investigate the defences. I followed in their track on what is now the so-called Ring, a busy road leading around the inner city.
Passing the state opera (built in 1869), I arrived at the site where the Kärntnertor was located (there were actually two gates, an old and a new one).
Today, the only reminder of this important gateway to the city of Vienna proper is a small statue on one of the houses.
The so-called “Fenstergucker” is the portrait of the architect of the gate, Bonifaz Wolmuet, and was created in the 16th century. It used to adorn the Kärtnertor. (The version that can be seen here is a copy, the original is in the Wien Museum).
When Saint-Mars and his party arrived here, they became entangled in a small skirmish between French cavalry, which had worked their way through the suburbs independently, and the Austrian Liechtenstein-Hussars under Generalmajor Josef Mesko von Felsö-Kubiny, which made a sudden sortie, perhaps to cover the retreat of some ammunition wagons. The French party was captured, with Saint-Mars gravely wounded. It seems that during the fight, four French Chasseurs à Cheval rode into the city, where they were killed by enraged inhabitants.
I also decided to head into the city to examine some of the residences taken up by French dignitaries during their occupation of the city.
First, I passed the former palace of Archduke Albrecht von Sachsen-Teschingen, which now houses the Albertina art museum and the Film Museum.
Marshal Lannes took up his residence there. After his death following the battle of Aspern, it was taken over by Vice-Roy Eugène de Beauharnais. The wounded Saint-Mars was brought there after the Austrian troops had left the city.
Within a stone’s throw stands the former palace of Franz Joseph Maximilian von Lobkowitz, now the Theatre Museum. In 1809, it first served as the quarters for the Viennese Bürgerregiment (militia), and then as the residence of Marshal Masséna.
Crossing the Josephsplatz commissioned by Emperor Joseph II, I passed the Spanish Riding School, a 17th century building which had already been converted into a hospital by the Austrians when the war started and was also used in this function by the French.
I then took a quick detour through the Michaelertor to the Heldenplatz to have a look at the so-called Leopoldinischer Trakt of the Hofburg. We know that General Antoine-François Andréossy, in his role of military governor of Vienna, took up his residence in the Hofburg and it is probable that he used this most representative part of the building. In front of it stands the statue of Archduke Carl erected in 1859. It is based on the apocryphal story of the archduke rallying Infanterie-Regiment 15 (Zach) by personally picking up its flag.
Heading back through the Michaelertor, I strolled to the final stop of this walk: The former palace of the Czernin von und zu Chudenitz family.
Count Eugen Czernin von und zu Chudenitz, who was 13 years old at the time, writes in his memoirs that originally it was planned to quarter Marshal Masséna in their palace. However, Eugen’s father intervened because of Masséna’s “bad reputation” and managed to have General Savary, an ADC of Napoléon, reside with them. I don’t know if this story is true – it seems unlikely that Masséna would prefer the rather unassuming Czernin palace to the grander Lobkowitz palace. Eugen didn’t like the French and was shocked that Savary brought the famous spy Charles Schulmeister with him, who took up office just across the rooms of his mother.
With this anecdote, my walk came to an end. Living in Vienna, I had passed all those places thousands of times without giving them further thought, so it was fascinating to look at them under the perspective of the 1809 campaign.
Czernin und Chudenic, Eugen: “Erlebnisse eines österreichischen Edelsmannes aus dem Kriegsjahr 1809,” in Feldzugserinnerungen aus dem Kriegsjahre 1809, ed. Friedrich M. Kircheisen. Hamburg: Gutenberg 1909, pp. 19-87.
Geusau, Anton von: Historisches Tagebuch aller merkwürdigen Begebenheiten, welche sich vor, während und nach der französischen Invasion der k. k. Haupt- und Residenzstadt Wien in dem Jahr 1809 zugetragen haben. Wien 1810.
Hoen, Maximilian von et.al.: Krieg 1809. III. Band. Neumarkt-Ebelsberg-Wien. Wien: Seidel & Sohn 1909.
Hummelberger, Walter and Peball, Kurt: Die Befestigungen Wiens. Wien, Hamburg: Zsolnay 1974.
Contrary to our hopes, the pandemic was still going strong in 2021, so my gaming had to accomodate. As RPGs are easy to play remotely and I have a lovely and highly motivated group, it is no wonder that I played a lot of RPGs. At the beginning of the year, D&D was the system of choice, but we finally got a bit tired by it (I’ve been playing D&D continuously for a couple of years now). Fortunately, a friend offered to DM Shadowrun, a RPG I never played. Despite my initial irritation caused by the crunchiness of the rules, I got into the mood very well, thanks to Jan’s gamemastering and the group’s embracing of the world and mood of 80s cyberpunk.
RPGs aside, this year was definitely the year of Sharp Practice. Not only was it my most played game, I also started a new project and painted a lot of figures – about 350 napoleonic French and Austrians. Best of all, together with Sigur I played (and finished!) a campaign. This project also fueld my passion for research, resulting in a lot of book purchases, a number of blog articles on terrain and very enjoyable history-themed walks.
In the summer, our boardgaming group met in the garden, mainly playing The King’s Dilemmaand playtesting What a Mecher!, Virago’s BattleTech variant for What a Tanker! I also participated in two Kriegsspiels and ran one myself (as well as a less successful play-by-email game).
The year itself had ups and downs, but I guess this is what you get in a pandemic. Fortunately, gaming was a great way to distract me from the real-word madness and to meet up with friends, even if it couldn’t always be in person.
As always, I’m very grateful for all my gaming partners near and far. Thank you girls and guys, I’m looking forward to seeing you next year!
I also want to thank my readers for their interest in this blog and their kind comments – you really keep me inspired to keep on writing.
I have no idea what next year will bring and I don’t want to make any plans. I’m still highly motivated to continue with the 1809 project, so you’ll probably see more of that. I’d also love to have a summer gaming event in the garden again – I missed this year’s edition very much. And Sigur, Virago and me definitely want to celebrate the TooFatLardies anniversary – hopefully, with some kind of Lardy games day. Let’s keep fingers crossed!