Queen Una of Novembre consulted with the captain of her elite Crimson Guard "So you're saying we're lost."
The Guard Captain's cheeks bore the regimental colours "Erm yes, your majesty."
"In my own kingdom. At the head of my own army. Tell me Captain, how are we supposed to put that outrageous buffoon Trente in his place is we are unable to navigate from one of our cities to the next? While we blindly bimble around the forests of Mandua, the reverend traitor could already be preaching sedition from the palace steps in the capital!"
The Captain momentarily considered trying to enlighten his monarch of the difficulties involved in mobilising a large body of men and horses from across a quarter of the kingdom. The Royal Host had assembled expeditiously, but with no immediate enemy to fight had begun to fray visibly at the edges. When the decision was made to relocate the Host to Mandua, it quickly degenerated to the point of becoming little more than a disorganised rabble.
On further reflection, the Captain decided that the queen was probably not in the mood for a lesson in the arts of war.
"Majesty, we have reports back from the scouts. They say that this road we are on leads to the main Royal Highway to Mandua. Once we pass through yonder forest ahead, our journey will be all but over."
"We hope your trust in these scouts is justly rewarded." the Queen retorted. "If not, we shall see about dishing out some just rewards of our own."
The scouts were in fact correct about the forest ahead. What they missed, in their excitement to return with this good news, was the small but not insignificant band of armed men waiting in the nearby hollow. Baron Primestowe, pious supporter of the Church of the Nine and keen huntsman, had set out in search of Royal Game. His small force would ordinarily be no match for the Royal Host. But with the Host disordered and scattered along the road and the Baron's forces positioned to cut off its line of march, things weren't quite so clear cut.
There you have the setup for the Week 1 Southern battle in the Novembre Civil War. It's based on scenario 22 "Making the Best of a Bad Job" from "Scenarios for All Ages". In it the "Blue" (i.e. Royalist) forces are split "evenly" between three bodies of troops scattered along the road. I intend to do this randomly, which means the Royalists will struggle to put together organised bodies of similar troops. This greatly offsets the 16 unit to 10 advantage they have over the Baron. It's going to be very interesting.
So although I haven't had time to fight the battle, the table is all setup for it to be played tomorrow night. If I then manage the first two battles of Week 2 on Saturday and next Monday, that will only leave me one game behind schedule.
So with my day job now effectively being as a full time carer for my parents, days can vary from being frantically busy, to being long periods "on standby" inbetween preparing meals and medication and any other minor chores. Fortunately things are settling down at the moment into the latter state of affairs, so I've been able to tidy up and re-organise the little corner that I've appropriated as a painting station. In the process, the Black Pyramid Tea Wars figures have jumped the painting queue and today I primed them and started painting them, completing the Officer, the Sniper and one Trooper. They were pleasantly easy to paint, with easy to pick out straps and packs. The plan, as I've mentioned previously, was to present them as a "Victorian SAS" based on the iconic images from the end of the Iranian Embassy Siege. Army Painter "Angel Green" has provided the base colour, then black for the boots, belts, gasmasks and guns. Flesh for the hands (I toyed with the idea of giving them black gloves, but a little skin looks better I think) Sand for the facings (collars and cuffs and puggeree - to reflect the SAS's signature sand coloured berets), gold for the helmet spike and some detailing on the gun and silver dots for the gasmask eyeholes and drybrushed over the gun. That's it, just five colours painted over the basecoat (six if you count a bit of Thalo Green for tidying up mistakes) The paint job is so simple to do I should easily be able to get the rest of the ten man unit completed and Quickshaded by the end of tomorrow.
Until now I'd shied away from any gasmasked figures in my VSF collection. I know it's a valid part of the steampunk "look", coming from the gothy end of the scene. But it never really fit into my personal vision of Victorian Science Fiction, which is more of a "Boys Own Adventure" sort of thing. Bring in gasmasks and you sort of imply the use of poison gas on the battlefield. That may be a legitimate element too, as it had been proposed several times throughout the nineteenth century, and there's at least one report I've read of the British deploying poison gas in the Maori wars, with little effect. But gas for me is like having too many machine guns - it brings in the baggage of WWI and a very un-splendid tone to the procedings.
But working on these Special Aether Service figures really brought home how adding a gasmask to the familiar figure of the British soldier turns him from being good old Tommy Atkins to a faceless stormtrooper of a dystopian empire. If I was playing a more anti-establishment VSF setting, say heroic airship pirates against the class system, gasmasked tommies would make excellent bad guys. If I ever pursue the "Very Victorian Civil War" idea further, I'll definitely want to be picking up some more Tea Wars figures with gasmask heads as troops loyal to one of the less savoury factions.
Also while doing a bit of research as inspiration for these Victorian SAS I stumbled across another uniform option for Home Service British figures. Volunteer regiments. including the Artists' Rifles (who would later be reformed as the start of the post-war SAS) wore a natty grey uniform, another candidate for a super-fast Army Painter job. So that's another option to add to the list, along with Riflemen in green, of ways to make British units distinct from eachother.
Finally I'm going to make an extra effort this week to get some more steam tanks done and ready for the next GASLIGHT game. I have an ever-growing backlog of vehicles in varying states of completion and yet we wind up using the same old vehicles for every game. The "Prussian Armoured Pullman" from Scheltrum is about 50% painted, a couple more coats, some neatening up and detailing and it'll be ready. The two new Black Pyramid landships are also headed for German service, while the Armored Traction Engine (with extra bits from Ramshackle) will join the Fenians along with two "American" steam wagons from Scheltrum - though those can wait until I have sufficient Fenian infantry painted. This means the two GW Leman Russ tanks will eventually go to the British.
But that's a lot of resin and plastic and as I've found, the best way to get things done is to get something done, anything, each day. As long as you make some progress each day, eventually you'll get to your objective. So as long as I can get the Armoured Pullman ready by the end of the week, along with the SAS a few more individual figures, then I'll be happy.