Tuesday 10 July 2012

Song of Drums & Shakos French and British Project

One of our allies in the West is getting into Song of Drums and Shakos which the same system we use for Napoleonic skirmish games. Adam is going to do an ongoing review of his forces as he builds them up. Here's the first instalment...

I have received my copy of the Ganesha Games 'Songs of Drums and Shakos' and decided I would finally crack on with a couple of small forces to play with as it looks like a fun system.

For those of you who are not familiar they are a skirmish set of rules which are about 400 points a side which translates into roughly 8-12 figures per side obviously depending on the quality. Eg a basic French and British Line infantryman are worth 33 points each. There is the rules set called Songs of Drums and Shakos (which has the rules a couple of scenarios and lists for the big nations of France, Austria, Britain, Russia and Prussia) and a supplement called More Songs of Drums and Shakos which add lists for the rest of the nations and a few more scenarios and rules.

I bought the rules from Lulu (http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?type=&keyWords=Songs+of+Drums+and+Shakos&x=8&y=4&sitesearch=lulu.com&q=) which was the first time I had ordered from this mob and altogether the rules cost me a total of $35 for the both of them. I ordered them while in Melbourne and was very pleasantly surprised to have them arrive quite quickly. I also really like the look of them and have pored over them since getting them.

So I had the rules and I know from Mike and from Mark, my other mate, that there were a pretty good set of rules and of course they won an award at Origins so they are highly regarded.

I had of course a substantial collection of figures already painted and would just need re-basing but I decided that I would start from scratch as I not only want some French and British but I had some of the relatively new Victrix figures which I had bought some time ago.

I decided that I wanted to light infantry forces for both sides and I had also purchased the Light Infantry heads blister from Victrix. I have seen the pictures of the painted Victrix stuff and they look really good and of course they are very good value for money compared to the metal ones.

After a basic white undercoat I will do the basic colours and then intend to use the army painter dipper which I have become a big fan of. I can still do highlighting and shading but these days I am far more inclined to use the army painter dip which I have been more than happy with. I used the Army Dipper white primer and I am not happy with it. I found that it sprays a bit spotty even after a good shake and is a bit gritty in application - you can see the spots in the image. Love them or loathe them I find the Games Workshop white primer the best and would not buy the Army Painter primers again. I have the black as well and that is slightly better but will change back to GW. No saving in price these days anyway.

I built the British first and used the Peninsular War Flank Company box to get the right shoulder decorations. The various bits came off the sprue easily enough with a set of clippers and not too much in the way of tags to trim. Flashing was very minimal being just a touch on the backpacks and water bottle strap. In terms of the arm placement on the sprue the matching left and right weren't too bad but think they could be better placed as the pairings are not that obvious - to me anyway. The left and right are separate and I must admit to a bit of fiddling get them to sit right which was irritating. I much prefer the Perry Brothers style with both arms and weapon all attached together. Less variation but not as frustrating glueing together.

The metal heads were cut of the sprue and with just a little flash they were ready. I tended to glue all the plastic together and then put on the heads. I used Liquid Nails but you can use superglue. One thing I noticed with the metal heads is that they seem to be small compared to the figure and this seemed to stand out particularly before they were undercoated. They don't seem as bad undercoated but they still small. This was particularly noticeable when compared to the French figures which seem big headed in comparison. The British heads also seem to make the figures chinless which again makes them stand out from the French. Perhaps the normal line plastic heads will look better.

One thing in the rules that you need is a Sergeant and Victrix does have two figures which can be used for the command. In the British box one is obviously the officer in hessian boots and the other in trousers which is the one I used for the Sergeant. The only problem I see with this figure though is that they have a sword moulded onto the left leg which is not appropriate for the NCOs. I should point out that I have the Centre Co box as well and this has a left arm with pike. You could choose a normal figure for the NCO but you would not have the sash on the figure. The Light Infantry Sergeants didn't carry a pike though so I have given mine a musket which you can see second from the left. In the blister for the heads you also get the left and right arms for the Light Co bugler although they only come in one pose.

When doing in the French I found the left and right arms match not very intuitive and had some fiddling around to get them right. It should be pointed out that the French box has 60 figures in it including the Elite Company figures unlike the British range which has separate boxes for the flank and centre. The selection of head is good and you have about a dozen Grenadier bearskins and the same of long plumed shako heads. Being a Voltiguer section I decided to give my boys all tall plumes as they look better than way. Given the body of the figure is more of a campaign figure I should probably have gone with a more basic shako but I like plumes! As I mentioned earlier the French heads are bigger than the British metal ones and are much better proportioned. I could rip off the metal ones and put the plastic ones on but they are the wrong design having a shako plate not the bugle.

Aside from the arms I found the briquet (hanger and bayonet combo) on the sprue frustrating to get off. It is a thin piece of plastic and yet has been attached to the sprue in a tight spot with some 4-5 attachments. I managed to get them off OK but they could have been made easier to do. One thing to note is that with the limited number of figures you will end up using non elite company bodies for them. You can tell this as some have the crossbelt which had the briquet off it and some don't. I didn't do a separate French Sergeant figure as he will be painted differently to make him stand out.

The poses of both sets are OK for the skirmishing poses that I want and I am sure they will be better for the centre company marching pose. But I have 12 figures per side with Officer, hornist and Sergeant and 9 privates/soldats. The few kneeling figures I quite liked though.

Building just 24 figures though was a slow and fiddly business and one that I would lose a bit of patience with if I was doing larger units. On that experience alone I would opt for the metals but I will wait until I have my figures painted before offering a final verdict. Having built a heap of Perry War of the Roses figures (120 or so) I can say that experience was a better one and much prefer 3-4 pieces to glue rather that the 5-6 with Victrix. Yes they are value for money per figure but glueing them together too some 3-4 hours for just 24 figures. Maybe I am just too slow doing it but cutting off fiddly bits of the sprues was not as easy as the Perry or GW stuff I have done. 

So that was my initial impression and the next steps will be painting. As I said I will do basic colours and then brush on the Army Dipper. This worked very well for the Perry War of the Roses stuff so I am happy with the method.

Next instalment will be painted figures and I will measure them up to some of my other ranges for a size comparison.


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